Loch Ard walks

Loch Ard Trails
Loch Ard Trails

It’s nice to get away for a bit of relaxation between Christmas and New Year – even if the weather doesn’t always co-operate. This year we stayed at the Forest Hills Hotel in the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. The first day was dull and damp, but good enough for walking, so we drove to the Loch Ard car park and followed the red and green loops on the map. This totalled about 8 miles / 11 km so we did quite well!

This is Loch Ard from the red route:

However, I preferred the green route to Lochan Spling where we found some fabulous sculptures, and a bench to admire one of them from (which I did). The Dragonfly, the Pike and the Osprey are all by Rob Mulholland, and the inscription on the bench says “Sitting by the Spling in Spring makes you feel like a King”. Wrong season and wrong sex, but I suppose Winter and Queen wouldn’t rhyme.

When we got up the next day, we discovered we were trapped! There is only one way out (the road the other way ends at Loch Katrine) and it was both flooded and blocked by abandoned cars. We looked out at the torrential rain and imagined a day with our books, but after breakfast there was a dry spell so we pulled on our boots and set off to walk again. We ended up going even further than the day before – I’m not sure my feet like hiking two days in a row any more.

This is the waterfall in the hotel grounds on day 1 and day 2, which shows how much extra water there was.

From the hotel, it was about a mile to the village of Kinlochard. They like a good sign here!

Nothing wrong with this sign in itself – but we felt they might need a boat to get to their boathouse.

The fields were flooded too (that’s not the Loch you can see).

Kinlochard
Kinlochard

Undeterred – it still wasn’t actually raining – we climbed up into the forest behind the village and followed the path down to Loch Ard until we almost met the walk we had done the day before. We found more benches:

We saw our hotel on the other side of the Loch and climbed to a fabulous viewpoint.

At this point, the rain returned with a vengeance and we got drenched on the way back – but we had a nice, cosy hotel room to dry out in. And what about the road? It reopened the next day and we were able to get home (although being trapped an extra day wouldn’t have been a huge hardship).

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks – maybe some of her other contributors have sunnier walks to report on? I hope to provide something sunnier myself next week…..

January: Winter Gardens

People's Palace and Winter Gardens
People’s Palace and Winter Gardens, Glasgow

The picture above has appeared on this blog before, but I’m recycling it for Jude’s new Garden Challenge. Her theme for January is Winter Gardens – head to her blog the earth laughs in flowers to see her own entry, and check the comments for others.

What I haven’t shown you before are these photos of the inside of the Winter Gardens, two of which were taken from the balcony on the top floor of the People’s Palace. It’s very green and more spacious than it looks. I’ve been to a conference reception in the paths and clearings amongst the plants, and the café area – which just creeps into one shot – can be hired for weddings, graduation dinners and so on.

If it’s colour you’re after, head west to the Botanic Gardens where the hothouses are a delight in any season. Reds everywhere at Christmas! Disclosure: I’m far too impatient to take photos like these. All credit to John.

Or how about this? Between Christmas and New Year we had a short break at the Forest Hills Hotel near Kinlochard, which has beautiful grounds and gardens. When we arrived, it was dark and festively lit.

And it was lovely in a different way by day.

We had some rather damp walks when we were at Kinlochard – more on them to follow tomorrow.