Up earlier than I would really like because there is only one bus I can get to Callander to link up with the little bus to Kingshouse, or else I will have to wait two hours. The BT engineer has a day off so does not wake me with his teeth brushing, which is a plus, but on the other hand I don't have time to stop for a cappucino in the Burgh Coffee house, having to make do with a paper cup of tea in the bus station cafe.

This is the same bus as yesterday. Actually this is a rather long and tortuous journey which is a product of having got a lot further than I expected. A bed and breakfast in Callander would have been a good idea but I had already paid for the youth hostel. So the bus takes me back the same way. Two employees of the Blair Drummond wildlife park get on, a different two to yesterday, this must be a life saver for carless employees,  and we detour off to Deanston again.

I can't even think about stopping this time so I take a crap blurred picture from the bus as we go over the bridge. That castle is perhaps the best photo I have seen on my walk and it really bothers me not to have got it. Should have made the effort yesterday.

We sweep up the road so painfully walked yesterday and, after getting stuck by the temporary traffic lights which makes me worry I will miss the connection,  into Callander just in time.

Sadly the driver is not the glamous gothy blonde but a friendly guy. Nothing against friendly guys, of course. But the blonde girl was friendly too and more unusual. I have never had a bus driver that wore her sleeves over her hands before.

I am afraid I am not very friendly back. It is just too early and I am worrying about my shin splints. It was a twinging a lot as I went down the hill from Stirling.

The bus drops me at the Kingshouse stop on the ridiculous super-bypass.  The people in my head have a short argument about if I have to cross the busy road in order to start from exactly the place I ended last night.  The anal tendency (who have been gaining ground the further I walk though they first bared their teeth in Northampton when I could have got a bus to the Station rather than walk down a boring suburban street for two miles) win.

The reasonable people mutter disgustedly as I go under the road by a tunnel, back up and onto the other bus stop and then cross back again. I do have to wonder sometimes if this walk has sent me bonkers.

And so I set off properly at last. It is gorgeous. I mean proper gorgeous, looking up the glen. There is a temperature inversion so that there is a cloud above the ground but well below the hill tops, wispy and grey. I hope it hangs around long enough for me to get to some high ground for a picture. The road to Balquidder is a great contrast to the A road of yesterday. A quiet country lane. There are cars but they are slow and Sunday morning courteous.

There is a problem though. Almost immediately my left foot starts to hurt quite badly. Oh shit. I did overdo it yesterday, I knew that that last fast dash from Strathyre was a mistake. It is so bad so soon that I have to have a hard think about what I am doing.

You see the problem here is that I have a couple of kilometres to Balquidder and then I forsake the road entirly for a forest track and then mountain path over the ridge and down to the next old railway, or if that is no good the next A road. an A road it so happens, with no public transport I have been able to discover.

If I find I cannot walk halfway across the hills it will be mountain rescue territory which I really, really do not want. I did leave a route with the Youth Hostel and asked them to pass it on to Crianlarich though I am not confident the girl there had any idea why I was asking her to do it.  Other than that I am on my own and my foot-leg is really hurting.

On the other hand, although there is old railway walking up towards Killin, that is a long way round. And the problem seems to be associated mostly with flat tarmac. My route will be rough paths and so might not be so bad.

I am still wrestling with this problem when I come into Balquidder and get to the church. I have been here before, years ago and have seen Rob Roy's grave, but I go in again to get a photo. As I come out I spy a bench and sort myself out. I decide that the only responsible thing to do is to swallow some ibroprofin and hope for the best.

As I do this a car arrives and a solo woman walker gets out. She pooters around as I do. I have some stuff to get rid off. Old rolls and apples I don't need plus just rubbish like a plastic bag. But I can't see any bins until I set off on a track that goes around the church yard. At the back of the church is a bin so I go to throw my rubbish in it just as she heads off the way I am going. This is a bit awkward as there is no one around and I would not blame her for feeling nervous of some lone guy who has been hanging around the church as she looks at it following her up this deserted path.  I don't want to get stuck behind her as if following her. Fortunately she goes down a different fork and my path soon meets a forest road that immediately goes up at a lung bursting rate.

Looking back I see that the woman has come back to the path and is now following me.  However, she does not seem to be getting up it any faster than I am. It is a killer slope but I am glad of it in one way because my foot doesn't seem to mind at all. In fact the pain I had on the road is gone.

The forest walk is very pleasant. Like many I have been on on this walk including much of Kielder Forest, I am sure it would have been much grimmer years ago. The conifers are still alien but they have been planted on contours instead of rectangular blocks, wide rides created along the tracks and paths where once the trees would have closed in opressively.

One benefit of this is that I get fine views early on. Both up to the pass I am approaching, which has a sheer cliff with overhangs guarding it, and back, over the Trossachs.

The higher I climb the better the views back get.

Eventually I come to the point where the forest road loops back but the path I am taking is clearly marked as the Glen Dochart Path.

 There is a brutally steep pull for a bit, on a rough hill path,  a brief respite and then a final steep climb up to crag over Lochan an Eireanaich  (the lochan of the Irishman).

I take my time, enjoying being on the bealach, knowing that the hardest work of the day is done, at least as far as going uphill goes. A few steps more and a vista opens up in front of me,  the central highlands. It is a sight to behold

. Just before the path starts to descend there is a post marking the way and I commit a minor act of vandalism, writing "Stornoway" in biro on the post. It seems apt There have been many "watershed" moments on this walk, from the Chiltern escarpment, through Cross Fell, and perhaps biggest of all The Firth of Forth, still it seems like an important moment as this takes me into the heart of the Highlands which is the last great barrier.

Unless of course you count, Skye, and the Minch, or the Devil's Staircase, or....

Anyway I set off down the path which is less distinct here. Indeed as I get lower it starts to disapear in places. Fortunately there are lots of these posts with arrows to follow. I can hear cattle bellowing away but curiously I can't see them.

I look around though I am hardly worried about cross cows with calves at this time of year, but it is curious. There are a few sheep but no sign of any cattle and the noise is coming from way over on the left and down on the other side of the burn I am following downhill.

There are some sheilings marked on the map which are handy because when I locate them I know exactly where I am. The bellowing is even more frantic now and I look around again.

Suddenly I realise what it is. This is October, and the red deer stags are roaring in the rut. Scouring the hillside for distant deer against the russet hills rather than black or other stand out coloured cattle I soon identify a stag.

And then I spot a herd of does on the other side of the little glen I am descending.

The path continues to dispear and reapear but the posts stay faithful though plenty seem to have been pulled out of the ground. As I get lower I can see the road and also now the old railway line that I am hoping will take me to Crianlarich.

It is marked by long, irregular row of trees which are in a fabulous array of autumn colours. It is actually quite a moving sight,  astonishingly beautiful, snaking away into the distance showing me the way that I am going.

Lower still and I see that I am making for an old viaduct. Bushes grow from it and it is surrouned by red, gold and russet trees. the path I am on goes right to it and then passes underneath it.

It is by no means obvious if there is a way onto the line here. On my side there is an electric fence but between the fence and the parapet of the viaduct is a barrier of wooden slats, easy to climb over, so I scramble up the steep slope and then over this.

The old railway is lovely. Not overgrown at all, there is some gravelly type surface lightly covered with grass. It actually is not that great to walk on but it will do.

I set off down the railway track which slowly converges on the road, but I have a three kilometres before that happens if the railway stays walkable.

It doesn't. Just as I am starting to relax the embankment I am on reaches a barrier. Clearly there was a bridge here. Even more clearly there is not one now. I have to scramble down, through some old fence wires one of which looks like it used to be electric. I don't try to see if it is live though this seems unlikely.

Then I cross the burn by stepping stones and find an easy way back onto the embankment. There is a path of sorts, clearly I am not the only person to have done this.

The way becomes a farm track and is easy going again apart from where it goes through cuttings which, as ever, tend to be wet underfoot. Otherwise it is fine.  I get closer to the road and see the buildings of Luib, a house and a hotel.

Onwards and, after a while I see a gate in front of me, caravans beyond. There is a notice on the gate telling me that there is no through way for walkers. I have not passed any footpath, at least I did not notice one, and there are fences between me and the road, rough hillside on the other side.

Well, fuck it. I go through the gate and walk on through the caravan site. No one takes much notice though I guess with walking pole and rucksack I don't look much like a caravanner. I pass the office bit and carry right on through the site.

Beyond the last caravan the old railway track reverts to a walkway. Clearly part of the site but used for walking dogs and such. This is fine by me, I carry on walking down it until it comes to an abrupt end. Another bridge long gone.

But this is much more tricky than the last one. I have to scramble down an overgrown embankment, climb a fence into a bubbling bog and then try to pick my way across the soggy ground without soaking my feet.

What the hell is going on here? Parts of the track are great and then it just becomes a nightmare.

The road turns out to be both faster and busier than it had looked from the mountainside and railway. But there is no sign of a way onto the old railway track (marked on the map as crossing the road here) so I have no choice but to start trudging down it.

It is unpleasant but soon enough I come to a track which takes me down hill and back onto the old line again. This is a well made track, obviously used by farmers, and trudge happily on towards Crianlarich for a kilometre or so.

Here there is a gate and beyond the gate the line is covered in nettles. They are too thin to be a barrier but they tell me that this is not used as a regular pathway and there is another path down to the side so I take that.

This leads me round to a footbridge, in more open country, to a footbridge over a small river, black faced sheep running away at my approach. After passing a ruin the track loops back and goes over a bridge across the railway line.

This is not good. It is in a cutting here and the cutting is completely choked with vegetation. There is obviously no way I can get through that.

Today has become a lot like yesterday. The railway line is fine for a while and then difficult and then impossible. But the frustrating bit is that springy turf or well used farmer's track looks exactly the same on the map as inpenetrable scrub or deep bog or both. It really is infuriating.

But having examined it as closely as I can I decide that there is nothing for it but the bloody road again. So of I go. And it is horribly fast. Like most of these fast rural A roads I have been on it is infested with bikers. But these seem to go faster than any others, screaming down the road in regular groups.

Somewhat to my surprise, after a few minutes walking, I see a figure coming towards me. Another walker. When we meet we stop to chat. He has been hillwalking and is going back to his car but he has walked down Glen Dochart on a coast to coast walk and we discuss the railway. He tells me that I cannot get back onto it until passing some bends and gives me a description of how to find it which involves going through some buildings.

We go our seperate ways and there is a horrible spell where I just get my head down and walk, stepping onto the verge when I need to. When I can. If there is one, as the traffic screams by at what seems to me to be a ridiculous speed. It is Saturday too so I am a bit surprised that there is so much traffic. It is not constant but comes in regular pulses.

At least the shin splints are not too bad. I crack on as fast as I dare. Soon Loch Lubhair  appears on my right and there is clearly not even a weed choked old railway line between me and it. I suppose that road widening must have swallowed it.

But after a while it appears on my left again. There is no obvious way up to it, there are fences and a tangle of vegetation, but after a while I get so fed up with dodging traffic that I batter my way through and get on it. It is OK for about fifty meters before degenerating into hopeless bog. I have some fun trying to avoid the mire by swinging on the birch trees which have colonised the cutting. But after the cutting it seems to have turned into just marsh, more like a disused canal than old railway. With some difficulty I get across it and then, seeing at the terrain is fairly open at this point, take the chance to get back to the road.

And so it is more road.

I pass a dead chaffinch, hit by a car or bike, perhaps. I can't see any marks on it.

And more road.

 I don't try the railway any more until I get to Portnellan, which is clearly where the walker told me I could get on it again (though he could not recall the name of the village).

I have a false start, going down a likely looking trail that leads me to a bridge with wired up gates. But a second attempt gets me onto a nice wee track and then I pass the buildings and realise where I should have come.

There is a huge pile of gravel blocking the way, which I have to scramble over. I wonder if the track is being improved. If so I hope they are going to work on the bit I just had to abandon.

This track carries on a while and then becomes a narrow path at the side of Loch Dochart. It is beatiful I am surrounded by birch trees in autumn colours with the loch on my side getting glimpses of the ruined castle on a regular basis.

It must be admitted however that the road is only meters away and the sound of speeding traffic regularly mars the pleasure. Still, at least I am not on it. And the castle looks fantastic.

I stop and drink some water and eat a museli bar. I am OK for time and am confident that I will make Crianlarich today which is brilliant, road walking and disapointing railway lines or no. A couple of weeks ago, stuck in Stirling with agonising shin splints, I would not have dreamt I could get this far by now.

So onwards, ever onwards. Rose, one of my elderly clients at work has christened me Felix because of an old song about Felix the Cat;  Felix Kept on Walking. So Felix keeps on walking, pretty damn tired now but on the footpath.

But sadly not all the way. It gives up and there is a sort of unofficial stile, some bags on a fence. And maybe I can climb over it and go by footpath all the way in but it is only a kilometre at most, and I want to catch the shop before it shuts,  so I put up with the road one last time.

And it is not long before I see the strange, seventies style signs that announce that I have got to Crianlarich, in good time for the single shop to be still open.

So as soon as I have signed in at the Youth Hostel, I repair there for some food and a nice bottle of red wine.



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