Walks with the Dogs
Before we moved into the Glencoe area full time we holidayed here several times, mainly because we became dog owners and would not kennel for the sake of a foreign holiday. The only drive-to place we could think of that offered everything we wanted from a holiday was Scotland. Destination Glencoe was pure luck and perfect.
The dogs (first Archie and a year later Tiffin) have, since puppy-hood, been introduced to kayak riding, sitting in the bike’s baskets and walking off-lead. As new dog-owners coping with a ‘pully-pup’ we relented, and 14-week old Archie experienced a freedom he and we got used to. Walking lush woods in the sun, rain, wind or calm Archie scooting alongside or in a lochan or burn, stick in mouth, was a difficult habit to break.
A year later we got a call from the guys where we got Archie (yeah, we went to ‘just have a look’). Archie ‘taught’ newly arrived Tiffin the way he did things and she was instantly copying older bro as they obediently sat waiting for the “OK” to dive into food bowls. These lessons extended to “Pulling on Leads; Parts I and II”. Part III was “Choke convincingly til they ditch the lead idea”.
Archie and Tiffin are 8 and 7 years old now which makes them our age! I suppose owners being like their dogs applies. Archie is bonkers for a stick and just wants to play; while the wee girl Tiffin is far too sensible. She busies herself sniffing out otter poop or crabby leftovers in the sea-weed. And then expects cuddles and kisses! Clare, just like the Tiff likes sea food, finds poop picks it up, makes me carry it, and expects kisses too.
So, for routine walks we have Bishops Bay, situated up towards the Ballachulish bridge end of Loch Leven and Onich Beach just round the corner from there outside the bridge’s swift tidal narrows; a long curving pebble beach round the bay. I’m sure the odd Loch Leven Hotel coffee or even meal might afford a parking spot. Access Bishops Bay via the footpath left of the old ferry ramp/pier and Onich Bay via the break-water rocks to the right of the ramp, heading down to the beach under the bridge, and round.
Another more sandy/pebbly beach at Cuil Bay (Duror) is good off-lead territory if sheep are no problem.
The Brecklett Trail, from the Ballachulish Quarry entrance, up the side and round through the forest pathways is a nice circular walk that can be extended via a left-fork in the path (at the deer fence) above the quarry’s dramatic views becoming a rewarding grassy clamber to the mast above. All the way up, this hill offers extensive views from the start. Either drop back down to the quarry or if you can leave a car at walk’s end or arrange collection to avoid the A82 road-side walk back to Ballachullish, a descent down to the National Trust Visitors Centre offers even more views. Grassy walk up – forestry service road all the way down. Each twist and turn offers its own perspective of The Pap, the Clachaig Gully and Glencoe Pass and its flanking mountains to Rannoch Moor. These photogenic views are icing on the cake, and if they’re restricted by weather there are waterfalls and wildlife on the way down. Cafe there too.
Whatever the weather, colour seems to leap out of every corner of Scotland, especially so here.
We play ball with them on the inter-tidal grass at Invercoe, using the public car park behind Glencoe Mountain Rescue HQ. Let them off the lead in the picnic area at the main road junction and they’re off like a rocket down onto the marsh grass. There are paths to follow, but take care.
When its big adventure time, they’ve been up mountains. They’ve been up to The Chancellor of Aonach Eagach via the grassy glen and tumbling burn between Am Bodach and Sron Garbh (directly across the A82 from the Hidden Valley which we will walk without the dogs one day, to check it’s dog-friendly all the way). The views over to the Three Sisters change as the steep well maintained path climbs up and round to the gully that opens out to a steep but grassy-glen walk all the way up, 40 head of deer often eyeing from above, their calls mournfull. At the top we keep the dogs close just so we know where they are. Views through 360 degrees include Ben Nevis, the Aonach Eagach ridge (not dog-friendly) dropping and twisting away, peaks near and far and a dizzying view down to the pass. There must be something in the voice when we say ‘stay’ as we get a photo or two; they dont budge an inch.
Any number of forestry tracks are great off-lead potential as are long or short walks in any number of glens with, if well-planned, a pub. Not found a dog-unfriendly pub yet. One of our favourites is to go across the Corran Ferry (free for foot/cyclist passengers) and cycle a couple of miles with the dogs in front baskets for the sunshine of Sallachen Beach, walking out to the point. The view from this far side of Loch Linnhe across to Loch Leven puts the scale of the Glencoe mountains in true perspective and if the tide’s out the sandy beach is extensive. The Ardgour Inn where the ferry docks.
Want dog walking ideas? Ask a dog walker. Answers will be varied as are the options.
Dogs get you out there. In fact while Im sitting here tick-y-tapping on the keyboard Clare is off on a Tiff-sniff walk round Onich Bay. Tiff-sniff means she and Archie will go wherever Tiffin’s nose leads.
As she leaves – “if you’re going out, the bedroom window’s open”. Kind offer but I prefer the door.