Savour a Long Walk in the Lowlands of Scotland

The Loch Leven Heritage Trail

A view across the icy blue water of Loch Leven
The view across Loch Leven, Perth and Kincross

A perfect path

Get your boots on and get ready for a long walk in the lowlands of Scotland!  Loch Leven is the perfect place for a long walk in the lowlands.  There is an excellent, all-abilities path around the perimeter – the Loch Leven Heritage Trail.  The trail can be accessed from several points around the loch where there are good car-parks.  It is a freshwater loch near Kinross in Perth and Kinross, central Scotland.  The loch is about 6km at its longest.  Kinross lies at its western end and Loch Leven Castle lies on an island just offshore.  Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned there in 1567.  There are ferry trips across to it during the summer.  And it is here that we chose to take a long walk – and a bike ride!  

Part-way round Loch Leven is a surprise beach. Great for dogs!
Part-way round Loch Leven there is a small beach area

Walk it or bike it

My friend and I started the walk from Loch Leven cycles http://www.lochlevencycles.co.uk/ where our husbands were kitted up with helmets and bikes.  The lady there was extremely helpful.  I would definitely recommend a visit, especially if you are a ‘pedal-head’!  Anyway, my friend and I got a head-start on a glorious, bright, chilly morning. The path was easy to navigate and easy to walk.  Nice and flat. Just how we like it.

A glimpse of Saint Serf’s Inch Island can be seen in the middle of Loch Leven
Another stunning view of Loch Leven with a glimpse of Saint Serf’s Inch island

A view of St Serf’s Island

As we left Kinross behind us Loch Leven opened out before us.  If you are lucky, and the water level is right, several islands can be seen in the loch.  St Serf’s Inch is the largest of the islands and it was the home of a  Culdee (a Christian monastic community) and then an Augustinian monastic community,  St Serf’s Inch Priory.

Not a soul in sight, just the bronzed bracken and the icy water of Loch Leven
Not a soul in sight, just bracken and Loch Leven

There is a good choice of refreshment stops.  Take a short detour off the trail to Loch Leven’s larder, https://www.lochlevenslarder.com/  where I am reliably informed that the carrot cake was the ‘best ever’.  Then there is the RSPB Visitor Centre https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/loch-leven/ about half way round.  Again, good facilities – and cake!

The final stretch

Finally, it’s worth having a wander around ‘Todd and Duncan’, to have a look at the cashmere – some gorgeous stuff in there. https://www.todd-duncan.co.uk/ Oh and cake too!  This is where our 13 mile walk around the loch ended and we met up with our cyclist partners.  It seems they had a great day too.

The baby-blue, endless sky ove loch Leven
The endless sky over the the Loch Leven nature reserve

National Nature Reserve

Loch Leven is the main part of the Loch Leven National Nature Réserve.  It is the largest lowland loch in Scotland and an important site for waterfowl.  Over 35,000 birds can be around during the winter months.  The birds arrive at Loch Leven from some far flung places, such as Greenland, Iceland, Siberia and northern and central Europe. A bird-watcher’s – and fungi spotter’s paradise!

Red, forest fungi. All manner of wildlife can be spotted on a walk around Loch Leven
Red, forest fungi

Savour a Walk in the Highlands

Linn of Tummel Circular Walk

Linn of Tummel walk
View from Garry Bridge

Easy to park, easy to walk

It was free to park the car which was a bonus. The day was dry, slightly overcast and not too cold although the sun did peek through at points. Perfect weather for a good, long walk. After a flight of steps down to the river bank it was almost all flat. A well-worn path with a few steps here and there and a few tree roots along the way.

Pitlochry

Pitlochry https://www.pitlochry.org/index.html is world-famous for its ‘Salmon Leap’ which is a spectacle in the springtime when the salmon ‘leap’ to return to their spawning ground.  This was our stop of choice at about the half way point of the walk. It is a pretty, touristy, small town which has its own railway station, quite a few shops selling Tartan and shortbread.

Loch Faskally
Loch Faskally

This one is definitely worth a visit…

A particular shop that caught our eye was the whiskey shop http://robertsonsofpitlochry.co.uk/   This little place is a real gem. It has a phenomenal range of whiskeys… and gins, some with a phenomenal price tag too! Attached to the shop is what looks like a small restaurant but is actually a whiskey-tasting experience room. Each place is set with a wooden, glass-holder which takes about 5 small glasses. There wasn’t a ‘tasting’ when we were there but we did buy a couple of glasses. A lovely reminder of our visit to Pitlochry.

Malt glass
A souvenir of Pitlochry

‘Keep right on to the end of the road’

A quick coffee in the cafe across the road and we were off again to complete the circuit. We did this walk fairly recently and so the trees were decked out in their autumn colours. Just amazing, although my pictures don’t really do them justice.

Linn of Tummel circular walk
Linn of Tummel circular walk

If you ever take the ‘High Road’ to Scotland do yourself a favour, pack your walking boots and head for Garry Bridge.

Linn of Tummel circular walk
View of Garry Bridge

Still on the run!

Still on the run…

I actually made it.  I did run the whole programme of Couch to 5K https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/get-inspired/43501261.   Graduated and everything.  Running was going to be my new thing to stop me from becoming a blob.  But then a holiday got in the way.  Yes, that meant not even one run for over two weeks.  There was a lot of walking and healthy eating too but no runs.  So I should have been right back into it but I hadn’t reckoned on the battering that jet-lag would give me.  Many times I was wide awake at 3am and then solid-gone at 8am, couldn’t seem to get back into the circadian rhythm.

Trainers
Put those trainers on

Up and running

The jet-lag faded eventually and I made it, up and out at 8am but it was so hard!  My legs felt heavy, it was like running through treacle.  I managed two runs before I was knocked back again.  This time it was the ‘mother and father’ of all head-colds. It robbed me of a week of my life – and running!

Take a step back

Back with the programme again. The run this morning provided me with a moment of clarity.  It came to me in a flash.  Just start again.  Well, not quite at the beginning but right back to week 5 of ‘Couch to 5K’.  A major step backwards but it makes perfect sense! Take the pressure off, build it back up again.

Run selfie
I’m out there on the run

Draw up a plan

However, it’s important that I stay focused as it is the local ‘Pilgrim Fun Run’ in six weeks. I rashly suggested to my daughter and daughter-in-law that we all do it together, we might even enlist the grandchildren.  There are approximately 50 days to the ‘run’ – it is possible that there could be at least 20 training runs between now and then.  This is a positive event to work towards.  Although I do have more holidays that ‘might’ get in the way.  I must try to incorporate some training into those periods too.

Trainers on
Memories of the first run – three months ago

The Pilgrim Fun Run

The Pilgrim Fun Run takes place in Retford, North Notts https://www.innorthnotts.co.uk/events-this-week/icalrepeat.detail/2018/11/25/79061/-/the-pilgrim-fun-run-2018-in-retford

The Pilgrim Fathers originated from this area and left for America almost 400 years ago.  There will be an almighty celebration of that event around these parts in 2020 https://pilgrimroots.org/

These are the shoes

These are the shoes

These are the shoes that have pounded the canal tow-path for the last eight weeks.  Three times each week.  And here I stand at the foot of week 9.  It is the holy grail of Couch-to-5K, graduation week! It is time to consider the awful thought of replacing these shoes with new, running shoes.

Couch to 5K

Couch to 5K has taught me how to run for a period of almost half an hour.  It must be stressed that I do not run well.  Neither I do not run fast, in fact my speed is extremely slow.  However, I do run and that is the important thing.  Yes, I have noticed small changes.  I’m not a ‘weigher’ so don’t know if any weight has been lost but there is a little less wobbliness.

I sort of look forward to the morning-run with a strange (almost morbid) anticipation.  Whilst I am running for that almost-half-an-hour, I scream inside my head.  I pray that it will very soon be over BUT then comes the best bit… it does all come to a stop!  As soon as I have finished the run I feel euphoric and fit ALL day.  So, surely it’s got to be worth 30 minutes of ‘push’?  The pay-off is so good and it lasts for so long?  

Parkrun is not ready for me yet!

I admit that I am not quite ready for ‘Parkrun’ yet.  Parkrun is the place where Cto5Kers go when they have graduated.  Although I am ready to keep up with the 30 minutes ‘push’ three times a week for as long as it takes.

As you will have noticed, the weather is beginning to change as we hurtle towards autumn.  These shoes will not stand up to the wet grass and mud that comes with the change in season.  This afternoon I am off in search of some advice and perhaps even some new shoes for trail running at https://upandrunning.co.uk

Well who would have thought it.  Keep you posted!

Couch to 5K – quick update

I know that you are just desperate to know how I’m getting on with Couch to 5K as I haven’t updated for a while… nooo, indeed not! How very dare you think that I would have given up!  Perish the thought!

I will have you know that I completed R3W5 (Run 3 Week 5) yesterday! Woohoo!  And that was no mean feat.  It was a big jump from the eight minute runs right up to twenty – yes, twenty whole minutes!  It was indeed arduous, I thought it would never end and yes I was slow.  I was silently screaming inside my head for it to stop although it didn’t.  But the most important thing is, it wasn’t a glorious summer morning, it was raining, cold and breezy and I still did it.  Does this mean I am a convert? Does this mean I am a real runner?  Am I becoming addicted?  Is a real change taking place? I really hope so.  It would be great to be fit.  I wonder what that feels like?

If I carry on then I am going to need some new running shoes for running in the mud, I am thinking of https://www.inov-8.com/trail-running/best-shoes-for/soft-and-muddy?genders=193 – any thoughts anyone? They’re a bit expensive.

 

Why is Nordic Walking so Good for You?

An image Nordic Walkers wrapped up in winter gear, heading out for a walk

Find out why Nordic Walking is so good for you!

I read an article about British Nordic Walking https://britishnordicwalking.org.uk/ It was exactly the inspiration I needed to hunt out my poles and reintroduce myself to the joys of this unique form of exercise.

An image Nordic Walkers wrapped up in winter gear, heading out for a walk
A group of enthusiastic Nordic Walkers striding out into the countryside

There is a group somewhere near you

A group meets at Clumber Park not far from where I live https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/clumber-park every Friday morning.  An induction period is available for newcomers and poles can be hired for just £1, prior to the main event which is £5.  Fully-qualified British Nordic Walking instructors lead the group.

Nordic Walking poles with spikes tucked away and the hand loops can be clearly seen here with their velcro straps
Nordic Walking poles with spikes tucked away and the hand loops can be clearly seen here with their velcro straps

So what is Nordic Walking?

Nordic Walking uses specially designed poles to enhance the walking experience. Using a technique that is similar to the upper body action of classic, cross-country skiing, Nordic Walking becomes a genuine, whole-body exercise that can be enjoyed at many levels, from walking for health to athletic Nordic running!

An image of a group of cheerful, Nordic Walkers taking a break
An opportunity to make new friends

What are the benefits of Nordic Walking?

Nordic Walking combines the simplicity and accessibility of walking with simultaneous core and upper body conditioning, similar to Nordic skiing.  The result is a full-body workout, which means:

•46% more calories burned, compared to walking without poles

•less tension in the neck and shoulders

•posture and gait is improved

•back and abdominal muscles are strengthened

•the impact on joints is reduced

And most importantly…

… because Nordic Walking doesn’t feel like hard work you’ll be happy to walk further and for longer.

A view across the lake at Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire, England
Clumber Park, a picturesque and tranquil place to practice Nordic walking 
Clumber Park, National Trust, Nottinghamshire England
Clumber Park, National Trust, Nottinghamshire England
Woodland walks at Clumber Park, National Trust, North Nottinghamshire, England
Woodland walks at Clumber Park, National Trust, North Nottinghamshire, England

Finish with a stretch

A fifty minute walk through the woods later and we were back to where we started for a ‘stretch’.

A view of Clumber Park, chapel from acrosss the lake
A view of Clumber Park, chapel from acrosss the lake

It’s not all about the exercise

But it’s not all about the exercise, there’s the fresh air too and who doesn’t love trees?  And it’s also an opportunity to meet like-minded people. What more could you want?

The picturesque lake at Clumber Park, North Nottinghamshire, England
The picturesque lake at Clumber Park, North Nottinghamshire, England

You never know, it might be just what you are looking for

Find a session nearby to discover just how good Nordic Walking is for you.