The Journey to the Walk (238 miles)
Getting to the Perthshire Railway walk is the first challenge. You have got to head for Dunblane station, which is a five-hour journey from Liverpool. I set off in July 2013 full of anticipation for the challenge ahead. A Hen party who fed me champagne and sausage rolls pleasantly broke up the journey to Scotland and I arrived in Dunblane in good spirits. From Dunblane you need to catch a bus up to Callandar.
As this is the longest of Julia’s Railway Walks it necessitates a full day to make it from one end to the other and so an overnight stay in Callandar is a must. I would like to have stayed at the Dreadnought Hotel, just because it sounds good, but it was fully booked and so I stayed at a local pub; The Crown Hotel. In the early morning I got the little bus up to Killin which is at the top of the line and looked round the waterfalls.
Running the railway walk (23 miles + 4miles)
On the bus up to Killin you realise that, whilst you will be running largely downhill for most of the run, there will be an initial uphill to Glenoglehead which gets the heart pumping. Glenoglehead was the site of a fatal aircrash in 1994 when a Tornado hit the Perthshire hillside killing both crewman. There is a small memorial near the refreshment stop.
From there you head down hill towards the Glen Ogle Viaduct that is simply stunning. I stood on it and hung off the side trying to get a suitably impressive picture, but the best one I took was from the bus on the way up the valley.
After leaving the Viaduct you head towards what is the very best view on the run; Loch Earn to your left. The view gives you a tremendous sense of the size of the country you are passing through as well as the ambition of the people who built the railway track!
Its on this part of the run that you realise why you went to the trouble of getting the bus up to Killin. The old track runs downhill for miles and, for a railway track, it is quite a steep downhill. I continued to jog on towards the valley bottom, but somehow managed to miss the path that takes you across the busy A 84 and instead headed right towards Loch Voil and past Rob Roy’s last resting place. This added 4 miles to the journey and I was now in a footrace between me and the bus out of Callander. If I missed the bus, I missed the connection out of Dunblane and then last train out of Scotland that night.
The run continues down the side of Loch Lubnaig, which is very beautiful and contains a Forest Holiday centre that you run right through. The look of surprise from the holidaymakers sitting in their outdoor tubs as a sweating Wiganer passed through their midst was priceless. The path after Loch Lubnaig gets a bit rough, which wouldn’t be a problem if you didn’t hold a specified ticket for the eight o’clock out of Edinburgh, but I pressed on eventually emerging to the rear of the Main Street.
Getting to the Dreadbought Hotel and ordering a large coke, realising I had made it with a generous 10 minutes to spare before my bus was a fabulous way to finish an incredible run.
The views of Loch Earn from the path just after you pass the Glen Ogle Viaduct.
The band of midges I picked up at Glenoglehead who accompanied me to the end of Loch Lubnaig 15 or so miles later.
Run downhill from Killin and give yourself plenty of time to get your bus and don’t forget to cross the A84!