We’ve been to Muirshiel Park a few times now, and to be honest the regular signposted walks have become a little too familiar. That’s why on Saturday we decided to be a bit more adventurous and head up to the Hill of Stake which lies deeper inside the park. Now the last time we went off the beaten path at Muirshiel we ended up with soaking wet feet which kind of dampened my enthusiasm, but with so much hot, dry weather recently I was confident that wouldn’t happen this time.
On arrival at the park Susan went into the visitor center to get directions while I got our dynamic duo into their harnesses and hooked them up to our cani-cross belts. When Susan joined us, she was carrying a map of the park which cost seven quid and dire warnings from the staff about how easy would be to get lost if the weather turned. It reminded me of a sketch in the Fast Show, except there was no mention of an owl. Anyway we didn’t need the map, or a compass or any other kind of orienteering gear because the mobile phone I got for Beanie & Biggles’ Retrieva tracking collars has GPS and a map that covers the whole park.
The first part of the route to the Hill of Stake follows the old mine track. It’s very easy going, but when you reach the site of the mine itself you have to head off the path into fields of heather, moss, reeds and whispy white topped wild flowers that may or may not be called “bog weed”. Susan warned that we should steer clear of the aforementioned bog weed, just in case there were still some marshy bits. We carefully worked our way round the weedy patches.. and promptly received soaking wet brown feet as our shoes submerged into a particularly sodden part of the field. It seems even a prolonged heatwave can’t dry out Muirshiel park.
Marshland doesn’t just attract unwary tourists with non-waterproof footwear, it also attracts insects. At one point we stopped for a drink and were beset by some really annoying little winged beasties. Our little tailed beasties did their level best to eat ’em, but we still got some really itchy bites..
Biggles and Beanie guard each others backs
Beanie makes a valiant attempt to snack on our attackers
She nails a few, but they just keep calling in more reinforcements
Eventually we reached the Hill of Stake itself. Its base is surrounded by prickly thistles but once you’ve got through that, you’ve got a very short, easy climb to the top. Despite it’s modest height, the Hill of Stake has a very grand looking summit marker, and some fantastic views of the countryside. Here are a couple of panorama shots taken right at the summit – click on each one to see a larger version!
And some more shots..
The next day we went for a much shorter, supposedly less hazardous walk in one of our local parks. As we passed one of the areas that had ben turned into a kind of adventure playground for kids, we noticed that Beanie had got hold of something very, very unsavory: a pair of heavily soiled knickers. Just to put you in the picture, I’m not talking about a severe “skid mark” here – this was the whole damned tyre plus half the rear end of the car, so to speak. Presumably the adventure playground had been a bit too much of an adventure for some poor soul. Anyway, our lovely little princess had this disgusting thing in her mouth and we really wanted to get it off her, and so did Biggles, albeit for different reasons. All the “leave” and “drop” training we’d been doing went out of the window. I managed to trap part of it under my foot, while Susan hauled on Beanie’s lead to pull her away. It took a lot of effort, but eventually we succeeded.
So on Saturday we ran the risk of being stuck down a hole, in the fog, in the middle of the night, with an owl, while the next day we played probably the most disgusting tug of war ever seen in Glasgow. Given the choice, I’d say the owl would win every time.