We’d been waiting for a spell of clear, dry weather to go up Ben A’an and on Wednesday our chance finally came.
Ben A’an is generally regarded to be one of the easier mountain walks in Scotland. Most guides estimate that the full round trip – from the car park at the base to the top, and back – takes less than two hours. It also has the advantage of being just a few minutes drive from the Byre Inn, which serves great food and is dog-friendly.
The walk may be relatively short, but it’s still not without its challenges. There are quite a few steep sections and – after heavy rainfall – plenty of mud to go through. For once the mud was more of a problem for our Beagles than for us. Both of them ended up thigh deep in bog, barely managing to scramble free before we had to haul them out. I think Beanie’s pride was hurt by her little mishap, but Biggles didn’t have any hang ups in that department. Later when we had to cross a small stream Beanie regained some street cred by leaping across it athletically, but Biggles just stood staring at it until I picked him up and carried him across. I can’t really imagine pack Beagles on the hunt waiting at a stream for their Dad to give them a lift, but then Biggles is more adept at nicking socks from the tumble dryer than your average pack Beagle.
Lead tangling – one of the other challenges for the Beagle walker
After a while the path emerged from the woodland and we got our first close-up view of Ben A’an.
Up the steps..
..and there it is
This seemed like a natural place for snack before the second part of the ascent, but we had to take a little care to make sure only legal snacks were consumed by the four legged contingent.
Strictly no nibbling!
Apparently there are two paths up to the summit from this point; a well trodden tourist track, and a tougher route suitable for those seeking a challenge. If you’ve got a Beagle tied to your belt then this is a good time to shorten the lead and not let her dictate the root you take. We only found this after Beanie led us up what appeared to be a path only to get stuck when it hit a dead end.
Follow the path..
.. NOT the beagle!
After short quad-burning climb you reach a plateau with some really beautiful views.
Click to see a larger version of this panorama
Even Biggles found the view impressive
The final walk to the summit continues up to the left.
It takes hardly any time to reach the top from there, and the view that greets you looks something like this:
All that walking and all I can see is Biggles’ bum
The highest point is marked by a little pile of stones. Biggles being the kind of boy he is couldn’t resist investigating these stones, and predictably there was a little mishap.
The stone went down there Dad!
Let’s just say that Ben A’an is now a couple of inches shorter than it was before we visited. Sorry about that.
We spent a bit of time chilling out on the summit, taking in the views and eating our snacks..
Once the snacks were all finished our thoughts quite naturally turned to the need for yet more food. The Byre Inn’s lunch time runs from noon to 3pm and it was already heading for 2 o’clock so a rapid descent was called for, though we never intended it to be quite as rapid as the one we got.
Just as we started on the return journey the wind picked up slightly, presumably bringing all manner of exciting scents from the surrounding countryside. Our resident baying expert Biggles had been remarkably quiet and well behaved up to now, but these new scents pushed him over the edge and seconds later he was grunting, squealing and aaarfing his head off.
Earlier in the morning I’d been watching a program on the Discovery channel about the new Wembley stadium. Among other things, the clever designers had found a way to make the stadium acoustically better for concerts while holding on to the atmospheric “Wembley Roar” – a sound magnifying effect caused by the reverberation of fans’ cheers during football matches. What does that have to with Ben A’an? Well, Biggles’ initial cries bounced right back at him and spurred him to even greater vocal effort. Beanie soon joined in and it sounded like we had a pack of thirty or more Beagles baying their heads off. In addition to the noise they were both pulling like crazy on their harnesses, but with our lunchtime window of opportunity in jeopardy we decided we just had to go with it, and continued downwards.
We moved fast. Very fast. In fact I don’t think it would be possible to return from Ben A’an’s summit much quicker without the aid of a parachute and/or the need for urgent medical attention, but the reward was some really good grub at the Byre Inn and a quiet ride back home with two sleeping Beagles.