Susan and Rob’s visit was blessed by remarkably good weather, and as I checked the forecasts back at the campsite it looked like the trend was set to continue. We decided to spend one more day in the Stonehaven area, then head towards Loch Tay for a sunrise ascent of Ben Lawers. All we had to do now was find somewhere local for a nice, relaxed but hopefully sniffy dog walk. After a couple of minutes of searching, Susan came up with nearby St. Cyrus.
The beach there is the equal of any we saw on our tour of the west coast, and ticked all the boxes from a Beagle persepective: weird-shaped rocks to explore, miles of untouched sand, and of course seagull guano.
Few things are as versatile as Seagull guano: it’s good to sniff, good to roll in, and good to eat.
I guess the rule is this: just head north and just about everything gets more dramatic and beautiful. Another rule is: don’t think you can eat a Cornetto in peace when you shared your fish supper with Beagles the previous day. And don’t ever think you can have the back seat of the Beagle limo all to yourself either.
After an afternoon of deep snoozing we set off for Ben Lawers. We spent the night in the car park and then, very early the next morning, I headed out with my two intrepid adventurers to walk up the mountain itself.
Technically Ben Lawers is the tenth highest mountain in Scotland, but thanks to the height of the car park there’s less walking involved than you might expect – sort of a munro “lite”. What’s more, you walk over the top of a slightly smaller peak called Beinn Glas on the way, so you tick off two munro-class summits for the price of one. The path is excellent too; wooden walkways cover the bulk of the early boggy areas so you don’t have to play a round of “where did my shoe go” whilst desperately holding on to pulling Beagles.
Sunrise from Beinn Glas, with Ben Lawers up ahead
I still wouldn’t describe Ben Lawers as a “walk in the park” however; for one thing, the later sections are quite steep and offer a decent workout, and for another, parks don’t have sheep, but Beinn Glas and Ben Lawers do. There were in fact only two sheep that caused problems during our ascent, but they were really pesky and had no respect whatsoever for Mr Biggles’ authoritah. Time and again he’d have choice words for them, but they’d just stand there, chewing grass insolently and mocking him like the French soldiers in Monty Python’s Holy Grail.
Biggles: “Woof, warble, aaarrff, squeal, grunt!!!!”
Sheep: “Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries!”
When we got close enough to them they’d move on, but only to a further point on the same path, causing the cycle to repeat over and over again. Finally, as we started up the last section of Ben Lawers itself, Beanie got rid of them for good. You see The Beanster has two levels of aaarrff; there’s the fairly standard Beagle cry that she uses when pursuing little birds on the beach, then there’s the Howl Of Death. Honestly, I’ve heard lots of other hounds in full cry, but none of them – not a single one – has come close to the volume and spine-chilling qualities of Beanie’s HOD. She doesn’t use it often, but when she does, other dog owners – even the most irresponsible ones – immediately lead-up their dogs and steer a wide path around us; young mothers hurriedly pick up their children and carry them away; and sheep – even really pesky ones with mock French accents and an appreciation for anarchic 1970s British humor – run for their lives.
“Well done Beanie!” I said as the sheep sped out of view. She looked round out at me and I gave her a little bone-shaped biccie as a reward. Biggles got a biccie too because, well, that’s the law.
On the way back down we ran into other walkers making their way up the hill, some of whom had offlead dogs with them. One of them asked me: “are there any sheep up there?” I smiled to myself and replied “No. Not anymore.”