For many years now I have had the idea of walking from Largs to Lochwinnoch over the Clyde Muirshiel hills, starting and finishing at train stations. It’s always seemed like quite a committing interesting journey to do. I have ran out to the half way point, the Hill of Stake, a few times, intending to go all the way across, but have never made it, heading back because of bad weather.
On Thursday my son, Magnus, had a similar experience, leaving from Largs and getting half way across but then heading back. So with both of us feeling like we had unfinished business with this route we headed out early by train to Largs to make the journey across the Clyde Muirshiel hills.
The 23km route across the hills begins with a good track up the Glen that Grogo Water flows down, then you head north east into the trackless moorland and hills until you you get to the Hill of Stake, then it’s East to Misty Law where you pick up a track leading all the way to Lochwinnoch.
This Saturday morning it was drizzly and we entered the gloom and mist at around 150m. We had about 20m visibility for the next 4 hours. Magnus is preparing for is Hill and Moorland Award and the hills offered a brilliant training ground for practicing navigation. He took the lead and used compass bearings, pacing and timing to go from one small feature to the next, growing in confidence with every leg. I love that such simple technology, a compass, together with pacing, is so accurate and effective. One of Magni’s most impressive legs was finding a small ring contour just 5m higher than the surrounding Moorland, over a 400m leg in visibility that was about 15m.
As we progressed across the hill we came across the wreck of an aeroplane. Around 20 aircraft crashed in the hills between 1938 and 1965, before improved navigational equipment reduced the number of accidents. Some suggest that the geology of the hills had an effect on the navigation equipment and increased the risk of crashing.
By early afternoon the weather began to improve and the visibility got better and better. Before long we reached the Hill of Stake and then, after some very boggy ground, reached Misty Law and the track to Lochwinnoch.
On the way down to Lochwinnoch there were lots of signs that Spring was on its way: snowdrops, daffodils and lots of frog spawn.
These hills don’t get that many visitors but I would thoroughly recommend the journey across from Largs to Lochwinnoch. It certainly offers a navigational and physical challenge equal to or harder than many munros.