Friday, 31 May 2013

Thank you for all the nice comments from the folk following this plodathon.

Just a short update to everybody who is following my blog,thank you for your interest and to those that leave their thoughts and comments - it makes it all worthwhile!

Thank you also to all the people who have donated to my just giving page, on behalf of Whizz-kidz, Wrvs, Sense, and The A21 Campaign. Every penny is much needed by those worthwhile charities.

Thank you, also, to those who have donated along the way in cash. I have it all safe, and when I am close enough to a branch of The Yorkshire Building Society I shall pay it in to the account I opened specifically for donations. At the end of the walk I will be drawing a cheque on it for just giving to add to the pot, enabling gift aid also on that.

Also, a big thank you to all those who have been sharing my link, it's really good when people do, and even better when they add a few words. Most recently, Margaret at The Drovers Inn at Inverarnan. I am hoping to raise lots of money for charity with this dirty great plod, so thank you for that.

And last, but not atall least, thank you to all the wonderful publicans, hoteliers,bar staff, guesthouse and bnb owners, and people we have met along the way. You have all been so friendly and welcoming. Scotland really has been a marvellous few weeks!  :-)

Alec Hawkes    31.05.13  

Also, don't forget I have two rather witty books on sale, to help with my expenses, and also to add more funds to the charity pot. Please go to 'MY WARES' at the top of the blog home page, and see how easily you can obtain either or both of my books. If you think politicians and bankers have made a mess of things, if you like a good laugh, you'll enjoy my books!!

Thanks all!

Pictures from my little Nokia, John O'Groats to Glasgow.

Some of my favourite pictures, all taken on my little phone!
Ascending Conic Hill,  near Balmaha. A view from Kings House Hotel, Glen Coe.                           
and (right) looking down on Loch Tulla, near Inveroran

The Cromarty Firth.
Craigallan Loch, close to Milngavie.

Loch Tulla and Black Mountains.
A deer at Kings House, Glen Coe.

The route to Kinlochleven, from Fort William.


Along the Great Glen Way.
 The gushing River Falloch.                                                Helmsddale Harbour (right0.
 Two views of Loch Lomond from Conic Hill.

Bonny Loch Lomond .

Review of my favourite pubs so far, John O'Groats to Glasgow.

From Saturday 11th to Friday 31st May 2013.

From arriving in John O'Groats at 10.30 p.m. nearly three weeks ago, until now just outside Glasgow, there have been many fine inns, hostelries and pubs. Sadly, I have not had the time or the funds to visit them all. Still, a good few ales and single malts have been sampled!

The fairly ordinary looking Seaview Hotel at John O'Groats hides a very nice public bar at the back. Scapa - a very fine ale brewed in The Orkneys - was readily available, and I believe was awarded the title of Scottish Champion Ale 2008.

The prices are quite high in The Seaview, but this is very understandable as transportation costs to get anything way up to the top of Scotland must inevitably tot up. A very fine selection of single malts were also available - and we tried several, would have been churlish not to methinks. The bar was filled almost entirely by locals, though the hotel was full with guests not many of the Americans, Aussies, Germans and others were to be seen in the bar. I think many of the (mostly) cyclists appear to either start or finish their ride at John O'Groats with the traditional "we did it!" or "we are about to do it" picture, then go. Not for me, I wanted to meet a few locals first.

Walter - the owner of the 'First and Last' shop at John O'Groats on the harbour, was highly entertaining in the bar at The Sea View, and told many a good yarn. Some he may have stretched a little, but all very entertaining. Kevin Macgregor, a local fisherman, was also very good company along with his lovely wife Dorothy. Very friendly people, and the first to sign my book of travels. As I left the bar in the wee small hours it felt very good to have met a few real locals before the long plod south.

On to Wick. An overnight stop at Keith and Virginia's very comfortable Harbour House bnb was punctuated by a visit to really the only pub that I could really rate - The Camps Bar, (top right).The town had an 'non-pub' (Weatherspoons) and two bars with big screen football drowning any possibilty of conversation, so the only choice was Camps. A very nice little pub too. Very friendly, serving a decent pint of Belhaven Best and several single malts.


No pubs in Janetstown (Latheron Wheel), but a very decent bnb to stay in courtesy of Jo and Steve Calan, so next to Helmsdale.
The Belgrave Arms in Helmsdale is a very nice place. Superbly run by Craig and Wendy Simpson, and their excellent staff, the Belgrave was a pleasure. Two or three decent bitters on tap, I think Caledonia and Belhaven, and another fine selection of single malts. Damn good food and accommodation too!
On to Brora, and The Sutherland Inn. Not bad, a couple of ales on, but much more of a food pub, and run very much as a business, and it showed.

Onwards to just outside Dornoch, The Trentham Hotel. Again, not much to look at from outside, but a very well run pub/hotel. Funny man John Mackintosh is in charge, and he keeps some pretty good ales. The food and rooms were good, and the ale and whisky excellent. Belhaven best.
On to Invergordon, and though The Ship Inn sounded like a pub when I booked it, it was actually a pleasant little bnb, comfortable and well run by Sue and Alan Hilton. Just one pub that was anywhere near any good, but it's name escapes me and I didn't take a picture, so that tells you enough I think!
Turning inland now, over 100 miles on the clock, towards Dingwall, the home of Ross County Football Club. We stayed a mile or two south of Dingwall, at The Conon Bridge Hotel. 

A fairly decent pub, but no ale in pumps, despite advertising the fact, so a couple of bottles had to suffice, and a large whisky - Balvenie Signature, rather good!

Dropping further south now, to Drumnadrochit, and a first rest day. A marvellous stay at the quite superb Glen Rowan guest house, and two visits - on the personal recommendation of jolly Alistair Ferguson -


to The Benleva. A quite superb pub. The food and service were excellent, and the ale was superb. A micro brewery situated in the heart of Drumnadrochit makes their very own Loch Ness Ales. Wilder-ness, Hoppi-ness, Red-ness, Dark-ness, Light-ness - all superb ales, and all were tried and very much approved. A fellow in the bar was also quite insistant on sharing some of his rather potent 'aviation fuel' from a little casket he had. Ahem, that was an aid to sleeping, as if it were needed!

Down to Fort Augustus, and a very pleasant bnb The Three Bridges, and several decent pubs in town. The Bothy and The Lock Inn being the best, the ale in The Lock being the better.Alas, no pics as my little camera device wasn't playing! (its only an old nokia phone!)

Further south (30 miles in one go) to Corpach, and a top guest house run by Aussie Toby Richardson.

tGreat guest house, but the nearly places to eat/drink were not good. A shortage of time led to taking a taxi to the nearest - The Moorings Hotel. Reasonable food, rubbish beer, dreadful price and diabolical service. Nuff said. Toby was great at Mansefield though!

On to The West Highland Way, with hope and expectation for some more quality brew.

The Tailrace at Kinlochleven. A superb pub/hotel. We stayed half a mile away with lovely Elsie Robertson at Eden Coille, and she recommended the Tailrace. She was dead right. A top quality pub, great food, good prices, excellent service, brilliant atmosphere, and Ember Ale from Glasgow. The 80 shillings was my favourite dark ale so far, by some distance. Lovely jubbly!

The Kings House Hotel in Glen Coe, above, was really rather good. Some top quality ales and whiskies were sampled, though the food was a little disappointing, the ale made up for this very well. The Kings House is in the middle of a stunning area of beauty, and really should not be missed by campers, hikers, or anyone atall really. Stunning. Onwards to Tyndrum, and my number one guest house so far (narrowly pipping Glen Rowan and Eden Coille) - Glengarry House, run by lovely Ellen and Andy. Ellen provides the most fantastic welcome, and even offered me a lift to The Tyndrum Inn. I declined, as a good stretch of the old legs for a mile was rather needed after a wonderful dinner cooked by Ellen. The Tyndrum was another high quality pub, with more 80 shillings on the pumps, and of course a wee dram or two. I met a cracking chap in there, Tom from The Isle of Skye. Tom had many a tale to tell, and was also very interested in my charity walk. He gave me a small donation too, cheers Tom!

Now, onward to Inverarnan, and my personal number one so far.

The Drovers Inn.

The accommodation, food, ale, service, and entertainment
at The Drovers was all first class, and at a good price too!

The lads on the bar were all very smart in their kilts, and the lovely blasses doing waiting and serving were all wearing their tartan skirts.

They couldn't do enough for the customers, and therefore The Drovers gets my number one pub vote so far.

As well as the top quality service etc, the entertainment- as I mentioned - was pretty special too. The two guys in the picture provided marvellous musical entertainment, with plenty of jokes old and new, with impeccable timing.

A few old standards to get the crowd warmed up, then..."Is there anyone in from Edinburgh?" asked the little guy with the guitar.
"aye!" came a call from a busy table to the side. "we are!"

A grin came to the face of the guitar man. "is this your first time in Scotland then pal?"

Much laughter followed, then a whole medley of traditional Scottish tunes, with the odd Irish one thrown in for good measure, including a superb version of Finnegan's Wake.

They played on until after dark, to a very happy crowd.

Great stuff!

To be continued, as the pub crawl expands further...

Alec Hawkes on walkabout  31.05.13

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Day 18. The End of The West Highland Way.

Well, that is The West Highland Way long distance path completed. Very good it was too! The weather for all but one of the 7 days was very good indeed. It rained all day from Tyndrum to Inverarnan, though it stopped as we were nearly there - obviously.

95 miles of one of the best paths you will find anywhere in the world, officially - so i've been told. I wouldn't disagree. Next time I will do it in late winter or autumn, the other way, the way most people do it. I know the route now, and will very much enjoy doing it in 5 days instead of 7, stopping at my favourite places! (ale, service, food - my prerequisites!)

To today's little dawdle, 12 miles from Drymen to Milngavie (pronounced Milguy). It started in very light drizzle which stopped quickly to leave another very warm day with pretty much unbroken sunshine. We left Glenalva guesthouse at 9.45
after a very pleasant overnight stop at Alison Fraser's very well kept and comfortable place.
Alison is another very good hostess, providing excellent accommodation and food for the weary walker. I would thouroughly recommend Glenalva to anyone wanting to stay in Drymen, it being only a short walk from the pubs and shops in the centre of the small, picturesque village.

The walk to Milngavie was largely through flat farmland, pleasant enough but a little boring compared to the last couple of weeks. I won't complain too much though, as much urban walking is too come (yuk). Above left, though, is the delightful little Craigallan loch, which is just shy of Mugdock country park, a mere 10 miles from Glasgow city centre. Oh yes, a city plod to come on Saturday! I am looking forward to getting through the urban areas quickly, and into the more rural South Lanarkshire as we head towards Gretna and a sad farewell to beautiful Scotland. If the Scots will allow me, I'll be back soon enough. The friendliness and hospitality of just about everyone in this great land is truly wonderful.
12 miles walked today, total 292. Nearly a third done...
Alec Hawkes  Milko on Walkabout 30.05.13
p.s. please donate to my chosen charities if you can, go to
to see who I am trying to support with this walk. Thank you!

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

A sad farewell to the highlands and Loch Lomond.

Wednesday 29th May 2013.

Having spent a good few days, and walked many miles alongside some beautiful Lochs and beside some majestic mountains, we are now nearing the end of The West Highland Way. The mileage we have done is now around 280, with something like another 100 miles before we reach the border with England. It will be a sad farewell to Scotland when it comes, but that's not quite yet. For now, it is farewell to some of the most beautiful country one could see. The North East coast of Scotland is way behind us now, as are the beautiful paths alongside Loch Ness. We have completed The Great Glen Way, and very nearly completed The West Highland Way too.

Today we did the moderate 14 mile walk from Rowardennan to Drymen.

We left Coille Mhor - our lovely guest house stop for last night - at 9.15 this morning,
and began a very pleasant woodland walk to Balmaha.
Fiona and Neil Macmillan were our hosts at Coille Mhor, and very good they were too!
A lovely welcome was given to us by Fiona, and their guest house is really rather lovely. All modern amenities, but with a charm and homely feel. Neil, also, was a good host, with the two of them sharing duties. He also gave us a lift to the pub, which was rather nice! Coille Mhor I would very much recommend!
So, to the walk. 7 miles nice walking through lovely bluebell woods alongside Loch Lomond, until we reached the marvellous little village of Balmaha.

After a pretty easy 7 miles to Balmaha, then follows a lovely but quite challenging walk up Conic Hill. Standing at only 1175 feet, you may not think it is going to be too much, but the climb up from Balmaha is pretty steep, but very worth it, as the views over Loch Lomond are fantastic; I only hope the two pictures here do those views some justice.
The climb down is lovely, then follows a fairly easy 5 more miles to the pleasant little village of Drymen. We duly arrived at Glen Alva at around 4.30 pm.

The other two pictures are of Conic Hill as we came down it, and one last look back at Loch Lomond as we plodded towards the forest, and away from the beautiful Loch and the highlands.
Glen Alva is another lovely guesthouse that I will recommend already. A lovely welcome from Alison Fraser, into her very comfortable guesthouse, with everything the weary walker might need.
The West Highland Way has been a wonderful experience - one day to go - and will remain a lasting memory.
Alec Hawkes - plodding through Britain with Lizzie tagging along.
Milko Goes Walkabout 29.05.13

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Milko goes plodding - update, days 15/16.

Monday 27th May 2013.

Tyndrum to Inverarnan. 19 miles.

An easy walk to Inverarnan over pretty good terrain was made much more interesting by the all day rain. In fact it had rained most of the night as well, so the water flowing down the mountains to swell the rivers was gushing, powerful, and quite beautiful.

The rivers Coninish and Falloch became powerful and quite lovely with the constant flow of rainwater falling into them at many places!
The initial route out of Tyndrum was fairly flat, but quite soon we had a bit of climbing to do, which did become much harder as the rain lashed woodland tracks became quite muddy and slippery.
Getting up to around 1000 feet the wind got up, and prevented me from lighting a cigarette for quite some time! Coming down the hill near Glen Falloch, the rain began to ease and we could see the full force of the rain as the mountain streams powered downhill to join the river. Just a few more miles on the flat and we arrived in Inverarnan, yep, just as the sun came out to play!
The Drovers Inn at Inverarnan, quite possibly the best pub i've ever had the pleasure of staying in!
We arrived early at Inverarnan - partly due to 'cracking on with it' due to the bloomin' rain!
Washed and changed by 5.30, no wifi available, right - bar then!
A stonking good meal was followed by a marvellous evening of fine ale, whisky, good company (we met a young couple from near where I used to live!), and fabulous entertainment from a couple of singing, strumming, and joking Scotsmen. Quite splendid!

I really can't praise the staff at The Drovers highly enough. They were extremely helpful and welcoming, very attentive to all, and they all carried a friendly smile. As you can imagine - it's very popular, and I would thouroughly recommend the place to everybody. Breakfast, also, was extremely good, and very well organised. The very helpful young lady in the picture above even gave me £5 from the staff to add to my charity fund as she stamped and signed my book - thank you very much!
So, very happy as we left The Drovers for the 14 mile plod to Rowardennan.
It proved to be a pretty straightforward walk, with just a few up n down bits along the shores of Loch Lomond. 7 hours was ample to cover the distance to Rowardennan, with plenty of time to get a few pictures of that most bonny of Lochs!

Alec Hawkes Tuesday 28th May 2013  approx 275 miles now!