The final outdoor act of 2017 was a wonderful winter wander along old ways in the countryside of Stirlingshire. A little gem of a walk. I'll do it many times again.
On a cold winter's day there were pockets of even deeper cold by the river. Here the rich tones of the bare winter branches and the rusted grasses were muted by a thick layer of frost that sparkled in the low December sun.
Before we dropped into Dunblane, the old route became enclosed in stone walls that blocked out the modern world from view, making it easier to tune into the echoes of ancient footsteps. I liked a story from the past that I read. The landowner of the day had angered local people by diverting the Darn Road and building a wall across the route. It was said that the men he employed to build the wall secretly took it back down again every night.
A little further on and the rooftops of Dunblane came into view backed by the dramatic snow-covered peaks of Stuc a'Chroin and Ben Ledi. We ambled through the pleasant streets and gawped at the cathedral before popping out on the far side on more ancient routes. We were on the Old Doune Road now where it crossed Murdoch's Ford. It was here that King Robert II's grandson, Murdoch, was captured by English forces.
The Old Doune Road meandered across winter fields and passed cottages with Christmas trees in the windows. All the while snow-covered mountains provided a rugged backdrop to the pastoral scene. It soon joined the Doune Trail, an old railway line converted to a walking and cycling track. It's deep cut passed through bare winter woods before emerging into the fields and the village of Doune itself.
My friend and I have our own old ways, one of which is using buses and trains to get to our walks. And so we jumped on the bus to take us back the way we came.
Start: Bridge of Allan
Public transport: Train to Bridge of Allan. Bus back from Doune to Stirling for a train home.
Route: We turned right out of the station at Bridge of Allan then left up Blairforkie Drive. As the roads rises we took a path to the left between the houses which continued alongside the Allan Water. It reaches a bridge where there is a sign for Dunblane. It eventually pops out at dual carriageway at Dunblane. We crossed and took the first right which heads down to the main street. At the top is the cathedral. Ahead is the train station. We crossed to the other side of the train station and turned right to then turn left up the Old Doune Road opposite Tesco which continues as track and path once it leaves the houses. This is now the national cycle network and can be followed easily into Doune.