Well sort of...kinda. I'd like to say we were halfway up a Munro but we weren't really. We were at the right height though (457 metres) and perfectly happy and content looking out from our not so lofty perch on Dungavel hill over the rest of Lanarkshire/Ayrshire. It was Nelly's first summit too and she seemed to be happy enough.
I left work on the Monday sharpish. It was one of "those" days and I was desperate for some fresh air and not to be cooped up in a clean room under fluorescent lighting. I swung past Asda to grab some provisions and then home to pick up a hastily packed sack, the dug and the wife too. A short drive later and we were striding off up the now familiar track into Dungavel woods.
We like walking here. It's very handy as its just a short, and if I'm honest pleasant, drive through the local countryside. It's one of those special places, or at least it's become one recently for us, where you can very quickly leave behind the rest of the real world. A little bit of escapism, almost on your doorstep. I reckon everybody needs somewhere like that. If you don't have it then I urge you to go look for it. You'd be surprised where you'll find it too!
You might wonder why I'm getting enthusiastic about these woods but they've got it all. You can be hemmed in by the trees one minute and looking out at the view over or between them the next. It's got a varied terrain and if you start to explore as we've started to do, you can find all manner of routes and passages wending their way onto open hillsides nestled between the evergreens. It's a dynamic landscape that's forever changing, so even the most up to date OS sheet is only of limited use. The best way to explore it is to get out and follow your feet.
The sun was in and out of the clouds and it was warm, muggy even but not excessively so. As long as we kept moving the midges couldn't catch us and I was pretty pleased about that. The birds were singing full tilt and it was all very nice indeed wandering along, chatting about this and that and throwing the Frisbee for Nellie. There should be more Monday afternoons like this I reckon.
Eventually we came to the almost "secret garden" like entrance through the trees leading onto the side of Dungavel hill itself. Even when you know it's there you have to check you're in the right place. It's not marked but if you look carefully the eyes can pick out the little tell-tales of the occasional traffic that must use it. The discretely placed stepping stones in the burn, the long grass bent back into a very faint trail that disappears between the seemingly impenetrable wall of trees and when you get between them, you suddenly find that there's more space between them than you first thought.
A few steps later and you come out from the treeline and the terrain changes like someone flicking a switch. Suddenly it's all open hillside, steep too and big skies above. The ground underfoot is littered with grassy tussocks and sharp, scratching and springy heather. It's a grand place for a dug to leap about, up and down and through the grass. All the new sights and smells to explore as we head on and upwards towards the summit.
We spotted a deer on the skyline but it was watching us approach and was wary with it. I managed to fire off one photo at the limits of my digital zoom before it bolted. Ach, next time eh? The view behind opens up pretty quickly for the diminutive size of the hill you are on here. Saying that though, the last couple of hundred metres of ascent are steep and I was feeling it well enough in my ruined lungs. The summit cairn and trig pillar arrive quick enough and we all took in the view before thoughts quickly turned to food.
Ravenous, I fired up the stove as Louise threw the Frisbee with Nellie some more. Before long we were feasting on the Asda's finest gourmet delights. Cheesy pasta and smoked sausage. There were chocolate doughnuts for pudding too as we watched the cloud cover roll in and change while Nellie explored the summit and ate her own dinner (and the remains of ours) before doing her usual trick of finding the one and only dirty bog and rolling in it.
With the sun going down there was a noticeable drop in the the temperature so we packed up and headed off back down the hill and through the trees. Reality and an early night were beckoning. It would have been nice to pitch up a tent or tarp and watch the sun drop all the way from a cocoon of downy warmth but we still had to get up for work in the morning. It was still nice to ecape for a few hours though.