A ‘droving’ ambition is now fulfilled

Mandy Rush takes on the 200 mile challenge of the drovers' route to the Tryst market in Stenhousemuir
Mandy Rush takes on the 200 mile challenge of the drovers' route to the Tryst market in Stenhousemuir

When adventurous blogger Mandy Rush took up the challenge to walk the famous Drover’s Route she was literally doing it by the book.

The Plean-born online travel writer, who now lives in Wester Ross in the West Highlands, consulted the The Drove Roads of Scotland by A.R.B. Haldane when she and partner Cory took on the 200 mile trek from Poolewe to Stenhousemuir over nine eventful days last month.

Mandy said: “The book has been my wee ‘bible’ of the history and the potential routes. It contains a map and lots of information on routes collected from old documents and some first hand accounts from old men who had been, as young laddies, drovers or son’s of drovers.

“With this information and the basic map from the book, I decided which route would pass places and countryside which I wanted to walk through. The drover’s needed to have safe passage and free communal pastures and this was easier in the Highlands than further south.

“We wanted to avoid roads as much as possible, so up and over and down towards Beauly we went, heading for Inverness to get over the river, then down to Aviemore on an old General Wade road and on from there.”

Here is a taste of Mandy’s epic journey which had thrills, spills and, of course, the dreaded Scottish midge.

DAY ONE: Things didn’t get off to a good start when Mandy slipped on some mud and damaged her left ankle.

She said: “I was like a huge beetle, lying on my back, legs in the air, shrieking in pain and clutching my ankle. I couldn’t get up. Thankfully Cory, my resident international mountain leader, is also my resident first aider.”

“From now on the going was slow. Every step agony. What else could go wrong?”

DAY TWO: Mandy’s ankle still playing up, the couple hitched a lift from an unselfish shellfish van driver from Achnasheen to Inverness and enjoyed a lunch at a local Tesco store.

Knackered after another long day, they made camp in a beautiful meadow near Faille.

DAY THREE: Mandy said: “I knew I was struggling. The goose egg on my ankle was in danger of hatching and the pad of my foot would testify it had barely survived ten rounds with Ali.

“Every step hurt.”

After a long painful walk to Moy and then onto Tomatin, a weary Mandy and Cory hopped on a bus to Aviemore and arrived in time to bag the second last tent pitch at the camp.

DAY FOUR: Mandy said: “We became aware of the little drip-drip-tap-taps of the rain as we slept and then at 3.30am – boom. God turned all the lights on and off and then opened the flood gates.

“We moved into the centre of the tent and wondered if our Ark would survive. It was wild. Sheet lightening, forked lightening, torrential rain, blackness. Were we about to start floating? Was everything in the tiny tent’s porch in a bag?”

DAY FIVE: After a day’s rest, the couple were off again, walking through Capercaillie country and gorgeous pine forests for what turned out to be their only day of fine weather.

Mandy said: “We saw dragonflies skimming along the moors, tadpoles in puddles, giant fat frogs jumping into the wild flowers at the side of the purple lined path.”

DAY SIX: Following yet another major midge attack, Mandy and Cory pushed on to Glen Tilt.

Mandy said: “Cory now had interesting foot developments. White fleshy, squirmy, things under his foot which he attacked with a needle from the first aid kit.”

DAY SEVEN: Mandy said: “Blair Atholl to Perth and then Perth to Dunblane. The Drovers Inn (Sherrifmuir Inn) did have a room but at £110 a night I decided the tent would do fine.

“We walked passed Andy Murray’s gold postbox, bought posh cheese, crisps, tattie scones and oat cakes and headed up the old drovers path to Sherrifmuir.”

DAY EIGHT: The couple hiked from Sheriffmuir to her old stomping ground of Plean, stopping off at Stirling Bridge along the way. Mandy said: “Mum made us strip off at the back door and we delighted in the warm welcoming shower and real bed.”

DAY NINE: Mandy said: “Before we knew it we had arrived at the outskirts of Stenhousemuir, then to the Falkirk Tryst Golf Club, Tryst Road. “The bare earth where once McGowans factory had stood and then finally at the heart of the Tryst, the Stenhousemuir Highland Cows.”

Both Mandy and Cory were pleased to see the statues, because it meant their journey was at an end.

To cover the distance, the couple tried to average a minimum of 15 miles a day – not bad going when you consider they were carrying packs weighing around 17kg.

Mandy said: “The Lovely Highland Coo statues represent the historical heritage of not only the drovers and the Tryst but McGowans’ Factory which used the symbol too, because of the ancient link with the past.”

Visit www.mandyerush.wordpress.com for the full story on Mandy’s journey and more of her adventures.