There was much excited chatter as the minibus pulled into Elgin Street. All 14 of us (15 counting our driver Dianne) waiting patiently with packed bags ready and raring to go on the special highlight of our walking year, Bennochy Walkers 10th birthday trip to Stirling. An overnight stay - a first for the walkers at Stirling Youth Hostel but a special birthday requires something different!
Arriving at our abode for the night, we stopped just long enough to deposit our foodstuffs before heading to our first stop "The Engine Shed" where we enjoyed our tea and coffee and a piece of birthday cake before heading off on our first walk to Bridge of Allan. Taking a slight detour past the new student accommodation which is being built, I wondered if this had been a deliberate plan of the organiser as surely the building would be ready in time for next years trip
Following the road through town we reach the bridge which will take us to the village of Cambuskenneth. According to the information board the bridge was opened on 23rd October 1935 replacing the original method of transport which was a small ferry service that had existed since medieval times. Once across the bridge we continue through the village onto a rural road heading towards the Wallace Monument. In the distance we could see the castle showing how far we had walked since the minibus was parked just below. We passed both the Wallace Monument and part of Stirling University before reaching our destination at Bridge of Allan, pausing to eat our packed lunch at Provost Park and for Janice to model her newly bought hat. It was at this point the rain decided to make an appearance.
It was time to press on as we still had the next part of our walk which would take us on to Dunblane ahead of us. Up to now we had walked approx 3.8 miles. We continued along the Main Street where we encountered the actual "Bridge of Allan" from where the village takes it's name. Turning right we headed alongside the river until we reached the path named 'Darn Walk'. At this point it wasn't so much of Darned Walk as darned rain since the heavens had by this time opened. Luckily once we were at the top of the hill we were shaded by the trees. it was just past here that the group encountered a beautiful deer who stood and watched us dafties out in the wet before running for the trees.
When we reached the village of Dunblane we stopped at the golden postbox dedicated to Sir Andy Murray where we posed for photos and a few of the group posted their postcards. It was time for "refreshments" at the Riverside Pub, although this time, most opted for a form of fermented grape juice rather than the usual tea or coffee but this was a momentous occasion after all! Before we knew it, the time had arrived to head for the bus taking us back to base just giving us enough time to get ready for our evening meal at The Stirling Highland Hotel. A good choice as everyone seemed delighted with their food.
Back to the hostel for the festivities! There was plenty to keep us occupied as the gin and wine flowed freely along with the hilarity with quizzes and games and who could forget Mary and Audreys rendition of "Sisters?" (no-one was that drunk) much to the amusement of our fellow hostellers who were equally entertained!
It was also at this point that Dianne was presented with her goodies in recognition of getting Bennochy Walkers up and running 10 years ago and for organising our birthday trip (after all her being driver, organiser and party planner where would we all be without her? all left in Kirkcaldy, that's where!) Just before heading to bed there was another surprise in store for Sybil since it's very close to another special birthday! One by one the party headed for bed since day 2 was looming.
Day 2 - Sunday 16th June 2019
Up and ready at the crack of dawn our chefs had been busy preparing breakfast for all at 845 prompt. Packed lunches were made and bags packed and loaded onto the minibus. I should congratulate everyone at this point since, with a little forward thinking, we all had jobs to do and everyone pulled together, working as a team and helping make the Bennochy Walkers the great group that it is.
Unfortunately todays weather wasn't so kind. It started off rather dull before turning to rain. We headed off down through the city towards Bannockburn. It was at this point some of the group decided to do their own thing ending up at Stirlings Thistle Shopping centre. The group was now down to 11. We reached Bannockburn Visitor Centre and stopped for coffee. We walked to the Bruce Statue posing for photos (in the rain) losing another 2 members when Ian and Sybil decided to head back to the city centre. The remaining 9 braved the rain to finish an approximate 3.2 mile figure of 8 loop, starting and finishing at the visitor centre before bussing it back to Stirling to meet up with the rest of the group and jump onto the minibus to head home. Of course, the birthday party had one final stop to make at South Queensferry for delicious fish and chips from Grazianos, stopping to munch them whilst enjoying the views of the bridges.
Once loaded into our minibus we were ready for the final leg of our journey back to the church pausing to recite our prayer before heading our separate ways. Good times and happy memories made with a great bunch of people, old friends and new, all different but brought together by our shared love of walking. Here's to the next 10 years!