Well Hello,


… and a very warm welcome to my dog blog. I’m so pleased that you’ve found me, Ben, a young Border Collie. I do hope you will enjoy reading about the trials and tribulations of my great adventure. I would love it if you joined in the saga by dropping me a line in the comments box. As you will see I’m going to need all the support I can get.

This my v. v. v big tail!

I started my blog in 2015, as a  young orphan puppy from West Cumbria in the United Kingdom. It will record my big walking adventure – climbing the 282  Scottish Mountains over 3,000 feet. Me, an agile young dog and my person – a creaky aging thing (called B) – aim to complete the task by the time I am 10 and she is 70. We are to spend many hours in some of the most wonderful and  remote parts of the UK: walking, camping, eating, drinking, writing and growing ever closer and closer. My primary purpose is to attract people who would like to follow me and see if I achieve my goal.  I aim to raise £32,000 for two v. v. v good causes. I have promised not to use any of the dosh for even a tiny morsel of a treat, how hard is that?

Ben’s Map of all the Munros done, in blue, and all those to go, in red

This is our story from a canine perspective for a change.

The human story is very slow, but you can try to access it here and join the group: 

Facebook – Mucky Boots and Flawless Paws

The money we raise will be spilt between a charity for search and rescue dogs, and Canine Partners, which trains assistance dogs to  support disabled people. These dogs are sooooooo clever. This is Bumble and Sandra’s story. I am in love with Bumble.

SANDRA BELL AND BUMBLE – Partnership study

There are film clips of the clever canines at work below.  If after watching them you think what amazing creatures we dogs really are, and you wanted to support their work, you could always drop me a penny or two for my fundraising, just here :

Munro challenge doggy bag fund – just giving

Please join in the chat, by adding your thoughts below and become part of the adventure. It will give me encouragement and I’m going to need it, by the bucket full

By the bye, all my blog posts are here, on my home page, but I have other more specific pages too. You just need to click a mouse (ouch!), on the options below, or on the tabs below my lovely photo at the top, to access them:

You tube – Canine Partners at work

You tube – Search and Rescue dog doing their thing.

That was hard work, Need sleep.

Ben Asleep
And so to bed

Love Ben xx untitled 1

2022 – Maturing?

Friends, Collies, Party dogs,

(A big hello to anyone new to my blog. I’m Ben a handsome Border Collie on a v. v. v adventurous challenge. You can read all about it by clicking here. My blogs tell the whole story, paw by paw. I do so hope you will like them and want to follow my adventures).

And so, here we are now – in 2023 – and I’m moving towards my 9th birthday, making me 54 in human and therefore, something of a mature dog… supposedly. However, having found the puppy within – while on holiday in 2021 – I have still retained an irresistible playfulness, whenever anything with tuggy possibilities passes my way, and I mean ANYTHING. Pleas for me to act my age fall on deaf ears, as I adopt that gooey eyed look of innocence that does the trick, every time. I mean, who can resist an effervescent dog with such doleful eyes, pleading to play? Cute or cunning that is the question, and the jury’s still out.

12 months ago, 2022 started in the same way as 2021, with us giving the dark mornings a big body swerve by lying supine till v. v. v late and not just at weekends; this is because B has retired. Now that she doesn’t go to work anymore there aren’t enough hours in the day. I know, I’m confused too. Though I suppose, it’s just possible that the bed in the morning thing, and the lack of time thing, could be related. Eventually, once up, we go out for my walk and I get to play with my new balls, if you’ll pardon the expression – Christmas comes but once a year. After that, back at home, we tuck into all those goodies that are still hanging around after the festivities and then… I’m back in bed again, in need of even more Zs. Funny old life.

I’d been lulled into a false sense of security at the beginning of 2022, because the renovation work of the previous eight months (noted with horror in my review of 2021), had ground to a halt; all had been blissful silence, and still waters had restored my fragile equilibrium. Then, before you could say “where has January gone”, big burly blokes were bashing away at my fireplace and this was followed by what had become more familiar displacements. Furniture went walk about, the walls were stripped bare and, once again, the colour of my David’s clothing took on an uncanny resemblance to the colour our walls adopted. This resurgence of activity took us into March, when the display of snowdrops in the garden bowed out and daffodils stole the show, golden – in your face – trumpets of joy, heralding long-awaited warmer days.

The year was turning. I was another 1.5 years older (in human), and our Lakeland caravan awaited. Utter bliss was in those early walks, a poetry of place: Gowbarrow, Ill Bell, Dolly Wagon Pike… Helvellyn. I hadn’t forgotten my Munro buddy status either and was intent on getting B fit for the Munro year ahead after – let’s face it – something of an autumn and winter hiatus.

This year was going to be the big one, with the most difficult climbs yet, 11 Munros along the Cullin Ridge on the Isle of Skye. I was under no illusions, I wouldn’t be there walking alongside her. Quite apart from the odd lunge at a pair of irresistible ankles passing by (not hugely compatible with traversing a ridge with sheer drops of unimaginable depth, while on a lead), there was the whole problem of the geological infrastructure – wretched, unforgiving, Garbo. This abrasive rock, known to make short shift of the costly fashion statements worn by many the hill walker, also shreds the pads of even the toughest Border Collie. However, in my role as fitness guru we had several trips to our caravan and increasingly long days out in the Lake District. Whatever the weather threw at us the fells held a fascinating beauty, sometimes wild and wonderful, sometimes benign, sunlit and boasting colours that magnified the senses. The views opened out onto layers of mountains competing with each other for the narrowest ridge, the most comely angle, the steepest gully or the deepest valley, while Lakeland tarns littered the landscape like inkwells. Such long days had an added Bonus for Ben, ably assisted by the gooey eyed formula. I worked out that 15 minutes was the optimum time to request treats and get a positive result. However, over time, this had an inverse effect on the exercise plan because, as B was getting fitter Ben was got fatter.

While we were away my old living room, where I lounged around on the soft furnishings, was being transformed into a farmhouse kitchen. Mrs Beeton was ordered early on, to help with the household management and, on one return, my floor was totally gone… Now, call me obtuse if you will but, would you rather feel the warmth of woven wool beneath your paws (albeit threadbare and stained), or the icy, unforgiving texture of hard tile? Gone were the twin sofa’s, the very essence of my afternoon siestas. Gone too the feathered cushions on which I’d – oft time – rest my weary head. The hearth rug had also gone for a Burton, so not even a resting place on the floor, after one too many dog beers. Admittedly I’d a new, much smaller, living room with a new sofa, cushions and hearth rug but, being a creature of habit, I tend to go in for a ‘woe is me’ nostalgia. Never-the-less, it wasn’t too long before I was won over. In comes a new cooker, at least twice the size of our old one and oh, oh boy, can I tell you about the inviting smells that now fill the whole room. To finish it off the furniture arrived but, being angular and made of hard wood, it held no interest for me – obviously. On the plus side, my old cushion fits snugly under the big table and close to the black box, now often lit. So, I’m beginning to bend a bit with the changing winds of time, after all Charles Darwin inclined towards them.

As soon as this resurgence of activity settled down B was off. It’s not like her to head north in howling winds and lashing rain but, apparently, if you have paid lots of dosh for a two-legged mountain guide, you go whatever the weather. Thus, B’s first two days on the Cullin ridge were a baptism of fire in v. v. v gusty, slippery, frightening conditions, where keeping her nerve was dependant on the use of a very strong rope attached to someone who knew where the hell they were going, and how on earth to get there. Having survived this ordeal she was home and we all had so many cuddles of relief, with a handsome number of treats thrown in for good measure. Then, before you could you could sing the first line of the Skye Boat Song, she was off again. This time, the gods of the Cullin weather smiled on her and, in a week full of blue skies, she polished off all the Munros on the ridge and even got a swim in Glen Brittle Bay. All that is her story to tell but, I didn’t want you to think all my preparatory work had been in vein.

Thus, as spring had unfolded into summer, I was beginning to settle in nicely to all the new places at home and, if in doubt, I took off to the king size, tucking up on the lovely William Morris bedspread (I like to go in for a bit of name dropping now and again 😂). As our relocated bedroom had been completed 6 months ago (3 years in dog), it felt well established and very safe.

So, I wasn’t best pleased when the suitcases came out and my dinner bowl disappeared. It was the end of June and we were off to a celebration. Now, call me a party-pooper if you will, but I’m not big on long journeys and I’m usually banned from large gatherings anyway, due to ankle nipping thing that no one – myself included – knows what to do about. Sometimes though, just sometimes, I can step up to the mark for the big occasions and I can report that… I didn’t put a paw wrong all weekend. It’s a shame that, shortly after I came back, I made contact with a tasty bit of ankle on my way to the field in Maibie Forest, but that’s a whole other story, best brushed over.

Back at the long, long, drive – we eventually arrived. At first I was abandoned, sitting so lonely in the back of the car but then, after my people had mellowed a bit – something to do with bottles and glasses I believe – I was introduced to the throng. OMG! I didn’t realise there were so many two legs in the whole world. I’m told there weren’t actually that many there but, I kid you not, there were far more than I had been introduced to in my whole life. Just then, when temptation might have blotted my copy book, I spotted Buzz. I’d met Buzz in the closing days of 2018 and again in the spring of 2019. We got on famously as kindred spirits; he will a ball in his mouth, me likewise. The ghastly pandemic had interrupted our friendship so we had to catch up on all the mighty issues of the day: which balls gave the highest bounce; the best ruse for getting a non-ending supply of treats and the shocking price of our food. As we were in the thick of it Bobby came in with Becky. I liked Becky, she smells to me – with my hyper sensitive smell – of lovely Collie. My relationship with Bobby, her best boy, is a little more complex. The truth is we are too alike, both rather nervy & afraid of our own shadows, though never going to admit it of course. We did OK over all, incorporating the odd intimate tete-a-tete, among an occasional spat.

Anyway, let’s get back to the celebration, scheduled for the next day. Well! I would have been forgiven for believing it was Buzz’s big day, not Vicky’s. Vicky is B’s niece and God Daughter. We were all there for her big four O. Buzz is the apple of her eye and if she was going to celebrate so was Buzz… and his friends. We had a lovely walk across the fields to a centre of excellence – all focused on dogs. Firstly, we had a privately hired field where we could play ball to our hearts content, without any of the possible skirmishes, and attendant human anxiety, that could have attended our play if we’d opted for the free for all in the adjacent field. An uninterrupted supply of spherical objects arched the sky as we took up position – deep fine Buzz, backward square Bobby, silly mid Ben, ready for the catch. We’d built up such an appetite with all the running and jumping so that, when we absolutely couldn’t run any more, we repaired to the dog cafe for our pup cakes, and all the other tit bits we could scrounge. This was followed by a bit of a snooze because, let’s face it, the conversation of the average bi-ped is zzzz boring.

I had the most amazing dream and thought I had gone to heaven. In my fantasy Vicky had also hired a hot tub, just for us dogs, and we swam away the rest of the day fetching, you guessed it, our balls, kissed by the warmth of the afternoon sun.

My glorious dream continued in an equally wonderful, and unbelievable, fashion. That evening I was to be found cooling my flanks on the slate slabs of an ancient market inn, amid a whole pack of people and my canine friends. Hostelries are no go areas for me, so I knew it was a dream but honestly, it felt as real, as nourishing, as sublime, as demolishing my dinner. In my dream, I was so good in the pub that my people wondered if I was getting mature enough to do it another time. Truth be told, I was so knackered after all the days activities that I collapsed on a heap on the floor and didn’t give a toss about the most alluring of ankles, moving or not.

We set off for home early the next day and, if I’m honest, it was something of an anti-climax heading north with just my two (old) people in tow, after all the excitement, The wheels of my old routine, that I normally cherished, seemed pretty staid now and life took on a dull overtone for a couple of weeks. But then, as part of the great spending spree that characterised life since B retired, another building appeared, spontaneously, in my garden.

Apparently, it is a shepherdess hut and B occupied it, when not away bagging Munros. I may be getting cynical (age I suppose) but, putting Shepherdess and B together, I came up with WORK.

What other conclusion could you arrive at? I’d heard about working dogs. They were out all day long, whatever the weather, dealing with stubborn animals, and their home was a tiny hovel OUTSIDE with, NO SOFT FURNISHINGS for their whole life long. The butterflies in my tummy had woken up and were taking vast quantities of steroids. Well, I just kept my head well down and found that, after all, the small comforts of my previous routine were where I wished to spend the rest of my days. As it happens, I’m rather hoping I got the wrong end of the stick because, six months later, well… look for yourself.

After B had finished bagging 44 Munros without me (not that I’m complaining), the nights had begun to draw in, and her scary outside hut was a bit chilly so, she took up that strange occupation, which David had perfected earlier in the year, colour coding her clothes with the changing complexion of our walls. This time it was our old kitchen, now – apparently – a utility room, that was getting a make over.

Then, blow me down with a full tank of petrol and a second mortgage, just as I thought we should be hunkering down for the autumn in front of my log burners, we were on the move again burning rubber on the A1 all the way to Hertfordshire. After 7 hours on the road I was somewhat concerned about the empty state of my tummy but, give them their due, the first items out of my car were a substantial container of my Wainwrights, c/o Pets at Home, along with our very best dining crockery (well I thought so). With that priority attended to, I had a quick tour of the new place – sampling the quality of the soft furnishings – and then, with my seal of approval, we got the other – pretty unimportant – baggage in. It was an odd few days really, we adhered to our old routine but just in another place: up late, eat, walk, play ball, sleep; up, eat, walk, play ball, sleep… sleep…sleep, and dream. Admittedly, David did lots of that clicking thing, with the little box that I have to look into when I bark cheese and lick my lips. The unusual thing was, during three whole days, the box was never pointed at me. For a photogenic – egotistical dog – this was a tad disconcerting. I did put in a guest appearance from my car but you’d need and awfully strong magnifying glass to spot my best side.

The word work entered the lexicon but, sounding much like hut, I kept my head down and pretended I didn’t hear. Thankfully, nothing bad came of it and, in a flash, we were back on the A1 heading north, after I had supervised the packing of my essential belongings: balls, bowls and blankets. Back at home, I watched the dogs from our neighbouring farm hard at work and counted my blessings. I was home, I was happy, I loved my old people. That is, until the next round of chaos hit… early in December.

Then, yet more tradesmen materialised, doing even more unfathomable things with shelves, and tiles, and – worst of all – floorboards. Life with tradesmen is such strange existence, no sooner are they in then I’m escorted out (can’t think why).

In the middle of this particular round of chaos we complimented the upheaval, the dust and the grime, with with a cornucopia of festive bits and pieces, many of them lit by the warm glow of very cheap lighting, in shades of red, green and gold – we are nothing, if not traditional, in our house. Quite how mince pies, and sundry other delights, made their way from fantasy to table – amid all the comings, goings, banging and drilling – is something of a mystery. The full assembly of a Christmas cake remains a complete enigma.

Why, after all this effort, we had to go to our caravan and deck those halls too I’ll never know, but we did and what a lovely time we had. I’m pretty used to the routine when Christmas day arrives and it became v. v. v difficult to be remain composed as corks popped, glasses clinked with ice, and I was given tasty morsels. Then the time came and mayhem visited our little home as I opened all my presents. This was quickly followed by total exhaustion and, oh my golly gosh, what aromas visited my headspace. I thought I was floating on an astral plane.

So there we have it, the rotation of another blissful year. I think I’ve acquitted myself reasonably well in the ethics of dog behaviour, as a mature dog sporting an inner puppy. That is, if we gloss over the curious incident of two missing sausages in the afternoon. Think I’ll rest on my laurels for a bit.

And so to bed, love Ben xx

Ben’s year 2021 – Staying put

Friends, Collies, latter day puppies,

(A big hello to anyone new to my blog. I’m Ben a handsome Border Collie on a v. v. v adventurous challenge. You can read all about it by clicking here. My blogs tell the whole story, paw by paw. I do so hope you will like them and want to follow my adventures).

It had taken me a bit of time to complete my review of the year because not a lot had happened, or so it had seemed at the time; I was a stay at home Ben for most of the year. Indeed, my lack of new adventures was reflected in the paucity of the posts I had written for my blog, over a whole long year. Nevertheless, a year is a huge long time in the life of a Border Collie with each one needing it’s due tribute, and so…

The year began as a yawning replica of how we had spent much of 2020, and the fast-spreading COVID mutation – responsible for cancelling Christmas 2020 – had caused Nicola, our big chief, to drawn down the hatches and put up the barricades – we were all locked up again. We could travel the big distance of 5 miles but that was only for exercise. We were also allowed to go to Pets at Home, for my bit of dinner, but only if we hadn’t caught that nasty virus thing. Those who had needed to do something called self isolating, and it’s a good job I haven’t needed to do that because, although I’m big on the self bit, I’m not good at anything that reeks of discipline. As a result of this latest lock down I missed out on my romps with Oscar in Mabie Forest yet again, and it was just me and my people all day, everyday. We settled comfortably into a different daily routine, with excursions to Ae Forest becoming the norm. Here I alighted upon a new sport which was born out of necessity rather than desire.

Just before 2020 became 2021, we had a deluge of the white stuff which, unlike most years, froze over and refroze every night. It covered my shrunken world for a long time, well over a month, and that is equivalent to more than a year for you bipeds – pro-rata, as they say. Anyway, back in Ae Forest, I was on the skids and all my paths became a playground for, not so much dancing on ice but ball chasing on ice. Now this is an awfully tricky game and is, if I may say so, rather unnerving at times. It required me to go on a steep learning curve. First of all I had to find out about aerodynamics, just to stay on all fours. Then I needed a grounding in velocity, to work out how quickly I needed to do this skating business, in order to arrest a ball, also travelling at speed, on thin ice. None of this was easy, not even for a Border Collie. Quite apart from anything else my ball’s tempo varied according to how much loose snow it picked up along the way. I can’t tell you how many times I waved goodbye to it as I sped past, quite unable to apply brakes on the impossible surface. Clearly, lifting a paw to wave goodbye hadn’t been such a bright idea because all the laws of physics in the world couldn’t keep me upright, when balanced on three legs instead of four. Thus my ball became a distant spec while I completed my my journey as a rather undignified, totally helpless hound, travelling downhill at speed flat on my back and, to add insult to injury, my perilous plight became the stage for comic entertainment, when watched by my people. It’s just possible that I may have become a little more competent over time but, in all honesty, I can’t say I’m waiting for a call from Team GB, asking me to join them at the winter Olympics.

Slide the photo to see whose playing ball 🙂

January slid (pardon the pun) into February with very little change in the weather, or to our routine, and the second big lock down of my short life became rather tiresome, limiting my horizons. I am a sensitive tyke and I do know that my inconveniences were small fry indeed, because this pernicious coronavirus was having very unpleasant consequences for lots of people. By comparison me and my people were so very lucky. Counting my blessings included all those long mornings in bed that we all go in for in the dark mornings, and then – of course – there were all my lovely, lovely Christmas treats that I was still working my way through. The reassuring roll of the seasons meant that, before long, my movements in the garden weren’t being traced by one of those big white beams. Then as snowdrops gave way to daffodils the sun, with his hat off, radiated just enough warmth to penetrate my fur. Still we couldn’t go beyond our five mile radius, except when we took off on jaunts known as house hunting, which is brilliant fun. The rules are… we drive miles and miles so that I can have a jolly good romp and sniff around someone else’s garden, to see if I like it or not, but I have to say how lovely it is, even if it isn’t, which is a tad confusing. We went to the highest village in Scotland, a pathetic little hovel in Moffat, and a lodge near nowhere in particular with very little to recommend it. However, after all this cavorting around, outside my five mile zone, I decided our garden is best of all and so, the bloody house will just have to do (not my words).

Following all this frantic activity I found out that staying put meant sitting in all day making lots of phone calls. Then, in the wake of a very big phone bill, tons of tradesmen were coming, but not very soon, getting to work, but disappearing for days and then causing the need for other tradesmen to come after them, but not very soon, staying to work, but… sadly, I don’t think they’ve finished yet. On the days when they did come, stay at home Ben was put in the car, just in case my ankle nipping tendencies got in the way of a productive days work. From my lonely exile I heard it all: head-splitting banging, thunderous hammering and rounded off by ear-bursting drilling. For heavens sake, I tried to implore them, don’t you know my sensory equipment is thousands of times more sensitive than yours and no one has given me ear defenders. To make matters worse, when they left, and I got back in my own home, it was chaos. Nothing was where it should be. Golden flames came from a new room, but were contained in a black cupboard with a glass door. It wasn’t at all like my old hearth, albeit one that used to spit at me a lot. Where, I wondered, am I meant to lie down for an evenings snooze now. New carpets had also been put down in my absence, smelling of horrid chemicals, instead of… well, maybe I shouldn’t mention that. Worst of all my bed kept moving from place to place and I was getting so dizzy. Nonetheless, I can’t tell a lie, I did get my game of ball everyday and my dinner, bang on time, every night; small comfort though they were.

While all this was going on Newton’s bit of a theory was having it’s way with the COVID figures and so, the infection rates that had gone up were now coming down. This allowed our world to expand a bit, even when not taking a turn around other people’s gardens. In the early days of freedom we spent an idyllic week at our caravan in the Lake District: eating lots, walking loads and generally giving our ears a bit of a rest.

Although I thought I was living the dream I had, in fact, been labouring under a massive misapprehension. I believed we were getting fit, ready for some Munro bagging after a winter of sloth, like every other year. However, I was destined for more of that staying put business, while B kept coming and going, driving my van away without me. It turned out that 2021 was to be the big Munro year and every trip away would include at least one walk with, either extremely narrow ridges or lots of scrambling, neither of which can – for health and safety reasons – accommodate a dog with ankle nipping tendencies. Then, there was the need for my presence at base – now I was the only pet left – making all the difference between a barren house and a loving home. Unfortunately, I hadn’t quite worked out how to do that when said property was being ripped apart before my very eyes. So it continued all summer long, B going away and, bang-bang-bang at home.

Then, blow me down with a tuft of highland heather, we were on the move at Summers very last knockings. David drove me such a long, long way, I thought he must be taking me to check out the grounds of some stately home. Therefore, I was a little perplexed when we drew up outside a remarkably average bungalow, with a pocket handkerchief garden. But… that was before my sensory equipment had got to work, as familiar scents started travelling around my nose. There was that glorious peaty smell of the trodden earth on walking boot, followed by a vaguely nauseous aroma of mould – from a rucksack that was never washed – and finally, concluding my suspicion, my nose alighted on sweaty waterproofs. Boy, oh boy, did I know that sweat. Now, OMG, there was no doubt and the residence became a palace, my B was in there. I hadn’t seen her for three whole weeks. Released from my harness I reached the speed of lightening as I made for the door. Inside we did loads and loads of cuddles, and then we did them all over again, and again, and again. I’ll swear I’ve never been so excited in all my born years. We had never been apart that long before.

We stayed at our new abode for ages, and I wasn’t bothered about not knowing where I was or which bed was mine. I found a weird looking thing, a bit like me actually – except that it lay in front of a doors instead of a fire – so I played a bit of wrestling with it, and B. Then I found a stray tennis ball so I had a game with that too. It seemed like I was a little puppy all over again. Everyday, anytime of day, I played tuggy with whatever was knocking about, though – for some reason – socks and slippers didn’t seem to go down so well. In those halcyon days of September we had new walks with my old ball, and the three of us stuck together like glue; my pack was complete.

Of course, in the end, Newton was proved right again and what went up north had to come down south, and so we began the long journey, sad to be leaving paradise. Once home, I became B’s tour guide (though no one ever gave me a nice coat with a name badge) showing her all the changes and telling her where she could sleep and where to get warm and about not to get mud on the new carpets. I did get a bit bored with it though so took off with a bit of kindling at the earliest opportunity, having retained my new found playfulness.

Our return went paw-in-paw with the next round of upset and upheaval so that my metal equilibrium was once more torn to shreds. The next big project was converting David’s study into our bedroom. This involved B taking an awful lot of junk up to that mysterious, cavernous place upstairs. After that every bit of furniture went walk about and none of us could find a thing. Our bed had come to rest in the middle of a Spartan room and I didn’t like it one bit. Also, strangely, around this time, David adopted a peculiar fashion statement where his clothes were colour co-ordinated with the transformation of our walls. Eventually, we moved our furniture back and my bed changed place AGAIN. Even more of my old smells had gone and I still kept going to the wrong room at bedtime; I didn’t seem to have fixed roots any more. Evenings were odd too, because we went out in the garden to a completely new building, called a hobbit house, which had miraculously appeared out of nowhere during the early months of summer. There was another one of those black cupboards in there so it was toasty warm and, oh joy of joys, my old smelly cushion was there too. We took refuge there everyday, though I never could quite shift that anxiety about where I was going to lay my head that night.

The year kept on doing it’s predictable turning and I sensed we were getting ready for that big celebration which always rounds off my annual reviews. Unlike last year, the COVID fellow let us go to our caravan and, before you could say “cook that goose”, the decorations were up, delicious smells came from somewhere just beyond my reach and also from the oven, which wasn’t cooking a bird of any description – more’s the pity. Finally, and not before time, I was allowed to open my presents and there seemed to be more than ever, though some of them seemed awfully familiar. Sadly, I got so excited that, before long, they had to be taken from me for fear of my wreaking the joint, and I had to go in for some calming down, which was boring. I was appeased with some Christmas treats and, though I knew I was being manipulated, they were so yummy I forgot to make a big statement about being bought off. Every dog has their price.

In the days that finally wound up the year I thought about everything that had happened in 2021: the enduring presence of the vicious bug, with it’s evil mutations; the building site my lovely home had become; my demotion from Munro buddy status; and our late summer idyll in Torridon, where my latter day puppy resurfaced as a playful imp, which I remain to this day, constantly on the look out for anything with tuggy possibilities. Looking ahead, I wondered if we had more of the prison treatment in store, weather I would ever be on a Munro again and, most importantly of all, did I have enough balls to see me through the next twelve months. It was an unusually contemplative Ben that stepped from 2021 into 2022; age I suppose.

All the more reason to get my beauty sleep.
And so to bed

Love Ben

Ben’s extra special FREE summer competition – all in white

Friends, collies, puzzlers

(A big hello to anyone new to my blog. I’m Ben a young Border Collie on a v.v.v adventurous challenge. You can read all about it by clicking here. My blogs tell the whole story, paw by paw. I do so hope you will like them and want to follow my adventures).

Oh dearie me, it seems that I need to reinvent myself. Quite apart from being a bit of a liability, as a Munro buddy, particularly if I come into close contact with the human variety on narrow mountain ledges – I also have this dual responsibility; I’m needed at home too – a home isn’t home without a dog and, looking around me, I seem to be the only one available. So… it seems that I need to forget about flogging my way up 3.000 foot mountains (phew – way to go!) and concentrate on the domestic scene.

HOWEVER, I can still do my bit. I’m destined – it seems – to become the popular image of our fundraising campaign (an ambassador?) and reach out to people of money. We haven’t met any yet but are always hoping. In the meantime, here is my FREE summer competition 🙂 which, curiously for July, features lots of the white stuff.

Me and B had a conflab about the shapes the snow made on the Munros, in the photos she took of them. We could see lots of animal shapes. It made me wonder what you can see. We had real animals, cartoon characters, even a mythical beast. What do you make of it all? I can’t wait to find out.

So… for one of Ben’s v. v. v special prizes, what are they all? Just click on the photo to enlarge it and use the arrow keys at the side to move to the next photo. There are two prizes this time. One that gets closest to matching what me and B came up with, and one for someone who has even better ideas. Please puts (puts?) write our answers in the comments field below and number them 1 – 9, to correspond with the images, so that we are on the same page mountain.

That was hard work – must sleep.

And so to bed

Love Ben xx

Munros 2021

Friends, Collies, camping dogs,

(A big hello to anyone new to my blog. I’m Ben a young Border Collie on a v.v.v adventurous challenge. You can read all about it by clicking here. My blogs tell the whole story, paw by paw. I do so hope you will like them and want to follow my adventures).

There has been a lot of interesting activity at home, over a number of days, getting our van ready for this years Munro adventures. The sleeping bag is ousted from hibernation, the rucksack is inhabited with all manner of gismos, and the hope of new life has been – desperately – applyed to old walking boots – a forlorn hope. My paws are – of course – ‘Flawless’😂.

I was getting all excited – as were the butterfilies in my tummy – but then, oh deary me, I’ve just learnt that I’m not going this time. Our B is heading to the far north and is going to be away lots and lots of days. Back at base, a house is not a home without a dog – far, far too quiet – and so I’m keeping David company with a tad of relaxing on the soft furnishings 😊 . It’s quite a scarifice actually and, honestly, I don’t feel good about it at all. Of course I’d much rather be up there in the sleet and snow, teetering on the edge of An Teallach 😉. Still, needs must, and I’ll just have to make the most of home comforts – hee, hee.

Still, I have been doing my bit – over all those long winter months of lockdown – helping B with the exercises, to keep us both agile.

Exhauted just looking at it, must sleep

And so to bed!

Love Ben

And the winner is…

Friends, collies, competitors,

I’m a little late with the results of my competition and I am so sorry, but it’s such difficult work. What a fabulous collection of names for the cocktail me and B devised, to celebrate David’s Covid-19 vaccination. Thank you so much for entering, it makes my tummy all warm. Between this blog, Facebook entries and e mails, what a lot of suggestions. However, at the end of the day the winner is… BIG FANFARE … but… before that…

Here are the entries:

Hot Ginger Whinger

Spicey Bedtime.

Spice Up Your Life

Children of the 60s


Rolling Stoned

A Shot in the Arm

A Stab in the Dark

And the winner is…

Then again… before annouching the winner – aren’t I a tease, hee, hee…

A big bark out to Lynda for all her suggestions. Lynda is my bestest, biggest competition entrant. My person says the coffee is on her, when Nicola says we can go for one, even though you didn’t win this time.

BUT… here we go… the winner is… ‘Salvation Toddy‘, a late entrty from Jean Elgar, who – capturing both the drink and the occassion – is rewarded with a supermarket voucher. In these days, when the presentation of a physical trophy is banned, this e voucher is for Jean to buy the ingrediants to make lots and lots of Salvation Toddies.

Judging is such hard work and I hate letting my fans down, must sleep it off.

And so to bed!

Love Ben

Ben’s 2021 Competition – Name the cocktail

Friends, Collies, clubable dogs…

In celebration of David’s Coronavirus vaccination today, me and B concocted a cocktail to mark the aupicious occasion – using our Christmas left overs – but we are short of a name. What shall we call it? Please post your suggestions below.

Rooted in the orient, and complemented by the sun-kissed hills of Tuscany, this deceptively simple little cocktail excites the senses while warming the spirit; the perfect antidote to a year with Coronavirus.

  • 5 parts ginger wine
  • 2 parts fresh lemon juice
  • Hot water to taste

A big prize awaits you on 1st March. In the meantime, a few zzzzs for Ben 🙂

And so to sleep!

Love Ben

Return of the Canine

Friends, Collies, German Shepards

BIG, BIG HEADLINES – Champ and Major move in

There is, after all, a great dog in heaven, even though our faith has been sorely tested over the last four years of vacuous tenancy. But, HOORAY! two brave, intelligent and, I have to say, adorable canines, now rule all the matters of state – from thier gold lamé baskets – in the White House; Compassion is restored.

Long live Dogmocracy

Ben xx





Ben’s review of 2020

Friends, collies, clever scientists,

(A big hello to anyone new to my blog. I’m Ben a young Border Collie on a v.v.v adventurous challenge. You can read all about it by clicking here. My blogs tell the whole story, paw by paw. I do so hope you will like them and want to follow my adventures).

Well, who ever would have thought it. Me ‘The Ben’, at the tender age of 6 years old, becoming the canine chronicler of our age, recording a world public health crisis in the annual review of my year. Back at the beginning of 2020, an age of innocence, words that now slip off the tongue so easily, like pandemic and epidemiology, were beyond the scope of my Border Collie imagining. What an education this year has been.

In January, the comforting normality of our annual cycle had announced itself. A lethargic Ben was sprawled in front of a lovely hot fire, recovering from the ravages of an exceedingly merry festive season. Daily walks were still on the cards but enthusiasm, for more than a modicum of chasing ball, was somewhat wanting. Across the airways something in the Far East – a new virus – was reported but didn’t resonate. Of much more concern were references to the way animals were bought and sold. I really thought it was time to form the Border Collie branch of the Animal Rights Movement: ‘Black and White R Us – Zero tolerance for live animal markets’. However, at the time, I was a prisoner to one of those deadly sins, the one called sloth, and my radical career was sedated by golden flames of warmth.

As January flooded into February carefully timed outings avoided the worst of the wind and rain, and my people muttered something about a nasty flu coming our way, as the big cheeses on infectious diseases began to take up more of our radio listening. But still, as in every year past, the white flowers of snowdrops – those fair maids of February – bowed their heads in deference towards the earth.

In March, I was rudely awoken when we resumed our Lake District visits, and long hours of fell walking replaced long hours of dozing. Apparently, me and B were on a programme of Munro preparation. Spring was here and the revolving wheels of my year were so reassuring familiar, even if a little exhausting. However, each morning we were greeted by scientists who hijacked the radio waves, projecting forebodings of gloom onto our day. Meantime, our political masters, or in my case mistress, instructed us to go in for a new fad called social distancing, which – mere dog that I am – sounded like a contradiction in terms.

D’s day finally came on 20th March. Though he left the caravan in rude health at 5.00pm, as was customary, he returned less that 2 hours later as a shadow of his former self. An ashen pallor had replaced the rosy complexion that usually returned from these outings, and the jocular spirit was replaced by a numbed presence devoid of speech… he was in shock. My David’s raison d’etre had been whipped away from under his pint – THE PUBS WERE CLOSED DOWN, by order of the Prime Minister.

From here, it was but a matter of two days before being banged up for the first time ever in our lives. We were instructed to go nowhere and the law kept us tied to home; the fabric of my life was torn to shreds. It seems that this supposedly little bug, working it’s way across the globe, was, in fact, a malicious Coronavirus, specified as COVID-19; it wanted to invade our lungs and stop us breathing. Now there were going to be no more Lake District walks and, not even a short trek in Maibie Forest to meet my best pal Oscar. In this period of readjustment I had to go in for one of those steep curves, making my brain hurt with all the new words to learn. For a start, we had to stay at home to stop the nasty virus thing spreading, before exponential growth took over and caused a crisis in the NHS. It was all quantified in something called the R number, which told us – if we had any inkling of what was going on – how quickly the spiky monster was working it’s way through the population. During this time of national crisis all non-essential business had to shut down and the bloke with the exquisitely tailored outfit, who holds the purse strings (no, this most definitely wasn’t the Prime Minister) said, “You can all stay at home and I’ll pay you”. Actually, it wasn’t his money but it could easily have been because he is v. v. v rich, and also a bit suave for my liking, but that’s another story. Normally, people who stay at home and draw on the governments dosh are called scroungers, who should get on their bike and look for work. Now though, people who sat at home and watched telly all day, while the government paid them, were national heroes, saving the NHS; it was all getting a tad confusing. Anyway, all this gave rise to another term I had never heard of before, furlough, which sounded a bit like those things tractors drill. After the seeds have been popped in they need sustained TLC to grow and prosper; I wonder…

Image result for Coronavirus Stay Home Protect the NHS Save Lives

Hardest of everything I learnt in these early days of the Coronavirus epidemic were the acronyms: PPE and ICU. Till now, my blogs have always been a light-hearted take on my life, looking for the humorous and commenting on the small absurdities of our everyday lives. However, the bombardment of news about the COVID imposter got underneath my skin. Because of this Coronavirus lots of people got sick, many of them needing to go to hospital and into special care. Even in these most extreme circumstances we still needed to stop the virus spreading and the arrangements for this were breathtaking. No one could visit you in hospital, to hold your paw and tell you how much they loved you. If you died, and eye-watering numbers of people have, there could be no celebration of your life to which the mourners could come. And, even though you represented every point of the compass to someone, they couldn’t even get a hug of comfort. Coronavirus was eating away at the core of our people’s humanity.

Us three counted our blessings, we were so very, very, very lucky. Not getting my usual walks, or meeting up with Oscar, was such small fry it didn’t signify at all. Our own lives slid effortlessly into a tranquil pace, walking on our lanes at home, while small miracles of nature nourished our souls (yes, Ben has one too!!). Cows, in the field seen from our kitchen window, satisfied an itch by rubbing against a fallen tree, such clever bovine creatures, or spoke sweet nothings to a special pal. Meantime, goldfinches hopped from hedge to fence, before jumping down to feed on our lawn, and virtually every evening for the three months, in that stupendous spring and early summer of 2020, light bleed into a crimson sky as the sun set.

Hurrah, at last, the end of our first lock-in. It seemed that all was under control and we could go about our normal business or, for me, normal pleasures, with only just a few limitations – yipee! Alas, I still had lots more to learn and we still had to cross a threshold into something called ‘The New Normal’. Round about this time shopping trips became quite scary expeditions where my people turned into bank robbers. In fact, everyone turned into bank robbers. Scariest of all was the sign on the bank where they secure all our money; these weren’t normal times at all – new, or otherwise; the world had gone all topsy turvy, asking bank robbers to take off their masks for identify puposes. At this point, I began to get rather worried that, with all these bank robbers knocking about, there might not be any of the readies left to buy my dinner. But then I rationalised that, if the national debt could run to trillions, someone, somewhere, would surely be able to russell up a bite of dinner for Ben. After all, us canines, and quite a few other furries, had been the main source of comfort for millions of households across the land. We had been their numero unos, so to speak. In my case this wasn’t too tricky as I was the only numero.

Our new normal did at least open the door to what me and B had been missing so much, our beloved Munro bagging. So, we set out at the end of July for a weekend in the Southern Highlands. As drove off, the wings – belonging to the butterflies in my tummy (apprised of the banking situation mentioned above) – tickled my nervous bits with concerns about where my dinner was going to come from. They really needn’t have worried because there it was, in my bowl, bang on time, every night. In fact, apart from one transient incident with a temperamental battery – which I won’t go into here – we achieved all our aspirations for that weekend, notching up a further four Munros, the last of which – Cruach Ardrain – embroidered the magical number of 100 onto our bag.

Alas, looking out from the summit cairn nothing was visible. Cloud, our frequent companion, was hobnobbing with the peaks and obscuring the view. Nevertheless, me and B liked to summon up the landscape in our imagination. Ben Lomond presided over the south, of course, her head inclined towards the loch, just as Ben More and Stob Beinn struck their doubled-sided shoulders into the sky line of the north-east. Meantime, directly north the hills of Orchy, & possibly even Glen Coe, would be issuing their own seductive invitations. Closer to our hearts were yesterday’s conquests and mighty Ben Oss – in the north-west – would be opening his arms to the heavens, through which Beinn Dubhchraig might just be visible. It was all a tad overwhelming to be up here now, in this moment of history that amplified the fragility of life – gratitude and humility coexisted; tears were shed.

Ben’s Map of all the Munros done, in blue, and all those to go, in red

All Ben’s Munro Blogs here

During this weekend I had climbed high, waded tummy deep in bog, walked above the clouds, paid homage to the Robin Hood of the highlands, and run myself into the ground; dear dog in heaven was I done in. It’s just possible I might have raised my head to say hello to David, once I got home, and for a bite of dinner, but otherwise I slept the sleep of the just for days. Pottering around the lanes at home during lockdown, and relaxing in the garden with bottles of dog beer, didn’t – I found out – tune me up for the task of Munro bagging.

Then, as July reclined and August lifted its face towards a new tomorrow, I could sense the vibrations of something major afoot; it might even include me – oh my golly gosh, how exciting was that. Colour, joy, and I might even suggest pageant, marinated the day, as the sun tracked its golden course around the circumference of our garden. Hooray, there was liquid refreshment and tasty bites (in that order), to trace every part of the rotation. B had been working at home for a few months, always tapping away, ignoring me. Now though, she had gone in for something called retirement and, what’s more, she was never, EVER, going out in the morning to leave us alone again; my world of walks and playing ball would always be hers – FINALLY, she had seen the light.

Alas, it was only a short while later that I had to comprehend the word dilemma, and come to grips with it. Coronavirus wasn’t only the beast that was going to upset the equilibrium of my easy life. Now that I was the only numero at home (after our old girl had finally gone to sleep a couple of years ago), I needed to choose between two – equally important – roles. Either I could be B’s buddy, during Munro bagging expeditions, or I could be the the comfort at home, ensuring the home fires – burning bright – weren’t devoid of canine company; in the end, I stayed with David. Munro bagging was fine for two, three, or even four days but B, getting further north, was going in for longer shifts. In all loyalty I couldn’t desert the family homestead for so long. By the end of September B had been away on three more adventures while, every night, me and David had sent her our very best vibes – telepathically – from the comfort of our king-sized bed , warmed by a late burst of central heating; I might just have made the right decision.

As the nights got shorter another Munro season drew to a close. Despite the spiteful Coronavirus, and it’s encroachment into our civil liberties, me and B had put the 100th Munro in the bag and she had etched up a further 38, on those solo trips. But, for now at least, we were all at home together and, blow me down with a golden ring, there was another celebration on the cards.

It turns that a v. v. v long time ago, long before my biological mummy and daddy got it together, my people had tied a knot. I’m not quite sure what nautical purpose it served but, in so doing, they had to vowed to stay together forever and ever, and not to run off if one of them got ill, or had no money in the bank. Since entwining their bit of string they had opened their home to a menagerie of predecessors, who had warmed up my place on the sofa. Sam was the first Border Collie, and Sheba – his feline friend – gave way to Willow. She liked to cradle the neck, from the front or the back, looking for cuddles. Next came Toby who, like me, was a bit of a handful. There were a couple of wild creatures too, Cocky, the Cockrell (I know, I know, it’s not a very original name), and Fuchsia, the farm yard cat, so-called because they put out food for her under a Fuchsia bush (I suppose that’s a little better). Then, so sadly, there was Angel, a tiny kitten who appeared in a very bad way and, even though my people rushed her to Andy – the best vet in the world – he wasn’t able to save her, but… he could take away her pain, kindly. Last, most importantly of all, there was the old girl – Maisie – who was in situ when I arrived. She just couldn’t put a foot wrong and the number of times I was exiled to the porch is legendary, just because I wouldn’t give her a look in when B got home from work. So, there we have it, 40 years of marital bliss, obviously complete now that I’m on the sofa.

By October, that brief summer interlude – of glorious celebrations and Munro achievements – seemed like a lost Elysium, and Autumn, usually lit by bronze, began to take on darker shades. Just a couple of months earlier we had all been given a bit of dosh, encouraging us to eat out so we could help out and get the economy going again; I just can’t tell you how miffed I am that I never benefited from that particular little scheme. Shortly after though, because such mixing and mingling had got the nasty COVID fellow up and running again, we all had to batten down the hatches once more and get back onto Zoom.

Throughout the pandemic so many generous, inventive bipeds, had made their intriguing endeavours available on line, helping us to keep mind, body and spirit together. After a night time of slumber we could have greeted the new day with a spot of yoga in bed, before indulging in a delicious slow breakfast of coddled eggs, enlivened by a flambé of roasted goats cheese on fingers of burnt toast. Then, after putting the garden to rights while learning Portuguese, we might come in for a bite of braised squid resting on a bed of lightly seasoned Marigold leaves – before getting stuck into a streamed production of the ‘Ring Cycle’ for the next 17 hours, while quaffing shed loads of home made nettle beer. Finally, just in case these contributions weren’t sustaining enough, there just had to be a website somewhere that could teach a Border Collie how to play the penny whistle, something I’ve always aspired to. Sadly, my people aren’t really technical so I missed out on it all. However, of all the free on line offerings Zoom outclassed them all, because it brought people who loved each other together, seeing their faces: laughing; smiling; crying. I could see the attraction but, frankly, it wasn’t for me. My famous friend Honey had it just right, the flaw at the heart of the Zoom phenomenon. “I can’t get a biscuit on a Zoom call” she said, “I can’t do my wee sad face that gets me lots of treats on a Zoom a call.”

What Zoom really sounded like was something we all wanted to do – double quick – get past this horrible year. But, progressing towards winter was an art form – holding it together, shutting down here, there and everywhere – to salvage some semblance of a Happy Christmas from the jaws of the virus. A whole confutation of restrictions tried to contain the beast, as noises demanding to know what we might do – or might not do – over the festive season, got louder. Implicit in all the restrictions was the understanding that, if you do this now and suppress the virus, WE might let you have one or two people around, for a diminutive turkey and a small glass of Smoking Bishop. And, it has to be said that all our hard efforts, avoiding everyone in sight, seemed to reap some reward when, after a meeting of chief Cobras, on 23rd November, we were promised five days of celebration. Oh deary me, what fools we mortals be, when ever we believe a politician – spectacularly, when there is a world pandemic doing the rounds. But… oh, how we wanted to believe it, how we needed too.

Hence, almost predictably, having all the presents wrapped and the larders loaded, our dreams were wrenched from under the Christmas tree and the most dramatic U turn of our age ensued. It turns out that the COVID monster had another string to it’s bow, and Ben had more lingo to get his head around. The ‘new variant‘ I’m told, is a mutant variation on the original ghastly fiend. It seems that this one-time nasty bug had another surprise up it’s sleeve and we were back in the land of R numbers. Apparently, our new visitor could nuzzle in even more cosily, replicating its ill effects at an alarming rate and, before you could say Happy Christmas, thousands and thousands of people might be in hospital and the NHS was overwhelmed. Thus, there was nothing else for it and, on 19th December, Christmas was cancelled. The bitter pill was sweeten by saying you might have just one buddy around to help you soak up the misery, on Christmas day only. Even then, my mistress in Scotland, kept suggesting it would be much better if me and my buddy went for a long walk, instead of snuggling up by the fire after a lovely BIG dinner and lots of dog beer. I’m all in favour of a long walk myself, but I was more than a little concerned about the effect of the sub-zero temperatures, that dominate Scotland’s weather at this time of year, on all those granny’s we were going to be knocking about with.

Anyway, the long and the short of it was that, me and my people cancelled our rented cottage for Christmas, near to where we meet our special Christmas friends. We couldn’t even cross the border to England, though our caravan site was opened throughout the year, for the first time ever. Having planning an extravaganza, at said caravan – as plan B – our decorations were (are still!) in situ. Finally, after the infamous day itself was over, my B couldn’t go and see her other people in Devon – something of a tradition that she loved. From my point of view though… IT WAS TOTALLY BRILLIANT, my best Christmas ever. The butterflies in my tummy didn’t even need to get started, as no packing up commenced. Nor did I have to stay out in the cold car, during pub drinking hours, and B was home… THE WHOLE TIME. We slept in till late, had a lovely walk and game of ball in the snow, before comming home to sit by a warm fire, tucking into Christmas treats. Finally, after a lovely dinner, we all settled down for a Midsomer Murders video fest, as a suitable ending to such perfect days. What dog on earth could ask for more than that?

As the end of 2020 collided with 2021 we were still in the vice like grip of the new variant, but had reason for the biggest of all celebrations. The scientists, saluted at the beginning of my blog, had come to everyone’s rescue by pulling out all the stops out and producing a vaccine. Vaccines, it seems, are like buses. You wait an awfully long time for one to arrive and then two come along at once. We had one produced by Pfitzer in Germany, and another by Astra Zenica, from research in Morse’s own territory, Oxford. Normally, vaccines take a v. v. v. v. v. v… exceptionally long time to develop, measured in years, but it seems that – where there’s a will, and an awful lot of money, there’s a way. Thus, in the wink of a clinical trial, the solution to a world crisis was in sight.

I’m led to believe that, if everything goes to plan, .both my people could ‘be done’ by the end of February and… I’m just beginning to wonder if my annual booster, due in March, might include something a little extra.

Think I’ll sleep on it

And so to bed

Love Ben xx

PS As I write the snowdrops in our garden, known as the flower of hope, are poking their heads through the soil.

26th July – Munros 99 & 100

Friends, collies, simpletons

(A big hello to anyone new to my blog. I’m Ben a young Border Collie on a v.v.v important challenge. You can read all about it by clicking here. My blogs tell the whole story, paw by paw. I do so hope you will like them and want to follow my adventures).

Following this mornings saga of the dead engine – reported in my last blog – we set out to resume our quest for two more Munros, by finding the road that had been nowhere to be seen. Strange as it may seem, I find that the only way to get to where you are going is to follow the signs, but it had taken B a number of erroneous attempts to find out this important fact, having studiously looked in the wrong place, on our way to find Loch Voil. We had, in fact, registered the sign post pointing left but, as we were expecting to turn right, B hadn’t bothered to read the name Balquhidder clearly written for all to see. Once the mistake was finally corrected – some hour and a half later – we turned left, as suggested, did a big wheelie thing – steeply downhill and to the right – passing beneath the road we had been on and thus ending up on the minor road going west, towards the evasive village and glen of Balquhidder. By this time I was all done in, just like the butterflies in my tummy, and so joined them in a bit of shut eye.

The frustrating morning of route finding, together with the van problems, had caused considerable delay and our drive alongside beautiful Loch Voil was no different. Even here – somewhat off the beaten track and leading to a dead end – there was scattered development, built over a number of centuries, that snaked along the thin artery. What’s more, the entire population seemed intent on vacating the valley as quickly as possible, driving in the opposite direction to us. Eventually, after a close acquaintance with every passing place, we covered the 8 miles or so to the end of the road. Then, just three hours later than anticipated, we set about the business – with B in those ridiculous boots she puts on and me subjected to lead and clasp – of adding a couple more Munros to our bag, including the significant number of 100.

Our route from the car park caused us to do a bit of a wiggle around Inverlochlarig, including the farm house that is reputedly built on the site of the last home of the infamous Rob Roy.

On the site of Rob Roy’s pad

Thankfully, following the instructions for this walking route was easier than the road map, and we had no bother finding our way off the track and towards the ridge of Beinn Tulaichean, but then even B would have difficulty missing the cairn that showed our way so clearly.

Could it be this way, I wonder!

The grind involved in reaching the ridge wasn’t our favourite sort of walking at all. Up and up and up we went, on a vast tract of pathless, peaty mountainside that was inclined to cling to each paw, even as I tried to bound forward; B was worse. Those big boots – that I always warn her about – became cloying shells of ancient bog that weighed a ton. That familiar huffing and puffing became the marker of our long (slow) progress. Getting… “a real sense of Rob Roy country” – when looking back down the glen – was, of course, trying to give legitimacy to my buddy’s need to collapse on the nearest stone; no one fools Ben.

Looking back on Rob Roy Country

It seems that this Mr McGregor was a bit of a lad in his day. Originally a law- abiding cattle drover, earning big bucks and deep into the property market, he turned clan-land felon after loosing his fortune due to some dodgy contacts. Old Rob, as I like to call him, targeted his revenge on wealthy landowners by operating a protection racket, guaranteeing that the cattle – on his patch – would not be rustled, but only after a lucrative exchange of the readies. From the images I’ve seen, of the man himself, I’d like to hazard a guess that our ginger-haired outlaw was actually the original model for the ‘Jimmy Wig’ – that outlandish piece of Scottish headgear which has many an outing around the drinking establishments of the central belt, communicating – as it does – the sort of robust roguishness associated with the whole history of the highland clans.

In this Scottish era, post lockdown, when international travel is discouraged, the most popular glens have seen a vast influx of visitors. The whole population of Scotland seems to have alighted on the same idea of what freedom means and has, en mass, sought to reclaim the wild highlander within them. Apparently, this includes – in the summer of 2020 – the converted transit van as source of travel, shelter and accommodation, judging by the number of them about. Luckily – just away from the classic views of Buachaille Etive Mor or ‘The Ben’, my namesake – quieter experiences could still be found and, surprisingly enough, contenders for an extensive crawl up the sides of were Beinn Tulaichean were at a minimum, even at the end of July.

Though the going was tough, and the weather belonged to that familiar Dreich fellow, who we so often meet, there was still a joy in our struggle to attain the ridge. No great wind inhibited our success, no sidelong sheets of rain make us miserable. What we had instead was invaluable: health, a certain degree of fitness and the enormous privilege – hard won – of access to walk across this land, a common treasury for all. As if that wasn’t enough to be going on with we also had each other – our silent love a precious jewel; I pulled just a little harder on my lead to help B up the hill.

Attaining the ridge is always a significant mile stone on the way to the summits. One takes a deep sigh, pauses and looks ahead. Then… ‘Oh My Giddy Aunt’… have we still got to do all that. Time for a bite to eat, something that always restores my spirits. As for the creature beside me… well, it was going to take a lot more than a few nuts to get her going again.

But, we carried on as we always do. The cloud that had hung about all morning still deposited it’s mantel around the summits. Ben More, the loftiest of our Munro neighbours, had not been seen all day and right across the mountainous panorama peaks were hidden behind the stubborn cloak – a moist, thinning shawl that hugged us with the warm embrace of familiarity. 

Lofty neighbours

Much exertion, more huffing and puffing, a fair degree of determination, and some vocabulary coloured in blue, were the features that pre-empted the arrival of the number 99 onto our Munro bag; numerals that smiled back at us in glorious curlicues of happiness.

No. 99 Beinn Tulaichean

From the perch on Beinn Tulaichean our next goal, and 100th Munro – seen over the ascending undulations of the ridge – seemed unobtainable. But – as surely as night follows day, and as eggs are eggs (don’t ask me what any of this means) – we were going for it. Thus, after more exertions and exhalations, we were onto the shoulders of Cruach Ardrain, heading for her crown.

Cruach Ardrain

During the 2020 confinement, exercise at Shieldhill had been an indulgent stroll along the lanes – slowly going nowhere fast, before getting home for some comforting treats. As a result, I had succumbed to a new medical syndrome called, ‘The Pooch’s COVID Pouch’. Yesterday and today had broken the spell, reminding us that putting numbers on our Munro bag involved immense physical effort, facing a demanding mountainous landscape, which wasn’t to be underestimated. Our motivation was the immense satisfaction that came from overcoming these efforts, and the views – which pumped adrenalin directly to our souls – were our reward. Suddenly – in this year that had amplified the fragility of life – being up here, on top of our 100th Munro, was a tad overwhelming. B’s tears stroked her cheek and, in falling, were witness by the sentient world as they mingled with the summit cairn, becoming part of the human story. They certainly added a new element to our Munro bagging ritual, and I’m not sure yet if this is going to be a permanent feature; I do hope not, it can be a tad embarrassing in a crowd.

The sun finally took his hat off as we descended and the reflection of it’s rays illuminated the scene, bringing a sharper – more beautiful – definition to the colours of the landscape, enlivening our senses. Further down, the penetrating warmth and extended activity began to activate something called wilting, not such an attractive side effect of the sun in its splendour. B doused our buffs in lovely cool water from the stream and watched the droplets sparkle on my fur; I had become a spectacle!

Out of the mist at last

We wiggled once more around the farm at Inverlochlarig and then, walking back towards the car park, considered our plight if the car battery refused to sparkle. But, we need not have worried, spark it did, in the turning of a key. Then it purred all the way even as we pulled in, to let the returning population of the glen come home. We stopped at church in Balquhidder and paid homage at the graveside of our highland rogue, who is often described as the Robin Hood of the highlands. One such incident, that gave rise to this comparison, involved a Campbell knight who was commissioned to enforce the law on a neighbouring farm, but old Rob intercepted him, ducking him in Fillan’s pool near Tyndrum, saying the virtuous properties of the waters there may improve his sense of honour, so he might never again deprive poor men of their lands.

McGregor Despite Them

St Fillan of course… but, perhaps we’ve had enough history for one blog, and his story belongs to another Munro anyway. Though we were going back to Dalrigh, close to the remains of St Fillan’s Priory, it was just for an overnight stay. I just couldn’t wait to get home the next day to tell David all about my adventures but, before then, I needed dinner and lots of zzzzzzzzs

And so to bed

Love Ben xx

Oh dear, and it was going so well…

Friends, collies, map-reading dogs,

(A big hello to anyone new to my blog. I’m Ben a young Border Collie on a v.v.v important challenge. You can read all about it by clicking here. My blogs tell the whole story, paw by paw. I do so hope you will like them and want to follow my adventures).

Me and B were tucked up nice and early last night and slept the sleep of the just.

What, with a sleepless night on Friday, followed by the gigantic hike across two v. v. v big mountains, we were just about dead on our paws by the time we got back to my van yesterday. So, when the 26th July popped by to introduce itself, through a chink in our blackout arrangement, you couldn’t have found two less inclined Munroists. I was quite disposed to follow the mood of the day and, being a dog, not burdened with this thing called guilt, which you humans seemed to have saddled yourselves with. B, on the other hand, was struggling to overcome her default setting by making strident efforts to embrace the day, instead of snuggling up with someone called lethargy.

She seems to have succeeded, because it wasn’t even 6.30am before we were on the road, heading for Lochearnhead and then, just south of Loch Earn, turning off towards Loch Voil… or so I thought. However, the road off proved exceedingly elusive and, while trying to discover the minor road, we became very well acquainted with a three mile stretch of the A84, driving backwards and forwards several times.


Eventually, after turning off the trunk road into a cul de sac, and giving our map the once over, we were about to resume active service. Sadly, resuming and active were too things our van just couldn’t do. Oh deary me, we had been here before hadn’t we, in our much loved – but not long lamented – old VW Caddy; there was no life in this battery either. At that moment, the road that had disappeared off the face of the earth was the least of our problems, where we might fetch up tonight before I got my dinner was uppermost in my mind.

B looked at me, raised her eyes and, after a bit of scrabbling about, unearthed a couple of spanners that I didn’t even know existed. To be honest, I don’t think B knew about them either. Anyway, with a degree of confidence that impressed even me, she found the latch for the bonnet and… with that great achievement under her belt, stared into the mysterious abyss of my van’s engine. This was followed by something called tinkering after which, challenging my cynicism, she turned the ignition key. Well…, blow me down with a combustion spark, we were up and running.

Good news doesn’t always spell calm to a clever, but nervous, collie like Ben – tinkering success is not far off pure luck, in my book. Now, the mysterious disappearance of the minor road was coupled with uncertainty about my van. Would it ever start again, once turned off? These troubles were only compounded by the precariousness of phone signals in these parts, which is constant source of anxiety for Ben. The butterflies in my tummy were going in for a spot of unsynchronised sky diving and, all-in-all, it was mayhem down in my viscus. I just can’t tell you how v. v. v relieved I was when I heard David’s voice from the other end of that ear phone thing. Reason and reliability were two words that came immediately to my mind. Phrases like, “I can come up”, “collect you if I need to” along side, “just walk along the till you get a signal”, were all music to my ears. With such a certain backup it seemed we were still going to find this mysterious road, park in the middle of nowhere and climb our 99th & 100th Munro. The extravaganza in my tummy was quelled, the butterflies exhausted.

Whatever the fate of the myserterious road I needed sleep.

Love Ben xx