Ben Macdui – the Munro for families

 

Ben Macdui used to be a hill with a reputation.  Its distance from roads meant that any problems could become serious.  Now, the funicular on Cairngorm and the easy mountain biking approach from the south have opened the summit up to families – three on my visit.  Its not only the hill which has become tamer.  One of the mums chatted to me, which suggests solitary men in their sixties don’t look as scary as they did before their few remaining tufts of hair turned grey.

I had started the day at Bob Scott’s Bothy and finished under my Trailstar in Coire an Lochain.  The formally permanent snow patch has gone but the coire is now home to large numbers of ptarmigan.  Next morning, I hiked down to the ski centre and arrived just in time to use my free bus pass for the ride down to Aviemore.

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A short walk in the Cairngorms

19 October

A long train journey got me to Aviemore after 2 hours waiting for a connection in Inverness.

During my wait, I visited a couple of phone shops and then went to Morrisons for an early lasagne lunch which made its presence known in some malodorous emissions later in the day. I asked for salad with the lasagne. It came, neatly displayed, on a separate plate, in a plastic bag, as if it was being kept for a special occasion. The salad was half coleslaw and the coleslaw was mostly mayonnaise. The mayo was pure white and probably safe for vegans. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my meal – at the time!

Arrival in Aviemore brought unwelcome news – snow on the tops. Clouds too. With the wrong shoes for snow, Roclite 295s, it looked as if this was going to be a low level trip.  Such heavy traffic on the road to Coylumbridge that I was glad to get on up the track beside the caravan park. Soon there were no more walkers but mountain bikers came by sporadically.

The Rothiemurchus forest, which as a biologist I had been looking forward to, soon became boring. The trees and shrubs were all the same age and largely devoid of birds.  This forest needs bison and wild boar to tear it up, producing a greater diversity of plants in the process.  Of course, if the Rothiemurchus was properly rewilded, I’d be the first to complain.

A family came by with their bikes set up for bike packing. I saw them pitching shortly after the Cairngorm Club footbridge. They must have known where they were going as few pitches are visible from the Lairig Ghru track.  The ground between the trees is covered by heather, bilberries and juniper, again all of the same age.

The track started climbing and still I was unable to spot any decent pitches. The heather moor above the forest was sodden and tussocky. Finally, when I had started to wonder whether I would find anything before dark, a pitch appeared. Sadly, it was on the other side of a healthy burn. And then the Trailstar was reluctant to fit the small patch of dry grass. One peg went in gravel over the edge of the burn’s bank and another was on the far side of a small, wet bog.

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This morning is taking ages to brighten up because of heavy clouds. The Trailstar proved a hero. Enough rain fell to have the tiny bog under one corner of the tarp flowing but there was no condensation inside. By a stream, in Autumn!

The write up continued when I reached Bob Scott’s Bothy

Going back over the burn was no nicer than the first crossing had been and then the weather deteriorated. I put my poles away as my hands were cold and wet. Fortunately, the foul weather was hitting my back.

The summit turned out to be 2 kilometres of boulders with occasional grass and a couple of lochans. Green grass made its first appearance on the descent. Pitching a tent would be much easier on this side. The burn running south from the Pools of Dee was too boisterous for a visit to Garbh Coire bothy to be tempting so I decided to go to Corrour to try out the new facilities. Still the rain continued and each little side burn spewed across the path.

A walker emerged from the drab background. He was possibly Scandinavian and seemed a thoroughly decent chap. As we chatted a fast walker in black and red waterproofs descended from the murk hiding the Lairig. He overtook, telling me it was an hour to the bothy.

When the bothy came into view, I spotted one person in pale clothing as well as the fast walker in red. After an ill-advised shortcut to the bridge, I discovered that the two men were there to change the toilet bags. A couple of Germans were also in the bothy, waiting for a clearance in the weather for an ascent of Ben Macdhui. They must have spotted a patch of blue because they set off. The two workers burned their overalls in the fireplace and we settled down for tea and a blether. Malky, the fast walker, had to head back through the Lairig so he soon left, too.

The two of us left continued talking until a hiker, who had climbed the Devil’s Point joined us.  He was the sanitation expert’s son. Then they and their Labrador headed out. I followed after a civilised dump into the brand new toilet bag.

Writing up my adventure, using the Day One app on my phone, has halted again, this time by visitors to the bothy.  More in the next post.

From Ullapool to Strabeg Bothy

Thursday 12 May

Alarm went off at 6am and I was away within two hours. There were hints of wind but the early start paid off. Two hours with very little traffic and great views of Ben More Coigach and Stac Pollaidh. I caught up with another cycle tourer and turned west, down wind, a little later. It was a lovely ride along below Stac Pollaidh.

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Stac Pollaidh
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My favourite boulder with Suilven forming the skyline
Knoll and lochan country
Knolls and lochans on the way to Lochinver

A fairly lengthy climb led up from the junction for Lochinver. At the top I saw the boulder I had used previously for foreground for a shot of Suilven. Then I lost all the height I had gained on the way to the foot of the next climb. That’s how the ride continued to Lochinver and beyond. The scenery was sensational. Knolls, lochans and crystal clear rivers. Not a whole lot in Lochinver. I asked about camping at the Tourist Information and then headed on, over two more fairly big hills, to Clachtoll. The campsite turned out to be pretty good and had wifi. I downloaded some podcasts and streamed some jazz.

Friday 13 May

The dreaded Drumbeg road! It was gorgeous if tough, with the climbs starting right from the campsite. Up through Stoer, down to Clashnessie beach and then back up and down to Drumbeg. After Drumbeg, which had three cafés I didn’t need, the serious climbs started. Only one made me walk. I had to stop near the bottom of a long hill to let a campervan go by and the handle bar jabbed into my nipple, which illustrated the road’s steepness. I wasn’t going to get riding again so I pushed. The land north of Quinag was sensational. Green birches in a drift across brown heather. Wood sorrel under the birches.

Lunch near the Kylescu bridge

The main road arrived unexpectedly. I had ridden the Drumbeg road. It was lunchtime so first item on the agenda was finding a quiet spot. However, I was feeling tired and the big, sweeping, curved climbs weren’t what I needed, particularly with the headwind. Scourie took a while to come.

I wasn’t feeling great. Not eating well enough so I went to the campsite cafeteria for haddock and chips. Excellent and a good night’s sleep followed

Saturday 14 May

Despite the improved recovery regime, the day’s first climb felt hard. After that, life improved. The road seemed mostly downhill to Laxford Bridge. On the way, I cycled by a man who was walking along the road with a rucksack on his back. Don’t know why. The scenery, particularly the view of Ben Stack, is fab but there are better places to walk. The next climb went more easily than the first despite a headwind and Rhiconich arrived sooner than expected. Two men were doing up the information board, now known as a Geopod. We got talking about the area. One of the men, Murdo, had a great knowledge and really liked to talk. Probably another retired teacher. Each story we told reminded the other of another. It was quite hard to get away, as much my fault as Murdo’s. Still, I was in no rush. The climb out of Rhiconich is big but fair. The top soon arrived. On the way, I went by a man and two small children loading peats into bags. The kids had their own mini overalls, just like dad’s. A long descent past a travellers’ well brought me to a bridge and a real fight along the Kyle, into the wind. Durness took its time arriving.

Beinn Spionnaidh
Beinn Spionnaidh, the most northerly Corbett

In Durness I bought food for the bothy and ate a baked potato with tuna mayo. Vegetables! Oh how I missed them! The sunshine turned the sea bright blue for the ride to the head of Loch Eriboll. White waves and golden sand made the Sango beaches as glorious as ever. The hoped for tailwind didn’t materialise but the road along Loch Eriboll is mostly downhill. On the way I encountered the North Coast 500 Independence Rally. A mere 200 cars with flags coming the other way along a single track road. Luckily, they were friendly. The track to the bothy was unrideable and half of it was bog. Last year, it would have been awful but this year it was fairly dry. Nevertheless, I was pooped when I finally reached the bothy.

Strabeg Bothy
Strabeg Bothy with Cranstackie behind
Strath Beag and Foinaven
Strath Beag is impressive, well worth a visit, but not by bicycle

And finally to Cape Wrath!

The rigours of the day made themselves known as soon as I tried to get my head down.  An agonising dose of cramps gripped my thighs.  Luckily, I had plenty of food so didn’t need to rush. I spent the next morning reading a copy of an early Bear Grylls autobiography which someone had left in the Glencoul bothy.  I wonder if President Obama was aware of Bear’s taste for displays of public nudity before their Alaskan rendezvous.  Other interesting reading material detailed Britain’s smallest war memorial, which can be seen on a knoll in front of the bothy.  Apparently, Dan Snow is a regular visitor.

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Quinag

After lunch, I set off on the short walk past a seakayakers’ extensive camp to Glendhu bothy.  As the path ascended a rocky prow, the views back to the bothy and to the big waterfall became stunning but Quinag was the dominant feature.  At the highest point of Aird da Loch, a thunderstorm rolled in so I ran down the path to woods and a rough bit of coastline.  A boat party had been dropped off at Glencoul and had hiked towards Gleann Dhu in the morning and I had seen a boat leaving Gleann Dhu as I was descending through the storm.  Perhaps that’s why the bothy door was wide open when I arrived.  Glendhu bothy is another with a site which suggests extending the visit.  Sadly, after my easy day, I really did need to get on.

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Glen Coul, Loch Beag and Eas a’Chual Aluinn

Easy, estate roads took me to Lochmore Lodge for a brief, but scenic, stretch of road to Achfary.  Achfary is a fascinating hamlet and does not deserve the guide book’s “no amenities to detain you here.”  It is well worth a short stop, if only to read the plaque and photograph the black and white call box.  I took what I suspect is the Scottish National Trail option up the delightful Strath Stack into increasingly unpleasant weather.  After a boggy stretch near Feur Lochan in low visibility I reached a junction by a big deer fence.

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Glendhu bothy, nearest the camera

The deer fence, which ran beside the descending, onward path to Lochstack Lodge, featured ramps which looked as if they had been designed to let deer cross from west to east but not back.  The ramps were like lightweight, three day eventing obstacles and probably would not have supported a horse.  A man I met later on the way to Sandwood Bay whose wife worked at Achfary was unable to provide any more information on the ramps but did tell me about a woman who had had to be rescued from Glendhu bothy.  The weight of her rucksack had astonished the person who loaded it into a boat.  Stupidly heavy and probably the cause of her problems.

As I walked down the drive to Lochstack Lodge, a vehicle pulled up beside me and a posh man who sounded as if he owned the place asked me my intentions.  I was obviously backpacking and near the end of my day’s hike so honesty was the only policy available.  He gave me his best wishes.

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Loch a’Garbh-bhaid Mor

The ground around Loch a’Garbh-bhaid Mor is rough and wet.  Unsurprisingly, the tiny pitch on decent turf I found at the east end of the loch had been used before.  Camping just a few feet from a large loch meant heavy condensation on the tent next morning and bashing through rough vegetation to a river crossing referred to as difficult in the guide book was frustrating.  I wanted to see how bad the Garbh Allt really was and to get it done.  Garbh means rough, which suggests the locals have an opinion.  Of course, it was an anticlimax.  The bed was quite slippery but the flow was gentle enough.

I had hoped to eat my way along the road to Kinlochbervie but Rhiconnich was an unwelcoming dump, the London Stores had the smell of a store crammed with items that took ages to shift and the only other food stop was very posh.  Luckily, the supermarket at Kinlochbervie is good.  I stocked up with food for three days, in case the ferry was held up by bad weather and also took a large lunch down to a bench by Loch Clash.

An easy road hike took me to the Sandwood track.  I found a place for my tent on glorious turf near Sandwood.  There is so much camping available around the bay and the loch that I failed to spot most of the other tents using the area.  The two I could see were just over a kilometre away by the loch’s outflow.

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The shoes held up well

The weather was deteriorating when I woke so progress to the Cape was a bit of a rush interrupted only by a visit to Strathchailleach bothy to see the lurid murals.  The murals were nowhere near as risqué as is made out.  Far better was the offer of tea as I stepped inside the bothy from two gentlemen who were enjoying a bothy bagging trip in the area. Refreshed, I hurried on across the moors in the rain.  For the last couple of miles, I walked with a young German woman and an older English man who had met on the ferry across from Fort William and done the entire route together.

The door to the Ozone Cafe was unlocked so we went in for shelter from what was now pretty foul weather and discovered Mary.  She had made fast time from Sandwood Bay along the cliffs.  John Ure took some waking but, once on the job, he provided an excellent service.  While we ate and drank, he rang the ferry and confirmed my suspicions.  The weather had stopped the service.  We would all be resting at Kervaig that night.

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The obligatory awkward pose

 

From Ullapool to Glencoul

The two highlights of the Cape Wrath Trail both feature long fingers of sea surrounded by notably rocky peaks.  The first lies between Glenfinnan and Glen Shiel.  With a Loch Morar side trip, it is hard to imagine a better through route anywhere in Britain.  The second highlight lies north of Ben More Assynt, where the boundary between psammite and gneiss creates an amazing landscape.  The area around Glenfinnan may be known as the Rough Bounds but the descent to Glencoul is much rougher.  Exhausting but so very worth it!

A long stretch without resupply started easily with a stroll back up Glen Achall to Loch Daimh and on to Knockdamph bothy.  It’s a nice bothy and I was half tempted to stay but a DofE party could be seen approaching.  Their supervisor had instructed them to use the bothy as low cloud was making their planned route difficult to navigate.  They were a decent bunch of kids but I didn’t think they’d want an old fart hanging around and the day was still young so I headed off to the Schoolhouse Bothy.  After about a mile, I met another DofE group, which meant 15 in Knockdamph!

The Schoolhouse bothy had drawn criticism in the Knockdamph bothy book but it’s an absolute cracker.  One room still has desks.  The bothy also housed Mary, a Canadian librarian, who had almost completed the Scottish National Trail.  Mary reached the Cape and visited Orkney before completing a north coast to southern boundary walk of her own devising.  A good 800 miles before midsummer!

Taking so long to write up my hike means I have forgotten which breed of cattle the estate beside the Oykell specialises in but they were red with white faces and from, I think, Belgium.  Shortly afterwards I was followed for a mile by a spaniel.  The young dog had become bored by its fisherman owner’s lack of attention.  Mary caught up with me and helped to get it to go back.  We walked on together to a delightful camp on the banks of the River Oykell below Breabag.  Being an idiot, I forgot to photograph our tents but this photo shows where we were.

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Next morning we traversed the pass below Conival almost to Inchnadamph and turned up the Allt Poll na Droighinn and onward to a rocky shoulder between Glas Bheinn and Beinn Uidhe.  Near the start of the descent on the north side, we met some athletic looking, young Germans who were following a sketchy guide boof description of the ascent of Glas Bheinn.  Soon after, where the path passes between two lochans, Mary turned north on the SNT and I headed down to the base of Britain’s tallest waterfall.

The descent into Glencoul begins with a path you could get a horse down but, where the hillside becomes less steep, the old stalkers’ path gives out.  I took a direct line to the glen floor and began the slog past the foot of Eas a’Chual Aluinn to Loch Beag.  The second pass had tired me and I found this stretch very tough.  Consolation was an otter swimming along beside me as I walked the coast to the Glencoul bothy, which I reached after 11 hours on the go. Not an easy day, but the scenery was never less than superb.  The three visits I’ve made to the country between Ben More Assynt and Ben Stack are not enough because this area is a little bit of heaven on earth.

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Strathcarron to Ullapool on the Cape Wrath Trail

Quite why writing up such a wonderful hike is taking so long, I don’t know.  Wainwright used to do his writing in winter but, to be honest, I could have completed the account of the walk long ago if I had put my mind to it.  After all, the walk finished in June!  Here goes…

A trip home from Strathcarron for £15 return (with old fogies railcard) was far cheaper than a day off in Strathcarron would have been so home I went.  This allowed me to sort out my consumables properly and to switch to my Akto for the final stretch.  The downside was the early start needed for getting the train back to the Cape Wrath Trail.

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From the station, a short but scary stretch of busy road took me to the bridge over the River Carron, where I was able to escape from the cars by walking along the river bank.  The guide book’s description of named fishing beats and a well kept bothy at Coire Fionnaraich was accurate.

No sooner had I got my head down than the bothy door rattled and footsteps sounded.  I called hello but received no reply.  I dressed and went down to find a walker making a late return to his car, where he planned on sleeping, had taken a chair outside and was enjoying a snack.  I forget his name but his walking career was remarkable.  He had gone right around Britain’s coast in sections and was now starting the Munros.

His enthusiasm for Sealskinz was so great that I ended up buying some in Ullapool on his advice.  Mine were utter rubbish.

Next day, over Bealach Ban and round behind Beinn Eighe, in dull conditions, was very hard.  The descent from the bealach to the Ling Hut was enlivened by a pair of golden plover whose complaints over my presence were so loud that every predator for miles around will have known where to look for a nest.  They followed me for 600 metres and one of the birds dive bombed me, which I hadn’t seen previously from golden plover.

Coire Mhic Fhearchair was full of cloud with nothing above the lochan in view.  I headed down for the slippery contour around Ruadh-stac Mor.  The guide book advises sticking to the 400 metre contour.  I failed and found myself in a zone of small, south-north ridges of boulders and heather which continued tediously all the way to a three part stream crossing.  Climbing up from the stream gave a brief respite and then the going became tricky once more as I traversed below Ruadh-stac beag.

Stinky peat pools, deep heather and many, many boulders slowed me down again.  Noticing the flat, stony bed of the stream I was walking beside gave me an idea.  I took the New Zealand option – paddling – and that is how I found a lovely pitch for the night.  Sadly, the fixed length 50mm lens on my camera would not include my tent and the mighty cliff towering over it at the same time.

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Cape Wrath Trail Demographics

Kervaig

My last day on the Cape Wrath Trail was fairly foul.  Given the wind, I doubted that the ferry would be operating and this was confirmed by the proprietor of the Ozone Cafe.  As a result, ten of us headed for capacious and wonderfully situated Kervaig bothy.  Of the ten, four were middle-aged Englishmen and six were foreign women.  I guess that young Brits of both sexes were out bagging summits or stuck at work but where were was everybody else?

Four of the women were from Poland.  They had limited time available for their holiday and so started up the Cape Wrath Trail from Inchnadamph, an excellent choice as they took in one of the Cape Wrath Trail’s highlights, the Glencoul/Glendhu area.  Three of us, two Englishmen and a young, German woman, had hiked the entire Cape Wrath Trail from Fort William.

The other two Englishmen were on a bothy bagging trip.  When I had dropped in at Strathchailleach bothy to see the murals, they immediately offered to brew tea for me.  Cheers, Phil and Mike!

The final member of the Kervaig crew was a woman from Canada who had hiked the 470 mile, Scottish National Trail.  She had done what I ought to have done – spent the winter getting fit for her trip.  In my defence, I had shingles, not just lassitude.  Her conscientious preparation shows that fitness isn’t the issue preventing British women from enjoying the Cape Wrath Trail.  Navigation might be more of a problem.  Not once did I see Mary make a navigational error, and I said so, but she lacked confidence in her own judgement.  After 470 Scottish miles!

She hated the canal section of the SNT and that trail also misses out the two best bits of the CWT.  Of course, this is just my opinion but I think the Glenfinnan to Barrisdale section is amazing.  Also, I can’t get enough of the remote country north and east of Ben More Assynt.  I’ve been three times since spotting the empty, brown bit in my father’s three inch to the mile road atlas forty five years ago and still feel as if I know very little about the area.  The SNT does visit Maol Bhuidhe bothy after descending past the Falls of Glomach and so will be challenging enough for many.  However, if the CWT isn’t enough for you, consider starting in Kintyre.

Two final points.  The atmosphere in the bothy was friendly and cheerful because of the people who gathered there.  It seems good sorts head for Cape Wrath.  And lastly, the women really enjoyed seeing the puffins at Kervaig.  Luckily, it was only men who noticed the bonxies.

Rough Bounds Passes. Britain’s best backpacking?

Morning mist at Lochan Eanaiche

I woke to more glorious weather.  The sun burned through early mist before I began walking to Glen Dessary.  My map, possibly thirty years old, showed none of the trees in that glen so navigating to the path for Loch Nevis was likely to be entertaining.  First came another gorgeous pass, this one a narrow defile.  The path deteriorated badly once in the trees, consisting largely of soft, wet peat.  It stays close to Allt Coire an t-Searaich as this stream winds by two maize dispensers.  The only real navigational decision to be made was recognising the Allt a’Ghiubhais.  Boot prints on an old forest road confirmed my choice.

A real defile

Entering Mam na Cloiche Aird

A couple of deer watched me climb into the Mam na Cloich Airde from a spectacular knoll.  I wasn’t going well, having had another poor night under my Golite Cave 1 tarp.  The Cave used to be my favourite piece of camping gear but it was proving too much of a faff on this trip.  Back to tents for me!  I progressed slowly by the lochans and across the meadow where the Finiskaig River meanders, before crossing the river for a slight climb to a slow, careful descent.

The last side stream, now bridged, set me thinking.  I had been terrified here on my first visit to Sourlies.  One slip off the awkward stepping stones would have resulted in my being pushed over a waterfall.  Back then, I was conscious that this crossing had taken a life.  Today, the stream would have been a simple paddle.  Anyone unfamiliar with the Allt Coire na Ciche at higher water levels must have wondered why it has a bridge.

Sourlies bothy was unoccupied.  My intention had been to press on to Barrisdale but I needed a rest and had enough food so I stayed.  Two couples came by but neither stopped.  I had been on my own for several days and would not have minded company but, to be honest, I fancied having the bothy to myself.  And, apart from one bold deer and some amusing sheep, I did.

The sheep wanted to be out of their winter fleeces so spent quite some time scratching against fence posts.  One was dragging most of its fleece on the ground.  Another sheep stepped on it and tore the heavy, old fleece off.  Some gentle head butting ensued.  Was this cooperation, teasing or bullying?  I’m hopeless at interpreting behaviour.

Outside Sourlies

Carnach river

The tide was out when I set off next morning, after a refreshing kip, so the hike to the rickety Carnach bridge was a quick one.  Again, the sun burned through early mist to beat down on this stunning corner of Scotland.  As the river winds round the foot of Ben Aden, the already high quality of the scenery ramps up another couple of notches.  I’ve run out of superlatives.  To think anyone hiking the Alternative Route out of Fort William would miss this!  (I may be a little biased as I was mooned by a deck hand on a trawler when I hiked along part of the Caledonian Canal.)

Don’t let navigating the trackless section up to the Barrisdale path put you off.  It isn’t hard and the path back down to sea level is well made and one for striding.  Or would be if the views across Loch Hourn to Beinn Sgitheall weren’t so good.  Using the bothy at Barrisdale costs £3 but, when I poked my nose inside, it looked worth it.  It is clean and tidy and has bunks in small, dormitory rooms.

I genuinely believe that you will not find better valley hiking anywhere in Britain than the four passes between the bothies at Barrisdale and Glen Pean.  If you approach Barrisdale from Mallaig and finish in Glenfinnan, you could do the hike with one return ticket on a railway world famous for its scenery plus one ferry ticket.  Sadly, my route took me along the tiring path to Kinloch Hourn.  At least the flat turf by the river, where camping costs £1, gave me a solid night’s sleep under the tarp.

The trackless section

The descent to Barrisdale

A wonderful Cape Wrath Trail variant

Streap and Bealach a;Chaorainn

The Cape Wrath Trail had been a disappointment so far not because it had offered poor walking but because I had expected it to be better than the three Ways I had walked in May and, initially, it isn’t.  Bealach a’Chaorainn below Streap was more what I had hoped for.  Sadly, the walk down into Glen Pean concludes with a messy stretch where an old fence corrals animals and walkers on to a boggy, broken corridor.  Across the bridge, a sign said Do Not Enter the Forest.  Felt pen instructions showed the approved route to Glen Dessary and A’Chuil.  For me, this was the last straw.

I hiked angrily past the sign, into the forest and turned left for Loch Morar instead of going right, the easy way to A’Chuil.  I could hear one machine working above the forest road but saw no one on a rapid hike to Glen Pean bothy.  From the bothy, I ploughed through bogs to staggeringly beautiful scenery in upper Glen Pean.  Rocky ribs protrude from the steep glen sides to embrace a sequence of boggy, little meadows.  The sequence was interrupted by Lochan Leum an t-Sagairt, which I by-passed using a deer track on the wrong side of the river.  More boggy meadows lead to a tangle of huge boulders and a hidden lochan.

Glean Pean

Lochan Leum an t-Sagairt

Lochan Dubh

Gleann an Obain Bhig is a wild place, with a great deal of rock and bog, dissected by rapid streams in small gorges.  It feels very remote.  Technically, Britain might not have any wilderness as every inch of these islands has been worked over by our ancestors but this feels very remote and, in the absence of a cell phone signal, is no place to hurt yourself.  From Lochan an Obain Bhig, it is hard to imagine that a path, admittedly one now needing exhumation, leads through the glen.

Loch Morar

Lochan an Obain Bhig

Rounding the headland to Kinlochmorar, I took the first deer path on Sron a’Chroin and ended up ascending more than 150 metres to get round slabs.  It was a mistake as lower paths exist. From my eyrie, I could see that the first 400 metres of Abhainn Cean-loch-morair would not be easy to cross, being slow and deep.  I could also see three horses where I had hoped to camp.  I headed up the glen to a spot where crossing the river was easy, just calf deep, had a snack and then set off to gorgeous Lochan Eanaiche.  A ten minute fit of petulance had provoked me into one of the best days walking – a twelve hour day, it should be noted – I have ever experienced.  Is there better scenery in Britain than the pass between Glen Pean and Loch Morar?

Kinlochmorar

Down to Loch Morar

Lochan Eanaiche

From Cona Glen to Corryhully on the Cape Wrath Trail

Cona Glen pitch

The cows had moved further up the glen by the time I was ready to set off and had spread themselves right across the glen.  I worked a cautious way through the herd, taking care to keep away from calves and from the anxious Highlander, which watched me far longer than any of the other beasts.

Despite backpacking in Scotland since 1973, I had never previously been in Cona Glen.  It had always looked a bit duff on the map.  For once, the map doesn’t lie.  Some sections of native timber have been fenced in, a welcome initiative, and the glen is quite pretty near the locked bothy of Corrlarach, but the many miles along the estate road were a bit of a trudge.  The wet climb up the north side of the glen and over to Allt Feith nan Con came as a relief.

Trudging up the glen

The path down to Callop is not in great condition.  Initially, it consists of rounded, fist-sized stones and peat marked by mountain bike tracks.  Further down, it becomes wetter.  At least the views were good, with Streap and Gulvain looking impressive ahead and hills on the south side of Cona Glen being visible back through the pass.

The path became a real mess after a gate into forestry.  I stopped on a boulder in the Allt Coire na Leacaich for a snack before joining a hydro road near a small dam.  This gave quick progress past Callop to a major forest road on the south side of the Callop River.  A Marine Harvest pick up came by twice.  I also saw a white van and two huge, Macdiarmid timber lorries before finding the boardwalk to Glenfinnan.  The monument, the cafe and the viaduct area were all busy with tourists.  I was not feeling the love for the Cape Wrath Trail as I hiked tarmac up to Corryhully.

Glen Finnan was quiet above the viaduct and, apart from the obtrusive lodge, attractive.  I went into the bothy and judged it good enough for the night.  The truth is that I had not slept well under the tarp.  As soon as dawn had broken I had awoken.  Being inside a gloomy bothy seemed a reasonable idea.  The bothy has electricity, for which a donation is requested.  As it is so close to the lodge, I was not surprised to be visited by the keeper.  We had a good chat but I was in my pit and close to dropping off when the Landrover came by later in the evening.