Lindsay Boyd's Trip Reports

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Sub 2000 Marilyns - Section 16
The Far North

Creag a'Ghobhair
Creag a'Ghbhair
Beinn Reidh
Beinn Reidh
Farrmheall
Farrmheall
An Socach
An Socach

Section 16 Index

Section 16A
Cape Wrath Peninsula

Section 16B
Durness to Loch Shin

Section 16C
Tongue to Wick and Helmsdale

An Grianan An Lean-charn Beinn Dubhain
An Socach
 
Creag Thoraraidh
Creag Riabhach   Smean
Farrmheall    
Ghlas-bheinn    

Section 16D
Altnaharra to Dornoch

Section 16E
Scourie to Lairg

Section 16F
Lochinver to Ullapool

Beinn Domhnaill Beinn an Eoin Beinn Reidh
Beinn Lunndaidh Beinn Sgeireach Meall na Fheadain
Beinn Mhealaich Maovally  
Ben Horn    
Creag a'Ghobhair    
Meall a'Chaise    
Meall Dola    

Section 16 Trip Reports

Maovally

7 June 2014

slide show

Map - OS Landranger 16. Time taken - 4 hours. Distance - 13 kilometres. Ascent - 590 metres.

I had been up in Ullapool for a week and on returning to Inverness decided to go via Strath Oykel and as it was such a fine day climb the Marilyn, Maovally. Coming in from the west it was easier to drive up Glen Cassley rather than the long drive round to the north end of Loch Shin.

At the end of the public road there was parking for a couple of vehicles without obstructing the vehicle track which led to the River Cassley. I then walked a short distance along the private road towards Duchally Lodge where lots of hinds were feeding. They looked like farmed deer but weren’t fenced in. Just beyond a storage building I took a left and followed the vehicle track to, then along the east bank of the River Cassley. It was a pleasant walk with several damselflies around so I stopped for a while to enjoy the peace and tranquillity and briefly spotted an otter crossing a rock and entering the water. I was disappointed that I never managed to catch it on camera.

I later continued along the vehicle track, shown as a path on my map, as it rose away from the river before descending back to its east bank. Prior to reaching the Power Station I left the vehicle track and crossed some boggy ground to a track beside a pipeline which was being replaced. I used the steps to get over this pipeline then there was more wet and boggy ground before I reached the tarred road on the south side of Maovally. This road was followed to its highest point before leaving it and completing my ascent of this Marilyn.

The cairn appeared to be located in a small hollow with the adjoining vegetation slightly higher. I sat at the summit taking in the views of Beinn Leoid, Ben Hee and Ben Klibreck and some of the Assynt Hills I had climbed earlier in the week.

I later descended south-west over some rough vegetation to re-join the tarred road then followed it to the Power Station where it reverted to a hardcore vehicle track. I walked along this track to the point where I left it then headed back to the start via the outward route. I kept an eye out for the otter but unfortunately never spotted it.

Maovally first ascent 511 metres

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Beinn Dubhain

29 August 2013

slide show

Map - OS Landranger 17. Time taken - 2.25 hours. Distance - 6.75 kilometres. Ascent - 380 metres.

Earlier in the day I was in Helmsdale to climb the Sub 2000 Marilyn, Creag Thoraraidh and to make the journey up the A9 worthwhile I had decided to also include the Sub 2000 Marilyn, Beinn Dubhain. I therefore drove west through the Strath of Kildonan, also known as Strath Ullie, to the parking area at Baile an Or. This was the location of a Scottish Gold Rush back in 1869.

There were lots of sheep wandering around and it appeared that they had recently been weaned from their lambs. I followed a track through bracken to an inappropriate sign regarding access. It stated that it was not advised to proceed between the 1 August and 15 February due to deer stalking. For access out with these dates they expected walkers to contact the Estate. I decided due to lack of factual information to ignore the sign.

The ascent of the outlier Tom na h-Iolaire was over heather mostly of the short variety having been managed by the estate. Near the summit of this knoll was what appeared to be a defunct television aerial. Beyond, the walking was a bit awkward due to the long heather and some wet ground. I climbed to the North Top of Beinn Dubhain and then to its summit which was marked by a small cairn.

It was windy on the top so I moved to the east side of the hill for some shelter and ate lunch looking down into the Strath of Kildonan. Afterwards I returned to Baile an Or by the ascent route.

Beinn Dubhain first ascent 417 metres

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Creag Thoraraidh

29 August 2013

slide show

Map - OS Landranger 17. Time taken - 2.75 hours. Distance - 10.25 kilometres. Ascent - 420 metres.

With a poor weather forecast for the west side of the country I decided to make the journey north up the A9 to Helmsdale with a plan to climb a couple of Sub 2000 Marilyns. The first was Creag Thoraraidh, located just to the north of the village in an area shown as Navidale. As I approached the northern outskirts of Helmsdale I discovered that there was a new stretch of the A9 so at a new roundabout I took a left onto the old road and into Navidale.

Stopping and parking on this old section of the A9 was no longer going to be a problem so I found a suitable spot to leave my car and walked up the road to a gate at the side of a large two storey house. Beyond this gate there were a number of outbuildings, a small quarry with a large polytunnel, some geese and a chalet. I came to a second gate, which was open, and continued up the tarred road on the west side of the hill.

On approaching the north telecommunication tower (there were two) I left the road, walked over heather and rough ground, then crossed a fence to reach the trig point which apparently was a metre lower than the highest point slightly further north. I was sitting there using the trig point as a back rest and looking out to the Moray Firth when I was joined by a couple of Marilyn Baggers. We had a conversation before they headed north to locate the highest point while I finished my snack.

I then paced the distance north to the true summit but there was nothing there to indicate its position. The couple had spent a few minutes trying to locate it with the use of a hand held GPS so once we were satisfied that we had been at the summit we parted company. I was intent on including the nearby hill, Cnoc Coir a’Phuill which was exactly the same height as Creag Thoraraidh and therefore possibly a twin Marilyn.

The route to Cnoc Coir a’Phuill was across some rough ground and on arriving at its summit the highest point appeared to be a grassy area close to a wooden post. I then headed south-east over more rough ground to rejoin the tarred road which I followed back to the start.

Creag Thoraraidh first ascent 404 metres

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Beinn Mhealaich

21 August 2012

slide show

Map - OS Landranger 17. Time taken 5.25 hours. Distance - 10.5 kilometres. Ascent - 705 metres.

My one and only visit to Glen Loth was in 2009 when I planned to climb Beinn Dhorain from the east. However the road through the glen was impossible due to snow and ice so I had to walk from the A9 to ensure a Graham completion on that Christmas Day.

On this occasion I drove along Glen Loth’s narrow single track road to opposite a stile over the deer fence just below the east face of Beinn Dhorain, around 1.5 kilometres from the summit pass. On the opposite side of the road there was ample parking for several vehicles.

We used this stile to access the hillside where initially the ground was a bit boggy. This was short lived as the gradient soon increased and we climbed through heather and used grassy rakes keeping slightly to the north to avoid crags. The deer in the corrie below Beinn Uarie soon disappeared but as this was a Sunday there were no stalking problems. The summit area of Beinn Dhorain was soon reached and we visited the cairn on the south-east ridge before a short easy stroll took us to a second cairn which marked the hill’s highest point.

The next challenge was the Graham Top, Ben Urie, to the north which didn’t involve much effort. An easy descent then re-ascent took us to the circular cairn containing the trig point. This was a better viewpoint than Beinn Dhorain. An early lunch was taken looking across to Ben Armine, Creag Mhor, Ben Loyal, Morven and Scaraben.

Heavy prolonged showers with thunder was the forecast, but earlier low cloud had lifted off the summits and we encountered sunny periods for most of the day, although it did look a bit dark out to the west. I had decided if the weather was reasonable to add on the Marilyn, Beinn Mhealaich on this trip as the journey north from Inverness didn’t really justify such a short hill day.

To avoid crags we descended north before swinging round and crossing some long heather and tussocky ground to reach the deer fence near A’Chasg, the high point on the Glen Loth road. Once over the fence and across the road an ATV track, which was a bit muddy in places, was followed to the 377 metres knoll. A short descent led to a wide area of wet and boggy ground before we made the ascent of Beinn Mhealaich searching for the easiest route through a mixture of vegetation.

The summit cairn was reached with views across the Moray Firth to the Aberdeenshire coastline and the Dornoch Firth to Tarbat Ness. Here we took another break before descending more or less westwards to where I had parked my car. Again the terrain was very mixed with boggy areas and tussoky ground to cross but despite the awkward terrain it had been a good day, with some grand hill and sea views. It was also a bonus that the forecasted showers never materialised.

Beinn Mhealaich first ascent 592 metres

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Beinn an Eoin

23 July 2012

slide show from photographs taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 16. Time taken - 4.75 hours Distance - 14.5 kilometres. Ascent - 550 metres.

On my return home from a weekend in the North-West Highlands I stopped off to climb this Sub 2000 Marilyn. Having studied the map it was difficult to decide the best approach route due to forests and the salmon rivers Oykel and Cassley.

In the end I opted for an easterly approach so left the A837 at Rosehall and drove north along the single track road in Glen Cassley. I was looking for a suitable point to cross the River Cassley but noted that on the west side of the river some of the trees had been cut down which would make for very difficult walking conditions. As I headed further north the bridge shown on the map south of Badintagairt didn’t appear to exist and the river was too deep to wade. The next possible crossing point was at Glenmuick but this would require crossing two rivers but my map showed a couple of bridges.

From the road it wasn’t possible to see if the bridges existed so I parked on the grass verge just beyond the Allt na Gaibhre. Once geared up I walked along the vehicle track on the east side of the River Cassley, missing the overgrown path that led to the footbridge. As I approached the ford at Glenmuick I spotted the bridge concealed amongst mature trees and overgrown bushes. I therefore returned along the vehicle track, located the path, and descended to the bridge.

I wouldn’t describe the bridge as in poor condition but I was a bit wary on the crossing. Once on the other side the vegetation was fairly long with a few animal trails. I made my way along the west side of the River Cassley to the deserted house at Glenmuick. There was no sign of the bridge across the Abhainn Gleann na Muic but despite the previous days rain the water was quite low.

Earlier I had spotted an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) track so once across the river with my feet still dry I located this track and followed it uphill. Although wet and boggy in sections it was easier to use than the surrounding rough vegetation. Reasonable progress was made and higher up the ATV track wound its way through large areas of peat hags where I took a short break looking across Gleann na Muic to Ben More Assynt and across Glen Cassley to Ben Klibreck.

After my break I continued to follow the ATV track as it took me onto Carn an Ceardaich where it disappeared amongst more peat hags. From here I could see my destination but the route consisted of areas of peat hags and bog. Beyond the col with Beinn an Eoin there was a herd of deer which ran off once they spotted my presence.

Beinn an Eoin’s summit trig point was eventually reached then a rock six metres to the east, which apparently was the highest point. I had a wander round the windy summit taking in the views including Creag Loisgte which I had climbed three days earlier.

A few photographs were taken before I returned to the start by the ascent route.

Beinn an Eoin first ascent 544 metres

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Ghlas-bheinn

22 July 2012

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Map - OS Landranger 9. Time taken - 2.25 hours. Distance - 7.25 kilometres. Ascent -350 metres.

Due to a cancellation I got a place with a group staying at Inchnadamph Lodge. I thought I was fortunate until I studied the weather forecast, constant rain with gusts predicted to reach 90 mph on the higher tops. I decided to attempt the Sub 2000 Marilyn, Ghlas-bheinn on the Cape Wrath Peninsula, as it was only 333 metres in height and should only take me a few hours. Three of the group decided to become Marilyn Baggers for the day and joined me.

The start of the walk was Carbreck, on the A838 Rhiconich to Durness Road which is the normal take off point for the Corbetts, Beinn Spionnaidh and Cranstackie. Previously I’ve parked beside the shed just north of the cottage but it appeared that the area was being used for penning sheep so I left my car on a reclaimed area of ground on the access track to Rhigolter, just off the A838.

It was dry but windy as we set off across the A838 and followed a fence north-west, over a mixture of grasses and heather, towards Cnoc an Fhreiceadain. I didn’t know how far the fence continued so we crossed it and headed for Am Bealach, crossing another fence en-route. The rain started and the wind increased as we crossed the hillside just below the bealach where for a short section it was rather boggy.

The plan was to climb the hill from its lee side even if that made for a longer approach. We worked our way round the south-east side of Ghlas-bheinn gradually gaining some height until a grassy gully was reached. The ascent of this gully gave us shelter from the strong wind and led us onto the summit plateau. Here our luck was in as the wind was on our backs as we headed towards the summit cairn, which we could see in the distance.

On arrival at the cairn it was too windy to remain there so we continued in a north-easterly direction before swinging round to the east then onto a southerly direction as we made our descent. Lower down sheep trails were followed and this led to a fence. Rather than cross this fence we walked along its edge to reach the main road near Lochan na Glamhaichd.

The hardest part of the day was the short walk along the road to Carbreck face into the rain and the wind which was now a lot stronger than when we set out a couple of hours earlier.

Ghlas-bheinn first ascent 333 metres

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An Grianan and Creag Riabhach

21 July 2012

slide show

Map - OS Landranger 9. Time taken - 8.25 hours. Distance - 26 kilometres. Ascent - 955 metres.

The starting point for these two Sub 2000 Marilyns, located on the Cape Wrath Peninsula, was between Oldshoremore and Oldshorebeg on the minor road north of Kinlochbervie. I located a parking area just beyond the vehicle track I planned to use to reach the southern slopes of An Grianan. The condition of the track soon began to deteriorate as it entered areas of peat bog. A little used path headed east although I lost its line and had to relocate myself. The path passed between Loch Deibheadh and Loch Mor a’Chraisg before heading along its north shore and to Loch Beag a’Chraisg.

Once beyond these lochs the path descended to Strath Shinary and the crossing of the Lon Mor, which was one of my concerns when I planned this route. However the water was fairly low and as the map indicated there was still a bridge, albeit of a fairly new construction. I wasn’t entirely confident using the bridge as the wooden slats were rather thin with wire mesh strung between them. On reaching the other side it was a short walk to Strathan Bothy, which is maintained by the MBA. It was vacant and in a reasonable state. I sat outside with a cup of coffee contemplating what life would have been like here over 100 years ago. Probably a few more folk around, unlike today when I saw no-one until late afternoon.

After my break I commenced the ascent of An Grianan, gaining the height I lost on the descent from the lochs. There was a mixture of vegetation to cross, assisted by a few animal tracks, before I climbed Sron a’Ghobhair with its few small tors. Here I had views back down the Strath, the outliers of Creag Riabhach as well as towards Sandwood Bay. From Sron a’Ghobhair it was a relative easy walk over some stony ground to the south west knoll then to the coll north-west of An Grianan and to its summit.

I took a few photographs and checked out my descent route to avoid the rocky north-east face. A steep descent slightly to the north led to the south side of Loch a’Phuill Bhuidhe where a short section of wet and boggy ground was crossed. The ascent of the second Marilyn of the day, Creag Riabhach, commenced. It was a steady climb to reach the summit trig, which was imbedded in a circle of rocks. There were good views north towards Cape Wrath, Durness, the dunes at An Fharaid and across the sea to the Orkney Isles, an ideal spot for my lunch.

My options were to return by the approach route, which involved a bit of re-ascent, or make it a longer day by heading east to Sandwood Bay, which I had visited before. I took the latter option which involved lots of rough walking with several ups and downs slowing progress. Eventually I reached the north end of Sandwood Bay where a few folks were walking along the sands.

The walk along the beach and the initial ascent away from the Bay was quite tiring on the legs due to the softness of the sand. The path wound its way passed several lochs, through an area under repair, and led to the hamlet of Blairmore. This was followed by a short road walk back to my car.

An Grianan first ascent 467 metres
Creag Riabhach first ascent 485 metres

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Meall a'Chaise

16 June 2012

slide show

Map - OS Landranger 16. Time taken 2.75 hours. Distance - 9 kilometres. Ascent - 220 metres.

I drove west from Dunrobin Glen, near Golspie, where I had climbed the Sub 2000 Marilyn, Ben Horn, along a few minor roads to near the end of the public road at Achnaluachrach. Here I found an area of ground to leave my vehicle, opposite the start of this walk.

I walked north-west then north up a vehicle track which was in good nick. New deer fences had been constructed including the fitting of wooden slats so it was visible to the birds. At the track’s high point I came to an unlocked stock gate and immediately beyond it, headed west on the north side of the fence. The ground was uneven but with the long dry spell in the North Highlands there were only small areas of bog to contend with.

It was difficult from a distance to decide which knoll was Meall a’Chaise’s highest point as there were several to choose from. Crossing one of the lower knolls a grouse rose immediately in front of me and I heard lots of squawking as the young attempted to bury themselves into the undergrowth. I tried to take a few photographs but they were difficult to spot and I was also concerned that my size 9’s would squash them. Seeing these young birds is part of the enjoyment of being out on the hills.

On getting closer to Meall a’Chaise I could see the trig point and knew that the knoll to its north was higher by 4 metres. I reached the summit then headed to the trig point taking a few photographs en-route, including a Northern Eggar Moth. I found some shelter for lunch and contemplated my return route. I opted to go south then follow the An Dubh-alltan to the path shown on the map running between Achatomlinie and Achnaluachrach.

This route was fine until the so called path was reached. It obviously had been used by vehicles but many years ago. It was overgrown with areas of marsh and minor diversions were frequently required to avoid this and water channels that had developed over the years. One plus point was that there were gates in the deer fence and they were unlocked. After two kilometres of ‘track walking’ I reached the farm at Achnaluachrach and the end of my day on the hills.

Meall a'Chaise first ascent 370 metres.

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Ben Horn

16 June 2012

slide show

Map - OS Landranger 17. Time taken 1.75 hours. Distance - 5 kilometres. Ascent - 305 metres.

I was back in the Golspie area, this time to climb the Sub 2000 Marilyn, Ben Horn. The starting point was the Bridge of Horn in Dunrobin Glen which is located to the west of Golspie. Driving out from the town I noted a wide vehicle track which came in from the south and merged with the public road. I later ascertained it was used by vehicles accessing the Kilbraur Windfarm to the north-west of Ben Horn. They leave the A9 south of Golspie, drive along forest tracks and onto this newly constructed track before joining the road in Dunrobin Glen. A route had also been built round the Bridge of Horn.

I parked west of the bridge and walked back east before locating the start of this walk which was beside the by-pass route over the Allt Horn. Here a track led up through young trees and to a locked deer gate. However there was a stile nearby. It was then a short walk to the shore of Loch Horn where a small bird blended in well with the stones. I couldn’t get close enough to take its photograph or to identify it.

From the lochside it was a steady climb towards Ben Horn although I kept slightly to the east of a direct line as I thought the underfoot conditions were better there. On reaching the summit cairn I continued east to try and get better photographs of Brora and Golspie.

On returning to the cairn I found some shelter on the lee side of the hill for a cup of coffee before returning to the Bridge of Horn by the ascent route. There was no sign of the small bird on my descent.

Ben Horn first ascent 520 metres

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Beinn Lunndaidh

10 December 2011

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 17. Time taken – 5.25 hours. Distance – 13 kilometres. Ascent - 550 metres.

There was an odd snow flurry as I headed north from Inverness on the A9, which had a slight covering of snow in places. Fortunately I wasn’t using any of the minor roads today as my starting point was the small town of Golspie, where I parked in the free car park in Fountain Road, just off Main Street. I discovered walkers were discriminated against as they were expected to pay. I decided to ignore this request and headed along Fountain Road, passed an ornate fountain, over Back Road and to the unnamed road leading to Rhives Farm, signposted Ben Bharggie. This took me under the railway line and to a pay and display car park, which was empty and rather icy. There were signs for Ben Bhraggie and mountain bike trails so I opted to use these routes rather than pass through the farm.

The mountain bike trails were on a very easy gradient with long zigzags so I regretted not using the route through the farm. I did cut out a few corners but it was a bit awkward due old tree stumps and soft snow.

My plan was to ascend Beinn Lunndaidh from Loch nan Caorach so once beyond the electric transmission lines I located the forest track and followed it to a junction of tracks. A sign indicated the track round the east side of Ben Bhraggie was closed for timber operations so I remained on the existing track which headed north-west well above the Golspie Burn and Dunrobin Glen. On hindsight I should have just ignored the sign.

I emerged from the forest via a deer gate and entered a small clearing where I crossed a deer fence, using some wooden slats. The forest edge was initially followed before I left it and made my way across snow covered long heather towards the path shown on the map as leading to Loch nan Caorach. I could see the snow covered track running round Ben Bhraggie but I never located the loch path which either no longer existed or was concealed by snow.

Underfoot conditions became a bit more awkward as I headed towards the loch and it appeared easier to be slightly higher. This took me above the east side of Loch nan Caorach and onto the North Top before making the short walk to the trig point on Beinn Lunndaidh. Here there were views of the snow covered surrounding terrain and mountains.

Having read that the direct route between Beinn Lunndaidh and Ben Bhraggie was one of the worst bogs to cross I was a bit apprehensive especially as most of the time the snow and ice wasn’t holding my weight. Although progress was slow and awkward I only sunk into bog on a couple of occasions. On the ascent of Ben Bhraggie a fence was followed before a snow covered, and in places icy, vehicle track was reached and led to the statue of the Duke of Sutherland. I did take a slight diversion to locate what I thought was the hill’s highest point.

There was a telescope beside the statue but due to ice it was of little use on this occasion. I had views of Golspie and across the Moray Firth to Aberdeenshire and Moray. Earlier I saw the Cairngorms which appeared to be in brighter conditions than the high cloud I was experiencing. There was a cold breeze so I obtained shelter behind the statue for lunch before descending steeply through deep snow to locate the path. I followed it to a wooden construction that contained a gate and what appeared to be a mountain bike jump. From there I continued down the path meeting four young local teenagers ascending the hill. The route was followed this time through Rhives Farm and back to the car park in Golspie.

Beinn Lunndaidh first ascent 446 metres

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Beinn Domhnaill

23 October 2011

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 21. Time taken – 2.5 hours. Distance – 8.5 kilometres. Ascent – 230 metres.

The Sub 2000 Marilyn, Beinn Domhnaill, was located around 3 miles, as the crow flies, from Creag a’Ghobhair, which I had climbed earlier that day. I could have combined them together if the path through the forest surrounding Beinn Domhnaill existed but this would have involved a long walk back to the start. I therefore opted for a northerly approach where I knew a vehicle track ran through the forest.

I parked at the south side of Loch Buidhe, accessed from Bonar Bridge along a single track road, the latter stages of which get no winter maintenance. There was insufficient space to leave my vehicle beside the gate leading to the forest track so I parked around 300 metres further east and walked back along the road.

The large metal gate was locked but a small wicket gate gave access to the vehicle track which was followed below electric transmission lines and into the forest. The track was initially a bit muddy in places as some forestry operations had been taking place. However it was an easy stroll on a gradual gradient as the track led me onto the west ridge of Beinn Domhnaill.

Once I reached a clearance on the east side I left the track and commenced the ascent of Beinn Domhnaill crossing some rough ground and a mixture of vegetation. The summit cairn was reached and once again I had views from the Dornoch Firth up to the hills of Caithness and round towards the mountains of Assynt. I continued further east for better views of the Dornoch Firth and also to find a suitable location for lunch.

After my snack I returned to the south shore of Loch Buidhe by the ascent route.

Beinn Domhnaill first ascent 347 metres

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Creag a’Ghobhair

23 October 2011

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 21. Time taken – 1.75 hours. Distance – 5.5 kilometres. Ascent – 280 metres.

On this day trip I was planning to climb some of the Marilyns north of Bonar Bridge. The first one on my agenda was Creag a’Ghobhar which I considered ascending from Clashcoig to the west as the only tracks or paths my map showed involved long approach routes from the east. A check on the Scottish Hills web site revealed that a poster had successfully used a vehicle track (not shown on my map) to the south-east of the hamlet of Ardens.

I drove to the start of this vehicle track at NH636927 and parked beside the sheep pens before setting off up the track, which initially ran along the side of the Allt na h-Atha through a field of sheep. A second gate was passed through as the vehicle track headed away from the stream. Improvements had been made to the track and various rodent traps had been set above the drainage channels.

On approaching Loch a’Ghobhair I left the track and crossed Blar Lon Lochan a’Ghobhair, an area of swampy ground. From here I commenced the ascent of Creag a’Ghobhair, over heather clad slopes initially on an easy gradient. The hill-side was a bit steeper as I gained the west ridge but then it was an easy walk to the summit cairn where I had some good views from the mountains in the North-West round to the Dornoch Firth in the east.

The return was by the ascent route.

Creag a'Ghobhair first ascent 346 metres

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An Socach

7 August 2011

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 9. Time taken – 4 hours. Distance – 9.5 kilometres. Ascent – 410 metres.

The forecast wasn’t great so my plan to access some of the remoter Sub 2000 Marilyns on the Cape Wrath peninsula was put on hold. Instead I headed for one of its easier hills, An Socach. I left my vehicle in a parking area on the B801 at Badcall, east of Kinlochbervie, and walked east to the vehicle track that headed north from this hamlet.

The vehicle track was initially in reasonable condition and I passed a few abandoned and rusting implements lying at the side. The track appeared little used and soon deteriorated but it was still suitable for walking along and went as far as the Allt nan Lub Bana, further than my map showed. There was no problem crossing this stream but beyond I was confronted by some marshy ground, which I was expecting as here the contours on the map were wide apart.

I worked my way round some pools of water as I made for higher ground east of Poll Buidhe. This took me onto An Socach’s south-west ridge where the going was a bit rough with more areas of water to avoid. A slight dip in the ridge was followed by a steep and rocky ascent of An Socach’s South-West Top arriving at its large cairn just as the cloud lowered and engulfed the hill. I took a couple of bearings and headed for the 358 metre Top before doing a dogleg to reach the true summit further north-west, which was marked by a small cairn.

Earlier I had some views, including Sandwood Bay and Loch, but I was hoping that the cloud would lift so that I could get more views of the area. I had a snack at the summit during some light rain and waited for around forty minutes for the cloud to lift which it did. Once I had taken a few more photographs I returned by the ascent route. The cloud continued to lift and I even managed a view east to Arkle.

An Socach first ascent 362 metres

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Beinn Sgeireach

5 August 2011

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 16. Time taken – 2.25 hours. Distance – 6.5 kilometres. Ascent – 410 metres.

My second Sub 2000 Marilyn of the day, before heading for a weekend in the North-West, was Beinn Sgeireach, which is located between Glen Cassley and Loch Shin. The Glen Cassley road, the nearest public road to this hill, was reached from Rosehall on the A837. It was a pleasant drive up the single track road which ran along the east side of the River Cassley. At Badintagairt Farm I parked directly opposite the farm house, which appeared to be unoccupied.

To the north of the farm I located the vehicle track shown on my map which headed east to a small forested area and apparently up the side of the Allt Bad na t-Sagairt to Coire Buidhe. However the track was in poor condition being rutted in places, difficult to walk on and even find. A more direct route, slightly to the north, appeared easier so I abandoned my initial plan to follow the track and made a more direct ascent towards Beinn Sgeireach, which I couldn’t actually see at this time.

The ground was a bit stonier and the vegetation shorter but as I gained some height the grasses became longer and the walking more awkward, although climbing these less popular hills I’m quite used to pathless terrain. The summit area of Beinn Sgeireach became visible while underfoot it was a bit wet with lots of bog pools to avoid so there was a some meandering required to keep my feet dry.

A slight dip, which was wet and boggy, was crossed before the gradient increased with a few rocks to walk round as I climbed to the summit trig point. Here I had good views towards Bens Hope, Loyal and Klibreck as well as several other smaller hills.

After a late lunch I returned to my car slightly to the south of the ascent route to avoid the wetter areas of the hillside but I’m not sure I gained much benefit.

Beinn Sgeireach first ascent 476 metres

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Meall Dola

5 August 2011

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 16. Time taken – 1.5 hours. Distance – 5 kilometres. Ascent – 160 metres.

I was headed for a weekend in the North-West Highlands of Scotland with a plan to climb a couple of Sub 2000 Marilyn en-route. Meall Dola fitted into this plan as it wasn’t far off my route to some of the best landscapes in Scotland.

The slight diversion took me to the village of Lairg where I drove along the A839 towards Rogart. Just beyond Lairg I located the road to Balcharn and after an uphill section of single carriageway road parked on the verge north-east of the farm.

Once geared up I passed through a gate and followed a vehicle track which headed east. Beyond a second gate and a field of sheep that seemed attracted by my presence, the track swung right but my plan was to follow the path shown on the map, if it existed. I located the path which passed close to a small copse of fir trees. Sections were overgrown, wet and occasionally difficult to locate although the line of the path was fairly obvious.

Just beyond the col between Cnoc Moine na Cailinn and Meall Dola the path became difficult to locate but I continued to near the edge of the forest which was surrounded by a deer fence. I crossed a standard fence followed by a short section of boggy ground, before making my way over heather to the summit of Meall Dola, which was marked by a few stones.

I took a short break here with views of the East Sutherland Hills and in the distance the tops of the Caithness Hills were visible. I noted the proliferation of wind farms which have now spread to this area spoiling its natural beauty. The return was by a more direct route to the col then the path back to the starting point.

Meall Dola first ascent 323 metres

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Farrmheall

11 March 2011

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 9. Time taken – 2 hours. Distance – 4 kilometres. Ascent – 350 metres.

Nearly a week of stormy weather in the North-West Highlands meant I never got above 357 metres. However the forecast was for the winds to die down by mid-morning so I was optimistic that today I could get a little higher. My walking companion had given up and returned home.

To avoid the morning winds it was a late start. I parked my car in the small parking area on the north side of the Allt na Gualainne just off the A838, beyond Gualin House which is one of the starting points for the Corbett, Foinaven. The area had a covering of snow from an overnight fall.

The initial ascent was wet and boggy and wasn’t improved by the wet snow but as height was gained the ground became firmer and the snow drier. From the parking area I worked my way onto the south ridge of Farrmheall where I thought there were traces of a vehicle track concealed by the snow.

It was then a gradual climb of the south ridge where I was surprised to see a few traffic cones positioned on the hillside. I wasn’t sure of their purpose until I later discovered a telecommunication tower to the north of my intended summit and thought that there might be a connection.

Higher up the gradient eased and the ridge became a bit stoney with some minor snowdrifts. I already had views of Foinaven, Beinn Spionnaidh and Cranstackie but I could now see the Kyle of Durness and out to the Atlantic. It was a gentle rise to the summit cairn where my views west were obscured by an approaching snow shower. However gone were the strong winds of earlier in the week.

I had lunch sheltering behind the cairn and once the shower had past I was able to see out towards Sandwood Bay and the hills of the Cape Wrath peninsula. A few photographs were taken before I returned to my car by the upward route.

Farrmheall first ascent 521 metres

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An Lean-charn

25 October 2010

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 9. Time taken – 3.5 hours. Distance – 8.5 kilometres. Ascent – 550 metres.

I was heading south to Cannich later in the day so this Sub 2000 foot Marilyn appeared to meet my requirement for a morning walk.

I drove west along the single track A838 Tongue to Durness Road to the head of the sea loch, Loch Eriboll. Despite being in some wild country there were few parking spaces. Once I managed to get my car off the road I headed south along a vehicle track to a couple of gates in poor condition. Here there was a sign giving advice during the stalking seasons, but no indication if stalking was taking place that day. However there was a contact number but I doubt if my mobile would have worked in such a remote location.

The vehicle track headed round the west side of the craggy, Creag na Faoilinn and along Srath Beag. However once beyond the crags I left the track and climbed east over some wet and rough vegetation as I made my way towards my target hill, An Lean-charn. The plan was to use the three lochans to the south-east of Creag na Faoilinn as navigation aids but the weather was clear enough for me to make a direct ascent. The ground did steepen in places but there was no real problem. A small dip containing a lochan was crossed before the final climb to the summit cairn of An Lean-charn.

Here I had a coffee break with views of Ben Hope and Lochs Hope and Eriboll.

My return was by the ascent route with views of the Corbetts, Foinaven, Cranstackie and Beinn Spionnaidh as the cloud lifted clear of their tops.

Wildlife spotted on this walk included deer, grouse and a vole.

An Lean-charn first ascent 521 metres

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Meall an Fheadain

13 February 2010

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 15. Time taken – 1.5 hours. Distance – 4.5 kilometres. Ascent - 170 metres.

This was my final day in the North-West Highlands so I was looking for a short day walk, before heading to Inverness, and this Sub 2000 hill and Marilyn fitted the bill.

I drove south on the single track Lochinver to the Aird of Coigach road which is rather interesting with its narrowness, twists and turns. Once on the Achiltibuie Road I headed to the south-east of the hamlet of Altandhu and parked at the side of the access road which leads to the radio mast beside Meall an Fheadain.

There was no sign or barrier preventing access to the mast road but I set off on foot up this semi-tarred road. I made good progress and was passed by a crofter who had been feeding his sheep by scattering the food on the road.

Once through the flock of sheep it didn’t take long to reach the radio mast where a path was followed round its east side and onto the summit. The Caledonian MacBrayne ferry was heading out of Loch Broom destined for Stornoway in the Western Isles. From the summit trig point I had views of numerous lochs, the Summer Isles, Badentarbat Bay and Achiltibuie.

There had been light rain off and on during my ascent but it wasn’t heavy enough to stop me having a coffee break while taking in these views. The return was by the upward route.

Meall an Fheadain first ascent 203 metres

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Beinn Reidh

12 February 2010

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 15. Time taken – 6.5 hours. Distance – 18.5 kilometres. Ascent - 880 metres.

My walking partner had decided to head home so at short notice a plan was devised to climb this Sub 2000 foot hill located on the south side of Loch Assynt. I had previously studied the map but couldn’t see a suitable crossing point for the River Loanan to enable me to make an easterly approach from the Inchnadamph area. However I had noted that near Little Assynt, at the west end of Loch Assynt, there was a bridge crossing the River Inver and paths for part of the route towards Beinn Reidh.

I drove west along the A837 Lochinver to Skiag Bridge Road but missed the path beside Little Assynt and stopped in a small lay-by at NC1634225162 where I saw what appeared to be a bridge. On closer inspection I noted that it was sluice gates at the outflow of Loch Assynt and could be walked across. I therefore geared up and set off over a slight rise and onto the sluice gates, which were a bit slippery after some morning frost. However once on the other side there was no path and just some very rough terrain. While studying the map I heard deer barking several times and later saw a couple of hinds running off.

This next section was hard going due to the underfoot conditions which also involved clambering over some small knolls but eventually I reached the path near a gate in the deer fence at NC1635224598. I wouldn’t recommend this route as there doesn’t appear to be any benefit compared with starting from Litle Assynt where there is a path to follow.

I followed the path east up a gentle gradient and soon reached another deer gate at NC1700524780 where again there was a wicket gate for walkers. The ascent continued to the Bealach Aird na Seilege before descending to beside what appeared to be the same deer fence. The path was now quite wet and in places icy and looked little used.

It was a beautiful sunny day with some cloud on the mountain tops so I stopped for a break looking east onto Loch Assynt. After this break I continued on my descent which went through an area of gorse where deer obviously sheltered. Shortly after this I spotted two stags as they ran off from the gorse bushes on the opposite side of the deer fence. The next section of the path I lost as it was difficult to tell the difference between the deer paths and the stalker’s path as there was a lot of deep heather and bog around. Eventually I arrived back at the shore of Loch Assynt having lost all the height I had gained earlier.

At NC1932524623 according to the map there was a junction of paths but this wasn’t obvious. To continue east would take me to the ruins at Tubeg but I wanted to head south so I clambered through some deep heather and after gaining a bit of height the path became obvious. The weather was terrific for the time of year and I was far too warm wearing my winter gear so I had to make a few changes. Thereafter good progress was made along this path, which was a bit wet, but ended just before Leathad Buidhe marked by a cairn at NC1910122973.

Navigation would be quite testing from this point as there was a vast area of pathless terrain to cross including peat bogs, peat hags and patches of wet snow hiding some of these features. However with the fine sunny weather navigation wasn’t a problem although I did a lot of meandering to avoid the above mentioned obstacles. I eventually arrived at the foot of the north ridge and watched several deer run off and later heard the distant sound of a shot so someone was out stalking the hinds.

Initially the ascent of the north face of Beinn Reidh was quite steep over some long heather followed by frozen grasses and snow which I tried to avoid. The gradient later eased considerably and it was a pleasant walk to the summit cairn where I had some lunch. The tops of the surrounding mountains, Quinag, Glas Bheinn, Conival, Ben More Assynt, Breabag, Canisp and Suilven were obscured by cloud but it was a peaceful and pleasant location to take a break.

The return was by the long ascent route in fine winter sun.

Beinn Reidh first ascent 567 metres

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Smean

22 August 2009

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 17. Time taken - 7 hours. Distance - 20 kilometres. Ascent - 1230 metres.

This was my first venture into the mountains of Caithness, which are all below 2,500 feet, and contain five Grahams. On this visit I decided to climb the Grahams, Morven and Scaraben and would include the Sub 2000 Marilyn, Smean. An early start saw me headed north up the A9 from Inverness to Dunbeath arriving there around ninety minutes later. From Dunbeath a single track road led west for around eight kilometres to the end of the public road at the bridge over the Berriedale Water where there was a red telephone box and a small parking area.

I set off from my car, crossed the road bridge, and walked along the private road by-passing Braemore House. I had views of the rocky Maiden Pap and the cloud covered hills beyond. On reaching Braeval a sign requested that between August and October enquires be made with the stalker before accessing the hills. I spoke with the stalker and fortunately there was no shooting taking place so I continued west along the vehicle track passed a couple of forested areas before I descended towards the private bothy at Corrichoich.

The cloud was beginning to lift clear of the tops and the area reminded me of the rolling hills of Aberdeenshire and the rocky tops endorsed that view comparing them with the Corbetts, Morrone and Morven in Deeside. A large herd of deer were feeding in the col to the west of Maiden Pap.

The vehicle track ended beside the bothy so I followed animal tracks along the south side of the Berriedale Water to a small knoll with several standing stones. This area is marked on the map as ‘Homestead’ but it appears to be an old wheelhouse, a prehistoric structure from the Iron Age found in the Western Isles, Caithness and Sutherland.

From the wheelhouse I crossed a mixture of heather, some bog and tussoky grass but managed to find a few animal trails which made walking a bit easier. I reached the foot of the east side of Morven and commenced its ascent through some long and thick heather with the occasional rocky area. I also came across traces of paths but they soon seemed to disappear. I was now sheltered from the earlier breeze which meant the midges were out and with my pace slowing due to the steepness of the ground they were a nuisance. High on the hillside I came across lots of loose boulders which looked like Readymix concrete, but at least I was back into the wind and away from the midges.

I came out onto a rocky crag where I stopped to look at the views of Maiden Pap, Scaraben and the route I had taken from Braemore. A short and easy climb took me to the summit cairn of Morven. Here it was rather cool with a fair breeze and rain showers were drifting passed to the north so unfortunately there was only a limited view of the Flow Country and no sign of the Orkney Isles. I took a coffee break, sheltering from the wind, looking east to Berriedale and the Moray Firth.

Once my break was over I descended the east side of Morven keeping more to the south where there were less rocks. Lower down I met a father and son and their two dogs. At the col I headed east then south-east to the Sub 2000 Marilyn, Smean and its rocky tors. It was difficult from the foot of the tors to decide which was the highest and after one aborted scramble I found the highest point.

From Smean I descended to the watershed of the Allt Aoil where there were a couple of large herds of deer, one lot resting the others feeding. I did manage to stay unobserved for a while but they soon spotted me and the herds ran off in opposite directions.

Beyond the watershed I had just started my ascent of Sron Gharbh when I observed some movement in the grass near my feet and saw an adder slide away. I watched it slither through the grass and thought of the consequences of an adder attack while on my own in such remote country. Well that gave me something to consider as I climbed Sron Gharrbh with its stony summit. A short descent followed by an easy climb on quartzite and grass took me to the summit trig point of Scaraben, which is surrounded by a stone shelter. The sun was out so I had lunch with views east and south over the Moray Firth to the coastline of Moray and Aberdeenshire.

The descent was initially down Scarben’s east ridge then turning north to cross mainly heather until lower down where it was a mixture of bog, reeds, tussocky grass and heather. This slowed my progress but eventually I came to a deer fence with a gate. Once beyond this gate I was able to follow sheep tracks to a derelict farm and then head west along the vehicle track on the south side of the Berriedale Water. I was surprised to see that most, if not all, the buildings along this stretch of the river were derelict. On approaching the bridge at the end of my walk I met an Aussie who was cycling from Thurso through to Berriedale and was hoping that I could tell him if the track went as far as Berriedale but unfortunately I was unable to assist him.

Smean first ascent 509 metres

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