Friday 31 July 2020

A West Coast Summer Holiday - a week at Ardmair (Ullapool) and a week in Glen Nevis

Sidney - views south from Priest Island/AnCleireach - the Summer Isles

After a lockdown spring, a holiday on the West Coast seemed like heaven...

We stayed a week in the lovely coastal campsite at Ardmair Point Campsite, just north of Ullapool, just Jim and me (unless you count Sidney!).

Followed by a week in our regular haunt at the Glen Nevis Campsite, Fort William, with our eldest son and his family, up from Yorkshire.

Below are the walks and boat trips that have their own posts - as you can see it was a pretty busy fortnight!

Ben Mor Coigach and Sgurr an Fhidhleir

Eas a'Chual Aluinn Waterfall

Sidney to Isle Martin

Sidney and the Summer Isles

Ullapool Hill (Meall Mor)

Boat Trip from Arisaig - Lots of Whales

Carn Mor Dear and Ben Nevis

Sidney on Loch Ailort

But here are a few of our little adventures from in between:

Friday, 31st July - Arrival at Cannich and a swim in Loch Beinn a Mheadhoin

Our usual start point for a holiday is a night at  Cannich Woodland Campsite - and this time was no different. It feels like a home from home.

After setting up, we had a little drive up into Glen Affric for a dip in Loch Beinn a Mheadhoin from the Forestry car park under Coille Ruigh na Cuileige (NH244261)

Evening swim in Loch Beinn a Mheadhoin 

It was a little chilly - and the midges were happy to welcome Jim (with his camera) on shore, for a spot of supper.

Evening swim in Loch Beinn a Mheadhoin - the little dot in the water is me...

Saturday, 1st August - North west to Ardmair

River Cannich in Cannich village

After the obligatory morning walk around the lovely village of Cannich, we packed up and headed north west to Ardmair Point, just a couple of hours in the car...

River Cannich at Cannich Bridge

Loch Kanaird from Ardmair Point

Our pitch was right on the shore of Loch Kanaird - views west over Isle Martin and to the Summer Isles beyond, with the mountains of Coigach encirling the loch...

Loch Kanaird and Isle Martin from Ardmair Point

Isle Martin Sunset from Ardmair Point

Sunday, 2nd August - Ben Mor Coigach and Sgurr an Fhidhleir

Monday, 3rd August  - Eas a'Chuil Aluinn Waterfall 

Tuesday, 4th August - To Lochinver

On a somewhat grey and damp morning, and after two days out and about in the hills, we decided on a bit of a road trip - north along the coast roads to Lochinver.

Loch an Eisg Brachaidh, south of Lochinver

We had a short walk along the coastline around the stunning Loch an Eisg Brachaidh - another one of those places we vowed we would have to go back someday.

Seal - Loch an Eisg Brachaidh

And then onward to Lochinver - somewhere we had never explored before, as Jim has always had a strange aversion to the place. So today was the day to change his mind about the village...

River Inver, near Lochinver

We parked up on the seafront, with every intention of finding a cafe for lunch - but everywhere was full to overflowing - so the local shop had to suffice for a sandwich, and we had a picnic overlooking the harbour. 

River Inver, near Lochinver

The next couple of hours were spent happily exploring around the harbour and the village.

River Inver, near Lochinver

Followed by a wander along the River Inver - a lovely walk which we had to ourselves, although it started only a few minutes from the bustling village centre.

Weir on River Inver, near Lochinver

I think Jim's views on Lochinver have softened somewhat.

River Inver near Lochinver

We drove further north to Scourie, but the weather took a definite turn for the worse - raindrops bouncing off the road in front. So it wasn't exactly a day for further exploring on foot. 

But whatever the weather, this bit of coastline is superb. We never tire of it...

Wednesday, 5th August - Sidney to Isle Martin

Thursday, 6the August - Sidney to the Summer Isles

Friday, 7th August - Ullapool Hill (Meall Mor)

Saturday, 8th August - Onward to Geln Nevis

Isle Martin and Garbh Choireachan from Ardmair campsite

It seemed such a shame to be moving on, on such a glorious morning - but we were meeting up with the next generation in Glen Nevis - so after the usual packing up palaver and a cuppa on the beach, we headed south.

Meall Mor from Ardmair campsite

And only 3 hours later we were pitching up again in the Glen Nevis Campsite - with some real hill biggies all around. Plus the sun was still shining!

Glen Nevis campsite - views to Sgurr a'Mhaim from our pitch

The family duly arrived and the annual holiday shenanigans commenced :)

Stob Ban from Glen Nevis campsite

Evening light on the lower slopes of Ben Nevis and Sgurr a'Mhaim from Ben Nevis campsite

Sunday, 9th August - Not Bla Bheinn

Monday, 10th August - River Etive

The River Etive

After a leisurely breakfast, a walk around Glen Nevis and a trip to the shops for supplies, we headed out with our swimming gear for a bracing dip...

After yesterdays adventures on Skye, Jim and his ear were benched and he was left in charge of the towels and the camera!

Swimming in the River Etive

The River Etive has more than one amazing wild swimming spot - this particular one was ours for the afternoon.

Swimming in the River Etive

Tuesday, 11th August - Arisaig Boat Trip and lots of whales

Wednesday, 12th August - A lazy day around Glen Nevis Campsite

Deer in Glen Nevis

We had a wander down into Fort William - taking in the wildlife and having a mess about at the old curling "pond" on the way - coffee, cake and shopping ensued... 

Rescue over Ben Nevis

Later in the day the rescue helicopter was seen over Ben Nevis - it's always a worry when you see it! But thank goodness for those guys.

Sgurr a'Mhaim from Ben Nevis campsite

A barbeque and another walk is always a good end to the day :)

Thursday, 13th August - Carn Mor Dear and Ben Nevis

Friday, 14th August - Sidney on Loch Ailort

Saturday, 15th August - Back to Cannich, and a swim in River Cannich

Another packing up morning - once again, the weather was glorious and looked set in for a few more days - do we really have to start heading home?

The youngsters headed south and we headed north east - back to Cannich.

River Cannich, east of Loch Carrie

You've got to make the most of the last evening - so a dip in the River Cannich seemed in order.

Swim in River Cannich, east of Loch Carrie

We'll be back soon...

Swim in River Cannich, east of Loch Carrie

Saturday 18 July 2020

An afternoon on the River Glass

River Glass near Teanassie

An afternoon paddle on the River Glass from the dam near Teanassie.

River Glass near Aigas

It was a blustery sort of a day - the wind from the west - making it hard going in the more exposed spots along the river.

River Glass with views to Eilean Aigas

We took the eastern channel around Eilean Aigas continuing upstream towards Eskadale.

Eileanaigas House from downstream

The forecast showers did not materialise and it was just a lovely paddle...

River Glass Gorge from downstream

The local ospreys soared overhead, the chicks must have fledged by now.

River Glass - views to Eilean Aigas bridge

River Glass by Eilean Aigas

River Glass near Eskadale

River Glass near Eskadale

Once past Eskadale, the river became more exposed to those pesky westerly gusts and we decided that a leisurely float downstream and through the gorge was the order of the day.

River Glass near Aigas

We only had to steer a course, no effort required, on our way back...

River Glass near Aigas

River Glass Gorge

And the gorge never disappoints.

River Glass Gorge

River Glass Gorge

River Glass Gorge

River Glass Gorge

Just a gentle paddle back to the dam - we'll be back soon.

River Glass dam near Teanassie

Friday 17 July 2020

Am Faochagach - Allowed out in the hills at last

We know we've been so lucky - the coronavirus that has devastated so many lives has only touched us indirectly - minor inconveniences brought about by the lockdown - a lockdown which we have spent living in a lovely village on the Moray coast with wonderful neighbours and a supportive community.

We know we've been lucky, so lucky... But we've still missed the hills.

The start of the path to Am Faochagach just west of the Torrandhu Bridge - views north

So, as soon as we got the go ahead, feeling somewhat flabby and not-hill-fit, we headed out for a shorter Munro walk - Am Faochagach. We've kind of been saving it for a winter day, but it seemed like a good option to get us back into the swing...

Views east over Loch Glascarnoch from near the start of the walk

On the grey, but bright morning, we set off from the parking area beside the A835 by the Torrandhu Bridge - the car park was full, but everyone else seemed to be going south towards the Fannaichs. We squelched north, across the moor on an obvious, but very wet (very wet!) path through the bog.

Crossing the moor with Am Foachagach ahead

Jim and bog cotton - crossing the moor with Am Foachagach ahead
The famed river crossing loomed...

Jim - Abhainn a'Gharbhrain
The guidebooks/websites all said that we'd need to wade across the Abhainn a'Gharbhrain (and that if in spate it might be impassable). When we got there the water looked low - it had been reasonably dry last week. Aww, surely we'll find a place to cross dry-shod!

So we spent 10 minutes walking up and down the south bank looking for that place to cross without getting we feet...

There's a likely spot - nope, can't jump that far...

Maybe - definitely not, too slippery...  etc...

OK - So, it was off with the boots and roll up the trousers. The water was well above my knees and Jim was fair comical with all his slipping about.

I bet everyone looks for a place to get across without messing about without taking off boots and socks - don't bother, it really is a wade.

Crossing Abhainn a'Gharbhrain
Initial ascent of Am Faochagach - views north west towards Beinn Dearg

And then it was just a matter of crossing the flower strewn moor on a much improved grassy trod, ascending slowly to the shallow bealach between Sron Liath and Am Foachagach's southerly undulations.

A damp ascent of Am Faochagach

Views back (S) over Loch a'Gharbhrain to the Fannaich hills from ascent of Am Faochagach

As we climbed the aspect improved - we were soon getting good views of the Fannaich Munros to the south and increasingly Beinn Dearg and friends to the west.

Waterfalls on Allt na h-Uidhe

The path ascended gently beside the Allt na h-Uidhe and it's pretty waterfalls for a while, before striking off, somewhat damp underfoot, towards the shallow bealach between Am Faochagach and Meall Gorm - never very steep, an easy meander...

Jim - waterfalls on Allt na h-Uidhe

Views west to Beinn Deag from ascent of Am Faochagach 

Jim - ascent of Am Faochagach 

Views west to Beinn Deag from ascent of Am Faochagach 

A few rocks poked their way out of the grasses as we neared the bealach, the sun came out, and suddenly it was a glorious day...
Views south west from bealach between Am Faochagach and Meall Gorm

Jim - bealach between Am Faochagach and Meall Gorm

The views opened up further - the wild and empty lands to the north, a rolling greenness, stretching as far as the eye could see.

Views west from bealach between Am Faochagach and Meall Gorm towards Am Faochagach

Am Faochagach wasn't far now - a couple of gentle grassy undulations, with Beann Dearg and Cona Meall looming in front - seemingly only a hop and jump away.

Jim - nearing Am Faochagach - views to Beinn Dearg group

Nearing Am Faochagach - views to Beinn Dearg group

Nearing Am Faochagach

Nearing Am Faochagach - views to Beinn Dearg group

Beinn Dearg and Coire Granda

It was definitely time for a spot of lunch - but there was a chilly wind blowing across the tops, the cloud had filled in again. It felt cold. There was little in the way of shelter from the breeze across the open undulations - so we descended slightly below the last bealach before the final summit pull. Once off the top, the wind dropped and it felt more like July.

Not the greatest view for lunch - but out of the wind
- last shallow bealach before Am Faochagach

Sitting on our waterproofs, we looked out over a muddy, peaty bowl (obviously popular with the local red deer) in Coire Gorm towards the Inchbae Forest and a distant Ben Wyvis. There was just enough blue sky to make a sailor a pair of trousers - always a good sign. 

We munched on our sarnies and breathed in the Highlands...

Views back (S) from final gentle ascent to Am Faochagach summit

Onwards and upwards. 

We passed a group of young men who were descending with the usual cheery hello and then we had the hill to ourselves - we saw nobody else until we got back to the car.

Jim - nearing Am Faochagach summit

We sauntered on, an easy pull up to the summit of our first Munro of 2020 - Am Faochagach (Munro 209, 954m) - wonderful...

Am Faochagach (Munro 209, 954m)

The summit plateau was wide - and we crossed over to it's western edge for a better view of the Beinn Dearg group - great memories of a wonderful four Munro day across there...

Views to Beinn Dearg group from Am Faochagach summit

Views to Beinn Dearg group from near Am Faochagach summit

The usual descent route is to turn around and march back the same way - but whilst wandering about on the western edge of the plateau we spied a likely way down and after a quick map consultation, headed off onto Coire Crom Dubh towards Cnoc na h-Iolaire.

Descent from Am Faochagch - views south west

We intended to descend gradually into Coire Lair, keeping above any bogs, but doing any river crossings above Loch a'Gharbhrain.

Jim - descent towards Coire Crom Dubh from Am Faochagach

Looking back (NE) to Am Faochagach from descent into Coire Crom Dubh
Jim - decent from Am Faochagach - views SW over Leac an Tuadh to the Fannichs

Beinn Dearg and Cona Mheall from descent from Am Faochagach

It was an easy descent across the upper reaches of Coire Crom Dubh, but once we hit the upper end of Cnoc na h-Iolaire, we decided not to follow its ridge all the way down, but dropped into Coireag na h-Iolaire - looking back, it might have been an entertaining little ridge...

Jim - descent from Am Faochagach towards Cnoc na h-Iolaire

Loch a'Gharbhrain from Cnoc na h-Iolaire

Looking back (NE) to Am Faochagach from Cnoc na h-Iolaire

Waterfalls in Coireag na h-Iolaire

Descent in Coireag na h-Iolaire - views to Cona Mheall

We picked our way across the hillside - it wasn't a hard descent, occasionally boggy and a bit tussocky, but definitely no worse than the ascent route!

Jim - descent towards Loch a'Gharbhrain 

Heath spotted orchid - decent from Am Faochagach

We were soon down into the glen - it was surprisingly dry - we sauntered, in the increasingly warm sunshine, along the bank of Abhainn Coire Lair looking for a place to cross. It was shallow and pebbly and it wasn't long before we found an easy spot to cross - stepping stones and dry feet.

North into Coire Lair
Jim - after crossing the Abhain Coire Lair - views south

Views north along Abhain Coire Lair towards Cona Mheall

We walked along the west bank of Abhain Coire Lair, taking in the stunning views, to where it flows into Loch a'Gharbhrain - it was just a beautiful spot. Good place for a second lunch...

Jim - Allt a'Gharbhrain - views north to Beinn Dearg group

Crossing the second of the burns that flows into Loch a'Gharbhrain, Allt a'Gharbhrain, was easy too - dry shod, we aimed across the glen to a stalkers path that we could see (and marked on the map) which would take us round the lower slopes of Meall a'Gharbhrain and back to the car.

Allt a'Gharbhrain where it flows into Loch a'Gharbhrain - a lot easier to cross here! 

It wasn't quite as easy as we had hoped - there were quite a few peat hags and boggy bits to be negotiated, rather trying at this point in the day. We were happy to make the short ascent up to the stalkers path once we had crossed the glen bottom - drier ground - and happier still to step onto a reasonable path and the final leg of the walk.

Am Faochagach from by Loch a'Gharbhrain

The path wound in and out of the tussocks and bog, sometimes well laid and good underfoot, other times wet, others rubbly - occasionally it disappeared into the bog. 

Looking back (NE) over Loch a'Gharbhrain to Beinn Dearg group, Coire Lair and Am Faochagach

Jim - stalkers path south of Meall a'Gharbhrain

But it took us gently over the hill...

Loch a'Gharbhrain and Loch Glascarnoch from stalkers path 

New views - south over Loch Droma to the Fannaichs.

Fannaichs from stalkers path south of Meall a'Gharbhrain

The stalkers path met another track running parallel to the road, we turned left here sauntering and squelching back to the car.

Loch Droma and Fannaichs from stalkers path south of Meall a'Gharbhrain

Good to be back.

Looking back (NE) to Meall a'Gharbhrain from stalkers path

Looking back, if we were ever to be back this way, we would modify our route to avoid the peat hags by Loch a'Gharbhrain - see below...

Views west from descent to Loch Droma and A835

Route:  Car parking area beside A835 on NW side on Torrandhu Bridge (NH277742), cross road and take very rough, boggy path NE across moor to cross Abhainn a'Gharbrainn at NH281753 (shoes and socks off!), continue on boggy and sometimes indicstinct path NE around the foot of Cnoc a'Mhoraire and following Allt na h-Uidhe had then making for bealach between Sron Liath and Drochaid a'Ghlas Tuill, N over Drochaid a'Ghlas Tuill and Am Faochagach south top (sh 844m) on indistinct grassy trod, N to shallow bealach (sh 831m), continue N then NE to Am Faochagach summit (Munro 209, 954m), descend SW on pathless hillside, across upper Coire Crom Dubh to Cnoc na h-Iolaire then picking a way through the crags, descending SSW across hillside aiming for Abhain Coire Lair just N of where it flows into Loch a'Gharbhrain, cross Abhain Coire Lair (much shallower, no shoe and sock removal required!), E across moor and cross Allt a'Gharbhrain, SE across moor, ascending slightly to pick up old stalkers path (very wet in places) countouring S then E around Meall a'Gharbhrain, S on old track parallel to A835 which comes down to the road just N of car parking area 
(If we did this walk again, we would descend the full length of Cnoc na h-Iolaire, Creag a'Phrabaich (very craggy and scrambly looking) cross Abhain Coire Lair just S of Loch Coire Lair and head for ruined settlement at Lub a'Gharbhrain and pick up the old stalkers path there - avoiding some peat hags between Abhain Coire Lair and Allt a'Gharbhrain N of Loch a'Gharbhrain)

Statistics:  Distance: 16.5km  Ascent: 900m  Time: 6hrs 30mins

Map:  OS Explorer 436 Beinn Dearg & Loch Fannich

Beinn Bhrotain and Monadh Mor

Setting off from Glen Feshie - it was chilly - before the sun had a chance to peep over the hills...  Off we go! Jim - Setting off near Auch...