Sue and I enjoyed a leisurely six hour drive from Timperley to Bridge of Gaur, where Eddie and Heather provided their customary warm welcome at their Guest House, a tastefully refurbished granite farmhouse built in 1878 by Sir Robert Menzies, which is pretty much ‘in the middle of nowhere’.
Julie and Gary had us worried for a while, as we had hoped to dine at 7pm, but they didn’t turn up until 7.30! Never mind. Apparently they had a good walk after staying overnight in Pitlochry Youth Hostel.
On a dull but fine morning we started up a track from Loch Eigheach, soon watching the sleeper trundle up the hill from Rannoch towards Corrour.
Our ‘track’ today was in fact the ‘Road to the Isles’, a long distance drove road used by farmers from the north and west of Scotland to reach the great cattle market at Falkirk.
I last walked this section, in the other direction, on 19 May 2010, when it had been considerably churned up by trial bikes. Today the track was fine, despite recent rain, and the ford pictured above was deceptively shallow.
Julie headed off to the right to climb Beinn Pharlagain, whilst Gary, Sue and I crossed Allt Eigheach by a solid bridge that was refurbished in 2001, before continuing along the drove road towards Corrour.
Shortly before reaching the high point of the track, Clach an Fhuarain, we turned uphill towards Sron Leachd a’ Chaorainn, at the southern end of the Carn Dearg ridge.
Just around the corner, hidden beyond the cairn, are the ruins of Corrour Old Lodge, which was built for deer stalkers in the early 19th century and was, at over 500 metres, for a while the highest inhabited residence in Britain. The old lodge became a sanatorium (isolation hospital) after the opening of the West Highland Railway in 1894 and the construction of a new lodge by Loch Ossian. The extensive ruins are well worth a visit, and the once magnificent lawn is a brilliant location for a wild camp.
The ‘New Lodge’ has recently been superseded by an ‘Even Newer Lodge’, a visit to which may be suitable for the aristocracy….
Sue found a rare moth (well, there was only one on this walk) and I spotted Fir clubmoss (Huperzia selago) and Cladonia lichen, both of which are abundant hereabouts.
After a pleasant stroll along the crest of the broad ridge, spent dicing with cloud as we slowly approached the summit of Carn Dearg, we perceived a minor hubbub in the vicinity of the summit. We gatecrashed a party - here are Susan, Ciorsti, Fiona and Lorna.
“NO!” exclaimed the girls, already reeling from their slugs of champagne, “It’s a First Munro party for Lorna and Fiona!”
We helped to finish the champagne. So much so that I now feel guilty about not offering to dispose of the bottle. Thanks, girls, it was a pleasure to assist!
Just below the summit, we lunched above Loch Ossian, where the aristocracy were no doubt quaffing their own champagne in a pool of sunshine that seemed to bathe the Lodge.
Meanwhile, the four girls trudged on towards Sgor Gaibhre. We followed, encountering Anne Butler - half way round her 4th round of Munros.
Anne’s dog, Molly the Collie, was equally friendly. She’s four years old and has just four Corbetts (a list of about 220 Scottish summits between 2500 and 3000 feet in height) to climb. We didn’t ask, but we presumed that Molly has done at least one round of Munros.
The last lap to Sgor Gaibhre's 955 metre summit was achieved in the excellent company of the intrepid foursome, two of whom were now ascending their second Munro summit. Sadly, there was no champagne on tap this time, but everyone seemed to have preserved their jollity from Carn Dearg’s summit.
We bade our farewells, as the four of them were returning to Corrour Youth Hostel whilst we had to descend back towards Rannoch.
Our plan had been to descend into Coire Eigheach, following the route described on page 110 of Ralph Storer’s excellent pocket guide - ‘The Ultimate Guide to the Munros, Volume 3’, but it looked a bit wet down there so we decided to go over the Corbett, Meall na Meoig on Beinn Pharlagain, just as I think I did on my previous visit with ‘Wuxing Nick’ on a hot day in April 2000.
There were fine views beyond Loch Ericht to Schiehallion, and a ‘phone signal, so although I’d not planned any mobile postings on this trip, I couldn’t resist the temptation to disturb anyone named ‘Alan’ who may have been slumped in front of Google Reader awaiting such missives… well done on guessing the location, both of you. Schiehallion is pretty distinctive from that angle!
Fine views accompanied us all the way to Meall na Meoig, with Benalder Cottage, a bothy, clearly in view at the foot of the steep climbs to Beinn Bheoil and Ben Alder.
Sue tried something arty on the summit:
The descent to the old drove road was lumpy but dry, and involved some patience on my part as Sue and Gary’s pace had slowed dramatically by now.
Our descent continued, with fine views towards Blackwater Reservoir and the Glencoe summits (pictured at the head of this posting) now that the earlier cloud had lifted.
Once on the track, a group of stalkers drove past us on their way down from the hill, but we hadn’t heard or seen them all day. We’d encountered just the ladies mentioned above, and a lone gent in a bright anorak. Julie, who went up Beinn Pharlagain and descended by the wet valley, didn’t see a soul all day.
Our route is shown below – approximately 26km, with 1150 metres ascent, taking us about 8 hours, including 2.5 hours of stops.
Julie got back a good hour before the rest of us, then we gave Eddie and Heather a break from cooking by heading down to the Loch Tummel Inn, a 45 minute drive away, for dinner. A pleasurable occasion despite Tom and Amanda’s concern that a wedding party that was enjoying a disco in the room above us might plunge through the ceiling at any moment!
“They told us it would be a ‘quiet wedding’”, explained Amanda.
With Julie wanting to get home to Newcastle, and a dire weather forecast from lunch time, we decided on a gentle stroll from the Guest House. We were all happy with this decision.
The first landmark, in view from the house, is the bridge at Bridge of Gaur, built in 1838 by the Menzies Clan, in commemoration of the crowning of the young Queen Victoria. Here’s a view from the bridge.
We were told that there are getting on for 100 residencies dotted around the shore of Loch Rannoch. These are served daily by an Asda van, bringing the supermarket from Perth to everyone’s door, and by an occasional bank and other traders. Whilst some are holiday homes, many are occupied on a permanent basis. Bridge of Gaur even has a village hall.
Here’s a typical highland cottage, flanked by some modern (‘email – text – phone’) conveniences.
We soon left the road, ignoring ‘stalking’ signs, and headed up a track that leads south in the direction of Glen Lyon.
There are still lots of plants flowering in these parts, with ling and bell heather being the commonest. Common milkwort, tormentil, buttercups and daisies, devil’s bit scabious, ladies-mantles, bog asphodel, and lots of grasses and mosses – all were abundant on this walk. A buzzard was stalking its prey.
Shortly before turning off the main track in favour of an ascent of Leagag, we passed this extensive enclosure, which I imagine may have been used by local sheep farmers, or may even have been employed by those western crofters who were taking their charges to the market at Falkirk.
We encountered one or two showers, but nothing as bad as predicted, and the sun had an equal say in matters. If you zoom in to one of the white houses in the following image, you can just see Eddie’s shadow as he rushes around, searching for a pot of gold!
A little further up the hill, I paused to view this panorama towards Loch Rannoch, from near the summit of Leagag.
That was my Canon G10’s last picture – number 21,265. At this point the lens jammed open. It’s a sad time. My reserve camera wasn’t with me, so that’s the last picture of the day.
We enjoyed elevenses near the summit of Leagag (601 metres), which is a fine little hill, albeit a bit breezy on top today, then we descended steeply to the track. This led pleasurably down to Loch Rannoch, via lunch beside the river. Then a pleasant stroll along quiet tarmac returned us to Bridge of Gaur, where the calm river shown above was now in spate, thanks probably to the hydro systems around here, rather than the effect of the morning’s showers.
On the way we met Raymond, erstwhile actor and quantity surveyor, and his retired sheepdog Mossy. An ‘interesting’ couple.
We had been all of 17km, with about 450 metres ascent, taking a leisurely 5.5 hours, including 2 hours of breaks.
After tea and biscuits with our hosts, Gary and Julie headed off, leaving Sue and me to enjoy a most relaxing evening, as we had chosen not to drive home today. My skirmish with the Millennium Trilogy was allowed to draw to a close.
It was a lovely morning. ‘A shame we need to return home’, we thought, as we surveyed the view from the Guest House window.
(Following the demise of the Canon G10, a ‘back up’ Canon Ixus 105 is now responsible for images, whilst the G10’s replacement is considered. Sue’s more pristine Canon G9 is also still going strong, when she can be bothered to get it out!)
After a leisurely and extremely filling breakfast, it was finally time to leave. Heather, Thomas and Eddie - all blinded by the sun – posed for us outside their home. Next time we visit, the old porch may well have been replaced by a larger structure with spaces to sit down and a boot drying rack.
This Guest House is a lovely place to stay. We commend it most highly, and there are a huge number of excellent walks, etc in this area.
Eddie had pointed out that the author of several books he has in the Guest House’s living room, Alec Cunningham, died recently at the age of 91. Alec was apparently also a stalwart TGO Challenger and has been remembered by Roger Smith on the TGO Challenge Message Board. His funeral was last Thursday, at the Braes of Rannoch Church, in Bridge of Gaur.
We visited this lovely little church and then wended our way home via the pleasant road along the south side of Loch Rannoch. The church has a long history of walking connections. The current church was built in 1907, but its bell tower has been transferred from earlier incarnations of the building and dates back to 1776. The minister in 1907 was one A E Robertson, who just happens to be Munroist Number 1, having in 1901 completed his round of Sir Hugh Munro’s 1891 list of about 277 Scottish peaks over 3000 feet in height. Curiously, Sir Hugh’s list at that time did not include the Inaccessible Pinnacle on Skye, and Robertson may have failed to climb Ben Wyvis, but his achievement stood for over 20 years, and only 15 Munroists are recorded as having completed their rounds in the first 60 years after publication of the Tables. Since then (in the second 60 years) a further 4851 people have currently claimed ‘compleation’ of the list, some of them (like Anne Butler) having done it several times.
We couldn’t resist stopping beside Loch Rannoch for a while.
From Queen’s View, there’s a fine view down Loch Tummel to Schiehallion and beyond, with a pair of binoculars perhaps bringing the Glencoe summits into view in the distance.