Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019
On the Archduke's Path in Mallorca

Friday 17 May 2024

Friday 17 May 2024 - An Inverbroom Circuit

I took Sue up to Loch Droma, from where she wanted to polish off her last four Fannaich summits. It was another beautiful day here, though you can see from the pictures that Loch Broom and Ullapool were engulfed in cloud.

Sue’s objectives, including big pointy Sgurr Mor, were thankfully positively bristling in the sunshine.

I had chosen a 9km circuit from the southern Lael Forest Garden car park. I walked south from here a couple of days ago; today I was heading north, first walking down the track to Auchindrean Farm, then rising quickly above the farm on a high, grassy, undulating path.

There were gullies and bridges.

There were fine views towards Ullapool despite the fog in that direction.

Blackcaps and coal tits vied with chaffinches for attention, with pied wagtails busy near the river. The dominant flower was the bluebell - simply masses of it, but there remained space for yellow pimpernel and tormentil, hawkweeds and daisies, amongst others.

Eventually the good path ended at a bench. Vertigo sufferers should turn round here. A narrow path and a series of steps and ladders lead through a dramatic gorge. With nobody else around (nobody seen on the entire walk), care was needed.

After some twists and turns and steep ups and downs, a gate in a deer fence announced the end of any difficulties and a nice grassy path down to the valley floor.

Here, Butterwort and Primroses were in flower.

My route joined a good path beside the River Broom, past a series of pools where salmon rest when making their way up the river at spawning time. All today’s paths were well maintained, to the credit of the landowner. I enjoyed some lunch on a bench beside the Lower Garvan Pool.

At one point a new bridge had been installed, obviating the need to return via the farm.

Here’s my route - 9.5km with 350 metres ascent, taking me 3.5 hours. An excellent morning’s walk.

Thursday 16 May 2024

Thursday 16 May 2024 - Ben Hope

An 80 mile drive (including 60 miles of single track with passing places) brought us via Lairg to the Dun Dornaigil Broch, a stone roundhouse dating from 400 to 200BC. Possibly owned by a family that controlled the verdant valley. Note the impressive lintel over the doorway behind Sue.

The picture below shows the real reason for our visit to these parts. The mountain to the right of the broch is Ben Hope, the most northerly of Scotland’s 3000 ft summits. Sue hadn’t been up it before, and I don’t think my ascent in 1995 was on anything like such a cracking day as today.

We continued on to the Ben Hope car park, where there were already a dozen vehicles in situ. The route up the hill is relentlessly uphill, the 930 metre ascent being achieved in just 3.5km. (Compared to 7.5km to     reach Ben Klibreck’s summit the other day.) Anyway, the sun shone on the hot day, and views were admired throughout - this one looking back along the glaciated valley.

Given today’s visibility, the guiding cairns were somewhat superfluous.

The gradient eased towards the end of the climb.

Yellow lichen adorned virtually all of the exposed rocks.

We reached the summit in rather less than three hours, and spent an hour or so there together with the occupants of some of the other vehicles in the car park. The views from the summit were stunning.

The usual flowers were seen, such as the Common Dog Violet pictured below. Orchids appeared for the first time this trip - white flowers and spotted leaves - I’ll try to name the species later.


Sue sped off ahead on the descent, enabling her to grab two wild swimming opportunities. It was 28C in the car park. Fabulous weather, and not a midge in sight.

Here’s our route - 7.5km with 930 metres ascent, taking five and a quarter hours.

We took a 100 mile scenic route back to Ullapool, much of which was on single track roads with passing places, passing North Sea beaches such as the one pictured below, and enjoying ice creams in Durness.

Wednesday 15 May 2024

Wednesday 15 May 2024 - Lael Forest Garden and the Auchindrean Path


My first job on this perfect summer’s day was to drop Sue off near the end of Loch Glascarnoch, from where she was to climb to the 953 metre summit of Am Faochagach. She was wearing trainers in expectation of a deepish river crossing.

I adjourned to the south car park at Lael Forest Garden, where visitors are challenged to identify up to 200 different species of trees. I was simply happy to enjoy the shade provided by the trees.

After a while I descended beside a gorge where I failed to find a good place to photograph the waterfall, the view from which is shown below.

There were lots of wild flowers beside the path, including Carpet Bugle.

I couldn’t resist a visit to the nearby gallery and café, where I enjoyed a brownie and a chat with two Canadian girls who had hired bicycles from Inverness for a ride around the north of Scotland.

Yellow Pimpernel was in flower in the woods.

Also seen, with pictures to follow:
Germander Speedwell
Welsh Poppy
Lanky Moss

Returning to the south car park, I crossed the bridge to the Auchindrean path. This lovely manicured grassy path led me eventually to Junction Pool. Sue would have loved swimming here. It’s where two rivers converge near Cuileig.

My route took me up to a good track with several deer gates, leading back to Auchindrean Farm.

Throughout this walk, banks of bluebells were to be admired.

Here’s a view towards the end of the walk. Copper Beech trees have recently been planted here.

Welsh Poppies beside the bridge to Auchindrean.

Here’s my 8km route.

Then I returned to Loch Glascarnoch to pick up Sue from her successful Munro bagging walk, where the expected river crossing was possible using stepping stones and keeping feet dry. Not that she was stopped from enjoying a ‘wild swim’!

Tuesday 14 May 2024

Tuesday 14 May 2024 - Ben Klibreck

Quite a long drive took us to a car park by some new wind turbines, at the foot of Ben Klibreck. En route we paused to admire Stac Pollaidh and its surroundings.

Shortly after 10am we set off up the hill. I had in mind that it was a quick ‘up and down’, but I must have been much fitter in 1995, when a few of us went up Ben Klibreck having already climbed Ben Hope on the same day.

Today we savoured our surroundings. The summit was in cloud - that afforded us the excuse to take our time.

The climb has three distinct stages. First, a steep thrutch to a couple of cairns, followed by a short descent to easy, if rather boggy, ground.

Then a second steep ascent leads to a fine belvedere path that cuts out the need to ascend to a minor summit at 808 metres. Sue went up there anyway, while I enjoyed the contouring path below.

A third steep haul, including an easy rock band and a steep bouldery section, took us to the summit in three and a half hours. We had stopped for elevenses and for lunch on the way. A Scots couple had passed us. By now the cloud had gone and we were treated to some expansive, if rather hazy, views.

Just below the summit was the remains of a small building constructed and used in the 1840s by Colby and his team of Ordnance Survey pioneers. They spent months on mountain tops doing triangulations with other summits.

Here’s another summit photo, with the North Sea in the background. This is nearly the ‘top’ of Scotland. We lingered there for some time.

On the way down we took a look back to the final steep climb to the summit. Hereabouts were countless pairs of ptarmigan, a few mountain hares, golden plovers, and azaleas coming into bud.

The azaleas were being harvested for nectar by blaeberry bumble bees. Care was needed to avoid treading on them. We met a couple of women ascending, but there were no other vehicles in the car park.

Common Milkwort was also plentiful lower down the hill.

Hardly a ‘nip up and down’, today’s walk was 15km, with 900 metres ascent, taking 6.5 hours. A splendid fish supper outside the Seaforth chippy in Ullapool concluded an excellent day.