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Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Cruach Tairbeirt - Scotland day 12

For our last walk we needed somewhere en route home.  I wanted to do a walk with views of Loch Lomond, so we went for Cruach Tairbeirt - it looked like a good choice as it was a short route (needed due to the long drive back) and would have good views to The Cobbler, Beinn Narnain and on the other side of the loch Ben Lomond.

The walk starts off by the train station and we initially got told off by a local resident for parking in the train station parking spaces (there is no sign up to warn you not to) she told us to park in the bigger car park below for the heritage centre which we did (we'd assumed we couldn't park there initially as it was a business) On the OS map there is only a track marked to the edge of the hillside but in reality there are lots of well trod marked trails. It was a bit of a steep slog through the woods up made worse by the fact it was boiling hot - we'd overdressed again! Emma moaned a bit about the uphill, but soon cheered up when we got to some fallen trees and she had those to climb over.

The path was boggy and very eroded on our way up, nearly falling away in some places during the last section to the top. We concluded that it must get allot of footfall due to the easy trails & the appeal of it as a good low view point.

Cobbler on the left Narnain on the right

The top had a trig point which pleased Emma and it was good to see the views of all the big hills. The Cobbler and Beinn Narnain looked very craggy and scary! We enjoyed our first lunch stop in our t-shirts - spring had finally sprung on our last day in Scotland.

Ben Lomond in the background

By Emma

We took a different route back down, heading back through the woods again on different trails. We ended our time in Scotland on the shores of Loch Lomond skimming stones and eating cake. We will be back!

Meall Bhalach & Cull Bay - Scotland day 11

I apologise in advance if this post is a bit photo heavy, this was probably one of our best days weather wise and I just couldn't help myself.

Our plan was to park at the Kings House Hotel so Emma could see the deer. There are lots of tame deer which hang out outside the pub - either the pub must put food out for them or the tourists feed them. Either way it had Emma backing away from a stag as it tried to sniff her pack!

Deer excitement over we passed by the Westhighlandwayers all camped out by the hotel (I honestly don't know how people can camp so near to civilisation like that, even if I was doing the WHW I'd still want to head off into the hills and get away from everyone, each to their own though I guess!).

We were hoping to go up Beinn Na Chrulaiste (cliffs on the right hand side of this photo), but accepted that due to us approaching from the North/East side there would be significantly more snow/ice than we'd had previously. We decided to head up and see, and perhaps re-plan en route if it didn't look do-able. The route up is lovely, there's a good path which follows the Allt a Bhalach river all the way up.

Looking towards the ski centre. Our thoughts with the skier sadly killed in an avalanche a few days prior. It all seems so innocent in the sunshine and blue skies.

Looking down to Rannoch Moor

You can branch off from the river to head up the steep sides of the hill to the top and I think that would be the conventional route up, but we decided it was too steep for Emma without proper winter gear. We planned to head to the top of the Coirie and either head up Meall Bhalach instead or see if the route on was more do-able from that side. It got fairly boggy higher up and I got another boot full (not having much luck on this trip!) Sadly the thawing snow and sun also meant thawing bog. We chatted to a small group of lads who were following a guide book entitled 'Not the West Highland Way'. They headed off towards the steep route we had dismissed and we wondered how they'd get on without ice axes etc.

Once seeing how steep it was on the other side we decided for definite to head up the other hill Meall Bhalach. This was a good choice as it was easy going and covered in snow.

Ben Nevis again

As we headed up we got a bit worried as we thought we could hear a someone whistling for help. We were quite close to it and as we got nearer we realised it was a bird making the noise. Can anyone tell me what bird it was?

It was so sunny I ended up having to put my snow goggles on to stop myself being blinded by the glare. We quickly reached the first top (it is a twinned top mountain)

There was a short dip in the middle between the two tops, it was getting a bit of the wind but we managed to find a rock to shelter behind and sat on top of the orange survival bag to keep warm. It was actually very pleasant sat there in the sun - I could have stayed there all day looking at the view! We saw with relief that the chaps we'd seen earlier had made it to the top of their hill too. We waved even though there was no way they'd see us from there!

Great views of Buachaille Etive Mor

Relaxing on our second top

Someone needs to buy herself some sun glasses...

The views of Rannoch moor on this walk just kept getting better and better.

We pretty much headed straight off the hill to make a beeline for the hotel avoiding the partially frozen bogs as we went. You really wouldn't want to do this walk after lots of rain, it has the potential to be quite boggy! You can see the hotel in this photo. We even had time for a swift half in the sun after. I'd like to come back and have some food in the climbers bar sometime as it really was a nice place to be.

We'd seen a sign for a seafood shop on our way to our walk so with langoustines on our mind we headed to the Lochleven Seafood cafe. As well as being a cafe they also sell fresh local sea food from the loch we presumed. We got a bag full of mussels and langoustines for just over £8 which seemed like good value. Emma declared we were having a 'feast' when we saw what we have prepared and loved every bit of it. What a day!

As we'd eaten so early we still had plenty of daylight to head back to our local beach Cull Bay. The weather had clouded over in the afternoon but we were treated with moody skies and the sun soon popped back up for us. The beach is ideal for building sandcastles as there are lots of bits and pieces washed up on the shore side to use to decorate, and we did out bit afterwards by binning all the bits of rope etc to keep the beach tidy. It's a lovely spot to sit and while away the time, so peaceful and so sad it was our last evening in Scotland.

Birthday! Meall Nan Cleireach & Ardsheal Hill sunset - Scotland day 10

So the criteria for my birthday walk was to get a decent view of Ben Nevis without too much ascent. We also wanted a shortish walk as we wanted to have tea early evening at the nearby hotel before heading up another hill to see the sunset. The plan was to head up Meall Bhanbhaidh from Fort William. As we drove in towards what looked to be our chosen hill we saw it was black and wiped out by fire. We realised this must have been the site of the 3 mile fire from a few days prior.

We tossed up what to do, Cow Hill was an option but I felt it was a bit low and too near Fort William, so we drove up past it looking at various hills en route. We found parking near the end of the road by Loch Lunn Da Bhra. I was in a bit of a huff at the point, annoyed my plans had gone awry. The steep grassy ascent up the side of Meall Nan Cleireach didn't help too much either!

Yay Ben Nevis!

Once it levelled out a bit we all cheered up. The landscape was very peaty and there were peat hags all over the place, which sucked my foot in a few times! It must have been a cold night as all the hags had ice hanging from them. The landscape reminded me more of the Berwyns in Wales than what we had seen of Scotland so far (until you look to the distant craggy hills!)

You can see the extent of the fires in this photo

It didn't take us long to get to the top and we were soon having lunch at the cairn. I was eyeing up the next hill (Beinn Na Gucaig), but knew we didn't have time to do it due to wanting to go up another hill later that day. It would be a nice hill to combine as an easy route though.

Sorry, squinty in the sun!

We followed the haggy ridge from the top along a bit then headed down, avoiding a few steep gulleys as we went. We got to where the farm buildings were and rather than joining the farm track we stayed above the farm to pass through field gates which took us out to the lane beyond the farm. We were glad we had done this when we saw the sign on the gate saying people couldn't go that way. We headed to the loch shore where we found stepping stones out to a small island which Emma loved. It must have been really exciting for a young child to go out onto their very own island! I tried to paddle in the water but my feet were so hot from the steep descent and the water so cold they didn't stay in for long.

We headed back to change into our smart clothes and head out for a sea food tea at the local hotel. Emma bravely ordered mussels (which was on the kids menu!) and woolfed them down.

The view from outside where we ate (squinty me again) smart for once..

We then headed back to change back into our hiking gear to head up our local hill (Ardsheal Hill) so see the sun go down. We'd lingered a bit too long at the cottage before going back out so had a mad dash to get to the top - luckily there is a track nearly all the way to the top. It was an excellent sunset and we ended with cake and candles trying desperately to light the candles in the light breeze. Probably my best birthday ever.