Monthly Archives: May 2013

May Holiday (Reflections)

Well, I’m home again after 4 weeks away and it feels more like winter than summer. The temperature is struggling to reach double figures, the central heating is on, its raining and my garden lawns look more like hay meadows.

The weather for the two weeks in the Lake District could best be described as “mixed”. There were some warm sunny days but these were outnumbered by showery days. Consequently, I only managed 6 walks totalling 36.4 miles with 9,700ft of ascent. The highlights were Hopegill Head & Sheffield Pike; two new Wainwrights for my tick list.

The drive to Scotland was something of a nightmare with rain which turned to snow and temperatures outside the car down to 3c. The road alongside Loch Lomond is just as bad as I remember; narrow and winding with barely room for my caravan, never mind the HGVs and Coaches the also use the A82 as their primary north/south route. I arrived in pouring rain and departed in similar conditions. Luckily, the weather in between wasn’t too bad. There were several sunny days and no midges which was a blessing. It is difficult to pick out individual walks but the 3 that Bea & I did after Karen had gone home were a treat. It is a pity that she missed out on these but I think that she enjoyed Glen Nevis and the section of the West Highland Way. The better weather meant that I was able to do 10 walks totalling 65.75 miles and 11,535ft of ascent.

The holiday total was 16 walks totalling 102 miles and 21,000ft of ascent. This brings my total mileage for the year up to 392.


Not Beinn na Caillich

Saturday 25 May. Bea didn’t fancy doing The Pap of Glencoe (2,410ft) as it looked too “pointy”. Instead, we made our way to Kinlochleven to have a look at Beinn na Caillich (2,480ft). Starting at 80ft, just above the loch, we made our way uphill to pick up the route of the West Highland Way. When we reached the 750ft contour, we could see that the path up Beinn na Caillich looked rather steep and we would have had a climb of a further 1,800ft to reach the summit. It was a hot day and I didn’t fancy it so we abandoned the walk and returned to the car. This short walk was just 2.66 miles but still had a total ascent of 950ft.

After coffee in Kinlochleven, we made our way to Glen Coe to tackle the “Lost Valley” walk. This took us between Gearr Aonach and Beinn Fhada on a path that climbed alongside Allt Coire Gabhail. Again, it was a short walk; only 2.3 miles but with 975ft of ascent. The climb was though, well worth it as when we reached the top we were rewarded with splendid views up towards Bidean nam Bian where, sadly, 4 walkers fell to their death this winter.

The day didn’t quite go to plan and although we only walked 5 miles, this included almost 2,000ft of ascent undertaken in glorious sunshine. A good way to end an enjoyable holiday.

Around Buachaille Etive Beag

Friday 24 May. What a splendid day; good weather and a good walk. What more can one ask for? Bea and I made the 8½ mile circuit of Buachaille Etive Beag which included 1,755ft of ascent. The outward leg took us along Lairig Eilde to the top of Glen Etive. Buachaille Etive Beag towered above us to our left whilst the top of Stob Coire Sgreamhach was still covered in snow. The view down Glen Etive to the distant Loch Etive had to be seen to be believed; it was spectacular!

Our turning point took us around the shoulder of Stob Dubh and into Lairig Gartain where we had a climb of 500ft before descending back to the A82 at the top of Glen Coe. The last 1½ miles on a boggy path running parallel to the A82 was the only disappointment of the walk but we were soon back on the old Glen Coe road with one final river crossing to get back to the car.

The weather and stunning scenery made this perhaps the best walk of the holiday.

Ariundle Woods

Thursday 23 May. I woke this morning to find that there had been a fresh fall of snow on the nearby mountain tops. Karen is making her way home so it was just Bea and me today on a 6.9 mile walk with 1,490ft of ascent. We made the short crossing on the Corran Ferry and a drive of 15 miles to the village of Strontian for a walk in Ariundle Woods. This is an area of ancient Oak woods through which we walked to make our way to disused mines that produced most of the lead shot used in the Napoleonic wars.

We climbed steadily but easily up to the mines where we were greeted by sleety showers. This was the worst that the weather produced and the return leg was largely in sunshine. We had fine views of the snow covered Ardgour mountains.

Nevis Range Gondola

Wednesday 22 May. Bea didn’t fancy the Gondola ride so it was left to Karen & me to partake in this trip. The Gondola runs up the lower slopes of Aonach Mor (3,970ft) but only goes as far as 2,150ft contour. From here there are two short walks to viewpoints of the surrounding area. It was cold and blowing a gale when we got to the top so we made a short 0.9 mile round trip to Sgurr Finniosgaig where Karen took my picture for the blog. We quickly retreated back to the ski station café for coffee and decided not to bother with the second high level walk.

The ride on the Gondola only took about 10 minutes each way and we made our way down to the bottom for a 2.34 mile low level forest walk. It wasn’t a physically taxing day but made an interesting outing.

My car developed a brake light fault on the drive to Mull a couple of days ago so today was a good opportunity to drop it off at the local Ford dealer in Fort William to get it fixed. £20 to replace a bulb!

The Black Lochs

Tuesday 21 May. We drove 20 miles or so to Connel Ferry, near Oban, for today’s 6.6 mile walk with 940ft of ascent. The first couple of miles were along a single track road but we then cut off onto a mixture of farm tracks and footpaths which provided great views of the Black Lochs and surrounding countryside. Ben Cruachan (3,600ft) some 8 miles away had its top shrouded in cloud but was still impressive on the skyline. The weather continues to be good with just one light shower but generally warm.

Isle of Mull

Monday 20 May. The eighth anniversary of my retirement from the MoD saw us take on the role of “tourists” for the day with a drive onto the Isle of Mull. An early start took us to the nearby Corran Ferry for the 5 minute crossing to the Kingairloch peninsular on the other side of Loch Linnhe. There then followed a 30 mile drive to the next ferry from Lochaline to Fishnish on the Isle of Mull. A further 20 miles and we were in Tobermory; the capital of Mull. Whilst it was colourful with its brightly painted houses and shops, it was a little disappointing as other than a couple of cafes, a rundown pub and charity/gift shops, there wasn’t much else to see.

The next journey was across to the western side of the island and Calgary Bay where we had a couple of miles walk to the silver sands beach. There was low cloud for most of the day so the beach picture doesn’t really do it justice.

It was a long day with about 120 miles of driving, most of which was on single track roads with frequent passing places. The ferry crossings were uneventful and were, perhaps, the highlight of the day.