Marhofn 84.04 - May 2002

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Over The Sea To 17E

Paul Richardson

It was wet, wet, wet... Coirc Bheinn was the price Alison had to pay for making me repeat Ben More. We could have been anywhere. Anywhere with acres of bog asphodel, that is. Getting stuck between the Abhainn Doire Dhubhaig and its fan of tributaries in spate was the sting in the tail.

There is access to Cruachan Min via firebreaks from the forest road to the south. I guessed that the furthest west of these, with a substantial path at the start, would be best. We plodded on, hoping for shorter and more direct access further east, but ended in a purgatory of heather, bracken and hidden drainage ditches.

Speinne Mor has a path! The west end of Loch Carnain an Amais seemed like a canny starting place, but we didn't expect a stile, a FC 'Walkers Welcome' sign and a path/canal all the way to the west ridge (it became intermittent beyond there). Round trig, S9897, complete with baseplate. I can hardly believe I noticed this; what are you trig guys doing to me?

On Dun da Gaoithe it was surprising how quickly the masts were out of mind, once out of sight, the rest of the hill being very pleasant (perhaps a biased assessment since we got a view). The road to the masts is the road to the bird of prey circus thing, but you have to park almost immediately after leaving the highway, as the miserable falconers won't let you use their car park.

On quite a close day, we were unwilling to pay the ascent bill involved in combining Beinn Talaidh with anything else, so approached it the long way, up Glen Forsa. A little way up the unsurfaced road through the glen was a welcoming sign, not quite obliterated by FMD notices, and plenty of parking space.

Ulva and Gometra were too much to take in in one day, we felt. But we did, and the return journey was an unseeing dash for the last ferry. Which we missed. Luckily, the laird wanted to cross late, too. These islands have to be worth several days...

'S Airde Beinn was, mile-for-mile and climb-for-climb, the most interesting and characterful hill I can easily recall. I must have been on many volcanic hills, but none which came anywhere near looking so much like a volcano. And the views are terrific. From here we drove to Tobermory and took the ferry to Ardnamurchan, and the buzz of an area never visited before.

Volcanic loch near the summit of 'S Airde Beinn, Mull

Volcanic loch near the summit of 'S Airde Beinn, Mull

Ben Hiant epitomises Relativity. An imposing hill, dominating the landscape for miles around, yet well beneath qualifying height for other lists. We found a path all the way up the NE ridge, which made me chuckle. Making the obvious start from the high point of the road, the path (or, rather, variation of several paths) eases all route finding problems. Then the final steep slope appears ahead, with no sign of the path. You approach it plotting your route, which for most folk would be a broad zigzag across the face; then you get to the foot of the slope and find the tourist path nicks round the back and winds up easily to the top. Made me smile, anyway. And what a view.

Beinn na Seilg caused me no amusement whatsoever. Due to the predominating clammy weather and extravagant flora, I'm afraid I will forever associate this fine little hill with bog, rank heather, sweat, midges, flies and flying ants. For us (and the ants), in good visibility, there was no doubt that the big western cairn was the top. I leapt into the car cursing, dripping and stinking, and drove off still wearing my boots. Nice view though.

Carsaig Arches, Mull

Carsaig Arches, Mull

I love getting accommodation where you can walk from the doorstep, and as we were staying in Glenborrodale, Meall nan Each and Ben Laga were an obvious combination. First-class hills, but visibility wasn't too good. The track is rather elusive in the area of the plantation as it climbs out of Glen Borrodale, but thereafter is plain if exceedingly boggy. It's an interesting track, though, apparently of some age and former importance. Must look it up. Back to a cool beer on one's verandah before the boots were off. All this and a test match victory too.

Just as the book says, Beinn Bhreac is an excellent walk. On the way up, I found a couple of the biggest and finest toads I've ever seen. In such a magical place you feel a kiss would surely yield a transformation, but as I've already got one princess to feed... The ascent demands to be finished off with a coastal walk, but we weren't prepared for its ruggedness.

For Cruachan Charna we hired a boat from Laga Bay (£45 for half a day). Cheaper in the evening (after 17:00), but it had already cost me my beer money so I wasn't going to lose my drinking time too. The locals (at least, the solitary one we encountered) could hardly have been friendlier or more helpful.

More friendly locals at Resipole. Our enquiry about parking was answered with a full route description up 'the Ben'; hardly necessary, since an unmapped path goes all the way. It seems to me that the 845m spot height might not be the big cairn, which is clearly the top, but the craggy lump a little further east.

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