a bimble on beinn loinne

Wed, Aug 17, 2011

After my elemental outing on Blaven on Saturday, I was looking forward to some sunshine on the Sunday, as predicted by the forecast. As I blethered with Alex the neeb in the morning I mentioned it was going to be a spot of thunder, some showers then clearing up. We had a good old chinwag about the weather as her hubby John had had to move the boat round to the old harbour at Broadford due to the gales that gave me such pleasure on the hill the day before. It’s a different world if you’re a fisherman. We often see John heading out of the village in the evening after the forecast and casting knowing glances at each other. Gales from the south. So freshly wind groomed I drove over to Cluanie and plodded up the old Road to the Isles towards Beinn Loinne.

The old Cluanie road

This is the old main road from Tomdoun to Cluanie and it goes up to 435m or thereabouts and was known as the other Road to the Isles. The famous one being the road from Rannoch, north across the moor to Corrour then across to Fort William.

I love the H.V. Morton books where he writes about driving through the highlands in his Morris Bullnose in the 1930s, long before the era of mass transportation and the coming of the tourists. He affectionately called his car Maud which was prone to ailments which caused her to “develop a hysterical engine” on his 1929 tours. However, all was made well by “an expert who did something with the internals”. In those days, breakfast was always haddock with a poached egg and the maid was always a red cheeked farmer’s lass who would pass the day chatting with anyone who passed. He writes of driving over the old road in his book In Scotland Again and as I walked up the grassy route, I thought how much of an adventure travelling must have been back then. Many’s the charabang driver would have been glad to see the light at the Cluanie Inn on a dark December’s night, driving over the high road in a blizzard. Driving at walking speed as the pre war headlights made feeble work of showing the snowed up road ahead. Anxious driver and his passenger, perhaps newly weds on their honeymoon, wondering if they’ll have to abandon the car and escape on foot, only to come round the last bend and see the blizzard sweeping past the welcoming glow from taproom windows. We’ve definitely lost something from travel.

At the top of the road, as you face the moorland over to Beinn Loinne, the first of the South Glen Shiel ridge munros towers above you, a green wall of water noise and grasses in motion, while you pick out a dryish route for the day. In fact, it’s only the bit next to the road that’s the bog. The rest of the route is wonderful walking on a variety of grasses surrounded by wildflowers. It’s completely trackless and is a wonderful antidote to munro mayhem and eroded paths.

Beinn Loinne

I headed up to the top at around 530m then headed out across the moor towards Druim nan Cnamh, the ridge of the bones, which was a delightful romp as I was missing the showers which were dragging themselves across the bigger hills to the west.

Aonach Meadhain from Beinn Loinne

I was amazed at the variety of flowers on the moor with an explosion of bell heather around a spring and interestingly, there was some very lush grass following the line of an underground burn. Near one spring, a lone orchid stood among the long grass but the bog asphodel was looking a bit past its best. A bit wind weary and storm battered. I didn’t see any deer but I came across a couple of scoops in the grass where one had spent the night. It was roughly oval and about three feet long and a foot wide and it sent my imagination into overdrive. It’s wonderful to see “evidence of things not seen”, to quote W.H. Murray. You feel more connected to the landscape when you can sit and touch where a deer has spent the night. Wondering where it is now. What was it like here last night? The moon was almost full and the stars came out briefly. What a beautiful place to just stop and sleep and move on with the first light and do the same over and over for an entire lifetime. Did it feel the cold wind last night that presaged the onset of autumn? Did its soul stir at the thought of the coming rut, at the thought of another harsh winter. Lying here under the stars, surrounded by everything it needs to live, did it wonder what those cold winds would bring? Isn’t it great to be out in these places!

I had such a pleasant bimble up the never ending ridge and onto the summit plateau just as a shower came in and I munched on my rolls looking out to the east along the tempting ridge to the east peak, as rain pattered on my hood.

Beinn Loinne summit looking east along the ridge

It’s a superb viewpoint is Beinn Loinne with a superb vista of Loch Cluanie and the north Glen Shiel munros.

Cluanie from Beinn Loinne

I hung around for about an hour then plodded back down to the road completely refreshed after stopping often to have a look at all the flowers. Just so many of them!

A'Chralaig from the old Cluanie road

The weather was closing in again though and I was a traveller in time, stravaiging down the main road in the 20s wondering if I’d make the comforts of the inn before the storm broke.

Am Bathach above the old Cluanie road

It was a cracking day out in an area I’ve never explored. But I suppose that’s down to having finished the munros and now I seem to be plotting corbett routes. There’s a rough one further east that looks like it needs careful navigation in bad weather and bad weather is forecast for the weekend. Yes, there is life after the munros!

Looking east along the River Cluanie to Beinn Loinne

You can see all the pics here.

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