Two nights in the Craiganour Forest - a bothy trip

Grahams: Creag a'Mhadaidh

Date walked: 27/11/2016

Time taken: 12 hours

Distance: 43.5km

Ascent: 750m

Grahams: Creag a' Mhadaidh.
Date: 25 - 27/11/2016.
Distance: 8km + 27km + 8.5km.
Ascent: 50m + 650m +50m.
Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes + 7 hours 30 minutes + 2 hours.
Weather: Wall to wall sunshine. Pretty cold and clear.

It only took about 2 years to go from discussing a bothy trip with my brother-in-law Stuart to actually making it happen. To be fair, he has a 2 year old to run around after and I have been selfishly bagging hills in ever increasing circles :roll: . Stuart isn't really much of an outdoor person, never mind a bothier but he was keen to rough it in the hills at some point. I originally suggested Allt Shiecheachan below Beinn Dearg, but had second thoughts about it as it looked a bit on the cold side.

We both took Friday off work and I got the train down to Blair Atholl to meet Stuart (who had driven up from Dundee). I was pretty sure of going to Duinish at this point, but we didn't need to decide until we met up. With no food being served in Blair Atholl, we headed for the House of Bruar for lunch, which pretty much decided the direction we were going in.

Sow of Atholl:

We pulled off the road at Dalnaspidal at around 1pm where the weather was fine and cold, and the minor road icy. Duinish is mostly a straightforward walk on the level from here, but I had an initiation test for Stuart to pass - 10kg of coal and some kindling each on top of our overnight packs :lol: . This was just about bearable, although solid ice along the track for much of the length f Loch Garry made it more awkward than it needed to be.

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Break by Loch Garry:

Meall na Leithrach:

Loch Garry:

The ice was to our advantage though, as the track ends a good mile before the bothy, with what I remember to be lots of deep bog beyond. This was all frozen up today, making an easy stroll. A short climb over slightly softer ground led us to the bridge over the Allt Shallain - in fact there were now two bridges here as a hydro scheme was under construction. Bit of a short term mess around some nice little waterfalls here, but on the upside, there is a portaloo within 5 minutes of the bothy :wink:

Duinish with Meall na Leithreach behind:

Finally there as the light was beginning to fade, it was time to get a fire going - bloody cold outside! There are certainly fancier bothies, but other than a bit of damage to the grate in the fireplace (looks like it will fall apart at some stage), this place has everything you need. After a nice sunset, we were joined by James and his dog, who had just walked in over Meall na Leithreach. He was making his way north to Kervaig near Cape Wrath, and had decided to stop off for a walk and a bothy night on the way up the A9.

Gualann Sheileach:

Last light from Duinish:


Bothy fire:

Chilly outside:


Stuart makes a friend:

We had dinner and shared the whisky and beer around, and just as we were thinking about winding down for the night, three more guys turned up (who had somehow cycled up the sheet-ice side of Loch Garry :shock: ). They set up next door, got another fire going and more whisky was circulated - suddenly it was 1am and we had drunk tomorrow night's supply of booze as well!

I had a vague plan of going up Beinn Mholach the next day. We hadn't brought axes or crampons (Stuart didn't have any), but I didn't really anticipate any problems in the early season snow. However it was only a notion, and now we had another objective tomorrow - go to the shops for another bottle of whisky :lol: . Going out to the car was a possibility, but it looked more interesting to walk out to Kinloch Rannoch instead - not that much further, and we could take in Creag a' Mhadaidh, which would be a reasonable introduction to the hills.

In defiance of the weather forecast, Saturday morning looked just as nice as yesterday, and we were on our way by 10:30am, surprisingly hangover-free.

Kinloch Rannoch map.gpx Open map in GPS Planner  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Beinn Mholach:

Sun coming up over Creag a’ Mhadaidh:

The track out to Loch Rannoch was probably always quite good, but due to the adjacent hydro scheme, it has had a bit of an upgrade. Nevertheless there were still some icy patches to contend with.

We were accompanied at a distance by a howling beagle - when no owner appeared around the corner, we assumed it must be lost. However it didn't let us get closer than about 50m, even though it stuck with us up to the high point of the track. There wasn't a great deal we could do other than carry on with our walk and try and report it to someone later on (in fact we met one of the gamekeepers from Craiganour Lodge later on in his 4x4 - he was out looking for the dog, who had run off two days earlier).

We split off the track at the high point, heading across snowy heather for the summit of Creag a' Mhadaidh. This is a pretty short climb, and it didn't take us long to get to the summit - almost 4 years to the day since I was last up here.

Meall Bhuidhe and Beinn a’ Chreachain from Creag a’ Mhadaidh:

A modest hill it may be, but it offers interesting perspectives on a lot of places - such as Glencoe, the hills north of Glen Lyon and a sliver of Ben Alder. On a morning like this, I had no regrets about not being on a higher hill.

Back to the sprawl of Sgairneach Mhor:

Beinn a’ Chuallaich:

South to Glen Lyon hills:

Blackmount and Glencoe hills:

Meall Bhuidhe and Beinn a’ Chreachain:

Loch Errochty from Creag a’ Mhadaidh:

Stuart at the summit:

Me at the summit:

Glimpse of Ben Alder and Beinn a’ Bheoil across Beinn Mholach:

We dropped back to the track a little further along (having managed to talk Stuart out of making a beeline for Kinloch Rannoch from here) and it was an easy walk down to the loch. Further south, we branched off the main track onto a less used one, which dropped down through pleasant moor and fields to the shores of Loch Rannoch.

Carn Gorm:

Stob Gabhar and Blackmount hills:

Schiehallion and Loch Rannoch:

Descending to Loch Rannoch:


There was a 30 minute walk along the road to the village, past the MacDonald Resort. I have no recollection of seeing this before, but thinking more about it, I haven't been on the shores of Loch Rannoch for over 10 years - even then it was dark, so it has probably been closer to 20 years since I've actually seen anything there! It rather shattered the illusion that it was somewhere I was quite familiar with.

Loch Rannoch:

Classic view of Schiehallion:

West up the loch:

…with the Buachaille and Bidean visible:

Stuart had been less keen on a peaty whisky, although it hadn't stopped him demolishing a fair amount of my Highland Park the night before. So guess what the only sensibly-priced malt in the shop was? More Highland Park! We got some wine instead, as well as some beer. I had vague recollections of stopping at a pub in the village before walking into Ben Alder Cottage some years ago, but it appeared to have been turned into apartments, so we went into the rather soulless bar in the MacDonald Resort. £4.85 a pint?! but at least they had Schiehallion on tap (it would've been rude not to with the classic Schiehallion view right outside). Stuart was complaining of sore feet, and glad to sit down for a couple of pints. He was talking like he might not stand up again, but once we left the hotel, he set quite a pace back along the road.

Kinloch Rannoch:

We had a spectacular sunset, and just about made it back through the fields to the big track before it got completely dark. We kept moving at a decent pace all the way back to the bothy, although the icy sections on the last half mile were a bit tedious.

Sunset along the shores:

…and over the Glen Lyon hills:

Last light:

We were back shortly after 6pm, and could smell the smoke from a distance away - looked like we'd have company again tonight.

Finally home at Duinish again:

There was a guy called Sid staying this evening, and he already had a decent blaze going. Feeling decadent (and having plenty of coal) we lit the other fire too, and got the bothy nice and toasty before making dinner.

Time just slips away in DMT:

Although the evening was a little warmer, a fresh frost had settled the following morning and it was chilly and sunny again - couldn't have asked for better!

Another fantastic morning:


Another leisurely start had us out of the bothy by 11am, intending to take a shortcut across the river rather than going back past the hydro scheme. However the river had other ideas, and was impressively icy along the banks. We caught up with Sid and headed for the bridges, after which he went off at quite a pace.

A spectacular but unsuccessful shortcut back to the Loch Garry track:

…with Meall na Leithreach behind:


Allt Shallainn rapids:

We weren't exactly ambling either and despite stopping off halfway, it only took us 2 hours to get back to the A9 and the car.

Reflections on Loch Garry:




I hadn't really noticed the reduction in snow in the last couple of days, but it was pretty obvious comparing the two photos of the Sow of Atholl. Despite at least 22 buses and trains passing Dalnaspidal in each direction every day, none of them stop there, so I took a lift back to Pitlochry with Stuart. As soon as we hit the road south, the skies clouded over, and Pitlochry was quite dull and grey.

Sow of Atholl with less snow than 48 hours ago:

Stuart decided to wait and see how his feet felt before committing to another bothy trip, but despite a cold couple of nights (better sleeping bag needed), he enjoyed himself. So did I - the overall pace was a bit more relaxed than when I go away on my own, and the impromptu walk to Kinloch Rannoch on Saturday had a much more interesting variety of colours and landscapes than staying high would have done. Just need to get the planning hat on for the next one!

Dalnaspidal Lodge:

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Comments: 6

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Location: Inverness
Occupation: Civil Engineer
Interests: Walking, Scrambling, Cycling, Mountain Biking
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Munros: 282
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Grahams: 219
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Distance: 476.5 km
Ascent: 40740m
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