When Inverclyde moved into tier 2, I could then once again travel up the A9. I’d been hoping to be able to take another jaunt before Christmas, as I have no doubt that there’ll many more restrictions, perhaps even another national lockdown, coming in January. (Update – on 19th Dec a national “tier-4” lockdown beginning on 26th Dec was announced.)
But a few days before I’d been hoping to travel, the car broke down, rather spectacularly and dangerously (as I was tootling along the PG road, about 50 mph in the dark, and it just stopped…engine, electricals, everything). The only way it could have been worse is had I been on the motorway. Once it had been repaired, my mechanic suggested running it around locally for a couple of days before embarking on a longer journey. I’d done as he suggested; nonetheless, it was a stressful drive; one eye on the dashboard for signs of trouble, and one eye on where the next layby was, or whether there was a hard shoulder, in case the car simply stopped running again. In the end, it was fine, and has been (touch wood) throughout.
I didn’t have ambitious plans for my time in Inverness; the days are just too darn short right now. With only about 7 hours of light to play with, options are limited. But it’s nice just to have a change of scenery.
Monday 14 Dec
Sub2K: Ord Ban
2 hrs / 7.25km / 267m
Up and down Ord Ban in about 40 minutes. I debated whether to add on a circuit around Loch an Eilein, and in the end, I went for it. It was a lot further around than I remember; it took an hour at pace, racing against daylight. I did, after all, *need* to stop at the Cairngorm Brewery…
summit Ord Ban
across to Meall a'Bhuachaille
Tues 15 Dec
Graham: Meall Fuar-mhodaidh
4½ hrs / 9km / 519m
With Evie. Very muddy, slippy, boggy, all-around WET. Icy wind at the top. Back down, and to the tea shop in the general store in Drumnadrochit.
rainbow over Loch Ness
Evie eyeing up Glas-beinn Mhor ("knock yerself out" she said. Maybe one day, I will. But not today )
it wasn't supposed to do THAT!
Wed 16 Dec
rainy day; short wander around Merkinch Nature Reserve
1 hr / 4.2km / 35m
The nature reserve is actually bigger than I thought. I’d had a vague notion of walking along the water to the Beauly Road (A862) and making my way up Craig Phadrig, but a wall of dark threatening cloud was headed my way. It came to nowt; I could have kept walking!
Thurs 17 Dec
Sub2K: Bidean Clann Raonaild
1½ hr / 6.6 km / 305m
Again with Evie. Plan A was Meall a’Chaorainn, a Graham that lies in the shadow of Achnasheen’s Fionn Beinn, followed by this wee bump if time/energy allowed. However, the weather worsened the closer we got, and we decided to go to the wee one first to see if things improved. They did not, and after getting pretty damned wet, we retired to a nice lunch and natter at the Midge Bite.
There seem to be no pictures. Unsurprising, given the conditions.
Fri 18 Dec
Sub2K: Stac Gorm
2½ hrs / 4.8km / 262m
wander around Littlemill FC site
¾ hr / 3.85km / 65m
Rain due in the afternoon. Stac Gorm was a surprisingly tough wee hill; although the bracken that caused me to abort the mission a couple of months ago has now died back, there was still deep heather a’plenty, as well as soggy, slippy, muddy ground.
starting the ascent, after making my way along Loch Ruthven (it was hereabouts that the neck-deep bracken was a couple of months ago)
looking across to the summit
Sat 19 Dec
low-level Cairngorms wander
3 hrs / 13km / 272m
Again, we were unlucky with the weather. We met at the ski centre, with a plan of doing a recce of the Fiacill Ridge from below (Coire Lochan), and possibly also making our way across to Coire an t-Sneachda. But when we parked up, the wind was blowing a hoolie, there were squally sleety showers about, and we’d not have been able to see anything anyway.
So we retreated down a few hundred metres and escaped into the relative calm of the forest. We walked out to Lochan Uaine, took the high path (*not* the one that goes over Meall a’Bhuachaille!) back to Glenmore, stopped for a comfort break, and had to have a coffee, too, as the toilets were for customers only (quite cheeky, if you ask me; the visitors’ centre part of the building was closed, but when it’s open, the toilets are considered public. At least they used to be). From there, we wandered around Loch Morlich.
Sun 20 Dec
Graham: Carn na h-Easgainn
1½ hrs / 7.25 km / 322m
There wasn’t any rain forecast for Inverness today. Not much to say about this hill, track all the way up. I’d been hoping for some views over to the Cairngorms (there was quite a bit of fresh snow on Wyvis this morning), but they were stuck in a huge cloudbank. In spite of the forecast, there were a few spots of rain, and the wind was Baltic. The top of the hill is very exposed, and I took refuge in the hunting shack for a few minutes before making my way down.
across the A9 to Loch Moy, and its turbines
follow the track
dark clouds threaten. This might be Stac Gorm, where I'd been a couple of days' previous
rainbow over what looks like some nice native trees (birch? beech? oak? I'm as bad at trees as I am at birds...)
On the way home, I took a detour to Clava Cairns, whereby the midwinter sunset is supposed to shine straight through to the back wall of the largest cairn. It was well before sunset, but I thought I might be able to see something interesting even so. I did not.
Mon 21 Dec
I’d originally planned to return home on this date purely to avoid the travel chaos that was certain to occur on the 23rd; the first day of the 5-day relaxation. But this all changed as of Saturday, when Christmas was, in effect, mostly cancelled due to the emergence of a new and much more contagious strain of the damned coronavirus. I thought about staying for a few more days, because as it stands right now, it may be weeks – or even months – before I’m able to return to my northern home-from-home.
I did do a fairly substantial shop in the wee early hours before I left, which feels like a small victory (during an otherwise crap time). It’s always felt much safer shopping up there, to me, although it’s possible that I’m deluding myself.
Share your personal walking route experiences in Scotland, and comment on other peoples' reports.
Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.