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Beinn an Rubha Riabhaich and Orrin Dam, from Strathconon

Beinn an Rubha Riabhaich and Orrin Dam, from Strathconon

Postby gld73 » Thu Mar 11, 2021 1:47 pm

Date walked: 28/02/2021

Time taken: 5.5 hours

Distance: 24 km

Ascent: 860m

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Another local lockdown walk where I extended the route of a small, easy hill done before into a longer route - this time Beinn an Rubha Riabhaich, a hill I've done a couple of times before when coming back from injury or when I've only had half a day and the weather wasn't brilliant. It can be done as a nice, straightforward up and down by windfarms tracks (just the last stretch up to the trig point is off the track), or as a circular route heading back the shorter, more interesting, route over other tops and rougher ground (Blackpanther covered this in a report, it's what first gave me the idea to go up Beinn an Rubha Riabhaich :D ), but it was a nice day and I had plenty time, so I extended things today.

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There's room for a few cars at the wide entrance to Fairburn Windfarm in Strathconon. The first part of the walk was the same as I've done before - through the gate and following the yellow brick road all the way up, taking the "10 to 20" signed branch through the wind farm and going to the last wind turbine. The trig pont is visible from there on the hill above, and it's a straightforward walk up the pathless slope to the trig and cairn at 457m.
Heading up the main track through the wind farm

Beinn an Rubha Riabhaich summit looking north...

...and west, back to the wind farm

When I'd set off, I'd been thinking of doing this as a short walk and then doing another short walk on the way home. I got the map out at the summit though, and decided dropping down the other side to join the hydro track going up to Orrin Dam , then coming back up from there to the other end of the windfarm would make quite a nice route and give a decent amount of distance and ascent on the walk. The ground was a fairly gentle gradient where I descended, a mix of low heather, grass and bits of bog and nice to walk down.
Descent route down the south side of the hill

Easy slopes down to the Orrin Dam road and River Orrin

Looking back up to the most easterly turbine, and Beinn an Rubha Riabhaich to the right

The hydro track to the dam was a good tarmac road - ideal for cycling for those who like a bike and hike (not that I saw any cyclists on it today despite it being a dry Sunday, but I assume it's easy to access near Marybank, at the Fairburn start of the road?). I couldn't see the dam at first, but when it did come into view, it was an impressive sight, like something out of a film set. Considering I had a wind farm up above me on my right, a huge dam in front of me, and I was walking on a tarmac road, it's odd that it still felt like a very remote place.
Reaching the track/road to the dam, the view east over the River Orrin is to Cul Mor and Cul Beag ....no, not the famous ones!

The dam appears in the distance

Orrin Dam

I walked over the dam, not another soul in sight - however much I like dams from the feat of engineering perspective, I still always feel a bit uncomfortable walking across them; too many 70s disaster movies watched as a kid perhaps?! - views down Orrin Reservoir showed I was definitely at the better end of the loch for the weather.
View west down Orrin Reservoir from the dam

Looking back down on the dam, Fairburn wind farm on the hill behind

Orrin Embankment Dam

On the other side, the track continued up and around and I came to a smaller dam without all the hydroelectric infrastructure (Orrin Embankment Dam); from there the track was still good but now definitely a track rather than a tarmac road. Looking at my 1:50,000 map, at around grid ref 394486 the track would intersect with a path that, on paper at least, would give a nice circular walk to get back to Fairburn house and the start of the Orrin Dam access road, a possibility for a future walk on a day when the weather isn't suitable for mountains. I turned back short of getting to this path though as the rain started and I didn't have the best waterproofs with me. It did look like there might be a path near a pipeline running across the ground there, though I was still a bit far to tell for sure - I'm kicking myself now for not just walking the extra half kilometre to take a proper look :?
Feels even more remote a bit further south, out of sight of the dams. Might come back here and explore when I've got more time...

...but today I just headed back, getting the view over the reservoir to the south Strathconon hills, the graham Carn na Coinnich over to the left

Hadn't really noticed it on the way over, but on the way back across the dam I heard strange sounds from the water. Looking over, it was the sound of the thin, loose layer of ice on the water hitting the dam and the shore on this breezy day


Anyway, I headed back, out of the rain, back over the 2 dams and a short distance down the tarmac road. Just after crossing the burn, with the wind turbines visible above, I headed up the rough ground there, aiming for no particular wind turbine in particular to get back on the windfarm track. Again, like the descent, the terrain was quite nice to walk on, low heather and grass, with easy to avoid boggy patches. Arriving at the base of a turbine (no. 7 or 8, can't remember), I followed the exit sign to get back on the main track and retrace my route from there back to the car.
Heading back up the slopes to reach the wind farm track

Back at the start, entrance to Fairburn wind farm

Not an epic mountain day, but an enjoyable local walk which has also given me thoughts of other routes in that area :D
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Re: Beinn an Rubha Riabhaich and Orrin Dam, from Strathconon

Postby Huff_n_Puff » Thu Mar 11, 2021 4:17 pm

This looks an interesting walk, and reasonably local for us too - many thanks for posting :D :D
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Re: Beinn an Rubha Riabhaich and Orrin Dam, from Strathconon

Postby dogplodder » Thu Mar 11, 2021 6:01 pm

Thanks for another idea for strained knee's recovery programme. Physio said no hills just yet - but that was almost two weeks ago! :lol:
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Re: Beinn an Rubha Riabhaich and Orrin Dam, from Strathconon

Postby BlackPanther » Fri Mar 12, 2021 4:51 pm

Interesting "development" to our easy stroll, glad my TR was useful!

We were actually thinking about Carn na Cloiche Moire, which is an outlying top of Carn na Coinnich and the only one we haven't covered so far in our local explorations.This is the rough idea of our route:

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Length: 5.34 miles/8.59 km, Ascent: +603m Naismith (one way) is just under 3 hours.

gld73 wrote:I assume it's easy to access near Marybank, at the Fairburn start of the road?

There is a small car park in Aultgowrie. It was closed during the first lockdown though, supposedly because of Covid restrictions, I honestly don't know how the situation is looking now. My old report about this route here:
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