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A long date with peat hags up Glen Tilt

A long date with peat hags up Glen Tilt


Postby benno » Fri Aug 14, 2009 1:06 pm

Munros included on this walk: An Sgarsoch, Carn a'Chlamain, Carn an Fhidhleir (Carn Ealar)

Date walked: 26/08/2009

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Distance: 50km
Ascent: 2000m
Hills: Carn a'Chlamain, Carn an Fhidhleir and An Sgarsoch

As we all know there are seldom good periods of weather at the moment. My plan of doing multi-day expeditions this summer has therefore suffered somewhat. So instead of going out into the wild for days at a time I've started doing very long days from home instead.

The forecast was best in the SE on Thursday (13th) so I made a very early start (Bankfoot was fine at 5am) and headed up Glen Tilt (I do admit that I cheated slightly on this one by cycling up the Glen, but 50km in a day is rather a lot).

Glen Tilt's beautiful - I'm so glad you can't drive up there anymore, really adds to the experience of being there. After a leisurely ride up to forest lodge I took to the hillside and headed for Carn a'Chlamain, the tops of Beinn a'Ghlo holding a wee bit of cloud.

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First view of Carn a'Chlamain

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Arrived at top of Chlamain just before 8am. I hung around for a bit contemplating the thought of probably not seeing another path again for a very long time, and eventually plucked up the courage to head into the unknown, next stop, Tarf Hotel.

Immediately all signs of path disappear as you head North from Chlamain. There seemed to be loads of wildlife though, deer, red grouse and masses mountain hare. It's easy to see why this area is so popular with shooting etc. (for the record I did check the hillphone before setting out on this - no stalking but a bit of grouse shooting, I was instructed simply to give a 'wide berth' to shooting parties). As you descend towards the bothy the ground becomes increasingly rough - knee deep heather intermingled with a fine sprinkling of peat hags and stinking bog. I soldiered on with the thought of a nice hot brew in the bothy, sure enough soon I arrived at the Famous Tarf Hotel.

So that's where those balloons ended up...

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What a place, no wonder it's known as a hotel. 4 or 5 weatherproof rooms, one of which is particularly luxury. There's a 'guestbook' which I left an entry in whilst I supped my hot brew. Also various books and magazines including a copy of the spectator if you're in to that. Even a bottle of Port marked "Meths - do not drink!" From reading the logbook it seems this place is fairly well used, people coming in for two or three days at a time and walking around all the hills of the Ring of Tarf, including Beinn Bhreac and Beinn Mheadhonach.

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After I while I left the bothy and continued into the unknown. Crossing the Water of Tarf was not a problem, although if there had been a bit more water it probably would have been. The river is pretty wide although it's not deep. Just by the bothy there's a wee island that you can use to aid crossing if required.

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Then to the slopes of the Fiddler. The munro book describes the South ridge of this hill as having '2 or 3 knolls'. What it doesn't say is that they are quite big and that crossing their lower slopes involves wading through knee deep heather and navigating massive peat hags. After an extended battle with the heather I retreated to the upper slopes of these 'knolls' onto easier ground. It's a long climb along this ridge - looks longer than it is. The going is fairly good though once you get out of the deep heather. About half way along an enormous herd of deer galloped across the ridge right in front me.

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I eventually made it to the summit of the Fiddler, and as I did the view of the Cairngorms to the North suddenly opened out. It's a strange angle of the Cairngorms, they look much more rugged than from Aviemore and much more dominant and massive than from the South East.

Rather chuffed

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Sgarsoch from the Fiddler

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After the celebrations and some replenishment of energy I headed to An Sgarsoch. This seems a finer hill than the Fiddler, slightly bulkier with a little more character. The col between these two is pretty low though, so I had a fair amount of re-ascent through bog and heather. More deer, grouse and hares. The cairn at the summit of this hill is massive - reminded me of Braeriach or Macdui - seems a bit strange for a much less popular hill.

Cairngorms from the Col

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Fiddler from the slopes of Sgarsoch

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Summit of An Sgarsoch with Beinn a'Ghlo in the background

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At this point (just before midday) I heard my first gunshot echo around the hills, coming from the direction of the bothy or thereabouts. I headed down the South ridge of An Sgarsoch to Sron na Macranaich to contemplate my options for return to forest lodge. I could either head back to the bothy and go back over Chlamain to forest lodge, wading through heather and risking being shot, or I could head down to my left to a very inviting looking track which passes Dun Mor and joins the Glen Tilt track about 2km SW of the falls of Tarf. Hmmm decisions...I opted for the bothy, the thought of having another brew there on the way back too inviting to miss.

Down towards the river there's yet more deep heather and bog. Loads of grouse down here too. I reached the riverside NE of the bothy and headed along it's side to cross and head inside for a break and a brew before the last walk over the hills to Glen Tilt.

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Some sort of old bridge?

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I headed up the glen towards Conlach Mhor (on descent to the bothy from Chlamain, I had gone around the other (West) side of Meall Tionail so this glen was another unknown). As I headed up the glen I saw (and heard) the shooting party I had been listening to, killing grouse as they went. I headed up the slopes to my right to keep well out of their way. This glen does contain a fair amount of bog and knee deep heather by the way...

I passed through the high bealach between Conlach Mhor and Conlach Bheag and at this point had my last view of Carn an Fhidhleir and An Sgarsoch.

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Aiming for the top zig-zag of the path from Forest Lodge, headwaters of the Allt na Maraig form a maze of...wait for it...yes you guessed it. KNEE DEEP HEATHER AND PEAT HAGS!!! [calms down somewhat before completing walk report]

Finally back on the path to forest lodge, I could kiss the path I'm so glad to see it.

Beinn a'Ghlo

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Looking down Glen Tilt from above Forest Lodge

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Back on the bike I did some one-handed cycling to multitask eating some chocolate to power me through the uphill bits. Some guys (looked like they'd been shooting) had a fantastic smelling barbecue on the go beside the river - that helped me to get back to the car and the extra food supply there waiting for me...

Bridge over the Tilt on the return trip

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So overall a long and tiring day into some pretty wild territory. The area around the Tarf Bothy is wonderfully remote and beautiful - the hills are fairly easy walking high up but are protected by many a barrier of bog and heather. The views are worth it though. The final pull over the hills back to Glen Tilt was hard, but having studied the map carefully it's far shorter than heading to the track further down the Tarf Water. It's up to you really, easy walking distance or rough ascent. I'm definitely going to revisit the Tarf Hotel, even just for a night, just to experience this amazing area again.
Last edited by benno on Wed Aug 26, 2009 7:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A long date with peat hags up Glen Tilt

Postby Graeme D » Fri Aug 14, 2009 2:12 pm

A sterling effort and excellent report Benno! I'm finding myself overloaded with ideas for the annual November overnighter in a bothy adventure with my mate Robin. I suspect this one may be a bit too much of a stretch given the limited daylight then :( . We'll probably wimp it and go with kevsbald's suggestion of Easains from Station Lodge :lol: . Just out of interest though, how long did it take from car to bothy (even with a bike some of the way)? Apologies if you said in the report! :oops:
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Re: A long date with peat hags up Glen Tilt

Postby benno » Fri Aug 14, 2009 2:58 pm

Car to bothy took me just over 4 hours, Cycle 1h and 3h walking. If you did it on foot all the way I think it'd be atleast 6h, although you could leave the track earlier and head up Chlamain from Marble Lodge which would save a bit of distance. I reckon getting to the bothy would be feasible within daylight hours in November (if there wasn't serious snow) although completing this whole round would definitely be pushing it unless you're a mega fit fell-runner who doesn't trip in heather!

The bothy's certainly worth the trip though - you're sure of a comfortable night by the fire here, and I doubt it'll be overloaded (Corrour Lairig Ghru style) because of it's remote setting.
Last edited by benno on Sun Jan 15, 2012 2:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A long date with peat hags up Glen Tilt

Postby Graeme D » Fri Aug 14, 2009 3:30 pm

Cheers benno!
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Re: A long date with peat hags up Glen Tilt

Postby kevsbald » Fri Aug 14, 2009 4:05 pm

Tarf Hotel - Sounds like a great place for a WalkHighlands gathering in Winter....count me in!
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Re: A long date with peat hags up Glen Tilt

Postby Graeme D » Fri Aug 14, 2009 11:05 pm

kevsbald wrote:Tarf Hotel - Sounds like a great place for a WalkHighlands gathering in Winter....count me in!


You do realise that there's no liquor licence there too?! :lol: And it'll be a bugger of a job rolling the kegs up Glen Tilt and over the heather (possibly snow too!) :(
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Re: A long date with peat hags up Glen Tilt

Postby monty » Sat Aug 15, 2009 8:28 am

Hi Benno,
What an inspiring report. Well done. You covered some distance in one day very impressive. :D
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Re: A long date with peat hags up Glen Tilt

Postby Paul Webster » Sat Aug 15, 2009 8:31 am

That's quite some day out Benno!! I'd hoped to head up to the Tarf Hotel this year but it is starting to look less likely, I think those two Munros may have to wait until next year now.

If alot of Forum members want to meet up some time, that'd be great - we can't commit in advance but may try to pop in if something is going on somewhere!
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Re: A long date with peat hags up Glen Tilt

Postby maddjock » Sat Aug 15, 2009 8:45 am

yep a fantastic report, really enjoyed the read..

a walkhighlands meet up has been mentioned a few times recently in various threads... maybe time to start a thread and set a definite date and place...

:?:
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Re: A long date with peat hags up Glen Tilt

Postby kevsbald » Thu Aug 20, 2009 1:48 pm

Ye heard it here first folks - party at Maddjock's hoose!

Place - Inverness-shire
Time - to be decided

Awaiting confirmation.... :lol:
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Re: A long date with peat hags up Glen Tilt

Postby mountain coward » Thu Aug 20, 2009 9:52 pm

Superb report - and what an epic walk/bike! You must be either superfit or very determined! I was fascinated to see the pics of the famous Tarf Hotel 'cos last time I read about it in my 'Mountain Days and Bothy Nights' book, I was sure it was pretty much a ruin with only one serviceable room at most. Looks great now.

What was the track you cycled like for 2 useless cyclists on fold-up bikes (i.e. not mountain bikes)? Do you think inept cyclists would make it for the whole 4 miles? Is it very rough/hilly?

I think a meet at a bothy or suchlike would be great except I doubt many bothies can hold many people. Not sure I'd be tough enough for November though... I'm sure some people would bring tents...
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Re: A long date with peat hags up Glen Tilt

Postby maddjock » Fri Aug 21, 2009 8:01 am

kevsbald wrote:Ye heard it here first folks - party at Maddjock's hoose!

Place - Inverness-shire
Time - to be decided

Awaiting confirmation.... :lol:



double lol.... :lol: :lol:
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Re: A long date with peat hags up Glen Tilt

Postby benno » Sun Aug 23, 2009 4:55 pm

What was the track you cycled like for 2 useless cyclists on fold-up bikes (i.e. not mountain bikes)? Do you think inept cyclists would make it for the whole 4 miles? Is it very rough/hilly?


Mountain Coward, the track was great - nice and smooth and easily cyclable. You could get your car up there if they'd let you....but that'd definitely be cheating!
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Re: A long date with peat hags up Glen Tilt

Postby LeithySuburbs » Wed Aug 26, 2009 6:48 pm

AS and CaF are the last 2 munros for me to do in this area (not that they will be my last visit to it - its pretty much my favourite bit of land in the world). I'm hoping to squeeze in a Tarf Hotel trip early October to do them which I may post details of nearer the time if anyone wants to join me.

You're right about the Cairngorms - they look particularly impressive from this angle.
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Re: A long date with peat hags up Glen Tilt

Postby Normgen50 » Thu Aug 27, 2009 7:22 pm

Hi there

Very informative report. Could you please let me have the map ref for the bothy, thank you.

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