Hungry horse on Hope and romantic sheep on Loyal
by dogplodder » Wed Nov 16, 2011 7:07 pm
Route description: Ben Hope
Munros included on this walk: Ben Hope
Date walked: 15/10/200318 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
We started the ascent of Ben Hope at Alltnacaillich farm which is not far north of the beehive-shaped broch Dun Dornaigil (worth a visit). Our dog then was a lab Danny who couldn't get enough of water and as soon as he was out the car made straight for a muddy ditch for his usual wallow. There was a loose horse hanging around who seemed rather taken with our dog and perhaps with the benefit of hindsight I made the mistake of being a bit too friendly with him.
I say too friendly because he decided to join us on our climb up to the ridge and when we walked faster to try and shake him off he just broke into a trot to keep up!
Horse on a mission
We followed a path up the south side of the Allt na Caillich burn, which means old woman's burn (so good route for me then), and has some fine waterfalls cascading down from Leitir Mhuiseil ridge.
Strathmore and distant Loch Hope
I'm no horse whisperer (more of a dog person) but I tried everything I could think of to suggest to this horse that horses shouldn't be going off with people they don't know and they certainly shouldn't be climbing hills like this. I spoke to him quite firmly and said in my most calm and assertive voice (Cesar Millan would have been impressed) "Go home" pointing down the hill to the now distant farm. But he was having none of it. In fact he was becoming increasingly focussed on Pete's rucksack and at one point made a bit of a charge for it which neither Pete nor Danny much liked.
The penny then dropped. This gentle equine giant had met hill walkers before and he was hiking with us in hope - stirred by fond memories of cheese and ham rolls and the occasional apple. The poor chap was hungry! But he evidently felt we weren't getting the message quickly enough and made another spirited charge after the red rucksack. It was at that point my long suffering husband delivered an ultimatum. "If you want me to climb this hill with you (big concession in the first place) you have to get rid of this horse! It's either him or me!"
So what do I do now? Then I saw my chance. We were almost on the ridge and about to cross the burn which involved a bit of rock hopping. It wouldn't present much of a barrier to any fit outdoorsy type equine but I thought it might give me the pyschological edge. I hung back so Pete and Dan were out of sight then took up my position on a prominent rock at the crossing point and shouted in the nastiest scariest voice I could muster (wasn't a teacher all those years for nothing) and waved my pole threateningly at him. I felt a brute doing it, especially when he stopped and looked bewilderedly at me. But I had to maximise my advantage so kept on hollering like a banshee and brandishing my pole and I could just see the poor chap thinking "Good grief, get me out of here" as sadly he turned and started his long plod back to the farm.
The rest of the walk north towards the summit was problem free on a broad grassy ridge with the occasional boulder. As we followed the edge of the cliffs on our left we saw an eagle soaring just below us but I didn't have camera out in time. The summit cairn felt impressively airy with great but hazy views of the Kyle of Tongue, Ben Loyal and out to the Pentland Firth and Orkney Islands.
Summit cairn of most northerly Munro
Our descent route was west down through a break in the cliffs following a steepish path by a burn that joins a burn from the Dubh-loch na Beinne. At the point we reached the road there was a sign indicating the way to Ben Hope so this is evidently the more frequented route, which if we'd taken we wouldn't have met HHH (hopeful hungry horse). We had a couple of km to walk back to the car and in the gloaming became aware of a large stag with an impressive head of antlers walking along the road just ahead and upwind of us. I had Dan on the lead and stood still not wanting to give the big fella a fright. But sixth sense told him he had company and he suddenly wheeled round and careered off the road before stopping and eyeing us warily. We just stayed still until he decided we were no immediate threat and trotted off, his head held high. What majestic creatures they are.
The icing on the cake to this fabulous day was seeing a badger running along the side of the road as we drove back to our cottage near Tongue.
Ben Hope with a sprinkling of snow from Kyle of Tongue
Ben Hope from Tongue
Three days later we headed off to Ben Loyal - not ever intending to climb to the top but just for a relaxed wander on the lower slopes to give the dog a walk.
Looking south from Melness to Ben Loyal on left and Ben Hope on right
Ben Loyal from Melness cemetery which must be one of the most scenic burial places in the land
Lower northern slopes of Loyal
Watching for deer
There they go
Hill sheep being gathered in for winter
Heart shaped flock
Flock a distant blur
Kyle of Tongue
Ben Loyal from Kyle of Tongue
Ben Loyal from a loch I've forgotten the name of where gold to help the Jacobites is meant to have been dumped!
Around the Kyle of Tongue is a stunning part of the land - one we've returned to again and again.
I have always loved horses but sadly dont go riding any more, never quite lost my fear of them. When you're in the saddle you are very high off the ground
Two great walks, well done
Stalking ponies often seem a bit bored on days off - been followed a short way by a few but not so far.
Lovely animals - very placid.
by dogplodder » Wed Nov 16, 2011 11:14 pm
morag1 wrote:What a great story! Just love the bit about the horse following you up the hill and trying to get into your husband's rucksack
Thanks Morag. He came so far with us I got quite attached to him and didn't like having to scare him off like that!
by dogplodder » Wed Nov 16, 2011 11:25 pm
kinley wrote:Stalking ponies often seem a bit bored on days off - been followed a short way by a few but not so far.
Lovely animals - very placid.
He was lovely and very placid, if a bit determined to get his nose inside Pete's rucksack!
Of course he probably was a stalking pony and that's why he was unfazed by the terrain. What workaholics they must be to get bored on their days off... Owners should at least provide them with a TV in the barn!
by dogplodder » Thu Nov 17, 2011 6:55 pm
by BlackPanther » Thu Nov 17, 2011 7:15 pm
The far north of Scotland is a beautiful area, I think a wee bit underestimated...
by dogplodder » Fri Nov 18, 2011 12:33 pm
BlackPanther wrote:The far north of Scotland is a beautiful area, I think a wee bit underestimated...
Thanks BP and I couldn't agree more. But in a way that's part of the attraction - the far north isn't heaving with folk and you get stunning beaches all to yourself. I'm happy to keep it that way.
by pollyh33 » Fri Nov 18, 2011 2:37 pm
I've heard of having a monkey on your back but not a horse!!!!
Splendid photographs but I must say that the heart-shaped sheep is my favourite
by dogplodder » Fri Nov 18, 2011 8:08 pm
pollyh33 wrote:Splendid photographs but I must say that the heart-shaped sheep is my favourite
Ah Pauline, you old romantic.
by dogplodder » Sat Nov 19, 2011 11:21 am
by Johnny Corbett » Sat Nov 19, 2011 12:25 pm
by Mountainlove » Sat Nov 19, 2011 1:30 pm
Great pictures of Ben Loyal....did that one in August this year but didnt managed to see the top due to clag....lovely report!
by soulminer » Sat Nov 19, 2011 2:10 pm
Haven't been on Ben Loyal, but it is a rather imposing monument in profile
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by Collaciotach » Sat Nov 19, 2011 3:10 pm
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