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The Coffin Trail to Cruach nan Capull

The Coffin Trail to Cruach nan Capull


Postby Jeremiah Johnson » Thu Apr 07, 2016 7:24 pm

Grahams included on this walk: Cruach nan Capull

Date walked: 02/04/2016

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Weather had got in the way of my hillwalking plans recently and another trip north had been cancelled late due to inclement weather blasting in from the Atlantic. Today, thankfully broke calm. The Clyde which had crashed furiously onto the promenades of Dunoon and Kirn was now still and yesterday’s dark grey skies were replaced by thin cloud which allowed a weak sun to burst through providing the prospect of a better day to spend on a hill. Keen to salvage the weekend with at least one walk I decided to climb a local hill.

The Cowal mountains, with their proximity to the Clyde, give fine sea views and are worthy of a visit. North west of Dunoon a high ridge of densely forested slopes dominate, highest point is the Graham Cruach nan Capull, which is the most southerly of the Highland hills in Scotland above 2000 feet, though its grassy summit is still rarely visited by walkers. I decided it was a good day to revisit Cruach nan Capull. My plan to climb the hill from Garachoran Farm in Glen Lean to the north was thwarted as the ford at the start of the climb was in spate after days of constant rain. Not wishing to travel the long distance to Inverchaolin, the other popular starting point for the climb, I checked my map and found an alternative route starting in Glen Lean about 1 kilometre east of the village of Clachaig. I drove the short distance and parked in the spacious car park at the junction of Glen Kin and Glen Lean.

Leaving the car I spent time on the aged Rumbling Bridge, long enough to admire the waters of the River Eachaig and Glen Kin Burn merge and thunder, on the short journey east, to the Holy Loch, and the sea.

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View from the Rumbling Bridge


Feeling the heat of the early spring sun, I walked along a fine path steeply climbing through the dense forest of Sitka Spruce to the noise of rushing streams and glorious song of numerous birds unseen among the trees.

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On the path


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The path soon levelled, offering a pleasant walk climbing high enough to give views of the hills surrounding Glen Kin.

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Giants Knowe


To my left, across Glen Kin the steep and craggy Giants Knowe provided a dramatic mountain scene. Such a contrast to the smooth, tame southern slopes rising from the shores of the Clyde.

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The March sun lit the emerald leaves and red bark of a fine Scots Fir standing alone, but still magnificent, among the mass of dark Sitka Spruce, which dominate the glen. Further on the track climbed above the tree line providing my first view of the Bealach na Sreine, sandwiched between the grassy slopes of the Bishop’s Seat to the south and Green Knapp, which offers a route to Cruach nan Capull, to the north.

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Bealach na Sreine


At the head of the glen I reached a sign pointing the way to the “The Coffin Trail”, a path which climbs steeply alongside a stream to the Bealach na Sreine, on the skyline above.

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Common in rural areas throughout Britain, coffin routes, often lengthy and requiring a traverse of high mountain passes, offered remote communities a way to deliver deceased family and friends to the nearest consecrated ground for buriel. Inverchaoilin, its name meaning “mouth of the narrow stream” is situated on the shore of Loch Striven on land for many years under the control of the Lamont Clan, one of Scotland’s oldest clans, and has been the site of a church since medieval times. The present church celebrated its centenary in 2012 having replaced an earlier church built in 1812 which was destroyed by fire. The Parish covers an area of 45 square miles and is bordered to the north by the Parish of Kilmoden and to the east by the Parish of Dunoon & Kilmun. For residents of Glen Kin and much of Glen Lean their mother Parish Church was located at Inverchaoilin and this is where they would register births, marriages and where they were expected to bury their dead. For us, now living in a largely secular society, it is difficult to comprehend that families would undertake such brutal journey’s to reach their church for buriels, but the “coffin routes” illustrate the power the Church wielded on Scottish rural communities in the 19th Century and the hardships which characterised their lives, such as those experienced carrying a coffin along the “coffin route”, were seen as a route to heaven.

I left the track and began to climb the “The Coffin Trail”, initially on a well made path which soon faded and was lost in the tangle of rough grass and recently harvested trees, which, added to the steepness of the slope, made it a difficult climb.

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The "Coffin Trail" to the Bealach Na Sreine


As I climbed towards the bealach, to my right high above crags silhouetted against the grey sky, a flock of Raven noisily flew. Looking back down the length of Glen Kin, beyond the cottages of Glen Kin house and Stronesaul, to the Kilmun hills beyond, brought home to me the hardship grieving mourners must have endured as they struggled up these slopes carrying their precious cargo on their shoulders on this final journey.
Reaching the boggy expanse of the bealach, mourners would have continued west, dropping steeply into Inverchaolin Glen. I turned north and followed the faint tracks of an ATV which followed the line of a fence up the steep grassy slopes of Green Knapp sweating with the effort, but happily gaining height quickly.

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The climb to Green Knapp


The hard graft was rewarded by the unfolding views.

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East, beyond Glen Kin, to the hazy Kilmun and Luss hills. Further north the impressive Beinn Ruaidh, which towers over Loch Eck and the higher Beinn Bheula, Cowal’s only Corbett, reminded me just how craggy and shapely these rarely visited hills are.

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West across Loch Striven, to the dark deserted island of Inchmarnock, sitting on a steely Clyde, sandwiched between the green fields of Bute and the eastern coast of Arran rising to the Island’s mountains concealed in cloud.

Higher up the grassy ridge of Green Knapp and now much closer to the Ravens I estimated perhaps as many as three score of the birds in the sky.

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Some rising gracefully, languidly turning and wheeling before dropping out of sight; others flying crazily, dropping like stones before wheeling and rising in the breeze back to the grey sky and all to a cacophony of noise at odds with the ease and beauty of their flight. Common on Scottish hills, Raven, the largest of the Crow family, are often seen gliding gracefully high above the summits. Never though, have I seen so many and I wondered what had brought them together. Was it to feed? There were new born lambs on the lower slopes of Green Knapp and Raven have been known to feed on young lambs and even young calves, however, as I stood watching the birds perform their spectacular aerial acrobatics it slowly dawned on me these birds, a symbol of sadness, loss and death in many European countries and so often negatively depicted in popular culture - “where the raven flies there’s jeopardy”, had congregated at Green Knapp to frolic and play. The light east wind striking the steep grassy slopes rose high above the ridge and provided the perfect conditions for these highly sociable birds, renowned for their playful nature, to indulge in this breathtaking recreational flying.

Leaving the birds to their fun, I wondered along the grassy ridge, still following the fence line, to the summit of Leacann nan Gall, marked by a small stone cairn. I stopped briefly for a drink and enjoyed the views from the minor summit, down the length of Inverchaoilin Glen to Loch Striven.

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Loch Striven from Leacann nan Call


I continued on my way, following the fence, I dropped to the pass connecting Leacann nan Gall with the summit of Cruach nan Capull, enjoying the sun on my back as I went.

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Approaching Cruach nan Capull


I contoured the upper slopes of Inverchaoulin Glen to a point on the ridge left of a knoll and below the final steep slopes which leads to the summit of Cruach nan Capull, at 611 metres (2005 feet), just attaining the classification of Graham.

The climb was hard and the steep conclave slopes provided no view to the summit to encourage me but, thankfully, the climb was short and I was soon standing at the top, high point of a long ridge which falls gently from the small summit cairn before falling steeply from nose of Sron Dearg to Inverchaolin, on the shore of Loch Striven. A light wind which blew from the east across the exposed summit chilled me so I donned a fleece before sitting by the cairn and enjoying a hot coffee and a sandwich and taking in the views around me.

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To the south the grey waters of the Clyde dominated the view. Although hazy I could clearly pick out the Cumbrae Islands, just off the Ayrshire coast. Further east the massive expanse of the Firth of Clyde narrowed as it flowed south, between Inverclyde on the west and West Dunbartonshire on the east, towards a distant Glasgow.

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North, beyond Glen Lean, Sgorach Mor, resembling a volcanic plug, reminded me of Louden Hill near Darvel. Behind this craggy little hill the distant snow covered mountains of the Cruachan range, were just visible in the haze.

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Looking east, another volcanic plug, Dumgoyne, sat at the end of the Campsie Fells, a fine range of grassy hills on which I had my introduction to walking on hills as a child with my brother and dad.

I descended from the cairn and quickly retraced my route to the summit of Leacann nan Gall where I dropped north, avoiding steeper craggier slopes marked on the map as Black Craig, to reach flat boggy ground which swung around and dropped me back onto the path which would lead me back to my car.

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As I followed the path down Glen Kin I enjoyed views of Beinn Ruaidh, a Graham, and one of my favourite small hills.Further down I stopped to watch a Goldfinch flit among branches of a Sitka Spruce tree just off the path.


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This quite stunning bird, the most colourful of our native finches, sporting vibrant yellow bands on the wing bars and bright red face mask, was almost trapped to extinction in Victorian times, though caged more for the lively twittering song than for the plumage. Thankfully, the bird has recovered from a serious decline in numbers during the 60’ s and 70’ s believed to be caused by the increased use of herbicides in agriculture, and is commonly seen in gardens throughout the country. Content with my short but fine walk I left the bird feeding and made my way back to the car.
Last edited by Jeremiah Johnson on Mon Apr 18, 2016 10:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
Jeremiah Johnson
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 65
Munros:156   Corbetts:46
Grahams:20   Donalds:2
Sub 2000:5   
Joined: Jun 2, 2015

Re: The Coffin Trail to Cruach nan Capull

Postby SecretSquirrel » Tue Apr 12, 2016 10:18 am

Great read, thanks for posting. I hadn't heard of coffin trails before, I always like to learn a little of the history in the places I walk. Its fascinating how much you can start to glean just from place names.

That's a hill I hadn't considered before but its now on my radar :thumbup:
User avatar
SecretSquirrel
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 420
Munros:124   Corbetts:26
Grahams:24   Donalds:76
Sub 2000:10   
Joined: Jul 2, 2012
Location: Hamilton

Re: The Coffin Trail to Cruach nan Capull

Postby Jeremiah Johnson » Tue Apr 12, 2016 10:56 pm

SecretSquirrel wrote:Great read, thanks for posting. I hadn't heard of coffin trails before, I always like to learn a little of the history in the places I walk. Its fascinating how much you can start to glean just from place names.

That's a hill I hadn't considered before but its now on my radar :thumbup:


Thanks. Yes like you I think learning a bit of the history of an area adds to the experience of the walk. Its a great wee hill. Worth doing on a good day to benefit from the great views it provides.
Jeremiah Johnson
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 65
Munros:156   Corbetts:46
Grahams:20   Donalds:2
Sub 2000:5   
Joined: Jun 2, 2015

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