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Schiehallion from Kynachan to Kinloch Rannoch

Schiehallion from Kynachan to Kinloch Rannoch

Postby nigheandonn » Sun Oct 02, 2016 8:27 pm

Munros included on this walk: Schiehallion

Date walked: 01/10/2016

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Between a busy summer and a dodgy knee I hadn't made it to any Munros this year, and it was starting to look like I wouldn't, which would have been a shame. So after a lot of indecisiveness - and some decisiveness about Beinn Bhuidhe which came to nothing - I had definitely settled on a free Saturday and on Schiehallion - Perthshire being a very autumn kind of place. And even the weather forecast played nicely, after howling winds through the week.

Even the Munros by public transport website seems to greatly exaggerate the difficulties of getting to Schiehallion - from the nearest stop on the Pitlochry-Kinloch Rannoch bus route it's nearly 6 miles to Braes of Foss if you go all the way round by road but 4 if you cut the corner - there are longer walks in from carparks elsewhere!

At this time of year it still feels exciting to be slipping out in the dark - I caught the 6:37 train to Stirling to meet up with the Glasgow-Inverness train there. By Linlithgow the buildings were darker than the sky, Falkirk was visible in a ghostly grey light, and up towards Stirling the little clouds in the east were glowing brightly, and the mist was lying in wisps and patches.

Pitlochry at just before 9 felt colder than Edinburgh at just before 6 - I hadn't quite allowed for the highlands! The Kinloch Rannoch bus was waiting, and after a ride along a misty Loch Tummel - the poor queen wasn't getting much of a view that morning - dropped me at the gates of the Loch Tummel hotel at Kynachan near Tummel Bridge.

I walked on down a very Perthshire road, lined with silver birches and occasional rowans. It was still very misty on the hills, but it was obviously going to burn off quite soon.

Perthshire road

I had two possibilities in mind for a short cut, the first being where a footbridge over the Allt Kynachan was marked on the map opposite the Foss road end. There wasn't, exactly - a tree trunk crossed the burn just below the ford, but I decided I preferred to take my shoes off and wade - it wasn't much more than ankle deep. On the other side I picked up a path - just a faint one that dodged under trees and over rocks, but enough to show that other people had had the same idea. After a while a path led up a little bank, and I could look out - the only problem being that nothing, particularly the powerlines, seemed to be in the right place. After puzzling I realised that if I had crossed the burn to begin with I was now on the wrong side and looking the wrong way, so I made my way back to the burn hoping to find a place to cross back later - except that now I'd looked properly at the map, the burn was flowing the wrong way as well! Or, to be more accurate, I'd gone the wrong way along it, seduced by the promise of a path.

The good thing at least was that in this direction the burn led back quite quickly to the road, so I could get out without retracing my steps and crossing it again.

So don't do that.

I decided that although there might be a path up the burn the other way - I'd seen the very start of a track - I couldn't face the ford again, and would try the second possibility, where a forestry track leaves the road not much further on. This proved much more successful, rising until it turned back on itself and came out on the edge of a grassy field, where carrying on in the same direction brought me my first site of Schiehallion - looking not at all symmetrical from this side, but just an imposing lump - and the roofs of the farm at Tombreck.

First view of Schiehallion

A kind of stile was provided over the next fence - a little post and a bit of sack wrapped round the barbed wire - so this did seem to be a route, and although the path petered out after the cross marked on the map there was no trouble picking up the farm track at Tombreck - except that I caused a bit of a sheep stampede and had them running after me as well as from me, which I find a bit disconcerting.

Cross stone

The farm track brought me down to the road and along towards the carpark, with the hill looming even more. Without getting lost I think the tracks would cut a good half hour off the walk round by road - as it was I got there about the same time as I would have done, but I still think it was less soul (and sole) destroying.

Braes of Foss road

At the entrance to the carpark there's a memorial to the experiments carried out on Schiehallion in the 18th century.

Gravity experiment plaque

I dodged the various crazy attempts at parking, went to the toilet on the principle of never passing up a real toilet in the wilds, and set off up the good path. Apart from two runners who quickly passed me I was alone for the moment, but for the rest of the walk I was passing and being passed quite regularly - sometimes the same people!

The first part is fairly flat; as it began to climb a skein of geese flew over, reminding everyone that it was autumn although it was beginning to be warm. A bit further up again there are a lovely set of stone seats - I had a rest on the one shaped a bit like a tiny chair.

Stone seats

In the distance the hills had an odd gap running between them - I wondered if I was far enough north for it to be one of the passes through the Cairngorms, but remembering the view from Ben Vrackie that didn't seem right. (It turned out to be Glen Tilt - I think one of the hills there has to go onto next year's shortlist.)

Loch Tummel crept back into the view so sneakily that it took me a while to realise it was there.

Loch Tummel

Further up again the path swung a bit to the south side of the hill, giving the first view of the Glen Lyon hills.

Glen Lyon hills

From a little top scattered with white stones the slope eased a bit and the real ridge began - and it all got what I described to myself as a bit English - paths over stones which reminded me of Bowfell. Some guys who passed me thought that they could see the summit from here, but I was sure it wasn't - the first thing that you think is the summit never is (and if you believe that you occasionally get a nice surprise!)

Not the summit

Dunalastair reservoir

The view over the next rise could conceivably have been the summit, but wasn't - it took a third stretch over bigger rocks - more like Scafell Pike - before a short steep climb led to the little ridge of solid rock which contains the summit. It was a busy place - a charity group had arrived together, as well as plenty of couples and small groups.

Summit ridge

Two rocks might have been the highest - one was monopolised by a couple taking two dozen selfies and phoning someone to tell them they were on a hill, but I got a turn of the other, which was the one the demolished trig point had chosen.

Schiehallion summit

Remains of the trig point

Although it had clouded over a bit the views were still glorious - over towards Glen Lyon, down Loch Rannoch for the first time to the hills behind Rannoch Moor, and a rainbow over Loch Tummel.

Loch Rannoch


I sat down just below the top of the ridge towards the far end to eat my lunch, and realised when I saw a flash of movement that something else was eating its lunch not all that far from my feet.

Summit mouse

There would have been plenty of time to head back to Tummel Bridge, but I'd decided to head down to Kinloch Rannoch, partly because it was nearer, and partly just because a traverse is more interesting. There was a bit of a path leading down from the far end of the summit, but as soon as I'd slipped down from the rocks I was alone. Where the path faded I realised I was heading too directly down the steep side, and aimed round towards the less steep end - over stones until they ran out and turned to moss. Looking back the summit seemed a long way behind already - and it was the perfect triangle from this side.

Triangular summit

Heading down wasn't difficult, but it was fairly slow - bands of stone and moss where the rocks were loose and the moss was slippery, and the rocks were slippery and the moss was loose!

I hadn't been able to find out anything about stalking on the west side of the hill, but thought I should be ok coming down an open ridge - but now I was spooking myself thinking about Caberfeidh's stories of stag attacks. All the weird howling I could hear seemed to be right over on the back of the Glen Lyon hills, though, so I thought I should be fine if I kept slightly to the Tummel side of the ridge. Somewhere I drifted a bit too far round and the slope got steeper and steeper - first it was ok because the ground was grippy, then it was ok if you went at a slant, then there were bits that I had to slide, and then a tiny landslip place was too steep even for that and I had to drift along until I found a slightly shallower bit. (On closer examination of the map there are contour lines sneakily missing...)

Reaching the wall at the edge of the forestry plantation was a relief - also because it gave me at least the illusion of protection from imaginary stags and cows! From above the wall looked like the start of the ordinary ground, but from below it still covered a lot of hill.

The wall

Towards the valley

My first actual glimpse of deer was not at all where I expected - inside the new forestry fence further down. I dropped down to the farm track there and followed the road into Kinloch Rannoch.

I was too early for the real autumn colours, of course, but they were just starting in places, and I collected a few conkers as I walked towards the village.

Autumn colours

I wasn't sure what kind of place it would be - Pitlochry is definitely pretend highlands (theme park version) and from the glimpse I got of it Tummel Bridge seemed to be the same, while Rannoch Moor is the real thing, so Kinloch Rannoch could really be either. In its favour it smelt of coal smoke, the squirrel which ran across the road in front of me was red, and the monument in the square was partly in Gaelic - but there was a sign advertising new luxury 4 and 5 bedroom houses, which are not exactly what a highland village needs, and the Espiscopalian church was bigger than the Church of Scotland - so I'm undecided.

I was impressed by Schiehallion having its own roadsign, though. There can't be many mountains that do.

Its own road sign

After visiting the shop and prowling round a bit I walked down to the Loch Rannoch hotel for dinner, stopping to admire the view down the loch.

Loch Rannoch

When I came out of the hotel to wait for the bus Schiehallion was glowing red, and there was a glorious sunset down the loch.

Schiehallion in red

Sunset down Loch Rannoch

Pitlochry was far more lively than I expected, all lit up with lights, and as I hadn't had time for pudding I went for tea and cake while waiting for the train home.

P.S. For anyone who has read about my knee which only hurts in the Lake District - coming entirely the wrong way down the wrong side of a 1000+ metre Munro did not cause it to give a single twinge!

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Last edited by nigheandonn on Tue Oct 04, 2016 4:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Schiehallion from Kynachan to Kinloch Rannoch

Postby malky_c » Sun Oct 02, 2016 8:37 pm

Dreamt to see something other than the normal up and down of Schiehallion reported here. While I'd looked at that bus service for other possible walks to the north of Loch Rannoch, it had never occurred to me to use it for Schiehallion. Must have felt like a satisfying traverse :) .
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Posts: 6161
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Grahams:219   Donalds:79
Sub 2000:295   Hewitts:271
Wainwrights:130   Islands:39
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