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Turning the Tables

Turning the Tables

Postby BlackPanther » Wed Mar 28, 2018 3:16 pm

Route description: Macleod's Tables

Sub 2000' hills included on this walk: Healabhal Bheag, Healabhal Mhor

Date walked: 17/03/2018

Time taken: 6 hours

Distance: 13 km

Ascent: 824m

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In July 2007, on a sunny summer day, we visited Dunvegan Castle and spent some time wandering around the grounds and the small garden adjoining the building. Looking west across Loch Dunvegan, I noticed two very distinctive, flat-topped hills.
"That's MacLeod's Tables" Kevin explained "I climbed them once in the eighties. Hell of a bog everywhere, but nice viewpoints."
Then he went on with his story, how his sister almost lost her boots, when she was stuck in the bog on the lower slopes of Healabhal Mhor. Kevin's tale didn't deter me from my desire to climb the Tables, quite the opposite. I was fascinated with the duo and put them on my list of places to explore in the future.
MacLeod's Tables from Dunvegan Castle, summer 2007:
Imagecard 1 075 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Almost eleven years after my first visit to Dunvegan, the two hills were still on my to-do list and I was getting impatient. In 2007, they looked big and scary to me. By now, I have climbed things ten times more technical than a couple of Sub'2000 Marylins and no amount of bog could put me off!
Our week of traditional March hols brought us mostly dismal days with hours of staggering up and down windy slopes. Kind of madness. We enjoyed the whole experience with stony faces as any member of "the Bonkers Club" would do, but deep down in our hearts we missed the warm sun, the blue sky and unobstructed views in all directions. Luckily, the final weekend of our hols gave us some hope. Winds were still going to be strong, but sunny spells were forecast for the western coast.
"It seems the tables are turning for us." Kevin said "We could just as well go west and have dinner at Macleod's Tables."
I jumped up at this suggestion. We haven't been to Skye since last summer. It's a long drive from home, but we both agreed that after a week of Bonkers Club activities, we deserved a treat.
We followed the usual route for the two subs, starting from B884 about 1km north of Orbost, where there is space to park by a gate, below Cnoc a'Sga, the ancient dun. We climbed Healabhal Mhor first then traversed over a couple of minor bumps to Healabhal Bheag, returning to the starting point over An Cruachan and Beinn Bhuidhe:

Track_MACLEODS TABLES 17-03-18.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

The gate at the start, Cnoc a'Sga to the right:
2018-03-17 macleods tables 002.JPG

As we started walking, I expected the ground to be very wet and boggy, but surprise, surprise, it was dry! Indeed, it was so dry that Kevin took off his gaiters and didn't bother putting them on again. The only wet-ish section was at the bottom of Glen Osdale, but even that only required a few jumps and hops :D
The ridge in front of us looked mouth-watering:
2018-03-17 macleods tables 008.JPG

We descended slightly to cross River Osdale. On the other side of the stream we came across a barb-wired fence. It is not marked on 1-25k map and we couldn't see any gate/stile anywhere, so we had to resort to gymnastic movements to get over this unexpected obstacle.
Once on the slopes of Healabhal Mhor, it was relatively easy going, mostly dry and grassy:
2018-03-17 macleods tables 015.JPG

Dunvegan Castle can be seen across Loch Dunvegan:
2018-03-17 macleods tables 021.JPG

Panoramic view north-east to Loch Dunvegan and the village:
2018-03-17 macleods tables 030.JPG

About half way up, we landed at the bottom of vertical cliffs, but they can be avoided on steep grassy slopes either to the left or to the right, as one wishes:
Image2018-03-17 macleods tables 032 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Vistas were already amazing, especially south-east towards the highest hills on Skye. The Black and the Red Cuillin ridge dominated the view:
2018-03-17 macleods tables 031.JPG

Further to the north, the less steep side of Trotternish ridge:
2018-03-17 macleods tables 039.JPG

The final climb is steep but very grassy. Nice, soft underfoot. Easy going. It was windy, all right, but not as bad as we had expected:
2018-03-17 macleods tables 045.JPG

Countless stops occurred due to continuous desire for more photos :lol:
2018-03-17 macleods tables 046.JPG

The summit plateau ("the table top") is very flat and the cairn, marking the highest point, is situated in the NW corner, the opposite end to where we emerged on flatter ground. I was eager to march across the summit meadow:
2018-03-17 macleods tables 057.JPG

Kevin wandered along the edge of the plateau to take more photos. Both tables are good viewpoints, Healabhal Mhor is more "into the sea", better views of the coastline. Plus the Outer Hebrides on the horizon. It was sunny and no haze in the air, perfect conditions for one man and his camera :D Yes, it was cold and a tad windy, but who would complain about such trifles.
2018-03-17 macleods tables 055.JPG

2018-03-17 macleods tables 059.JPG

2018-03-17 macleods tables 060.JPG

2018-03-17 macleods tables 063.JPG

My 25th Sub'2 Marylin. In contradiction to its name, Healabhal Mhor is the lower of the two Tables, I guess the name refers to the size of the table top :D
2018-03-17 macleods tables 070.JPG

...and the whole top is ours! It's time to dine at the table!
2018-03-17 macleods tables 074.JPG

Our meal at Macleod's Table was probably not as posh and plentiful as that of King James V (who, according to a local legend, was invited by Macleod Clan to enjoy a meal on the top of Healabhal Mhor), but sandwiches, tea and gingerbread never tasted so good before... We stretched our legs, propped against the cairn and gazed in the distance. Time passed. It was hard to leave this magical spot, but we still had another summit to climb, so eventually we packed up and began the descent towards An Sgurran. Healabhal Bheag dominated the view:
2018-03-17 macleods tables 088.JPG

I couldn't take my eyes of the Cuillin:
2018-03-17 macleods tables 081.JPG

We dropped to the first col and climbed the small lump of An Sgurran (297m). From here, we looked back at the northern Table. What an amazing shape:
2018-03-17 macleods tables 091.JPG

It is possible to skirt the next small top, Beinn na h-Uamha, by contouring its slopes on the eastern side:
2018-03-17 macleods tables 100.JPG

...but we decided, we had enough energy to traverse the lump in the middle.Kevin hoped it would be a good viewpoint to both Tables and he was right. We stopped on the top for another lengthy photo session.
The Duirnish peninsula from Beinn na h-Uamha:
2018-03-17 macleods tables 110.JPG

Healabhal Mhor:
Image2018-03-17 macleods tables 113 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Healabhal Bheag:
Image2018-03-17 macleods tables 114 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The southern Table looks very steep from the next col, but it's less than 200m of ascent and there is enough grass to avoid the eroded sections:
2018-03-17 macleods tables 115.JPG

Panoramic snap from half way up:
Image2018-03-17 macleods tables 123 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
As we ascended the second table, we were off wind and it felt like spring has arrived at last. Or maybe I was just overheating in my windproof jacket :lol: :lol:
2018-03-17 macleods tables 129.JPG

Outer Hebrides (I think the highest tops are the hills of South Uist):
2018-03-17 macleods tables 127.JPG

Healabhal Bheag has a trig point, but its true summit is about 150m to the south. We visited both spots, but took a longer break by the trig, where a stone shelter offered some protection from the cold wind.
2018-03-17 macleods tables 134.JPG

The best view on the island:
2018-03-17 macleods tables 138.JPG

Unlike its northern brother, Healabhal Bheag feels more "into the land", with better views to the southern side of Skye, from the Cuillin to Trotternish ridge. And of course, there must be wind turbines somewhere in sight :evil:
2018-03-17 macleods tables 143.JPG

South to Isle of Rum. The small hill in the foreground is a Sub'2 as well, but we are not desperate enough to climb it just yet :lol:
2018-03-17 macleods tables 145.JPG

Zooms to the Cuillin:
Image2018-03-17 macleods tables 147 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Image2018-03-17 macleods tables 148 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Happy Panther and wee Lucy by the trig point:
2018-03-17 macleods tables 152.JPG

Posing with THAT pano behind! :lol: :lol: :lol:
2018-03-17 macleods tables 159.JPG

Distant Torridon:
2018-03-17 macleods tables 162.JPG

The edge of land and sea:
2018-03-17 macleods tables 172.JPG

2018-03-17 macleods tables 173.JPG

After a week of suffering, we got our reward. It's worth to be patient - good things come to those who wait. I couldn't escape from a moment of daftness:
2018-03-17 macleods tables 168.JPG

Somebody was burning heather on the moorland and it spoiled the views just a little bit. The Red Cuillin pano:
2018-03-17 macleods tables 175.JPG

Kevin on the summit of Healabhal Bheag:
2018-03-17 macleods tables 180.JPG

We walked across the table top to the true summit:
2018-03-17 macleods tables 205.JPG

It's an amazing landscape: land, sea, sky...
2018-03-17 macleods tables 183.JPG

2018-03-17 macleods tables 184.JPG

Rum zoom :lol: :
Image2018-03-17 macleods tables 188 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The steep southern slopes of the table:
Image2018-03-17 macleods tables 204 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The Cuillin ridge once more:
Image2018-03-17 macleods tables 216 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The suggested descent route goes due west, where a large, steep buttress should be avoided to the left hand side. I was the first to spot a well-worn path:
Image2018-03-17 macleods tables 218 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
As we descended into the shadows, temperature dropped very quickly and suddenly we were shivering from cold :? The path is very eroded on the steeper section and care is needed here, especially when ground is frozen:
Image2018-03-17 macleods tables 224 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Below the buttress, the path is less obvious, but route finding is easy and no more rocky obstacles in the way.
Emerging from the shadow:
Image2018-03-17 macleods tables 228 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The buttress from below:
Image2018-03-17 macleods tables 233 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The descent follows an obvious, wide ridge, over An Cruachan and Beinn Bhuidhe. On a wet day this would be a very boggy experience, but we were lucky and scampered over the dry heather wig big smiles on our faces. It was difficult not to smile with such an amazing landscape around.
The two Tables - panorama:
Image2018-03-17 macleods tables 245 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
THAT view again (Am I getting boring???):
Image2018-03-17 macleods tables 247 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
From Beinn Bhuidhe could see our car parked at the gate so we took a straight line of descent back to the road, walking past a pasture, where a small herd of happy Highland cows were busy chewing grass. They don't need a table to have their dinner, Kevin joked. One of the cows watched us curiously...
Image2018-03-17 macleods tables 258 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The circuit can be done in 4-5 hours, but I don't see the point of rushing it, certainly not when weather smiles. Despite cold wind, we spent more time lurking around and taking photos than we did walking :lol: :lol: The whole Table experience was worth the long drive from Beauly and I'm so glad we had a decent day for it!
The final curtain call for the March hols came the following day, when we faced the crazy winds again on one of less known peaks of Torridon. TR to follow :D
Last edited by BlackPanther on Thu Nov 14, 2019 12:33 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Turning the Tables

Postby Sgurr » Wed Mar 28, 2018 5:37 pm

Yes, of course, your explanation is probably right for the smaller on being Mhor. We always assumed that whoever had named then lived somewhere nearer to Mhor, so it LOOKED bigger. There is a similar anomaly in Pairc on Lewis whre Cipeagil Beag is the Marilyn and you have to pass Cipeagil Mhor to get there. I am sure the same is true elsewhere, but can't think for the time being. (in this case, you can see Mhor all the way from Loch Seaforth, and Beag only appears at the last minute, so it might be appearances here).
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Re: Turning the Tables

Postby rockhopper » Wed Mar 28, 2018 11:30 pm

Nice day for it and that did look a good approach route :thumbup: Can still remember walking up Healabhal Mhor from Glendale when we were staying there and having to make a very wide detour to avoid a rather grumpy looking big horned (well seemed that way at the time) highland cow (uhave sworn it was a bull) blocking my path. My wife stayed back at the cottage as she was expecting our elder son at the time. Re Mhòr and Bheag - may be similar to Aonach Beag which is taller than Aonach Mòr referring to the overall size or circumference of the hill relative to its neighbour rather than to the height - cheers :)
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Re: Turning the Tables

Postby malky_c » Thu Mar 29, 2018 9:12 am

Lovely - good to see some nice shots of the Cuillin, and even more the Outer Hebrides, which I'm really missing at the moment.

I prefer the little (higher) table as it has a bit more shape to it, but you are probably right about the better views from the larger one.
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Re: Turning the Tables

Postby BlackPanther » Thu Mar 29, 2018 6:44 pm

Thanks all :D
As far as I know, when the two hills were named, their exact height was not known, so the name "Mhor" was given to the one that looked bigger from below. But both tables have their charms and great views on a good day :D

We had many meetings with highland cows, but not a single time we were threatened by them. They always seem so docile and half-asleep, I find it hard to believe they could harm anyone. Maybe we haven't come across any bulls yet :lol: :lol:

Happy Easter everyone :D :D
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Re: Turning the Tables

Postby dooterbang » Fri Mar 30, 2018 12:36 am

Well done Lucy :D

Glad you finally got some decent weather, and the views looked fantastic!

Been a while since I've been up there, must go back :)

Happy Easter :)
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Re: Turning the Tables

Postby dogplodder » Fri Mar 30, 2018 12:43 pm

Was up the Tables more than 20 years ago with some of the kids when we were on holiday in Dunvegan. Must go back some time! :D
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Re: Turning the Tables

Postby litljortindan » Tue Apr 03, 2018 7:51 pm

Some tremendous zoom shots of the Cuillin but also good looking out to sea. Also interesting to see reciprocal views of some coastal spots I've visited.
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Re: Turning the Tables

Postby Mal Grey » Mon Apr 09, 2018 3:40 pm

Nice views! Especially the Cuillin.

I love how long the snow has stayed on the hills this year, even got snowed on at sea level last week on a paddling trip.
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