The smc guide says that the approach to Meall a'Chaorainn up Strathvaich is the 'favoured' one without explaining why. We had cycled in that way twice before, in the spring when the cattle were fed next to the track, resulting in a deep mix of very soft mud and cowpats to be cycled through, and we had met one person who hadn't quite made it to the other side before falling off - I thought I might 'fall' into that category now, some years later. Maybe the route is drier in summer, but we had the fun of a new glen to explore.
From the Alladale car park, we cycled through mixed woodland along the good track towards the Lodge, then turned right, past new buildings for a tree nursery, crossed the river, and uphill for a short way before dropping down into the attractive Gleann Mhor. The trees gradually gave way to moorland, with distant views of a little peak. No sign of our hill for a long time. Towards the end, the track was gently undulating, with a few too many loose stones for my liking. It's normally me who is asking to get off the bike ad start walking, so I was delighted when the Hare suggested that we leave the bikes near Deanich Lodge rather than cycling further to join the track from Strathvaich.We were both tired from the ride, but enjoyed walking along the tracks. It looked as if the stones on the Strathvaich track might have been a little more compacted than on our route, but difficult to tell overall.
We had wondered about avoiding the steep ascent up our hill by walking up the grassy corrie on the south side to the col, but soon after the high point on the Strathvaich track the angle of the hill eased, and the slope became mainly grassy with only a bit of heather, so we chose to go straight up. It was fine, though the steepest section in the middle with grass and moss was on the border of my comfort zone. It's always good to top out virtually at the summit. We admired the views towards Beinn Dearg, Carn Ban and down Strathvaich, and ate lunch looking down Gleann Mhor.
We decided to return by walking across rather boggy tufty ground towards the col, then descended down a mix of heather and grass into Gleann Beag.It was nice to see this glen again, with its steep sides. We contoured back to the track and returned to the bikes.
The cycle out was much less tiring. We stopped to examine a bird hide and new picnic table, but only saw Highland cattle. We paused on the bridge over the river for a photo. Nearly back at the van, we decided on a diversion down a signed footpath to a waterfall, but this was disappointing with a very overgrown path and not a brilliant view of the falls either, though after heavy rain I expect that they are impressive.
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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.