The lost Swordsman of Tolmount

Route: Tolmount and Tom Buidhe via Loch Callater

Munros: Càrn an Tuirc, Tolmount

Date walked: 14/08/2021

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 27.7km

Ascent: 768m

Last summer we returned to Glen Callater to re-investigate the Canberra on Càrn an t-Sagairt Mòr. We were aware of a second plane crash site in this area, that of a RN Fairey Swordfish, but there was so much of the Canberra to find and photograph that we didn't have time to search for the second wreck. Now it was time to look for the lost Swordsman of Tolmount.

The site in question is located at the very top of Glen Callater in a steep corrie (not named on OS maps) only 250m below the summit of Tolmount so naturally, we would visit the wreck and then continue to the top of the Munro; whether we would add any extra summits would depend on the weather and how we felt about it (we had already climbed all M's in this area so there was no pressure to multi-bag). In the end, we included Càrn an Tuirc, making our walk a two-Munros-a-day adventure :D Conditions were all right, a bit grey and windy on the high plateau, but the hills were busy with walkers (though no one was daft enough to climb up the steep side of the wet corrie instead of taking the easy Jock's Road):

Track_TOLMOUNT 27.7KM.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

The Callater car park was already busy when we arrived:
2021-08-14 tolmount 001.JPG

The initial walk-in is on a good track (can be cycled). We discussed a possible traverse of Sron nan Gabhar in winter conditions (we had climbed it as part of a bagging-spree day but didn't have time to explore it properly).
2021-08-14 tolmount 003.JPG
Always happy to return to Callater!

The day was partly cloudy but the cloud was well above the summits. We reached Loch Callater and took a short break by the shore:
2021-08-14 tolmount 011.JPG

The WH description suggests that the right of way alongside (and past) the loch is very boggy, but we were pleasantly surprised. Yes, we encountered a few short, wet sections, but 90% of the walk-in was a pleasant stroll on a good, dry path. The deeper we marched into the glen, the more mysterious (and beautiful) it looked!
2021-08-14 tolmount 019.JPG

The cliffs of Corrie Loch Cander:
2021-08-14 tolmount 023.JPG

On the Jock's Road in the upper glen:
2021-08-14 tolmount 025.JPG

The path eventually ascends the eastern side (left as you face the top of the glen) and all other parties going up Tolmount followed this route; they gave us odd looks when we left the path and started hopping over peat-haggy bottom of the corrie, staying on the eastern side of a small river. We knew the crash site was on a steep slope below the cliffs to the right (west) and from below, the rim of the corrie seemed...well...challenging to say the least.
2021-08-14 tolmount 028.JPG
Following the Allt an Loch

It had rained the previous day so all streams were full but thankfully, not wide enough to stop us!
2021-08-14 tolmount 192.JPG
The swordfish crash site is right above Kevin's head in this photo, to the left of the waterfall

We crossed the stream above this rocky mini-gorge:
Image2021-08-14 tolmount 037 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
Looking up the cliffs and to the crash site from the bottom of the waterfall:
Image2021-08-14 tolmount 038 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
Just as we hopped over the stream, I spotted a couple of metal pieces lying on the grass; they must have tumbled down from the crash site, or maybe they were carried down:
2021-08-14 tolmount 039.JPG

Image2021-08-14 tolmount 042 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
Image2021-08-14 tolmount 046 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
A few meters above the first discoveries, I found a squashed fuel tank:
Image2021-08-14 tolmount 049 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
2021-08-14 tolmount 050.JPG

At this moment, as I looked up, I recognized more metal parts gathered in a pile higher up the slope, so I just charged up to reach them quickly:
2021-08-14 tolmount 052.JPG

Kevin, in the meantime, wandered around the bottom of the slope in search for more debris. He located a mangled cowling ring from the engine:
2021-08-14 tolmount 055.JPG

2021-08-14 tolmount 056.JPG

Above us, the waterfall was making a lot of noise; I wondered if it was possible to get closer to it, but as the slopes were wet and slippery, we didn't take the risk:
Image2021-08-14 tolmount 054 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
The main site of the crash is at the height of about 700m, in a shallow gully. If you decided to visit this place, please take care, especially on a wet day. The slopes are very steep at this point!
Image2021-08-14 tolmount 236 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
I was gobsmacked by the amount of wreckage still at the site. As Fairey Swordfish was a light structured bi-plane, covered in easily-degradable canvas, we didn't expect to find much, but there is still a fair amount of the aircraft main frame present, including the wing spars with the metal leading edges:
Image2021-08-14 tolmount 243 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
Possibly a part of another fuel tank:
2021-08-14 tolmount 248.JPG

More details of the frame structure:
2021-08-14 tolmount 253.JPG

2021-08-14 tolmount 081.JPG

2021-08-14 tolmount 263.JPG

2021-08-14 tolmount 264.JPG

2021-08-14 tolmount 269.JPG

2021-08-14 tolmount 271.JPG

Image2021-08-14 tolmount 243 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
Possibly an electric motor lying at the bottom of the wreckage pile:
2021-08-14 tolmount 088.JPG

The wreckage from above:
2021-08-14 tolmount 284.JPG

As per usual, I was drawn to the small pieces of debris scattered around. It wasn't easy to balance on the steep, rocky slope but I did my best:
Image2021-08-14 tolmount 115 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
2021-08-14 tolmount 304.JPG

2021-08-14 tolmount 294.JPG

2021-08-14 tolmount 301.JPG

The top end of the metal leading edge of the wing; the remaining part of the structure was covered in canvas which has sadly disappeared by now.
2021-08-14 tolmount 306.JPG

The identity of this plane has sadly been lost over time. According to "Aircraft Wrecks...":
"The identity of the Swordfish that crashed in Glen Callater has not been positively determined, it is thought that it might be Swordfish L9730 and that it came down in the glen during a flight from Arbroath in Angus."
When browsing aviation forums, I found a note that some parts of this swordfish have been recovered by the Fleet Air Arm museum.
One last look at the crash site:
2021-08-14 tolmount 124.JPG

To reach the summit of Tolmount from the wreckage location, we climbed the slope above, steep bust mostly grassy:
2021-08-14 tolmount 134.JPG

Kevin considering the direttissima :lol: :lol:
2021-08-14 tolmount 308.JPG

...or maybe not!
2021-08-14 tolmount 310.JPG

This grassy ridge looks much more friendly!
2021-08-14 tolmount 315.JPG

Panoramic view of upper Glen Callater from above the crash site:
2021-08-14 tolmount 141.JPG

We climbed out of the corrie and joined the long line of people walking towards the summit of Tolmount; we had to wait a few minutes for a quiet moment to take a summit snap.
2021-08-14 tolmount 153.JPG
Lucy on her 140th Munro!

Looking east from the summit of Tolmount:
2021-08-14 tolmount 321.JPG

Upper Glen Doll:
2021-08-14 tolmount 323.JPG

It is possible to add Tom Buidhe but we didn't really fancy walking in the long cue, so decided to take a shortcut across to Cairn an Tuirc. Weather wasn't brilliant, a rather grey experience, but we didn't mind returning over the second Munro instead of retracing steps into Glen Callater.
2021-08-14 tolmount 162.JPG

Looking back to Tolmount from the slopes of Cairn an Tuirc:
2021-08-14 tolmount 328.JPG

A runaway hare :lol: :lol:
2021-08-14 tolmount 164.JPG
Catch me if you can!

Lochnagar &co. from the summit of Cairn an Tuirc:
2021-08-14 tolmount 171.JPG

Looking SW to the Cairnwell and Carn Aosda:
2021-08-14 tolmount 171.JPG

Only now we realized that wee Lucy has just bagged her 141st Munro, making her probably the first ever fluffy mountain lamb to reach the half-way point on Munros!
Image2021-08-14 tolmount 178 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
Lucy trying to hijack the trip report (Write about me! me! Meeee!) :wink:
Image2021-08-14 tolmount 337 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
After a short rest on the summit of Cairn an Tuirc we took the estate track heading back down to Glen Callater. We detoured to the edge of Corrie Loch Kander for a panoramic snap:
Image2021-08-14 tolmount 184 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
The track descends to Glen Callater near Lochcallater Lodge:
Image2021-08-14 tolmount 191 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
We didn't hurry on the way back, enjoying the return walk at a lazy pace. Two good M's and a crash site, not to mention a half-way point for a lamb, that's a day well spent! :D

More stories about lost planes and misbehaving mountain lambs to come soon!

Sources for the Fairey Swordfish crash site:
Aircraft Wrecks: The Walker's Guide: Historic Crash Sites on the Moors and Mountains of the British Isles. (2009)
by Nick Wotherspoon, Alan Clark and Mark Sheldon

Click to mark this as a great report. Register or Login
free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).

Black Panther takes the Scalp

Attachment(s) Date walked: 01/08/2021
Distance: 12km
Ascent: 342m
Views: 97

I have a screw loose

Attachment(s) Grahams: Mullach Coire nan Geur-oirean
Date walked: 31/07/2021
Distance: 31.5km
Ascent: 915m
Comments: 1
Views: 181

In the electric mist

Attachment(s) Grahams: Càrn na Breabaig
Date walked: 30/07/2021
Distance: 33.8km
Ascent: 901m
Comments: 2
Views: 183

Unsuccesful Hu(n)ti(n)g

Attachment(s) Sub 2000s: Ben Hutig
Date walked: 26/07/2021
Distance: 15.6km
Ascent: 579m
Comments: 1
Views: 200

The fallen Fortress

Attachment(s) Date walked: 25/07/2021
Distance: 13.6km
Ascent: 115m
Comments: 2
Views: 192

Panther's biathlon

Attachment(s) Corbetts: Leum Uilleim
Date walked: 24/07/2021
Distance: 60.8km
Ascent: 1136m
Comments: 2
Views: 211

And they thought they were in Yorkshire...

Attachment(s) Corbetts: Sgùrr nan Ceannaichean
Date walked: 23/07/2021
Distance: 16.5km
Ascent: 916m
Comments: 5
Views: 402

Slochd and Whitley

Attachment(s) Date walked: 22/07/2021
Distance: 14.6km
Ascent: 483m
Views: 126

Letters from Letterewe

Attachment(s) Corbetts: Beinn a' Chaisgein Mòr, Beinn Lair
Date walked: 19/07/2021
Distance: 56km
Ascent: 2005m
Comments: 3
Views: 297


User avatar
Location: Beauly, Inverness-shire
Interests: Hillwalking, cycling, jogging, mushroom picking, aircraft investigations and many other outdoor activities, meowing on mountain summits included :P
Activity: Mountain Walker
Mountain: Beinn Eighe
Place: Isle of Skye
Gear: well... my husband ;)))
Camera: FujiFilm Finepix HS10
Ideal day out: Anything - from beach strolls to scrambling up icy slopes. Just bring it on!
Ambition: Tick off all Munros...

Munros: 260
Corbetts: 172
Grahams: 123
Sub 2000: 56
Long Distance routes: Dava Way    Moray Coastal Trail   

Filter reports



Trips: 53
Distance: 1052.4 km
Ascent: 39541m
Munros: 12
Corbetts: 10
Grahams: 19
Sub2000s: 7


Trips: 56
Distance: 929.5 km
Ascent: 37157m
Munros: 11
Corbetts: 12
Grahams: 10
Sub2000s: 10


Trips: 68
Distance: 1137.3 km
Ascent: 57105m
Munros: 28
Corbetts: 32
Grahams: 15
Sub2000s: 4


Trips: 72
Distance: 1239.15 km
Ascent: 65343m
Munros: 42
Corbetts: 21
Grahams: 27
Sub2000s: 17


Trips: 60
Distance: 1128.6 km
Ascent: 55244m
Munros: 24
Corbetts: 26
Grahams: 27
Sub2000s: 6


Trips: 48
Distance: 868.9 km
Ascent: 41748m
Munros: 24
Corbetts: 16
Grahams: 18
Sub2000s: 3


Trips: 57
Distance: 894.2 km
Ascent: 44112m
Munros: 30
Corbetts: 25
Grahams: 16


Trips: 51
Distance: 932.2 km
Ascent: 44288m
Munros: 36
Corbetts: 20
Grahams: 3
Sub2000s: 4


Trips: 53
Distance: 822.6 km
Ascent: 37086m
Munros: 30
Corbetts: 17
Grahams: 5
Sub2000s: 1


Trips: 76
Distance: 955.1 km
Ascent: 44087m
Munros: 37
Corbetts: 18
Grahams: 7
Sub2000s: 3


Trips: 58
Distance: 645.95 km
Ascent: 30393m
Munros: 33
Corbetts: 11
Grahams: 4


Trips: 17
Distance: 215.6 km
Ascent: 9756m
Munros: 4
Corbetts: 8
Grahams: 1


Trips: 2
Distance: 30.9 km
Ascent: 2414m
Munros: 3


Trips: 2
Distance: 35 km
Ascent: 2267m
Munros: 4

Joined: Nov 02, 2010
Last visited: Sep 17, 2021
Total posts: 3686 | Search posts