walkhighlands

Beinn Bhuidhe, the urbex way

Route: Beinn Bhuidhe, via Glen Fyne

Munros: Beinn Bhuidhe

Date walked: 11/11/2021

I'll start with a warning: if you're looking for fine scenery and natural beauty, don't read this report.

Much of my hill walking on my trips to Scotland has been in the southern Highlands - it's more feasible within the constraints of driving up from the English midlands. Over the years, from summits across Perthshire and the Loch Lomond area, a lone peak on the western horizon would catch my eye.

So I decided that my holiday in Arrochar would be an opportunity to visit Beinn Bhuidhe. But without a bike, and with the shorter days of autumn, the WH recommended route via Glen Fyne looked too long for my deteriorating right knee (it's the left one that's titanium).

However, a vital incentive to follow the WH route had disappeared. I could see from the map and recent TRs that the Merk hydro scheme has robbed the WH route of its star attraction: the beautiful waterfalls of the Allt Faing.

The streams flowing south from the upper part of Beinn Bhuidhe are now diverted into a kind of canal by the famously ugly hydro track, and the water flows into the reservoir at 217168. I am all in favour of clean energy, although in this case it does seem to have made quite a mess: hopefully it will soften in time.

When I looked at these changes on the map, I noticed a gradually rising track from the quarry, via the Merk Park forest, to the reservoir. WH mentions another hydro track, starting near the bridge at 215149. But my route was shorter, and would give a steady ascent at an easy gradient. Perfect for my knee.


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In light of this, and with a poor weather forecast for my whole week in Arrochar, I decided to embrace the industrialisation of Beinn Bhuidhe and use this shorter route. I would take a look at the power station and quarry at the mountain's foot and the hydro works on its flank. It would be wet, grey and ugly. It would be something different.

This walk started from the same car park as the WH route, but rather than turning right for the Fyne Ales brewery, I went straight ahead, past a new children's play centre (note for parents: it looks really good) and headed along a minor road towards the power station.

A roll of barbed wire, framing the power station entrance, was an early taste of the flavour of this route.

ImageIMG_2005 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

The road, and the view of Cruach Tuirc from it.

ImageIMG_2016 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

ImageIMG_1858 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

On the other side of the road was another sign of man's exploitation of nature in this area: a sawmill.

ImageIMG_2015 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

In the Gulag

ImageIMG_2009 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

Soviet poster, circa 1957

ImageIMG_2000 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

And this looked suitable as a set for a war film - probably one featuring Nazis doing something evil with heavy water.

ImageIMG_1998 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

A touch of Modernist architecture.

ImageIMG_2001 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

This slice of the hillside above the power station was the only bit of mountain not obscured by power lines.

ImageIMG_1993 (1) by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

At the power station, there's a sharp turn to the right, over a concrete canal. But after a short distance, there was a nice glimpse of the river Fyne.

ImageIMG_1991 (1) by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

Then I entered the quarry. There are helpful signs throughout, directing walkers on the correct route so they won't have a horrible accident.

The unmapped hills of Glen Fyne.

ImageIMG_1974 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

Lots of mysterious machines.

ImageIMG_1970 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

ImageIMG_1988 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

ImageIMG_1965 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

Things in puddles.

ImageIMG_1863 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

ImageIMG_1989 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

A dirt road, pylons and a distant moving vehicle. I was reminded of the final scene of the film Seven.

ImageIMG_1975 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

Nature fights back with a bit of weathering.

ImageIMG_1979 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

ImageIMG_1969 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

Tyre tracks adding their own patterns to the scene.

ImageIMG_1955 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

ImageIMG_1973 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

The awesome power of the Highlands.

ImageIMG_1953 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

ImageIMG_1937 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

Residents are unimpressed.

ImageIMG_1944 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

ImageIMG_1948 (1) by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

It was nice to reach this surprisingly quaint sign and the shelter of the woods, partly to get out of the quarry, but mostly because it was pouring down.

ImageIMG_1935 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

For a plantation, the Merk Park forest was actually rather nice.

ImageIMG_1930 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

ImageIMG_1934 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

ImageIMG_2100 (1) by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

ImageIMG_2123 (1) by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

A spooky bit.

ImageIMG_1931 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

I trudged on and emerged from the forest to see a nice view back to Loch Fyne.

ImageIMG_1920 (1) by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

Enough blue to patch a sailor's trousers?

ImageIMG_1919 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

The next landmark was the hydro scheme reservoir.

ImageIMG_1915 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

The reservoir is in two parts - only the south-western part is shown on the map. The other part is new, with an earth dam and a fancy new pond liner.

ImageIMG_1906 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

ImageIMG_1914 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

Guinness?...

ImageIMG_1910 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

...or as Philip Larkin said "floatings of industrial froth"?

ImageIMG_1909 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

This rock was sliced right through by the diggers. I should have put something in it for scale - it was several yards square.

ImageIMG_1901 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

The track passes between the two parts of the reservoir, then goes downhill (don't blithely follow the upper track - it leads to a dead end). Then it levels off and goes around a corner, before starting to ascend. Finally it levels off and contours around the head of the Allt Faing ravine, with the channel of water running alongside it.

The track gave a good view of upper Glen Fyne.

ImageIMG_1899 (1) by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

But it was not all Arcadia from here on. There were still plenty of reminders of man's noble ambition to put the hills to work and make some money.

ImageIMG_1894 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

ImageIMG_1895 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

This water is cascading down from one man-made channel to another. In pre-hydro days it would have graced the Allt Faing gorge.

ImageIMG_1887 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

Another scene that looks natural but isn't - this view is framed by a deep cutting. This was the last view I had before entering the mist.

ImageIMG_1883 by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

The point at which the path on the upper part of Beinn Bhuidhe leaves the track is obvious, and marked by a cairn. In mist it is a bleak and featureless spot, with the scar of the track disappearing into the murk ahead and behind. It was somehow much more desolate than just a normal patch of hillside in the clag. I felt like the last person on earth. As I left the track behind and started along the path, I was reminded of some lyrics by David Gray.

"Leaving this ghost of a road
Climbing hand over hand
Towards that pinprick of light

This land belongs to the gulls
And the gulls to their cry
And their cry to the wind
And the wind to no-one."

The path climbs gradually before levelling off on an odd little undulating plateau. Although views would have been nice, it was quite intriguing to explore this in the mist. It was a bit like Grimpen Mire in the Hound of the Baskervilles. The path is easy to follow, except in one small boggy area - just keep going straight ahead, and you'll pick it up again.

Sooner than I expected, a steep slope loomed above me. The path, now quite eroded in places, found a way up it fairly easily. Before long I stood by a small cairn on a dip in the summit ridge.

From here, a very pleasant path led along the southern edge of the ridge, with one little zig-zag, past a small pond just below the summit. Even in the rain, this was an enjoyable and interesting section of the route. If there had been views, it would have been marvellous.

The trig was gone, leaving four rusting iron spikes jutting out of an overgrown concrete base. It felt just right for this route.

ImageIMG_1869 (1) by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

Another dystopian image, showing the effects of 58 years of weathering.

ImageIMG_1874 (1) by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

Later on: humanity and nature in harmony - Inveraray seems to float on Loch Fyne, and the fabulous Benmore Botanic Gardens.

ImageIMG_2248 (1) by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

ImageIMG_2068 (1) by Half Man Half Titanium, on Flickr

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HalfManHalfTitanium


User avatar
Activity: Mountain Walker
Pub: Goose & Cuckoo
Mountain: Cnicht
Place: Allof it except Ardrossan
Gear: Paramo jacket
Ideal day out: A autumn or spring walk starting in woodland, going into the hills to find unexpected places, hidden corries and lochans, maybe a spot of scrambling, a sighting of some wildlife, some snow on the tops and a view over the Hebrides, and finishing with pint or more...
Ambition: I've done it!

Munros: 107
Corbetts: 13
Grahams: 2
Donalds: 2
Wainwrights: 103
Hewitts: 148



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Statistics

2021

Trips: 7
Munros: 11
Corbetts: 1

2020

Trips: 1

2019

Trips: 11
Munros: 14
Hewitts: 3

2018

Trips: 14
Munros: 14
Hewitts: 1

2017

Trips: 12
Munros: 5
Hewitts: 8
Wainwrights 10

2016

Trips: 11
Munros: 8
Corbetts: 1
Hewitts: 3
Wainwrights 3

2015

Trips: 4
Distance: 14 km
Ascent: 916m
Munros: 5
Hewitts: 2

2014

Trips: 2
Distance: 30 km
Ascent: 2300m
Munros: 2
Corbetts: 1
Grahams: 1

2013

Trips: 4
Distance: 12 km
Ascent: 2000m
Munros: 1
Corbetts: 1
Grahams: 1
Hewitts: 3

2012

Trips: 1
Distance: 30 km
Ascent: 3000m
Munros: 2

2011

Trips: 1
Munros: 4

2009

Trips: 4
Hewitts: 6
Wainwrights 6

2008

Trips: 5
Distance: 18 km
Ascent: 1800m
Munros: 4
Hewitts: 8
Wainwrights 9

2007

Trips: 2

2003

Trips: 1

1993

Trips: 1
Munros: 5


Joined: Mar 11, 2015
Last visited: Nov 30, 2021
Total posts: 1879 | Search posts