walkhighlands

Small but Feisty: the rugged little hills of Flowerdale glen

Sub 2000s: Sithean Mòr (Flowerdale)

Date walked: 08/03/2024

Time taken: 5.5 hours

Distance: 11km

Ascent: 700m

Small But Feisty – the rugged little hills of the Flowerdale glen.


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After coming out from our Suileag & Canisp bothy trip, and once pies had been obtained, we finally met up with Steve and headed for his new place near the Dundonnell to Poolewe road. Nige and I were somewhat weary from our lugging and wind-battering, and with those winds continuing somewhat relentlessly for the next few days, we fancied something a little lower.

I’ve long wanted to explore the wild and rugged area between Gairloch and the northern end of Loch Maree, after catching many glimpses of it from the road over the last few decades, and with memories of a few Walk Highlands reports that made it look well worth visiting. So on the Friday of our week, we headed for the car park at the entrance to Flowerdale Glen, just by the harbour at Charlestown south of the Gairloch itself.

A nature trail takes you pleasantly up the glen, with views to the rocky hills either side of the glen ahead. These pocket mountains, An Groban and Sithean Mor are impressive indeed, especially given their modest heights of 383 and 384 metres respectively.


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First, though, the trail takes you to the foot of the attractive falls of Easan Bana, where the Allt a Ghlinne tumbles over a series of drops in a wooded glen.


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The track climbs steeply up the side of the falls via a small winding but obvious trail, though there is currently a rough logging/vehicle track alongside it which is less attractive. Above the falls the glen opens up, with An Groban dominating the view ahead. The route itself isn’t that obvious, either on the OS map or on the ground, but actually climbs steeply but easily on a hidden route behind the first buttresses. The 1:25k OS map hints at the bottom part of the track, but its more obvious on the Open Source data (stand layer on the OS Maps website). This is the key to the ascent.


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The rock scenery is spectacular, both close at hand and high above. As we approached the top of the wide gully, the small path headed right onto a simple ramp line which traversed over a buttress and brough views of the excellent looking summit ahead.


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Primrose

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Another hidden gully heading left gave access to the final climb to the summit, where the wind finally found us.


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Wow. This is an astonishing viewpoint. Around us, the low hills are covered in scoured rock outcrops, truly rough country with hollows and humps making any traverses much harder than you’d expect. Behind this textured landscape, a magnificent backdrop of the wild mountains of Torridon and Fisherfield dominate the horizon, and today the clouds and lighting were particularly dramatic. This is a place to savour the panoramas, though the wind was somewhat chilly.


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Baosbheinn

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Slioch

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Torridon


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Northwards

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It was time for first lunch, so we dropped down to a sunlit terrace we’d just passed, and ate in relative shelter.


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Given wind, injuries, colds and likely lethargy, we’d kept our options open. Initially Nige, with his stuffed up nose and thick head, was intending to return but we decided to press on to the head of the glen together, before deciding whether to complete the round to Sithean Mor. From the summit, we wound our way south-eastwards. By now the path had mostly faded, and the way wasn’t always obvious, so we had to back track and find less-vertical options on a couple of occasions. In the end, keeping to the north side of the broad ridge was the best line. We weren’t rushing, despite the wind, as the view ahead was constantly changing, and constantly mesmerising.


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As we dropped down the final slopes above a marked waterfall, the views of Meallan Aluinn and the hills surrounding the head of Gleann a Ghrobain looked wild and untouched. Nige decided to descend near the waterfall, whilst I decided my knee was good enough to at least go round the head of the glen, and hopefully onwards to Sithean Mor. Steve was just keen to do it all, having missed out on the Cairngorms and Canisp.


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Nige descending

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Rounding the head of the glen, looking back at An Groban.

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Slioch


The terrain remained rough, the route not obvious, though a faint traverse line had avoided the main crags of Meallan Aluinn. Steve and I decided second lunch was in order, on the relatively sheltered hump after Lochan a Charbaid. We didn’t stop for long, as the rough nature of the landscape was slowing us down constantly.


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Ahead, Sithean Mor looked steep but doable, and the knees weren’t bad, so we headed onwards once more. We hadn’t really appreciated how many little drops would have us zig-zagging and backtracking several times. As we started steeply up Sithean, I glanced up as a sudden shape came over the horizon before wheeling away sharply, followed by a more distant partner. Two golden eagles for the price of one, fabulous.


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It was pretty tiring dragging ourselves up the last slopes, keeping right of the direct line, these hills have more bite than you’d expect, with all the meandering and ups and downs. Reaching the summit the wind found us properly and it was difficult to hold the camera still whilst taking in the outstanding views. Which were, once again, stupendous.


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With time now pressing, we had to decide on the best way down. Having looked at the slopes from across the glen, and with a gully dropping north noticeable just east of the 340m height on the 1:25k mapping, we decided to give a direct descent a go, cautiously, as we were wary of a convex slope and the likelihood of having to avoid short vertical steps. Fortunately the gully is fine, but needs to be left on a diagonal to the NW at around the 250m contour. We both commented on how difficult navigation would be for this whole round in conditions of low visibility; this is proper mountain terrain, just not at any altitude.


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The descent gully.


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An Groban from the descent.


Even the lower slopes were a little hard work, especially as my knees were now shouting at me a bit. However eventually we reached the fence line that drops from the shoulder of the hill, and which has a big gap just before the river is reached. A few hundred metres downstream a bridge took us back to the outward path. Looking back from here, as we had a final snack (not quite third lunch), the gully line is in the centre of the hill.


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The walk out was simple enough, though I was glad when the car came into view. These hills might be low, but they’re feisty, and our ascent and descent had been pretty significant at 700m ish. I like these hills, they pack a punch but reward the effort with truly outstanding views of a remarkable landscape.

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Comments: 9



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Mal Grey


User avatar
Location: Surrey, probably in a canoe! www.wildernessisastateofmind.co.uk
Occupation: Account Exec in the outdoor and publishing trade, amateur writer, photographer and blogger https://www.wildernessisastateofmind.co.uk/
Interests: Grew up going to the hills but only get to the hills occasionally, particularly for a week each winter. Big love is open canoeing, and particularly canoe camping. So I paddle the Highlands more than I walk them.
Activity: Wanderer
Pub: ODG or Clachaig
Mountain: Clach Glas
Place: Inverpolly
Gear: Bell Prospector Canoe!
Member: John Muir Trust Mountain Bothies Association Wildlife Trusts British Canoe Union
Camera: Canon EOS 700D
Ideal day out: Perfect crisp winter conditions in the NW Highlands where the snow is firm, the sky is blue and the views across hills, loch, isles and sea are endless. An early morning canoe paddle on a glassy calm loch with the hills reflected in it like a mirror isn't bad either!

Munros: 113
Tops: 62
Corbetts: 23
Fionas: 12
Wainwrights: 71
Hewitts: 116
Sub 2000: 9
Islands: 6



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Statistics

2024

Trips: 4
Distance: 49.8 km
Ascent: 2560m
Corbetts: 1
Sub2000s: 2

2023

Trips: 7
Distance: 76 km
Ascent: 4306m
Munros: 1
Corbetts: 3
Fionas: 1

2022

Trips: 5
Distance: 58.6 km
Ascent: 2687m
Munros: 1
Fionas: 1

2021

Trips: 1
Munros: 2

2020

Trips: 2
Distance: 64 km
Ascent: 300m
Munros: 3
Corbetts: 2
Fionas: 1
Donalds: 1
Sub2000s: 1

2019

Trips: 2
Fionas: 1

2018

Trips: 4
Distance: 33 km
Ascent: 3020m
Corbetts: 2
Hewitts: 1

2017

Trips: 7
Distance: 92.2 km
Ascent: 4075m
Munros: 4
Corbetts: 1

2016

Trips: 2
Distance: 26.1 km
Ascent: 1706m
Munros: 1

2015

Trips: 4
Distance: 30.4 km
Ascent: 1580m

2014

Trips: 3
Distance: 39.7 km
Ascent: 2804m
Munros: 4

2012

Trips: 1
Distance: 11 km
Ascent: 750m
Hewitts: 1

2011

Trips: 2
Munros: 10


Joined: Dec 01, 2011
Last visited: Apr 12, 2024
Total posts: 4632 | Search posts