walkhighlands

Silver lining of longest day on hills of Clava

Route: Culloden Battlefield and Clava Cairns

Date walked: 20/06/2020

Distance: 10km

If it's true that every cloud has a silver lining, for me it has been discovering previously undiscovered hills I can access exactly 5 miles from home.

I remember about 18 years ago a friend taking me to the end of a very minor road somewhere near the Clava viaduct, parking at the end of it and walking on to a heathery hillside. But I don't remember exactly where it was and she's now moved away so I can't ask. :think:

It was with that in mind I set out, map in hand to try and find the way in . My first attempt was solo. I drove past the right turn for the Clava Cairns, followed the narrow road under the viaduct, turned right at the T junction and left up the track signed for Finglack Farm. I went up as far as the right turn where there's a 'dogs must be on leads' sign, thinking this road was rougher than I remembered.... at which point I overtook a couple out walking who must have been surprised to see a car appearing uphill of the farm :roll: and asked them if there was parkng up by the gate ahead. No, the man said, doubtless hiding his amusement, the parking was down on the road, just over the bridge beyond the junction (which I hadn't seen having come from the east). There was thankfully a space to reverse into by the dogs must be on leads sign and feeling a bit of a numpty I drove carefully down the rough track hoping no one else would see me. :oops:

A few days later I was back with Pete, parked in the parking bay just over the bridge and this time walked up the farm road like normal people do.

Faint view north to rounded twin topped Beinn Tharsuinn in Easter Ross
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I don't think it was the same access point to the hills I'd been to 18 years earlier but judging from the number of folk we met it was obviously a popular way in. I suggested to Moira we do a circuit taking in Beinn Bhuidhe Bheag, which we did on 9th June when MWIS confidently proclaimed 90% cloud free summits and excellent visibility. 8)


9th June - Beinn Bhuidhe Beag

Due to social distancing we didn't travel together and found plenty of space in the loop off the road for our two cars. We walked back over the bridge and turned up the road signed for Finglack, third time for me up this road so starting to feel familiar. :lol:

Field of sheep and sign asking for dogs to be kept on lead
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It being ground-nesting bird season, dogs have to be kept on lead or at least under close control. I think on grouse moors the idea is your dog doesn't disturb grouse chicks so they live long enough for people to pay a lot of money to shoot them. :( I know it brings needed revenue into the Highlands but I don't have to like it.

I kept Keira on lead most of the time, apart from letting her off for the occasional wallow in water to keep her cool. Black dogs don't reflect the sun and can struggle in the heat if out in the sun for too long. What was that about 'mad dogs and Englishmen'....?

We passed the field of sheep and came to a padlocked vehicle gate with a pedestrian gate beside it, which is the entrance to the Clava Estate. The track passed through the edge of a pine wood and after a short distance came out on to the open moor. When the track forked we took the right fork, the left one being our return route.

Take right fork
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Immediately after the fork the map shows the track crossing the Allt Tarsuinn with the word 'ford' and we had wondered if after the recent rain we would get across with dry feet. We looked expectantly for what might be described as a ford, but there is not the remotest sign of a ford anywhere on the track.

Good track
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Puddle for dog
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At the next fork we took the rougher track to the left, heading for Beinn Bhuidhe Beag. There were two or three gates to go through, low level gates which puzzled me as they would do nothing to deter deer. More of that later. At the top we met a man with his labrador, not on lead but walking beside him. He had been up here many times and as a bee keeper isn't restricted by the 5 mile rule. It's funny how that made me instantly think it might be good to take up bee keeping. :-P

The summit cairn is right by the track, quite substantial for such a wee hill.

Moira at Beinn Bhuidhe Beag summit (462m)
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MWIS's prediction of excellent visibility or not, views were hazy :?
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We continued on the track heading east which then swung north in the direction of Saddle Hill. I found the track is rougher going down than going up and I wouldn't think at this point all that pleasant for bikes. :o

Saddle Hill ahead
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At the next T junction we turned left and walked below the craggy side of Saddle Hill.

Traversing Saddle Hill
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Up ahead we noticed a stationary quad bike at the side of the track. At first we assumed it was empty but as we got closer we could see what appeared to be someone at the wheel with head down and not moving. All we could see was the top of a head that was facing down. Oh no, I thought, we've got a deceased or very unwell person and getting help is going to take longer because of the coronavirus and everything being more complicated. :shock:

As we got closer the occupant of the quad bike sat up and said hi. He'd been trying to read a message on his phone in the shade of the vehicle, hence his slumped position. Turned out he works on the estate and after he reassured us he was absolutely fine :lol: we got chatting. He said the low gates are to keep the sheep up the hill so they don't bring the ticks down. He didn't say it's to keep the grouse healthy but did say they're restoring the Clava Estate to grouse moor status, so presumably that would be the reason. Only trouble with that is deer carry ticks too and they weren't being kept up the hill. :eh:

When we got back to the parking area a girl who'd just arrived asked if you could get on to the hills from here. I explained the way and showed her my map, which she took a photo of. It did seem a bit strange she would set off with no idea how to get there and no map! :crazy:

But then who am I to talk, who drove my car up there when I wasn't meant to? :shifty:

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It was good that thanks to a virus we had finally discovered our local hills and incredible to think we'd always gone further afield. I had a feeling we'd be back and right enough a second walk happened as soon as Nicola said up to eight people and three households could meet outdoors. 8)


20th June - Beinn Bhuidh Mhor

The forecast was better for later in the day so we arrived at 3.00 and found the parking more tricky as so many cars were there. This time the group was my son, daughter in law, four grandsons and friend, all raring to go on their first proper hill walk for what seemed a very long time. :thumbup:

Approaching Finglack Farm on left
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Bumper year for bog cotton
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I remember my granny telling me she collected bog cotton to be used for dressings during WW1. Wonder if it got packed up and sent to France or was used in hospitals in the UK.

Same track as before, but this time we took the right fork both times there was a choice.
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Allt Tarsuinn
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Mother and son
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Socially distancing hikers
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Father and son
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Zoomed to Beauly Firth
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Trying to work out how to get dog over stile
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In the end she managed to squeeze under the gate.

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Love this family
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They had to turn back at the gate as they had to be home for somebody coming. It was so good to be out with them again. :D

Ian and I continued up the track to the highest point where there was a small cairn.

Highest point on track
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A rough path went off to the right towards the trig point.

Ian at Beinn Bhuidhe Mhor summit (548m)
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Happy wifie and her dog
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A small unclassified hill it may be, but the views are fabulous.

Zoomed south over the turbines to the Cairngorms
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SW to Strathnairn and Meall Fuar-mhonaidh
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Inverness and Beauly Firth
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Zoomed to Strathconon, Fionn Bheinn and more distant Slioch
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Fannichs and Ben Wyvis
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Over Moray Firth to the Black Isle
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Zoomed to Fort George and Ardersier
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I couldn't believe that for the past 18 years I'd not been on the hills so close to home and had never seen these views. Not wanting to minimise the suffering of so many, but for me it did feel like a silver lining to the dark cloud of disruption and loss.

A fitting end to the day was the sun sinking below the horizon..... on the longest day of 2020, a year none of us will easily forget.

Sky above Ben Wyvis at 10.30 pm
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10.45 pm
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11.00 pm
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11.15 pm
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3.30 am
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I fell asleep after that so don't know if the light ever fully disappeared.

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2020

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Distance: 194 km
Ascent: 4594m
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Distance: 89 km
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Munros: 11

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Distance: 18 km
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Distance: 17 km
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