Taking a week off work we decided to head to the Highlands.
We didn’t have anywhere in particular planned other than spending two nights in a ‘Star Hut’ in Rannoch Moor which I had been generously gifted for my birthday so other options could be planned around this.
We hadn’t been in the Fort William area for quite some time so we decided we would use some of our time trying to bag a few Munro’s around that area whilst doing other stuff whatever that other stuff might be…we were going to ‘fly by the seat of our pants’.
I enjoy flying by the seat of my pants funnily enough. This is my preference. I like to sometimes not have a plan and just go to wherever it may lead. I like getting lost in the week, not thinking about what day I am on. I like not having to check my watch to see what time it is. I like to not need to check in. Eat when I choose to eat, wake up when I want, go to bed whenever it suits. It makes me happy. I guess if your work life has mostly dictated time to you, sometimes based on a bell ringing to tell you times up, move on or that you need to be in a particular place at a very specific time then you can begin to understand my reasons.
My other half on the other hand is very militant like. He likes schedules, he likes sticking to times, and by the second let me tell you and if your not on time, on his schedule, not mine, then your in trouble….I’ve been in trouble a lot! He likes having a plan, checking out routes, researching maps, informing you if you walk so many miles at this speed you’ll be there in such and such a time, done whatever amount of miles in whatever amount of time and tells you numerous times “it’s just up here”…when its not and actually it really does not do anything for me.
In fact when I’m on a hill, or cycling, kayaking, whatever, I’d sometimes rather not know how far I have to go as the knowing can sometimes be the killer. I’d rather be in Mary’s world just doing my own thing, walking my own walk whatever that may be.
You can see how all of the above might transpire when we are on our travels but let’s just say it can add to the adventure…maybe we balance each other out.
So we decided to stay in the Roy Bridge area for four days in a small studio apartment. Roy Bridge is approximately a 20 minute drive from Fort William and a much quieter area. Due to COVID everywhere in the Highlands just now appears so busy, compared to how it used to be, not my kind of thing.
Our studio apartment fitted us perfectly in terms of location and having all the ‘mod cons’ we needed.
Day one saw us taking a leisurely drive to Maliag for a wander, then from there back the way to Arisag for a walk and picnic on the beautiful beach.
Up here on the West Coast of Scotland we have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
Both these places are places we have stayed previously so it was nice to stroll about and revisit. In fact the last time we were in Malaig we were catching a ferry to Eigg.
From Arisag we decided to pop in once again to the Glenfinnan Viaduct as the train was just about to pass. We decided to walk up the opposite side to the ‘tourist path’ for obvious reasons and got the most amazing spot to watch the ‘Harry Potter train’ come along the viaduct, it was pretty impressive however we never got to see the boy wizard disappointingly enough.
From here we then stopped in at the Copach Shipwreck which has become a pretty famous spot for photos and you can see why.
Since we had a leisurely Saturday we decided on the Sunday to get a couple of hills in as the weather was looking good so we decided on Stob Ban and Mullach nan Coirean, two Munro’s in the Nevis Range.
Stob Ban was easy to hike from the word go. After literally stepping out the car, we were into such beautiful surroundings which always helps.
This is Scotland at her best. We hiked through the most beautiful green glen surrounded by mountains and waterfalls, the deeper we went the better it became. We slowly and gradually climbed upwards without realising we were actually going upwards….that’s how beautiful it was!
Eventually we reached a steep upwards over quartzite which mostly continued to the summit. It was stunning.
We even had a bit of a ridge walk everything you could ask for.
At the summit the views were breathtaking. Ben Nevis was not shy today and was fully present, out in her full glory the whole time. This is a rarity believe you me.
The ridge traverse across to Mullach nan Coirean was just as fine a walk and views from this summit just as spectacular with the mountains of Glencoe looking awesome.
We didn’t want to leave. It was just too perfect and all the surrounding mountains could be seen so clearly.
Apart from a couple we had passed on the way up earlier on in the valley we had saw no-one all day which was quite unbelievable up here!
Next day we decided to try and summit Aonach Mòr and Aonoch Beag.
After yesterday’s fortunate weather we were wishing for another bit of luck and our wishes were granted. It’s just such a great feeling when the weather works out for you on the hills as the views from the top of these mountains are something else and believe you me it doesn’t always happen.
After a very steep start with no path, we literally just picked our own way up before reaching a ridge with steep rocky cliffs.
Views back the way were spectacular, you could see all the way down to Fort William.
Curving uphill we were soon on to our first summit of the day, Aonach Mòr.
This gave us the most amazing views of Ben Nevis strutting her stuff, dominating the views and basically showing off her greatness in such beautiful conditions. She is one big mean mountain and when she is out in all her glory you need to simply just stop and stare.
We have been fortunate whilst out walking in the Nevis Range to have views like this of the almighty.
It was great to view the mountain from this angle as we were able to see clearly the route we took up Ben Nevis a few years back for a stunning sunset hike. We chose the classic route via the CMD Arrete.
The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little ‘extra’.
From here we could see our second summit of the day, Aonoch Beag.
After a gradual descend we were soon on to a narrow bealach seperating the two Munro’s. Once at the bottom we made our ascent up a steeper, narrower zigzag path until eventually reaching the dome like summit.
Views from here were just as impressive of The Ben but also of the peaks towards Glencoe, aswell as The Grey Corrie’s which we still have to undertake and after today’s views of them I’m hoping its going to be soon.
Todays hike had been another good choice as once we had passed the Snowgoose restaurant at the ski station we then only passed one couple and then never met anyone else the rest of the day.
Our time was quickly up in the Fort William area and we were then making our way to Rannoch Moor and our Star Hut in this wild moorland.
Rannoch Moor is a beautiful remote and wild mountain area just south of Glencoe. Its landscape is different to most places comprising of bog, lochans, rivers, and rocky outcrops which can make it a very challenging environment.
You can look at Rannoch Moor as having a remarkable landscape or you can take Robert Louis Stevenson’s view in the novel Kidnapped : “A wearier looking desert a man ever saw”. I’d go with the remarkable landscape and that’s saying something considering on a day like today which us Scots would describe as “dreich”.
We explored our surroundings and settled in for the next couple of days. Our ‘Hut’ was simple but beautiful. We had electricity but we had no toilet or running water.
We had to walk to the remote train station of Rannoch to do any business we needed to do which was approximately 200 metres from us across a railway line.
At night the place came alive. It was pitch black with no light pollution whatsoever. The deer roamed free on the moorlands which we viewed from the luxury of our bed…pure bliss really.
Next day we decided to head to Corrour Station the highest mainline railway station in the UK sitting at 1339ft whilst also being the most remotest.
Attached to the railway station was the Station House which is accessible only by train or a twenty mile walk and helps out the weary traveller refuel after a long hike on the moors and best of all – their food is amazing – just what we needed!
There were also beds close by at the B&B in the former signal box and there was wildlife galore.
It has been known that some have caught the train up here to flock the desolate moor to recreate that iconic scene from Danny Boyle’s movie Trainspotting. We didnt recreate the scene but we did take a photo of ‘that bridge’!
To movie fans, its most commonly known as the “its s###e being Scottish” scene!
We weren’t just at Corrour to eat, drink and look at a bridge, we were also here to undertake a Munro, Beinn Na Lap.
From the word go this Munro was moody.
On a clear day I’d say views would have been amazing but we never got that clear day and as we headed upwards we walked in the clouds to the summit.
This Munro was one of the easier and quicker Munro’s we have done as Rannoch Moor sits at approximately 1,000 ft already.
Maybe this is an indication of how it has such a moody landscape but one that is good for the soul. It felt good to get back to basics, escape the madness and simply be.