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zen bothying

Rounded off the year with a trip to Ben Alder Cottage, dusting down my 80 litre rucksack and walking boots, which certainly have been neglected of late. However, such is the habit forming routine I am now experiencing, it didn’t stop me from booking a cycle berth on the train, not even realising til I got to Glasgow and looked through my tickets. Doh! The plan was to hitch down the road from Rannoch to Bridge of Gaur, and then yomp north through the forestry and on up to the bothy. There used to bus a daily bus service to Pitlochry but now it only operates on a Wednesday in the winter, and only three times a week in the summer. And I got lucky, cadging a lift from a guy delivering building supplies to the house next to the station. The binmen were also in attendance, but according to this bloke, who had made the trip a few times, they were supposedly a particularly grumpy lot. A bit more local knowledge to add to the mix.

view west on the walk in to the bothy

view west on the walk in to the bothy

The walk in was certainly as long as I remembered and it took the rest of the day, but I was happy in the knowledge that with a bit of coal in the pack, and plenty of trees near the bothy, a comfortable evening was in store. And so it came to pass. The left hand room has recently been transformed into very plush accommodation, with full wood panelling, a sleeping platform and a substantial, and very welcome, wood burning stove. In fact I had a moment of complete zen like peace warming my wine by the heat of the fire, before starting to get spooked by the inevitable creeks and groans coming from the roof, as the temperature dropped outside. The  ghost stories associated with the bothy are hard to shake from your consciousness.Pan (3438) cover

In the morning it was absolutely freezing, so much so the river had iced up overnight, and I was glad I didn’t have any particular plans for the day. In the end I forced myself up to the first summit before Beinn Bheoil to take some photos, but I was too lethargic to do anything else. I think I deserved a bit of a break from what has been a very enjoyable but at times quite relentless year. The next day I walked out to Corrour via the Bealach Cumhann and Loch Ossian, stomping my way through 3 miles of undisturbed snow before I got to the lodge. I haven’t been so relieved to make a bridge crossing in my life, and almost kissed the railing in gratitude. I was also pretty ecstatic that the bar/cafe at the station was open despite the lateness in the year. A fellow traveller even bought me a pint. Having a bit of a charmed life at the moment.

Ben Alder Cottage

Ben Alder Cottage

view north towards Beinn Bheoil and Loch Ericht

view north towards Beinn Bheoil and Loch Ericht

View east from Sron Coire na-h-Lolaire

View east from Sron Coire na-h-Lolaire

On the walk down back to the cottage

On the walk down back to the cottage

Sun setting over Loch Ossian

Sun setting over Loch Ossian

another island escapade

Just back from Rum where I spent a couple of happy days searching out the bothies at Guirdil and Dibidil. Having decided that this year at least I wasn’t going to ‘do’ midges, I’ve been waiting on a weather window for the last few weeks, and was relieved that the Met Office had finally promised a wee ridge of high pressure. I had also in the meantime arranged to meet up with a woman called Lucy Conway who is setting up an exciting art project called Eigg Box. However, for some naive reason I thought there was some kind of straight forward integration between Scotrail and Calmac and didn’t look up the ferry times before I went. So I cheerfully pitched up in Mallaig at lunchtime a week last Wednesday only to find out the only sailing left at 10am. And when was the next ferry? Friday. Oh. Fortunately there were a couple of places I wanted to search out if I had had  the time, so I puttered about for a day and a half before I was back on the quay, anxious to get going. Then I got talking to a group of singers, a camera man and sound recordist who were off to Canna to record some music evoking the calls of sea birds imitated in traditional Gaelic folksong (Air falbh leis na h-eion : Away with the birds). With my eye slightly off the ball I almost ended up going with the flow and tagging along. But the project had to take precedence. In fact, Lucy and a group of people from Eigg were going over on the Sunday for a informal performance, but the fiendishly complicated ferry timetable between the Small Isles scuppered any rescheduling on my part. So in fact I ended up in Guirdil on my lonesome that night, looking out to Canna across the Sound knowing where the party was that weekend.

Sunrise over Canna

Sunrise over Canna

Gurdil bothy

Back in Kinloch, I decided to pitch my tent in the small campsite run by the Isle of Rum Community Trust which had a honesty box and a free supply of fire wood. It was a no brainer really, but did mean my excursion to Dibidil would just be a day trip.  In fact I ended up walking back from the bothy over the hills, which was certainly pretty sporting in places, and would be quite a navigational challenge if the clouds were down. Back in the campsite I got talking to a couple who had been part of an organised wildlife tour to the island. I can see that on these trips there is an anecdote arms race about what people had seen. The highlight in their group was watching a golden eagle swooping down on some prey and then getting attacked in turn by a white tailed eagle. All I had to offer in return was that I was becoming an expert on crows and rooks, and had been followed for half an hour by some inquisitive wild horses. So it goes. However, the next morning I was rewarded by the most amazing sunrise, and then watched a school of porpoises in the bay while I had my breakfast.

Dibidil bothy and Eigg

Dibidil bothy and Eigg

View of Eigg from the Rum Cuillin

View of Eigg from the Rum Cuillin

Trollabhal and Askival on the Rum Cuillin

Trollabhal and Askival on the Rum Cuillin

Exotic wildlife

Exotic wildlife

Campsite at Kinloch

Campsite at Kinloch

Dawn looking over Knoydart from Kinloch

Dawn looking over Knoydart from Kinloch

Unfortunately a storm was brewing and the next days ferry was going to be cancelled, so my trip in Eigg had to be put off. I meet up with the Canna crew on the boat back to the mainland, who seems to have had a great time, and in the rush to get off the ferry I almost left my camera behind. Doh! I still had a couple of days left before my apex single was due so I went back to this secret little spot I’d found, and had a day trip to Peanmeanach. All in all a productive trip, and I have a mental note to go back to Dibidil with a bag of coal at some point, and have a couple days of contemplation with some whiskey.

Skye from the Rum ferry

Skye from the Rum ferry

Coast off the Mallaig road

Coast off the Mallaig road

Pan (3023)

Peanmeanach bothy