Awoke early the next morning about 5.30am and after 15 minutes or so of relishing the comfort of the sleeping bag and thinking of the days route, I emerged to face the day. It was an absolute gem, the sun low over Meall Tarsuinn, wall to wall blue sky and a slight distant haze that promised a fine, warm day ahead. The streams had retreated again to a friendly babble from their agitated rush the evening before. As I stood outside the tent trying to focus my eyes I could hear what I took to be coughing of deer to the east, but in the bright light I couldn’t see them.
Photo 5: Early morning Day 2
I have found on previous walks that the morning routine of strip wash, dressing, brew up and breakfast, then breaking camp and packing up usually took about 2 hours! Sure enough by just gone 8:30 I was ready for the off. The walk across to the Allt nan Glas Bheinn was straightforward and having crossed the river contoured round the northeast side of the hill and I found that the track became clearer and more distinct as I approached the forest. Once within the confines of the trees, the track became wetter and more difficult to negotiate, with one section just before the river forcing me to add a caveat to my statement on Scottish bogs, to the effect that it doesn’t apply to bogs in forests!
Photo 6: Early morning looking north over forest to Glen Garry
The track was at least 4 metres wide and completely impassable – tentative prodding with the Leki pole confirmed my suspicions that this was bad. I ended up by forcing my way through the trees, not an easy feat when they are only about a metre apart and all the dead lower branches sticking out ready to prod one in unexpected places and catch on any unsuspecting piece of webbing or clothing. I emerged the other side of the bog triumphant, turned round, gave a dismissive gesture to the obstruction, removed a considerable amount of debris from my person, dusted myself down and proceeded on my way, shortly after this I stopped for a few minutes in a sunny clearing by the track and had some refreshment. I was now on the main route into (or out of) the forest and after a kilometre or so I emerged on to the bridge over the River Garry NH 133012
I stood on the bridge to take a photo, blinking in the bright sunshine. Looking east, view was spectacular, the sun shimmering on the shallows where the river is quite wide as it leads down eventually to Loch Garry. I have a friend who is a great fisherman and he regularly travels north to stay at the Tomdoun Hotel which is only about 2½ km downstream from the bridge and talks about the wonderful fly fishing here.
I sat for a while at the side of the road enjoying the sunshine and taking in the view up Loch Poulary towards the power station and contemplating the 330m climb that would take me north to Glen Loyne. Normally when back-packing with a full load I tend to stop for 10-15 minutes every 1½ to 2 hours. This allows the muscles in my neck and shoulders to relax and also is a good opportunity to take on some nourishment – this trip it was chocolate, fruit, nuts, dry roasted pumpkin seeds and a number of energy bars, one of which I now eat – more out of duty than desire – for it had very little to titillate the taste buds.
Photo 7: Looking east down the river Garry
Photo 8: West towards Knoydart, Loch Poulary on the left
This particular type, produced by a nutritionist whose face smiled out at me from the wrapper, had the look and consistency of dry putty and not as much flavour. I am a firm believer in natural foods but I am constantly disappointed by the inability of some of the producers of these prepared foods to get any decent flavour into them!
The walk up the Allt a Ghobhainn to Mam na Seilg NH 106042 was a bit of a pull, but gaining height quickly has the benefit of constantly widening horizons, so at least there is something different to look at as one gasps for more oxygen. Once through the narrow beallach between Mam na Seilg and Glac Raineach I looked north west over Glen Loyne to the southern flanks of the big mountains that comprise the eastern end of the fantastic Glen Shiel Ridge. Beyond and to the north, the great expanse of hills, between Glen Affric and Loch Claunie.
Photo 9: Looking north from the beallach by Mam na Seilg
There had been a late fall of snow a few days before I arrived, which had given a good dusting to all the tops over about 800m, and it gave the landscape a majestic definition which was accentuated by the clear sunny atmosphere.
The path from Glen Garry to the Cluanie Inn is SRWS route 248. The Scottish Rights of Way Society handbook is a wonderful publication which describes rights of way all over Scotland. I have found it an invaluable aid in the planning of walking trips in Scotland. The notes accompanying each route are most useful, neither exaggerating nor underplaying difficulties to be confronted. The last sentence of the notes for route 248 is “This route is not possible if the River Loyne is in spate”. From my experience of Scottish streams and rivers I know that during and after rain some can rise and fall very quickly while others take a lot longer to react. Consequently the crossing of the River Loyne was an uncertainty in my route planning and mentally flagged by a big red asterisk.
By the time I had climbed from Glen Garry to Mam na Seilg, quite a lot of cloud had built up in the distance, but it was still a good day for being in the hills. As I proceeded north through the gap, the views into Glen Loyne opened up below. Looking back to the south and east was a grand spread of mountains and I fancied I could see the tops of Ben Nevis and Aonach Mor in the distance.
Photo 10: Looking west before crossing the river Loyne
My first sight of the River Loyne was encouraging, looking fairly wide but no appreciable amount of water. Sure enough the by the time I reached the floor of the glen I could see that the river was very docile and I crossed easily without removing boots. The path now led NW up the glen and after about 1½ km NH 079064 I turned off onto a rocky path that led ENE up the valley side to the beallach between Creag Laithtais and Creag Mhaim at about 480m NH 091066. The path then contours round before dropping quite sharply to join the old metalled public road that at one time must have been the direct route from the Cluanie Inn to Invergarry before Loch Loyne was enlarged by the building of a dam at its eastern end.
Photo 11: Looking North-east down the
old public road from Loch Loyne to Glen Shiel
By now it was late afternoon and I sensed that there was a weather change on the way. The wind was still from the west but it had a sort of urgency about it, as if trying desperately to hold back the forces of weather from the east. Sure enough the whole of the eastern horizon was taken up by a wide bank of cloud.
It was about 18:00 hrs as I took off my pack outside the Cluanie Inn and went in for the much anticipated beer. I phoned Ali from the phone box and got all the news from home. It was good to talk to her and I knew it would be another 3 days before I would get to another public phone and the chance of getting a signal on the mobile in the terrain ahead was pretty slim.
Photo 12: North to the mountains above Glen Shiel
Suitably refreshed, I set off east along the A87 for 2 km to pick up the track north up the An Caorann Mor. On the map this glen appears so wild and open that I had wondered how far I would have to go before finding a campsite. As it happened about 1 km up the track I found the perfect spot in a sheltered position, 10 metres below the track next to the stream. I quickly laid claim to it and soon had the tent erected. The weather was still suspect, that big bank of cloud to the east was less prominent but generally I was pretty sure the weather was not going to be so good the next day. But that was another day, I was comfortable here and enjoyed my meal and the post prandial routine of writing up my log, followed by whisky and chocolate, horlicks and then to bed.
Photo 13: Camp at the end of Day 2