Fife Coastal Path: Day 4, Anstruther to St Andrews

What a day! I’m delighted to have made it to St Andrews after yet another glorious day in Fife and probably the most challenging terrain of the walk.

Setting off from Anstruther I felt good. The Spindrift Guest House was brilliant – Jenni and Mark were outstanding hosts, I’d had the best sleep of the trip, was well fed and watered, and had enjoyed excellent chat about all things running and triathlon with Mark over breakfast. First scenic spot on the route was Anstruther Harbour where the tide was well out. I also passed Anstruther Lifeboat Station – huge thanks to them for responding quickly to my message last night (more on that later)!

Anstruther Harbour

The initial trails were pretty decent. Some grassy paths, some sandy trails, but mostly quite natural. This made slower going than I’d have liked. I quickly discovered that trying to run overgrown single track isn’t the best idea as it’s too easy to turn ankles or feet; I was in this for the long game!

The scenery was beautiful once again. I never tire of the views along the coast, especially when the occasional treasure such as the Caiplie Caves is thrown into the mix.

Caiplie

I’d been informed by the route guide that Crail was the only stop on the trail, so although it was just short of 5 miles from where I’d started, I stopped for tea and cake just to be safe, ensuring my energy levels didn’t drop too much. I also bought a painting of Creel Harbour as a souvenir of my trip so it ended up being a very expensive cuppa! It will arrive sometime next week as I didn’t have room in my ultra vest for it!

Anyway, chatting to the chap here, I was assured that the tidal section wasn’t an issue. Worse case scenario he suggested I’d be able to go cross country and over the fields.

Leaving Crail, refreshed again, it was time to admire the views again. I enjoyed chatting with an older couple at the top of the village before heading through the caravan park. As always, it’s good to look back.

Crail beach

Again, terrain varied between sandy tracks and grassy trails. I passed an old WW2 bunker, part of the Crail airfield. Along this section the trail narrowed to singletrack and I bumped my toe on a boulder. No major harm done but I did need to extract a thread of my sock from my toenail that’s split slightly further down than I’d like! Eek

Shortly thereafter the route went down onto the shore again. There were warnings of not using this section at high tide. My dark sense of humour came to play when I saw what happens to runners ignoring this advice.

I had another short stop around here at The Toast Shack. While very tempted to have a toastie – they looked amazing – I settled for a packet of salted crisps and a can of ‘proper’ Coke. The rain started spitting here but it was welcome. The heat was quite something again despite the breeze.

Again, continuing on, the paths were narrow and lacking clarity in places; in other sections there was some brief respite and clearer tracks. I did love the sight of the beautiful poppies growing wild in the fields and verges.

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Towards Kingsbarns there was an opportunity to opt out and head towards the main road. This would make a lovely walk in itself – Kingsbarns to St Andrews – as the coastline was particularly attractive from here onwards. The golf course here was stunning! I’m not a golfer, but would happily walk this course. The path often led alongside golf courses today, sometimes very roughly at the side of a well manicured fairway.

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At Boarhills the track turned inland and went slightly upwards through a woodland area. I loved this! It was cool and shaded, very welcome after the sun shining pretty much continually throughout the day.

Fife Coastal Path: wooded section at Boarhills

Having passed through a farm it was then back towards the shore via yet another rough, grassy track. This also involved a couple of stiles, not the most well received by my weary legs! Buddo Rock, more stiles and more overgrown paths followed. There’s a theme emerging here – going was tough and slow (again), the path was overgrown (again), and at times I was reduced to a walk in order to best preserve my feet and ankles. Unfortunately my leg didn’t fare so well and the left one in particular now looks like I’ve been mauled by a large animal! (Perhaps a slight exaggeration – very tall cat?)

Conscious of time for the high tide, I was very much on the clock at this point, hoping to reach the tidal section by 2 pm to give me a couple of hours grace. During some of these ups and downs, I found myself among very high undergrowth (as tall as me!) including something flowery like hogweed (cow parsnip?) and possibly triffids or something vaguely related. Work colleagues, you’ll appreciate ‘Walking through the jungle’ popping into my head and becoming my earworm here. If you don’t work with me, search YouTube for ‘Barefoot Books’.

Finally, I reached the tidal section of the walk that I’d been concerned about. The guidebook (and other route guides) I’d looked at had suggested that this was dangerous at high tide, going so far as to suggest waiting for the tide to recede May be the only option. This had concerned me to the degree that I contacted Anstruther RNLI to see if they could offer advice last night as I had no idea how soon before high tide I’d require to be there. Huge thanks to them for responding, especially as it’s not part of their usual patch and they were not entirely certain but gave sound advice all the same, all the more so in light of them being volunteers! A bit like Mountain Rescue on the hills, the RNLI are the unsung heroes of our beaches and seas. As it transpired, the section in question was very short: was that it?? Descending via yet another set of steps, my personal advice would be if there are waves lapping the bottom steps, turn back and take a cheeky wee detour across whichever golf course or field is at the head of the steps.

Beware: Tidal risk on Fife Coastal Path

Got chatting to some more people once past the dangerous part, their kids playing on the shingly beach. Enquiring about the trail ahead, they advised that it would head up before winding down into St Andrews. Up the steps I went after the Rock and Spindle. A tough slog, bumpy paths.

Up more stone steps, St Andrews was fully in view and it was with great delight that I made my way down towards the beach.

Having resisted all week, I could resist no longer! Paddling in the sea I felt like a big kid. I only just resisted the urge to go swimming, so good did the water feel, as I was concerned I might not get into my B & B if I turned up on the doorstep drookit! Had I realised that there would be a torrential downpour on route I might have reconsidered my options – hindsight’s a great thing!

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Thus, my Fife Coastal Path trail ended. It’s been a great few days, definitely helped by the glorious weather. It’s been exactly what I’d hoped for when I originally set out – relaxing, restful and generally good for ‘me’!

Just short of 19 miles today, 63.9 miles for the week, husband arrived to meet me = one happy runner!

Clare, happiest outdoors: in St Andrews

Tyndrum Hols (Part 3): The Final Instalment

Day 5:
The day got off to a mixed start. Frustratingly, having bolted down breakfast to get the early (8 am) train, it was approximately half an hour late. On the upside, we hadn’t realised we needed to book seats (it was the Caledonian Sleeper) but were advised we were in luck – seats were available – and we enjoyed a very comfortable start to the day!

Awaiting the train to Corrour from Tyndrum Upper Station

Getting off the train, we got chatting to a couple of ladies who’d come all the way up on the sleeper. They were staying for a couple of days, minus their friend / navigator. More on that later …

Having parted ways with the others from the train, we began our walk on an excellent path towards Loch Ossian and the Youth Hostel. What a stunning location for a hostel! I would love to go back and stay there sometime.

Loch Ossian (Corrour)

As we proceeded, the track it split and we took the higher path. Having already started around 400 m, this allowed us to make good progress.

Further up, we passed Peter’s stone, a memorial to Peter Trowell who died in 1979 at 29 years old. He was working at the youth hostel alone over winter and his body was sadly found frozen in the loch after several weeks missing, the thinking being that he tragically fell in whilst working.

Turning uphill here we followed the hill with little visible path at times. At other points there was a clearer path which made for steady walking. Despite yesterday’s heavy rain, although boggy, it could have been worse underfoot. As we gained height, we’d climbed into the mist and low cloud, so waterproofs were donned.

Heading up towards Carn Dearg

We reached Meall na Letire Duibhe with relative ease, then following the broad ridge around to Carn Dearg, marked with an impressively large cairn. Despite it’s size we were very close before seeing it as visibility was variable, thick mist with cloud coming and going. We didn’t stop for any time as we were getting slightly damp.

Summit of Carn Dearg, Corrour

Continuing on we found the path that led us down to the Mam Ban, and as we progressed the path became very clear and easy to follow. As the descent to the bealach was not significant we concluded we should head back this way as the alternative was said to be very boggy, and given conditions we had no prospect of views. The summit cairn of Sgor Ghaibre was far smaller and again was enshrouded in mist, so we only paused briefly before, in theory, retracing our steps.

Summit cairn on Sgor Gaibhre

Initially it appeared that we were on the right path heading back towards Carn Dearg. However, somewhere along the way we lost the good path that we’d been on; the path split so we must have gone in the wrong direction. We’re none the wiser on reflection. Thankfully Bruce realised and with a combination of coordinates from the Garmin and basic map and compass skills, we established the direction we required to proceed in order to achieve the summit again.

Further down we had similar issues, again veering off course and requiring the map and compass to point us in the right direction. In the end we headed directly for Peter’s stone, the mist having cleared in order to see the loch below and give confirmation of our route. We were two very happy walkers on reaching the good track again!

Heading down from the Corrour munros to Loch Ossian

Along this track we met a few people and stopped to chat, before going to the cafe at Corrour Station. A thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours was spent here, refreshing ourselves after the walk. We got chatting to others, including Alan, the knight in shining armour who’d come to the rescue of two damsels in distress (pretty much fresh from the sleeper train), struggling to navigate in the mist on Beinn na Lap. The ladies appeared shortly after and were delighted to receive a lesson on map and compass skills courtesy of Bruce. We all get a bit rusty if not using these skills regularly so it’s important to practise as we found out today!

As the time for the train approached, the cafe emptied, all bar the two ladies returning in the same direction as us. We were all cheerily waved off as we began the return leg of the journey to Tyndrum. A great day out, and a memorable one to boot.

Day 6:
Sitting in the Glencoe Cafe mid-morning it was hard to conceive that the torrential rain would stop within the next hour or two. However, stop it did, or at least lighten, thus we found ourselves travelling along the road to begin the ascent of our final munro, Sgor na h-Ulaidh.

The most treacherous part of the day was the initial walk from the car park across the bridge and along the road for a few metres. The traffic is pretty fast – it is the main road after all – and it’s not pleasant crossing a bridge with a barely there pavement as the road narrows!

Safe and well, we began our ascent, again from low level, starting out on a very good track. This continued for a couple of miles, climbing very gradually, before we branched off and headed straight up the hill. Views back across the road were great, cloud clearing nicely.

Looking back towards Aonach Eagach

This was tough! With over 500 m of ascent, my calves felt like they may explode! Lungs were fine, but definitely a leg buster. Although dry, sadly this also meant heading up into the mist.

On reaching the bealach, the terrain eased momentarily before climbing again, over the top of Stob an Fhuarain. The path here was clear, fortunate as the ground was wet, and there was too much potentially slippery rock for my liking. Crossing this, we dropped again before gaining height once more, this time to the summit of Sgor na h-Ulaidh. There were scary looking crags here so care was needed to ensure we did not stray off the path from the summit. Another walker, on approaching, did stumble, thankfully managing to right himself! It would have ruined my lunch had he disappeared!!

Summit cairn: Sgor na h-Ulaidh

Retracing our steps, we took our time on the descent, careful of the potential for slipping on wet rock.

Coming down from Sgor na h-Ulaidh

Knowing the route made light work and before we knew it we were back on the scree ahead of the main descent down by the stream. At this point we met a hill runner – walking, as it wasn’t quite what he’d hoped for in terms of ground – and we enjoyed a good chat with him before parting ways when the ground became more gradual in descent.

Main path descending from Sgor na h-Ulaidh

All that was left then was the trek back to the main trail. The lower section was a bit wet and stony which made it slow going; it was a relief to finally reach the main track, the home straight. Typically, the mist cleared at this point giving a view of what we might have seen has we held out for another couple of hours.

The route up to Sgor na h-Ulaidh as the cloud began to clear

Holidays done, all the munros planned for the week achieved, two very happy walkers!

Tyndrum Hols (Part 2): a munro and a wee jaunt along the Way

Day 3: Beinn Sgulaird

Having woken feeling somewhat reminiscent of being run over by a bus, I indulged in some gentle yoga practise to stretch out my weary limbs before breakfast – the joys of holidays!

Much refreshed, we then headed for Beinn Sgulaird. Going down the Oban road in the car however, I did feel my eyes heavy (thankfully I wasn’t the driver!) and this reminded me that I was still tired after yesterday’s epic day out.

The munro of the day was to be Beinn Sgulaird, chosen because of the clear forecast and potentially stunning views. We were not to be disappointed!

The walk got off to a good start, heading up a wide, clear track; the downside was beginning at sea level again. This gentle ascent gave our legs the opportunity to warm up before we turned off the main path onto a smaller track that would lead up the hill. This was the beginning of a pretty relentless slog up to the first of the summits. The path was dry, clear and quite soft underfoot, so aside from slightly tired legs there was nothing to complain about.

Heading up the good path of Beinn Sgulaird

Somehow having followed the route to a small bealach at approximately half way up (in terms of height), we then managed to make our own route by veering off the main path. We realised our error when the Garmin suggested we go straight up the hillside and rerouted to come back onto the main path. (Had Bruce been the keeper of the Garmin this probably wouldn’t have happened!) Coming towards the first summit – there are two smaller summits ahead of the munro – Beinn Sgulaird itself could be clearly seen peeking out along what looked like an impressive ridge. We met a friendly chap around this point who advised that there was nothing challenging ahead, other than the deceptive nature of the distance to go.

Having reached the first summit, we made our way up and over, taking time on the descent as it was a combination of boulders and a little scree leading down to the bealach. It wasn’t difficult and that was a relief, all the more so knowing this was also our return route. The next summit, Meall Garbh, had a clear cairn and again provided some fun terrain with more steep descent and rocks to cross.

Approaching the summit of Beinn Sgulaird

Finally, the ascent of Beinn Sgulaird itself was upon us. It looked clear, aside from the top where the route guide suggested some very easy scrambling may be required. In the event there was nothing challenging at all, only fun, and we were happy to reach the large summit cairn with stunning views all around.

The most bizarre and unexpected sight of the day was a herd of goats! Not what you expect at the top of a hill!

Herd of mountain goats on Beinn Sgulaird

A leisurely stop later, we descended back the way we’d come. Far more pleasant than yesterday and blessedly shorter, before long we’d returned to our start point. This also heralded the halfway point for me: 141 munros in the bag. Not sure where this journey will end, but as I’ve stated all along, I’ve no intention of doing them all!

Day 4: The Green Welly Stop, Real Food Cafe & West Highland Way

Woke up to mist, light drizzle, and a forecast of heavy rain, so opted to hang around Tyndrum. We’ve both got a low boredom threshold so it didn’t take long to peruse the Green Welly Stop. Coffee was calling so we headed for the Real Food Cafe and contented ourselves for a while by watching the birds at the feeders while enjoying our cakes. We got chatting to a couple from London who were on route back home having completed the munros. A great effort – they estimated each munro had cost them £100!! That’s dedication for you!

Later in the day we decided to have a walk and took the train to Bridge of Orchy, walking back after a brief refreshment in the hotel. It was a bit drizzly and I was less than happy as it was way too hot for waterproofs making for uncomfortable walking. Tomorrow I may just get wet!

Loch Lee

Too windy for big hills and too soon for running (I’m fully committed to two weeks complete rest post-marathon), we decided upon a low level walk today and went south for a change to Loch Lee.

Parking at Invermark (Glen Esk), we headed off along the road for a short distance before veering onto the track that took us to Loch Lee. This reservoir appeared popular with fisherman, catch of the day being brown trout. The walk along the loch was quite scenic, easy walking terrain, looking ahead to Craig Maskeldie and Cairn Lick.

Rain showers blew over occasionally and as we gradually gained height these became hail and even a light flurry of snow.

We left the track to cross a good bridge, then taking a narrower path to continue on, crossing some boggy, marshy ground. There were some lovely waterfalls, Falls of Unich and Falls of Damff higher up.

Continuing, we followed a rough track to climb gently to reach Cairn Lick. The views here of Loch Lee were beautiful and we were fortunate to have clear skies at this point. The day was greatly varied with periods of sun and warmth interspersed with dark skies, increased wind and precipitation in various forms.

Picking up a rough road we dropped back down to the loch in good time, then beginning to retrace our steps back to Invermark. It’s funny how the road back never seems to take as long. Passing Invermark Castle we knew we were almost done.

Invermark Castle

Stopped off at Tarfside to buy some freshly laid eggs, our next stop was Stonehaven for a chippy tea. Lovely day out, legs still quite happy to walk rather than run!

Part 2: Spring Holiday in Achnasheen

Day 4: Slioch

At night we retired to bed with a forecast of overnight snow. I’d suggested we should take a photo from the living room window so that we’d have an idea how much snow had fallen to gauge potential conditions for morning. In the event, it was very apparent there had been a significant dump of snow, the dusting of the tops now increased to a real covering!

Slioch, despite the long walk in, fitted the bill for us as other potential routes had river crossings, never ideal after heavy rain or snow, but especially when temperatures have been good with a fairly quick thaw in recent days.

Parking up we met a couple of men (father and son) and their dog, Bowie. We were all headed the same way so ended up walking quite a bit with them when it became apparent our paces were similar.

The first couple of miles were along a track that didn’t gain any height. I was quite happy with this as it meant an easy walk out later. We soon reached Loch Maree; it looked rather inviting on the return, as did the river that we crossed!

We then began our ascent, heading gradually upwards over some stony, boggy ground. The pull was steady and we finally reached the col where we had a brief reprieve, gentler walking that led us to Coire na Sleaghaich. Continuing on, we headed up to a ridge that enveloped the small lochans.

Slioch, viewed on the ascent

The real challenging climb then began. Ordinarily I don’t think this would have phased me, but the snow was lying in places. It was soft and wet; this meant it was more slippery than we’d have liked. The path was a little eroded and we had to be mindful of the conditions as the path rose quite steeply and, as the snow lay slightly thicker, it was not always clear which way the path meandered next. I was relieved to reach the top of this section, seeing the trig point ahead, but slightly less thrilled at the prospect of returning by the same route.

Heading up to Slioch

From the trig point the true summit cairn can be seen; this was just a short distance away. Having reached this together, we were all in agreement that the best route of descent would be down the gentler slope from the ridge further along. It certainly had appeared easier when viewed on the ascent.

Continuing along the ridge we initially thought there may be snow heading our direction; thankfully it appeared just to be cloud! The ridge, An t-Aon Cheum, was only about half a kilometre in length, but the snow again made it a little more challenging for me. It narrowed, there was a snowy cornice, and also a small rocky outcrop to navigate my way around. Here Bruce’s calming words were appreciated again as I had a bit of a wobble and questioned whether I was able to go any further; bear in mind I wasn’t that enthused about the route down should the decision be made to head back, so my options were limited.

Fortunately for all the ridge opened up again. On this wider section I fell, bashing my finger on a rock. It hurt but I didn’t think much of it until I realised my glove was wet as I was bleeding. Being less than comfortable overall I opted to get up the final pull to Sgurr an Tuill Bhain before seeking first aid in the form of a plaster. The final small ascent had as many rocky patches as it did snow and it was with relief that I reached the top of this peak. First aid administered by the ever patient husband, it was agreed that evacuation by helicopter would not be necessary on this occasion.

Our descent then began, heading across a rocky, snowy ridge. We bore left here, trying to avoid dropping too soon as there appeared to be some steeper ground below and the snow again was making things more slippery due to the lack of substance. It was here that Bruce took an impressive slide.

Descent from Slioch

Our companions took more of a straight down the hillside route, while we veered towards the edge of the ridge, then sweeping around on reacher more gentle terrain. We met once again on the main path, neither route having been any quicker.

The trudge back down the boggy stony path then began; the legs (hello quads) were feeling it by this point, although lacking the tremor of yesterday. Finally reaching Loch Maree again I celebrated by eating a Mars.

Loch Maree on the descent from Slioch

The final couple of miles back from here seemed to take an eternity, the rest of the day having flown past. There seemed to be so many little burns to hop across that I’d not registered on the way out, and by the end I was pretty much plowtering straight through everything!

A quarter of a mile away from the car, suddenly the breeze picked up a little, the sky going from stunningly clear to dark very rapidly. We picked up the pace, clearly seeing a rainstorm moving in ahead, just catching the edge of it as we hot-footed it back into the car park. The heavens then opened as we drove home, temperature rapidly dropping and another sleety snow-shower passing by.

Great timing (almost), and another memorable hill day.

Day 5: Inverness

A day of rain (at road level), sleet and snow on the hills. No walking, day of rest, and a wee wander around the shops.

Top recommendation: Cafe Artysans
A great independent cafe (close to the bus and train stations) with a social enterprise focus; great coffee and very good scones!
http://www.cafeartysans.org.uk/about-us/

Day 6: Mission aborted

Spent the latter part of yesterday swithering as to whether or not we should bomb up Fionn Bhein in the evening. Bands of rain kept moving across so in the end we decided against it, hoping that today would be better.

Sadly, on waking this morning it was snowing, pretty much at sea level, and with heavy snow predicted for much of the day we abandoned the plan of ascending anything. Coverage very quickly progressed from the odd white fleck on the road outside to a fairly thick covering of snow. While it had the potential to be an exciting adventure, there was also a forecast for fog. In combination with the boggy terrain we decided that Fionn Bhein is meant for another day.

Snow in Achnasheen

A quick whizz around saw us packed up and on the road. Stopped off for an impromptu lunch with my Mum and Dad on route home so all things considered not the day we’d planned but not entirely wasted either.

Attempted a run on the Deeside line later. Fail! Managed just short of 10 miles instead of the planned 15 miles. Schedule called for: 2 mile warm up, 2 x 5 miles @ tempo pace with 1 mile recovery, 2 mile cool down. I managed: 2 mile warm up, 4 miles @ tempo pace before my stomach knocked fast running on the head, then a 4 mile shuffle (which on reflection was at easy pace) home. Let’s chalk that one up to experience, call it character building as I ran all the way home (despite my brain calling for me to walk from mile 6), and refocus the energy tomorrow.

Spring Holiday in Achnasheen

Day 1: Maol Chean-dearg

Starting our journey on Friday evening with a stop off in Inverness – we’d recommend the pizzas at the Black Isle Brewery – the morning was only a short drive to Coulags where our walk began.

The weather was definitely in our favour. Skies were clear and it was a balmy 8C at the car park! We met another couple of lads there and exchanged pleasantries before heading on our way. We met them at various points again on the route up and down, and I’m delighted that it was third time lucky indeed for one of them, succeeding in reaching the top today.

The path was signposted from the car park and the path was good on the easy walk out to the Coire Fionnaraich Bothy. A fine bothy this was, upstairs and downstairs, and I enjoyed reading some of the comments in the Visitors Book.

Coire Fionnaraich Bothy

Further on the path started to climb upwards, zig zagging as it went. Reaching the bealach I was less than impressed by the sight that looked ahead: a rather steep looking scree slope!

Bealach at Maol Chean-dearg with the nearby Corbett in the background

As always, sometimes these things look worse than they are, and for the most part it didn’t present any real challenge. There was only one point at which I felt slightly uncomfortable as the path was pretty steep and the scree cover was loose. However, we were soon over this and reaching the top of this section.

Heading up the bouldery path at Maol Chean-dearg

Continuing on, we had a brief reprisal in the form of a grassy plateau before climbing again for the final 200 metres. This final section was bouldery, with small stones. Not challenging but quite slow, trying to pick the path through. Reaching the top we saw the summit cairn and thankfully the very short flurries of snow stopped in order for us to gain stunning views when the cloud cleared. The windshelters at the cairn provided sanctuary for a snack stop, the direction of the slope determining whether there was a slight dusting of snow or clear ground. At this point we concluded the ice axes and crampons may remain at home for the next couple of days.

Heading back down the way we’d come steady progress was made. We discovered a better path through the lower scree slopes and before long had reached the bottom of this section leaving only the trudge back along the good path.

Reaching our accommodation for the week at ‘The Old Checkpoint’, we were welcomed by our host, Barry. A great find, a cosy, comfortable wee house booked through Airbnb, I may just be a convert!

Day 2: Beinn Liath Mhor & Sgurr Ruadh

Another stunning day on the hills! We woke to a slight ground frost but the skies were beautifully clear, the sun was out and the forecast suggested a 90% chance of cloud free munros. It doesn’t get much better.

Heading out, our plan (or certainly Bruce’s plan) was to do two munros. I was a little less sure of this given the mention of ‘scramble’ in the route guide, but decided I’d make a decision on the move. The hills were listed separately on Walk Highlands, but the suggestion was they’d make a good pairing for a longer day.

Beinn Liath Mhor & Sgorr Ruadh circuit: view to Fuar Tholl

We began with Beinn Liath Mhor, parking on the verge as the parking area was already full of others with similar ideas. This took us up through the woods, across the railway line – quite literally: look both directions and listen out for trains – and followed a well maintained track steadily upwards.

As the views opened up we could see the very impressive ridge along which we’d walk to reach the first summit of the day, also seeing Sgorr Ruadh, our second peak. A couple of small cairns confirmed directions, and before long we were making our ascent steadily, and steeply, up the zig zagging path. This path was a little intimidating – the gradient did not make me wish to return this way, but there were some ‘easy’ scrambles ahead (subjective judgement) and I had a very small fear I might end up stuck! By this time we’d gotten in tow with another walker, Charlie. He’d gotten into conversation with us, we’d given him a spare copy of a map as he didn’t have one, and having caught him again he’d just kind of stuck with us.

Part way up we met another couple of walkers and a dog. Chatting to them for a bit, Bruce recognised the man as none other than the legendary Heavy Whalley. Lovely to make his acquaintance.

Gaining height there was a bouldery section that climbed to reach the ridge. Then the fun began! The ridge dropped a little, then rose again before descending and here was the first scramble. It wasn’t anything particularly challenging, just a little bit narrow, and the next scary looking section that we thought we needed to go over was actually just a skirt around.

The summit itself was glorious. A sizeable cairn marked it clearly and the views were amazing in all directions. A better picnic stop you’d be hard pressed to find!

Continuing onwards, the descent started to get interesting. Initially the path was clear and easy, then leading to a scramble down a rocky gully. I found myself surprised in that I actually enjoyed it! Looking back it was quite an impressive way down. Had I thought I had to go up it I’d probably have been less than impressed.

Descending from Beinn Liath Mhor on route to Sgorr Ruadh

Being in my happy place when the decision time came, I opted to continue up Sgorr Ruadh, bouyed by the fact that I’d managed to scramble and with a little more belief that I might do it again.

The hill ahead looked impressive but also not too far away, and we didn’t have too much more work to do before beginning to ascend again. The path flanked the hill and headed up fairly gradually, weaving a way through the boulders. Towards the upper reaches we met with another scramble. Charlie led the way and I was encouraged by Bruce who followed behind.

I really appreciated the calming words he repeated if I was hesitant, ‘three points of contact,’ as I navigated my way up, conscious of the light dusting of snow and the proximity to the edge of the ridge. I was quite delighted with myself to reach the summit cairn!

Snack stop near the summit of Sgorr Ruadh overlooking Maol Chean-dearg

After another brief stop we began our descent. Again this was mixed with some steeper sections and a lack of clarity on where the path went, disappearing into nothing.

Just off the summit of Sgorr Ruadh

We navigated our way across the bouldery terrain that held a few patches of snow, finally ending on a more grassy rake. From here we managed to find our way back onto the path that would take us all the way back to complete the loop.

At this point Charlie decided to pick up the pace, and we said our farewells, Bruce and I happy to amble back gently.

The river crossing was reached and Bruce effortlessly boulder hopped across. I followed in his footsteps (more or less) with only a short dip of one foot, not enough to get wet feet with my gaiters.

Reaching the path by which we’d originally ascended we made our way steadily back down. Looking back, the sunlight was highlighting the hills and the panorama was simple amazing! We were both firmly in agreement firmly that this truly had been a great day out.

Panoramic view of Sgorr Ruadh and Beinn Liath Mhor

Day 3: Moruisg

The forecast had suggested heavy snow would be coming early afternoon so we decided to go for a shorter walk, hopefully missing it. Moruisg seemed ideal, a short walk with a big pull up from the road.

Renowned for being boggy and very wet underfoot we figured having had a couple of dry days it might not be too bad. I think we probably did get off lightly in the grand scheme of things. Apart from a near slip on the way up we came off unscathed.

The bog eases as the path rises after the railway line and before long a stonier section is reached. This is where the big pull begins and it is pretty relentless from here until the ridge. Zig zagging back and forth a little helps on the upper grassy sections where the legs are weary and the terrain is softer underfoot.

Steep ascent from the road to Moruisg

On the ridge, a big cairn is soon reached. Although impressive, this is not the true summit. Another cairn lies a short distance along the ridge. We didn’t loiter here as the wind has picked up a little and the chill was noticeable.

Summit cairn: Moruisg

The initial descent was quick and easy before slowing for the steeper section. The path was easy to find and we continued to make decent progress, before long dropping down onto the flatter boggy terrain at the bottom.

View from Moruisg

A wee burn provided enough water to clean the muddy boots, and we reached the car dry. Aside from a tiny flurry of hail near the top the forecast snow is yet to materialise. Today is 1st April – surely MWIS and the Met Office aren’t conspiring together for April Fools?!

Hill of Rowan

Racing tomorrow, miles in my legs this week, and a husband keen to get up a hill, thankfully the routes he offered were easy. I opted for the shortest of two, Hill of Rowan.

Down Glen Esk, we headed for Tarfside where we parked. Along this road is a Folk Museum with a fine tearoom. Sadly this is seasonal so we couldn’t partake of their offerings at the end of the walk today. The toilets at the Tarfside car park, thankfully are not, although the opening hours are. Outdoorsy types welcome!

Warm welcome for campers at Tarfside

Leaving the car park we had a very short walk along the road before heading onto a good track. This headed upwards, climbing gently, and was good underfoot.

Looking around we could see evidence of estate management, the heather having been burned recently and other areas smoking away in the distance.

Burning heather in the distance, looking back from Hill of Rowan

As we lost sight of the very impressively sized monument as we rounded the hill, a large post marked the track that led up to the top. This continued a very gentle climb up.

Approaching the monument, Hill of Rowan

The monument, when reached was sadly locked.

Hill of Rowan monument

Very blustery at the top, we realised how sheltered we’d been on the side of the hill. The unseasonably mild weather, however, meant that although windy it was far from cold. We took in the views, then headed back down via another track that took a longer route back.

Rain forecast, our luck was in. A little spot or two started to fall but we made it back to the car before the heavens opened – only just!

A tea stop on route home saw us find the wonderful homebakes at Castleton Farm Shop. I have a feeling this won’t be our last time there!