Morven, in Caithness, can be seen from the Cairngorms to Orkney and is a proper, pointy peak high above the Flow Country and desolate moorland.
Much of the higher parts of this walk are pathless and rough going in heather but the isolation is wonderful – golden eagles can be seen but it is more difficult to spot a human.
DISTANCE: 12 miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED: 1,946ft.
TIME: 6 to 7 hours.
MAP: OS Landranger 17.
PARK: At the south end of Dunbeath turn off the A9 onto a single-track road signed to Braemore. Six miles along, at the end, there is a small parking area on the left, near a red phone box.
WALK: Leave the parking area and go left at the phone box, over a stone bridge across Berriedale Water. Go right on the other side then left in front of a gate for Braemore Lodge, crossing a cattle grid and following a track round to the right.
Follow the track past cottages at Braeval, through a small forestry plantation and on to open moorland.
At the end of the track, Corrichoich, go straight ahead on a faint grass track with Berriedale Water to your right.
The track bears away from the river and gradually disappears. Follow sheep and deer trods to the col between Morven and Carn Mor.
Contour round to the south side of Morven then make your way, carefully, on a narrow path which goes up a wide, heather-clad gully with boulder fields on either side and rocky outcrops above. As the gradient eases bear right to reach the top. Retrace your steps to the start.
This is a real littIe gem of a hill. In itself it is not that special, a big lump by the side of the road leading north to Durness and the far north west tip of Scotland, but the views are superb.
Most guidebooks overlook this hill and it is usually only populated by sheep, proving there is almost always something unusual to find in the outdoors.
The route is pathless most of the way but simple enough to follow and only takes a little over an hour to reach the top. At this point you may need a good supply of sandwiches and snacks as you may well want to linger on a clear day.
Vast expanses of moor and hill stop suddenly at the high cliffs of Cape Wrath to the north west and the beaches of the north coast near Durness can be glimpsed while Orkney lies quite a distance off shore. A range of mountains including Cranstackie and Foinaven are closer to hand either side of the deep Strath Dionard. Further south the great bulk of Quinag can be seen while the bays and inlets of the jagged west coast are laid out.
If this is not a perfect hilltop, I don’t know what is.
DISTANCE: 3 miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED: 1,190ft.
TIME: 2 to 2½ hours.
MAP: OS Landranger 9.
PARK: Drive about four and a half miles north of Rhiconich on the A838 and there is a small, rough parking area on the left of the road just after crossing a small bridge over the burn Allt na Gualainne.
WALK: A rough path sets off from the parking area beneath electricity wires towards the bulk of Farrmheall. Initially, you should aim for a point between two rocky outcrops on the south west flank of the hill. But just less than half way to them from the electricity wires veer right to pick your way over boggy ground to the broad ridge of Farrmheall.
Bear left and walk up to a point about 100 yards right of the outcrops. At this point the terrain becomes stonier and a rough vehicle track can be picked out. Follow this track up and to the left. Don’t, however, rely on it all the way as this is no bulldozed, built track and can be indistinguishable in places.
It does point you in the right direction for the summit, at the end of a large plateau. Eventually, you reach a summit cairn – rather large for such and isolated place and the view towards Cape Wrath. After taking plenty of time to enjoy the magnificent panorama retrace your steps to the start.
Braeriach has to be an all-time favourite “big” mountain. This is the third highest in Scotland but it is its huge corrie, reached at the end of a wonderful, long walk which grabs the attention.
From the summit the immediate sight, across a huge bowl of rock and scree, is of the pointed Munros of Sgòr an Lochain Uaine and Cairn Toul – if you filmed it in HD, people would think it was a clip from a big budget movie. Further afield you can gaze over the Cairngorm plateau and further, all the way to Ben Nevis, to the south of west, and Morven in Caithness, to the north.
If that’s not enough you begin the walk with a trek through the deep chasm of the Lairig Ghru, with Lurcher’s Crag looming above.
It is a long route but if you pack extra sandwiches you should be fine, and you won’t forget it.
DISTANCE: 15 miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED: 3,500ft.
TIME: 8 to 9½ hours.
MAP: OS Landranger 36.
PARK: Take the B970 from Aviemore, through the Rothiemurchus forest to Loch Morlich and park at its western end – the first part you see. There is a £2 car park fee.
WALK: Go back to the road and turn left, then left again after a little more than 100 yards to cross a bridge. Follow a forestry track to a junction where you go straight on, following a sign for the Lairig Ghru.
Keep going on the main track, ignoring another signpost pointing right for the Lairig Ghru, to reach Rothiemurchus Lodge.
At the lodge buildings go right at a large bell, onto a path, then veer right just before a small reservoir.
The path is joined by a stony one from the right. Go left at the junction and continue high above the Allt Druidh, up the Lairig Ghru. Nearly a mile and a half further on, after you have dropped to the side of the burn, you are at the Chalamain Gap turn off, on the left.
Don’t cross the burn coming down the Lairig Ghru at this point. Instead, continue on the main path to cross the burn at the point where it comes from beneath rocks.
The path rises up and you should take a built-path to the right which leads to the bottom of Sròn na Lairige’s long north west ridge, which you follow up.
Bear left to avoid the very top of Sròn na Lairige then descend to a bealach. Start the final climb on a wide path up to the edge of the cliffs plunging down Coire Bhrochain. In poor visibility take great care to keep the edge well to your left and in snow beware of the danger of cornices.
Bear right and continue along the edge. The ridge narrows then continues up to the 4,252ft summit cairn of Braeriach with a huge plateau beyond.
Return the way you came.
NOTE: As with all walks be properly prepared and equipped if trying this in winter conditions.
BEINN NA LAP, CORROUR
Beinn na Lap is one of the easiest Munros to ascend and as a result is often the last on a baggers’ round because it allows them to take along family and friends who may be less devoted to the mountains. However, it is a firm favourite, not least because of the start.
Only estate tracks lead to Corrour, so you need to take the train across wild expanses of remote Highland scenery. As you leave the station with the carriages disappearing in the distance the sense of isolation is wonderful – there is nothing left but to walk in the hills, reaching a view including the huge ranges of Ben Nevis and Ben Alder as well as a host of other peaks, as a long as you are lucky enough to avoid the mist which has enveloped me on my two walks up to the top.
DISTANCE: 6½ miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED: 1,850ft.
TIME: 3½ to 4½ hours.
MAP: OS Landranger 41.
PARK: You can’t access the start of the walk by car. Take the train to Corrour – from the south Crianlarich is a good point to start to allow time to enjoy the views of the empty, mountainous country. From the north starting at Fort William is a good idea. Make sure you check times for the return, unless staying at the Loch Ossian Youth Hostel.
WALK: Leave the station and walk past the Corrour Station House Restaurant to follow a track with a sign for the Loch Ossian Youth Hostel. After just less than a mile, before you reach the hostel on the edge of the loch, follow the track to the left. Then, just after crossing a wooden bridge, take a track on the left. A little further on, at a left-hand bend, go right to leave the track and follow a boggy path.
The path goes straight up the side of the mountain. As the gradient increases this section is something of a slog so take plenty of time to look back at views of Loch Ossian. As the path reaches the long broad ridge of Beinn na Lap it bears right then continues past stone shelters and a small lochan to the summit cairn.
For most it is best to return the same way but you can continue in a north east direction then, after leaving the ridge, east to return via Strath Ossian to the loch.
NOTE: The path is indistinct near the summit and great care should be taken in mist.
THE COBBLER, ARROCHAR
The Cobbler, or Ben Arthur to give it its Sunday name, above Arrochar is one of the reasons Munro baggers can be at risk of missing out on some of Scotland’s best mountains.
The Victorians were the first here, followed by early twentieth century workers form the Clyde when they escaped the shipyards and factories of Glasgow for the Arrochar Alps – some on bicycle. Many slept in bivouacs under the rocks, such as the Narnain Boulders passed on the way up.
DISTANCE: 6½ miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED: 2950ft.
TIME: 4½ to 6 hours.
MAP: OS Landranger 56.
PARK: There is a car park at the top of Loch Long – turn left off the A83 about three quarters of a mile west of Arrochar. (£1 charge.)
WALK: Leave the car park and cross the busy A83. On the other side, follow a Forestry Commission path as it zigzags up to a track. Turn left and then right after about 50 yards, just before a telecommunications mast, on to another path. This continues up the wooded slopes, eventually passing the tree line and reaching a small dam on the left as a path joins from the right.
The path follows a burn – Allt a’ Bhalachain – on a more gentle gradient than the start and after about three-quarters of a mile reaches the Narnain Boulders.
A little further on the path forks. To the left is the direct, harder ascent. This route route goes right at the fork and continues to a wide bealach between The Cobbler and Beinn Narnain. At a junction go left, up a steep path which is stepped most of the way. Near the top the gradient eases and the path bears left to reach the main ridge.
The ridge is well worth exploring. The North Peak (to the left as you reach the ridge) looks the most dramatic at first glance and you can quite easily gain its top. The Central Peak has the highest point – a pinnacle at 2,891ft. To reach the top of this you need to crawl through a hole in the pinnacle and scramble up the other side. The views are just as good if you avoid this, however.
The easiest return is to retrace your steps.
Although lower than a Munro, the great bulk of Morrone, rising above Braemar, makes for an exhilarating walk on a winter’s day.
At 2,818ft it is easier and safer to reach than higher mountains during the winter months and offers fine views of the surrounding summits – from the Cairngorms to Lochnagar and over to the ski-slopes of Glenshee.
However, this walk can be arduous with the snow and ice of the winter months. Route finding can also be difficult in poor conditions therefore full mountain gear is necessary.
DISTANCE: 7 miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED: 1,690ft.
TIME: 4 to 5 hours.
MAP: OS Landranger 43.
PARK: Turn off the A93 to drive through the centre of Braemar, then turn left down Chapel Brae (just after The Braemar Gallery). After about half a mile turn left into a large car park.
WALK: Leave the car park the way you drove in and turn left, along a track. Follow the track to the left then go through a gate by a cattle grid. The track bears right after passing a house and takes you up to a junction with a path, next to an arrow on a post pointing right. For this walk, however, carry straight on up the path ahead to reach a view indicator and beyond it another track.
Go diagonally across this and then turn right up a path with a wooden signpost at the bottom, indicating the way up Morrone.
The path climbs and views open up behind you of Braemar, with the Dee behind and Ben Avon beyond that. After passing through a gate in a deer fence the path continues up fairly steeply, gradually bearing right.
The path veers left after passing some very small rocky outcrops before going slightly right and making a straight line for the radio mast at the summit. After passing through a line of four cairns it is about a half a mile to the top. Although the radio mast and surrounding buildings which dwarf the trig point look incongruous, they make a good windbreak. The views are spectacular; east is Lochnagar and south the mountains around the Glenshee ski centre.
To the north west lie the high Cairngorms. Go down the track to the left of the radio mast to reach a col before going up again for a short while.
Follow the track as it makes a wide loop to the left and then drops down towards Clunie Water.
At the bottom of the track turn left onto a minor road and follow it for about two miles, by the Clunie Water, towards Braemar. After passing Craig View cottage on the outskirts of the village take the next track left. Go past a large house with a brown gate and then ignore a track going right. A little further on you reach the road you drove along earlier. Turn left and the car park is about 200 yards along, on the left.