Thursday, 8 October 2015

Beinn Bhuidhe

We walked at Portuairk yesterday, setting off early, just as the sun was coming over the hill. From its west end we climbed the hill behind the township, following the edge of the common grazings fence until we were on the.... moorland, working our way higher towards a small peak which is marked on the OS map with a 146m spot height; and the higher we climbed the more spectacular the view became, with the whole of Sanna Bay before us, and beyond it the dispersed township of Sanna, with Eigg and Rum in the distance.

As we reached the summit of the small peak, the lighthouse came into view beyond the hill that's marked on the OS map as Sgurr nam Meann but is known locally as Coire Bheinn, a peak which has two caves near its rocky summit which were inhabited in prehistoric times. To the left are the green fields of Grigadale Farm.

Working our way along the ridge we came to the summit of Beinn Bhuidhe which, at over 210m, is one of the higher hills at the western end of Ardnamurchan. It has a cairn at its summit but an unimpressive one, in part because the hill is grazed by cattle.

From there, we had a view southeastwards into the sun, looking across the buildings at the Sonachan Hotel to Lochan an Aodainn and hills like Meall Chro Bheinn and Glas Bheinn to Ben Hiant and the entrance to Loch Sunart, with Morvern in the misty distance.

Immediately below us lay the fields and buildings of Grigadale Farm. This area was once occupied by Grigadale clachan, a settlement which was cleared to make way for a sheep farm. The original buildings are now almost completely lost but the beauty of the place is timeless.

We descended the steep hillside into Grigadale land and turned northwest, back towards Coire Bheinn. Several fences lay in our way but all had gates which were easily crossed until we were back in the rough land on the ben's southern shoulder, which we worked our way through until....

....we came down into the lovely stretch of sand which leads round to Bay MacNeil. No-one had been along the beach before us, so the tracks of seabirds and sheep were the only blemish - along with those of what was probably a mink.

We spent some time sitting on the island in the middle of this picture which protects Bay MacNeil - it's called Eileen Carrach on the OS map - before climbing one of the hills at the back of the bay to spend a few moments enjoying this view towards the lighthouse.

More Aurora Pictures

Pictures from Ben McKeown:
 Coldstream Cottage, Swordle.

 Looking northwards towards Eigg.

Looking west from Branault along Ardnamurchan's north shore towards Fascadale, with Muck in the distance.

Many thanks to Ben for allowing me to post his pictures.
Ben's website is at

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Tonight's Aurora

The Willowbank Observatory on Mull - website here - gives an excellent display that indicates the potential current strength of an aurora, and it enabled several of us to be out tonight looking at what proved to be one of the best auroras in some time.

When I reached Sanna at half past nine, the aurora formed a great arc across the northern sky, but the light from that arc seemed to move to concentrate....

....along the horizon in one of the most intense pools of auroral light that I have seen - this picture taken some ten minutes later.

Soon after, the display started to fade, but bars of light began to shoot upwards, and some pink colours joined the predominant green.  But, as so often happens, the show was marred by the arrival of puffy balls of dark cloud.

By ten the show seemed to be fading anyway, so I drove home - only for the Raptor to contact me to say that the sky was livening up again.

Autumn Bounty

The weather has taken pity on us after the shockingly poor summer and we're now blessed with a spell of warm, sunny days, ideal for ripening a very respectable crop of rowan berries. We have had some rain, just enough to water the vegetables and bring on a....

....crop of blackberries which is unusually late.

Another beneficiary of the sunshine and late season flowers are the local insects, including red admirals and this lovely peacock.

The sudden glut of berries and insects is good news for the bird population, many of whom are enjoying the feast. This is our semi-tame robin telling the world how happy he is from a precarious perch on the home-made wind vane.

Not all our small birds are in such good condition. This dunnock has the same disease as the chaffinch which used to come to our bird table back in 2012. We called him Seedfoot, and the disease he had was caused by a papilloma virus.

The gulls continue to be excited by shoals of small fish gathering in the bay below our house. At first, the one or two who found the shoal began feeding but, being gulls, couldn't keep quiet about it, their cries rapidly attracting more and more until the area became an unseemly mass of quarrelling birds.

We're seeing swans and geese flying over on their annual migration, though this group of swans need to have their built-in compasses recalibrated: they were flying northwestwards, as it heading for the Outer Hebrides.

We find many birds in our garden but a recent and unexpected addition has been this hen, who has had a wonderful time foraging for insects amongst the shrubs. She's one of the genuinely free range chickens from the croft next door, the first to find her way into our garden.

Jack Campbell's Challenge

From our Mountaineering Correspondent:
There are quite a few of us who enjoy a walk in the hills, there are even some who might have scaled the odd Munro, those Scottish peaks that are over 3000ft. But not many have scaled all 282 in one summer. Jack Campbell, nephew to Geoff & Sandra and John & Jacqui, is doing just that to raise money for charity.

Jack started on 1st June and aims to complete his challenge by mid October, that's around two a day on average which is very impressive when you consider the distances between them. The hardest day? The Ring of Steall, Mamores in Glen Nevis which took 13 hours to hit 10 summits over a 26 mile trek. The statistics are mind boggling. So far Jack has travelled 2000 kilometres and climbed the equivalent of 13 times up Mt Everest. 

Jack left the army last year and wanted to set himself a challenge before the next stage in his career. He decided on two charities helping soldiers and their families and another for Parkinson's disease having seen its terrible effects first hand. You can follow Jack on his site which has some great videos of his adventure and also explains how you can donate to the two charities and helping to reach his fundraising target.

Jack was in Kilchoan before hitting three local peaks in Glenfinnan (Sgurr nan Coireachan, Sgurr Thuilm & Gulvain) and is currently over on Skye this week hitting the remaining peaks that he missed last time when the weather closed in, including the famous In Pinn (Inaccessible Pinnacle) that can only be reached by rock climbing. He will finish his epic journey at Ben Lomond on 17 October with friends and family joining him as he ticks off number 282.

Many thanks to Chris Gane for story & picture.