Wednesday, 6 November 2013

A Fifth Ardnamurchan Holiday - 1

From Marc Gerard:

For the fifth year in a row late September 2013 brought a week-long visit to Ardnamurchan, and the second successive year of staying at Fascadale. The preceding week had, as with last year, been spent in a cottage in Saasaig on the Isle of Skye. After so many stays on Skye I, like most, accept how fickle the weather there can be, but that week provided six days of no rain, some gloriously sunny weather and temperatures consistently in the high teens - surely to have two weeks of such weather would be too much to expect? Would the mid-holiday relocation to Ardnamurchan prompt payback time?

Well, no, not really. The Thursday turned out to be a bit murky, but just like on Skye, every day brought walking weather which varied from good to outstanding - walking around in a t-shirt as September turns into October? Yes!...Brilliant!

The Saturday change-over day's journey repeated last year's formula - the ferry across to Mallaig, a gentle drive through Moidart to Salen, then head west. Wafting along with all the windows open - a great start to temper the fact that half the holiday had already flown by.

Arrival at Fascadale slightly lacked the impact of last year's first visit, but was absolutely stunning nonetheless. Big, clear skies and warm afternoon sunshine enabled a celebratory beer on the roof terrace as the view north was soaked up, and the only sound to be heard was that of water lapping onto the shore below.

For all sorts of reasons last year's visit had left an unacceptable number of uncompleted missions, and the attitude was that this situation must be attended to!

With Sunday dawning bright, sunny and settled, Meall nan Con became the first objective of the week. The simplest route up seemed to be to essentially follow the west bank of the Allt a' Choire Chreagaich. Straight out of the house, down to the bay, over a gently gurgling Allt Fascadale, briefly follow the path which ultimately leads to Glendrian and beyond, then strike south. However, thereafter it's fair to say that the going was rather testing. The ground was certainly dry enough, it's just that it was very rough in places which tended to lead to a rather meandering climb achieved by linking one animal trod to the next - although this process I find can be strangely satisfying. Anyway, I decided that this was not going to be the route of the return.

The target was to get to the four lochans marked on the OS map, move across the imposing cliffs of Meall nan Con, skirt round to the southwest and gain the summit by heading northeast from the narrow lochan in Coire Màm a' Ghaill. Being surrounded by hills, the views on the climb were limited to those north towards the Small Isles.

However, it's fair to say that those which opened up on reaching the trig point were simply staggering - more big skies and a 360 degree sweep of stunning land and seascape. Squinting into the bright sun to see Ben Hiant and up Loch Sunart; over to Mull, Coll and Tiree....;

 .... across the caldera to Ardnamurchan lighthouse and Sanna; out to the Small Isles, Skye and the Outer Hebrides; and all the way round to Moidart and Knoydart. It was rather blowy and the crisp air slightly cool after the exertions of the climb, so layers were added as I certainly wasn't going to be leaving this spot for a while! A summery blue sky and sea mixed with an early autumn landscape, all with roaring stags added into the mix.

Having enjoyed one of the finest picnic spots I've ever found it was time to return to base. Not wanting to lose height and the views too quickly, and not wanting to retrace the route of the climb, coupled with the fact I could now plainly see the lie of the land, I decided to head over to Meall Meadhoin and simply follow the ridge towards Mèall an Fhìr-eoin. The going was excellent with the undulating descent mostly being made over rocky ground and boilerplate slabs, and punctuated by some wonderful erosion-sculpted boulders. The house at Fascadale soon came into clear view off to the right and eventually the final dip in the ridge prompted a turn downhill towards Fascadale Bay.

Not one other person was seen or heard all day, and without the distant presence of houses and boats one could easily feel like the last person left on Earth. That is except for the fact that the silence was broken at one point by the sound of a mobile phone ringing. No-one was in sight and I briefly cursed and wondered why anyone would want to be in such a place receiving calls. With the ringing mysteriously and confusingly not getting any further away as I moved, it finally dawned on me that it was in fact my own stupid mobile phone (which I only keep for emergency purposes) that had somehow managed to switch itself on in my backpack and announce the receipt of a text message from Vodafone pitching some uninteresting offer.

Back at base after a great day in the hills - more beer on the roof terrace.

Monday brought the promise of another beautiful day - time for a beach or two. The plan was to park at Sanna and head through pretty Portuairk to Bay MacNeil. A brief stop en-route to Sanna at the Ferry Stores in Kilchoan presented me with a situation where I found it impossible to remember what day it was let alone the date - holiday mode was clearly fully engaged! Upon arrival at Sanna Bay the car park only had one other vehicle in it...,

....along with a small herd of Highland cows blatantly and inconsiderately ignoring the marked parking spaces.

White sand, blue sky, turquoise water - the view across the bay was something special. Away from Sanna, into and out of a couple of narrow little wooded glens, through Portuairk and across a bit of moor to a cleft in the hills which leads down to the next bay. The whole return trip was to be only about four miles and the path was easy going so the walk could be taken at a very relaxed pace. 

The drop through the cleft in the hills took the path past an isolated ruined building and then into Bay MacNeil which presented more white, blue and turquoise loveliness with the lighthouse not far beyond. For what it's worth, I couldn't help but find the sight of the wind turbine next to the lighthouse rather incongruous, although I suppose all I was looking at were two examples of Man's technology - albeit ones separated by about 150 years. Lunch was taken on the sandy and rocky Eilean Carrach, but about half an hour of vigilantly scanning the surroundings for otters, whales, dolphins, etc. sadly bore no fruit.

The return trip was, if anything, made at an even slower pace than the outward one. The warm sun and the colours - in this place, at this time of year?  Fantastic!

Back to a sun-baked Fascadale and more beer on the roof terrace.

Pictures and story Marc Gerard.
Part 2 to follow.

1 comment:

  1. Well done on getting two weeks fine weather. A rare event in Scotland even in summer. Looks like Spring in the photos.