Friday, 8 January 2016

Beinn an Leathaid

A dying crescent moon rose shortly before seven this morning, lifting into a clear sky which had brought us a sharp frost overnight. Even in warm Ormsaigbeg, the temperature dropped to 2C, so when we drove up to the Cairn, where the road branches down to Branault, Fascadale and Swordle....

....there was a crust of ice on all the puddles and a rime of frost whitened the grass.

The hill in the picture is Beinn an Leathaid, which means something like the hill of the slope - an apt name, since the 250m we had to climb seemed to take forever, the hill having a concave, stepped slope so, each time one approaches what seems the top, another upward slope appears.

The sun, just lifting over the summit of Ben Hiant, was set for a struggle all morning as the pall of cloud, visible in the top picture below the moon, kept pace with it as it rose in the sky, so the sunlight was always muted.

As we began the climb we were aware we were being watched. This red deer hind, seen with the mountains of Moidart behind her, was one of....

....a small herd which was grazing the high slopes of the hill and seemed to be more concerned with something away to the right than with our approach.

We've climbed Beinn an Leathaid many times before and keep climbing it for its views. This picture looks southwestwards. The knoll at centre is named for the MacIains, the clan which ruled Ardnamurchan for three hundred years from the beginning of the 14th century, and the lochan to its left is named after the knoll - Lochan Tom Mhic Iain. The hill beyond the lochan is Glas Bheinn and the burn which occupies the wide glen is the Allt Rath a' Bheulain, one of the main tributaries of the Allt Choire Mhuilinn. The Sound of Mull and Mull itself are visible in the distance.

Beinn an Leathaid boasts what is probably Western Ardnamurchan's largest cairn as well as some of its best views. The snow-capped hills in the distance are those around Morar while, looking more directly downwards....

....places like the crofting township of Branault are laid out like a map. As well as the houses, one can pick out the township's inbye fields, the lazy beds, and the old stone walls - including the head dyke, the wall which runs right round the community's arable lands and separates them from the extensive common grazings.

Beinn an Leathaid is like an upturned boat, orientated roughly north-south. From its northern end one looks down the steep-sided glen of the Allt Fascadale to Fascadale and across the Minches to Rum and Muck.

We dropped down the west side of the hill to where the Allt Rath a' Bheulain rises - in the same marshy area as the Allt Fascadale - and followed the left bank of the burn back towards the road. At one point....

....a small tributary burn tumbles over a thick igneous outcrop in an undersized waterfall.

Thoughts of home and a bowl of hot soup spurred us back to the car but we stopped at someone else's front door. A small mound formed of sphagnum moss had been excavated, possibly by a mouse, to provide a comfy home.

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