Back on the hill

'Loch Tulla and Beinn an Dothaidh'

'Loch Tulla and Beinn an Dothaidh'

It had been a few weeks since we last went for a walk and so when we saw the forecast for Sunday ….dry, cold and sunny ….we just had to make the most of it. As I think I said in a blog the other week, we have been planning to revisit Ghlas Beinn, the small hill on the edge of Rannoch Moor …..that we walked back in December 2009. When we were there that year there was no snow at lower levels, just some up on the high tops. It was though, very cold and the peat was frozen as were the moor-land lochs. This time, after a relatively mild week beforehand, it had once again turned cold and we were hoping to find snow even down to low level.

Our first concern though was the state of the roads ….it’s almost a 100 mile drive to the start point on the A82 on Blackmount and after numerous heavy rain and sleet showers on Saturday, the roads were still wet when we went to bed …it seemed likely that everything would be covered in ice in the morning. Strangely though, when I got up at about six o’clock on Sunday morning and stuck my head outside the front door ….there was virtually no frost and the roads were fine. The walk we planned was not a long one, (probably no more than six or seven kilometres) and there was only about 300m of ascent. There was no need for a really early start and after much dawdling around; we finally got away a little after eight. By that time it was well light and the early cloud cover had already broken and the skies were a clear blue ….it looked set to be a really good day.

'The small summit of Ghlas Beinn'

'The small summit of Ghlas Beinn'

I had expected to see snow on the Luss Hills as we drove up the side of Loch Lomond, but they were completely clear. The only snow was up high …above about 800m on Ben Lomond and Ben Vorlich. It was quite mild too …the car thermometer reckons it was 3 C by the side of the loch. What had happened to the real cold that was forecast? As we followed the road past the northern end of Loch Lomond and up Glen Falloch, there was a very noticeable drop in temperature inside the car and by the time we arrived at Crianlarich …it was -1 C outside and there was a covering of snow everywhere ….we’d gone from spring back into winter a just a matter of five or six miles! Everywhere looked beautiful and it looked like we were going to have a good walk.

We reached our start point, at about 10.30 after a short stop at the Green Welly in Tyndrum en route and there were a good number of cars stopped and people were admiring the stunning view out over Loch Tulla. This is a very popular view point and most of the time there is a mobile tea and burger bar parked here ….and someone playing the bag pipes. No such thing on Sunday …I guess mid February is pushing it a bit …though from the look of it, they could have done a good bit of business even so. By this time a fair amount of cloud had bubbled up but it made for much more interesting colours. We simply crossed the road a short distance to the north of the lay-by and headed up the grassy slopes. As at Crianlarich, there was a slight covering of snow everywhere and with the temperature still below or around freezing, it made that wonderful ‘crump’ sound as you walked on it. A short distance from the edge of the road you are blocked by a fence …not marked on the map. Thankfully at a point where it takes a slight bend, there is a small post driven into the ground ….allowing you to step over the wire without risking damaging it.

'A walk in the wild!'

'A walk in the wild!'

The views of course were stunning from the outset especially as some of the bigger hills were illuminated by bright sun. After gaining a few hundred feet in ascent it becomes obvious that you are on a long broad grass and heather ridge ….ahead were a series of small tops …each one slightly higher than the next. On gaining the first of these the views become even bigger and the ground on the west side drops more steeply. We stopped on one of these first knolls and just sat down to enjoy these amazing surroundings …and of course a cup of coffee. One of the reasons for coming back to this place was the hope that I’d be able to develop new paintings from the experience. With the light snow cover everything looked very different from when we were last up there ….and with the constantly moving clouds, the patchwork of light and shade and the corresponding colours ….the scene around us changed from minute to minute. There was a stiff breeze blowing and it was too cold to draw, but I took numerous photos trying to capture some of these colours and patterns.

The ridge becomes more of a gentle switch back until after a couple of kilometres, the final and highest knoll ….the summit of Ghlas Beinn, is reached. For a place where there are no paths, this little top has a good sized and well made cairn ….and so it should. From its very modest summit (something a little over 500 m) the views are quite superb….three hundred and sixty degrees of stunning wild beauty. You look down over vast areas of moor land and loch, but are also surrounded by the higher snow topped mountains. Of course, we didn’t see anyone the whole time we were walking. Nita spotted a large herd of deer grazing below and to the east of us….but nothing else. To the immediate west though we could hear the drone of traffic from the A82 as it crosses the edge of Rannoch Moor heading for Glen Coe …but this was the only slight blot on this idyllic scene. Despite starting late, we had plenty of time and so carried on a short distance beyond the summit ….down past two small wild lochs and on to a final rocky knoll overlooking the expanse of the moor ….what a wonderful place to stand …and all this within a few hours of Irvine.

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