What a difference a few days make. After last weeks very grey and cloudy walk on Tinto, this week we saw the Scottish landscape at its very best under almost clear blue skies. The colours everywhere were stunning and although we only walked a fairly small hill we managed to spend over nine hours in the process. It was such a stunningly beautiful day that it just demanded that we keep stopping to look and take in the scene.
I really love this time of year with winter still very much around, (we set off with frost covering everything and the bigger hills white with snow) but summer closing in rapidly. It was great too that even setting off from Irvine at just after 06.00 there was light in the sky and the sun rose over the Glasgow sky-line as we crossed the Erskine Bridge heading north.
We were making for Tyndrum but not for Meall Odhar which had been our original target last week, but for its neighbour across the glen, Fiarach 652 m. We’ve never walked this hill and it was only last week while pawing over the map with my magnifier looking for the route up Meall Odhar that I spotted it and started looking for a route to it too. It’s basically the high point of a large area of wild upland ground that is surrounded on all sides by the higher hills, Ben More, Ben Challum, Beinn Dubhchraig and Ben Lui …to name but a few. It’s a fine location that just demands a perfect day ….and what better than a clear, cold early spring Wednesday in March?
As we wanted to stretch our legs a bit more this week, we decided to park the car in the village of Tyndrum and walk back along the West Highland Way the few kilometres to the big bridge crossing the river flowing out of Cononish Glen. This is a beautiful little section of the West Highland Way ….a proper little footpath the meanders its way along through mixed woodland and alongside streams . The views from this path alone were superb and we got good views of the hill we were going to walk. From the river bridge we left the WHW and followed an estate track that lead over the railway and then lead around the flanks of Fiarach for a couple more kilometres to a large area of conifer plantation. On the way it went through a fabulous area of the old Caledonian forest that made this truly highland scene even more so.
At the start of the plantation it was simply a case of making our way up the open hillside, at first along side the trees and then climbing above them. I have to say that I’ve never been too impressed with these conifer plantations but on this occasion I was pleasantly surprised. We stopped level with the top corner of the plantation and sat down in bright sun to catch our breath, give the aching calf muscles a rest and to take in the views. As we did we were aware of all of the bird song coming from the dense trees to our left. One bird in particular ….we think it was probably a Thrush, was singing at the top of its voice and it made the place even more special.
A little higher up and the steep slopes eased and we came into the first big patches of snow. It’s a hummocky area of grass, moss, small crags and numerous little lochs and pools. The biggest of these, Lochain Fiarach, was almost completely frozen and had varying amounts of snow lying on it …where it was just ice, it was a beautiful shade of blue, green, and grey and this turned paler to white around the edges ….it reminded me of the ‘white’ sandy beaches we saw last year on the west coast of Harris.
Despite the generally featureless nature of the ground up here, the summit itself was a surprise ….set atop a craggy little spine that rose 30 or 40 metres above the rest of the moor. It made a great setting and a wonderful place to stand and take in all the bigger snow capped peaks around. The nearest of these, Beinn Dubhchraig looked particularly massive and Nita could make out three tiny figures plodding up the heavily snow covered slopes towards its summit. We stopped numerous times to sit and look and enjoy the colours, textures and patterns …and were impressed to find two other visitors to this little hill ….a pair of what we think were Golden Plovers.
This really was a fine day …..it had a similarity to the wee hill, Ghlas Bheinn on the edge of Rannoch Moor that we tend to visit most years. I definitely think we’ll be back to Fiarach again next spring.