Ten or eleven years ago we went to walk Beinn Dubhchraig, one of the Munros in the Ben Lui group of hills around Cononish. On that occasion the weather was grim. I don’t remember now whether it rained all day but it was certainly very wet to start with and the hill never cleared from the thick mass of grey cloud that hung everywhere. I’m sure we enjoyed it …or at least, made the most of it, but we never saw a thing the whole day ….just grey.
We’ve been back to Cononish a good number of times since to walk the neighbouring hills and I’ve often thought that it would be worth visiting Beinn Dubhchraig again, (this time on a fine day) to see what it was actually like. The only thing that put me off all these years was the memories of the path in. It ran for a good way up the side of a stream through a section of the old Caledonian Forest before emerging out onto the lower slopes of the mountain. Sounds idyllic I hear you say ….but it was so boggy and wet underfoot ….not just boggy, but really BOGGY! On that first trip we’d made a circular walk of it and descended via the broad north ridge of the hill and then down very steep slopes to reach a bridge over the river close to Cononish Farm and so it was my plan this time to simply climb the hill by this route and return the same way, thus avoiding the boggy route.
On Sunday, with fine weather forecast, we drove to Tyndrum and headed off ….this time under clear blue skies. The steep slopes above Cononish that I remembered coming down, were even steeper on our way up! Sweat poured, flies buzzed but the views were wonderful. After what seemed an eternity the angle of the slope eased and at last we could see all we’d missed ten years earlier. As we approached the summit Nita asked me what I thought about turning it into a circular walk and descending by the dreaded path through the woods. Nita openly admits that she can’t remember one walk from another and so clearly thought I was making a bit of a song and dance of it and that it couldn’t be as bad as I remembered! So then, sat at the top, taking in the stunning scenery and feeling just great ….I agreed, and twenty minutes later off we headed in the direction of the path.
Needless to say, it hadn’t improved over the intervening years, indeed, rather interestingly it had ….well, matured somewhat. It was still just as boggy and difficult but now it was rather overgrown too. It took me an age picking my way down, listening to an almost continuous commentary of guiding instructions from Nita ….she did a brilliant job as guide…the path was narrow in places and dropped steeply away through the undergrowth to the stream. Eventually after what was an age, I heard Nita say …’I hope that isn’t the bridge we have to cross’. Instead of the bridge we’d used to cross over the stream ten years earlier …there were two single steel girders …and no bridge! Ahhhhh!
It was by this time getting late and we had about an hour of proper day light left. The stream the bridge used to cross looked awkward to ford and only 50 m below the ‘bridge’ …it flowed into the main river. As we couldn’t return up the path in the dark, we either had to wait till morning or cross the stream. At first look, it seemed quite deep and was flowing quite fast, but Nita peered into the water and reckoned there was a shallower path across. I followed Nita and although the water was well above the top of our boots and flowing strongly, it wasn’t as deep as it at first seemed. We were quickly clambering up the bank on the other side, boots completely full of water (indeed, I swear I had a small brown trout in one of mine) and the lower part of our trousers soaked …but we were over and back to a civilized track before it got too late. I guess there must be another path now avoiding the missing bridge but I don’t think we’ll be going back at any point in the near future to check it out!