Day Twelve – Bring on the bigger walks.

Well, we didn’t have any trains pass in the night, so over all I slept like a log. Willow didn’t have as much luck. A mixture of local wildlife, and what seemed like non-stop traffic kept her up for most of the early hours of the day. It was a dead end, so we have no idea where people were going?

Every time we have visited Scotland, we have always aimed to keep the walks fairly easy, as our fitness levels are never the best when we first arrive. After a couple of walks, we notice a considerable difference in our ability to walk further distances, ascents and at a quicker pace than the earlier walks.

After yesterday’s walk to the peak, we decided it was time to ramp up the walks and so agreed on a walk around Mail Chean-dearg. The walk was a total distance of eleven and a half miles, and the book reckoned would take between six to seven hours to complete.

The weather wasn’t sure what it wanted to do this morning. Parts were covered by rays of warm sunshine. Our walk today was surrounded by to large hills leading towards the mountain, and unfortunately for us, these kept out most of the sunshine.

We parked Ruby by the main road, crossed a river and set off in good spirits.

The majority of this walk is spent walking through a glen, before you circle around the bottom of Maol-Chean-dearg, which is an impressive 933m high.

As we walked through the glen, you could literally see clouds forming from the top of the still snow covered tops of the surrounding hills and mountains.

About forty minutes into the walk, we arrived at a little well maintained bothy. Bothies are small cottages built and maintained by the Mountain Bothies Association. They originally provided shelter for climbers and walkers during poor weather conditions. These days, people tend to hike to them with a few supplies, with the intention of stopping in them for a night.

After checking out the bothy, we continued to follow the track deeper into the glen. It was evident that our fitness levels had improved dramatically, as neither of us were wheezing wrecks, stopping after any slight incline. We had gone through a sudden metamorphis and were now capable hikers once again!

As we got closer to Loch Ciore Fionnaraich, the glen was directing strong chilling winds towards us, there was no sign of the lovely warmth we had experience the previous day.

After the loch, we started making the ascent around the brow of Bealach na Lice.

As we carried on around the edge, here we could start to get a view of Loch an Eoin (as well as more low-level cloud) .

Walking away from the loch, we were rewarded with a lovely view of Loch Carron and in the horizon, the mountains of Skye that we had climbed in the first week.

From here, the path started the take us around the steep slopes of Maol Chean-dearg. The path continues quite high between Chean-dearg and Meall nan Cepairean. At this point, the valley point we were walking in was basically in the clouds.

This was unhelpful because the guide book wasn’t clear about where we needed to go next, snow had covered the path, and the clouds were making visibility poor.

After some consultation with the OS map that we brought with us, we eventually found the direction that we were supposed to follow to take us back round to the original path.

The snow made this part of the walk slightly challenging, and is one of the main reasons why we have avoided climbing to the peaks of many mountains on this visit. You can never really now how deep the snow you are walking in is, and even worse, you could walk straight over a small loch up in the mountains; which is not something ever of us wanted on this trip.

As we cleared the snow covered tracks, we finally got a glimpse of some of the light that was about earlier on in the day.

The last part of the walk was a steep scramble down a rock path until we rejoined with the path just after the bothy. We then just had to retrace our steps back to Ruby. We got back after five and a half hours. Much quicker than the guide book suggestion (even with the problems in the clouds.)

We then drove back to the small campsite in Loch Carron to see if we could this time gain access to the hook ups. Luckily, that evening there was only one other van using the site. So we hooked Ruby up to give her leisure batteries a good charge as there hadn’t been much sun for the solar panels to charge and we hadn’t driven far enough for the alternator to charge much either.

With Ruby charging, we headed down to the local inn, as outside they had an intriguing sign about ‘the 500’ accompanied by a picture of a spitcreen van. We learned that the 500 was a driving challenge where people drive from Inverness to John o’Groats, which is the most northern part of the UK.

We have decided that next year we are going to bring Ruby back up to Scotland to complete the 500, so we can collect a sticker and a t-shirt. Plus it will give us a stronger chance of seeing some whales and the northern lights.

We headed back to the campsite for another night of cheese, whilst we cooked some vegetables for a frittata that we would eat for lunch the next day.

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