Motoring along the glorious Road to the Isles as we do every year (at least once), my mind always wanders to thoughts of walking in the rough hills that bear down on that ribbon of Tarmac.
Normally, this drive is on the clock. We need to get to Mallaig and negotiate the infuriating Co-op to stock up for a week at the rental cottage before making the Western Isles.
This year was a little different though. We had more time at the cottage and had arrived in the Highlands early. Everything was less rushed. This gave me three days to amble though the glens to Inverie from Glenfinnan before heading to Tarbet on the ferry.
My other half dropped me at the visitors’ centre at Glenfinnan on a mizzly Monday morning. The forecast was poor for at least two days of my walk but I didn’t mind. I was relishing a re-acquaintance with this landscape and travel by two feet after the distractions of two wheels.
Given my lack of walking of late – not to mention my lack of walking with a full pack – I felt it important to take my time, to let my body adapt, to see if the muscles indeed had memory. Continue reading →
Regular readers may know that the other half and I are frequent visitors to Loch Nevis. Making the long drive north is all about throwing off the shackles of routine and having some room to think… to take stock. However, it’s hard for me to be among the mountains and not try to clamber over a few of them.
You’ll struggle to find a better example of high land than Sgurr Na Ciche, a wonderfully shapely peak which presides over Loch Nevis at its head. I’ve admired this mountain at a distance each time I’ve been lucky enough to visit the area. And while it sits close to our rental cottage at Kylesmorar, reaching it necessitates a day’ s walk over challenging terrain. A lift in a boat is preferable and I cadged one from our host Tom, fine fellow that he is.
The guys at Kylesmorar got in touch a few weeks ago in search of photo submissions for a gallery they’re putting together. Digging out old shots brought back some great memories of this special place. Thought I would share some of them with you on here…
I’d spent much of Saturday drying out in our small cottage. Sunday, it was time to get wet again.
Clambering over the rough hills of North Morar in July delivered a new sense of dampness. The air was as thick and soggy as the boggy basins I was negotiating between rocky hummocks while trying to follow a compass bearing.
And then it rained… I watched wraith-like storms charge up Loch Morar and Nevis. Distant hills were cloaked by another smear of rain. I counted till heavy raindrops drummed on the shoulders of my jacket: Less than a minute; conditions changeable.
Standing atop Eun-Tium, a mere pimple by Scottish hill standards and yet an engaging climb in this wild land, I took a simple westerly bearing and followed it.
I headed to familiar ground by an unfamiliar route… A straight line. It wasn’t straight, of course, and I diverted around streams, rocky obstacles and contoured terraces in a bid to find the best line. Map distances are stretched here and I doff my flatcap to experienced navigators who can pace with precision.
Cresting yet another summit, I disturbed a deer and a calf. They disappeared over a small bealach, underlining my inadequate, heavy-booted progress.
I then found my objective: Loch a Braghaid, a sizeable lozenge of water tucked away in the hills. I had a five-weight fly rod strapped to my pack and a small box of flies: Anglinglight.com
I made tea with loch water and rolled out a short cast. The trout obliged and I spent a contented hour or so messing about by the water. As my cast deteriorated, I knew it was time to head back, to dry out again for next time.
It’s a rather novel way to start a day hike to be standing by a pier waiting to be picked up by a boat. My hosts had to take a boat to Mallaig for a service (bit more complicated than an oil change and new plugs) and offered to drop me at Camusrory at the head of Loch Nevis.
The loch was glass this early in the morning, and we saw seals lounging on the rocky shore.
I alighted at Camusrory and watched my lift chug away. The rumble of the diesel engines diminished and I was alone… not for long, though, as workers on the estate were starting early. A flurry of activity on quad bikes and excavators seemed incongruous in this majestic place and I hurried by them, seeking the solitude of the glen.
Angling, by and large, has lost its sheen these days. ‘Too many anglers chasing too few fish’ (as my Dad used to say!) and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to capture those still moments of contemplation that used to be common currency during a day at the waterside. Now I go fishing in my daydreams.
However, once in a while, romantic notions can become reality…
I’ve just returned from a second week in Kylesmorar on the shores of Loch Nevis. To be honest, I was a little reluctant to go back. Time off work is so very scarce, and there are so many places to go, so many things to see.
However, the Kyles has a distinct advantage for holidaying with the other half: it combines some very fine outdoor distractions for me with some equally high quality ‘chilling’ for her.
Once we’d stepped off the boat, I realised pretty quickly my fears had been unfounded.
Some quite splendid weather this year allowed me to fill my boots (literally) on the hills of north Morar and Knoydart. The piscatorial planets aligned and I managed to catch fish from Loch Nevis – including a stunning, if wee, sea trout – while a day’s ‘anglhiking’ with map and compass revealed the most beautiful lochan filled with equally beautiful wild brown trout.
Add to that otter watching, deer stalking (read: ‘photostalking’), seals and tracing the daily beat of a golden eagle, and the area’s abundant wildlife obliged too.
The week was crowned by a shindig at the Tarbet Bunkhouse. Warden Frank was on form (not for the easily offended) and the whisky flowed.
I’ve gone fishing for many years. Actually, scrub that, I’ve gone ‘sitting by a lake or river’ for many years.
I started bait fishing when a teenager – ‘coarse fishing‘, although it wasn’t particularly coarse, save for some of the unsavoury brothers of the angle whom I met along the way.
My earliest memories were spent shivering on the banks of canals in gthe Midlands in the Christmas holiday, eager to try a new Bruce and Walker float road which constituted my Christmas box.
My long suffering father accompanied me and we searched out the fishing beats of his youth. We caught very little through holes in the ice, but those tiny roach and perch fascinated me. I was hooked for life.
I spent the summer holidays practically encamped on the banks the ‘Little Pit’ near my home, a small body of water but seemingly bottomless. I have a particular angle on this characteristic, too, as I sampled its waters first hand one summer afternoon tumbling in head first just near ‘The Point’… or was it ‘The Winter Bank’? All the fishing stations had unofficial, though apposite, names, carefully concocted by my fishing buddies and I during the long biteless hours at the waterside.
I’ve delayed writing about our stay in a cottage on Kylesmorar, Loch Nevis, since our return at the weekend. I’ve needed time to reflect.
Many will identify with that feeling of isolation when they make tracks to the hills, but our week on this Kyeslmorar offered more. Yes, the ‘Kyles’ are remote, but they’re not devoid of people.
Staying on a on a working estate, our lodgings were free from the paraphernalia of modern living (mobiles, radio, television).
Here, the passage of time is marked by other events: the evening grazing of a stag, the early morning call of a buzzard, the solitary hoot of hello from the Western Isles ferry as she steams the eastern end of the loch, the comings and goings of the estate staff, their conversations over vhf radio. Continue reading →
As I think I’ve said before on here, September is my favourite month. As folk go back to work and kids are back in the classroom, outdoor destinations breathe a collective sigh of relief as tranquillity descends again.
For the other half and I, it heralds our ‘main’ holiday of the year, usually two weeks north of the border and this year is no exception. Continue reading →