Walk Reports

Walk Reports

Walk Reports

Reports and comments on scheduled walks.

Ballachulish Weekend

ReportsPosted by Neil Kitchener Wed, September 26, 2018 14:48:49

The weekend forecast was promising and people made their way to the hotel. Some came via Callander and others by Loch Lomond. Neil and Christine picked up Mary and Marjory and had an uneventful trip over Rannoch Moor and through Glencoe to the hotel at the side of the loch. Most people had rooms with spectacular views over Loch Leven looking up the glen to the Pap of Glencoe and the tail end of Aonach Eagach, one of the major high ridges on the mountaineering scene in the country.

Picturesque boats bobbed on the loch with swans gliding and herons fishing.in the mirror calm surface of the water. The hotel also offered a swimming pool, jacuzzi and sauna which was well utilised by members of the group, especially after the walks. The menu was very varied and the venison in wine sauce was a real favourite. The choice for breakfast was great, the cooked breakfasts were the downfall of many a dieter and the porridge was cooked properly. Lisa arrived and shared her experiences from the leadership training in Mugdock which she had just finished. She gave us tips for future use and recommended the course for members. Also staying in the hotel was an international party of train spotters who were doing the great rail journeys of the world. They were looking forward to the “Jacobite” steam train ride from Fort William to Mallaig which is commonly called the “Harry Potter Line” as it was one of the highlights of the films.

Friday afternoon we explored the village and it’s surroundings, walking along the edge of the loch around the hotel before exploring the old slate quarry. Notice boards along the walk gave information about the quarry, its importance in the last century and touched upon the hard life of those who toiled in dangerous conditions to produce slates. The slate was a unique colour and had been exported all over the world. The quarry is now filled in as a loch in tranquil surroundings. The ghosts of the slaters the only memories of the hard work loading ships to carry the slates to the roofs of buildings far away. The ramblers then followed a walk along the Breaclet Trail which climbed up through the beautiful moss and lichen covered woods above the quarry to an old settlement before returning to the village. Ballachulish is a relatively quiet, tourist free village off the side of the main road. There used to be a railway line connecting it through Kentallan to Oban but times and Mr Beeching move on and it is now a very picturesque cycle track skirting the loch edge and winding through forests.

Saturday started with the inevitable rain shower and the main walk was led by Christine around the base of Sgorr Dhearg from Duror back to the hotel .This was a new one to the club, such events are rare and most walkers took advantage of the opportunity to participate, the high walkers due to injuries opted for this walk.

This new walk, geographically in two parts, was 9 miles long with an ascent of 400m, the first part was along forest trails and the second through open moorland before descending into Ballachulish The start of the walk climbed gradually following signs to James Stewart’s birthplace. For the literary minded, James Stewart was made famous in “Kidnapped” by Robert Louis Stevenson. In summary, a few years after Culloden, a member of the Campbell clan known as “The Red Fox” was shot and killed on the hills above Duror. James Stewart was blamed for the crime. Although he was innocent, he was convicted by the jury comprised mostly of Campbells and hanged at the rocky outcrop overlooking Ballachulish Bridge. The culprit’s name was known by the clan chief but has not been revealed to this day.

The group slowly made its way at a leisurely pace through the forestry tracks, admiring the views and watching the trees beginning to portray their autumnal colours. As we slowly climbed up there was a spiral of smoke in the distance, a sign that the Duror Bothy 1994 was inhabited. We stopped to talk to a couple leaving the bothy who were making their way to Easdale for the annual world stone skimming championship, hoping to improve on their 80th position in last year’s competition. We wished them all the best and continued to the hut.

The well-appointed bothy was still occupied by another couple and the fire was alight so we stopped for a cup of tea and some took the opportunity to read the information leaflets on the events leading up to and the consequences from the murder as well as a biography of James and his family. His life and the events need to be set in the historical time. The Jacobites were on the losing side and history is usually written by the victors.

The party then moved on along a grassy path and timber boardwalk. A fallen tree blocking the path had to be negotiated. It was interesting to watch the differing techniques. First prize goes to Mary for her graceful acrobatics helped by 2 other members. Marjory described it as a golden horse.

The trees were covered in lichen and mosses with different shades of green. Anyway, back on track and we climbed slowly to the highest point of the trail before descending and following a track through the woods to the open country where we stopped for lunch in the open area beyond the wood.

The path changed to a narrow sheep track, contouring and meandering down the valley. When the mists cleared from the tops, we were blessed with amazing views of the back of the hills and the ridges down Glencoe. The next part of the path was long and winding. To break the solitude and silence of the surroundings Marjory started humming a tune and we tried to guess the song. This was followed by the group attempting to sing songs but unfortunately, we could not remember all of the words and many Glasgow ditties were sung out of key. It would have been appropriate to have sung “She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes”, but sadly, we resorted to remembering the songs of the 60s. We followed the path down and were soon rewarded with spectacular views of the Pap of Glencoe, further on we turned a corner and looked down on Ballachulish and Loch Leven nestling below in the valley. There was a 5 minute view and rest stop and some of the singers by this time had sore throats, music lovers may have had sore ears for the same reason.

We continued to make our way slowly down, stopping to take a photograph for Neil of the innocuous looking rock where he had slipped and dislocated his elbow during the recce the previous weekend. As we walked down the mist was swirling through the bealachs and corries above. Walking through village, we stopped at the playing field to watch a shinty match between Tyndrum and Ballachulish. The score in the fast-moving local derby was 1-1 and it looked very skilful but highly dangerous. Then it was back to the hotel for a sauna, lovely meal and sleep, to do the same again tomorrow, sweet dreams. Everyone agreed the walk was a very good addition to the club’s repertoire.

Jim lead John and Elke around walks to Inchree waterfall and General Wade’s Road near Onich where they enjoyed seeing the majestic falls in spate.

SUNDAY dawned clear of rain and plans were made. Christine and Neil repeated the walk undertaken yesterday by John and Elke, climbing up a well defined path to Inchcree Waterfalls made up of three separate cascades. They stopped to watch people canyoning down the falls and then dropping from ropes into the deep pools of water. The views down Loch Linnhe were beautiful with ever changing skylines.

Following the track along General Wade’s Road they looked for red squirrels. Although they were advertised on the posters they did not make an appearance. They then went for lunch at the Corran ferry and watched the cars and ferries cross over to Ardnamurchan peninsula.

Meanwhile, Bob’s group were walking up to Grey Mares Tail waterfall which was in full spate after last night’s rain. No one was tempted to try the Via Ferrata up the face of the old quarry. They continued up to Mamore Lodge returning to Kinlochleven via the West Highland Way. Following a visit to the ice house and climbing wall where there were no takers for either, Joan visited the hostel nearby and was given a guided tour of the hobbit houses. They then drove to Glencoe and explored the footpaths around the Lochans before returning to the hotel after visiting the memorial to the Glencoe massacre.

Jim’s party climbed Signal Rock and Am Torr before also exploring the Glencoe Lochans although they failed to make contact with Bob and his merry band of walkers.

On return to the hotel the water babies luxuriated in the sauna again before dinner. The meal was followed by an accordionist who played many haunting Scottish tunes including the Black Island and a few in celebration of Rabbie Burns. A demonstration of dancing by Ann and Robert and a small girl who was clearly bemused by the event followed. The dance began as a Zorba the Greek circular movement transforming into a highland jig. Ann and Robert’s footwork could have graced the floor of Come Dancing.

Later, Elke and John performed a variation of a Gay Gordon to much applause from the train spotters. The manager informed us that Ballachulish had lost the shinty match but enjoyed drowning their sorrows. Defeated but not downhearted the losers had said “Well there is always next year”.

At the end of the evening, Aileen gave a vote of thanks to all the leaders and rewarded them with bottles of amber nectar. There was a special vote of thanks for Robert Bain for his very valuable contribution to taking over arrangements at the last minute and dealing with the accommodation changes.

Monday dawned clear. Early morning swims completed, Marjory and Mary visited the commemorative memorial cairn to the massacre of the McDonalds of Glencoe. The trip home was uneventful. A short stop in Callander whilst Christine visited the bakery for the tear and share dough bread and coffee, Neil then retreated to the car while the ladies raided the charity shops. Before heading home, Jim’s party toured around the quarry, Bob did a brief recce up the Hidden Valley, Aileen and Joan visited the museum in Glencoe and Robert and Ann headed towards Oban

FINALLY Thank you to all who contributed to or participated in the weekend. Hopefully the injuries sustained at the weekend or prior to that will lead to a speedy recovery. Injuries included one dislocated elbow,(acquired on the recce) one broken finger (acquired in the interest of domestic harmony), two scratches to the head( one caused by a frisky branch) and one caused by a naughty car roof and lastly a slip injuring the gluteal muscle. Perhaps at this juncture it might be worth saying that the first aid training went well and might need to be revisited.

Glencoe lived up to it’s reputation of being one of the most majestic and historical glens in Scotland. So now that the weekend is over, we can turn our minds to future rambling adventures.