Monday, 2 November 2009

Top 100 Walks: A Challenge

Have thought further about my top 100 Scottish Walks. They wouldn't all be hillwalks, unlike many other lists. The Buachaille via Curved Ridge would be there of course, as would the traverse of Liathach: but so would a stroll round Edinburgh, or the West Highland Way from Bridge of Orchy to Kinlochleven. But I've come across a problem. There are so many areas of Scotland about which I have little first hand experience. What do I know of walking in Shetland? Nothing.

Moray and Buchan? Zip.
Orkney? A little.
Lewis? Nada.
Islay? Jura? Coll? Eigg? Duinish on Skye? Never even been there.

And there are even many classics I've not done. A traverse of Fisherfield, from the shores of Loch Maree past A'Mhaigdean; the Lairig Ghru; the Gaick. And who's to know if, say, the Mull of Kintyre to Machrihanish Bay isn't a great walk, until you try it? You can't really have a definitive best 100 until you've walked everything.

The good thing is, there's lots of walking and exploring to look forward to.

In the meantime, a random selection from a top 100:

Liathach


Start at the Coire Dubh car park, walk round the back of Liathach and make your way into impressive Coire na Caime. Head SW for Meall Dearg, supposedly the hardest of all the Munro tops. (Though I am sure the Bastier Tooth and Knights Peak are harder). I must confess to not having done it from this direction yet, but from above, from Mullach an Rathain. After Meall Dearg come Liathach's Northern Pinnacles, an exciting scramble whose hardest part, you'll be glad to know, is near the bottom. A great sense of achievement will be had on topping out on Mullach an Rathain. You can head down from here, but the day is only half done - head east along the fearsome Am Fasarinen Pinnacles to Liathach's summit, and continue along a delightful airy ridge to the eastern top, Stuic a Choire Dubh. Retrace your steps a little to find a steep, knee-grinding but safe path all the way back down to Glen Torridon, where a day of fear can be rewarded with a pint in the Beinn Damph hotel.

Beinn a' Chrulaiste


There's not much to this hill, conveniently situated an hour and a half (at the most) of a walk from the Kingshouse Hotel, but the view is extraordinary, the best of all of the Buachaille. Either head up the west side of a shallow corrie just to the north of the Kingshouse, or walk along the West Highland Way for a short distance until you see a rib of pink granite above you and climb this - it barely counts as scrambling. Keep your head down till the summit to enjoy the view. Extend the descent by going over Meall Bhalach and take a look at the ruined shielings by the Allt a' Bhalaich. Navvies working on the Blackwater Dam used to take this route to the Kingshouse, and a number died on the return journey, their bodies still somewhere out on the moor.

Carsaig Arches, Mull
Take a minor road to Carsaig, where there is parking for a couple of cars. Chose a windy, sunny day for the best atmosphere, Staffa-like basalt columns in the cliffs above you, sea eagles soaring, the sun shining through the surf and views of the Paps of Jura in the distance. It's not a long walk along the coast, but there is plenty of interest, so allow lots of time. The Carsaig Arches are unusual basalt formations. I suppose returning along the cliff top would be pretty cool but I've not done that.

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