To summit or not to summit?

Or Half Way up a Hill

Beinn a' Bha'ach Ard, Glen Strathfarrar

I, like many fellow hiking bloggers, like to walk in the hills and mountains in our country. Some hikers like to stay low down, exploring remote valleys often walking long distances to access places miles from the nearest roads, while others of us feel a compulsion to go uphill. Most days in the hills demand a summit or two. However, sometimes it’s good to simply be in the hills and not ‘bag’ a top. Today was one such day. OK I admit I originally set off with the plan to go to the summit of the hill, Beinn a’ Bha’ach Ard- my local hill and one I can see from our house-but due to several circumstances I changed my plan.

*Circumstances included 1. losing the path near the start and wasting time and energy checking the grid reference with the GPS and studying the map in detail and retracing my steps. 2. Feeling a wee bit below par today, and 3. Being a lot less fit than I wish to be. Either that, or I’m a lazy sod, who’s membership of the Outdoors Bloggers really should be revoked. πŸ˜‰

As my one day with free time and access to MY car coincided with the one day the locked gate up Glen Strathfarrar is not open, I parked at the parking area immediately before the gate and set off along the road on foot.

The walk started with a very pleasant walk along the narrow road that leads up the glen. Because of the fact this is a private road with a locked gate restricting access, the relative lack of cars through the glen contributes to the feeling of remote place.

Beinn a' Bha'ach Ard, Glen Strathfarrar

Although the higher slopes of the hills on either side are heavily managed for farming and forestry, the land immediately beside the river shows typical riparian vegetation such as birch trees and bluebells at this time of year.

River Farrar, Glen Strathfarrar

The name of the glen doesn’t make sense, and is a ‘Gaelicisation’ of the Gaelic. A strath is an elongated glen, and it is thought that an English-only speaker, ignorant of the meaning of ‘Strath’, recorded this as the ‘Glen of Strathfarrar’ on early maps.

The River Farrar is part of the Affric-Beauly hydro-electric power scheme, with a dam at Loch Monar and underground power stations at Deanie and Culligran.

River Farrar, Glen Strathfarrar

The path up the hill leaves the single track road beside the underground power station at Culligran.

Culligran Power Station, Glen Strathfarrar

Once past the power station, there is a track heading uphill through more birch woods. On the grass verges and in small clearings in this natural broadleaved woodland there were numerous flowers including chickweed wintergreen, heath milkwort, tormentil and greater stitchwort.

Beinn a' Bha'ach Ard, Glen Strathfarrar

Leaving the woodland behind the path leads to the open moorland with distant views to the tops of Beinn a’ Bha’ach Ard (the name means the hill of the high byre).

Beinn a' Bha'ach Ard, Glen Strathfarrar

Beinn a' Bha'ach Ard, Glen Strathfarrar

As I climbed higher I could see views of the Strathglass with the stretch of agricultural land either side of the River Glass.

Beinn a' Bha'ach Ard, Glen Strathfarrar

The hills to the south-west in Glen Affric

Beinn a' Bha'ach Ard, Glen Strathfarrar

And looking north-east to the Beauly Firth.

Beinn a' Bha'ach Ard, Glen Strathfarrar

From the slopes of Creag a’ Gharbh-choire, just south of the top of the main hill, Loch na Beiste came into view to the east.

Beinn a' Bha'ach Ard, Glen Strathfarrar

After sitting in the heather for a long lunch (at one point lying in the heather until I remembered dear hubby-and tick-checker-was away this evening) I decided to change my original plans and leave the top for another visit. I chose to head to the loch, crossing more boggy ground on the way.

Beinn a' Bha'ach Ard, Glen Strathfarrar

Loch na Beiste is a scenic wee loch and today was looking picturesque with the masses of Bogbean growing there.

Loch na Beiste, Beinn a' Bha'ach Ard

Beinn a' Bha'ach Ard, Glen Strathfarrar

Heading south again from the hill and loch the track runs through a deer enclosure and as well as the farmed deer here I spotted wild deer outside the fenced area.

Beinn a' Bha'ach Ard, Glen Strathfarrar

I really enjoyed my wandering around in the hills today and the lack of ‘summiting’ was not important. It was specially delightful because Beinn a’ Bha’ach Ard is visible from our upstairs window . It is our ‘barometer’ hill; In late October and spring we always look for early/late snow.

I loved the solitude of today’s walk. After leaving the car at the gate and passing the houses there I didn’t see another soul for the whole time out. At several places I sat and absorbed the ‘wildness’ of the place. Looking around I noted that apart from the managed moorland and the forestry in the distance, there was no visible evidence of human impact. Yet, I was only a short distance from home. I appreciate I am so fortunate to live in a wonderful corner of the country.

I leave you with some images of some of the wildlife (mainly flowers) seen today. Also seen, or heard, but not captured include cuckoo, red deer stag, froglets and toads and numerous birds.

9 comments on “To summit or not to summit?

  1. You are so lucky to live close to such wonderful scenery! To be able to literally step outside your door and emerse yourself like this!

  2. Well done Shiela, thoroughly enjoyed your outing, that “glen/strath” thing seems to crop up regularly, you find in in Lakeland too, like Lake WinderMERE, what’s the difference between a lake and a mere? Just loaded some pics from my failed attempt on the Southern Upland Way, a pretty wet do..
    All good wishes may you long gather rosebuds unharmed by the briar!

  3. James, yes, I appreciate I’m so fortunate to live close to this wild land. I think sometimes it makes me a bit lazy as I give up on a walk with a shrug and say “Och, I’ll try again another day!”

    Freddie, I’d never thought of that ‘mere’/’lake’ thing before, but you’re correct.
    I’ll go look at your pictures of the SUW now. When browsing your last batch and reading your excellent narrative with each photo, I thought YOU ought to start blogging again. I bet some of my hiking blog contacts – over there in the right-hand column – would be interested in your exploits, if you shared with them.

  4. As only an occasional outdoor blogger I have no say in these things but for what it is worth – if you come back with photos like this your membership is entirely justified. Sorry if that sounds a bit like you have “the full support of the board”

  5. Oh no – are there minimum fitness standards for Outdoor Bloggers? I’m stuffed! I should have know when Alan Sloman (I think it was Alan) started ranting last year about fat people and how they should be shot on sight. (I may be misrepresenting his views ever so slightly there). Umm – is there a thriving community of philately bloggers – they might have me. But I haven’t got any stamps! Woe is me.
    Looks like a great walk top or no top.

  6. Hi Sheila, the thing is that I did have a go at Blogging for a couple of months though I didn’t make it open as I wanted to review and see if I thought it was worthwhile and what I found was that I was writing the blog as well as doing my “photo-journal” which is how I think of my Flickr page and writing a descent blog seems a lot harder than writing up my pics. And doing both is too demanding of time etc. As you will have seen I am keen on history and literature and getting more interested & immersed in poetry, and how that can be and is related to the wonderful landscape I so much enjoy exploring and walking through. Maybe if I walked less I could blog more, but for the moment, that’s not too appealing! Its looking wet and showery for our weekend so I’m planning a short weekend in Northumberland and at the end of June I will be in Annan for the British Pipe Band Championships some of the boys from Inverness are sure to be there too….Cheers for noo..

  7. We did go try a new sport last year of “not climbing the summits”, involving deliberately missing out summits by walking round them, off them etc. Very childish but made us laugh for a few weeks. I have to admit to being a bit of a summit bagger but I’d be the first to admit I don’t know why. I try and make up for that by breaking duration records for very long lunch stops

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