Two weeks ago I was in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary getting two operations a hernia and bowel op and I am so glad its over. I have been lucky with my Health over the years and as the worlds worst patient it was not going to be easy for me. I live alone and was offered so much support from friends and family. My bedroom is upstairs and the toilet downstairs so it was pretty hard going for the first few days and I apologise to all for my grumpy attitude. I needed a bit of privacy especially after the bowel operation so I was better on my own. I worked at my recovery but after the first few days I was out walking going a bit further every day. I am very lucky I had so many friends who looked after me, people offering to nurse me and look after me it was embarrassing. They brought me cakes, soups, stews. took me out for meals and I got so many cards it was tremendous. There was little time to feel sorry for myself and every day I went a bit further walking, so lucky to have so much on my doorstep from the sea to the cliffs and forests. I was looking forward to getting out on the hills again and once I could drive again there were fewer places I wanted a to go to but Strathfarrar one of the great Glens near Inverness. It is about One and half hours from my house and after picking up Bernie a mate in Forres it was a bit of a drive to Strathfarra . When we got to Inverness the fog was down all the way to the locked gate at Strathfarra no views at all. Access up this wonderful Glen in winter is via the Mountaineering Council Of Scotland Office in Perth who give you the combination if you are a memeber and want to drive up the Glen. It is restricted access up the road but we had permission and despite the potholes it is a great drive and worth the journey for this alone. Why is access restricted ? It always has been but it is one of the few Glens that is, is this right? I will leave that for another day. I was still a bit sore and stiff when we arrived at gate I had not driven much since the operation but looking forward to a walk. It was still misty when we arrived and waited for two friends John and Mary who were coming with us. The drive up the glen is pure magic and further up near the Lodge the stags were by the river and a few were having a battle! We passed a cyclist on the way up you can still cycle up the Glen as many do as there are 4 great Munro on these hills and today we would not be doing them. I just wanted a walk among the hills and as the weather cleared it was great to be in such a place.
We parked up on a familiar track after visiting the Memorial to Pipe Major Ross How many miss this ” I thought you might be interested in a short story about the great man and his youth in Glen Strathfarrar before he enlisted in the Scots Guards, prior to the Boer War. Anxious to compete in local gatherings, he chose the nearest one at Strathpeffer, where there was usually a good turnout of five pipers. Willie left home very early in the morning and proceeded by way of Glen Orrin, Strathconon, and then by the Cat’s Back to Strathpeffer. Carrying his pipes and his lunch he would have reached the Strath by 10.30am — a long walk over rough country I estimate the direct route to be 10-15 miles. Having competed, often successfully, at Strathpeffer, he then took the same route home, a total journey of some 25 miles. At this point a quick map reference will fire your imagination. I have no doubt that many fit young men, suitably attired, could run from Strathfarrar to Strathpeffer, but could they win prizes and walk home again? One story tells of father Ross, who was head stalker in Glen Strathfarrar, heading very early in the morning, by horse and cart to collect coal in Beauly. He may well have had a good ceilidh and a dram or two with other glen men, but Willie was back in the Glen before him. Some fit young piper should try this journey, play his pipes at the Strath and walk home again to Strathfarrar. Little wonder that Willie Ross was fit for the Scots Guards, the Boer War, the Great War and his illustrious career as Head of Army Piping at Edinburgh Castle until 1966. Willie Ross died aged 87 and left the piping world much enriched. By any standard he was an outstanding Highlander. Finlay M MacRae, Aros, Knockbain Road, Dingwall.
A Track leads up to the small Hydro dam and then a stalkers path to Loch Toll a Muice and passes the big cliffs of Sgurr Na Muice where there is some great climbing mainly in winter and there are many routes here. It is wonderful walk and I kept looking back at the clouds in the Glen and the Cannich Munros, Carn Nan Gobhar and Sgurr Na Lapaich with a bit of cloud on the tops. I kept looking back and drinking it all in, the ferns and bracken are so brown now but looking lovely and I was so happy and the body was slow but going fine, the good path helped a bit muddy in places but it was a sparkling day. The views of Sgorr na Diollaid a Corbett from the track and the Glen are inviting and the guide states: “it is a hill of easy slopes with a few scattered crags overlooking the E end of Glen Cannich.It is accessible from the road through Glen Cannich and also from Glen Strathfarrar via the path through Coire nam Brathan which branches and leads onto Meall a’ Mhadaidh (684m) the most E top.” It is a grand looking hill and well worth a visit the views are magic.
I was a bit worried about how I would go and we were not going to far but I thought we could make it to the Loch and the others were looking after me and would ensure that was as far as I went. It is hard to express how you feel after not being out in the mountains for a while but it was great and I felt fine and we stopped regularly and enjoyed the views looking at the cliffs and the hills and hoping that maybe this winter we could come back when I got fit.
These cliffs have been good to me and they are impressive in winter with lots of climbs many pioneered by the Earl Of Cromarty and friends but for years in the 80’s RAF Kinloss MRT enjoyed amazing days here. The climbs cam come ine arly in the season when the turf freezes and ice forms, It is a cliff you will see few people and there cannot be many better views of Loch Monar after reaching the top. It is well worth a visit and there are still plenty of climbs to do.
These cliffs are impressive as is the big corrie up to the first of the Munros Sgurr Fhuar – thuill. It was not to be today we got to the Loch and had lunch at the big boulder. I had climbed here a few times and loved it and never met a soul and had so many great days here and on these Munros. I was very happy what we had done and everyone’s words of not overdoing it were ringing in my ear and we walked back down the glen.
It was a fine walk off and we met another walker who was a bit shocked at the length of the cycle in and was heading up to the tops a bit late in the day. We had a chat and did not envy his cycle home down the potholes road in the dark. I hope he had a good torch we left him to his adventure he was heading for Beinn nan Muice and its great views of Loch Monar and is worth the effort just for this view. The descent for us was fine and I took care and we were soon back at the car and then a slow drive down the Glen.
The stags were still there in the flats by the river we take it all for granted and they never bothered with us, We Passed the new Broullin Lodge now renovated and where we used to camp with the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams and the old bothy where Paul burnt his boots also renovated and looking good, this is another special place for me so many great memories. The Four Strathfarra Munros used to be an easy Sunday day when fit and young, not now. One day we did them after the big 4 Cannich Munroes along 20 hour day we were daft! I was amazed how well I felt after our we walk and though a bit sore it felt Not too sore.
It was well worth it but still a great to be out in the fresh air and see these great peaks with good friends . The drive back was fine and we missed the traffic in Inverness and were soon home. Friday night is fish and chip night in the village and that made a great end to a great day. Then the bath and the relaxing evening and an early night. What a difference from two weeks ago. The mountains and good friends the best medicine maybe the NHS could save some money with this. Thanks again to all, I owe you all one!