What a great weekend on the North West – Shenavall Bothy and Four Season in one Day.
Over the weekend I have been away with my Stepdaughter Yvette who arrived from the deep South at Inverness airport on Friday afternoon. The weather forecast was pretty wild for late April with snow, bitter cold and winter conditions on the mountains. We had a great drive up to Ullapool where we were staying in the Ceilidh Place in Ullapool. We stopped on our journey so often to get photos and see the hills with fresh snow looking magic. I never get tired of these views, so many, in such a short space of time it is overwhelming, never taking any of them for granted. I know what it is like to be away from the wild places and Yvette was loving every minute. We stopped for a cup of tea with pals with a view of Beinn Wyvis that makes the soul so happy. Then we had lunch in Ullapool in a lovely wee café at the front and sat outside, Yvette wanted a view until a winter shower hit us. The views of Loch Broom, the harbour and in between showers the snow-capped Beinn Dearg were as always stunning.
We had some time to spare and needed a walk and headed up to Assynt and stopped at Ardmair beach another incredible place with views of the Summer Isles. We had a great wander and as the sun was out then headed up to Stac Pollaidh in Assynt, each bend in the road specail and so invigorating. This is a lovely place for a walk, it can be busy but today there were no cars in the car park it was incredible and we wandered round the back of this mountain we had great views of so many of Assynt mountains. These are wonderful peaks,sculpted by nature with a myriad of lochs, the massive space, no one about and the sea dominating. This is what life is about and why we love these places, we sat and enjoyed it out of the wind and feeling the warmth of the sun.
We had a lovely walk, it was warm and so peaceful and then we headed back to Ullapool again breathtaking view and booked in to the accommodation and then had a superb tea and a few drinks. It was amazing that we were eating a lovely meal in the Seaforth Hotel when the RAF Mountain Rescue arrived and stopped at the local 5 star chippy. It was like old times and Yvette thought I had planned it, I went out and had a chat they were the RAF Lossiemouth Team heading off to Lochinver for a weekend training. It brought back a few memories and great to see them again and made my day.
It was a wonderful night and the weather was looking good, the night ended with a walk to the moonlight harbour. Next day we had planned a walk to a place we both love Shenavall a remote bothy that is nestled at the foot of An Teallach. The forecast was not great with fresh snow and cold winds, we packed our winter gear. We were away early and a short drive round to the track that takes you into Shenavall. The drive from Ullapool is wonderful on its own and on this day magnificent though it was grey and snowing a bit yet we got great views of Loch Broom and then the Fannichs and the mighty An Teallach that dominated. The snow was down and the hill was in winter grabh as we parked at Corrie Hallie near Dundonnell.
We met a walker who was going out for 2 days wild camping and we had a good chat with him and his Mum and Dad who were dropping him off. The weather was still a bit rough a biting cold and the odd flurry of snow. It is a fair walk into Shenavall and I was wary of the weather as the snow was down to about 2000 feet. As soon as we set of the weather brightened and we had an incredible few hours. It was Scotland at its finest and all Four Seasons in One Day. Every view was special and the snow on the hills added to-day it was a wonderful walk, we cherished every minute in such a place. We saw some deer at the beginning of the day and a few goats that crossed the path near Shenavall and even more higher up with a young kid, amazing.
The Journey to Shenavall.
Cars fly by as you cross the road, to another world.
Then silence, the traitor’s gate.
The track wynds through the trees, the river breaks the silence,
The glaciated slabs hide the cliffs, then:
Views of An Teallach open at every turn.
Midges and clegs abound here but not today, too cold, its winter.
Cross the river, is that bridge in the wrong place? Muddy and wet, back on track,
Steep hill, upwards towards the top, the wee cairn.
Stop, no rush, drink it all in.
An Teallach. snow plastered, familiar, foreboding.
Open moor, contour round and round, special views,
Every Corrie on that great hill has a particular thought. Memories
Fisherfield, these great hills, the light changing, to the West
Youthful memories of companions, some now gone.
Epic days, trying to impress? Pushing it and nearly, losing it?
Descent to Shenevall, steep, slippy and wet,
Eroded now by so many feet.
Collect some wood. The bothy, the deer, they are still there;
Shenevall. It never changes, only the seasons.
Fire on, primeval, tea in hand, alone with thoughts.
The Deer rattle the door, time for sleep.
Thanks to the Mountain Bothies Association ! Heavy Feb 2013 For Yvette.
Shenavall – A Brief History
Alex Sutherland – “Shenavall was first occupied by one Colin MacDonald and his family on a cold dreich morning in November 1891. With a swirling mist obscuring the surrounding peaks of An Teallach and Beinn Dearg Mor and many mountain burns in full spate, their arrival by boat at the head of Loch na Sealga was not an encouraging start to occupancy that was to last all of ten years. The family’s miserable possessions consisted of no more than a few trunks, some bedding and a wheelbarrow. The stonemasons who had built their home had left only the previous day; the walls remained unlined, and the bare earth was strewn with rubble. Within days, however, father and son had plastered the walls with some blue clay taken from a nearby mound of glacial debris. Major improvements were started in the spring with the construction of upstairs bedrooms and insertion of wooden wall linings and floorboards. The family’s arrival was due to Colin’s father having been appointed stalker on the Dundonnell estate. Mr MacDonald was also a skilful crofter, fisher, shepherd and stonemason. Evidence of the latter skill can be seen in the well-constructed dry-stone barn which abuts the house to this day. A Busy Life Colin was born in the now ruined house which still stands on the left hand side of ‘Destitution Road’ before the descent to Little Loch Broom. Mrs MacDonald must have been busy looking after four children – three born during the family’s sojourn at Shenavall.”
As we arrived the view is wonderful and the deer were down at the Bothy, you do not see the bothy till the last 10 minutes of the walk what a view it always is and we savoured the descent. We had some time at the bothy it was in a fine state lovely and clean with two people staying but they were up high enjoying the hills. The massive Loch Na Sealga dominates the area as do the two huge Corbetts Beinn Dearg Mor and Beag, neglected gems as this is a wild area that contains 5 remote Munros. I loved our short stay and what memories I have of this place and it has been recently renovated with a new stair and the rooms renovated and a paint, it looks wonderful. The MBA relies on donations to keep its great work going and is well worth supporting have look on their web www.mountainbothies.org.uk
We took another path back home round by the river Sealga passed the now ruined bothy at Achneigie it was so magic a place and we had a break. This place must have some tales it is boarded up and looking a sad place but we sat by the river and thought of how hard life must have been living here and Shenaval. It was then onto the Estate track a steep but lovely walk up onto the path a bit of a pull but so different views and then the back to the familiar path and the car. I have walked this way on so many occasions after the great traverse of An Teallach and the Fisherfield 5/6 all in one day and the pull up from Shenavall is a killer only about a thousand feet but after an 18 hour day purgatory. Poor Yvette was regaled with these tales as my memories came back. In winter it is a wild place with little shelter and hard going in wild weather even going to the bothy and back is an adventure.
It was a long day and we were feeling it on the way back and the views kept changing and the weather so special. The hills were all snow covered and clear and it was warm in the sun, we had that tiredness that is enjoyable even in my aching bones. It was a day I had wanted to do for a couple of years since I have been ill, what a joy to be out and these great peaks are still there and I will return to them.
What a day we had and the weather held all day, it had threatened but apart from a snow flurry it stayed away.At times it was cold and a bitter wind blew a time for hats and jackets, then the sun came out and it was wonderful.
We met more goats on the way home that made our day and more deer. As we left there were a herd of goats near the road with about 20 including young and a great end to the day. They were up the trees and on the road verge, what a finish to a great day.
Despite the cold weather the flowers are coming out and the primroses were looking great as we saw them at various times in the weekend so beautiful in such a wild place. It was back to Ullapool a shower and then a great meal in the Ceilidh Place to end the day. This was so specail a day for us both and one we will never forget. I cannot wait till Ellie and Lexi are older to show them these specail places, we live in a wonderful country that is ever changing in the weather and light.