What is a Colby Camp ? Early days of Ordnance Survey. A bit of information.

Colby Camps – Mountain Camps , Trig Stations. How did we get such great maps in the UK? This is part of the tale of the Colby camps. What were they? A few years ago I received an email from a good friend Noel Williams a very well- known mountaineer and geologist about the unusual cairn on Corryhabbie Hill just across from Ben Rinnes in Morayshire. The summit Cairn had a heavy metal hat on the trig point.

Corryhabbie hill with the unusual cairn.

This was definitely part of the Colby Camps and we found some ruins not far from the summit.

Colby Camp just of the summit of Corryhabbie Hill.

I also was asked on twitter recently if I knew about the ruins on the far North Munro Ben Kilbreck (Meall nan Con) from Ilona Turnbull who located some ruins near the summit.

Colby camp on Ben Kilbrec – Meall Nan on GRID – NC 585298 Photo Ilona Turnbull

This is from Noel “I was interested to see from your website that you were on Corryhabbie Hill a couple of years ago – the one with the metal cap on its trig pillar. I don’t know if you’ve ever come across the term ‘Colby Camp’ before. There’s an great article all about them in the SMCJ 2013 by Graham E Little.

The SMC Journal is full of great information it is published annually well worth buying !

They are ruins of shelters, windbreaks etc on the summits of hills across the Highlands left by OS parties during the principal triangulation of Britain in the 19th century. Colby and his men lived for weeks on lots of mountains taking bearings to other summits when weather permitted. Hardy men. On one trip Colby recce camp sites and triangulation stations over mountainous terrain. He is recorded as walking 586 miles in 22 days , including Sundays! The only summit he failed to reach was the Cuillin in Skye. SMC J 2013

Colby camps

There are only records of nine camps where ruins can still be seen. However, there are lots of hills where OS parties are known to have lived for many weeks but where no remains have been recorded. Ben Wyvis, The Storr, Ben More on Mull are just a few such hills. Have you seen any ruins on your travels?

Colbys Camp Creach Bheinn – Ardgour.

I was wondering if you’d seen any stone walls or similar ruins on Corryhabbie. Colby is known to have spent some time there in 1819. I located the ruins and sent the details. OS Parties were there again 6 Sept – 21 Nov 1850. (Imagine living there this time of year!) See attached list of observations above.

Mam Sodhail ?

I was wondering if you’d seen any stone walls or similar ruins on Corryhabbie. Colby is known to have spent some time there in 1819. I located the ruins and sent the details. OS Parties were there again 6 Sept – 21 Nov 1850. (Imagine living there this time of year!) See attached list of observations above.

Sadly a few years ago !

The Colby camp on Jura on the highest point on the Corbett Beinn an Oir is a superb example and must have been a huge site ! It was an awful day when I was there but its huge and well worth a visit. Sadly I got no photos. It includes a road from the camp to the summit, I must get back. Colby retired as a Major General in 1847 after 27 years as head of the Ordnance Survey.

Comments and photos welcome !

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
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