Yesterday I went with some pals to Strathfarrar a lovely Glen not far from Inverness. These are great hills but access is available from 0900 – 2000 in summer. We arrived a bit early but gained the wrath of the gate guardian. I used to know the Gate keeper in the past we were well looked after. Eventually we got in to the Glen. We walked in past Sgurr na Muice a place where I climbed often a few years ago.
The stalkers path was wet to the Lochan Toll a’ Muic . The path then rises up onto the ridge and the views. The weather was so changeable sunny and then heavy rain and the darkest skies.
It’s great walking and once on the ridge it’s superb walking. The skies darkened and we got a real soaking gloves and hats on as well. We only managed to climb two Munro’s Fhuar – Thuill and Sgurr a’ Choire Ghlas where we returned. You have to be aware that Stalking is on now so be careful where you go!
I was not going that well I have to go slower due to the coughing and definitely two Munro’s was enough for me. Yet the views were spectacular. I could see Sgurr Mor in the Fannichs with its pointed summit. When the weather cleared you could see a panorama of hills. Just to be up here is a privilege.
Yet I was so glad I had permission to use the road it is well maintained by the Hydro Board as the great Hydro schemes started in the 50’s is an incredible tale.
Although the hydro electric schemes met with varying levels of opposition, resistance was particularly strong in the case of Glen Strathfarrar – ‘the last of the great unspoiled Glens.’ Strathfarrar’s fate was finally sealed following a Public Inquiry and led to the building of the Monar Dam, the largest arch dam in Britain.
Fierce objections to this clearing of the Glen were ignored and only the keeper’s house at Monar and Pait Lodge survived. In his book ‘Isolation Shepherd’, author Iain Thomson, the last resident of Strathmore Lodge gives an account of life in this remote and wild place prior to the flooding. Loch Monar is now eight miles long, twice its original length.
Glen Strathfarrar, like the neighbouring glens, is a haven for the outdoor enthusiast. The road into the Glen is private and access to motor vehicles is restricted which can prove tedious, especially for those tackling the longer hill routes against the clock. Vehicle access is governed by an agreement between the landowners and Mountaineering Scotland . On the other hand cyclists, and those on foot, will find the road relatively traffic free.
I love what I call “The Great Glen’s “to me they are some of the best walking in Scotland. I got to know them when with the Mountain Rescue Team at RAF Kinloss. To me in these days they were remote and we had Base Camps at Fannich Lodge, Strathfarrar Cannich and Affric. We also had access to the Estate roads which we hard worked hard to gain over the years. On my first visit I remember seeing mountain after mountain, Glen after Glen it was intoxicating. Huge days were planned in summer and winter good training for the winters to come. Huge days were planned including bivouacs many great days with superb companions.
It was on my long walks North to South and South to North in the 70’s that my respect for these hills was gained. To work out the Geography of these Glen’s it’s great to cross them on consecutive days. By the time you reach them on a big walk I feel you are at one with the mountains. You can sense changes in weather and become to my mind at one with the mountains. We rarely saw anyone else apart from the keepers at the end of long days. It was a different era which I am so lucky to have been on the mountains for such a time. One can only imagine what these places were like before the Hydro changed these places. It’s worth reading about the past of the the Glens and the folk who lived there. On a “Big walk” you approach the hills and descend different ways from the normal hill walking routes. There are also many winter climbs in thee Glens that you spot and climbed over the years. Many were unknown at the time and I never met anyone else climbing there. There was only one exception the Late Andy Nisbet Scottish climbing guru and John MacKenzie would meet us. News was kept close to the heart in these days. To me these were Golden years away from the honeypot areas like the Cairngorms, Ben Nevis and Glencoe.
The Old SMC District Guides gave a few secrets about possible routes and they were read to find them. You also descended into wild Corries and saw possible lines. Now many are in the many Guide books about yet you will rarely see anyone else.
We did a few call outs in these Glen’s always hard work. The estates would help by access by boat at times to the remoter hills. It is easy to walk off the wrong way in bad weather and with limited communication ( no mobile phones in those days) I did my first night time job on the Strathfarrar hills for a walker with a broken ankle using early night vision goggles. Being up front helping the crew backing out a Corrie on a wild night was intimidating.
A few words from Walk Highlands on the Strathfarrar Munro’s:
“ A long walk with excellent views and increasing interest from the mountains and ridges further along the route. The walk back along the road, although picturesque, can be tiring at the end of the day, a bike could be used to shorten this section.” The Glen is open from 0900 in the summer by the gatekeeper. In winter it’s only open weekly and contact for access is on Mountaineering Scotland website.
These places are special to all of us please visit and enjoy. Have a look around don’t just boast round watch the wild life and be aware the Stalking Season is only around the corner.
Todays tip – be aware it’s cold on the hill and tops make sure you are prepared. Thanks for a good day really tired today.
The walk from Sgurr Na Fearstaig over Sgurr na Muic gives great views and is a lovely walk for a short day.