Rannoch Moor from Beinn an Dothaidh, 24th July 2005
The weather forecast for the day was reasonable, although some threat of cloud above 900m, but decided nonetheless to head for the hills. Beinn Dorain had attracted me since I first saw it a year ago when walking the West Highland Way and it was a pleasure to be heading back to it. The start is at the railway station at Bridge of Orchy and this was about an hour’s drive from The Chookery. Nice and dry and not too warm, so set off up the very obvious track from the station which leads up the Allt Coire an Dothaidh into, unsurprisingly, Coire an Dothaidh. At this stage the cloud base was a lot lower than 900m and the upper half of the mountains were hidden in the cloud. The cloud did start to lift as I climbed and, by the time I got up into the coire, the bealach at the head of it was just visible. Parts of the path are very boggy and I got a bootful of peat which I should have removed but didn’t, with the consequence that I abraded some skin from my ankle where it accumulated in the boot. There is always that moment where you remember the gaiters are on your back and they would have been better off on your feet, and this was it. Towards the top of the coire the path steepens considerably as it climbs over the glacial debris. Up at the bealach there is a choice of mountains; turn left and you start up Beinn an Dothaidh, turn right and it’s Beinn Dorain. I chose to climb Beinn Dorain first, saving Beinn and Dothaidh for later, which was a sensible move in the end. From the bealach the walk was in the cloud, but the path was well-worn and easy to follow for the mile-and-a-half to the summit cairn, which is not the first one you reach, but rather one a few hundred metres further on along a small ridge. It was a pity about the cloud, but the landscape up on the mountain itself was craggy, green, dramatic and well worth another visit on a better day. Sat at the summit and dug into lunch, which was home-made egg rolls using eggs from the chooks and my own bread rolls; if only the bananas had been home-grown it would have been a very virtuous picnic. Met a couple walking their dog on the top and got chatting; turned out they were a local GP and his wife from near home, so we passed the time of day as we descended back down to the bealach. They stopped to take photos and I pressed on. From the bealach the first part of the route up Beinn an Dothaidh is clear on the ground, but the path peters out when the route enters an extensive bog and everyone seems to make their own route decisions across it. This mountain has three peaks of similar height on a curving ridge and I headed for the eastern-most at first, which turned out not to be the summit, but merely the one that was visible from the boggy bit. By now the cloud was completely clear of the hill, but poor old Beinn Dorain remained shrouded all day in misty solitude. Realising the minor navigational error, wandered along to the main summit and the small cairn there. Here the view is across the whole of Rannoch Moor (the photo posted above) and as far as 40 or 50 miles into the distance. Not knowing the Scottish mountains well enough to identify all I could see, I contented myself with naming the few I knew and gazing in pleasure at the view before me. To the east, the mountains that make up the Great Wall of Rannoch stretched out along a spectacular green ridge, which could make a long but very enjoyable walk for another day. To complete the hill, I wandered across to the western summit where the mountain falls in crags and cliffs steeply down to the north, but I turned south and headed back across the open slopes to rejoin the path and the route down to the car.