With the Queen of the Chooks in Somerset, and the chickabiddies safely packed off back to their mother until Easter, I had the day to myself (and still do tomorrow as well, come to that). With the weather forecast here in the West Highlands for light winds, clear skies and sunshine, that meant only one thing: squarebagging in the hills.
Now, the last time I headed off up into these local hills I made the classic mistake of walking straight through a grid square without stopping to take a photograph, which meant a return visit and a repeat of about seven miles of bog-trotting for the sake of one picture; but such the the Geograph game. Mind you, I had another objective in the same area; I’d been intrigued by the reports of a cave on the Finchairn River and couldn’t find it on the last trip, so determined to find it on this one. Eddie next door told me it was also known as the Earth Bridge, because the river ran underground here for about 100 feet, creating a dry route to cross from one side to the other.
Out onto the hills at 0945 and the air was cold, so I had my duvet jacket on over the technical baselayer, but was quickly too hot so I walked for most of the day in just the baselayer. This is one of the consequences of my diabetes; I sweat like anything at the lightest exercise, which creates a major challenge in keeping dry and warm on the hills.
I found the river cave, just ten metres upstream from where I left the river last time. Astonished that I hadn’t seen it, but here are a couple of pictures to show:
The sink, where the river enters the cave
The Earth Bridge itself
Where the river rejoins the daylight
As I got further up into the hills I could see the Cruachan range of mountains some twenty miles away to the north. They were covered in snow and completely clear of cloud and looked fabulous. I could also see Ben More on the Isle of Mull, and Scarba and Jura were also clear off to the west.
I finally got the missing square with this:
Loch nan Eilean (Loch of the Islands)
My next objectives were along the River Add, and an hour’s walk through country with more lochs and lovely little crags found me there. Bagged the relevant squares and headed on down river to the bothy for lunch, passing en route, for example,
Watefall on tributary to the River Add
Spent lunch reading the logbook in the bothy and found that no-one had visited (or at least written in the logbook) for a fortnight. The place was clean and tidy and ready for the next visitors.
My route took me now to the south of the old drove road into featureless country, which gave a couple of navigational problems, but those always get resolved in the end. No more than a few hundred metres off course and easily recovered.
Back across to the Sandy Loch (Loch Gainmheach) and managed to get this fabulous picture of an old boathouse:
Boathouse on Loch Gainmheach
It’s worth pointing out that this boathouse is about two miles from the nearest road of any description, but there is another one further up the loch which is only about a mile from the hill road. Headed on down to the foot of the loch and my last baggable square of the day, passing a group of red deer hinds who displayed their displeasure at my appearance by barking loudly.
I was now faced with a problem; this is a large loch and discharges a large burn which was going to be difficult to cross, but cross it I must to get myself back to the car or take an extra two miles on the route. Eventually found a place where the burn was about six inches deep all the way over and just waded through; feet already pretty moist and the gaiters kept the worst of it out.
By now it was half-past-three and I decided against any more detours, settling instead for navigating myself off the hill and back to the car. I set a bearing from the map to take me to the nearest section of the hill road and was delighted to find that my landmark for this course was Ben Cruachan itself, glinting like a large diamond in the distance. Back to the road in another twenty minutes and to the car 45 after that. It was a great pleasure to put some dry socks on and get back home for a cup of tea after another superb day in the hills: seven hours and not another human being to be seen.