Active Outdoors
Published: 20/05/2017 20:00 - Updated: 16/05/2017 10:29

A slog in search of solitude

Written byPeter Evans

THE area north of Ben Wyvis is wild and largely pathless, so you need to keep your navigation skills up to scratch if you venture there. The reward is that if you’re seeking solitude it’s here in abundance, with views of nothing but hills and water for miles.

I’d cycled round to the north of Ben Wyvis once before to do an ascent of the Munro from that side.

This time I aimed to ride further, getting closer to two Grahams on opposite banks of the Abhainn Beinn nan Eun. One’s called Beinn nan Eun, hill of the birds, and the other, more difficult to reach, rejoices in the name Carn Loch nan Amhaichean, hill of the neck-shaped loch.

Driving up the Black Rock Gorge road from Evanton, I planned to reach Eileanach Lodge at the road’s end early, knowing this was going to be a long day.

Arriving at the car park I looked forward to the bike ride along the south shore of Loch Glass to Wyvis Lodge and beyond. There’s a great view of the east side of Ben Wyvis from here, which is much more craggy than the western side, from which most people approach the summit.

The distinctive pink exterior of Culzie Lodge on the loch shore looks somewhat alien in this landscape, as do the whirling turbines of the Novar wind farm, fouling the ridge across the loch to the right.

Approaching Wyvis Lodge I spied a couple of whooper swans gliding on the water and stopped to watch these majestic birds before skirting the lodge and continuing on the track. It bears west, then turns north, following the Abhainn Beinn nan Eun to a small dam, built as part of a new hydro scheme.

This sits right under the south ridge of Beinn nan Eun, so after hiding the bike in the heather I set off uphill. There’s an indistinct path to begin with, which disappears further on. Setting myself small landmarks to aim at – mainly boulders – I edged upwards to reach the summit cairn at 742 metres.

Taking shelter from the wind I was gazing across what is still very much a wilderness, the distinctive shape of the Corbett, Carn Chuinneag, catching my eye.

If this part of the walk had not been easy, things were about to get a lot worse.

I headed west, descending Beinn nan Eun in the direction of Loch nan Amhaichean under my second, eponymous Graham, Carn Loch nan Amhaichean.

The ground between the base of Beinn nan Eun and the northern shore of the loch is wet and riven with peat hags. The distance is around two kilometres, which would normally take about half an hour on easy ground.

It took at least twice that long, so food and a drink were in order before the initially steep ascent of the Graham, then an easing to the top, which has twin cairns and another stupendous view.

More rough ground and peat hags followed as I walked on a bearing towards the start of a path beneath Cioch Beinn nan Eun, a small outcrop under the first Graham. It would take me back through the glen to my start point.

After so much toiling I almost cheered when I reached my first real path of the day, and a chance to relax into a stride and enjoy the scenery on what was now a warm afternoon.

Good to begin with, the path deteriorates further on and is difficult to pick out. But I knew I didn’t have far to go now, so crossed the burn for the last few hundred metres to the dam.

It felt good to be back on the bike again for a long but easy ride back to the car, spoilt only by those cursed turbines.

Route details

Wyvis Grahams

* Distance 14 miles / 23km (bike) plus 7.5 miles / 12km (walk)

* Terrain Bike ride on track then mostly pathless, rough and often boggy ground

* Start/finish Eileanach Lodge at end of Black Rock Gorge road out of Evanton

* Map OS Landranger 20, Beinn Dearg

A testing day out in some remote countryside with plenty of solitude if that’s what you’re after. Good practice for map and compass work

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