I NORMALLY avoid wind farms like the plague, but I couldn’t give this one a body swerve. There are Beinn Tharsuinns all over the place in Scotland but the one I was aiming for, near Ardross, has a wind farm almost on it. Keen to do a circuit over this Graham on a magnificent windless winter day of blue sky and snow, I hoped the turbines wouldn’t spoil my enjoyment too much.
At the car park off the B9176 in Strath Rory, I saddled up for a three kilometre bike ride along the track leading north-west to a small quarry.
A barrier is encountered soon after the car park, with a couple of rather intimidating notices warning of the dangers of quarries and "no access to unauthorised personnel".
Under Scotland’s access laws, however, walkers can use the track legitimately as long as they’re being responsible. And why wouldn’t they be?
The track is almost entirely uphill, with the benefit of a quicker ride out.
I left the bike near the bridge over the Strathrory River and headed up towards the quarry.
A set of footprints in the snow left the track the way I was going so I was more than glad to use them.
My hopes of frozen snow to walk on were dashed, and where the footprints had filled in or disappeared, it was a case of breaking through a crust into softer stuff.
It made for slow going on to the first top on my circuit, Torr Leathann. It was only as I neared the summit that the snow showed mercy and began to bear my weight.
Time for a rest at the cairn and an absolutely incredible view across the Cromarty and Dornoch firths, up into Sutherland and Caithness and across to Ben Wyvis, which looked majestic under its white blanket. It was blighted only by the wind farm.
Next it was down to a bealach and up to the main summit, Beinn Tharsuinn, complete with trig point. This was surprisingly easy after the battle with soft snow earlier on.
But now I was faced with a more difficult challenge. The two kilometres of ground between Beinn Tharsuinn and the cairn on Sidhean a’Choin Bhain is rough, broken and boggy.
Today the snow had filled in a lot of the troughs and the ground was frozen, which made the going slightly easier.
I weaved my way through the snow channels and over hummocks, trying to find the easiest line – all the while checking the compass to stay on the right bearing.
After what seemed like an age I got sight of the cairn and made for it, dumping my rucksack and taking a breather. Effort is usually rewarded on hills and I took in the views towards Sutherland and Assynt, with Suilven easily identifiable.
From the cairn I followed the ridge line north on easy ground then turned east towards the nearest turbine of the wind farm.
The air had warmed by now and I was into soft snow again, trudging downwards, sometimes sinking up to my knees.
Relief again at the turbine track where I took stock of the route back. The best way is to stay high and follow the wind farm tracks round to Meall a’Bhreacain, keeping below the summit and returning to the bridge over the Strathrory River.
Against my better judgement I tried descending to the head of the river and returning to the bridge on its eastern bank.
Bad decision! I found myself grappling with deep snow all the way back to the bridge.
The bike was a welcome sight and I was very glad I didn’t have to face a three-kilometre walk out. The only downside was that the bike and I got spattered with mud as the frozen dust earlier in the day had now turned to mush.
A woman walking a dog up the track was the only person I saw all day. Solitude, amazing views and some trial and tribulation, but worth every minute.