Scotland – January 2019.

Day 1 – Heading North and The MacDonald Hotel, Kinlochleven.

Having not been able to get out hiking very much since starting back at school in September this trip to Scotland was something I’d been looking forward to for a long time. I returned from my trip to the Alps in August, finished off my Yorkshire Dales challenge and had a couple of hikes in the Lake District, namely Wetherlam and the Langdales. Now it was New Year’s Eve and I was heading north to Kinlochleven.

It’s such a long way from Manchester to the Highlands and for that reason I don’t get to head up as much as I’d like. A stop in Glasgow to pick up my mate Rob broke it up a little. I was determined to make the most of this trip however and had identified 4 new Munro’s that I intended to bag.

Arriving at The MacDonald Hotel, Kinlochleven at around 6pm we checked into one of the basic cabins on the edge of the camp site. Two sets of bunk beds and a shelf to store you gear but what more do you need? There is onsite showers, toilets and cleaning facilities and the best part the bar/restaurant that is attached to the Hotel.

We headed straight there for some amazing food, I had the sliders and chicken goujons which I highly recommend and a few pints before heading back to the cabin for an early start on New Year’s Day. Apart from being woken at midnight by a few fireworks from the New Year’s Eve celebrations it was a decent nights sleep and we woke up at 6:30am to head for our first hike of the trip.

Day 2 – Buachaille Etive Beag – Stob Dubh, Stob Coire Raineach, Ballachulish and The Corran Bunkhouse.

The weather forecast was relatively good, partly cloudy with a light breeze and by 7:30am we were at the carpark in Glencoe at the foot of Buachaille Etive Beag. Quickly getting all our gear together we set off up Lairig Eilde on the path to the bealach between Stob Dubh and Stob Coire Raineach. The route starts out quite flat but before long swings left and begins to climb.

The path is good and the views begin to open up as you gain height, Bidean nam Bian to the south and Aonach Eagach to the north. We spotted Red Deer on the upper flanks of Stob Coire Raineach as we approached the bealach. The final few metres to the ridge conceal the view and then all of a sudden Buachaille Etive Mor is revealed just across Lairig Gartain.

From the bealach we headed for Stob Dubh first, the higher of the two Munro’s on the day’s agenda. As we climbed the sun began to break through the clouds and made for some fantastic photographs of Glen Etive, Buachaille Etive Mor and Aonach Eagach. At the summit the view down Glen Etive to Loch Etive is stunning with Ben Starav towering over the Loch.

We then retraced our steps back to the bealach and took a well earned break before tackling Stob Coire Raineach, I was feeling good by this point and wanted to test my fitness so decided to hit the ascent as hard as possible with no breaks. In 12 minutes I was at the summit and once again was rewarded with incredible views, this time of Rannoch Moor and Blackwater Reservoir.

As I waited some clouds began to roll in and I was lucky enough to capture a Brocken Spectre from the top. Then we were visited by a very inquisitive raven who posed for some pictures. Once again we retraced our steps back down to the bealach and then all the way back down to the car. It was a fabulous start to the year and now time to head for The Corran Bunkhouse where we would be staying that night.

As it was only 2pm we stopped at Ballachulish on the way to capture some pictures of the sunset from the beach on Loch Leven, it was so still and calming. The reflections on the lake made for some great shots.

I have stayed at The Corran Bunkhouse 5 times previous to this trip and it really is my favourite place to stay in Scotland. It’s brilliant, perfectly kitted out for hikers and mountaineers, with everything you need and more for a comfortable and relaxing stay. Exactly what you need after a long day out in the mountains.

Since my last visit the new lounge area had been completed so we had a game of scrabble and drank coffee to pass the time as we waited for the kitchen to free up. It was quite busy as a walking club had completely taken over one of the Bunkhouses. After a meal of pizza and reading a few chapters of Simone Moro’s book I was off to bed and beginning to think about the next days walk in Arrochar.

Day 3 – Arrochar Alps – Beinn Narnain and Beinn Ime.

Excitement had built the night before as the forecast for our next hike in Arrochar was for blue skies and a gentle breeze. We woke early as the plan was to drive south to Arrochar in time for dawn and complete the hike before heading back down to Manchester.

After a drive of around an hour and a half we arrived on the shores of Loch Long just as day was beginning to break. The weather at this point was bang on forecast and it looked like we were in for an epic. The ascent of Beinn Narnain is quite a steep one to say the least. Starting at sea level it’s a 3.5km ascent to 926 metres with very few flat sections.

As he’d already bagged Beinn Narnain the plan was to meet Rob at the bealach between Beinn Narnain and Beinn Ime so I was alone for the first part of the day. Shortly after sunrise a bank of grey cloud rolled in and settled overhead for the entire day. I made good time though and arrived at the summit in just under 2 hours.

I quickly descended to the bealach and met up with Rob before we tackled Beinn Ime together, the views from the top were good but I couldn’t help wondering how they would have been if the forecast had been correct. We retraced our route back down to the bealach and then followed the valley down past The Cobbler and the Narnain Boulders.

Once back in the Ardgartan Forest the endless switchbacks became a little frustrating as I pondered the prospect of a 5 hour car journey. Still we arrived back at the car in good time and headed for home.

All in all a very successful trip north having achieved all the Munro’s I had intended to climb taking my total to 18 and once again Scotland was in fine form 👌.

To see a selection of the pictures from this trip head to my Instagram page @greyfoxhiking where I have shared my favourites.

Looking down from near the Summit of Bla Bheinn, a mountain on…

Looking down from near the Summit of Bla Bheinn, a mountain on the Isle of Skye. The fringes of the Cuillin Ridge can be seen in the distance. It was such a fascinating landscape to me because of the utter lack of trees – you could see every little craggy outcrop of topography perfectly.