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Last updated: 15/10/10


Up and Round Schiehallion
16 August 2008

Just as in 2007 (see link), much of the August 2008 Saturday car meet was perfectly timed with bad weather (despite forecasts earlier in the week of a promising window in this month’s disappointments to date), and so only 4 stalwarts turned up at Bridge of Dee at 7:00am, and were whisked south by Garry down the A90 for “the Glen Lyon area”. Even their high spirits were a little daunted by the lowering clouds as the rain set in and clouds obscured the south-easterly Grampians, and so a decision was made to head for Schiehallion, not yet done by either Cristian or Ken C. Despite the best efforts of Garry’s car GPS to get us drive round in circles on stomach-churning roads, we eventually reached the Braes o’ Foss car park at 9:30am (and amazingly still empty), and – after inspecting the plaque commemorating the weighing of the earth, the determination of the gravitational constant, and the invention of contours (see link) – we started up the path in full waterproofs at about 9:30 am.

This path was “done up” in 2003 by the John Muir Trust (now the owners of “East Schiehallion”) as a replacement for the pre-existing scar (which has now more or less disappeared), and seems to be standing up to wear and tear quite well. It took us more or less effortlessly up amongst the purple heather into the clouds until the stonier region, where the “wild land” concept and some localised route-finding took over. Moreover, the wind increased in strength as we got up onto the ridge, and keeping one’s feet on the greasy quartzite became a priority. After a considerable distance we reached the rather miserable summit cairn (having passed several much more impressive affairs) and the remains of the trig point foundation. However, at and around the summit rocks, the wind was much more tolerable (so much so that the remains of one or more urnfuls of crematoria ash were still scattered about!), and the First Lunch could be partaken in damp, viewless but reasonably comfortable conditions.

Then it was Westward Ho! down the slopes, reversing the strata of rocks, stones and grass ‘n’ heather until the upper reaches of the burn below Geal Charn (another one?!) came reassuringly into view (and even some sunshine), after which a succession of handy sheep tracks took us along the north-east slopes until we emerged onto the flats in search of the Uamh Tom a’Mhor-fhir, which, “as any fule kno” (Nigel Molesworth, circa 1955; see link), is a cave that is alleged (see link) to extend several miles to the east. After various rabbit holes were explored and discarded, a depression in the grass did indeed lead down into a cavern, reasonably dry despite the soggy conditions outside, and big enough for four folk sitting up. Efforts by some to encourage others to penetrate further the narrowing void were not successful, and so we emerged to cross the broad Allt Creag a’Mhadaidh to inspect the Glenmore Bothy up on the opposite hillside. This looked unpromisingly locked from a distance but on closer inspection revealed a clean but bare outhouse and a stable – both unlocked – and that the bar to the bothy door itself was easily removed, allowing access inside to a welcome few chairs and a table. Here the Second Lunch was enjoyed, and some of the rubbish left by previous residents removed: why do some hillwalkers seem deliberately to annoy the estates?!

While we were thus engaged, the sun came out more strongly, though with thick cloud further east, and spirits rose as we re-approached Allt Mór for an athletic crossing, prospects of an easier transit further downstream appearing faint as the Mór became more. Then down the glen eastwards on yet more sheep tracks, past more abandoned shielings and a quite impressive gorge, until we started edging northwards to pick up the end of a track marked as extending south from the car park, around the eastern end of Schiehallion. This proved more difficult than expected, but eventually we found some faint markings amidst the heather, and so completed the semi-circuit back to the car park by about 4pm.

Then it was off to a welcome cup of tea at Weem, and homeward (rather more efficiently) via Aberfeldy, after a satisfying day, even if not much was seen of Glen Lyon! Thanks to Garry for organising, chauffeuring, and telling tall stories about fairies.

Author: Ken Thomson