The Quinag, Assynt

After returning to my campsite from Ben Lomond I spent the evening contemplating where to go next and after much thought a lightening bolt struck me and I decided to head north.

The drive would take me the full length of Loch Lomond, and where previously I would look across the water and think “I really ought to climb Ben Lomond…” I found myself contemplating a return visit.

Continuing on, making the obligatory ‘pit stop’ at the infamous Green Welly Stop at Tyndrum, climbing up and over Rannoch Moor and plunging down through Glen Coe (which was rammed with coach loads of video camera wielding visitors) I then took a detour to visit Kinlochleven.  While there is disappointingly little of note in the town, it does offer a good access point into the Mamores, an area on my list to explore.  Also, and arguably most importantly (for me at that point), there is a good chippy just after the bridge…

On through to Fort William to re-fuel at the supermarket, then continue through the Great Glen.  It was here that I met the first of a series of roadworks that would blight the rest of my drive to Ullapool.  It really is a stunning drive through the Northern Highlands, though one set of roadworks set new records.  When I arrived 5 cars back from the front of the queue, it was just over NINE MINUTES before we moved… At least it wasn’t raining…

Eventually having stopped once or twice to take some photographs of Stac Pollagh and then Suilvan, I arrived at the car park for Ardvreck Castle on the banks of Loch Assynt.  This whole area has to be one of the most atmospherically beautiful in the whole of Britain, and the brooding castle ruins is spectacularly photogenic.

I was just about to bed down for the night and heard a rustling just a few feet away.  I peered through the windows of my van to see a deer, a Monarch of the Glen, munching on the grass, and then trotting off.  What a life that must be, and what a place to live it.

When the morning came, I rose and drove a little further on down the loch before climbing up the pass to a car park looking into the face of the Quinag. 

My main objective was not to summit any of the tops that make up this horseshoe ridge, but to get to the bealach in the middle.  My good friend Howard had taken me there in May 2010 when he celebrated his 60th birthday at the Glencanisp lodge, a property owned by the Assynt Foundation.  The walk into the Quinag had been a favourite of Howard and his lovely wife Kate, until cancer took her from him 8 months earlier.  

When he and I reached the bealach, he made a bee-line for a pair of rocks and sat.  A moment or two passed in silence and then he looked at me, patten the rock, and said, “Kate’s table.”  I wanted to try and find the spot, and though I can’t be certain, I think I did.  It’s such an amazing spot, with the most stunning vista across the wild land below, pockmarked by crags and lochans.  Credit to Kate, she knew how to pick a table.

I retraced my steps, stopping to chat to a footpaths officer from the John Muir Trust who was doing stirling work repairing the eroded footpath, before returning back to the car park and my van.

It was only then that I really decided to head for the Cairngorms next.  Another lengthy drive through stunning scenery in fabulous sunshine beaconed.  Miraculously, the roadworks that blighted me the day before were gone, and I reached the Glen More campsite in time to grab one of very few remaining pitches with electric hookup.  Why not… I’m on holiday.