Beinn na Croise (Isle of Mull)

by backpackingbongos

There is no getting away with it, Nottingham to Oban is a long way to drive.  The boredom of the motorway was broken up by setting off after work on the Friday and spending the night next to a reservoir in Weardale.  The next day I really thought that I was not going to make it, whilst driving up the hill to Killhope cross (at over 2000ft) the temperature gauge shot up.  It turns out that I had lost coolant and it was a nervous Bongo driver that was stopping every now and then to check things out and top up the radiator.  Three litres later everything was ok and the van got me onto and around Mull and back home without incident.  However the Bongo is now in hospital having a new radiator fitted as the leaky old one was the culprit.

The ferry to Mull leaves from Oban, a bustling tourist town which satiated my desire for fish and chips.  These I sat down to eat by the harbour when I suddenly felt a massive whack to the back of my head, followed by a gull almost getting my fish.  I have to say that I was rather nervous after that each time a gull got anywhere near.  Bloody hooligans they are and I had a lump on my head for the rest of the week!

The ferry to Mull takes less than 45 minutes and I was soon disembarking and turning left whilst most other vehicles were turning right to Tobermory.  The main A849 soon turned to a single track road with passing places until I turned off onto a rougher even narrower road that wound its way along Loch Spelve.  The scenery was simply sublime and I was pleased with myself when I found a disused quarry just before Loch Uisg where I parked up for the night.  A night that never really came being so far north and west during midsummer.

8.3 miles with 625 metres ascent

The views had all but disappeared when I opened the blinds the next morning.  A fine drizzle was falling and the hills were shrouded by low cloud, down to below 100 metres on some hills.  I had known that there was the possibility of a weather system coming through but had hoped that it would not as I planned to climb the two shapely and very rugged mountains of Ben Buie and Creach-Beinn.  Not particularly high but not hills to be wondering about on in thick mist, plus the reason to climb them was the outstanding views they are meant to have.  I was left pouring over my map that morning trying to plan what to do.  In the end I decided to drive down to Lochbuie and walk along the coast to the deserted farmhouse at Glenbyre.  If the weather picked up I could climb the hill Beinn na Croise to check out the views.

The ‘village’ of Lochbuie was not exactly teeming with life that Sunday morning, just a few very tame birds looking for the possibility of scraps.  I followed the public road to its end and scratched my head for a bit at the start of the track to Cameron farm.  It said that it was strictly private which pissed me off a bit as the track also continues past the farm onto open country.  I ignored the sign and passed the farm without incident, stopping to admire the very green scenery around me.

The track climbs up and away from the shore winding its way around a beautiful landscape of trees, streams and rocks.  It eventually enters an open boggy area and it was here that the negative effects of being in Scotland in summer took hold.  The horseflies were out in force, hunting me down.  They are deviant creatures, you only have to look at them when the settle on you for them to fly away.  For some reason they really like the backs of the hands.  There was much slapping but somehow I got away unscathed without a bite.

My map showed that a path ascends the shoulder of Beinn nan Gobhar and contours high above Glen Byre.  The drizzle had now stopped and the clouds were slowly clearing, time to head for the hills rather than dropping back down to the coast.  However there was one small problem, the path simply did not exist on the ground and the bracken was out in force.  I had made a decision so was going to stick to it, so finding what looked like a good line I bashed my way uphill until I broke free of the damn stuff.

Above me the cliffs surrounding the summit of Beinn nan Gobhar were impressive, for a small peak it looked pretty impenetrable from this angle.  Once free of the bracken I still could not find any vestiges of a path and had to make do with a rough rising traverse towards the head of the valley.

The next section would have been a bit complicated in mist as I contoured around the southern flanks of Beinn nam Feannag to reach Mam an Trotanaich, a wide pass with a small lochan.  I image that the views to the north would be good on a clear day but the island was under a blanket of low cloud.  I could just make out a glint of sea and the eastern end of Loch Scridain, the long sea loch that separates the Ross of Mull from the wild and rugged Ardmeanach peninsula.

It is then an easy climb to the summit of Beinn na Croise which gives a great impression of being pretty much being in the middle of nowhere.  At only 503 metres it is well off the radar of most hillwalkers.  I wondered to myself when it was last visited?  However I was pleased when looking it up on the internet when I got home to find out that it is a Marilyn, so I get a tick in my book.  Ok that may be a bit sad, but it keeps me out of mischief!

A last bank of low cloud drifted by and suddenly a great view opened up.  The peaks that I had originally planned to climb were now completely free from cloud and looking rather grand.  I was kicking myself a bit for missing out, however I was still pleased to have got up into the hills.

I debated whether to continue along the wide ridge to the coast or drop down and follow the burn through the scoop of Glen Byre.  I could remember the bracken covered slopes spotted whilst traversing the other side of the valley, which I was keen to avoid.  I therefore decided to descend the steep grassy slopes at the head of the valley.

Glen Byre was a delight to walk through.  I initially found some animal tracks that let me contour above the river before descending to some old ruins beneath a long cascading waterfall.

As I approached the coastline my heart dropped a little.  In the distance was a long line of people with absolutely massive backpacks.  Most of them had bright orange pack covers on which made it look like they were carrying dinghys on their backs.  This could mean only one thing, DofE students out on an expedition.  I found a rock to sit on and admire the scenery whilst they receded into the distance ahead of me.  The old farm of Glenbyre is in a great position, overlooking the calm blue waters of Loch Buie.  It’s a shame to see buildings such as these fall into ruin.

The track back to the car hugs the coastline and gives a very pleasant and easy walk, with the sun shining and the dense vegetation it felt like I could have been in the tropics.

I soon passed a small splinter cell of the DofE students who stopped me politely and asked for their photo to be taken with their camera.  It’s a shame that whenever you meet DofE groups that they are nearly always very white and middle class.  I feel that a week in the wilds would do many youngsters a great deal of good.  I wish they could ship the teenagers that skulk around where I live into somewhere wild and remote.  I am sure it would be a good character building excercise.

As I approached where I had left the van there was a large encampment of DofE teenagers on a grassy patch by the shore.  Looked like they were having a great time, the only supervising adult was hiding out at the mini bus a few hundred metres away.  The Bongo was parked up in a really idyllic spot and it was tempting to spend the night there.

The weather was now absolutely stunning and it was forecast to stay that way for a couple of days.  Instead I drove back to the village of Craignure and the rather expensive regimented campsite there.  Not my cup of tea but it meant that I would be in an ideal spot to climb the Corbett of Dun da Ghaoithe direct from the door the following morning.

15 Responses to “Beinn na Croise (Isle of Mull)”

  1. I k now what you mean about the old D of E, James. A few of my mates and matettes are teachers and I’ve helped out on a few walks here and there; it is an overwhelmingly white, middle class activity. Good for the kids who are doing it, but you feel that they tend to be well-supported and well-motivated already. In the ’80s there was a scheme to divert kids from offending by giving them some real input and involving them in positive activities – such as outdoor pursuits. The right-wing toe rag press called it ‘holidays for hooligans’. Nice.

    I wonder what Eric Cantona would have to say about seagulls attempting to snaffle battered haddock from unwary Bongoists?

    • Its a shame that the DofE does not encourage kids from the inner city Pete. Getting out into the wilds is a great boost, especially for those who have never been out of the City or even the estate that they live in. In my last job I took groups of homeless people / those with drug and or alcohol issues on day long outward bound courses as well as mountain biking / climbing / hiking. The sense of achievement / confidence that they came back with was pretty inspiring. Still remember sitting eating lunch on a cliff top in the Peaks with a chap who had never been out of the city, the look on his face was worth all that planning and risk assessments…………………Shame that there is now no money to do that sort of thing.

  2. How nice to read a blog that is firmly focussed on exploring wild areas rather than going on endlessly about gear…keep up the great work!

    • Hi James, thanks! I write about what I enjoy and that is visiting and being among wild rugged places. I am glad that you like it, makes it worth while continuing!

  3. Looking perfect, those lush green hills and the sea pretty much always in view. Beautiful =)

  4. Excellent trip report, one of these days I might save some money to buy a Bongo or something similar. Out of interest which reservoir in Weardale did you stop next to on your way North. I’m guessing Tunstall or possibly Burnhope. Weardale is my home patch 🙂

    • Cheers Steve. I can recommend saving to buy a van, especially a Bongo, gives you loads of freedom. I stopped off next to Burnhope reservoir, there was even a public loo near that rather posh new building / lodge. I would be a happy chap having Weardale as my local patch.

  5. Looks fantastic, another wild and untrodden corner of our lands. There must be many of those gems north of the border, I wish they were nearer – I’m running thin for new ones in England and Wales.

  6. Nice to combine a coastal walk with a hill or two, always makes for something a bit special.
    Hope the weather continued to improve James.
    I’ll look forward to reading about your trip up Dun da Ghaoithe.

  7. Geoff, the amount of gems north of the border are almost endless. I too wish they were nearer, just need to convince my partner that we should move to the highlands. What we would do for work in another matter……

    Hi Paul, really getting into coastal walking, the wilder the better. The weather did get better, then worse, then better! Next post up soon.

  8. I am enjoying your Mull series of walks – a backpack from Lochbuie along the south coast of The Ross of Mull has been in my mind for a few years now but I never really connected the dots until now as before I was more of a one night bivy,one night bothy person and there does not seem to be a decent roof along this coast.

    These walks are giving me ideas to make the route a bit more varied if the tops are clear.
    Now that I have a proper tent I may take the train to Oban rather then Mailaig next spring.
    Keep up the good work , – at least the blogging work – the resarch end of things seems to be more of a fancy but not a idle fancy

    • Thanks Keith. I think that from Lochbuie along the south coast of Ross of Mull would be a fantastic walk. Some of it could be pretty tough going but I imagine would be very worthwile. Probably lots of solitude to! I also prefer to mix up backpacks with the odd bothy, a night in the tent then bothy means you can dry out rather than set up a wet tent. Just a shame no bothy along the coast here (unless someone knows of a well hidden one!)

  9. Looking at the geograph website, the old observatory on the tidal island of Erraid on Grid square NM2920 seems to be usable – although it is a tiny space and is probably far from water.


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