Sutherland – bongo and bothies in the far north part 3

by backpackingbongos

I pulled the Bongo off the road not far from Gualin House, pretty much on the highest part of the A838. Although an A road there was hardly any traffic once past 7.00pm and I had an undisturbed night.

As I write this I am kicking myself. The plan for the following morning was to drive to Blairmore and walk into Sandwood Bay to spend the night in my tent. However waking to another morning of cloud and rain my resolve dissolved. I turned over and went back to sleep for a couple more hours. The unpredictability of the weather was beginning to get to me. When I finally surfaced I went through another bout of lassitude where I could not be bothered to pack a backpacking sack for myself and Reuben. Instead I pulled on my waterproofs and headed up the hill directly behind the Bongo.

 

Farrmheall – 521 metres

I wonder how many people have bothered to climb Farrmheall? It is the highest peak in a large area of wild land known as the Parph, stretching for 107 square miles. The hill itself is pretty unremarkable and it took less than an hour to get to the summit and back from the van. What it lacks in height and ruggedness it certainly makes up for in terms of views and wide open spaces.

There were vestiges of a vehicle track long reclaimed by the moors on the ascent, a couple of traffic cones having found their way onto the hillside. With my head down and boots squelching across the wet slopes the summit cairn was soon reached. My eye was continually being drawn towards the large bulk of Foinaven, cloud constantly grazing its summit. The long and lonely Strath Dionard looked inviting, the map suggesting many possible adventures in remote and little explored country. Cape Wrath was to my north across endless rolling moors, one day I will make the journey up there and spend the night in the beachside bothy at Kearvaig.

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Back at the van I pondered my next move, it continued to spit with rain which dampened my enthusiasm for climbing any further hills. It was also far too late to set off for Sandwood Bay. The weather for the following day looked ‘reasonable’ so I decided to head around to the moors north of the remote Crask Inn. From there I would climb Ben Klibreck the following morning.

I took my time driving down the single track A838, stopping frequently to gawp at the views. Ben Stack looked like a volcano as I passed, its cone poking out from a ring of cloud. It appeared much higher than its 720 metres would suggest. There is much to explore on either side of the road, you could easily spend a week doing so. Loch Shin stretches for miles and it is sad to think that the west side could soon be dominated by wind turbines along the whole length. Glencassley and Sallachy power stations will have 48 giant turbines between them if given the go ahead. Right below the magnificent Munro of Ben More Assynt and designated as Wild Land. Lets see if the Scottish Government sticks to its promise to protect those areas designated as wild land.

 

Meall an Fhuarain – 473 metres (The site of the proposed Altnaharra wind farm)

We spent the night in the Bongo close to the summit of the Crask Inn Road. Once again for such a remote spot there was a mini rush hour in the evening where many cars passed, followed by silence for the rest of the night.

I have to say that I was rather disappointed when I poked my head out of the van at dawn. The good weather had not materialised. Looking up to the summit of Ben Klibreck a big cap of cloud was racing across the highest slopes. The speed at which it was tearing across the summit cone did not make climbing it a very attractive proposition. A heavy shower brought along on a gust of wind helped make up my mind.

I decided that I would start the long journey home at midday, enough time to have a couple of hours squelching about on the moors. Across the road from Ben Klibreck is a large area of moorland that culminates in the summit of Meall an Fhuarain. This is the site of the proposed Altnaharra wind farm, in fact the wind monitoring mast was already towering over the landscape. I decided to go and explore and also tick off a remote Marilyn.

It was a bit of a long slog to get to the summit. We initially followed the Allt Bealachan Fhuarain for a bit, its grassy banks giving easy passage. It was then a case of striking up rough and tough moorland. As expected the summit itself was nothing special but revealed a huge vista of mountains, lochs and moorland with barely any evidence of the hand of man. It was breathtaking to be honest, amazing that such vast and open landscapes exist in our crowded island. The proposal for up to 22 enormous turbines here would be catastrophic for the landscape, dominating the views from Ben Klibreck, Ben Hope, Ben Loyal and Ben Hee.

We descended into a face of drizzle, the weather matching my mood. Reuben was trying to hide from the wet wind behind random tussocks.

For how much longer will the far north remain special?

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11 Comments to “Sutherland – bongo and bothies in the far north part 3”

  1. Your great pictures show why it would a travesty and a disaster if Altnaharra wind farm is allowed. Thanks again for another great post!

    • It would indeed be a travesty James, the wind farm would dominate the landscape for miles. It really is lovely up there.

  2. I don’t know the far north very well, but from what I’ve seen it all looks rather wild and gorgeous. It would be a real shame for it to be spoilt.

  3. Pity about the weather but it sounds like you had a good time.
    Last time I was in the Crask (May 12) it was 25C & blue skies, it does happen sometimes.
    A great part of the world.

  4. Stunning scenery James. it would be an awful desecration if a wind farm is ever sited in that area.

  5. It really is a land apart up there. Hard to believe it’s part of the same island. I really must get back up there some time. Once in a lifetime is not enough

    • It does feel different from the rest of the UK, a unique landscape. I do wish that I could be paid just to explore some of the remoter parts of the UK.

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