Sgurr Nan Clach Geala at 3586 ft. Is the second highest of the Fannichs while it’s neighbours, Meall a’Chrasgaidh and Sgurr Nan Each at 3064 and 3028 ft. respectively are much lower barely qualifying as Munros. From the top of Sgurr Nan Clach Geala, the the two look quite insignificant while from the Geala us on either side the former is a really very substantial climb. So the traverse feels less like a ridge walk than an ascent of a single very big hill with a couple of eee subsidiary peaks on each side. There is a small car park on the A382 a very short distance from where a track heads off near some woodland towards Loch a’Bhraoin about a kilometre away. I headed down this to near the Loch where a gate bars progress straight on (towards a boathouse) and paths branch off right (signposted to Kinlochewe) and left (towards Loch Fannich). I took the left branch and followed the sometimes faint riverside path for about 5k to the top of the pass. At one point I crossed from left to right of the river. It was not a hard crossing but I was careless and got a bit of a soaking - worryingly my camera packed in for about an hour but seemed to dry out and recover. Approaching the top of the pass I stopped to chat with an agreeable man who had completed the circuit of the three Munros going the other way round - clockwise. It was barely lunchtime and he was planning to pop up Am Faogagach in the afternoon! He was only ten Munros away from completion and it was another on his list. From the top of the pass I headed straight up towards the bealach between Sgurr nan Clach Geala and Sgurr nan Each. This was a pathless, steep and somewhat purgatorial slog but from the bealach and easy gentle climb up a part led to the top of Sgurr Nan Each and back again.
From here the climb up Sgurr Nan Clach Geala was a lot steeper and longer but not too bad with a path still under my feet. The view from the summit is astonishing. An Teallach dominates it but all the hills of Torridon, Fisherfield and Assynt are clearly visible along with countless others. The path now veers right and follows the cliffs above Coire Mor for a bit. Soon the slopes to my left got less infeasibly precipitous and I followed a steep grassy band straight down. Meall a’Chrasgaidh I had climbed before one winter long ago so I decided to skip it. As I made the steep descent a large herd of deer observed me from below only to scatter as I got too close for their comfort. I climbed down into the basin below the Sgurr Nan Clach Geala-Meall a’Chrasgaidh bealach from where more pathless trudging down not too unpleasant ground eventually put me on the stalkers path that took me back to the rover and so home. I never had a walk when I saw so many frogs. They seemed to be everywhere.
There is a big car park at Aberarder. So I parked there and walked up to the Lodge. It is a short walk from here to the farm house - now a centre for the National Nature Reserve complete with picnic tables and toilets. They are keen for walkers to keep off the main track and use the signposted path to the side. So I did. The path continues past the Lodge to a junction. A sign says go right for the Coire, left is marked with a picture of a pine marten. I went right and followed this path uphill looking out (thanks to directions at Walkhighlands site) for a cairn that marks the path branching off up Carn Liath, Munro number one.This climbs up over Na Capanan and the going eases after that subsidiary bump is behind you. But it’s still a fair slog to the top.
From here a long, easy, delightful broad ridge leads over three tops to Stob Poite Coire Ardair, Munro number two. This leads to The Window, a fair-sized dip in the ridge where you go down and back up onto the big wild plateau of Creag Meagaidh itself. Munro number three. A big impressive cairn, Mad Meg’s Cairn, is soon reached which I bet has been mistaken for the summit in poor visibility once or twice. It isn’t. The summit, Munro number three is a few minutes further up a gentle slope. Then back to the window and down. Down from the window involves some rather disagreeable steep scree but it doesn’t last that long and the path eases off as it approaches the Lochan. From there a trudge of about three miles leads back to the car park.
This big plateau must have been a wild place back in the day. Today it is a massive power station, bristling with huge wind turbines. There is space at the entrance to the wind farm track for a couple of cars to park without being in anyone’s way and nobody seems to mind.
There is a car park well signposted from Bridge of Earn off to the east below Wallacetown Wood. From here I had a lovely wander through these delightful woodlands awash with summer foxgloves. I followed the ‘red’ waymarked route which contours the southern slopes all the way almost to meet the motorway at the other end of the hill where there is a bit of a descent and reascent onto the northern side of the main ridge with lovely views up the Tay past Perth. I left the red waymarks where a sign pointed towards the two hill forts hereabouts, the first marked with a trig point, the second, considerably higher, Moredun Top, with a substantial cairn. It was lovely up here on a very hot day - when news reports have been reporting record-toppling heat all over Europe - even though a very unfriendly off the leash German Shepherd dog nearly ate me. ‘He doesn’t like men’, his (female) human companions explained. A great place for a woodland stroll and collecting an easy Marilyn.
This time I did - nearly - follow the a Nuttall guidance, starting as they recommend where the road running south from Garrigill turns to a track at a cattle grid, or rather two tracks, as it forks here. I took the right fork past the sad ruin of Cocklake Farm and followed the long bridleway south. This has had some money spent on it of late and is in the process of being freshly tarred. A long walk south past the Gilbert Ward sculpture marking the source of the South Tyne leads eventually to the bridge over the River Tees a tributary of which is followed towards a great Dun Fell: Trout Beck - I wonder how many Trout Becks there are in England. The nice freshly tarred route soon veers off south away from the bridleway which now soon degenerated into a pretty rough, sometimes hard to make out, path. Slowly Great Dun Fell gets nearer and eventually the poor path links up with another tarred road which climbs to the radar station from Knock. Some masochistic cyclists passed as I joined this, not far from the end of their day’s challenge. I trudged up the road the the summit and spend a while admiring all the technological paraphernalia as well as the splendid view.
The next few miles follow the Pennine Way over its highest section to the trig point and stone wind shelter on top of Cross Fell then down and past Greg’s Hut and onto Backstone Edge. Here the Nuttall route makes a detour to collect Bullman Hills but I was getting a bit tired and thought I’d skip that and stuck to the Pennine Way to the point where a handy Land Rover track leads up onto the broad ridge of Long Man Hill. Shortly before I took this turn I was passed by a friendly young man with an enormous rucksack who was doing the whole thing. The afternoon was getting on by now but he meant to make it all the way to Alston where he was quite excited at the prospect of one of the Pennnine Way’s rare opportunities to visit a shop. Up the track onto Long Man Hill I went before striking north on pathless ground to find the tiny summit cairn. I then did as the Nuttalls’ book directs and headed off east over more pathless ground looking out for the row of grouse butts they direct their readers to follow. After descending a bit. It turns out the Land Rover track off the Pennine Way onto Long Man Hill which on my map peters out after a few hundred meters actually carries on down into the valley of Cross Gill where I picked it up and to my pleasant surprise followed it all the way to the fence on the north ridge of Round Hill. A quick visit to another microscopic cairn then back down the same ridge until the ruin of Cocklake came into view not too far below me. I headed straight for it and so home to my car and my b&b via another nice bar supper in the Nent Hall Hotel.
The Nuttalls book suggests doing The Dodd, Killhope Law and Middlehope Moor as a single long walk from Killhopehead Bridge. I have been a wus and done them as three little walks, Middlehope Moor as a short walk from the B6295, The Dodd as a stroll from the road to the south. Today I completed the three. I git to my b&b, Hill Top - which claims to be Britain’s highest - around 5 and reckoned it would be a nice early evening stroll before dinner. The obvious way up from this side is by the Carrier’s Way path which states opposite the Mining Museum. But having gained all this height driving up to Hill Top I thought I would just go straight up from there. It was quite rough going. Especially as first crossing some terrain that was till recently the woodland marked on my OS map just above Hill Top but has now all been felled. After that I headed for the ridge playing join the dots with endless white grit box marker poles and was soon on the summit. This was marked till recently by a great big 30ft wooden pole but I found this lying on the ground having clearly been defeated by the weather. The descent seemed much quicker an easier than the ascent and I was soon in the Nent Hall Hotel eating my dinner.
I was in Helsinki - lucky me - and thought a little walk would be nice. Happily I had a lovely Finnish friend to advise me. I won’t try to improve on her directions so here is what she emailed me: « The place I suggested to you for a nature walk is called Uutela. To get there take the metro to Vuosaari, walk pass a high tower building towards the sea, turn left and walk along the beach (great for swimming!) to cafe Kampela, which is the starting point of the nature trails. Here’s a link to a map of the area with some suggested walking routes. The light blue one is a favourite of mine. https://citynature.eu/en/location/uutela/?section=services. » I followed these directions easily enough (but without the swimming) as far as the cafe whose owner made up in friendliness what he lacked in fluency in English.
Then I sort of wandered, basically doing a circuit of the beautiful woodland peninsula anticlockwise. I had no map more detailed than the very sketchy one linked to above so I can’t really describe my route the more so as I learned to late that the way marking for the colour coded routes only really works if you go clockwise. There is a maze of paths and I tried to stay close to the shore to enjoy the glorious views over the water. The whole area is not public and there is some private residential ground on which I fear I intruded from time to time. ‘Private ! No tessspassing! Keep out!’ Said various signs in Finnish which I only knew the meanings of later when I shared my pictures with Finnish. But I don’t think I bothered anyone and nobody shot me or set their dogs on me.
I parked by Cow Green Reservoir, a lovely , remote spot. South on a track to the dam where the track goes down to cross the nascent River Tees and the track joins the Pennine Way. On throgh Birkdale Farm where invisible dogs howled at me. THe map shows a path branching off towards Maize Beck. THere is an MOD flagpole where this starts - flag down today! - but any path is extremely ontologically precarious. Fording Maize Beck was tricky but not too bad. From here there is a vestigial path to follow on the tedious fence follow that leds to the summit plateau of the Big Hill. Between here and the Wee Hill is some pretty rough-looking terrain but a nice person has made a land rover track that deviates a bit to the right but is very easy to follow. (At one point it hits a gradient I imagine would be rather terrifying for whoever is driving the land rover.) Then back to the mid point of Big and Wee and tediously back down over rough ground to Maize Beck and so home. THe dogs at Birkdale were quiet this time.
The Nuttalls suggest collecting Three Pikes, Great Stony Hill, Harwood Common, Burnhope Seat and Dead Stones in one big circuit. But I am a less efficient hill-bagger than John and Anne N. are. I was here last year in very wintery conditions and was happy then just to collect Three Pikes and Great Stony. So back again today for the other three. No snow today but very cold and towards the end of the walk a little hail. I was wearing gloves at one point, not a common occurence in May. The car park I used before at the north end of the Burnhope Reservoir Dam seems no longer to be working as a car park with a sign forbidding entry to vehicles but there was space enough by the roadside close at hand. There is a good path, not shown on the OS map, going along the north side of the reservoir and a bridge – two in fact – going across the river at the other end. From here looking at the map there seems to be a way to follow tracks up to just east of the top of Scauld Hill. On the ground it didn’t quite seem to work. Good tracks did take me up to where the map shows a track following a stream called Crooked Sike but this more or less petered out on me. From here I could make out the grouse butts marked on the map a little to the west so I headed up that way. It was rough going, mostly pathless, occasionally something vestigial . Approaching the top I did find the track again as it crossed the fence that follows the broad ridge between Great Stony Hill and its western neighbours.
From this point on the game was one of following a fence along more or less pathless - again occasionally something vestigial- boggy ground. But not too boggy, nowhere near as horrific as I recall Three Pikes to have been. The top of Scauld Hill is bang on the line of the fence. The top of Harwood Common is a short walk to the south of it. The trig point of Burnhope Seat is slightly to the right of it. The Nuttalls are happy enough that this is the top but – oh no! – I discovered only afterwards that the hillbagging website disagrees and claims there is a higher spot a bit over to the west. Now my conscience must struggle. Can I claim the bag or must I visit it again? Ayway on I went, following the fence north to Dead Stones whose name could be a Joy Division track. Is quite a bleak spot maybe but not that bleak, decorated with a massive cairn on its summit. I was now following the Nuttall route so my next destination was the trig point on Highwatch Currick, another long bogtrot along a pathless fenceline. From the trig point the Nuttalls direct us to pick up a track (not on map) and follow it to where it turns left through a fence, at which point leave it and head downhill towards a corrugated iron building where another track leads quickly to the road near the dam. Slightly confusingly there are to such buildings in view. You want the one on the right. These are little visited hills. I met just two people the whole way on a May Bank Holiday weekend. But once a busy working landscape and still peppered with a few open, sometimes unfenced, mineshafts, something to be careful of, especially if walking alone.
Another Donkin walk on the Pennine Way linking the Lambley and Thirlwall Castle walk which I did last February and the South Tyne and Alston walk which I did yesterday. This is a similar deal, South Tyne Trail one way, Pennine Way the other. I parked at Slaggyford Station where I also had a cup of tea in the Buffet Car, a small very basic tea ship which is also a – not very mobile – buffet car. Then down the railway line footpath to Kirkhaugh, picking up the Pennine Way where I left it yesterday. From here to Lintley the Way is a field path which lots of sheep to meet. Then it goes under the viaduct back to the east of the railway and becomes a riverside path along the bank of the Tyne back to Slaggyford. There were places hereabout that might be tempting spots for a swim.
North of Slaggyford the Way follows the South Tyne Trail – no longer a railway now – for a bit then branches off, through the policies of Merry Knowe Farm. then follows fields to the crossroad at Burnstones. Now it climbs up onto the moors to the west and follows them north, picking up the line of the Maiden Way, a Roman Road. Rather lovely up here. Near Lambley I left it and crossed some fields into the village. (By one of these odd footpaths which goes right through somebody’s garden.) From the village a path leads down to the viaduct where some incoveniently situated private property means the South Tyne Trail walker must descend to the foot of the viaduct and then climb laboriously back to the top almost at once. Again a very straightforward walk down the Trail and I was back at my car.