September Day Trip to the Grey Mare's Tail

Click here for a map of the area

Of all the Southern Uplands, the Moffat hills must surely be the most interesting.  Steep sides, rounded sides .. rocky edges, grassy slopes .. deep lochans hidden from the roads, extensive views on clear days .. but on this particular day, the clag was down to road level.  At least until the Grey Mare's Tail was reached by the bus and its thirty walkers eager to take to the slopes, when the clag raised its game slightly to about 100 metres above road level.  Ah, well .. if only we could choose the good weather days when fixing the trips!

Everyone had opted for a direct ascent of White Coomb, the local Corbett, but the decision was made to head up to Loch Skeen first rather than the hill, in the hope that the mist may disperse.  And right on cue, it did!  As the enthusiastic bunch of junior walkers tested the ability of their boots to float in the murky waters of Loch Skeen, and the adults enjoyed the first sandwich of the day, the clouds rolled away .. and the route up Firthybrig Head revealed itself.  So, we're going the long way round!  Brian and Clare decided to return to the Visitor Centre and explore at low level, and the rest took to the hill.

With all the recent rain, the path was boggy to say the least, but height was gained quickly, and the group became well strung out at the top of the ridge.  The clag decided to revisit, and the individual units made their various ways over Donald's Cleuch Head and Firthhope Rig to the summit of White Coomb and the highest point of the day at 821m.

Starting from the car park  Resting at Loch Skeen  Resting on Firthybrig ridge  The MacLeods

It's all downhill from here!  And pretty steeply too at the Rough Craigs.  The bog continued past Upper Tarnberry and the crossing of the Tail Burn was, fortunately, relatively easy.  Gwen and I had bombed ahead to fire up the barbie and open the bar, and the first Lorne sausage was sizzling as the various groups returned.  The junior team were quick to sample the delights of paddling up to the waist in the Tail Burn, and the adults were quick to sample the delights of the Australian red and white.

Summit of White Coomb .. in the clag!  The barbecue by the burn  Iain and Euan IN the burn  DANGER .. chef at work!

50 burgers later, the barbie was quenched in the Burn and everything loaded on to the bus.  A comfort stop was made at Moffat, which required a 20p piece for entry .. with many saying it was the best 20p they'd spent in ages.  We were on schedule to arrive at Cathcart at 6.30pm, when we shuddered to a halt on the M74 at Larkhall and spent an hour in a queue to pass some non-existent road works.  But Gwen and I made it home just in time for Coronation Street!  What more could you ask from a day on the hills?

ps  I supplied 50 rolls and 50 burgers.  I took home no burgers but 6 rolls.  Any answers?  Click here.


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September Weekend to Mull

On a pleasantly sunny Friday, groups travelled up to Mull by a variety of routes at various times, depending on their aspirations for the day .. and how early they got to bed the previous evening!  The enthusiasts were off early to Ardnamurchan, via the Corran ferry, where Bob, Willie, Allan, Miriam, Diane and Gordon went up the Corbett Stob Coire a’Chearcaill, but apparently Iris K didn’t quite make it to the top.  They then carried on to Lochaline for the ferry crossing to Fishnish on Mull.

On the summit of Stob Coire a'Chearcaill  Ben Nevis and the Mamores

James, Susan and family also had an early start, heading directly for Mull and making the best of the weather by taking a trip out to Staffa.  The majority of the more relaxed travellers caught the 2pm ferry from Oban.  Some made the most of the good weather by touring round the island and enjoying the scenery which was to vanish for the rest of the weekend, while others were on the Balamory trail.  The remainder, who must have been even more relaxed, arrived a little later in the afternoon and evening.  For accommodation, 9 were staying in the Youth Hostel while the majority of 21 chose the more comfortable option of various B&Bs around Tobermory .. the hostellers enjoying the benefits of low cholesterol breakfasts and instant access to the pub.  The B&Bers included the very welcome but unexpected arrival of David, Irene and Calum Carruthers, who were spotted cruising along the harbourside in the early evening.  Before long, most of the party had gathered in the Mishnish where we took over most of the front part of the lounge for the rest of the evening for drinks and food .. although some did slip out to the gourmet harbourside fish and chip van.  Some plans were made for a not too early start the next day to ascend Ben More, my last Munro.  I was encouraged to find that most of the walkers were going to join me, possibly influenced by the great conditions earlier in the day.

Saturday dawned in dramatic contrast to the previous day, with cloud down to the level of the houses above the harbour, and wind sweeping rain over the bay.  At about 9.45am, and without a great deal of enthusiasm, groups headed off towards the bottom of Ben More by Loch Na Keal.

Click here for a location map of the area

On arrival  things were looking a bit better .. the rain had gone off and the cloud had risen almost to the level of bealach between Beinn Fhada and A Chioch.  In raised spirits 18 of us squelched off towards the bealach.  We worked our way up at a pleasantly relaxed pace, ensuring that everyone got safely across the normally small streams which had risen considerably overnight.  At the bealach the wind was whipping through the gap as we stopped for a bite to eat, giving some concern that the wind higher up might be even stronger.  This turned out not to be a problem as we carried on up towards A Chioch.  With the ridge of A Chioch looming in and out of the mist, David decided to call it a day and headed back by the ascent route where we would meet him later.  On the top of A Chioch we again had a short stop to eat the rest of our lunch before pushing on up an easy scramble to the misty top of Ben More.  After a traditional approach to the summit cairn under the archway of walking sticks, and congratulations all round, we settled down behind what little shelter there was from the wind to reduce the weight of a few of the packs.  Iris and Peter did a great job making up oatcakes while the rest of us tried to stop the froth blowing off our fizzy wine and I tried to keep the “284” cap Jim and Jill gave me on my head.  Special mention to Hannah MacLeod who had easily made it to the top of her first Munro .. only 283 to go!

The Ben More Team  The scramble up A'Chioch  Awaiting the imminent arrival  Ian arriving at Ben More summit  The bubbly is dispensed  The first and last!  The Club Munroists (Jim Waterton and Andy McGowan awol)

It was then off along the well worn path down the north west ridge and across rather boggy lower slopes back to the start point, where David enjoyed a belated whisky .. I felt obliged to join him before heading back down the road!  Some stopped off at the Salen Hotel for a light refreshment before returning to Tobermory, but the evening rendezvous was again in the Mishnish.  This time the real ales were on, from Loch Fyne even, but too much must have been eaten on Friday night, because although the menu was virtually the same, unless you were quick the choice was reducing rapidly.  Many thanks to everyone for all the mementos and booze, not particularly deserved I thought, but much appreciated.  Particular thanks to Jim and his contributers for the photo montage .. Bob was happy to get a break from this task.

The celebratory cake  The Moffatt Brothers  Ben More Mull on a good day

Sunday’s weather offering was the same again and other than James, Susan and family and Chris and Mark who were going home, nearly everyone else had decided to take a trip to Iona.  Unfortunately this didn’t happen, after a long drive to the other side of the island we found that due to stormy conditions the ferry had been cancelled at 11am.  There was a possibility that it would start again at 1pm but with no guarantees that it would come back again this seemed a risky move.  Gordon, Miriam, Diane and Iris K decide that the best move would be to get back to Tobermory for the football, slightly influenced by the fact that it was Gordon’s car, while others were going to have a tour about on the return trip although you couldn’t see too far.  Our group stopped off at the Argyll in Bunessan, not recommended for lunch, before wandering along the coast to the “leaf fields” where we totally failed to find any fossils.

In the evening people ate in various establishments, some plans being foiled by the gourmet fish and chip van not being open on Sundays, before mostly meeting up in MacGochan’s bar for the rest of the night.

On Monday the weather was similar to the previous 2 days only worse and any attempts to tackle some planned Corbetts were abandoned en-route down the road.  We headed home via  the George Hotel in Inveraray, definitely recommended for lunch.  Thanks again for everyone making the weekend particularly memorable for me.  The weather was in traditional last Munro form (other than for Willie who got more than his fair share for his last 7) but despite that it was a great weekend.

Ian Moffatt (Compleat Munroist)

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