A noisy welcome to peaceful hills

The outlying top of Sgurr a’ Choire-rainich.

Roaring stags greet us as we splodge our way up the sodden hillside, already looking forward to the sanctity of the ridge above. We can hear them but, for now, their exact whereabouts remains a mystery.

Our target for the day is to climb a couple of Corbetts, easily visible from the Garve to Achnasheen road but only really accessible from Strathconon.

A wonderful single-track road leads from Marybank west into the strath, and the outing makes a great bike ride for another day. It’s even possible, with some effort, to reach the Achnashellach road in Glen Carron with a sturdy mountain bike, making a through-route to the west viable.

Today it was Peter’s car which tootled down the lane, though, stopping after a row of forestry cottages at Strathanmore just beyond the small village of Milton. Behind a stone sheep pen on the right, there’s space for a few cars on the grass near a noticeboard on which the estate places information about stalking activities in the area. It was blank today, though our route sticks largely to ridges and watercourses anyway, so shouldn’t have troubled the stalkers too much in any case.

A steep start through the bog leads west, south of the burn, and we were soon stripping off the coats for the climb, pausing to get our breath back as we got higher. On reaching the wide ridge that leads up to the top at Creag Ruadh the going got easier and we enjoyed the already open view back along Strathconon.

Looking back along the ridge from Meallan nan Uan to Creag Ruadh

Ahead, the route got rockier and it was nice to be on solid ground as we made our way up to the cairn before a fairly flat ridge that leads to the first Corbett, Meallan nan Uan, the little hill of the lambs.

There’s a view down to the heart-shaped lochan between the hills before the final little pull to the summit, and we started our descent hoping to find some shelter to stop for some lunch. Down in the lee of the lump that is Carnan Fuar, we paused and got out the flasks and sandwiches.

With plenty of time to complete the circuit, we got in some navigation practice, aiming for a rising traverse around the base of Sgurr a’ Mhuilinn to reach a lochan at the bealach. Having located the lochan, we decided against the extra effort of including the outlying top of Sgurr a’ Choire-rainich that needs an out-and-back descent and reascent, though this does apparently offer fine views to the west.

The views weren’t bad from here, either, as we started to head south-east towards the second Corbett, Sgurr a’ Mhuilinn, which only required a further 70 metres of ascent to reach the rounded top.

Peter on top of Sgurr a’ Mhuilinn with Meallan nan Uan in the background

From there we could see over to the lower hill we had been on earlier, and east through Strathconon to the Cromarty Firth.

The descent off the hill is a steep one but we carefully picked our way down between the rocks, feeling relieved to finally be on some more level ground when we finally reached the bottom and rewarded ourselves with another snack.

To avoid the worst of the peat hags – and crossing the burn lower down where the map suggests a bit of a gully – we cut across the Allt an t-Srathain Mhoir high up and followed the burn down towards the lower part of Creag Ruadh’s north-east ridge.

Now we could see the stags, as they made their way up onto the south ridge, still roaring away.

All that was left was the soggy – and slippery – walk back down to Strathanmore, and the pleasant drive back along Strathconon.

Route details

Meallan nan Uan and Sgurr a’ Mhuilinn
Distance 7 miles / 11km
Terrain Pathless mountain
Start/finish Strathanmore, Strathconon
Map OS Landranger 26; OS Explorer 430
A circuit of two Corbetts from the scenic Strathconon

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