Ain’t nothing like a mountain to make you feel small……   Leave a comment

As all parents will know, sometimes when your 3 year old stares at you with those awful beseeching eyes, it is very difficult to ignore them or to say no! It really doesn’t matter if you refuse to meet his steely gaze, you can still feel those eyes drilling into you, waiting for the first sign of weakness or movement. My three year old had been staring at me for two days, thanks largely to the horrible wet & windy weather that has kept us indoors pretty much all weekend. Despite me thoroughly enjoying a very relaxing birthday morning, it was abundantly clear that this particular three year old cared little for my feeling of well-being and contentment. The beseeching eyes in question actually belong to Colin, my three year old collie, who was in desperate need of a good long walk!

Living in the NW Highlands I firmly prescribe to the much-used mantra “No such thing as bad weather, just wrong clothes” , so I somewhat reluctantly decided to don the wet weather gear and attempt to walk some of the canine energy out of my four-legged pal.

We live on the hillside directly behind the castle on a road called Carr Brae. Only a small proportion of visitors to the castle actually venture up here, and most have little idea of the breath-taking views that present themselves from this wonderful old road. A small diversion off the main road into the village of Dornie can give you a fantasticly different perspective of the castle and its surrounds.

Carr Brae itself is the original road that leads into Lochalsh and is about 6 miles long, with little or no traffic and is a really rewarding walk if you can summon the energy. If you can’t, don’t worry, some of the views can still be enjoyed from the comfort of your car!

A car was not an option for Colin however, so I slung my camera bag over my waterproofs and set off into the fine misty rain determined to exhaust him! Fortunately, there was a good breeze blowing which kept the dreaded midgies away. Halfway along Carr Brae we arrived at the turn off for the rocky track that leads up to the telephone mast at the top of the hill. If you’re trying to find it, you’ll recognise it when you reach the sweeping s-bends that you come across just before the highest point of the road. It’s quite a steep track in places with loose scree so a good pair of stout walking boots are strongly recommended.

At this time of year, the flora and fauna are stunning on each side of the track; the millions of heads of bog cotton were looking a bit bedraggled from the weekends rain, but the stunningly bright purple heather was a willing volunteer of a replacement, and is just starting to come out in all its glory. From time to time you catch in the breeze the wonderful smell of bog myrtle, an ancient and mystical plant whose scent is simply unforgettable. Myriads of beautiful tiny Scottish orchids are also to be found up there if you look carefully.

Halfway up the track, and I’m running out of puff, although Colin shows little signs of fading as he bounds through the wet heather chasing shadows. For a split second, I stop and consider heading back downhill as the rain starts to get a bit more serious, but I can already see a break in the clouds off in the distance so I persevere. I’ve done this walk many times, and I know the reward is worth the effort.

On reaching the telephone mast you’ll be presented with a just incredible vista! Eilean Donan looks quite tiny from up there, but looking around you can see a glorious panorama that includes The Five Sisters of Kintail, Mam Ratagan, Loch Duich, Loch Long and Loch Alsh. In the distance you can see the elegant outline of the Skye Bridge with the Cuillins rising majestically behind. The paths behind you lead up further into the hills where the keenest of fishermen can locate some of the wildest, wild trout fishing to be found anywhere!

So I rested up there for about 15 minutes, drinking in the views and feeling incredibly at peace with the world. It has always struck me that there’s nothing like a mountain to make you feel small, and climbing one always seems to help get life into perspective.

The descent is not something you should rush, as the loose slippery scree can be lethal if you lose concentration for an instant, but you’ll come off that hill with a sure sense of satisfaction regardless of what the weather gods throw at you. I’ve been up there in all sorts, and I love the fact it looks different every time.

If you want to experience some of the best bits of the Scottish Highlands, then I’d advise everyone to occaisionally get off the main tourist track. Yes I know itinereries are sometimes tight and you might not have the time because there’s so much you want to see, but sometimes that extra bit of effort REALLY pays off.

View from the mast looking North West

PS.  I can also officially certify that this yomp will take care of any over-energetic three year old collie! The snoring coming from an area close to my feet confirms it.

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Posted July 5, 2010 by eileandonan in Miscellaneous

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