There is a great deal more to Glencoe, The Mamores and The Nevis range other than the giants these areas are famed for. Dotted within these regions are lesser hills, (though lesser in height and bulk only), which give excellent days out with the bonus of providing superb grandstands for their bigger siblings. Come with us to Beinn na Caillich and her neighbour, Mam na Guallain and you will see this for yourself.
Even getting to the start of today’s walk is an adventure; the walk begins at the village of Kinloch Leven, to get there you must drive the length of fjord like Loch Leven, a delight on any early sunlit morning such as we had for our recent visit.
In fact our walk begins just outside Kinlochleven, at a point where The West Highland Way leaves the B8863. From here a well maintained path climbs through delightful birch woods and alongside a sparkling burn.
Soon the path crossed the un-metalled road to Mamore Lodge, after which it continued climbing until it burst through the trees to join the rough track which cuts through the hills Fort William bound, via The Lairig mor, and thus the end of Scotland’s best known long distance walk.
Our first hill, Beinn na Caillich, (mountain of the old woman, witch or hag: take your pick), had been prominent since leaving Kinlochleven; now her steep east ridge rose before us, quickening the blood in our veins.
First we had to locate a side path which would drop us down to the trench of the Allt Nathrach, then over its rushing waters. In researching the route for this walk I had discovered that the bridge was in such bad repair as would need much caution! Envisioning an Indiana Jones style crossing, I approached the bridge with a certain feeling of trepidation; water and I are not the best of friends!
I needn’t have worried, the Estate must have been expecting me.
A new bridge crossed the rushing waters to put us on a beautifully constructed stalker’s path which zig-zagged stonily and gained height rapidly, but with ease. Thus far our first three miles had slipped by lazily and without a hitch... until we strayed from the path! Inadvertently we’d wandered onto a sheep track which led us out onto the craggy south face of the ridge; this was fine as it offered a splendid vantage point for great views and photographs across Loch Leven to the Argyll his beyond.
Photos taken we merrily followed the path for a few dozen yards more.
To avoid the crag and danger, or worse, a time consuming back track, we decided to climb up on steep grass and heather beside the crag.
After a short spell of puffing and grunting my companion decided to traverse on a more lateral line, in search of our mislaid path; opting for the exercise I continued upwards, directissmo! It was the kind of steepness that if you looked down, you could see between your legs all the way down to Loch Leven, 2000 feet below!
I didn’t see my companion again until I reached the sun kissed cairn. He must have had a much easier time of it, he was already taking photographs.
And much there was to photograph. South, across loch Leven, purple in the morning light, soared Garbh Bheinn and The Pap of Glencoe. Behind them ran the jagged saw blade ridge of the Aonach Eagach; beyond still, the Bidian massif led our eyes west to Beinn a’ Bheithir, and beyond Loch Lhinne, to the rugged hills of Ardgour.
Just across the glen to our north, the massive Mamores rose stately, the famous Devil’s Ridge prominent beneath quartz whitened Sgurr a’ Mhaim.
The walk to the Corbett, Mam na Guallain (breast shaped hill of the shoulder), is hillwalker’s paradise! Clipped turf and soft blanket moss made us think we had our baffies on; the slopes were tame too. And all the while we walked, so the views grew grander.
We reached the col, had a quick, barely steep pull onto the Corbett’s eastern shoulder to find ourselves on a somewhat lumpy plateau which soon culminated in one more, peat hag ridden dip before the final stony dome that is the summit. Now the views were gob smacking!
Best of all had to be the sky blue vista over Loch Lhinne, dominated on its further shores by Garbh Bheinn, that castle of a mountain that so characterises the wildness of Ardgour.
Yet whichever way we turned the views were very fine indeed; Mam na Guallain is a place to linger long, a place you can hardly bear to leave. Alas, it was eventually time to go.
There are a number of options for off. One is to drop steeply west to pick up a stalker’s path which can be followed down to the loch-side near Callert House. This route entails a long walk back to Kinlochleven on tarmac, neither mine nor my companion’s cup of tea.
Or, once gained, that same stalker’s path can be followed in the opposite direction, over the Corbett’s north-west shoulder, to Larigmor and The West Highland Way. None too exciting either, my companion and I agreed.
Therefore, having satisfied our lust for majestic panoramas, we decided to trot back along the ridge again and descend by our upward route. This time, however, armed with my companion’s previously acquired ‘local knowledge’, we managed not to lose the path.
With ‘toy town’ Kinlochleven far below, we enjoyed a sedate and carefree amble down with many a pause for gawking and leisurely cups of tea; every footstep was a pleasure.
At the re-crossing of the Allt Nathrach, we stopped to slake our thirsts in its crystal clear waters before tackling the final short, gentle rise which would see us back on the line of the West Highland Way. Oddly, given the numbers we’d earlier seen on the trail, ‘The Way’ was deserted.
A kilometre of track, another of peaceful woodland and there was friendly Kinlochleven. A change of shirt and footwear then a peaceful drive along Lochs Leven and Lhinne. Fort William, a shower, dinner and a pint; what more could a body ask for after such a glorious day? Tomorrow?