The hill above is one...Beinn a Chaisgein Mor. Not having a Corbett book I was blissfully unaware it lay in the heart of the Fisherfield Forest, that huge chunk of empty but spectacular land between Loch Maree and Little Loch Broom. An area sometimes referred to in outdoor books as 'the great wilderness'. I have been in here before of course but in those far off days I was after bigger game. Munros.
Also water words. That is words that prefer to catch their food in wunning water like this example here. A Sandpiper. A Dunlin to be precise.
Anyway. Alex had no time for words of any description as he was now a driven man and had his Corbett hunting hat on just like a certain Elmer Fudd.
It was a 5:00 am rise the next morning as you need to be up very early to catch wabbits and Corbetts.
All I knew back in Glasgow was that we'd be heading north and that bikes would be required. It was a bit of a shock therefore to find Alex parking at the head of the River Gruinard not far from the formally infamous Gruinard Island which used to be heavily contaminated with anthrax. It's supposed to be free of any spores now however. Feel free to go over anytime and find out...or maybe not. I'd read this first.
Alex was not interested in history that morning. He was a driven man and quickly unpacked his bike from the car. It was at this point he cheerily informed me that his hill of choice lay 14 kilometres inland over rough terrain and that it was one of the remotest Corbett's in Scotland. That meant it was also 14 kilometres back.
This came as something of a shock to poor Bobby who imagined cweeping up on said Corbett in an easy relaxed fashion before beating it senseless with a stick from behind. The track started off smooth and flat running inland beside the south bank of the Gruinard River but soon showed its true character.
As a consolation for the frequent ups and downs the scenery became very fine indeed with An Teallach rising up on one side and the Fisherfield and Torridon peaks slowly appearing to our right. After six kilometres we had to leave the bikes chained up off the track and carry on using both hands and feets in places. It was completely trackless for a while up a steep slope until we found a faint path over in the next glen and could regain a semi human aspect of gait. Alex still seems to be indulging in a spot of knuckle dragging here though.
An Teallach in the distance.
Once we had attained the summit we looked out over the Fionn Loch and across to remote cliff ringed A Mhaighdean, the undisputed Queen of Fisherfield and Letterewe, then made our weary way back to the coast.
Luckily the friendly pub at Poolewe sold substantial quantities of liquid anaesthetic to restore our faith in the natural order of things. According to the good book humans hold dominion over the beasts of the land and air. Try telling that to the midges, clegs, sheep ticks and parasitic wasps though. Ah, summer in the highlands. Tis a wondrous thing!
To Be continued.... in this land of dragons. A newt. I used to watch and play with these little guys all summer as a boy in the flooded quarries near my home in Glasgow, finding them flies, worms and insects to eat. Most of the flooded quarries of my youth have now gone, used for household and industrial landfill. A rare species now. Both holes in the ground and newts scarce as hen's teeth. Still here though in the pools of the north.
As an antidote to sore feet and itchy arms and legs here's a vision of utopia without the reality of flying teeth. French chanteuse Emilie Simon and a track from her excellent third album 'Vegetal'. Obviously this video is inspired by Chinese and Japanese art but I've noticed aspects of this one and several other themed tracks off this unique album turning up several times in the past few years influencing British image designs in turn. One of my long time favourites after I saw her singing this song in Paris years ago. Worth watching for the art work alone. Stunning backdrops.