Friday, 27 October 2017

Stac Gorm. Loch Ruthven. Inverness Loch District. Day One.

                                                 ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
A three day weekend trip with the climbing club saw us heading for the 'capital of the north', Inverness, around a four hour drive from Glasgow. Although Loch Ness is world famous with tourists to my mind its not a particularly interesting loch- scenery wise. A deep, dark water filled trench lying between Fort Augustus and Inverness with the main A82 running up the western bank. Unlike Loch Lomond, Loch Awe, Loch Morar, or Loch Maree it does not boast any islands, any spectacular mountains or indeed great scenery, interesting hidden corners, or sandy beaches. Usually, the main interest for us on the drive past is to watch the tourists milling about aimlessly looking for the monster or the occasional small boat sailing up it as part of the Caledonian Canal network which uses this natural 'Great Glen' trench of three straight lochs splitting Scotland almost in half as a watery shortcut from west coast to eastern seaboard. Inverness itself is a scenic place with bags of interest for visitors but Loch Ness itself doesn't tick many boxes for me. Maybe I've just not explored it properly though when so many other Scottish lochs and districts appeal to me more.So much still to see- so little time left.
Above is the rocky little peak of Stac Gorm... and this area is special.
Reflections in Loch Ruthven. Stac Gorm lies immediately above this in the heart of what I'll refer to in this blog as the Inverness Loch District. Between the eastern shore of Loch Ness and the high folds of the bulky Monadhliath Mountains is the green and pleasant Strath Nairn. Taking the minor road  from Fort Augustus and heading slightly inland you pass through a much less frequented landscape but one of rare beauty on a nice windless day- like the one we experienced.
Even the animals know this area is special. Nine average sized lochs are scattered along the route and at least ten smaller lochans, some mere ponds and puddles but still beautiful. A variety of rocky hills under 1000 foot high and a handful of cliffs give the undulating terrain bags of character and my heart lifted as soon as we discovered how good this place was. By chance we had also picked a perfect day to see it at its very best.
I had only been along this road once before, many years ago, on a rock climbing trip and my main concern then was staying alive on a new intimidating cliff as I struggled up a VS crack line on a cold overcast day. I remember the climb and the company well enough but the surrounding scenery didn't leave much of an impact.
This time was very different. A beautiful sunny day, dazzling reflections everywhere and jaggy little hills to climb on Alex's list of small mountains. Sometimes I'm underwhelmed with his choices if it's a boring bulky doorknob with not much to entice me up it other than a trig tick at the summit but on this trip his hill picks were all excellent five star classics I was really keen to do.
We started from a small car park/ nature reserve beside Loch Ruthven. Although I'm comparing this area to the English Lake District visually it has none of the buildings or infrastructure found there just some scattered farms, very few parking places and no hotels or tourist facilities at all, except in nearby Inverness, half an hours drive away. What it does have is a similar mix of woodlands, cliffs, lochs and craggy small peaks.
We were soon making our way up the hillside through knee high heather on a muddy narrow trail. Views were extensive over a wide area and contained different types of terrain.
Higher hills and remote farms encircled this semi lowland oasis and made a nice contrast.
A landscape dotted with small attractive lochs and craggy summit ridges.
Beautiful and fairly empty apart from a few cars. Mainly birdwatchers or fishermen.
Geese on a lochan. Probably greylags arriving down from Iceland to over winter here.
A summit view of Loch Ruthven from Stac Gorm.
One of Alex and another small hill- smooth on this side but a vertical wall of rock on the hidden other face. Really pleasant area and we were both highly impressed.
Autumn woodlands in afternoon sunshine. The morning had been spent on the drive up.
Huge flocks of geese on the drive up made it an interesting trip. When you go to a fixed event like this one, booked months in advance, its just the luck of the draw, weather wise, but we certainly won a prize with this trip.
Summit view from the cairn. A rare selfie.
Smoke on the water. Duh duh duh... duh duh.. duh  da.....
One of the few houses in this area. Incidentally, Black magician and Victorian mountaineer extraordinaire Aleister Crowley owned a property in this vicinity on the eastern shores of Loch Ness- a house later owned by rock  star Jimmy Page for around 20 years. A.C. is one of the many famous/infamous faces on the Beatles Sgt Peppers album.
A great little hill... and it wasn't over yet... we still had a few hours left before darkness.... to be continued.

Some of the best films I've seen recently have been the ones without any fanfare made by small companies and shown on film 4. This is one. Never heard of it but a real family delight anyone should enjoy. Young boy with autism but special fixation with numbers wins a trip abroad with his school for a prestigious international maths competition for gifted youngsters. Picked this particular trailer (not really representative of the general context or tone of the film as a whole)  as it doesn't give too much away- a very annoying habit with some clips that insist on revealing the entire plot of the film in one go. Liked the transition between English then Far Eastern cultures which added an extra dimension of interest. Well worth seeing if its on again.



Neil said...

A great area Bob; I agree with you about the comparison with the Lake District. There are a few sub-2k Marilyns around here- all of them interesting but maybe they will appear in part 2.....?.

Anabel Marsh said...

Wow, you did strike lucky with the weather. Beautiful colours and reflections, just amazing.

Carol said...

That does look a lovely area.

I used to hang around a lot in the area of Boleskine House/Foyers while Jimmy P owned it - shame it burnt down! I used to also go up the craggy hill behind the house he climbs in the film 'The Song Remains The Same' - although not up the actual crag like he did!

Rosemary said...

Wonderful photos showing the Autumn colours in such a beautiful part of the world. You were really lucky with the weather - what a difference sunshine and blue skies make both to the scenery and our spirits too.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Neil,
there was just time that same afternoon to nip up another one but that's part two :o)

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Anabel,
yes, its amazing the difference sun makes and even a light breeze would wipe out the reflections. I certainly don't remember it being that pretty the first time on an overcast dull day. Not like the Lake District in that respect which stays beautiful even in heavy rain thanks to villages, towns and woodland paths. No shelter here at all.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
I assume the attraction was Jimmy Page and not Mr Crowley. I still have the Great Beast in my book collection. An interesting read. As far as I know the house has been put on the market but needs extensive work done to make it habitable again.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Rosemary,
yes I've never shared the view that "there's no such thing as bad weather just the wrong clothing". Give me sunshine every time. Drizzle just makes the Highlands totally miserable for me and always has.

Mike@Bit About Britain said...

Stunning, Bob. And, wow, you certainly had perfect weather - I can almost smell the bracken!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Mike,
it was a cracking trip that gets better and more exiting each day. Wish every trip to the Highlands had the same weather but sadly not the case.

Carol said...

It is a shame about Boleskine House - I hope they manage to restore it. The attraction was JP yes - definitely not Aleister. I've read quite a few of his books - he was pretty weird wasn't he? Mind you, I'm not sure how much of it all he believed and how much of it was just to get his weird way with girls!

blueskyscotland said...

I liked the story that A.C., presumably bored with village life, once wrote to a London religious society concerned by moral values and saving fallen women that in the district around his highland house 'prostitution was highly conspicuous.'
After a flying visit to the area by concerned spies of the group they wrote back saying they could find no trace of it at all.
'Yes, that's what I mean' he complained bitterly. 'Conspicuous by its absence you fools- if you have any...send some girls up immediately!'

Anonymous said...

I had to look up this area on a map! I knew there must be something between Loch Ness and the Monadhliath but no idea it was this good. Stunning pictures.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Andy,
It was not on my radar either so a good find and highlight.