Beinn a’ Chuillaich

It can be hard on a family holiday to take a day away to climb a hill or two. This recent wet weather limited options even further. It’s hardly right to disappear on the one or two clear days that we have had and leave the rest of the family twiddling their thumbs. I’d packed my hillwalking gear along with my daughters, hopeful that we might manage to get her third Munro under her belt, however it was not to be. The weather had been predictable- it was crap. Heavy rain in the morning, followed by lighter rain in the afternoon and midges in the evening. I sat with my map sheet spread over the caravan table, more out of boredom than an actual planning session, when it jumped out at me. For all the time I’d been coming here I’d always been looking elsewhere, usually at spot heights beginning in a 9. I could be forgiven for having overlooked this Corbett, only 15 minutes away. Beinn a’ Chuallaich, at 891m, was a short hill, at least on paper, which could be done in only a few hours, up and down. I tucked it away for later…

Druimglas Cottage, the stile is on the left

Later came after only a few days, where for a couple of hours I wasn’t required. Kit was thrown in the car and off I went. No sandwiches or flask, just the bare minimum. Within 20 minutes I was parked up at Druimglas and passing a bunch of workmen working on the water supply. One revealed that he had just had a text message from his wife in Aviemore, where they were having thunderstorms. I decided to make tracks and headed uphill towards the cottage, to hear a rumble of thunder nearby. Just what I needed!

Blink and you’ll miss it…

The track winds up to the Druimglas Cottage, which is very neat, apart from the bushes at the side which concealed a rickety stile. I wandered instead around the back into the garden, where the owner has put a bit of sacking on the fence as a makeshift crossing point. I crossed and followed the path uphill. This part of the hill is heavily overgrown with high bracken, but the path is well defined and easily followed. It was hot and I was sweating quite a bit by now, this is one of those hills where there is no gentle intro, just BANG, straight into a steep climb. Another rumble of thunder and the sky darkened. I doubted I would get up this today, convinced that the weather would turn nasty. I’ll bimble on and see how it goes I thought. I’ve been caught out in a thunderstorm before. Cycling home along the Airdrie to Bathgate cyclepath I was convinced I was going to be struck by lightning, with a flash to bang time of around a second I was right in the centre of it all. The utter randomness of it is something I didn’t like and had no desire to repeat.

From the back of the cottage

Right said Fred…

Shiehallion and Dunalastair Water

Gold Ringed Dragonfly

The path twists up the steep slope, passing through a gate to a small, almost pitiful lochan, more reed and weed than water. Beyond here the path seemed to peter out, but it was no great deal, as the way is fairly straightforward: up. The hill seems to be in four sections. A bracken and grass base, rising to ankle high heather reminiscent of the Pentlands which gives way to a boggy section, then a rocky summit. I was looking for the trig point as I approached the top, but found it difficult to see, mainly because of the huge cairn which has been built there. It must be eight or nine feet high. For all that there’s virtually no path up here it gets visitors as near the summit are a few well made windbreak shelters.

The cairn and trig point

The trig point, obscured by me.

One a clear day this hill must give some of the finest views of Shiehallion, as it lies directly across Dunalastair Water. Today though the cloud hung stubbornly over it, refusing to give way. In fact cloud obscured the view in most directions, so I headed back down, by virtually the same route as the ascent. Above me, somewhere in the cloud I could hear jets playing cat and mouse with each other, and I grabbed the camera in an attempt to catch a few photos, but with no joy. Then when I had almost given up I was rewarded with a view of one below me traveling along above the Road to the Isles, before disappearing into the murk. I had a final treat when Shiehallion’s summit was revealed for a whole thirty seconds, then donned its cloudy cap again, just enough time to get a photo and no more.

Mystery plane. Any plane spotters out there?

Shiehallion playing peek-a-boo.

This is probably one of those hills which doesn’t see a lot of footfall. Unless you are nearby it’s a long way to come for such a short walk, I did it between lunch and dinner, a wee treat which was enough to tide me over until my next big meal of a hill.


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