Where better to avoid the jubilee than Scotland’s most remote railway station. Last September I’d brought my daughter Olivia to Corrour to climb Beinn na Lap. On that day the heavens had opened up and we did little more than walk to the Youth Hostel at Loch Ossian, take a quick look around, before walking straight back to the station and getting the first southbound train, a round trip of around 50 minutes. Such a long journey for such a short walk. On this return trip the weather looked more amenable, and although the sky was grey and cloudy, this time the rain never really threatened.
Beinn na Lap is the ideal beginners Munro. The summit is 935m above sea level, the railway station around 404m, a total ascent of around 530m. Doing this as a straightforward out and back is only around 6 miles, and after the initial ascent onto the ridge it’s a pretty even slope all the way up. My daughter is only only 8 years old and this would be her second Munro. She’s been eager to do another one since she did Beinn Ghlas, a week after she turned 7.
I’ve did this train journey so many times now it’s started to feel like a commute, so it made a nice change to have a fresh pair of eyes with me. I pointed out The Cobbler, Ben Lomond, Ben More, and noticed a group of American tourists looking at the same hills trying to work out where they were. I pointed out a few to them, and was able to tell them a bit about the hills and some history. On trips like this it’s a wonder Scotrail don’t have a tour guide on board to do likewise, I’m sure it would be very welcome.
Three hours after leaving Glasgow we arrived at Corrour. For such a remote place it’s never quiet, and a mixed bunch got off the train and headed their different ways. Most headed along the track towards Loch Ossian. We instead headed straight cross country for Beinn na Lap. In dry weather like this it’s a decent route, cutting out the twists of the track. We re-joined the track after 10 minutes, skirting around the base of the Beinn, before heading directly up the ridge. To start with it’s quite tussocky, but this soon gives way to an even slope. We began to climb higher, stopping occasionally to look at the view or some plant or other. The rock formations are interesting too, all helping to break the journey up into child sized manageable chunks. Olivia was fascinated by the huge boulders, remnants of the ice age, and huge bands of sedimentary rock which was once at the bottom of the sea.
Large isolated boulders gave way to smaller lumps of grey rock. About three quarters of the way up we noticed a few groups of walkers coming up off the southern flank of the hill. They had come down on the train from Fort William and we chatted on the way to the top. There’s a faint path so navigation is straightforward, and you pass a small lochan just before the final rise up to the cairn. The last time I had been here I had a quick look around before being enclosed in a complete whiteout. Today was kinder. There was still snow on Ben Nevis and the wind nipped accordingly. While Olivia played around the rocks I took in the surroundings. Ben Alder, Sgor Gaibhre, Creag Megaidh all nearby, further off I could see Shiehallion and Buchaille Etive Mhor. Rannoch Moor and Loch Ossian below.
It had take us around 2hrs 20min to get here. The adults in the other group had taken around half that. Had we got to the top and turned round we could have perhaps caught the next northbound train and had a few hours in Fort William. We decided not to, and hung around at the top for a while, despite the cold. Olivia fashioned a chair from the rocks and I was given first honours of sitting in it! It was getting nippy, so we packed up and headed down, the last to leave bar one.
We took our time on the descent, and decided to take the normal route down, heading south off the ridge towards Loch Ossian. As we came down we noticed a huge herd of deer roaming the lower slopes of the hills, a welcome sight after a hill apparently devoid of other life.
Corrour Station restaurant is currently closed, so we set up our stove at the back of the building and brewed up hot drinks, before putting on a boil in the bag meal. We wandered around the station building area, looking off at the remote abandoned cottage which sits south east of the station, and to Leum Ulliem, the star of the movie Trainspotting, before returning to find the gas had gone out and the boil in the bag meal sat in a pan of lukewarm water! With no gas left and time short we packed up and wandered round to the platform, to await the train. The train arrived bang on time, and we found a table and prepared for the long trip home. Olivia tucked in to a barely warm pasta meal as Rannoch Moor disappeared behind us. It would be another four and a quarter hours before we arrived back in Airdrie. It’s a long trip for a short walk, but we weren’t complaining.