It’s interesting how sometimes places catch you unaware and my trip to Ardnamurchan this weekend was a revelation.
The Ardnamurchan peninsular – the westernmost part of the Scottish mainland that juts out with the islands of Mull and Skye to the south and north respectively – was a place that really hasn’t been on my radar until now. Why would it be ? There are no munros, no towns and no major tourist attractions. But the very fact that it is off the beaten track is its appeal. Put it a different way: Ardnamurchan has few visitors, fantastic land and seascapes, and an relaxing ‘island’ pace of life. Although it’s only a ten minute ride across Loch Linnhe on the Corran Ferry, just south of Fort William, you’re immediately away from the crowds and in a different place altogether.
Being there on a couple of glorious October days certainly made a difference. The sun shone from dawn to dusk and the sparkling, still weather showed off the scenery at its very best.
I took a walk at the Ariundle Oakwoods, just to the north of Strontian (yes, the village that gave its name to the element Strontium). There’s a nice 90 minute walk beside the river just north of the Ariundle Centre (with a tea shop and toilets) and the oak leaves were just starting to change colour.
I camped for the night at Resipole Farm Campsite – one of my Top 10 Scottish campsites – which overlooks Loch Sunart. The sunset views that night were just stunning. And do you see the heron at the bottom of the picture ?
The main reason for my visit was to climb the Corbett, Beinn Resipol (no, I can’t explain why the spelling of Resipol(e) differs – but it just does). There are two main routes up the hill, the first from near the Ariundle Centre beside Strontian in the east and this route, which starts just behind the campsite Reception at Resipole.
It had been a clear, frosty night and so when I ventured up through the oak and birch woods there were still patches of frost being slowly melted by the low-angled sunlight. It was a glorious day for a walk: almost windless, still warm sunshine and crystal clear visibility. I lost the path in the middle section of the ascent and ended up following deer tracks (in fact, the WalkHighlands route suggests crossing the stream but then failed to mention having to cross back again; I discovered on my descent that the main path is on the eastern side of the Allt Mhic Chiarain). I then ended up following the stream to Lochan Bac an Lochain, to the south of the peak, rather than to the north. Not to worry; a stiff 250m climb took me directly up to the summit.
And the fact that I’d deviated from the main route a little made the direct ascent of the summit all the more special. For when I topped out I was suddenly faced with such an amazing view. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it was the best view of any mountain I’ve climbed in Scotland – including all of the munros.
Since Beinn Resipol is an isolated peak, the view from the summit gives a 360 degree panorama of the Inner and Outer Hebrides, with Ben Nevis, the Mamores and the Glencoe hills all visible in the east. The sharp peaks of the Rum and Skye Cuillins stood out in their full glory, 30 miles away, while the hills of South Uist were just visible 70 miles out. I soaked in the marvellous views while having a relaxed lunch, before three more walkers arrived from the Strontian direction necessitating a hurried exit.
It’s on days like this that you feel truly alive, privileged to enjoy views like this. It’s difficult to put into words. There’s the rush of adrenaline on getting to the summit, followed by the satisfaction of taking in the fantastic views. But in such perfect walking weather the emotions are heightened considerably. Before my solitude was interrupted by some more walkers I had felt as though I was (almost) the only person alive.
So Beinn Resipol and Ardnamurchan generally had been a revelation. I’ll certainly be back to climb the Rois-Bheinn hills a little further north and to drive out to the white sand beach at Sanna. I didn’t get a chance to go kayaking on this trip but Loch Sunart and some of the other sheltered sea lochs look very inviting. I can only hope that not many people read my evangelising, since I want Ardnamurchan to stay one of Scotland’s hidden gems.