Walk of the week: The Fara
At long last a good day, forecasting blue skies and a gentle breeze, which coincided with convenient travel arrangements. I met Rhona at Dalwhinnie – our target a trip to The Fara that overlooks the northern end of Loch Ericht.
The name, referring to the long, high ridge and not to the actual highest point, may be derived from the Gaelic faradh meaning ladder (the long summit ridge like a recumbent ladder), or perhaps, more aptly, from faire meaning horizon or skyline. At the south-west end is 897m Meall Cruaidh. Further northwards is a 901m bump, beyond which the ridge, now mapped as The Fara, gently rises to a nameless 911m/2989ft rocky outcrop, the highest point of the ridge, overlooking Dalwhinnie.
The hill’s qualification for Corbett status (Scottish hills between 2500ft and 2999ft and with a drop of at least 500ft all round) is easily met and the ridge offers a high-level viewing platform. We enjoyed views over Loch Ericht and Dalwhinnie to the A9 Munros with the more distant snow-covered Feshie hills and the Cairngorms as a backdrop.
I first climbed The Fara by the popular route, using the railway level crossing at Dalwhinnie, then the Loch Ericht side track, to reach just beyond An Tochailt. From there a firebreak, then following fence posts and a drystane dyke, gives a direct line all the way to the summit.
This time Rhona and I were keen to also explore the north-east end of the ridge, so we started just north of Dalwhinnie at map ref 636858, from where a track leaves the A889 at a welcoming height of 360m.
The broad track bridges the Allt an t-Sluic then reaches a padlocked fence. However, a stile on the left-hand side gives access to Caochan Wood. A post with a small map shows a choice of woodland walks.
Continue on the gradually rising track through the broad firebreak. The end of the mapped track is at 500m, but a narrower and more recent track continues to slant upwards, then more steeply to clear the trees by a padlocked gate, by now at some 600m.
Climb the high gate then zigzag easily up the grassy slopes. Slant leftwards to the line of sporadic fence posts and follow them to meet the drystane dyke. This leads over steepening ground to merge with the rocky outcrop on which is built the massive summit cairn. The snow-level contour lines eased identification of the surrounding hills so we lingered awhile.
Descend NNE on clipped heather and grassy slopes, then curve north-east well above the Allt a’Ghiubhais to reach the top end of a very new and obvious track, circa 680m. The track easily loops its way downhill and crosses that stream. A short distance downstream from the mapped estate house and buildings, the track crosses the Allt an t-Sluic, map ref 629863, by way of a hidden-at-first ford. The ford looks very new and unless the stream is in full spate I cannot imagine any difficulty in crossing.
The estate track then leads back to the A889 opposite a quarry. This latter stretch is part of an old drovers’ route from Feagour on the A86, the Laggan Road, that gave a shortcut, likely used by soldiers in the 18th century, from the southern end of the Corrieyairack Pass to Drumochter. Nowadays seldom frequented (now that’s an idea for a traversing walk), it is no longer apparent as a visible line over the whole of its length. Navigational skills required.
Carefully return on the short stretch of the A889 to the start point, taking heed of traffic “hidden” on the road’s steep rise from Dalwhinnie.
Map Ordnance Survey map 42, Glen Garry & Loch Rannoch
Distance 7 miles
Terrain Tracks and grassy slopes
Start point A889, just north of Dalwhinnie, map ref 636858
Time 4 hours
Nearest village Dalwhinnie
Recommended refreshment spot Monadhliath Hotel, Laggan
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Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 20 June 2013
Temperature: 11 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 11 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West