AT 948m/3,110ft (a height oddly not mapped), Beinn Bhuidhe is the highest point of a four-mile SW/NE ridge wedged between Glens Shira and Fyne; part of a craggy area that featured in the post-war construction of hydro-electric reservoirs and power stations.
Currently under construction in Glen Fyne is the £350 million Merk Hydro Scheme, 25 per cent owned by the community who were the initiators; a run river scheme located in the vicinity of the Merk Burn on the west side of the glen. Generation is anticipated to begin by the end of the year, though the North Leats, the catchment area on the eastern slopes of Beinn Bhuidhe, are unlikely to be completed until next summer. From the hillwalkers’ point of view it remains to be seen how intrusive (or not) the higher works will be. Certainly the works of the 1950s have to an extent merged with the background and do not seem to spoil the feeling of remoteness whence the hill gets its charm.
A one-hill day even in summer and a challenging one in winter, Beinn Bhuidhe is not a hill to be trifled with. Decades ago, on a snowy February day of almost zero visibility, Beinn Bhuidhe was one of those rare occasions when we failed to reach the top.
The hill’s isolation offers a variety of routes. A Glen Shira approach to the SW end of the ridge gives a better prospect of finding the summit in poor weather. Jimbo, John and I used the more popular approach, a sea-level start from Glen Fyne.
Map Ordnance Survey maps 50, Glen Orchy & Loch Etive or 56, Loch Lomond & Inveraray area
Distance 13 miles of which 7 miles cycled
Terrain Track to grassy/craggy slopes, then ridge traverse
Start point Just west of the old bridge where the A83 loops round Loch Fyne
Time 6 hours
Nearest village Cairndow
Refreshment spot Loch Fyne Restaurant & Oyster Bar
Park just west of the old bridge where the A83 loops round the top end of Loch Fyne. A bicycle is strongly recommended. It is 4½ miles to Inverchorachan but a rise of only 100m; initially by Tarmac road, then briefly by track to a gate and sign ‘walkers please leave bikes here’. A padlock point has been provided. It is then a pleasant one-mile track walk, traversing a native woodland natural regeneration area, to reach Inverchorachan.
Just beyond the cottage, exit the regeneration area and cross the burn that flows from the SE escarpment of Beinn Bhuidhe. (A path on the south side of the burn is definitely not recommended. It goes very close to the ravine and on descent makes for slow and tedious progress).
Keep on the north side of the burn, heading up steep grassy slopes with a path alongside a fence. On our day the peace was disturbed by the digger constructing the new track on the southern side high above the ravine.
Head roughly NW to a gap in the ridge SW of the 901m top above Coire Dubh. The complex terrain, remarkably rough and confusing, calls for good compass work on a misty day, the very conditions we had on our day. (The forecast clearance of cloud only arrived when we were back into the glen). If needs be, head to the 901m top, just to be sure, then retrace steps. It is then an undulating walk SW, with a path, mostly on the east side of the ridge, becoming more developed. Pass a cairn marking the south side burn path’s point of reaching the ridge.
For me, the summit area is tinged with sadness, recalling a windy day and the scattering of ashes… one minute there, then gone forever. The forlorn stone-built trig point lies on the ground by the small cairn.
The return by bike (with head-torches if needs be) takes less than an hour; more so if stopping at the Fyne Ales Brewery at Achadunan, with a bar for thirsty non-driving hillwalkers.