MAP: OS 34: Fort Augustus, Glan Albyn and Glen Roy
Distance: 6 miles
Terrain: Short track, mainly moor walking
Gear: Standard hillwalking equipment
BEINN BHAN is less well known than its namesake in Applecross, and indeed it is put in the shade as a mountain by the more curvaceous northern massif. As is often the case with a lesser hill, though, it is the location that counts, and Beinn Bhan falls into this category.
The ‘white hill’ lies at the western end of the Great Glen in Cameron of Locheil country. Had you been on this top in April 1746, you may well have spotted a small party of bedraggled Jacobites, including the Young Pretender, fleeing up the north side of Loch Arkaig.
The Clan Cameron Museum at Achnacarry on the B8005 is worth visiting for a fuller story of the Jacobite links. Also covered are the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders and the commandos, who trained in this area during the Second World War, and whose fine memorial you pass as you turn off the A82 on to the B8004 for Gairlochy, en route to the walk.
Several modes of transport have been funnelled through the defile between Spean Bridge and Gairlochy: a General Wade military road, now the line of the A82, a railway line long abandoned that hugs the southern side of Loch Lochy and Thomas Telford’s Caledonian Canal, which enters Loch Lochy and whose construction involved making a new channel into the Spean. This cut at Mucomir was bridged and carries the modern road, but 200 years or so ago it was used by cattle drovers from Skye. It is worth stopping at Gairlochy to contemplate all this ...
Once over the canal, turn left on to the B8004 which leads to Corpach and, more than two miles later, take a right turn up the wood-lined, narrow road which leads up Glen Loy. Drive a further two miles, parking just before the bridge that crosses the Loy.
Walk across the bridge and take the track on your right, which leads past Inverskilavulin. There are fenced fields just beyond the house, and it is best to keep on the rough ground between the fences running up the hill and the burn. After fencing finishes, continue following the right-hand bank for a short distance before heading up the steady heathery slope of Monadh Uisge Mhuilinn. Follow the broad southern ridge to the summit triangulation point, and take care, for this is easily missed in poor visibility.
On this walk I was lucky to see a flock of 40 wheatears returning to the moors from wintering in Africa. Some of the males, with distinctive grey backs and yellowish-buff coloured throats, were perched on rocks uttering their trademark chack, and when disturbed flew off revealing a flashing white rump.
Another bird associated with the high ground was also present. At first I could hear only a plaintive whistling call but, near the summit, I sighted the beautiful golden plover, with its greeny-yellow patterned back and black undercarriage.
The views can be extensive - from the summit you can really appreciate the Great Glen fault line, and confirm why it makes such a fine waterway.
To the south are tremendous views of the Grey Corries and the great bulk of Ben Nevis, showing its best side, the north-facing Corrie Leis with the arte of Carn Mor Dearg on its eastern side. Look west to see peak after peak stretching across to the Rough Bounds of Knoydart.
Walk west by a plateau which gives fine, high-level walking. Take in the two slight rises, both marked as 771m, and a cairn as you skirt round Coire Mhuilin. Look out for deer, particularly stags, which in late March shed their antlers. Descend the steep, south-east ridge back to the burn, cross over and retrace your steps to Inverskilavulin.