Ben y Vrackie and a Famous Proclaimers Song

21 08 2016

Thu 4 August 2016
And I would drive 500 miles,
and I would drive 500 more
Just to be the one who drove 1000 miles
Pointless miles upon my Sunny poor
La la la la, la la la la…

Hate to say this, but I’m rapidly going off trips to Scotland! Going on a semi-hopeful weather forecast, one day recently I drove all the way up to Dundonnel near Ullapool (far Northwest of Scotland) and ended up setting straight back off home again the next morning with nothing done!

It’s very hard from England’s nice weather to imagine what it might be doing just slightly further north in the next country. We always assume it’s around the same. How wrong can we be? Well, in many cases recently, very!

I’d rung Richard from Cumbria nightly to get a weather forecast for the NW of Scotland. Wednesday was going to be ‘orrid, Thursday was going to settle down to showers which I can cope with. I wavered a while on the Wednesday morning whether to set off that day or the next as Friday was supposed to be absolutely fine – but really I needed to be back at work in the next day or so. My aim was to get my last Munro Top before I can go for my compleation (which is actually going to be three peaks but on the same mountain).

In the end, as it was far nicer in Cumbria than forecast (it was supposed to be ‘orrid there too but wasn’t), I set off hopefully around midday in my beloved but much overworked camping car, the Sunny (the Polo is too small to sleep in).

I passed through several heavy rain showers on my drive north but also much sunshine – things looked quite promising. It was mostly sunny all the way to Inverness. However, leaving Inverness, the skies became solid, leaden grey and the rain became constant. It also looked like it was not only set in for the day but had been like that for quite a while. As I left the Dirrie More at Braemore Junction to take the Dundonnel road (the Destitution Road), the road was pretty flooded. Oh dear…

By now the cloud was down to the road and all looked soaked and horrible. I passed the start to my route to the hill and the parking where I’d been going to sleep but it was just too depressing – I just couldn’t stay there. I continued in the direction of the west coast hoping that, as I approached the sea, the better weather supposedly coming in from the north-west would either be waiting or on its way in.

Dundonnel was awash – the lights of the roadside hotel almost blotted out by the rain. On my way along this section, I studied all the burns coming down the hillsides – there were many more than there should have been and they were absolutely raging. It had clearly been raining here for weeks, if not months. There was no way I was going to tackle those burns the next day – I realised all was hopeless.

Having just driven 500 miles, I didn’t fancy turning straight back home so mooched around Altbea (after stopping at every single roadside phonebox to phone Richard to say I’d arrived okay and finding them all out of service ๐Ÿ˜ฆ ) Luckily, I found a working call box in Altbea at last and phoned him before going to the pub for the evening. Yes, I do have a mobile but it’s my emergency phone so I won’t use it otherwise when I’m on a trip as I’d hate to have no battery left.

Rather than sit in the car making a sandwich supper, I tried my luck in the bar to see if I could get some food but they’d stopped serving. I just sat with a drink and a bag of crisps and stared gloomily out of the window. At least here the sun was somewhere visible behind all the cloud and it had stopped raining. Maybe tomorrow would be fine but I rather doubted it.

The whole road to Mellon Charles was solid housing so not suitable for car-kipping so I went back a way and tried the Mellon Udrigle road – much better – quite a lot of deserted moorland! About half way along the road I passed a quarryhole type of layby which would do fine but continued to the roadend as I remembered it was quite nice down by the beaches.

Unfortunately, the roadend, while it had a campsite, didn’t have anywhere to sleep in the car (no curtains) and there were again lots of houses. I backtracked to the lovely, peaceful quarryhole on the moors and set the car up for sleeping. People wonder how I sleep in the car and think it must be uncomfortable but I just recline the passenger seat, put a bag under my feet and get into the sleeping bag – lovely, comfy and very peaceful! Also, you’re locked in which is nice…

As I quickly fell asleep, I noted it was clearing nicely…

Around 0330, I awoke to the dreaded drip, drip of rain falling off my car. I looked out (it’s light at 0330 in Scotland) and saw the cloud had descended to the road again and all was horrible and gloomy yet again ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Oh well, maybe it would stop…

I awoke again around 0530 to hear the wind had picked up dramatically. By 0600, I’d had enough and got up for the drive back home – it was never going to clear. It’s unheard of for me to be up and about at that time!

The roads were so quiet I didn’t even bother to put my sidelights on as I drove around the coast in the rain. I hadn’t bothered with breakfast or even a drink – I’d get one in the Little Chef in Perthshire (southern highlands and a couple of hundred miles away).

The weather was absolutely horrid all the way around the lovely Loch Maree but you could still see what a beautiful area this is. As I reached Kinlochewe, there was a clearing in the sky towards my hills but it was only a small one and was surrounded by horrible clag. I wavered for a moment but then drove resolutely on.

As I drove, I pondered whether I should at least bag a Corbett – there were a few I wanted. However, I would of course have no maps and the weather was dodgy for mapless walking. I finally hit on the bright idea of doing Ben y Vrackie above Pitlochry – I knew that would have a path all the way up it as it’s a tourist mountain. That would at least save my trip slightly – I was pretty furious at having run 1000 pointless extra miles onto my poor old Sunny – he’s already almost gone around the clock twice!

I had a quick breakfast in the bakery in Pitlochry and then set out in the car to try to find the start of the track to the hill – I always had in mind it was on the moortop above the town on the Braemar Road. After driving all the way up the hill for miles, I found there was nothing obvious heading towards the hill and no obvious parking – with this being a tourist hill, there would have been something…

With an exasperated sigh, I drove back down into town and asked at the brewery/distillery for directions. The very helpful brewer gave me full instructions and I soon found the parking after that – thanks guy ๐Ÿ™‚

As expected, there was a superb path all the way up the peak, starting off very easily through pretty woodland full of raspberries which I snacked on as I ascended. All was very easy to the lochan under the peak where the final 1000 feet hove into view looking steep and hard – it was!

Ben y Vrackie from Approach Shoulder

Ben y Vrackie Lochan Approach

I slogged up the stone-pitched path – luckily, this being a tourist peak, I wasn’t the slowest this time. Three guys (obviously walkers from their dress) ahead of me kept me behind for a very long time but eventually they stopped for a rest and I steamed past after stopping for a chat.

It was exceedingly windy up here – it was obviously going to be a full gale on the summit. There were plenty of bilberries though which was nice and waylaid me quite a bit ๐Ÿ˜‰

At the summit, it was indeed very breezy and I didn’t stay long – I’d been admiring the view all the way up so there was no more to see there and I don’t do ‘selfies’ and so on. There were two other summits not being visited by anyone else despite being cairned. They looked nice so I hurtled along the ridge to them both being hurled at speed by the gale. I personally thought they were nicer than the main summit but with the wind they were no place to hang around for a break.

Ben y Vrackie Other Summits

Ben y Vrackie Summit
Looking back to Ben y Vrackie from furthest summit

I set off straight back down and decided to follow the path around the lake. It was exceedingly boggy and didn’t make it right around the lochan as it said on the information sign it would. That meant I ended up detouring up the next steep little peak – I found the views weren’t really great from there though and there was a lot of thick heather to descend after it to get onto ‘the Bealach Path’ (the path which goes over to Killiecrankie).

Ben y Vrackie Loch

Ben y Vrackie Shoulder peak

The Bealach Path was superb and I was soon back at the main path and then the car for the remainder of my drive home. I still called at my favourite Little Chef where my favourite waitress made me an absolutely superb dessert. Unfortunately, as they were pretty busy, that delayed me enough to get stuck in the rush hour traffic around Glasgow (where it was hot and sunny).

The drive home was marred by one of my usual incidents – I always seem to get some maniac trying to kill me when I’m driving! I went into the middle lane to overtake a lorry and, some lunatic who’d been driving all the way in the middle lane anyway somehow got upset with me for daring to use ‘his’ lane (I was nowhere near him when I pulled out).

As I neared the backend of the lorry, so did he – at around 100 mph or more – but on my left behind the lorry! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ Just as he was about to smash into the back of the lorry, which I was almost level with, he suddenly cut out in front of me missing the Sunny’s bonnet by inches. At 100 mph that would have been pretty serious for me! Unfortunately, I was too stunned at his stupidity and recklessness to get his number – Richard says I should get a dash-cam and I’m sure he’s right nowadays.

I was pretty relieved to reach Cumbria again and put my car away – I have to say the road incident kept me awake most of the night though. I always lie there wondering what on earth I could do to avoid these maniacs but, after it going round and round in my head for ages, unfortunately I reach the same old conclusion – nothing! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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18 responses

12 09 2016
McFadzean

I missed this one. I must have been lost in the bad weather.
Cheers, Alen

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12 09 2016
mountaincoward

Yeah, I think it probably blew past you in the ferocious winds!

Liked by 1 person

31 08 2016
fedup

How come when the forecasters predict bad weather – they are right, but when they predict fine weather they are often wrong ?

Looks a good hill even after your wasted TRIP!

Liked by 1 person

2 09 2016
mountaincoward

Absolutely right! I’ve noticed that before. I now read the forecast and, if it’s bad, believe it totally… if it’s good, I think twice about setting off!

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27 08 2016
tessapark1969

Oh dear re the Dundonnell washout! Always a risk in that area. We had a week in Ullapool a couple years ago when it bucketed down for a week and we couldn’t face any walking.

Funnily enough I did Ben Vrackie on Friday. Enjoyed it very much though the stone pitching seemed to go on forever particularly on the way down.

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2 09 2016
mountaincoward

We had a week at Ullapool last year where it rained for the whole week. We found that there really isn’t that much to do around there if it’s terrible weather!

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23 08 2016
Blue Sky Scotland

In my experience the Scottish west coast is always miserable and wet in summer. A bloody appalling place to visit :o) As you know I tend to stay around the Central Belt or east coast then, as usual, following the sun. Heading for the Lakes is another option to avoid bad weather so I’m amazed at your stamina and dedication coming north as this summer has been particularly bad for strong winds and unpredictable weather. Ben Vrackie is a lovely hill and a good consolation prize..

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23 08 2016
mountaincoward

I had to laugh at that coming from a Scot – but you’re absolutely right! I’m going completely off the west of Scotland due to the appalling weather they get – no wonder I love the Cairngorms so much… Ben Vrackie was a really nice walk and put me in a much better frame of mind.

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21 08 2016
45degreesmc

Hi Carol – I can see Ben Vrackie from my window. My local hill. I can walk up it from my house….been up it in every conceivable condition!!

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21 08 2016
mountaincoward

Well it’s certainly a nice hill and definitely saved my trip. Shame it wasn’t better weather for the photos though – they’re probably the worst I’ve ever got!

Liked by 1 person

21 08 2016
Julie Watson

Ha ha you do make me laugh ๐Ÿ˜ hope you are well…. Look forward to meeting you one day…

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21 08 2016
mountaincoward

Well I’d just been about to buy a house in Bolton New Houses but I’ve got a very nasty feeling I’ve just been gazumped ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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21 08 2016
Mark

Your secret Corbett round is under way.๐Ÿ˜œ A good wee hill this.

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21 08 2016
mountaincoward

Ha, ha – secret Corbett round! I do have a list of quite a few I want to do but it’s nothing like all of them…

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21 08 2016
Gaslight Crime

We were in Pitlochry last weekend. Glorious weather. John B.

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21 08 2016
mountaincoward

It wasn’t glorious when I was there as you can see from the photos – but it was much better than the far northwest!

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21 08 2016
underswansea

That sounds like quite a trip. Helluva drive! We have plenty of erseholes on the roads during summer. Looks like nice country with bad weather. I wouldn’t have left the pub. Take care.

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21 08 2016
mountaincoward

It was a helluva drive – I felt guilty both for the environment and for my poor overworked old car!

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