Loch Monar to Allt Uchd Rodha
Saturday 10th May
Start 8:30, finish 4:30, 21km
I woke at first light (c. 4 am) to the soft pitter patter of rain. Not so good! I endeavoured to get some more sleep, but gave up after a while. When I popped outside, the rain had lessened to a heavy drizzle and the surrounding hills were shrouded in mist.
After breakfast, I packed under the shelter of the tent. The rain had become a bit more persistent by then. The wind had swung round and was now blowing from the far end of the loch and would be in my face. I decided this would be a hard shell occasion rather than wearing Paramo.
Packed and ready to go
By 8:30 I was ready to go. The wet weather meant I used my iPhone in its waterproof case, rather than risk my conventional camera, hence the lower quality pictures. The first task was to cross the river via the pieces of collapsed bank. Thankfully, the water level hadn’t risen overnight.
I followed the river for a while and then cut across the marshy ground to the shore of the loch. I girded my loins for a wet few hours. I had been warned that it would be a rough and wet walk. In fact, I had joked with Alan Sloman about walking down Loch Monar with the wind driving rain into my face. Now I was about to experience the reality!
What appears to be a track from afar is more like a long sheep scar, probably caused by soil creep. However, I was delighted to find a quad bike track complete with parked quad bike. I didn’t use the bike, you’ll be pleased to hear.
The track lasted for about a mile before it disappeared. It was better than nothing, but only marginally. The conditions underfoot were, ahem, wet. At least it wasn’t raining too hard. Progress was slow but not too arduous.
In some places tree roots had been exposed in the bare peat. I had been warned that stream crossings could be an issue but found no difficulties here. After another mile or so I reached a large sheepfold. It looked reasonable as a place to camp, although Andy Howell reckoned it had ticks, when I mentioned it to him.
It had taken me just under one and half hours to get this far. I wasn’t overly concerned as I had plenty of time. The next mile or from Allt Coire Shaile was quite rough, often necessitating walking along the rocky shoreline.
At one point I stopped for a bite to eat, sheltering behind a small rise. There was an odd smell in the air. When I rounded the hillock, there were two rotting deer carcasses beside some boulders. Delightful!
Above the shoreline, there were drifts of wood. Presumably these came from the trees that were on the glen floor before it was flooded. This and a tide line of dead grass suggested that the loch waterline had been considerably higher at one time.
By now, the rain had stopped, although there was still a stiff breeze blowing from the east. The cloud base was also lifting. Perhaps the weather would improve.
Crossing the streams that flow out of Loch Mhuilich was a bit complicated. There is a bridge, but I crossed lower down. As long as you choose carefully, it’s not a big problem.
From here a path is marked on the map. At first, I didn’t find it. After a few hundred metres, I struck uphill and managed to locate it.
This made the going a lot easier. It was still very wet underfoot, but at least it was less boggy. Soon I was catching glimpses of the end of the loch, which encouraged me.
I plugged on until I reached the Allt a’ Choire Fionnarach. I lost the track down to the bridge and had to negotiate a boggy stretch of ground. The good news was that my boots were keeping my feet dry. The bad news was that I had an ominous ache in the arch of my left foot.
Just after the bridge, I decided to stop for lunch. I had a look at the sheepfold, but it didn’t look very promising so I selected a rock by the path junction to perch on. Another Challenger (Byron Davies?) came past. By now it was raining again. He decided to push on, while I had a quick bite to eat, sheltering under my umbrella.
The rain didn’t last long, but the wind meant I didn’t hang around. The path from here improves dramatically, becoming much more defined and properly graded. There was a little bit of up and down to cross the burns. Below the path, the shoreline was littered with piles of driftwood.
The last section of path goes through a delightful small ravine. It then emerges just before Monar Lodge. The lodge seems to be undergoing some extensive renovations. It is in a beautiful position, looking down the loch.
A little way beyond the lodge, there is a stand of pine trees. By now, there seemed to be less prospect of rain. In the shelter of the trees, I took off my waterproofs and changed into a wind shell. Disconcertingly, there were some midges flying around, but there was enough breeze to stop them bothering me.
The road leads to the dam. There was no water coming from the foot of the dam. Indeed the water level of the loch looked a bit low. Coming out of the shelter of Meal an Tairbh, I was once again walking into the full force of the wind.
After the boggy paths of the morning, a bit of road walking was welcome. The gorge of the Garbh-uisge is quite attractive, but there wasn’t much water running in it, deprived of the flow from Loch Monar.
The road led downhill, so I made rapid progress. A little further on the glen broadened out and I could see an extensive patch of grass by the river. Someone (possibly a Challenger) had pitched a Scarp. It was a long way away, but the owner and I exchanged waves.
It was too early to stop. Passing the house before Braulen Lodge, a couple of dogs in their pens barked madly as I walked by. The lodge itself seemed to be closed, with curtains and blinds drawn.
By now I was starting to think about camping. Bert, my vetter had indicated that there was a good spot by the bridge that crosses the Allt Uchd Rodha.
I couldn’t see the actual spot as I approached it, as it is hidden behind a small hill. As I rounded the corner, I found it. Perfect, and no-one was camped there. Just at that moment, there was a tremendous roar behind me and three single propeller planes skimmed overhead.
I camped at the far end of the green ride, figuring it would be slightly more secluded. After erecting the tent, I collected some water. It started to spot with rain. As I got in the tent, it started raining harder. Perfect timing.
I had a meal and wrote up my trip diary. After a couple of hours, the rain stopped and I popped my head out of the tent door. Two more tents had appeared nearer to the road. There were no signs of life, so introductions would have to wait until tomorrow.
Despite the weather and the ground conditions, I really enjoyed the walk along Loch Monar. It was slow going to start with, but not too arduous. After the first section, the paths were reasonable. The only fly in the ointment was the pain in my left foot. I gave it a good massage and hoped that it wouldn’t develop into anything worse.