A Truly Scottish Adventure
Scotland is well known for its "Right to Roam", where anyone has the right to roam, explore, and adventure on any land, as long as they do so reasonability and respectfully. With this in mind, Scotland's potential for adventure is unlimited.
Route: An Teallach, Dundonnell
Munros: Bidein a'Ghlas Thuill (An Teallach), Sgurr Fiona (An Teallach)
Duration: 2-3 days
I thought it was only fair that my first post was dedicated to my home. It is actually only been the last 4 years while I have been studying here that my love for Scotland has grown and I have come to realize what a beautiful and adventurous country it is.
This was an adventure shared with 3 of my best friends. Since most of us only had time off at the weekend, on late Friday afternoon we are jumped in the car and headed north. The plan was to drive to Ullapool on Friday night and camp near the start of our walk, get up early on Saturday and start our hill walk to bag two Munros, An Teallach and Sgurr Fiona then continue along the knife-like ridge of the Munros and spend Saturday night in Shenavall Bothy with an easy walk out on Sunday morning.
Route: Drive from Aberdeen to Dundonnell
Accommodation: Camping on the shores of Little Loch Broom at Dundonnell Hotel
After everyone was finished with work we jumped in the car and headed to the North West Highlands. The west of Scotland is unlike any other place, the scenic mountains, swaying trees, and almost silent atmosphere bring a real sense of remoteness and makes for a real adventure. The vast landscape brings everyone together and it is almost as though a sense of home is created with the environment around you.
We heard by word of mouth of a lovely old B&B near Ullapool that we intended to spend the night in before setting off on our walk the following day. As it often goes time slipped away from us and before we knew it, it was very late and we could not seem to find the B&B anywhere. It was 23:30 and we still hadn't found a place to stay, we ended up pulling up on the side of a road on a small piece of grass, outside what we thought was a pub, and set up our tents to take shelter in for the night. It wasn't until the next morning we realized we had camped on a small campsite outside the Dundonnell hotel in one of the most scenic spots, on the shores of Little Loch Broom.
Route: Two Munros An Teallach circuit starting from Dundonnell to Shenavall Bothy
Accommodation: Shenavall Bothy
After an average night's sleep, we woke up to pack up camp and jumped into the Dundonnell hotel to grab our caffeine fix and go over our route on the map. An Teallach is one of the most magnificent and exciting ridge traverses in Scotland and the day started off with pretty good weather, as far as September in Scotland goes. There was a little bit of fog but we could see the landscape around us.
The walk started with a pretty enjoyable assent with quite a lot of greenery around us. Taken aback by the wild landscape around me, and constantly pinching myself that it wasn't raining, it wasn't long until the weather started to get worse and our walk changed from a grassy/ muddy path on a hill to a scramble up rocks to reach our first summit. It was here we meet our first companions of the walk. A couple out with their dog, who eventually got too tired and had to be carried to the top. Once we reached the first summit stood on top looking at what is arguably one of the most majestic views in Scotland, we shared some whiskey with our friends as we looked out into...nothing. The fog had become so bad we could barely see in front of us, regardless we were determined to make it to the bothy before nightfall.
The weather only got worse from here onwards, but spirits were high and we were all just happy to be outside, even if we were trying not to get blown off the ridge. We stumbled down the rugged rocks before coming to a very steep incline, which consisted of head down and don't slip, with the occasional stop for a wasabi pea, before we reached the peak of our second Munro and shared another shot of whiskey. There is something about being out in harsh elements that connects and brings everyone together. There was a real sense of community. After the second summit, we said goodbye to the couple who headed back the way we came in. Before heading off we exchanged stories about the path we had just come from with a group of hill walkers who had come from the other way and they too told us how the path was for us. I knew it was important to listen to other hillwalkers, they told us the path only gets worse, and if we were to carry on to be very careful along the ridge. Even though this trail was one that many had walked before us, it felt like we're the first to explore it.
We carried on walking for a very long time until we finally admitted we were lost. We had been walking along the ridge for hours and no matter how hard we tired could not seem to find the path, let alone any path down. After the usual argument and laughter, we made either a very smart, or very stupid decision, (I am still not entirely sure which one this was) to cut down the side of the mountain which was at about a 70% angle. Top tip heather can make a very good hold to stop you from falling down the mountain (make sure it is stable before putting all your weight on it). About halfway down the fog cleared and we could see the bottom and realized we were heading almost straight for Shenaval bothy, our home for the night. The ground all around the bothy was pretty marshy so we were delighted to know, even though we had been on the side of a mountain for hours we just had to get down. However, it soon became clear getting down wasn't quite as simple as what we first thought. We kept getting close to what we thought was flat to find out it most definitely was not and we were standing at the top of a cliff. After quite a few traverses across and many pit stops to enjoy an apple we eventually reached the doors of our bothy.
Our bothy was a two-story building with three rooms. For those of you who are not familiar with bothies, they are an important part of the Scottish landscape. Shepherds originally used Bothies as farm accommodation however today they are used as refuges during outdoor recreation as a way to access the more remote areas of the Scottish landscape. The Mountain Bothies Association (MBA) was established in 1965 and aims ‘to maintain simple shelters in remote country for the use and benefit of all who love wild and lonely places’. We arrived at the bothy, extremely happy to be on flat land, and found the bothy to be empty, except a few bags and sleeping mats in the corner, we suspected people had gone out hillwalking and would return later. By the fire firewood and coal were pilled neatly with a note reading: “Gone out hillwalking but feel free to start the fire, Keep yourself warm”. There was a book where people had left notes and stories of their time and experiences in the bothy and surrounding landscape. So many of the stories told of their time here as ‘being cut off from the outside world’, which I found particularly interesting, it was as though just for a night or two the four stone walls that were once used for farm accommodation bring together and engage people with their physical surroundings and connect people through stories.
By sundown, the bothy was full; there were four Scottish, two English, two Swedish, two Dutch, and two German. Despite everyone being from different places with different backgrounds, we were all connected through this sense of remoteness that people crave. As the bothy filled with the crackling of the fire, the smell of food and wine, and whiskey so did the flow of laughter and stories.
Route: Shenavall Bothy to Dundonnell, then drive back to Aberdeen
The following morning we set off early, about 5.30am, as we had to be back in Aberdeen for 3pm. The path was eroded and boggy, but we were happy walking along and chatting, waiting for the sun to rise. After about an hour of walking, we checked our location on our GPS to find out we had definitely taken a wrong turn. Since it had been dark we hadn't noticed two paths leaving the bothy and had gone right when we had wanted to head left over the hill. Luckily we tracked back for about 15 minutes and found a path heading up over the hill which was exactly where we wanted to be. The path here is pretty bare and you can see the beauty of the highlands around you. The path carries on until you reach a forest and then appear out onto the main road.
By 8am we were back in the car and heading back towards Aberdeen, with the memories of being out in the hill and sharing many shots of whiskey in the bothy, and ready for the start of a new week.
Bothy Code of Conduct
It is important to respect the bothy and the surrounding areas. Scotland is special as it has different land usage rights from anywhere else in Europe and the United States. The 'right to roam' is something to be celebrated and making sure bothies are maintained is important so other people can enjoy the facilities. Make sure to clean the bothy, write your stories in the handbook, report any damage to the bothies association, and leave any leftover firewood for others to enjoy.
Metal Bowl and Spork
Waterproof Bag Cover
Stove & Gas
Whisky & Wine/ Beer whatever your preference