MOUNTAIN CLIMBING THE EASY WAY & WILDING ON RANNOCK MOOR

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Last night, after our barbeque, we dismantled the canopy in preparation for an early start. This morning, after breakfast, we packed up the rest of our gear, topped up with fresh water, drained the grey waste, refreshed the on-board loo, and left Morvich to head back South, towards Glencoe, and more specifically, the Glencoe Mountain Centre at Ballachulish.

We’ve had morning mists all week, so it was with some degree of relief that the clouds seemed to break as we approached the head of Glencoe. Just beyond the turn off for Glen Etive and Buachaille Etive Mor, and opposite the Kingshouse Hotel, we turned up the winding drive towards our destination…

At 748 metres, Creag Dhubh is the easiest mountain ridge I’ve ever climbed to, thanks to a chair lift that took us almost the whole of the way there. Glencoe Mountain Resort that runs the lift, caters for all flavours of mountain enthusiast; skiers when there’s snow on the ground, mountain bikers who take the ride up so that they can pound their way energetically to the bottom, and repeat as often as they can within the confines of a day ticket, and walkers like us who just fancy doing things the lazy way.

From the top of the chair lift, a modest, easy to follow footpath brought us to the summit of Creag Dhubh and, despite feeling like a fraud, I have to admit that it was a brilliantly fun way to get to the top of a mountain with zero effort. The views across Rannock Moor and to nearby Buachaille Etive Mor were truly spectacular, and we spent a good hour or so wandering around, taking photographs from every angle, until it was time to head back to the chair lift; last ride of the day back down was 4:15pm, and time was getting on. We could, of course take the footpath down if we missed it, but the chair-lift was so much fun, I was tempted to go round again (a day ticket allows you to go up and down the lift as many times as you like, for only £13.50).

For our final night in Scotland, we decided to Wild camp on one of the small rural car parks alongside Lochan nah-Achlaise on Rannock Moor. The car park had a few potholes on entry, but we found ourselves a good spot and took a damp walk down to the water’s edge to take some photos across to Black Mount, before settling in for the night.

There were two other motorhomes on the car park park, and we enjoyed a peacefully quiet night. In this part of the world, particularly at weekends, many of the best wild pitches get snapped up very quickly, so we felt very fortunate to have bagged the spot that we did. Many of the small car parks and laybys that we passed were positively heaving with vans, which made me wonder how the locals feel about it. This sort of thing simply doesn’t go on – at least not to this extent – in England, because of a persistent clampdown by local authorities, a preponderance of height barriers and ‘No Overnight Camping’ signs, and an on-going insistance by those ill-informed council officers that campervans should use £30-per-night campsites, even if they don’t actually need all the facilities they offer. One day they’ll see the light, realise that motorhomers are not all irresponsible louts (far from it), are not the main source of litter, discarded barbeques and empty beer cans (that would be day-trippers) and, in fact, potentially bring a lot of income to local businesses, and will eventually cater for them by providing modestly-priced european-style aires. I xcan dream…

Unfortunately, the increase in motorhome hire and a tendency for folks to want to ‘do’ the NC500 (a 500km long-distance trail around the Northern coast of Scotland) means tolerance has already been pushed to its limit, particularly when there are instances of naive (or stupid) motorhomers emptying their chemical toilet cassettes into rivers or worse, and not respecting the people that have to live there.

On which note, I’m happy to say that we enjoyed our visit to Scotland, and some quality, off-grid, time-out time in our trusty campervan. Can’t wait to do it all again very soon…

Peter Woolley

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