Hills & Mountains
Morven, Morar & Ardgour
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Standing on a small island at the mouth of Loch Laich, an inlet of Loch Linnhe, Castle Stalker is basically a large four-storey rectangular keep and garret set in a spectacular location. It lies north east of Port Appin roughly mid-way between Oban and Glen Coe and the best view of the much-photographed stronghold is obtained from the A828 road with the mountains of Mull, Morven and Ardgour providing a fine backdrop. Castle Stalker remains in private ownership and is only open at set times during the summer months when a boat is required and access dependant on tides and weather.
It is believed that a MacDougall stronghold dating from 1320 originally stood on the site and the castle in its present form was not built until the 1440s, a project of Sir John Stewart of Appin who became Chamberlain of the Isles.
Castle Stalker has changed hands several times over the years alternately falling into the possession of the Stewarts and Campbells and has a complicated history with its occupants having been involved in various major battles, clan feuds and murders.
During the 1745 Jacobite Rising Castle Stalker was held by the Campbells reinforced with a Garrison of around sixty Government troops. The Stewarts of Appin supported the Rebellion but their attempts to capture the Castle, an important staging post for ships sailing north to Fort William, failed. The thick outer walls are still pock-marked by cannonballs used unsuccessfully in an attempt to reduce the castle`s defences. In 1746, following the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie`s army at Culloden, local Clansmen who were sympathetic to his cause were required to surrender their arms to the Castle`s Government Garrison. Others were rounded up and at least six prisoners were held here for a fortnight before being taken to Edinburgh for trial.
The Castle was abandoned in the late 18th century and soon fell into disrepair being used as a storehouse for a time. In 1908 ownership again passed from the Campbells to the Stewarts and some basic preservation work was carried out to stem further decay. In 1965 restoration work began and gradually the Castle was brought back to its current state of repair which meant it was looking its best when it featured in the Monty Python and the Holy Grail movie!
The numerous hill and mountain tops on Scotland`s rugged West Coast make superb vantage points, especially on days when they offer uninterrupted views out to islands such as Arran, Mull, Skye or, as in this case, Eigg and Rum.
The Glenfinnan Hills
The classic view of the Jacobite Memorial, looking down Loch Shiel, has featured in countless calendars. Contrary to popular belief, the kilted figure on top of the column does not represent Bonnie Prince Charlie, but the Highlanders who fought and died for the Jacobite cause during the 1745 Rebellion.
Glenfinnan Catholic Church is located close to the village War Memorial. Designed in the Gothic style by E Welby Pugin, the building occupies a fine site which looks out over Loch Shiel. Contained within is a memorial chapel to the MacDonalds of Glenaladale, the family with whom Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed prior to raising the Jacobite standard at the head of the loch in August 1745. There are also memorial stones to the Prince and members of the MacDonald clan.
Sgurr an Utha
Beinn Odhar Bheag
Summit views: Loch Shiel and the site of the Jacobite memorial at the head of the loch lie to the east, while Roiss-Bheinn dominates in the opposite direction.
I couldn`t believe my luck when a Golden Eagle soared past at eye-level a few minutes after I`d reached the cairn!
The Roiss-Bheinn Group
Intro* Rois-Bheinn (882m), Sgurr na Ba Glaise (874m) and An Stac (814m)
An Stac climbed 2 May 2007 Sandpiper / Golden Eagle // The Rois-Bheinn group in the north-western corner of Moidart consists of four fine peaks and although these summits fall short of Munro height the group`s location makes a traverse of all the tops one of the classic Highland hill walks. I`ve climbed several peaks in this area and spotted a Golden Eagle every time. Unfortunately I`ve never been quick enough to get a decent shot. This particular bird flew over silently from behind and although it was very low by the time I`d fumbled with my camera and focused it was out of range.
The main peak of Rois-Bheinn can be climbed directly from the shore of Loch Ailort at Alisary but it is far better to start from the Glenshian Lodge Hotel near Inverailort and finish with a steep descent to Alisary. After that it`s just a pleasant walk back along the loch shore. A full circuit is normally tackled from the hotel but an ascent of An Stac and Rois-Bheinn together, from the same spot, is a much shorter but worthwhile alternative as they offer the best seaward views.
Below left: Rather than retrace the route of ascent, it`s easier to make a bee-line for the loch shore and follow the road back to the starting point.
Above right: A live fish carrier sails south past the rugged peaks of the Rum Cuillin. Rum`s smaller neighbour, the Isle of Eigg, is pictured below.
Ben Hiant, the Holy Mountain (528 metres) rises on the far side of the picturesque sandy bay of Camas Nan Geall (bay of strangers). It can be climbed in just over an hour from the B8007 Salen to Kilchoan road and on a clear day the top is the best vantage point in western Ardnamurchan. In a field just inshore lies Cladh Chiarain, the grave of St. Ciaran, who died in Ireland in 548 and two tiny graveyards, accessed by a steep track, which hold a number of ancient carved gravestones, most relating to Clan Campbell.
My wife and I headed up to Ardnamurchan, intending to camp for a weekend in May 2008 and do a bit of walking. On the Friday evening, following the long drive and Corran Ferry trip, we parked and made for the summit of Ben Hiant. It was quite late by the time we found a flat area just short of the top and set up camp. The wind speed increased rapidly, the rain came on and gales were soon buffeting the walls of the tent - no chance, as we`d hoped, of admiring the sunset! I managed to snatch a couple of hours sleep but, with the wind howling, my wife never slept a wink. Things hadn`t improved by dawn and we were rather damp and weary by the time we`d dismantled the tent and returned to the car. The Radio Scotland forecast, despite being favourable the day before, confirmed that conditions were unlikely to improve over the weekend so we decided to head home.