Wednesday, 16 May 2018
Two lochs, two bothies
Just around the corner from Glencoul there's a series of tidal islets guarding the entrance to an extension of Loch Glencoul. Loch Beag (little loch) opens out slightly before reaching ints head among the hills. It was a peaceful spot on this afternoon and what little breeze there was died away soon after we paddled in. The haunting call of a Black Throated Diver echoed around the loch - the only sound apart from our paddles.
A little way from the head of Loch Beag is the Eas a' Chual Aluinn - Scotland's tallest waterfall. Boat trips bring folk from Kylesku on a tour of Loch Glencoul and to see this waterfall - which has always seemed to me a bit underwhelming as waterfalls go; there's not usually a lot of water in it. There's an impressive set of falls on the Maldie Burn which drains a hill loch system into Loch Glendhu; in wet conditions they're really something.
Having reached the head of Loch Beag we'd come as far as we could and turned back, out ito Loch Glencoul in mirror calm conditions. The lovely weather seemed set to last for the afternoon as we made our way back down Loch Glencoul.
Rounding the Aird da Loch (height of two lochs) which defines Lochs Glencoul and Glendhu we came across the empty shells of two sea urchins - very likely the work of either gulls or an otter. The urchins are often exposed at very low tides and become vulnerable; as we were just after low water a day before Springs these had probably met their end very recently.
The view up Loch Glendhu is as spectacular as that up it's "twin", a narrow fiord hemmed in by high and rugged hills.
A track runs along the north side of the loch, at times clinging improbably to the craggy shoreline; the retaining wall is often the only indication of the track from the water.
Crossing to the north side of the loch gives a longer view to the hills beyond, a tantalising glimpse of snow capped summits.
As at Glencoul, there's geology on show here on a grand scale - the tilted plane of Cambrian quartzite overthrust by much older pipe rock and Gneiss.
We paddled steadily against a breeze which had sprung up, and gradually our target became more visible. The buildings at Glendhu are utterly dwarfed by their surroundings - for me that's one of the attractions of this place.
The three buildings at Glendhu are all in good repair - all owned by the Reay Forest estate. The two buildings on the right of this image are private, the left hand building is open and administered by the Mountain Bothies Association.
Glendhu is "dark (or black) glen", which would seem to indicate a place of deep shadow and little sunlight. In midwinter there's no doubt that the surrounding hills rob it of sunlight for part of the day, but the alignment of the loch allows the morning and afternoon sun to flood the glen at most times of the year- and then it's anything but a dark glen although the name probably refers as much to the narrow rocky valley beyond the head of the loch. A spot I have good memories of, I was looking forward to staying here again.