A short way south west of Newtonmore there is a small parking area opposite the picturesque Lochain Uvie, which is the only parking opportunity for quite a long stretch of road. There's a gate into the wood at the parking area itself used by climbers accessing the crags above - a better point to start out for the summit can be found by walking 400m south west along the road to a gate opposite the gatehouse for Creagdhubh Lodge.
A green track curves up through a lovely stretch of natural birch wood to emerge onto a heathery shoulder west of the crags. On the day I did this walk a pair of Peregrine Falcons were shrieking their displeasure at a group of climbers who were inspecting the crags for possible routes. In the end there was too much water seeping down for them to climb - probably just as well given the Peregrines clearly had young in the nest somewhere above. There's actually a full-blown waterfall on this crag which is in freefall for much of its height; in a drier winter it might give good winter climbing.
From this shoulder the summit of Creag Dhubh (Black Crag) can just be made out as the highest step of a rugged ridge. There are a couple of options to gain the ridge - either cut directly across above the wood to skirt the end of the crag or take a wider sweep on an old track to gain the ridge above a grassy (and quite wet) hollow. The direct route went through chest-high bracken and looked likely to be really hard work so I elected for the more circuitous route on the track.
As soon as the ridge proper is reached a tiny scratch of a path can be found right on the crest and its best to stick to the path for both the views and to work through some steep ground ahead. For a comparatively small hill Creag Dhubh offers superlative views, it has a central position and is reasonably well isolated from surrounding high ground giving a sense of space and long horizons. To the south and west the eye is drawn along he upper reaches of the Spey valley to the hills of the central highlands.
Looking further again the hills of the Ben Alder, Rannoch and Mamore ranges can all be made out - a view all the way to Scotland's western ramparts.
Nearer at hand the ridge continues up a steep and loose section where a little care is needed, then drops slightly before the final summit cone. One of the reasons this hill is so distinctive is that it's a rocky, rugged and craggy individual amongst more rounded and grassy domes.
The summit views are really fine. North and east the Spey is joined by the waters of the Truim and the River Calder as it gains power to push through to the Moray Firth. The town of Newtonmore is laid out below and the horizon is dominated by the distant Cairngorm giants.
To the north west there's a great view over Glen Banchor to the Monadhliath, a huge expanse of remote plateau. Glen Banchor's hills and glens are an area I've not explored - I intend to rectify that!
A substantial built cairn marks the summit of Creag Dhubh. At 756m/2480ft this is not a high hill, indeed it is 6 metres or 20 feet shy of reaching Corbett status. Like most "Grahams" though, it is a very fine hill and a real miniature mountain. The distinctive nature of the hill gives it unique character, which possibly explains the origin of the battle cry of Clan Macpherson who have their roots in this area of Badenoch - "Creag Dhubh!" One chief of this clan went on the run after the shambles of the 1745 rebellion and hid from government forces for nine years. There are several legends about his hiding place - or places - including one cave on the face of Creag Dhubh known as "Cluny's Cave". Macpherson eventually slipped the net and made his way to France to join the exiled Charles Edward Stuart. He never returned to Badenoch or Scotland and died in 1764 in France.
For the descent route one can continue north east to Biallaid on the outskirts of Newtonmore but this would require either two cars or a 5 kilometre walk along the fast and twisting A86 road. I chose to return via my outward route, but took the more direct line skirting the edge of the crags to the road at the parking area. This route is steep and rough and would take a bit of determination if used for the ascent! The view from the ridge down to Lochain Uvie is impressive; so steep is this ground that it seems right below one's feet.
Creag Dhubh is a cracking little hill and one I'd definitely recommend. I had originally thought of climbing it as a "leg-stretcher" on the way to or from somewhere else, but deserves much more respect than that and I'm glad I made it the objective of the day. My images don't actually show how rugged the hill is, but the image below by "Gaffr" and posted here with his kind permission, captures the atmosphere and nature of the hill really well
Image by Gaffr
Low down in the wood I met with this group of goats - smelt before seen! They seemed unperturbed by my wandering towards them and merely moved aside before going back to their browsing. I've seen the occasional one on the A86 hereabouts too, something to bear in mind when speeding along!