Saturday, 24 March 2012

Warm day in the big glens

This time last year - and, indeed the year before - I was wading about in 3 or 4 feet of snow. Not today though as the Scottish March temperature record was broken a bit to the east. 
My brother and I spent the day in Glen Strathfarrar on four perfectly proportioned Munros. A mixture of springy turf and very wide vistas gives a day to savour. Despite the haze, from the summits you can see more or less every major summit north of the great glen and a fair few to the south of it such as Nevis and the Cairngorms. The country to the west around the head of Loch Monar looked particularly fine in the sunshine with twinkling lochans and deep glacial trenches cutting through to the west coast. Real fiords - I was half expecting to see longships appearing.

The glen has a curious feature in that it is 'closed' in the winter. Despite the obvious fact that the road was built with public funds during the hydro boom the glen is 'private' and they can throw a gate across the entrance to prevent 'poaching'.  I think in this context poaching is a euphemism for unfettered access by the great unwashed. In summer, the gatekeeper dispenses the privilege of access to your own countryside up a road that you pay to maintain via your lecky bills but in winter you must phone the Mountaineering Council of Scotland to obtain access to the inner sanctum.
While driving up the glen to meet my brother I happened upon a tweedy type in a utility truck who ostentatiously passed the layby he should have drawn into and forced me to reverse a hundred yards to the last one. That's not easy while tugging your forelock. He gave me the onceover down his nose before driving off at speed. His land apparently or maybe not. 
What a ridiculous throwback to a less enlightened age. The MC of S should cut out the kow-towing and get them telt - oor hills and access for all.
For reference here are the access arrangements.
However, the gates and padlocks should not discourage you from visiting Glen Strathfarrar. The place itself is warm and welcoming with shaggy woods and quiet stretches of deep brown river. The hydro schemes have weathered into the background and are barely noticed. I doubt the same will be true of the windfarms in 50 years.
Time to go - venison stew for tea but don't tell anyone.

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