I love a pre-Christmas trip to the hills and fortunately had three free days over the winter solstice weekend of 2019 before a quick turnaround for a family Christmas. The lack of daylight in the north of Scotland at this time of year really adds an edge to any trip to the hills and if venturing out you should be well prepared for darkness and all weathers.
The 21st December is usually the shortest day of the year so I knew I’d be pushed for time when I arrived in Inchnadamph in the heart of Assynt. I was running late; it was just before midday with sunset due at 15:30. Still, headtorch batteries fully charged, I decided to head for the 734 metre Beinn Uidhe and see where my legs would take me in the time available. Heading east from Inchnadamph on the north bank of the River Traligill a small path heads off left towards Poll an Droighinn below Beinn Uidhe after less than a kilometre. As the path climbed the views opened out. Near Poll an Droighinn I came across a wee howf (shelter) next to the path, probably used by the estate workers and stalkers. Here the path splits with an arm towards Loch nan Cuaran on the east shoulder of Beinn Uidhe and another north towards the bealach between Beinn Uidhe and Glas Bheinn. The latter path was my intended descent route.
The path to Loch nan Cuaran is small and rough but easy enough to follow. From the lochan the OS map marks the path as continuing to the north higher onto Beinn Uidhe before dropping down the northerly slopes. The path was patchy above the lochan and I’m intrigued about its history. Perhaps it’s an old drove road towards the head of Glen Coul or Glen Cassley or maybe a Victorian estate remnant?
The summit plateau of Beinn Uidhe is a spectacularly bare, rocky, moon like place with grand views to Ben More Assynt and Conival to the south east, and Suilven and Canisp to the south west. It’s great, but a love of rock hopping is beneficial for those visiting.
Timing was looking good so I decided to press on to the Corbett Glas Bheinn to the west. A few minutes of rock hopping brought me out at the bealach between the two hills and I had a quick look at the line of descent for later. A path in scree leads on to the pleasantly fine east ridge of Glas Bheinn. By this time the sun was getting low in the south west and the hills were picking up a warm orange glow. I came across a frozen lochan on the summit plateau which framed the view south rather well.
After a few photos I headed to the summit and enjoyed the sun’s final descent behind Canisp, Stac Pollaidh and Suilven. A stunning glow enveloped the wee peak of Stac Pollaidh for a few moments. After the sun descended below the cloud on the horizon I turned back east to descend but the reddy pink glow that developed was too much and I had to linger on the plateau for longer, struggling to keep fingers with any feeling in the cold.
In the last light I descended to the bealach and then down the sketchy path towards Fleodach Coire, losing the path for a time before finding it again. I was pleased to find the howf back near Poll an Droighinn and descend back to Inchnadamph, in the pitch dark by this time. The stars were amazing and later in the evening I took a few shots of the Milky Way. It was freezing hard and with the weather set fair for Sunday 22nd I headed down towards Dundonell, south of Ullapool, with a plan to climb An Teallach in the morning.
See a map of the route below.
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