Robin Howie - On the track from Attadale
Attadale House, originally the seat of the clan Matheson, lies on the east side of Loch Carron in Wester Ross. Beyond the gardens, now open to the public, lies the 32,000-acre Attadale estate, described as a "wilderness" of hills, lochs and waterfalls. Two such hills are Bidein a' Choire Sheasgaich and Lurg Mhor, far from the nearest road. The challenge of that remoteness is part of their attraction and how often do they appear in an eminent Munroist's list of unclimbed peaks?
Some weeks ago I took one such Munroist, the Mountain Lamb, on a trip from Attadale. The hills are normally tackled on the one, albeit long, day, but to make matters easier for the Lamb we cycled/pushed the bikes some seven miles to Bendronaig bothy. After an overnight stay at the bothy, we left at 7am to tackle the hills.
No matter what route taken, they involve a long day, even if climbed singularly. Few would think of tackling them overnight, but the intrepid Hugh Munro did just that en route to Skye in June 1905. He left his home in Angus on the morning, reached Strathcarron station at 6pm and after a light meal started out at 7pm. He returned at 6am in time for a good rest before continuing to Skye.
My sister Frances completed her round of Munros on Bidein a' Choire Sheasgaich in 1981. On a soaking wet day, out came the champagne. The cork soared into the mist and was lost to sight. Seconds later, as though cleaved by the cork, the clouds rolled away. I believe in the efficacy of champagne as a weather-improver, for it has worked elsewhere.
But enough of hills ... what if you are in the Attadale area on holiday but having wretched luck with the weather? What to do about exercise if the high tops are not appealing? One lower-level solution is to take the start of the track that goes to Bendronaig Lodge and bothy, but only as far as the watershed before the long descent to Bendronaig. When the Mountain Lamb and I were there we were surprised by the number of walkers doing just that.
The walk gives a variety of terrain, with open views to west and north, two beautiful lochans and then views east to the distant hills. You will need Ordnance Survey map 25, Glen Carron & Glen Affric.
Attadale Estate is hillwalker-friendly, evidenced by the provision of an off-road parking area by the A890 (with a welcoming sign) and by the rebuilding of the superb estate bothy, the eastern building by Bendronaig Lodge, for the use of hillwalkers. The estate should not be confused with another of similar name.
Alladale, the subject of a current TV programme, is in Sutherland and Easter Ross, a 23,000-acre estate owned by Paul Lister; he of the controversial plans to transform this vast uninhabited Highland estate into a nature reserve and re-introduce bears, wolves and other animals to Scotland.
Use the hillwalkers' car park by the A890, south of Attadale House, map ref 924387, at the entrance to the estate grounds. The first mile is on flat Tarmac road that skirts Attadale gardens and goes past a second car park (designated for those visiting the gardens), then turns sharply to the right, south-east, parallel to the River Attadale. The Tarmac road ends by some holiday cottages at Strathan, then a track, still level, leads to the bridge over the river.
Now for the slightly harder work as the track, rougher in places, zigzags south. The gradient eases as the track turns to the south-east, and then passes two side-tracks to gently descend to beautiful Loch an Droighinn, a secluded spot and a mandatory resting place.
The track then goes north-east, slowly climbing to a second loch, Loch na Caillich, nestling beneath a narrowing gully.
Beyond lies the soon-reached watershed at map ref 973374. By now at 350m after a sea-level start, enjoy the distant views of Bidein a' Choire Sheasgaich and Lurg Mhor, then head back to Attadale. On return, why not pay a visit to the gardens and nursery? Except on Sundays, the gardens and woodland walks are open from 10am to 5:30pm, until the end of October.
Map Ordnance Survey map 25, Glen Carron & Glen Affric
Distance 7 miles
Terrain Estate road, then track
Start point Car park at entrance to Attadale estate, map ref 924387
Time 4 to 5 hours
Nearest village Lochcarron
Nearest refreshment spot Carron Restaurant, Attadale