Saturday, 2 July 2011

Two days in the far North (posted by James)

The cliffs of Ben Hope from our wild camp

I grew up in the flatlands of Eastern England. There aren't great amounts of landscape to stimulate the imagination unless you really look for it, and as a kid I slowly started to find out about these far away places in the Highlands of Scotland.

Dun Dornagil broch

I started to see photos and hear descriptions of these mountains and coasts, and soon certain areas became almost legendary in my imagination. One of those areas was the very far North of Scotland.

A cove near Durness

So I jumped at the chance when Jamie Bankhead at the Ice Factor suggested a trip up North along with my friend John O'Brien and I. Both Jamie and John are both on the very last leg of their rounds of the Munros, whereas I am currently still a bit under half way through - but the chance to walk the two most Northerly Munros, Ben Hope and Ben Klibreck was too good to pass up.

An unusual view of Ben Hope

I won't say much about the hills themselves, apart from that they were very both very fine and enjoyable. Ben Hope in particular is a magnificent mountain, standing shapely and proud, and towering above the largest area of blanket bog in Europe.

Jamie and John on the summit of Ben Klibreck

After Ben Klibreck on the first day we stopped for a couple of drinks in the intriguing and extremely remote Crask Inn before driving towards Ben Hope in search of a wild-camping spot. We were eventually lucky to find a beautiful area next to the river, although hordes of midges and a visit from a couple of curious horses disturbed the peace slightly…

A nice spot for a wild camp under the flanks of Ben Hope

The next day, and the most Northerly Munro. A landmark for all three of us. The view from the summit of Ben Hope was spectacular, as was the drive along the coast to Durness and beyond, stopping for a quick visit to the massive Smoo Cave.

Smoo Cave near Durness

Some of the beaches, coves and seacliffs we passed looked sublime, and I could have easily spent all day exploring.

The beach at Traigh Allt Chailgeag

It hard to find words to describe the wild splendour of the far North. Although the area of the Highlands which I live in is commonly referred to as one of the most beautiful places in the world, the far North is a different kind of beautiful. It is wild, rugged and huge in every sense - and you feel like you have reached the end of the world. I'd long ago formed a picture in my head of this almost mythical landscape…but seeing it in person for the first time was something else.


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