OK, it’s pronounced something like “hoover beg”. I think it’s pronounced Gordon Bennett! Well that’s what I said when I saw how much down and up there was still to do.
Uamh Bheag is quite a remote hill. It’s in that big nothing zone that’s bounded by Loch Earn, A84, A9 and B727. There’s a few farms and awful lot of nothing. There are 2 routes, from the Bracklinn Falls by Callander or down the Glen Artney road. And the easy route from the Braes of Doune windfarm. Amongst the routes to Uamh Bheag… (sorry no more Monty Python jokes). Glen Artney involves a lot of driving on rotten roads for a short steep walk. Bracklinn Falls is an easy drive for me taking just over an hour without pushing it. The road itself is a bit naff but there’s loads of space at the parking area by the road to the woods at NN637100.
The route is easy to start with, follow the track through the woods, left at the junction and follow your nose uphill for about 4kms. Now you have a choice. My mate said “follow the track till it peters out and contour round to the col then straight up”. Contour round often seems to involve more effort than the direct path. So I went up to the top of Meall Leathan Dhail and struck out in a straight line for the summit. Wrong!
Anyway, the sky was 50% blue and the snow has had a big fright. The views were fabulous. Within a short time you have no site of human handiwork. Just the big(ish) 4 hills at the West of Loch Earn, Beinn Each, Stuc a’Chroin, Ben Vorlich and Meall na Fearna). You really do feel like the only man on the planet. The feeling of expansive nothingness is very, very impressive and that gets stronger the further you go into this, for want of a better word, wilderness. It was quite warm in the sun but the wind was a little cool. Anyway good progress was made to the summit of the intermediate lump.
Now when I told my mate I went direct he smiled. “I did it that way the 1st time. It’s a bit awful that ground.” Awful. In front of me stretched bog and peat hags as far as I could see. Bleeding great 10ft tall monsters!. Gulp. So I followed the fence for a while that runs across the summit until the hags were like WW1 trenches. Then they ease down then stopped so I struck out… across the wet stuff. Well it was no more than 5cms deep wet moss at worst. A gentle romp across the flatish top (hence the bog and hags) and then down. The ground gets better as it drains and soon I could see into the col. And up to the summit.
Down and up. Down and up. Gordon Bennett! That’s a long way down and back up! Well it’s only about 90m down and 270m up but it looks hard work due to the ground. So I trudged down and crossed the col expecting it to be bad. It was quite firm under foot. This area was caused by extensive glacial action and the piles of moraines are everywhere. Moraine is well drained so I stayed on top of them and soon was making my way up. It’s not that steep but just a non-stop trudge over moss, heather and tussock. It’s about 1.5km and 270m up so thats 18mins+27mins, say 45 mins. Well it took an hour, but I’d been walking for 1hr20 by the col. Crossing a fence part way was hard work, the post were rotten, the wire was rusty and barbed. I found a bit where I could squeeze through and 2hrs 20 mins after locking the car I was at the summit.
The lack of anything at the col is an amazing feeling. I have never felt so isolated apart from on Craignaw. There is nothing man made to be seen. Not even any contrails in the sky. There’s ground and sky. Moss and heather. Streams and the odd rock. And a red kite. I knew from the tail. It took off and hovered about 10m from me. It wasn’t bothered at all by me. I’d seen regurgitated pellets on my way down and I guess this chap was responsible for them. Magnificent beast.
So at the top there’s the smiley man cairn and fences. Fences North of the Forth? No such thing. Well never look a fence in the mouth. Having shifted a bit to get out the wind, up went the wire and onto the air. Brian G4ZRP was waiting and then nobody. Check the beacons… end stop, check Shannon… not end stop. Call again. And again. OK so it took 12 minutes to work 4 on 60m on a Sunday lunchtime but the hill was done. I had a leisurely activation enjoying tea and sandwiches and marvelling in wilderness. I’ve mentioned in another thread about RF conditions and the lack of humans helps with the noise. Well there’s the windfarm at the Braes of Doune. I didn’t realise how close to the summit the turbines where. You can see the tops of a few sails going round. But I didn’t look that much! It’s right on the end of the Highlands here, so look North and mavellous kurtosis everywhere and yet to the South the flatlands around Stirling and the Forth estuary.
After an hour on top and with 12 contacts I packed up and headed to the cairn. I couldn’t be bothered walking 600m to the trig point (down then up) as it’s 2m lower than the cairn. I was surprised to meet a nice couple coming up from Glen Artney. Some people are real miseries when you meet them on a hill but I had a really nice chat with these people. I press ganged them to take my photo and a jolly good job was done. After explaining why I had a fishing pole the chap said he often checks out Sotawatch for route hints. We’re famous! (Hello if you are reading this.)
Back is the route in reverse. I knew what to expect and apart from the never ending slog down then up then along the road the return back was uneventful. I did stop at the start of the road at Meall Leathan Dhail for a banana and a humbug and 5 minutes rest after the bog trotting. At the car it was boots off and let my feet steam for a bit whilst I had an uber-endorphin fix. I finished of the tea and headed off. I stopped for 5 minutes to photograph the cold war relic of an ROC observation post from the madness when people thought a nuclear war was survivable. Then back home apart from a 40minute delay on the A84 by the M9 junction. Avoid this whilst they are building the new cattle market.
The easiest way to the summit has to be up through the windfarm. I bet it has a real good surface to the roads and the last turbine is at NN709115 and 475m up. That’s only 1.7km and 190 from the summit and the 1:25000 OS map shows a path. A PATH! Grrr! But if you go that way you don’t get the isolation you do from Bracklinn.
Total walked: 15.5km, total ascent: 798m, total driven: 95miles.
Pictures on the group at Flickr (along with some amusing comments).