Ratagan 2008

  • Ratagan
    Glen Elg and Arnisdale
    Just us and three men counting deer. We met their transport, a small thing
    on caterpillar tracks and the driver said they were counting deer. We’ve heard of
    deer hunters, but … On the hill we spotted hoofprints in the snow, but no deer.
    By the time we’d returned to Arnisdale the herd was back browsing and relaxing
    in the evening sun.
    ‘They were all in the bottom this morning,’ we told the driver.
    ‘The sun gets them out onto the hill,’ he replied.
    But if you know how many you’ve got to start with, why go and count
    them when they’ve moved? We didn’t think of the question until after lunch and
    then there was nobody around to ask. We did see them all towards the end of our
    walk though. As we approached he drove away, like the bus to town, three men
    clutching onto the back of the cab.
    Whilst we never met the deer counters personally, they were with us most
    of the day. Caterpillar tracks in the snow showed us the path up and three sets of
    footprints going in the opposite direction to us, one with a stick, guided us down.
    There was a middle section with no help. Virgin snow, but clear and navigable by
    sight. Follow the pylons and turn left when they go right. The map shows the line
    of pylons ending on Skye. Is this the sole electric supply?
    I had wondered whether a 10 mile walk to 450 metres was appropriate.
    But it was pristine snow, clear blue sky and no danger as long as we didn’t fall
    and injure ourselves. Cameron McCleish’s book on Monros suggests walking
    and climbing in The Highlands is not complete until you’ve done them in all
    weathers. At sixty years of age and ‘fittish’, I’ve have sadly lost my head for
    heights and Sheila is not into breaking records, so good weather is for us. Great
    views of The Cuillins and Knoydart. No sound. Stunning.
    I’d camped 3-4 years earlier across Loch Duich at Morvich with Big D.
    This year we were in Ratagan. A cottage and very comfortable. Large grounds.
    Picture windows in the lounge and master bedrooms overlooking the lock toward
    The Five Sisters – a formidable ridge of Monros.
    The weather changed regularly and quickly. One minute clear, the next
    cloudy, hills in mist, and the next pouring with rain. And of course, snow.
    On one of the sheets of paper pinned to the cork board in the kitchen was
    written, ‘Don’t forget to feed the birds’. It tooks us day to find the seed, but the
    intention was obvious. Just in front of the lounge window, on a pebble path that
    bordered the lawn, stood a ‘Heath Robinson’ bird table. A not quite straight one
    metre wood tower with lots of space and shelves and a swinging half coconut on
    a piece of string. And the small birds came. No cats to speak of. 

Our day in Arnisdale Glen was the best of the weather. The week with

Big D was continuous sun. I’d said let’s keep walking as long as the weather

holds. It never broke and served me right – I was knackered by the end. Our walk

on Glen Elg had been Bienn Sgrigheall, a Monro that starts at sea level. Brilliant

and topped off by a couple of pints in the Glen Elg Inn. The host was Chris, all

beaming Scot in kilt and the rest. Clean interior, well-tended lawns, just a

pleasure to be there, albeit a bank holiday.

So we called after our trip this time, but no such experience.