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Giur-bheinn Circular, Islay

By Becky Williamson

As always, I had scrutinised the weather forecast for days before deciding to head up Gir-bheinn on Wednesday, 18th April 2012. As always, the forecast was not quite accurate, but at least I didn't end up getting drenched as our church party did on their walk on the same day on the Rhinns (my symapthies to them of course!)

Gir-bheinn is a fascinating, if diminutive, mountain. Viewed from the east, as it generally is, it appears as a gentle mound, hardly noticeable in mountain terms. From the north and west, however, the beast awakens, and reveals its formidable nature in its precipitous and craggy slopes. NR3571 : Giùr-bheinn from Beinn Bhreac, Islay by Becky Williamson So it's a Jekyll and Hyde of a mountain; I have only ascended it twice and have not yet encountered Mr Hyde!

I started from my familiar car park at Bunnahabhain and wandered up the forest trackNR4173 : Track to 'car park', Bunnahabhain, Islay by Becky Williamson, crossing the Abhainn Araig by the bridge the army reconstructed several years ago NR4173 : Bridge over Abhainn Araig, near Bunnahbhain, Islay]. It's just under a mile's walk to the deer fence and gate that enters the forest NR4073 : Entering the forest] and I never feel I've begun my walk until I'm actually entering this forest. I'm not keen on walking through conifer plantations. After the vast, open (if rhododendron-invaded) moorland, I get claustrophobic entering the dense, tall forest. I'd seen a male Hen Harrier quartering the moorland before entering the forest and heard Willow Warblers descending the scale in their unique song. Everything had seemed friendly; now, with dark green prickles all around me, the world took on a slightly more sinister appearance.

Still, I had a 'green' square to find - a relatively easy one at that, so I trod my uneasiness under foot and marched on, taking the northerly fork NR4072 : Fork in road at Staoisha Eararach, Islay by Becky Williamson at Staoisha Eararach NR3972 : Staoisha Eararach, Islay by Becky Williamson and then the northerly one again at the second fork in the road NR3972 : Fork in Bunnahabhain Forest Track near Staoisha Eararach, Islay by Becky Williamson. Once in the next grid square (NR3973) I was looking for the ride westwards which led to Cnoc an t-Samhlaidh (Hill of the Resemblance or Ghost!) It was quite easy to find (but for future reference this isn't the easiest way to acces Gir-bheinn as there is no gate at the top of the ride). I was glad the ground had had chance to dry out a bit after our wet winter; it made walking across this lumpy terrain a lot easier (although never exactly easy at the best of times). Eventually I was out in the open at Cnoc an t-Samhlaidh and took stock of my situation. Northwards there was another ride and a view of Sgarbh Breac (Speckled Cormorant)NR3973 : Ride in Bunnahabhain Forest, Islay by Becky Williamson; back the way I'd come I could just see Jura over the tops of the trees NR3973 : Ride in Bunnahbhain Forest at Cnoc an t-Samhlaidh, Islay by Becky Williamson and ahead of me lay the summit of this small hill and beyond it, my destination, the gentle Gir-bheinn.NR3973 : Cnoc an t-Samhlaidh, Islay by Becky Williamson

Just before exiting the forest I passed one of two small pools NR3973 : Small Pool by Cnoc an t-Samhlaidh, Islay by Becky Williamson, then I had to clamber over a deer fence before stopping to admire an uninterrupted view of my mountain. NR3873 : Moorland west of Bunnahabhain Forest, Islay by Becky Williamson The Bealach a' Bhearnain seems to translate tautologically as 'Pass of the Gaps' NR3873 : Bealach a' Bhearnain, Islay by Becky Williamson This would be another pleasant walk across to the west coast. I paused for a coffee at Loch Gir-bheinn, a loch I'd not seen since my winter walk there in 2010. NR3872 : Loch Giùr-bheinn, Islay by Becky Williamson It looked very different in the day's glorious sunshine.

As I continued westwards and upwards I looked north to the 'Pass of the Gaps' and the hills beyond NR3872 : Hills and moorland north-east of Giùr-bheinn, Islay by Becky Williamson before committing myself to the slow trudge up the hill before me. It is not a difficult climb, however, and before long, I was at the cairn-topped summit looking across the the Paps of Jura NR3772 : Summit of Giùr-bheinn, Islay by Becky Williamson.

The hardest part of my walk was still ahead of me and I could see without using binoculars that the ground I was intending walking across was still very boggy. I headed south-east towards Loch nan Eun (Loch of the Birds) NR3871 : Loch nan Eun by Becky Williamson, passing a former boundary on my way NR3871 : Old Boundary south of Giùr-bheinn, Islay by Becky Williamson and NR3871 : Former Boundary south of Giùr-bheinn, Islay by Becky Williamson. From the corner of the deer fence which I decided to stick close to, I could see Gir-bheinn's distant heights now well behind me. NR3871 : South-west Corner of Deer Fence at edge of Bunnahabhain Forest, Islay by Becky Williamson

I was pleased to find the old shielings marked on the map NR3871 : Remains of Shielings at edge of Bunnahabhain Forest, Islay by Becky Williamson and decided to have my lunch here. In the distance, to the south-east, I could see Balulive Farm NR4069 : Balulive Farm, Isle of Islay by Becky Williamson from whence I'd set out on a previous geographing trip. I mused on the fact that, on that occasion, I was merely walking from Balulive to Bunnahabhain (what I considered a goodish walk) and that I wasn't even at the start of that walk yet today! It doesn't do to ponder on negativity though, so I kept putting one foot in front of the other, wondering if one of the rides marked on the map would be accessible (ie, if there was a gate through anywhere). The answer was repeatedly 'no' NR4069 : Balulive Farm, Isle of Islay by Becky Williamson and NR3971 : Deer Fence at southern edge of Bunnahabhain Forest, Islay by Becky Williamson so I just kept going, crossing the Allt a' Chrth Earraich NR3971 : Allt a' Chròth Earraich, Islay by Becky Williamson and NR4070 : Allt a' Chròth Earraich, Islay by Becky Williamson, following the deer fence NR3970 : Deer Fence running NW at southern edge of Bunnahabhain Forest, Islay by Becky Williamson and NR3970 : Deer Fence at southern edge of Bunnahabhain Forest, Islay by Becky Williamson till I finally reached a lovely waterfall in the burn NR4070 : Waterfall in Allt a' Chròth Earraich, Islay by Becky Williamson just before reaching the track near Balulive.

Crossing the stile, I was back on the track and back into the forest. I passed Staoisha NR4071 : Staoisha, Islay by Becky Williamson and trudged the last weary couple of miles back to the car.


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When
Fri, 20 Apr 2012 at 10:37
Grid Square
geotagged! NR3772

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