Giur-bheinn Circular, Islay
As always, I had scrutinised the weather forecast for days before deciding to head up Giùr-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!)
Giùr-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. 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 track, 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 at Staoisha Eararach and then the northerly one again at the second fork in the road . 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 Giùr-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); back the way I'd come I could just see Jura over the tops of the trees and ahead of me lay the summit of this small hill and beyond it, my destination, the gentle Giùr-bheinn.
Just before exiting the forest I passed one of two small pools , then I had to clamber over a deer fence before stopping to admire an uninterrupted view of my mountain. The Bealach a' Bhearnain seems to translate tautologically as 'Pass of the Gaps' This would be another pleasant walk across to the west coast. I paused for a coffee at Loch Giùr-bheinn, a loch I'd not seen since my winter walk there in 2010. 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 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 .
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) , passing a former boundary on my way and . From the corner of the deer fence which I decided to stick close to, I could see Giùr-bheinn's distant heights now well behind me.
I was pleased to find the old shielings marked on the map and decided to have my lunch here. In the distance, to the south-east, I could see Balulive Farm 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' and so I just kept going, crossing the Allt a' Chròth Earraich and , following the deer fence and till I finally reached a lovely waterfall in the burn just before reaching the track near Balulive.
Crossing the stile, I was back on the track and back into the forest. I passed Staoisha and trudged the last weary couple of miles back to the car.
- Fri, 20 Apr 2012 at 10:37
- Grid Square
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