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Circumnavigation of Beinn Bheigier, Islay

By Becky Williamson

This was a walk I'd wanted to do in a long time, not so much the circumnavigation of Beinn Bheigier, but walking the length of Gleann Lẹra. I love walking Islay's glens and this one is no exception.

Starting at Ardtalla in full sunshine I began following the well-worn track to Proaig, a place I have visited several times. The bulk of Beinn Bheigier, Islay's highest mountain, before me NR4654 : Beinn Bheigier, Islay by Becky Williamson. I remembered the fork in the track, but had never taken the higher of the two NR4555 : Track up Beinn Bheigier, Islay by Becky Williamson, which leads to a convenient gap in the fence NR4555 : Gap in Fence on lower slopes of Beinn Bheigier, Islay by Becky Williamson and continues round the eastern flanks of the mountain. Clear blue skies provided ideal photo opportunities. I love the way this mountain reveals different faces from different aspects. Here is its easternmost summit NR4555 : Beinn Bheigier's eastern summit, Islay by Becky Williamson.

From this height you can view Proaig and the Sound of Islay NR4456 : Looking towards the Sound of Islay by Becky Williamson and NR4557 : Proaig and the Sound of Islay by Becky Williamson. This was not my destination today, however. I struck off westwards and thence lost the sunshine as I walked in the shadow of the bulk of the mountain. The track continued, however, and I followed it NR4456 : Moorland east of Beinn Bheigier, Islay by Becky Williamson, NR4456 : Moorland east of Beinn Bheigier, Islay by Becky Williamson and NR4456 : Track on lower, northern slopes of Beinn Bheigier, Islay by Becky Williamson, looking west to Beinn Bheigier NR4456 : Looking up to Beinn Bheigier, Islay by Becky Williamson, north towards Glas Bheinn (Grey Mountain), NR4456 : Glas Bheinn, Islay by Becky Williamson and east across moorland pools to the Sound of Islay NR4456 : Moorland pool east of Beinn Bheigier, Islay by Becky Williamson.

I deliberately went out of my way to just step into the more northerly grid square, still green, NR4457 : Abhainn Phroaig and Gleann Srath nam Bothag, Islay by Becky Williamson, and obtained fantastic views into the Gleann Srath nam Bothag (Glen of the valley with the river (Strath) of the Ringed Plover or bothy. As Proaig bothy is situated at the river's mouth it seems likely this is the translation, rather than Ringed Plover as this is unlikely habitat for that coastal bird.) The Abhainn Phroaig (Proaig River) runs through this valley, now looking very autumnal, dressed in gold and russet. I was glad of the dead bracken - always a hindrance on this type of walk in summer. Across the valley cloudless Glas Bheinn stood tall at its slightly lower 472 m NR4457 : Glas Bheinn and Gleann Srath nam Bothag by Becky Williamson. A tributary of the Proaig river flowed noisily down these northern slopes of Beinn Bheigier to join the main river far below. NR4357 : Tributary of Abhainn Phroaig, Islay by Becky Williamson and from here I looked back for a final view of the Sound of Islay NR4357 : Gleann Srath nam Bothag, Islay by Becky Williamson and then turned my face westwards in the direction of travel towards Am Màm. NR4357 : Gleann Srath nam Bothag, Islay by Becky Williamson. I would be walking between this lower summit of Glas Bheinn and the higher Beinn Bheigier.

I decided to try to reach Loch a' Mhuilinn-ghaoithe NR4256 : Loch a' Mhuilinn-ghaoithe, Islay by Becky Williamson for lunch, but then decided it was far too windy and cold there and I would descend a bit into the valley before stopping. A last look at Glas Bheinn revealed a tantalising glimpse of Loch Allallaidh NR4256 : Moorland north-west of Beinn Bheigier, Islay by Becky Williamson, around which I'd walked on my ascent of Glas Bheinn. Eastwards I could now see the western summit of Beinn Bheigier NR4256 : Beinn Bheigier, Islay by Becky Williamson and far below my first glimpse of Gleann Lẹra (Glen of Plenty)NR4256 : Gleann Leòra, Islay by Becky Williamson enticed me down, not least to get some shelter from the fierce north wind.

I descended gradually, casting my eye eastwards every so often to the disappearing bulk of Beinn Bheigier NR4256 : Looking up to Beinn Bheigier, Islay by Becky Williamson and then downwards to the glen itself NR4256 : Gleann Leòra, Islay by Becky Williamson. Faint, stony tracks were welcome and provided stability underfoot NR4256 : Faint track on lower, western slopes of Beinn Bheigier, Islay by Becky Williamson and NR4256 : Faint track on lower, western slopes of Beinn Bheigier, Islay by Becky Williamson. Looking back the clouds had begun to swirl and gather NR4255 : Gleann Leòra, Islay by Becky Williamson at the head of the glen - a welcome addition to the featureless sky, as this boulder was on otherwise pretty tedious terrain NR4255 : Gleann Leòra, Islay by Becky Williamson. I gradually made my way down to the river itself, the Claggain River which would eventually find its outlet at Claggain Bay NR4255 : Gleann Leòra, Islay by Becky Williamson, NR4255 : Claggain River and Beinn Bheigier, Islay by Becky Williamson, NR4354 : Claggain River and Gleann Leòra, Islay by Becky Williamson, NR4354 : Claggain River and Beinn Bheigier, Islay by Becky Williamson, NR4354 : Claggain River and Gleann Leòra, Islay by Becky Williamson, NR4354 : Claggain River and Gleann Leòra, Islay by Becky Williamson, and NR4255 : Claggain River, Islay by Becky Williamson. I was keen to find the footbridge marked on the 1:25 000 OS map, and did find it, but was glad I hadn't relied on it to cross the river, because it looks like it collapsed long ago NR4354 : Collapsed Footbridge across the Claggain River, Islay by Becky Williamson. In fact, despite many twists and turns in the river, it wasn't necessary to cross to the southern side of the river at all. I chose to follow the river closely to avoid walking through more bog. There are deer tracks through the bracken at points, which would be more difficult to find in the height of the summer, but for the most part, there are good tracks to follow for the whole of this walk.

As the river winds its way eastwards towards the coast, small copses of woodland adorn its bank NR4353 : Woodland by the Claggain River, Islay by Becky Williamson, NR4453 : Claggain River, Islay by Becky Williamson and NR4453 : Claggain River, Islay by Becky Williamson. The sight of the ruined fence is reassuring - a sign you are nearly at Claggain. NR4453 : Old fence by the Claggain River, Islay by Becky Williamson and NR4453 : Old fence by the Claggain River, Islay by Becky Williamson. I followed this fence and the banks of the River NR4553 : Native Woodland near Claggain, Islay by Becky Williamson, stopping to admire the scarlet red-berried Rowan tree NR4553 : Native Woodland near Claggain, Islay by Becky Williamson and to look back the way I'd come NR4553 : Fence by the Claggain River, Islay by Becky Williamson, back towards Beinn Bheigier, now viewed from the south-east NR4553 : Looking back to Beinn Bheigier from Claggain, Islay by Becky Williamson. I was glad to reach a more veritable path and gate NR4553 : Gate towards Gleann Leòra, Islay by Becky Williamson, which marked the end of the walk, or at least the last half a mile or so was along the opt-holed road from Claggain to Ardtalla - hard underfoot, but at least you don't have to think before taking the next step - a welcome break after 8 miles!

Although this walk is only about 8 and a half miles, it took me 6 and a quarter hours. This was actually fast for me! It was cold, it got cloudy and I didn't see much to photograph (other than all these grid squares of course!)


When
Fri, 26 Oct 2012 at 17:52

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