Today's blog post is by Manu Rio. Manu has visited all but one of the Small Isles and last year took an adventurous hike over the Rum Cuillin. He tells us more below.
I remember as we were approaching the island. It was very mysterious, some distant peaks kept appearing and disappearing behind the clouds. From the stem I could not stop thinking about Stevenson’s Treasure Island or Jules Verne ‘s Mysterious Island. But I decided that the best cultural reference I could think was Crichton’s Isla Nublar, even the name fitted the place as we were reaching its shores. Meanwhile, the views from the ferry over Skye were sumptuous, the lights were gorgeous and we were gifted the presence of a few dolphins. We were eager reaching the pier. It was nice to walk out the ferry and then walk on the road without being disturbed by traffic. We passed the Rùm Visitor Center and made our way to Kinloch Castle.
We had planned to go on straight to the Rùm Cuillin Ridge despite carrying supplies for five days. We got the maps out and tried to figure out where is the track around the Castle to take us up hill. It was important to hurry, not because of the length of the hike, this was a definite concern, but mostly because midges were eating us alive. We would have liked arriving earlier to start the ridge scramble but the ferry was the earliest possible getting to Kinloch shortly before noon. In the distance, we saw some people from the ferry already getting up hill. The track quickly became a path, well maintained though, following a stream with many falls. The clouds lifted every now and then and we could see our first objective of the day, Hallival. A lovely peak with Nordic consonance that looked fairly intimidating, its layered volcanic rocks on its flanks reminded me of the ideas I have of the Faroes mountains, although I’ve never been. The ascent was gradual and enjoyable. The lovely Kinloch bay was behind us and getting further and further as we went up into the wild. The path was getting less obvious as we veered South-East to reach a flatter ground where we had our well-deserved lunch break. The views over the Island and the mainland were already fantastic. We then continued onto the main bealach between Barkeval and Hallival. Views were, again, splendid over the ridge and the rest of the island, only Askival was still hidden. We managed to reach the top fairly swiftly through the last rocky part despite scrambling with a heavy pack. At the cairn, we tried to name the different summits we could spot thanks to the maps – views were breathtaking all around. The descent was a bit more awkward having to counterbalance the weight of the bag, I really recommend having a day pack to complete the traverse. We were thinking that this is ‘better’ than most munros. With the help of paper maps and the OS apps, alongside some explanations from walk highlands we started the ascent of Askival.
The walk on the arete was superb, the wind spared us but we remained focused on the rest of the ascent. The grippy rocks were reassuring and only a couple of moves were awkward toward the end. We arrived at the top of the Corbett quite tired accompanied by some midges. We had some snacks and we were met by a Belgian couple who were very experienced with Scottish hills. We ended chatting quite a lot about our different adventures in Scotland. Just after 5pm we decided to make a move down to the bealach between Askival and Trollabhal (several spellings exist on different maps). We spotted some deer that ran away as we walked down.
We made the decision to walk down to Glen Dibidil and find shelter in the bothy. We used this first ‘escape route’ as we didn’t want to risk pushing it onto the next part of the ridge considering the time and our current physical condition. The walk through in the glen was actually not that easy. It was really boggy and hard going. We were relieved to arrive at the Bothy that was occupied by a lovely lad from England. We also shared tales of our various hikes in the country. Socialising is maybe not my favourite part of going on a hike or the purpose of going into the wilderness but there is something that bounds people together when they met in such locations. Selfishly, I wish those places could remain secret. Dibidil is a gorgeous and quiet place. The next day we wanted to explore more of the island, although I felt a bit frustrated of not having completed the whole traverse, we continued toward Papadil. With these toponyms, we really felt immerse in a Fantasy world. The path was unclear but we sighted a lot of wildlife such as lovely deer and plenty of seabirds. The views over the sea were calming and the light enjoyable. We first saw the Loch at Papadi. We then ventured down inside a dark, dense but small wood. We crossed a few burns and discovered a hidden gem – the ruins of the Hunting lodge. We visited the charming place. The tree branches were wrapped around the walls. An old rusty bed frame and a stove were the last reminiscence of a past life. We wandered in the small ruin for a bit before moving on toward Harris.
We crossed the former settlements and continued on a pathless section between the cliff above the sea on our left and Ruinsival on the right. This section was quite hard going, we could not find a path, just a few faint deer path at times. After a couple a showers, we encountered some deer and many ticks.
After a long and tiring walk we were in sight of Harris Bay. We had our lunch by the river there, beautiful place but we had to try to avoid midges, not the brightest decision but we were quite hungry. Our next goal was now to reach Guirdil bothy from Harris. It was already 2pm and half of the walk was on a decent track. Views over the cuillins on the east were still beautiful from the track and I couldn’t believe that we were there only the day before. We reached a path junction to veer west, and the path was not as clear but more enjoyable. We were aiming to go over the bealach between Orval and Fionchra. On our last push to Guirdil, the path became clearer. Arriving at Guirdil was such a relief. The bothy became surprisingly busy when some folks arrived by boat. The place is very well maintained and in a very good location.
The next day, we left quite early to go back to Kinloch via the boggy Glen Shellesder. We chilled outside the Bunkhouse waiting for the ferry for Canna. Beside the physical effort, the ferry timetable was actually the most challenging part, as it is not as straightforward as it looks. It was a great place to visit and I am very nostalgic.