Last week was spent in the Eriboll area, near the edge of the Moine Thrust. Based out of the excellent independent hostel at Kyle of Tongue, my morning commute to Loch Hope would take me across the flat boggy area of A’Mhoine (The Moine) into the cnoc and lochan terrain around Loch Hope and Loch Eriboll.
Most of my walks were up from Strath More onto new plantings of deciduous woodland around Cashel Dhu then up the giant steps of the various rocky exposures to around 350-400 m, which took me from the open alluvial plain of the valley floor through the peaty sides to landscape of rocky ridges with lochans (small lakes) in between that were produced by the glacial action but controlled by the underlying bedrock geology. Similar landscapes can be found in Canada and Sweden.
The small lochans are very atmospheric and show a great deal of diversity in their size and vegetation. I had hoped I might see some Great Northern, Red-Throated or Black-Throated Divers on these remote water bodies but was disappointed.
The overwhelming experience of roaming this area is a sense of exploration, of ducking into hidden corners. I did not see anyone else on the hill during four days of walking in this terrain. If it is solitude, not altitude, you are seeking then the extensive cnoc and lochan areas of the NW Highlands and the Western Isles offer this experience in abundance. However, the rubble of groups of shielings, now overgrown, and roofless byres and blackhouses and the impressive remains of the Dun Dronaigil broch are the material testimony that the straths, glens and lower hills were once inhabited places. Names of other features on the OS maps give other clues to the activities that took place in these areas. However, as I have returned to more routine working in the Highlands after a break of over 20 years, it does seem more new businesses, bunkhouses and buildings are springing up and may lend their names, and vitality, to future OS maps.