Location: Beinn Liath Mhor a’ Ghiubhais Li

Wester Ross

Grade: Easy hill walk

Distance: 5 miles/8km

Time: 3-4 hours

THE conical shape of Beinn Liath Mhor a’ Ghiubhais Li will be familiar to anyone who has driven along the A835 by Loch Glascarnoch in Wester Ross. It’s an isolated hill and lacks any real discernable feature but in geographical terms it belongs to the sprawling family of Fannichs that form a great mountainous wedge between the Dirrie Mor in the north and Loch Fannich in the south. It gives a very good leg-stretch if you have a few hours to spare en route to the hills of the far north-west beyond Ullapool.

I was also aware that, as is so common with many of these more isolated Corbetts, Beinn Liath Mhor a’ Ghiubhais Li, 2513ft/766m, offers extremely wide views, not only towards the other, higher Fannichs, but north towards the rockier Munros of Beinn Dearg and Cona Mheall. But first, let’s get the name out of the way.

Beinn Liath Mhor a’ Ghiubhais Li is certainly a mouthful, even for the Gaelic, but it simply means ‘the big grey hill of the colourful pine’. Try ‘byn lyee-aa vore a yoo-ash lee.’ There aren’t so many colourful pines in this area now, but in the nineties the estate began planting on the north-west slopes of the hill and as we climbed up from the roadside following a track that was signposted to Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich, one of the big Munros in the west, we were delighted to pass young birch, rowan and Scots pine.

It had been many years since I had been on this hill and I simply assumed the new plantation was more of the ubiquitous conifers that swathe so many of our hills. In years to come these slopes could well see more of the gnarled and rust-red bark that gives the Scots pines such individual character. It’s good to think that this particular big grey hill will be graced with colourful pines in the future just as it probably was in the distant past.

We were heading for a weekend in Ullapool and had the afternoon to spare. My wife, innocent soul that she is, thought I was planning a leisurely coastal walk near the town, but as we drove alongside Loch Glascarnoch with the sun slanting through scudding dark clouds in great ‘God-beams’ the atmosphere was just too magical to ignore. We stopped by the Abhainn an Torrain Duibh, changed footwear, and set off up the hill between the rain showers.

Once through the new plantation we were on the north-west slopes of our hill and already the views were taking our attention. To the north the great rocky dome of Beinn Dearg contrasted vividly with the finer, sensuous curve of Cona Mheall’s south-east ridge, and, away beyond the neighbouring Munro of Am Faochagach, we could just make out the shape of Seana Braigh at the head of distant Strath Mulzie.

The lower slopes of Beinn Liath Mhor a’ Ghiubhais Li were waterlogged, making progress rather laboured, but higher up the wind-clipped heath and stony slopes were a delight and in no time at all we were cooried down in the shelter of the summit’s windbreak wall enjoying a flask of coffee and some sandwiches.

The views from this summit are extensive with the whole length of the strung-out Fannichs on one side - the eastern Fannichs of An Coileachan and Meall Gorm look particularly fine, rising as they do from their long corrie-bitten wall. The view east was dominated by the long Glas Leathad Mor ridge of Ben Wyvis, while the view to the glorious west was to the spires and ragged outline of An Teallach, possibly the finest mountain in the land.

To the melancholy music of golden plover calls we descended north to a high col from where it was an easy climb to the short summit ridge of neighbouring Meall Daimh. Loch Glascarnoch lay below us, the sun-dappled hills of the Inverlael and Strathvaich Forests lay in front of us, and we had an evening meal and a drink or two in Ullapool waiting for us. Sometimes, just sometimes, life’s not so bad…

Cameron McNeish

ROUTE PLANNER

Map: OS 1:50,000 Landranger sheet 20 (Beinn Dearg & Loch Broom)

Distance: 5 miles/8km

Approx Time: 3-5 hours

Start/Finish: Car parking area on A835 by the bridge over Abhainn an Torrain Duibh (GR: NH278742)

Public transport: The Inverness to Ullapool bus goes along the A835.

Information: Ullapool TIC, 01854 612486

Route: On the S side of the river a signpost points out a track to Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich. Follow this track, through a gate into a plantation of young pine, birch and rowan, and follow it until you reach the next gate. Go through the gate and leave the path, taking to the NW ridge of Beinn Liath Mhor a’ Ghiubhais Li. Follow this broad ridge to a shallow and peaty col before climbing the stony slopes to the summit. Descend in a NE direction to another col before climbing N to the summit ridge of Meall Daimh. Follow this short ridge NNW then descend easy slopes to the road just E of your starting point.