Last weekend I managed to go wild camping. This was one of my new year resolutions which looked doomed after Covid-19 kicked off. However, once lockdown was relaxed, I dug out the tent and rucksack and hit the road.
Sadly, I didn’t hit the road early enough and there were tailbacks at Callander, Crianlarich and Tyndrum. Weegies queued for ice cream in Callander, campervans crept up Glen Ogle, motorbikes whizzed past me and tourists swarmed around the Green Welly Stop in Tyndrum.
I turned off at Bridge of Orchy, and drove past tents and bikers at the old bridge. At the Inveroran Inn, there were maybe another dozen tents and I managed to park on the grass verge just beyond them. Grabbing my 12kg heavy rucksack, I strode off westwards with Shitzu in tow.
I took the right of way to Loch Etive, the track going through Caledonian pines before following the Abhainn Shira. Visibility was good with sun coming out occasionally and a nice breeze from the north. The mountains formed a craggy skyline in the distance with Stob Coire’ an Albannaich prominent. Its name means the peak of the corrie of the Scotsmen (not sure why).
I had only gone 2 km when I spotted two stags up ahead about to cross the river. I stopped, waited and got a nice photo of them midstream. Pleased with myself, I wandered on and had to ford the river and some burns, jumping across from boulder to boulder, Shitzu amazingly keeping dry too. One false move and I would have wet feet for the next 24 hours which would be disastrous.
I passed an ideal camp site by the river after 4km but it was too soon, not ‘wild’ enough. Heading on, the track climbed past a waterfall and then I saw Loch Dochard ahead. It looked perfect and when I reached the shore there was an obvious camping spot.
And what a spot. Right by the loch looking across at Stob Ghabhar, Meall nan Eun, Stob Coire’ an Albannaich and Ben Starav. It was late afternoon and the midges were out though so I got the tent up pronto, flung the mat and sleeping back inside and kept walking west along the track. Sadly after another 3km, the track dropped into the head of Glen Finglas and the munro I had hoped to climb, Beinn nan Aighenan, looked a beast with no path visible, just bog and rocky outcrops.
Using the Shitzu as an excuse, I deemed it too late to climb the hill and we wandered back to the tent. There were two tents pitched further along the shore and a boat out in the loch when we got back to the tent. The sound of muffled voices carried across the water and I got the impression it was father and son camping and fishing. Later on they had a fire going.
After walking 12km with a rucksack that day, it was an early night (dark by 9pm). I didn’t sleep too well, the ground was hard despite my mat and the midges put me off going out to look at the stars. I must have slept though because I woke up to daylight at 7am.
I was dreading dropping the tent because of the midges but they werenae too bad, possibly it was too cold for them. It was almost September and we were 225 metres above sea level in the mountains. I guessed it was 5 degrees and the tent was wet with dew.
However, it was just a 6km walk downstream back to the car at Inveroran and by 10am I was driving past Bridge of Orchy Hotel, laughing at hungover looking folk setting off on the next leg of the West Highland Way, probably heading to Kingshouse Hotel in Glencoe. I stopped for a coffee and ham roll in the wee spar at Tyndrum and was home for high noon.
And that was my first ever ‘wild camp’ and although it wasn’t exactly Scott of the Antarctic stuff, its given me confidence that I can carry the load and camp without a disaster. Maybe next year I can head into the Rough Bounds of Knoydart or something.
To be continued…..