Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Glen Lyon - Happiness is ...

Some weekend trips into the outdoors are filled with the wild excitement of remote peaks, narrow ridges or extreme weather. Not this one! The biggest challenge was just getting to the start! 

The Glen Lyon Horseshoe is a circuit of four rounded Munros above the hamlet of Invervar. It's a fair way up the single track road that meanders through the beautiful Glen Lyon. My journey there from Portobello started with an early morning cycle on my folding Brompton to Waverley Station while the rest of the city was still asleep. I took the first train north, jumped off at Dunkeld, folded up the bike then grabbed the next bus to Aberfeldy. Once there, I unfolded the bike and cycled the 12 or so miles to Invervar. Phew!

With the bike stashed in the woods, I made the lung-busting pull up the steep, grassy slopes of the first Munro, Carn Gorm. On its north side lingered big banks of snow and midsummer cornices several metres thick. From Carn Gorm the walk stretched out ahead, a pleasant stroll on slopes of springy grass.

There were no dramatic landscapes and no wild excitement but wandering around up here gave me a deep sense of happiness. Perhaps it was something to do with the airiness of the place or, with no other mountains crowding in, the incredible sense of space. And it was so peaceful, just the gentle whisper of the wind and the occasional thin call of golden plover. 

Later in the day, the rocky prow and bouldery tors of the third Munro, Carn Mairg, came into view and were a welcome deviation from grass slopes. A steep descent from its top put me on a high bealach and I pitched the tent here facing east, putting my back to the chill wind. The hills hadn't been busy but I still loved that feeling  at the end of the day when everyone else had gone and I was left alone to sleep on the mountain. Before bed I made the short walk from the tent to the top of the final Munro. 

Next morning the airiness and space were clogged with cloud and driving drizzle. I walked back down into the glen and cycled back to Aberfeldy where latte and gluten free orange cake gave me a deep sense of happiness.

Fact File
Start/finish: Invervar, Glen Lyon
Public transport: I took the Inverness train to Dunkeld & Birnam. Follow the cycle/pedestrian signs into Birnam, turn right on the main road and the bus stop is just there. Stagecoach number 23 goes to Aberfeldy. I put the Brompton on the bus folded up in its bag. From Aberfeldy cycle back down the road from the main bus stop, turn left at the first junction, right at the next and cycle over the bridge. Continue to the B846 and turn left on this fairly quiet B road. At Coshieville turn left for Fortingall. A few hundred metres after Fortingall turn right up Glen Lyon and continue on this lovely single track to Invervar. I hid my bike in the trees beside the small parking area. For the return on a Sunday take the Stagecoach Pitlochry bus from the main stop in Aberfeldy outside the cinema and pick up a train there.
Route: About 20 metres further along the road from the parking place a green post with an orange top marks the start of the path through a gate. Follow the path up through the woods until it emerges onto a hideous track bulldozed for a new hydro scheme. Follow the track uphill, going left at a split and where it ends a bridge crosses the Invervar Burn. A clear path meanders up the southeast ridge of Carn Gorm, the first Munro. The path continues north then swings northeast to Meall Garbh before undulating eastwards to Carn Mairg. Pass north of the tors to find a steep path down and continue to a bealach (where I camped) then up to Meall na Aighean, the fourth Munro. Retrace your steps about 200m then the excellent path continues down the southwest ridge to pick up the outward route to Invervar. 
Tip: Fantastic coffee at Habitat Cafe in Aberfeldy opposite the bus stop.

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