The walk A great round for shorter winter days
© CROWN COPYRIGHT 2018 ORDNANCE SURVEY. MEDIA 059/18
Grade: Moderate hill walk Distance: 6miles/10km Time: 5-6 hours
YOU won’t find much information about the hills of Strath Conon in Scotland’s mountaineering literature. The Corbetts guidebooks mention them almost reluctantly and other guides seem oblivious to this long and beautiful glen that lies about 30 miles west of Inverness.
You’ll find Strath Conon by turning off the main A835 Ullapool road at Moy Bridge, followed by a right turn at Marybank. The single-track road runs for some 17 miles through landscape that grows steadily wilder and more mountainous as you head west. The face of the glen was changed during the splurge of hydro schemes that were created in the 1950s and 60s and the construction of dams on the River Meig and the River Conon resulted in what is now the Meig Reservoir and Loch Achonachie.
Despite the hydro works, this single-track road from Marybank, near Contin, is a delight, and I’ve often enjoyed it as a precursor to a day on the Strath Conon tops. For much of the road’s lower route it’s well wooded, with the Conon coursing through a series of pools and lochans, but beyond Milton the hills begin to rise steeply on either side of the narrowing glen and it isn’t long before the pyramid shape of Meallan nan Uan (2749ft/838m) rises above its narrow ridge. Close by stands Sgurr a’Mhuilinn (2884ft/879m) competing for dominance, and while it appears as a bigger and bluffer reflection of its near neighbour it lacks the subtlety and grace of Meallan nan Uan. It could be a male and female thing, not unlike the differences between Crianlarich’s twin Munros, Ben More and Stob Binnein. One is big and brutish, the other more subtle and sensuous.
An excellent circular route links the two Corbetts, starting at Strathanmore in Strath Conon, but Hamish Brown, in his book Climbing the Corbetts, demands that you initially visit the local church, situated just south of Strathanmore. So what’s so special about this church to warrant such insistence from Brown? Well, it’s by Thomas Telford, he who is better known for creating the Caledonian Canal. In 1819 the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland asked the government for financial aid to build churches in remote parts of the Highlands. The Kirk was apparently concerned about the prevalence of Catholic churches in these areas. The Government acquiesced and five years later 32 churches were built, under the supervision of the engineer Telford. The wee church at Strathanmore is one of them.
A sketchy path runs up the grassy hillside from the church (or from Strathanmore) before steep slopes lead to the summit of Creag Ruadh, the south-east terminus of a fine undulating ridge that climbs over a subsidiary top before rising steeply to the summit of Meallan nan Uan. The hill’s southern slopes drop dramatically into forested Glen Meinich, while the northern slopes plunge into the rather gloomy Coire a’ Mhuillin, whose dark lochan fills the high-level hollow.
My son and I had enjoyed a quick
Route: Follow the S bank of the Allt an t-Strathain Mhoir, avoiding the fenced forestry plantation. Beyond the 400m contour head SW and climb the steeper slopes of Creag Ruadh. From here follow the ridge NW, over an intermediate knoll to the steep summit slopes of Meallan nan Uan. Descend now, in a NW direction, to the col before Sgurr a’Mhuilin. Cross another knoll then climb the grassy slopes of Sgurr a’Mhuilin to gain the ridge. The summit trig point is at the E end of this ridge, from where a steep nose drops down to peaty flats on the N side of the Allt an t-Strathain Mhoir. Cross the stream to its S bank and follow grassy slopes downhill back to the start.