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Carn Gorm (1029m / 3376 ft), Carn Mairg (1041m / 3415 ft), Glen Lyon, Perthshire, Scotland

THE STORY

 

Route to Glen Lyon

Ascent of Carn Gorm - past shielings and ptarmigan!

Summit meeting

An easy ridge with more great views

Descending in the evening sun

Panoramic view

 

Read the other Glen Lyon story - Stuchd an Lochain >

< Back to Scotland page with links to other walks

 

Route to Glen Lyon

 

I had a few days off work in March 2004, and decided on this hike as the highlight of the week!  It involved a couple of hours’ drive from Dundee, but it was well worth it, and I benefited from sunshine and clear visibility all day, with a thin covering of snow on the tops and sparkling views as far as Ben Nevis away to the west.

 

At that time of year it was important to get a reasonably early start, but I didn't manage to.  Then I stopped off at Kenmore, at the eastern end of Loch Tay, to catch a photo of the mist drifting around one of the little islands – the relic of an ancient crannog.  Taymouth Castle at Kenmore is a magnificent but disused listed building, currently the subject of plans to invest many millions of dollars in Scotland’s first 6-star hotel, including upgrading of the existing golf course.  This is also the spot where a ceremony is held every year to mark the start of the salmon fishing season in mid January (coincidentally, it took place on 16 January 2006 when I started writing this up).

 

I drove on, around the north shore of the loch then through the pass at the western end of Drummond Hill whose forested slopes overlook Kenmore.  There was no time to drive the mile into Fortingall, where Scotland’s oldest tree, the Fortingall Yew, can be seen in the churchyard.  It’s reputed to have been growing there well before the time of the Romans, and Pontius Pilate is said to have paid a visit to Fortingall. (See Stuchd an Lochain story for a photo of the yew tree!)

 

I stopped briefly for another photo looking up towards Carn Mairg, then turned west into Glen Lyon.  This is certainly one of Scotland’s less visited glens, although some visitors drive over to it from the visitor centre at Ben Lawers.  The narrow winding road via Bridge of Balgie provides a scenic alternative to the (also scenic) drive along the north side of Loch Tay.

 

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Ascent of Carn Gorm - past shielings and ptarmigan!

At Invervar there are a few cottages, a phone box and a small parking space down a little lane just to the left of it (if driving west up the glen).  I left the car there around 11.45 a.m. (rather later than planned), then had to work out where the access to the walk was.  There was a driveway in front which was NOT the way to go.  Just to the left, on the other side of a farm building and opposite the phone box there was a high gate which I had to open then walk along a pathway to another gate.  This opened out into an area of rough grassland and boulders, with a ruined mill building just to the left.  I had a look at that, then returned to the path and walked up to another high gate through a deer fence.

 

Beyond this was a clearer path – indeed, it was an excellent surface for walking, up on the right bank of the Invervar Burn which tumbled down through the trees.  There was a short stretch through woodland and then the path continued on the open hillside above the stream, with the forest restricted to the opposite side.  Just at the start of the open ground, another track led to the right – this would be my return route.

 

Towards the upper edge of the woodland, about a mile from Invervar, the path dropped down to cross a tributary burn, and then another, before climbing among ruined shielings – dwellings once used when cattle were moved to the hills in the summer months.  It's worth reading this detailed article courtesy of the incallander website.  Rising above these, the summit of Carn Gorm was now clear to the west, steep and rocky with a cap of snow to add to its grandeur.  I was in the centre of an impressive glacial trough, with the craggy spur of An Sgorr at its head.

 

From there it was a steady slog onto the ridge to the left, leading up to the summit of Carn Gorm.  On the way I rested at the foot of some rocks, and was surprised to see a couple of ptarmigan pecking around the edge of a snow patch just below.  I managed to get a slightly blurry photo with the zoom – so it looks closer than it was.  (To read more about ptarmigan in Scotland, see the article in this newsletter from the Ochils Mountaineering Club http://www.ochils.com/newsletters/nl85/nl85.pdf ) Away to the south, about 10 km or 6 miles in distance, were the Ben Lawers and Tarmachan ranges laid out in an imposing line of rock faces (see panoramic view below).

 

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Summit meeting

There was another lone walker, and I passed him on the way up – once at the top, we chatted a bit.  He was up from Yorkshire for a few days, and was intending to do as many walks as possible.  He’d picked a good time to visit.  We soon realised that we were at the southern summit, with the trig point a hundred metres or so away to the north, but the map shows the southern point as the higher, by one metre. 

 

It was a long, broad flat summit, in contrast to the steep slope we had climbed up.  From the trig point, the view west to Ben Nevis, 35 miles (56 km) away beyond Rannoch Moor, was splendid.  There were lots more great views of the mountains all around - and too many photos to show here.

 

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An easy ridge with more great views

I continued on north, down to the col, and turned east up to the lower top of An Sgorr – rather less impressive from this angle than from the shielings in the glen.  However, the broad summit of Carn Gorm made a fine sight back towards the south-west.  There was another steady climb up to Meall Garbh, at 968m the next of the munros.  The wind-blown ice made crazy fringes on the rocks around the summit, but there wasn’t enough snow on the ridge to make walking difficult.  It was one of the easiest and safest ridges to follow in the clear visibility with only a light breeze, and no steep edges to fall off – but of course it lacked the drama of narrower ridges.

As well as some weird rock formations, another pair of ptarmigan were encouraged by the sunshine to turn up for a photo call.

 

There was only a small descent on the 2-mile (3km) hike to Carn Mairg, and from the intermediate top the wide curved face of the mountain edged by snow looked inviting.  The craggy summit at the end of the curve appeared to present a bit more of a challenge, but it was a straightforward route around the top of the corrie, with an easy slope up between the crags to the east and west.  From the lower northern top, there was a great view across to Schiehallion, its freestanding brown triangular shape looking a little artificial in contrast to the more erratic shapes of other peaks.

 

From the summit, the route down looked a bit steep, and I worked my way down the loose stones carefully, before heading for another mile across rough wet ground and up the next slope to the final top of Creag Mhor (981m).  This was worth the final effort, to feel I’d completed the circuit and get the view back towards Carn Mairg.  It looked as if there was a gentler way down which I could have followed, from the northern top, coming around the side of the crags towards Meall Liath.

 

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Descending in the evening sun

It was getting late in the day – approaching 5 pm – and after a couple more photos I set off back along the top of Creag Dhearg, retracing my steps at first, then down a long ridge towards Invervar.  Looking ahead into upper Glen Lyon there was some lovely evening light, picking out the bends in the River Lyon.  On the wide southern slope of Carn Mair the late afternoon sun gave an orange tinge to the grassy hillside. 

 

Coming down the ridge, I picked up a well-used track that zig-zagged down to rejoin the original path at the edge of the forest, then followed it back through the gates to Invervar.  It was 6.15 p.m., and the light was beginning to fade.  It had been a very full day, and a great walk.

 

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Read the other Glen Lyon story - Stuchd an Lochain >

< Back to Scotland page

 

 

Crannog in the mist, Kenmore

Loch Tay crannog in the mist, Kenmore

The shielings

The shielings

Looking up at Carn Gorm

Looking up at Carn Gorm

Ptarmigan

Ptarmigan

View south-east down to Glen Lyon

View south-east down to Glen Lyon from near the summit

Summit to look at

Summit to look at - to the south-wests

Ben Nevis and Carn Mor Dearg arrete from Carn Gorm

Ben Nevis and Carn Mor Dearg arrete from Carn Gorm - 35 miles away to the north-west!

Looking back at Carn Gorm from Meall Garbh

Looking back at Carn Gorm from Meall Garbh

The craggy top of Carn Mairg, and Creag Mhor to the right

The craggy top of Carn Mairg, and Creag Mhor to the right

Schiehallion from Carn Mairg

Schiehallion from Carn Mairg

Late sunshine on Carn Mairg

Late sunshine on Carn Mairg

Evening view of Glen Lyon

Evening view of Glen Lyon

 

 

The Ben Lawers range from Carn Mairg

The Ben Lawers range from Carn Mairg

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