Having finished at Ardnamurchan lighthouse we got back on the road and drove round to the start point of the main route up Ben Hiant – a hill that’s modest in height but big on views. We wanted to be up at the top in plenty of time for sunrise, but given that it was only mid-April we still had a good few hours to kill. Out came three sleeping bags – one each for me and Susan, and one to drape over the pups’ car crates – and we did our best to fall asleep in the car. For once we did in fact nod off a bit. Obviously car seats don’t make great beds and it was cold even with the sleeping bags, but we did get just enough shut-eye to recharge our batteries for the walk.
The outline of the hill above us, with a galaxy full of stars on display
I think Beanie & Biggles got some zzzzs too; I heard gentle snoring coming from behind my seat a few times. On the other hand I also heard someone telling off their bed quite vigorously. Regardless, they both seemed extremely perky the instant we got them out of their crates and into their harnesses.
The ascent was mostly gentle, with a few short but very steep sections, but once again I found myself trudging through bog. My main hillwalking shoes were still drying out in the caravan, so I was wearing my backup pair which have even less water resistance. It didn’t take much squelching through the mud and swampy vegetation before my feet were soaking wet. As the walk progressed the pups became very animated and Biggles had a grunting, squealing and baying session, but it wasn’t until we made it to the base of the final climb that I saw confirmation that we had company: a pair of green, glowing eyes was looking down at us from the summit. I stopped and stared at them, they stared back, and then a second pair of peepers came into view. I have to say it was a little spooky, especially as I couldn’t make out what manner of creature they belonged to. I guessed from Biggles’ moderate level of noise production that we were probably in the presence of sheep; conspicuous silence I now knew was indicative of a giant highland cow, while manic baying is usually reserved deer. A little more height confirmed the sheep theory, but they’d sensibly decided to move on by the time we reached their position.
We camped out by the summit pillar with more than hour to go before sunrise. There were no decent shots to be taken and it was really chilly, so Susan extracted a sleeping bag from her rucksack and opened it out to make a windbreak for the two of us. Never one to miss out on a chance for snuggle, Biggles soon clambered under the sleeping bag and squeezed in between us. I tried to get Beanie to join us too, but she wasn’t interested. All her attention was focused on some point off in the distance. I’m not sure if she was spying on a sheep or if she was studying the lights from a nearby hamlet, but when sunrise came she was still intently watching the same spot.
Beanie keeps her silent, shivery vigil..
..completely missing the beautiful sunrise.
Only once it was properly daylight was she finally free to take an interest in the other sniffs and views that were on offer
Even in the full sun it was way too cold to stay up there any longer, so we packed up and trudged back through seemingly never-ending bog to our car.
Post-hillwalk breakfast, and another pair of water-logged shoes..
Back at the car Beanie and Biggles had their full, normal breakfast while we shared half a packet of leftover cashew nuts. As I exchanged my soaking wet shoes for my very last dry pair, we decided to make a little stop off at one of the beaches on the peninsula, then try to find a cafe somewhere that would serve a more substantial breakfast to us humies. As it turned out, both of these objectives involved an improbable amount of driving on that hairy single-track road.
A paddle for Susan & the pups on the beautiful beach at Sanna, with the lighthouse in the background.
Somehow I managed to keep my feet dry on the beach, but as we walked towards some interesting rocks a little further north we had to squelch through yet another bog and suddenly my final pair of shoes weren’t dry anymore.
The next objective was to find a cafe. Susan had visited Ardnamurchan about thirty years earlier and back then it’d had almost nothing but a single shop that sold two-day old newspapers and vegetables that were still covered in soil. Surely during all that time things had improved? Absolutely! As the miles stacked up we passed no less than three shops, and about twenty minutes out from the ferry terminal we finally found somewhere serving breakfast. The food was great, but it’s worth noting that payment was by cash only; that newfangled credit card thing hasn’t quite made it to Ardnamurchan yet. Maybe in another 30 years?
Part 1: http://www.fourleggedpal.com/2015/04/23/a-tale-of-ice-and-fire-and-bogs-part1/
Part 2: http://www.fourleggedpal.com/2015/04/24/a-tale-of-ice-and-fire-and-bogs-part2/
Part 4: http://www.fourleggedpal.com/2015/04/26/a-tale-of-ice-and-fire-and-bogs-part4/
Part 5: http://www.fourleggedpal.com/2015/04/26/a-tale-of-ice-and-fire-and-bogs-part5/