Offlist Walk: Ben Bhraggie

3 09 2011
3rd September 2011
Mrs NLW
5.2 miles
Explorer 441 (Lairg, Bonar Bridge & Golspie)

Currently staying in Dornoch as part of an 8 day tour of northern Scotland we decided to gamble on a forecasted gap in the weather to tackle Ben Bhraggie, a seemingly modest hill behind the coastal town of Golspie. It had been raining all night and we were in two mind about what to do – and as soon as we had decided it was too wet to walk – the sun came out and we quickly changed our minds. We drove through Golspie, and just before Dunrobin Castle turned left underneath a railway line on a lane signposted to ‘Backies’, we found a car park a quarter of a mile up on the left.

The walk starts along the top of a heavily wooded gorge where we glimpse Big Burn Falls through the trees, and then zig-zags down towards the burn which we cross and then walk out on a viewing platform over the water until glimpsing around a corner we find ourselves right in front of the ferocious waterfall. The heavy rain the previous night has made this an impressive sight to behold.

We exit the platform and climb the western side of the glen, zig-zagging once again, recrossing the burn twice, and then climbing up onto a lane. As we follow the lane the monument on the top of ben Bhraggie comes into view, this Ben may be modest at 397 metres, but we’re starting from near sea-level, and it looks steep from here. Fortunately we’re not attacking it head-on, so at a very minor crossroads we turn right and head gently uphill through  a forest until we appear back in the daylight, a path branches off up the glen towards Farlary, but we follow the track as it bends first left then right working its way onto the shoulder of Ben Bhraggie, and then following it gently but incessantly upward as we work our way around behind the hill. We stop to catch our breath fairly frequently, and wonder at the clouds rolling onto and off of the hilltops around us, we admire Loch nan Caorach buried in the shadow of Beinn Lunndaidh to our west. The track bends to the left again and wiggles its way onto the lower end of the hilltop, we can see thousands of infamous Scottish midges, but they seem to preoccupied feeding on the heather to bother feeding on us. The monument comes into view again and we wiggle round to the top of the hill where we find a crude but welcome shelter which we take advantage of to eat our lunch. We pass a number of mountain biking trails as we cross the crown of the hill and then drop down to the monument at the front of the hill overlooking Golspie, the North Sea, the Moray and Dornoch Firths, and beyond northern coast of Speyside. The monument itself is far bigger than it appears from the road, it depicts the 1st Earl of Sutherland and is the subject of some controversy as this Earl is now infamous for his role in the highland clearances. There is a handy (and free) telescope at he foot of the statue, and we take a break to examine Golspie below, and  Loch Fleet to the south where we can just about make out seals on the sandbanks.

We plunge of the front of the hill and descend very steeply down a rocky path, fortunately I have my sticks with me, but even so as the track goes on and on I know that my knees are going to pay for this later. We cross more bike tracks and eventually drop down to the treeline and gentler gradients. The walk we are following would guide us down into Golspie and then back briefly uphill to the car park, but we feel we’ve done enough for today nd so we cut across the hill (through some boggy areas) to a row of cottages and then the crossroads we encountered near the start of the walk. We retrace our steps back to the burn, taking a successful gamble on a path that cuts out the need to zig-zag past the waterfall and leads us straight back to the car.

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