Ladhar Bheinn: one of Scotland's slightly intimidating hills
Ladhar Bheinn - the most westerly Munro on Scottish mainland. Big walk in and midges and clegs (horseflies) are terrifying. You’ll love it. Really.
Ladhar Bheinn is Scotland's most westerly mainland Munro. It's pronounced - roughly - as 'laar-vinn'. It means, in Gaelic, hill of the hoof or claw, a slightly sinister label entirely in keeping with how I feel about it! It's 3346ft / 1020ft high, and feels a bit higher because it is one of those hills you climb from sea level. It's the 111th highest hill in Scotland. At least it is at the moment.
This is a description of the day we set out climb it in July 2007. (Crikey, doesn't time fly?) I don't expect the hill will have changed much in the interim. We started from Inverie (accessed by ferry from Mallaig.) We also started out late because our landlady slept in. (Don't ask - the accommodation choice is much better now. You can book Inverie accommodation with confidence, we hear.)
Climbing Ladhar Bheinn
clockwise or anti-clockwise from Inverie?
Now, listen up. The usually totally reliable Scottish Mountaineering Club Munros guidebook’s description of Ladhar Bheinn suggests that, if coming in from Inverie, then the route goes northwards into Gleann na Guiserein, circles eastwards to the ruined house (Folach), then slogs up the south-western flanks of the hill via Coire Garbh (the ‘rough corrie’ – well, there’s a surprise) to reach the summit ridge. You can see the line of ascent in the picture here, taken from the woodlands that lead into Gleann na Guiserein. The shallow-looking Coire Garbh is roughly (ho-ho) in the centre. Look, I’ll stick on an arrow and you can’t go wrong…….
The very weird stick-man we met will probably have gone by now. But he rather set the spooky tone!
Anyway, back on the route...afterwards, the guidebook advises that the route to Ladhar Bheinn should be continued eastwards and upwards, with great views in all directions, especially to remote Loch Hourn, then down and over rough grounds, west along a ridge, before eventually circling back to the village via Gleann an Dubh Lochan. Got that? Yes, you do need Ordnance Survey Landranger map number 33.
So we got ourselves through the glen, the hill looming ahead, then on past the ruined house and turned uphill...the slog had begun.
Views of the Small Isles from Ladhar Bheinn
In the picture here, about half-way up the slopes of Coire Garbh, the way through the glen and woods is pretty obvious.
Also pictured here. Islands of Rum (centre) and Eigg (left) from the slopes of Ladhar Bheinn. Johanna taking a call from some client or other. Well, really….. Anyway, the view here looks is certainly west of the main summit of Ladhar Beinn (if you approach from the south, as we did). The dull comment is unfair, as the views open out south-east towards the Small Isles – Eigg is on the left . The very first picture – with the arrow at the top – was taken from the woodland in the centre of this picture.
(Pictured here) Once on the broad ridge that leads on to the very top, the reward was a northwards view, strictly speaking, out of the ‘Rough Bounds of Knoydart’, though it looked pretty rough to me (or was that how we were feeling?). Anyway, that’s Loch Hourn on the left of the picture.
Having pointed all this out, I would suggest to any reader who has not yet climbed Ladhar Bheinn: do not go this way. Instead, start from the Gleann an Dubh Lochan and do it in reverse – that is, anti-clockwise from Inverie. In the years of walking and climbing I cannot think of a more tedious, relentless slope than the pull up from the woods of Gleann na Guiserein – a lonely, empty place.
The top, hitherto clear all day, then caught the cloud and removed the view just as we reached the summit. Some hillwalkers, at least, will know this feeling: mid afternoon, in cloud, uncertainty of the route ahead, except a guidebook warning and a map suggestion that it is broken ground. Go on and complete the circular route – or go back?
We applied the usual Scottish hillwalking criterion that if it is difficult to spell, it is often difficult to walk over. You’d be surprised how often this works – I mean, we were going to end up in a glen spelt ‘gleann’. So we went back – yes, down that tedious slope. Naturally, the cloud lifted again as soon as we turned our backs. Grrr. If only we’d been an hour or so earlier. Moral: stay in accommodation that serves breakfast on time.
Hillwalking in Scotland - just a state of mind
All right, I can hear the hoots of derision from the hardened walkers and hill stravaigers - but it was getting late, honest. Yes, we missed the best bits of the hill on that day. Sometimes, experiences in wild land have less to do with fitness and more to do with how you react to the landscapes that surround you. In short, it can be a state of mind. I’ve walked up high hills all my life – but this high bleak ground, and I admit now, looking back, felt oppressive and unfriendly. And I really think we were uncharacteristically spooked – well, almost. Anyway, some day soon I’ll go back but do it anticlockwise from Inverie via Gleann an Dubh-Lochain.
Another unforgettable incident on a great day’s walk – yes, it was really – was the attack of the killer clegs – highly intelligent, fanatical horseflies. (Oh, all right, I’m exaggerating.) There must be repellents that work – and that there are also midges goes without saying – but, let’s face it, Johanna also employed the conventional tactic of running away while screaming. Girls, eh? More on clegs and horseflies here, where we meet them around Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.
(Pictured here) Inverie on Loch Nevis – a few houses, a pub – and the gateway to some fine hills. By the way, if you are looking for an easier but still rewarding day on Scotland’s hills, then a half day is all it takes to climb Creag Leacach in the central Grampians.