THERE'S nowhere in Scotland that can truly be termed remote when compared to the vast wilderness lands of the USA, Canada or Russia.
The concept of remoteness is more a state of mind in our small country, and there are many glens where one can wander for many hours in perfect solitude.
I'm just back from two days in the hills during where I never met another soul, first on Meith Bheinn north of the Mallaig road, and then An Cruachan from the western end of Glen Strathfarrar.
Both are Grahams, both involve crossing high passes to reach the start of the climb, and both had evoked varying degrees of trepidation. These were hills best done in clear weather.
The route to Meith Bheinn starts simply; a path through a rail underpass, rising gently alongside a stream to a marshy watershed where it becomes less distinct. This is where you get the first view of Meith Bheinn.
Now comes the trickier bit, a drop through a straggling wood, steep slopes studded with outcrops and hidden caves, to find the correct line to cross a deep gorge. I had read reports warning of the pitfalls of getting it wrong but I never found any problems.
Maybe it was the dry conditions, maybe it was because the vegetation was still stunted, or maybe I just got lucky. The line of the path was faint but true, and I was soon down at the shoreline looking up at my target.
The drop down had been enhanced by Loch Beoraid stretching off to the east, blue waters sparkling in the sunshine. The sight of this lonely loch never fails to lift the spirits. Its position means a tough ascent from any direction is required to witness its beauty first hand.
The long south-west ridge of Meith Bheinn is typically Graham-esque, a series of rises where every high point is merely the forerunner to another, false summits and false hopes galore, book times a cruel myth.
When the summit is finally reached, it slots nicely into our concept of remote; mountains on every point of the compass, the blue blades of lochs Morar and Nevis cutting through the contours, lochans and boulders of all shapes and sizes littering and glittering the complex slopes. The reverse journey was troubled only by the heat of the re-climb through the wood but any slight niggles I had about the route had proved to be unfounded.
The next day I was at the Strathfarrar gate for its 9am opening, then the drive all the way to the end of the glen, over the two dams and round to the power station in Gleann Innis an Loichel.
A solid track ran west, turned into a good path, then a less distinct one, then disappeared at the col just as I caught my first sight of An Cruachan. The easy part was over; now it was some 4km over heavy bog, bobbing and weaving round the worst of the glaur, no regularity of footfall possible, trying to avoid the same fate that had befallen the trees whose bleached roots were exposed, trapped here forever.
My biggest concern for this walk was the time constraint placed by the access agreement, I had one eye on the clock all the way. Again the dry weather came to the rescue – this would be a nightmare in wet conditions and zero visibility.
I was a bit leggy when I arrived at the foot of the final climb, but time seemed to fly on the ascent and I was at the summit in just over half an hour. The cairn here is magnificent, a big, flawless beehive which stands out for miles around. Despite the hill's modest height, it is a perfect centre-point, ringed by the giants of the Mullardoch, Monar and Elchaig mountains.
Some guide books suggest that lovers of solitude may wish to visit An Cruachan's northern top. I like solitude, but this extra trek would suggest masochism rather than love, especially with the thought of tackling the endless bog again to get out.
The sunshine had largely disappeared, a more muted and cooler feel to the day now, welcome for the efforts ahead. My eyes were drawn on the initial descent to the remaining ribs of snow on distant Lurg Mhor, shimmering reflections on the waters of the loch bringing to mind a child's drawing of ghosts.
The return to the col was weary, but I was still ahead of schedule, safe from being locked in for the night. The road had been resurfaced since my last potholed foray in here at the end of the year and the drive out took just over half an hour.
Two days of solitude. I might even get away with calling it a remote experience.