GLEN LYON is one of our most beautiful glens and the mountains here have a more pastoral feel than some of their more rugged cousins further north.
It’s ideal country for this time of year when winter is starting to loosen its grip and spring is waiting to make an entrance. The horseshoe circuit which starts at Invervar takes in four Munros but it is not a hard day out.
A short track walk by a burn and you are out of the woods. Most people do the circuit clockwise, so first up is Carn Gorm. Meall Garbh follows, then Carn Mairg and finally Meall na Aighenan before a fast descent down a good path picks up the incoming track. There are also a few tops to cross en route but the whole trek shouldn’t take more than six hours.
I have done these hills in summer, autumn and winter and each time the skies and the landscape have thrown up a pot pourri of different conditions and colours, each beautiful in its own way. A walk round in early March, with some late-lying snow and an icy mist which blew away to pure blue skies was probably my favourite but it’s too close to call.
That’s the good news - now for the bad. Over the years there have been some problems with access on this estate and it’s sad to hear of recent rumbles of discontent again. In the past walkers have been faced with locked gates, intimidatory warning notices and harassment.
Maybe I have just been lucky, but I have been round these hills three times and never once had a real problem with access.
The first time I went to climb the circuit, I found the gates locked and a sign saying that stalking was in progress. It suggested contacting the head stalker for further information. As I was making that call, the man himself pulled up in a Land Rover. I asked what the position was, and he told me there would be no problem about walking the hills and to go and enjoy my day. Second and third time out, there were no Keep Out signs or angry men in deerstalkers barring the way.
But these recent incidents plus a catalogue of problems at Ledgowan in the north-west highlands are a worrying step back to the bad old days.
We have access laws to be proud of, a progressive and sensible system that befits a modern, forward-thinking country.
The right to roam is enshrined in statute and we all accept that with it comes responsibility. There has to be some give and take between the public and those who make a living from the land.
Most estates are fine but blanket bans are not acceptable and it would be a shame if one or two rogue landowners were allowed to get away with defying the spirit of the agreement. Even worse is the apparent reluctance of government and local authorities to stamp it out.
I wonder if the current obsessive push to plaster every spare foot of the land with wind turbines and the subsequent need to cosy up to landowners is a factor?
I’m all for clean, renewable energy but the scale and the apparent haphazardness of it is all wrong. The way we are heading, I can see one strong wind sending the whole country spinning off into the air. Maybe that’s the grand plan - carry us off to a land of milk and honey, our very own version of Oz.
(First published Daily Record, March 13, 2014)