Published 26th March 2021, 11:22

    FIONN BHEINN is the only Munro that begins with F, but over the years I have heard many using a different F to describe its charms, or perceived lack of them.

    Granted, it's not the most exciting of mountains if climbed directly from Achnasheen, an easy-angled pull-up on grassy, featureless slopes which in thick mist can bring on that Groundhog Day feel.

    I can understand the popularity of this ascent: it's fast and frugal, just a couple of hours, no need to spend any more time than is necessary on a hill that may provide one tick but not in any other boxes. It's handy as an afterthought, or a sideshow on the way to bigger things.

    That's the line I took the first couple of times. However, being a believer in the premise that there's no such thing as a dull mountain, just unimaginative route planning, I have since found much to enjoy on Fionn Bheinn.

    As with most solitary mountains, the views from the summit on a clear day are glorious; the soaring Torridon peaks fill the western horizon, the full expanse of the Fannaichs to the north over the long blue slash of Loch Fannich, with mighty Slioch and the Fisherfield giants in between. And from that weather-beaten formerly white trig pillar sitting on the edge, the more interesting northern side of the hill is revealed with a glimpse down into rugged Toll Mor. Even with the sedate approach, the walk can become a little more entertaining by following the shapely ridge line east and descending via Coire nan Laogh. 

    It's also a worthwhile exercise to start four kilometres further east and use the old track in to Loch Fannich and Cabuie Lodge where you can catch Fionn Bheinn's finest profile before turning to climb the slopes from the north. My last ascent combined the Munro with its smaller Graham neighbour, Meall a' Chaorainn, another fine viewpoint. This entailed crossing the delightful sounding Coire Bog. In this case Bog meant 'dip' or 'soft, tender' – it could easily have been both – but in reality it was still a bog. 

    Fionn Bheinn is a good hill for short days and winter conditions, and it's one of the few Munros with easy access by train. Achnasheen played an important role in the history of the Dingwall and Skye rail line when it opened in 1870, becoming the railhead for a large part of Wester Ross.

    Achnasheen means 'field of the storm' but the village is not known for any excessive weather events: it's more likely that sitting at a height of around 500ft in a broad valley which offers little shelter from the elements, rail workers and cattle drovers would have feared being caught out here, and any wild experience would have stuck in the memory. The darkness of the surrounding moorland compared to the pale mosses and grasses on the slopes likely gave the hill its name of 'white mountain'. 

    The most fascinating piece of history though is the intriguing prophecy of the Brahan Seer, Kenneth Mackenzie. He predicted that “the day will come when a raven, attired in plaid and bonnet, will drink his fill of human blood on Fionn Bheinn, three times a day, for three successive days.” There is certainly no shortage of little creatures trying to drink your blood on any day in Scotland, but it seems the Seer's words have yet to come to pass.

    It's a rare lapse from the man known as Coinneach Odhar. According to folklore, he was granted the gift of second sight through his mother's bargain with the ghost of a Danish princess. His visions predicted disaster at the Battle of Culloden, the building of the Caledonian Canal and the Channel Tunnel, the Highland Clearances and the coming of the railways. He even foretold of the North Sea oil boom: “a black rain will bring riches to Aberdeen.”

    His final prediction was the one that cost him his life. Isabella, wife of the Earl of Seaforth, wanted to know if her husband was being unfaithful and despite confirming her fears, it wasn't the answer she wanted. She was so incensed that she ordered him to be thrown into a barrel of boiling tar. A wee white lie may have proved more agreeable all round.

    Take your time to explore Fionn Bheinn – you may be pleasantly surprised to discover it has been given a bad rap.