Published 20th August 2018, 12:03

    APPARENTLY National Relaxation Day has just been and gone. I suppose it slipped my notice because I'm in the midst of a period of relaxation so one day is much the same as another.

    There's no urgency to rush out onto the hills in August. It's a month where tourism is at its height; everywhere is busy, roads more congested, accommodation prices hiked up and the midges' ferocity is reaching its peak.

    No, I'm quite happy to sit it out for a bit. The fact that the mountain weather has shifted into typical Scottish summer mode - wet, windy, unpredictable - just adds to the mix.

    I have a few big walks in my sights but they depend on decent conditions. I don't see the point of travelling four hours just to walk in soaking conditions for another ten and not see a thing.

    The recent hot, dry spell may have proved too hot and dry at times, but at least it provided some certainty for walks that can be a nightmare in wet weather. The circuit of the two Grahams in Glen Moidart for example.

    This remote glen has a reputation for being the wettest and boggiest glen in Lochaber. That's some claim to fame in this country. I'm sure every walker could come up with their own nomination, but Glen Moidart would take some toppling.

    The Mediterranean-style weather was the perfect opportunity to give myself a fighting chance of enjoying a squelch-free day on the retiring peaks of Croit Bheinn and Beinn Gaire.

    These hills don't attract a lot of footfall. They are squeezed in between the more popular Rois-Bheinn circuit to the west, the waters of Loch Shiel to the east and the Beinn Odhar Mhor horseshoe to the north.

    The only practical day route is from the minor road off the A861 which twists and turns its way through the beautiful scenery of Ardgour, Sunart and Moidart before continuing to Morar and the Mallaig road.

    This is widescreen country; a great wall of hills lie directly ahead, filling every centimetre of vision, the bright white of Glenmoidart House and its manicured grounds the only blemish on this wild landscape.

    Once you cross the bridge over the river, however, the remoteness kicks in again. A track of sorts weaves its way deeper into the glen, still soft underfoot and boggy in places despite the lack of rain, dark puddles still defiant. Long grasses constantly brush the legs, and there are duckboards at regular intervals. A full wetsuit would not be out of place in 'normal' conditions.

    The glen is filled with ruins, buildings and shielings which tell a familiar story of persecution and forced eviction; Inchrory, Assary, Ulgary, settlements where familes once worked the land before being cleared in the 18thand 19thcenturies. Many emigrated to Australia, others to Canada, in particular Nova Scotia. 

    This area abounds with tales of Bonnie Prince Charlie. The Young Pretender had the support of the Macdonalds of Kinlochmoidart, and some of the men of these glens would have fought at Culloden. Now, as in so many other places, there are just stones as reminders that they even existed.

    Higher up, the glen reaches a narrow gorge. A grassy ramp provides an easy bypass but somewhat curiously the continuation sees a change of name to Glen Gluitanen. 

    I was now out of the shadows of the glen and into the boiling sun, and it was taking its toll. Croit Bheinn wasn't far but its ascent was struggle. The reward, as always, was worth it, views stretching off in every direction and a true feeling of being alone.

    Beinn Gaire was a long way off but the going was good and I was now on the inward journey. The final summit bump provided a grand view of Beinn Resipol, and a clear sighting of the route down over complicated ground. The final drop was steep but fast, one last ruin to pass, the delapidated buildings at Glenforslan, another poignant haunt for ghosts of the past.

    I had seen this glen at its best, and I had emerged reasonably dry, but I suspect that in the rain and mist, the constant reminders of shattered lives would hang even heavier.