I'M off chasing the full moon again, the seventh of the year.
This is the Strawberry Moon, so I will be in Glen Affric overnight doing a circuit of the mountains above Strawberry Cottage, starting at sunset and walking by moonlight right through into the sunrise.
It’s been a hectic spell - a whistle-stop tour of some of Scotland’s most iconic beauty spots. It started on Saturday in the Arrochar Alps for a friend’s Munro compleation party on Beinn Narnain. Twenty-four hours later and the real tour began.
This full moon had fallen nicely. I had already committed to a weekend trip based at Corran with my mountain club, so it worked out well that I could go to Glen Affric and then head straight to the meet.
Then I was asked if I would be able to join a Dutch television crew for a couple of days for a programme they were making about the Munros. Now I was heading off for a full week.
It was a 4am rise on Monday morning to meet the team from 3 op Reis Travel TV at the foot of Buachaille Etive Mor. We spent around six hours on the mountain doing the interview, scrambling around with cameras running from all angles, including a lot of drone footage. The original plan had been for two mornings’ shooting, but the weather was so perfect we managed to wrap it all up in one lengthier session.
It did mean, however, that my plans for another walk at Loch Arkaig in the afternoon were delayed as I was due to be at Invergarry by 9pm. In the end, the prospect of a stroll above the loch in the beautiful evening light proved too much to turn my back on. I decided to head for Meall Blair, the furthest west of three Graham peaks on the north side of the loch.
Multiple roadworks and the traffic around Fort William added to the time delay. Then there was the never inconsequential matter of the long, twisting road along the lochside, which seems to go forever, and the fact that recent hydro work has changed the landscape so that the start of the walk became difficult to find at the first attempt.
It was now 5.35, and I wondered if I should abandon the attempt for another day. Then I remembered I would have to drive in here again on this rollercoaster road from hell and just went for it.
The heat was intense, but the climb was fast, and I was on the summit in under an hour and a half. As I crested the final approach, a long line of deer were trotting along the horizon in formation, startled by my unexpected arrival.
The views were sublime; the Corryhully and Arkaig Munros standing in retreating shades of blue above the head of the loch, late sunlight turning the waters a shimmering silver, and the seemingly endless swathes of bog cotton swaying like miniature candy floss in perfect harmony.
I made it in time to The Saddle Hostel at Invergarry for the night, then it was off early again next morning, the scenic drive through Glen Shiel and over the Mam Ratagan pass into Glenelg. Beinn a’ Chapuill may be of modest height, but from the road along by the Pictish brochs it looks formidable, a long ridge rising in a series of steps.
The first obstacle came in the form of a bovine roadblock on the track past the farm, the cows and calves stretched out enjoying the sun. A swift bypass and I was into mixed woodland, dappled light and shade, a cuckoo's incessant call and the constant purr and buzz of darting dragonflies, those helicopter gunships of the insect world.
The next problem was finding the turn-off into the woods where a small suspension bridge gives access to an overgrown path and then the open hillside.
Beinn a’ Chapuill is one of those hills that never seems to get any closer; every new rise a cruel trick. The summit area is typically Graham as well, lots of possible spots vying for the highest point, but at least with the perfect visibility it was easier to be sure.
On the way down I met a walker on his way up, another victim of Chapuill’s cruel and illusory promises. He had been intending going on to Beinn Sgritheall but the unexpectedly brutal, pathless ascent was giving him second thoughts.
My journey now took me over to Beauly where I was staying with friends, a great jumping off point for the Affric moon adventure.
I had only been on the road for two days, but the effort so far made it feel more like I had spent two weeks lost in the woods, such was the tanned, weary and dishevelled figure which appeared at their door.
Never mind, I'm certain the Strawberry Moon will spark a remarkable restoration.