Day 5 Tuesday 14th May 2019 Loch Ossian Youth Hostel to Ben Alder Cottage

Reproduced from Map data: Ordnance Survey ©Crown Copyright and/or database right 2016. License number 100043379.

Follow Loch Ossian south bank. Visit Maxwell Memorial at Corrour Lodge. Cross river Uisge Labhair circa NN 460 723 and join SE bound track through Bealach Cumhann to Ben Alder Cottage.

Follow Loch Ossian south bank. Visit Maxwell Memorial at Corrour Lodge. Cross river Uisge Labhair circa NN 460 723 and join SE bound track through Bealach Cumhann to Ben Alder Cottage.
OS Landranger series maps: 41, 42
Length: 19.22 km                         
Total Ascent:  394m
Total Descent: 415m
Max Elevation: 668m
Min Elevation: 369m
Route Profile:    

This morning I will leave Loch Ossian Youth Youth Hostel and follow the South bank of the Loch. The Thieves’ Road is a heritage path that follows the north bank, but I will catch that in a short while.

I am walking today through the Corrour estate. The advent of overlords following the 1707 act of union benefited mostly English Lords, and left the lands across Scotland to a similar fate as experienced here are Corrour, bereft of the crofters who had sustainably managed their little patches for centuries.

In the late 1800’s the estate was bought by Sir John Stirling Maxwell, a philanthropist, botanist and forester, and giver of green spaces to the people of Glasgow. I have fond memories of catching toddies and baggie minnows in Maxwell Park pond. He created an arboretum round Loch Ossian, and had specimens of all manner of plants and trees brought from as far as the Himalayas on the estate. He built Corrour lodge and housing for his employees, sturdy dwellings with modern bathroom facilities which were unheard of in rural environs!

Victorian influences changed the nature of the Corrour Estate, with train loads of gentry arriving to shoot deer and grouse. Corrour had been the last habitat of beaver in the wild in the UK, and the management of the estate took a turn for the worse. A downturn in bloodsports post WW1 saw the lodge utilised as a sanatorium, and fire destroyed it in the 1940’s. A newer lodge was built at the NE end of the Loch, and that remains standing today. Caledonian pine were wiped from the landscape of Corrour in 18 years of clear felling by the Forestry Commission, deer over grazed, heather and gorse wasn’t burned, and the delicate ecosystems began to be affected.

Today, the owners of the estate recognise their responsibilities as stewards of the land. They are working closely with the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the John Muir Trust among a host of organisations, to recover the landscape and reintroduce flora and fauna to recreate some semblance of ecology lost.

Read more from the owners here

At the NE end of the Loch I will visit the memorial to Sir John Stirling Maxwell, close to the Corrour Shooting Lodge, and it is here I join the
The Thieves’ Road, a route between Dalwhinnie in the east, on the A9 for 70km to Fort William. A smuggler’s path and drove road, it avoided more tramped routes, and cattle thieves would travel from Badenoch and Strathspey to Fort William to make their fortune. The Black Watch was established to counter cattle theft, and they had barracks at either end of this route. I will follow along the banks of Uisge Labhair for around 5 miles.

The route continues over Bealach Dubh, but as I stop here and leave the route to head SE, I reflect on what lies on the opposite side of the bealach from here, the wreckage of WWII Wellington bomber (L7867 JM-J) that crashed on 10th December 1942 whilst on a navigation training exercise from RAF Lossiemouth. The plane actually crashed on the higher slopes of Geal-charn, with one survivor Gunner Sgt P E Underwood. Ponies from the shooting estate removed most of the wreckage from the higher slopes, but some remnants were left and can still be seen today.

3 miles SE form my turning point I reach Ben Alder Cottage. These south facing slopes of Ben Alder once sheltered Bonnie Prince Charlie and his followers from English troops as he made his escape to France.

Photo credit: Active Traveller

Anyway, back to the lochside. I love this wee bothy (there is no ghost), and have visited many a time on through route walks, and on planned treks up Ben Alder itself. The stone part is kept open for walkers by the estate, with the timber extension retained for estate use only. It has a multi fuel stove, but fuel can be scarce in the area. Nonetheless it provides fantastic shelter in inclement weather. If occupied, there is ample good ground for camping. The location here is amazing Red deer a plenty will come off the mountain in the evening to drink from the river, and there are inquisitive otters in the loch. Eagles nest on the crags of Ben Alder, so it’s worth bringing a scope for a bit of birding.

See you tomorrow.

Categories: For Bracken, TGOC2019Tags: , , , , ,
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