Helen Rose's Hillwalking Diary. Ossian. February, 2002.

Ossian February 2002

Photo: Loch Ossian HotelA weekend at Ossian is a return to nature without running water, electricity and plumbed toilets. A group of us hill walkers have an annual winter expedition to this remote hostel to celebrate Burn's night. Why do we subject ourselves to this kind of deprivation when we could be cosy in our nice centrally heated houses? Because it is located on the edge of a beautiful loch in a remote area surrounded by mountains and we enjoy bonding as a group of twenty where we are all in it together!

The Scottish Youth Hostel Association (SYHA) hostel is a wooden building owned by the Ben Alder Estate and was formerly a boathouse. It is leased to the SYHA and provides 20 beds in two dormitories. When I first visited it about six years ago, there was no lighting in the dormitories but now there is a wind turbine providing for lighting in the dormitories and kitchen. Unfortunately, the old stove for heating the kitchen has been replaced by an approved stove which is less effective but much safer. The warden has a rather unpleasant job of emptying the latrine pails daily into a cesspit but the system works fine for the hostellers. As the hostel is not accessible by road being on a private estate, you have to walk from the train at Corrour Halt down the track which takes about thirty minutes and all food and drink has to be carried in. The hills around Corrour Halt were featured in the film 'Trainspotting'. The journey by train from Glasgow is on the West Highland line which is famous for spectacular scenery.

Photo: Loch Ossian

We settled in at the hostel and cracked open the wine and whisky bottles as there are no pubs to drop into. Unfortunately the weather was very wet and windy in contrast to last year when it was a winter wonderland of snow and ice with the loch frozen over, People were able to walk over the ice to the islands studding the loch and you could hear the creaking as the ice moved during the night. Still, we hardy walkers are used to the vagaries of the weather and on Saturday we donned the wet weather gear and went for a pleasant eight mile walk around the loch. At the head of the loch we peeked into the new contemporary castle being built by the estate owners. It had the usual features of a castle such as cloisters, a baronial hall and high walls but with a difference! There was a glass pyramid at the front and a conservatory type extension on a very large scale at the rear with contemporary lighting. Lucky the architect who designed this castle as there cannot be many new contemporary castles being built. Look out for a television programme on this building in future.

As there were still some daylight hours left, some of the group decided to climb Beinn na Lap which overlooks the loch but we continued on beyond the loch in the direction of Loch Treig. As the path became increasingly muddy we gave into temptation and returned to the hostel for hot drinks. In the evening, we had a three course communal meal with lots of drinks consumed. Ian Mac had made a 'Clootie Dumpling' for pudding. This is an old Scottish tradition and is like Christmas Pudding but steamed in a floured cloth which gives it a nice crust. Big Davey played his guitar for a sing song when we murdered all the songs in the song book, or at least I did as I can't sing but it does not stop me when I have had a few drinks. No, we did not have haggis as there had been a problem in previous years when it exploded in the pot and covered the walls!

Loch Ossian

The weather worsened and even the deer were trying to get into the toilets outside to shelter but Ian made a big pot of Scotch Broth for lunch on Sunday and we had a pub quiz. All good fun and most of us did manage a small walk during the day but it was not the weather for going up the hills. On the train back to Glasgow, we dried out our waterproofs thanks to the efficient heating on the train although at the hostel the deer antlers above the door from the kitchen had provided a handy hanging space for dripping outdoor clothes. It was good to get back to civilisation and a hot bath but I would not miss the Ossian trip for anything. Roll on next January!

SYHA are at www.syha.org.uk

Coming Attractions: A long weekend in Rum, a cultural walk in Vienna and walking in Brazil.

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