Helen Rose’s Outdoor Diary: Corran, Strontian. May 2022

Bunkhouse view silhouettes


There is an annual trip for the weekend by Glasgow HF Outdoor Club to the Bunkhouse at Corran. This is a misnomer as there are no bunks and it is a very comfortable private hostel mainly in two bedded rooms with a TV.  The views are stunning from the bunkhouse over to Ardgour.  There are two well equipped kitchens to cook meals or you can eat out and there is a large, comfortable lounge. It is at the Corran Ferry which goes over Loch Linnhe to the Ardgour Peninsula.  I go there almost every year since the club started organising it. Corran is in the north west of Scotland just south of Fort William. It is a lovely drive there through Glencoe and only about three hours on the bus from Glasgow. The mountains were wearing their white caps of snow and the views were spectacular from the bus. Many members had cancelled the weekend as there was a forecast of heavy snow but fortunately the snow ploughs and gritters were out early to clear the roads. Thirty made it to Corran and it was well worth it. On Saturday night Kathleen had cooked a lovely meal for our little group of five so it was so nice to relax with a glass of wine and later all meet together in the lounge to discuss the walks on offer for the following day.

Ariundle Forest

Some decided to climb a Corbett (a hill between 2,000 and 2,500 feet) and others a Munro (a hill over 3,000 feet high). Another group went to the Alta Muillin on Ben Nevis. Four of us decided to go on Jim’s walk to the Ariundle Forest and the Strontian Lead mines. I had never done this walk and it sounded interesting.

We took the car over on the Corran Ferry to Ardgour, a journey of about 5 minutes! There is no public transport on Ardgour so the car was essential to reach Strontian. When we reached Ardgour, we stopped to take photos as it was a sunny clear day and we could see Ben Nevis covered in snow. It is the highest mount in the UK at 4,600 feet from sea level and very near Fort William.

We drove to the village of Strontian along the shores of Loch Sunart. and parked at Ariundle Forest. The area is a National Nature Reserve. Ariundle (Airigh Fhionndail – the shieling of the white meadow) is a very special place. It’s one of the richest surviving fragments of rainforests that are restricted to the Atlantic seaboard. Otherwise, they are most notably in Ireland and Norway. Mosses, lichens and ferns grow in abundance in the lush coastal climate and the woods are home to rare and beautiful butterflies and dragonflies. There were good forest tracks that we were following and the mosses on the stones looked like little grassy stools.

We admired the lichen on the trees but did not see any wildlife. We actually see more wildlife in our urban garden with foxes, squirrels, roe deer and birds of prey. Wildlife has moved in to cities as food is more plentiful there. National Nature Reserves (NNRs) are truly inspiring places where you can see the incredible sights and sounds of our natural world. There are NNRs throughout Scotland with nationally or internationally important habitats. h

Strontian Lead Mines

We carried on walking leaving the forest and in to open countryside which had a layer of snow. Our leader plodded on ahead with us following as the track had disappeared under the snow. We could see up to the mountains ahead above the burn as the mines are on the slopes of Beinn Ruighe Raonuill and occur on the northern edge of a granite intrusion of granitic gneiss.

Strontian lead mines were one of Britain’s most remote mining fields. It had taken several hours to reach the mines as they are three miles north of Strontian. All that is left now are some deep clefts in the ground and the banking where there would have been a railway. Ariundle timber became valuable as pit props and to make charcoal for local lead smelters.

In 1722, Alexander Murray of Stanhope discovered lead on his estate at Strontian and formed a partnership to work it. The company also built a smelt mill but owing to their remoteness found it difficult to keep the mines supplied with the necessary equipment and fuel. Murray supported the Jacobite cause and the mines situation on the west coast of Scotland ensured their involvement in the aftermath of the 1745 Rebellion.  The Rebellion was an attempt by Charles Edward Stuart to regain the British throne for his father James Francis Edward Stuart. The Jacobite Army entered England reaching Derby in the midlands where they decided to turn back.

The mines were immortalised by the discovery of the mineral strontianite in 1761 and the element strontium was identified in 1791. Strontian is safe but it is not to be confused with the artificial strontian-90 which is radioactive and is one of the most dangerous components of nuclear fallout. In 1991 Strontian Minerals Ltd changed the landscape by mining baryte on a massive scale but the operation failed after eight years.

We retraced our steps through the forest back to the Ariundle Centre for welcome refreshments after such an interesting walk in good company.

Wild Swimmers

Wild swimming is essentially swimming outdoors in natural spaces, such as rivers, lochs or the sea. It has seen a surge in popularity in recent years with more and more people taking to the water on a regular basis. Bear in mind this is Scotland and the water is always cold. However, it did not deter three from our group taking to the water at Corran for a quick morning dip but they were wearing wet suits! It is not something I would want to try but I have the utmost admiration for these brave and hardy people.

Thanks to Jim for leading the walk and Paul for arranging a great weekend enjoyed by all. Also thanks to the Kathleens’ for cooking our wee group delicious dinners. Roll on next year at Corran!

Coming attraction: Stirling

Helen Rose's Outdoor Diary: Stirling
Helen Rose Outdoor Diary: University of Glasgow. April 2022

This section: Helen Rose Hillwalking Diary

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