Mountaineering master Stuart Johnston shines the spotlight on one of his favourite winter walks.
We all have a favourite walk or mountain route. Most people like me keep their favourite walks secret, because that's what makes them special... But I'll share one of my mountain getaways with you. The front runner for me is Schiehallion.
From where I live in Aberfeldy, it's a 20 minute drive to the Braes of Foss forest car park. One of Scotland's best known hills and one of the easiest Munros to climb on a summer's day, Schiehallion takes the form of a broad ridge. Its famous conical appearance is only apparent from the north side of Loch Rannoch.
The route follows an excellent path to the summit. On a clear day, you'll be treated to 360 degree views of Scotland (or as far as you can possibly see!) including views of Ben Nevis. Schiehallion has a defined ridge line route to the top, so from a navigation standpoint, it's less complicated than other mountains. However, people still get lost up there in poor visibility... but don't let that put you off!
If you go in winter, you've got to respect this mountain. It's caught out many a hill walker: when there's snow lying, you'll need an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly.
- In the 18th century Schiehallion was chosen as the site of the first ever measurement of the mass of the earth by Neville Maskelyne, Astronomer Royal, in 1774. The calculation was based on the way that the mountain's own mass caused a pendulum to pull away from the vertical. That's the man who invented the contour lines we all use on our maps today.
- The John Muir Trust owns 935 hectares of the mountain including the summit, path and the wonderfully wild Gleann Mor on the southern side. The Trust is aiming to bring new life into the mountain and has done extensive restoration work on the footpath.
- Clan history and romance… check out a book titled The Lady of Kynachan by James Irvine Robertson. It's packed with clan histories from pre-, during and post-Jacobite history including the run-up to Culloden. It’s a fantastic read even for the most rugged of you out there.
- Look out for birds of prey soaring and hunting over the mountain. There’s plenty of grouse, ptarmigan and whinchats and lots of unique alpine and arctic vegetation. On the lower slopes, discover Neolithic hut circles and clan shielings.
I never get bored journeying to the summit, or even walking around it. Experience it for yourself, just like Rabbie Burns on 29 August 1787. He arrived on the shores of Loch Tay as part of his famous 'Highland Tour'. Over 200 years later, every places he mentions or 'described in rhyme' is still able to be seen and visited. Find out more here
- Height: 1083m or 3547ft
- Meaning: Schiehallion is an anglicised form of the Gaelic name Sìdh Chailleann, which translates as 'Fairy Hill of the Caledonians'
- Distance: 9.5km/5.5m
- Height: 740m (from car park)
- Nearest town: Aberfeldy
- Nearest postcode: PH16 5NN
- Guide books I recommend: The Munros, Scotland’s Highest Mountains, by Cameron McNeish….