The Fara
May 1, 2019, 10:03 pm
Filed under: running

Thursday 25th April was my last day at work, I am now officially a pensioner. So that means we can go gallivanting any day we want, EVEN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WEEK! I was desperate to head north and climb hills under big skies, so planning started on Friday, while I was still recovering from the fantastic send-off my colleagues gave me.

The train timetable has changed slightly, making an early start easier on the Inverness line (the tight change at Stirling has been replaced by a comfortable one at Perth), so Dalwhinnie and the Fara were chosen for what was forecast to be a clear day on Monday.

We got off the train at quarter past 9 and, with no cafes or shops to distract us, were walking along the track to Ben Alder Lodge within 5 minutes. The cloud had lifted from the peaks before we got off the train and the views along Loch Ericht were stunning, with the loch reflecting a perfect azure sky.

At the gatehouse for Ben Alder Lodge, we turned north-west to skirt the forest and start climbing up to Meall Cruaidh at the start of the ridge. The was no path to speak of but the ground was dry and the route clear across moss and grass. Walkhighlands describes this route in the opposite direction, but we wanted to get the trudge along the track out of the way at the start and keep the chilly breeze on our backs. So we took the excuse of having to turn round for the views to stop for elevenses. The views were definitely worth stopping for, with Ben Alder and
Geal-Chàrn still holding just enough snow to mark out gullies on their north slopes.

The ridge continued, with the panorama opening up to the west and north, and Loch Ericht sparkling to the east. It was a steady climb on dry grey moss crunching underfoot with the cairn on the Fara getting ever closer; just about the right effort for our first proper walk of the year.

When we crested the hill into Coire na Ceardaich there were a few unexpected patches of snow. And though the wind was quite chilly, we found a convenient nook in some crags for a sheltered lunch spot. Most of the moss looked grey and desiccated but there were little patches of staghorn clubmoss creeping across the ground, looking like flattened out pine trees.

It was a cracking day; the weather was perfect, we had the hill to ourselves, the wide pathless ridge was a delight to walk along, the views were amazing … and then to top it off we saw a pair of ptarmigan. Their camouflage is just right for the granite and lichen – there’s a bird in each of these photos, but you have to look quite hard to find one of them.

The summit of the Fara is marked by a cairn built across the end of a dyke, which makes it more interesting than it would otherwise be but there are some more photogenic crags on the rise to the south. But it’s the all-round views that make the Fara worthwhile, and as it turns out, fairly easy to fit in a day from Edinburgh by public transport.

At the 911 metre summit we realised, as we often do, that we could make an earlier bus than the one we had planned, if we put a bit of a shift on. The descent was steep, over peat hags and tussocky grass, giving me jelly legs by the time we reached the track but we didn’t have to run to the stop as we did on our previous trip to Dalwhinnie.

We travelled home gratis, courtesy of our old gits’ bus passes, and were home by 8pm. Public transport requires a bit more planning than jumping in a car, and generally takes a bit longer, but the 7 hours walking was definitely worth the same time spent travelling. I reckon we’ll be making good use of Traveline, the Met Office and Walkhighlands websites this summer. Retirement is where the fun begins.

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