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Around the Small Shepherd

Uploaded by The Rambler Man on Oct 14, 2014
Region: United Kingdom

Route type: Other
Distance: 14.37km, 8.93 miles.   (0)

About trip

Minimum Time: 4hrs 30mins Ascent: 1,300ft Difficulty Level: 3 - Hard Paths: Rough, unmade paths, some boggy bits, no stiles Landscape: Remote high valleys into heart of hills Dog Friendliness: Good, some streams to cross Parking: Large parking area on south side of A82, marked by yellow AA phone post Public Toilets: Glencoe village (Note: Fords in Lairig Eilde can be impassible or dangerous after heavy rain) Description: This walk uses two through-routes on either side of Buachaille Etive Beag, the ‘Small Herdsman of Etive’. The Gaelic word ‘Lairig’ means a valley pass through the mountains. We follow Lairig Gartain for the outward part of the journey, and Lairig Eilde for the return, with a final link along the old Glencoe road. Passing Deer. This land is owned by the National Trust for Scotland, and there hasn’t been any deer stalking for 65 years. If you are really lucky, you might hear the mountain walls echoing with the roaring of the stags as you walk through Lairig Eilde (‘Pass of the Deer’). It’s an unforgettable sound - rather like a lion, but a little like a cow too. For most of the year the hinds gather in small family groups with their calves of the last two years, while the stags go around in loose gangs. Deer dislike midges, so in summer they’ll be on the high tops, though they may come down at night or in bad weather. In winter they’ll be in the valley bottom or even at the roadside. The calves are born in early June; they are dappled to camouflage them on the forest floor, which is their natural home. Within a few days they’re running with the herd. The grace and speed of a week-old deer calf across a peat bog is the envy of any hillwalker. The hinds have no antlers. The stags lose theirs in early summer and grow new ones ready for the rut: the September mating season. Large, manybranched antlers do not make a stag a better fighter, and are a serious drain on his system. They have probably evolved as display items, for intimidating other males and attracting females. A mighty roar may gain the stag the harem of a dozen hinds that he’s after. If not, a quick clash of antlers will usually settle the matter. These displays are a way of determining which stag would have won without putting either to the risk of injury. However, the stag is sometimes prepared to fight for his wives and such fights can end in the death of one or even both males. Red deer owe their widespread survival in Scotland to the men who preserved and nurtured them in order to hunt them every autumn. For ancient aristocrats and newly rich Victorian manufacturers, the sport of sneaking up on a stag with a rifle was exciting, virile and also impressively expensive. With no predators, deer must still be culled by shooting, even on NTS land where no sport stalking takes place. Such culling will be done at dawn, before walkers start disturbing the hill. While you're there: The Glencoe Folk Museum occupies a heather-thatched house in the centre of the village. It has items of interest rather than value, such as china, toys and medical utensils from the Victorian age, and weapons that were hidden away after the Battle of Culloden. What to look out for: The lousewort is a low plant with purple flowers, which slightly resembles heather but flowers earlier, in June and July. Its less common white variety outnumbers the pink on the way up Lairig Gartain. On the Etive side of the pass, only the pink form is seen. Once past the top of Lairig Eilde, almost all the plants are white. This would indicate that the very tops of the two passes are barriers to this plant, allowing separate valley types to develop. Where to eat and drink: The Kings House Hotel was built in 1590 as a hunting lodge for James VI (later James I of England). But its status as a ‘king’s house’ dates from 1799, when a squad of redcoats was stationed there to protect travellers. Kingshouse was an overnight stop for the drovers bringing cattle south to market every autumn. The green flats, popular today as an informal camp ground, were overnight grazing. Today it’s a much-appreciated stop-off for people on the West Highland Way, and for hillwalkers, climbers and skiers. Directions: A signpost to Glen Etive, at the edge of the car park, marks the start of the path into Lairig Gartain. The path is clear, but very boggy in places. It heads up-valley with the River Coupall down on the left. Gradually it draws closer to the river, but does not cross it. A large cairn marks the top of the path, which is slightly to the right of the lowest point of the pass. 2 The descending path is steeper, first down boggy grass, then stony and eroded to the right of the stream. After 0.5 mile (800m) the main path bears off right, and slants down the right-hand wall of the valley. Eventually it emerges on to the steep south ridge of Stob Dubh. 3 Here a path runs down to a gate in a deer fence just below, but there’s no need to go any further downhill. Follow a path above the deer fence, descending to cross the Allt Lairig Eilde. If the stream is too full to cross, you can return and go down through the deer fence to a wider but shallower crossing, 200yds (183m) downstream. Alternatively, you can head up on a small path to the right of the stream, hoping to find a safer crossing higher up. Having crossed the stream, follow the fence up to pass its corner. Turn right up a wide path that rises out of Glen Etive. 4 The path ascends to the left of the stream, passing several waterfalls. eventually it crosses the stream, now very much smaller, then continues straight ahead, crossing the col well to the right of its lowest point. A large cairn marks the top of the path. 5 The new, descending stream is also, confusingly, the Allt Lairig Eilde. The path crosses it by a wide, shallow ford and goes down its left bank. A mile (1.6km) further on, the path recrosses, using large boulders as steppingstones. It runs down to join the A82 near the cairn that marks the entry into Glen Coe. 6 Cross the road, and the river beyond, to join the old Glencoe road at an arched culvert. Turn right along the firm track, which soon rejoins the new road, then cross diagonally, on to a damp path. This runs to the right of the new road, then recrosses. It soon rejoins the A82 opposite the beginning of the walk.

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