Ard Nev - 556m
Orval - 571m
Sron an t-Saighdeir - 523m
Bloodstone Hill - 388m
Fionchra - 463m
Sgaorishal - 280m

Tuesday 27th June 2017

Weather/Conditions: Good summer weather
Distance/Ascent/Time: 26km / 1300m / 7h 20m
Accompanying: Kate for the track in, then alone

Rum has a bunch of lesser-known summits away from its famous Cuillin, hills of modest height and different character. They are hills of escarpments and crumbling basalt, volcanic outliers to the gabbro core; again not unlike Skye.

To be frank, I found Rum had a somewhat strange character. This has been written about before by others, but I don't think I brought much in the way of preconceptions to it. It's an island that surprised me in ways; not quite what I expected.

The Rum Cuillin hold their own on this island. But the lower western hills which I next chose to climb have a bit less ‘going on’, and they stand against, and look out over the empty ocean. Glens fall from their western flanks into the water and nothing else is to be seen; both the Scottish mainland and Kinloch itself are shut off by the enclosing hilltops. There is a strange emptiness on Rum. It is an island that has seen its fair share of abuse from the landowning classes over the centuries; I somehow feel the empty glens here resonate to the people who are now vanished. In spite of a Highlands so ravaged by Clearance, I’ve rarely have this sensation elsewhere. On Rum it was prominent and a touch unsettling. This is no criticism on Rum the island but on its history and its present state in population distribution.

Kate and I left Kinloch in the morning, heading out the glen track west. A long walk took us under the crags of sea eagles to a junction; we took the Harris junction. I was keen to head for Ard Nev, Kate wasn't so fussed so she instead changed course for Harris, a place she also has connections with.

I then headed to Orval - or should that be Oireabhal... Or Oir-mheall? This is the highest of the group at a lowly 571m, but a nice bulky hill.

But it was when I disappeared down the back of Orval to Bloodstone Hill I really got this sense of abandonment. I stopped by the lochan on the Bealach an Dubh-bhràigh, a quiet location. Bloodstone Hill is an inconspicuous hill from the landward side. The very summit sits atop a monumental drop to the sea below. The drop is hardly vertical but the sense of space is awesome having slogged across so many grassy flat kilometres. I did not rush away from here! Sometime in the future I'd like to do a round-trip of Rum's coast, either by kayak or perhaps by walking. There are the bothies to do it, and continual interest of the coastal scenery. It would take a few days but probably not at any great push. Maybe one day.

I crossed through the upper reaches of Glen Guirdil. For some reason I felt stretched here, and I'm not sure why. Perhaps it was the cumulative fatigue of the previous weeks; I was finding it hard to make the legs move. It was also a strangely lonely place to be. I didn’t feel lonely myself; the place did. I stood for a look at the old shielings, and thought about the quietness of a life eked out here. Maybe it wouldn't have been so quiet had everyone not been shipped off? On Rum youwould at least have been a population spread more akin to Lewis’ rural areas, as opposed to the nothingness of many a Highland estate. Fionchra, just above me, had strange little cliffs with a conspicuous fallen block. On the opposite coire wall, Orval has some impressive basalt-like cliffs with an impressive hanging prow. Neither of these cliffs have names on the map. It is an empty place for sure.

The isolation dulled somewhat climbing over the top of Fionchra. I went north from the summit into Glen Shellesder, and into some pretty dense undergrowth. For a barren island, Rum can occasionally be lush! Sgaorishal is a small top, but was also on my Rum list - my penultimate top at that. I forgot to get a 360 panorama from the summit then went east back to the track for the walk out back down to Kinloch.

The evening was just as memorable; I went to the shop to find Kate, who having lived on Rum, was in with everyone locally already. Burgers were on for anyone who wanted, and then someone mentioned I was a drummer. That escalated to a session in the little hours of the morning on a drum kit with Dave and Jed on bass and guitar. It been a month or two since I'd drummed and it felt good! What a mad place is Rum, a place of contrasts between the empty miles of the afternoon then a night of jamming with the guys.

360° Panoramas

Ard Nev


Bloodstone Hill

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 1.10pm Left community hall
(2.10) 3.20pm Ard Nev
(2.40) 3.50pm Oireabhal
(3.45) 4.55pm Bloodstone Hill
(4.55) 6.05pm Fionchra
(5.42) 6.52pm Sgaorishal
(6.15) 7.25pm Kilmory track junction
(7.20) c. 8.30pm Hostel

Written: 2017-12-18