Sutherland gem: Run-hike of Ben Bhraggie and Beinn Lunndaidh
I am enjoying the wide variety of outdoors activities on my new doorstep in the Scottish Highlands. An hour from home is the village of Golspie, in Sutherland. A popular hill walk takes you to the monument that remembers the Duke of Sutherland on Ben Bhraggie. Above this hill is another summit, marked by a trig pillar, on Beinn Lunndaidh.
My friend Claire and I decided to follow path and trails, as well as a tramp across heathery moorland, to reach the highest point in the coastal hill range.
While Ben Bhraggie is far better known because of the huge monument, also called The Mannie, Beinn Lunndaidh is worth a hike thanks to rewarding and far-reaching views on the eastern side of Sutherland.
History of The Mannie
The memorial to the Duke of Sutherland was built on Beinn a’ Bhragaidh following his death in 1833. The plinth and statue rises to more than 30 metres.
But the monument is controversial and there have been attempts to dynamite it and cause it to fall over.
This is because the first Duke of Sutherland was George Granville Leveson-Gower, who was played a role in the Highland Clearances when thousands of tenants were evicted from their homes in coastal villages.
The clearances meant that the vacated land could be used for sheep farming, which replaced the mixed farming carried out by the previous occupants.
However, there are people who believe the statue should stay, rather than being removed, as a reminder of what happened to the region of Sutherland during the clearances.
Whatever your opinion, The Mannie is a striking monument and can be seen from many miles away.
Circuit of Beinn a’ Bhragaidh (Ben Bhraggie)
For a shorter walk or run of about 10km follow a circuit clockwise from a car park in Fountain Road, in the middle of Golspie. At first, the route is on tarmac road before it heads on to a track and past a farm. There are helpful signs pointing the way to the hill.
The ascent is fairly steep and Claire and I mixed uphill running with brisk walking to quickly gain height. You’ll notice other signs and pointers for mountain bike trails here, too. These are part of the Highland Wildcat Trails centre.
At one point, our walking route headed underneath a large wooden mountain bike feature.
It didn’t seem to take long to reach the Duke of Sutherland monument where we stopped for a short while to enjoy expansive coastal views.
Looking west and away from the coast, a wide track heads further uphill. The going is gentler and more runnable. The 397m summit of Ben Bhraggie is about 500m on from the monument.
Form here, Claire and I planned to reach the higher summit of Beinn Lunndaidh. I notice on-line that some walkers head directly north west over moorland to Lunndaidh. Instead we continued on the Beinn Bhraggie circuit for a while.
The route descends north and north-west before swinging easterly. We enjoyed the gentle downhill on a wide and obvious path.
Just before another turn towards the entrance to Ben Bhraggie Woods (there is a high gate), look for another track going north-westerly. It’s signed “Glenview Point”.
Extended run to Beinn Lunndaidh summit
A wide track climbs towards a viewpoint. We actually went as far as this before realising we should have looked for a smaller path heading win a more westerly direction.
Our aim was the shore of Loch nan Caorach, before a hike on heather and grassy tussocks to Lunndaidh summit at 446m.
On the way to the summit we found few trods and we simply headed uphill.
We skirted the southern shore of the pretty lochan and then hiked uphill again towards the highest point in the hill range.
Of course, we meandered a bit on the open hillside due to the terrain and due to the fact we were chatting. As we climbed, the direction became more obvious although we found no paths.
A stiff breeze was wonderfully cooling on a surprisingly warm late September day.
Once at the summit, which is marked by a trig pilar, it was easier to see a more direct route back to the northern shore of the lochan.
At first there was a faint trod and while there were further bits and pieces of trods, mainly we hiked over rough heather-covered ground.
Looking at the map of our route, I’d suggest it’s better to head for the northern shore of the loch to gain a more direct route to the summit. You could do this from where the track ends at the viewpoint.
The run downhill through woods and a gorge
I can’t recommend the last section of our run more highly. A wide track gives way to sweeping single track as you head through beautiful woodlands.
It was very uplifting as summer turns to autumn to see the afternoon sun rays managing to penetrate the tree tops.
Lower down the slopes we headed alongside a winding river that carved through high stone walls of a gorge.
We criss-crossed the river many times on wooden bridges and saw beautiful waterfalls and the fast-flowing waters of the river. It’s truly a delightful place.
Eventually the path headed under a stunning viaduct to reach the pavement alongside the main road through Golspie. It didn’t take long to run on tarmac back to the car park to complete the circuit.
Our watches said 17km and a total ascent of 720m.