A campervan trip to walk Corbetts, including Glas Bheinn, with my friend Rob saw us heading to the summit of Breabag on day two. The usual route is to visit the Bones Caves on the way. I have walked to the Bone Caves before on a previous trip to Ullapool.
The Bone Caves car park is on the A837, south of Inchnadamph. The walk begins by following an obvious path, through a gate and past a building. Th path continues along the banks of Allt nan Uamh, heading upstream and past a beautiful waterfall.
This is a very pretty steep-side glen, with the stream at the base. The path eventually reaches a pool of water at the head of Allt nan Uamh. If you look closely you can see bubbles coming from the ground under the water. The pool is formed by an underground watercourse but it’s not at first obvious that it is a spring and so you are left standing for a while wondering where the water is coming from.
Apparently, after reading more about this, large streams that seem to appear from nowhere are characteristic of a limestone landscape. Strangely, too, a large river bed higher up is almost entirely dry.
Looking up to the right (south), it’s possible to see the large Bone Caves above a steep cliff. You’ll see a path that leads up to the caves after crossing the river bed.
The Bone Caves of Assynt
The Bone Caves are a series of natural caves located high on a limestone cliff, Creag nan Uamh (Crag of the Caves). As you might expect, the caves are so named because of animal bones found during excavations.
There are four larger caves and they were created during the last Ice Age by water dissolving limestone in cracks in the surrounding rock. The process of glaciation and water erosion in the glen resulted in the caves being left undreds of feet above the base.
It has not been proven that people inhabited the caves although two human burial have been found inside the caves.
The history books reveal that there have been a number of excavations of the Bone Caves over the years and dating back to the late 1800s. Most notably, finds include a bear tooth, the jaw bone of a wild cat, more than 1000 pieces of reindeer antler and the skull of a Northern lynx. Other claims of bone finds include polar bear, arctic fox, wolf and brown bear.
Since it is thought unlikely the caves were ever inhabited by humans and the most likely explanation for the large number of bones inside the caves is that they were washed down inside after the glaciers retreated from the glen area. Another theory is the dead animals and subsequent bones were dragged in by hunting animals.
The finds from the caves are held at the Royal Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.
Continuing the walk to Breabag summit – and return
After detouring right up a path to see the caves, we made a wee error. Again, like the “detour” on the walk the day before, our hike off the route was due to our continued chat. The path past the caves climbed upwards and seemed inviting, especially as we could see a higher summit ahead.
Instead, we should have returned towards the dry riverbed and walked further along this stream bed towards a waterfall. This we did after wandering upwards and on to a terrain of heather. Then again, in retrospect, we could have continued to tramp up the heathery hillside but we were hopeful of finding a better trod on the route “proper”.
This required a bit of back-tracking. Finally arriving at the beautiful high waterfall and pool, we climbed steeply up to the right and out of the end of the glen. There is a bit of a path if you look carefully for it.
The hoped for path never materialised and we walked through heathery moorland and on to grassy patches where we could to make the ascent a bit easier.
It was quite hard work but the rewards were the amazing views that open up the higher we climbed. We spotted Canisp, which I walked late last year, Conival and Ben More Assynt.
We had a day of fine weather and it was easy to spot the summit area, although I have heard that it isn’t so easy to spot in poor visibility. A shelter cairn marks the top proper and we sat for a while enjoying our lunch and soaking up the superb views across Assynt, especially the iconic outline of Suilven.
We followed a similar route back and enjoyed the views from a different angle. We also spotted a huge herd of red deer and watched them as they rambled across the moorland.
Rob and I enjoyed two great Corbetts in the amazing landscape of Assynt – and promised each other it wouldn’t be another 18 months before we saw each other again!
Route details: Breabag, via the Bone Caves of Assynt
Total ascent: 930m.
Route: OS Maps.
Corbetts bagged: 80.