Càrn nan Tri-tighearnan is a relatively straightforward Fiona, although there are some giant peat hags to navigate. I enjoyed the walk with my friends Stew and Fraser.
A beautiful – if slightly crazy – drive
The drive to the start at Daless, which is located around mid-way between Nairn and Grantown-on-Spey, turned out to be a rewarding part of the adventure. After we turned off the A96, north of Inverness and before Nairn, at the junction for Cawdor Castle, the roads became ever increasingly narrow and hazardous.
I was grateful for the directions on my phone, which gave us confidence that the choice of turns on a spider’s web network of singletrack roads would take us to the base of the hill.
The final section of tarmac climbed and then zig-zagged Alpine-style downhill through a stunning woodland of Caledonian Pines. Eventually the tarmac ran out and we progressed on to a very rutted “road” with numerous potholes. We found out later that this in fact a public road but it can’t have seen much council maintenance for a while.
I engaged my best rally driving skills and we arrived somewhat later than predicted by Google maps.
The parking was at a large grassy area where the “road” ended and a track headed towards a large estate house.
As Stew, Fraser and I sorted out kit and clothing for the walk, two young estate workers drove past and stopped for a chat. They were curious about what we were doing and we told them we were heading for two trig pillars and the summit of a Fiona.
It’s likely they have driven close to the trigs many times because a wide Landrover track winds uphill to reach a height just below the undulating plateau.
Hike of Càrn nan Tri-tighearnan
The route took us immediately over a shallow ford on Allt Breac and then on to the wide track. We started at an elevation of about 230m and followed the track south, then west and then north-west. There were a couple of junctions as we walked uphill but it was easy to work out our route on the map.
I noted that there is another track that heads north from where we parked, before tracking west. It doesn’t matter which you choose to hike because they both reach the same point at another small ford at around 350m elevation.
The views along the Findhorn valley, where the River Findhorn snakes far below, were stunning.
The track then took us west and continued to climb. We passed by a series of grouse shooting platforms (is that what they are called?) and carried on uphill. We walked more track than is shown on the OS Map before heading on to a rugged heather and moss terrain.
We had been warned by various walk reports that this section would be rough – and i can confirm it was.
Heather, moss and giant peat hags
It was helpful that the heather had died back a bit in winter because it was shorter than I imagine it will be in summer. The moss was squat and spongey in most places. There were a few sections of trod, although I expect these were made by animals rather than humans.
The hills were alive with dozens of mountain hares, rather conspicuous in their winter white fur. I don’t think I have seen as many mountain hares on one mountain before.
I wondered why other walkers had made a fuss about the rough vegetation because it seem fairly easy going to start with. There was very little ascent, too, so we all spread out across the mountain plateau walking at our own pace.
But then came the giant peat hags. They were much taller than us at many points and we needed to repeatedly climb down and up, or walk through long channels of clumpy damp peat. This made our progress much slower and our route wiggled across the land.
Rather than feeling frustrated, I was calmed and amazed by the surreal nature of the environment. It was magnificent, even if it was tricky to walk over and through.
We were also fortunate because we could see the distant trig pillar on Càrn nan Tri-tighearnan. If it had been cloudy or claggy we would have needed to set a compass bearing and follow that to reach the highest point.
The final section was on spongey moss and to get to the trig we had to climb over a gate in a fence. The views were expansive and a real treat on a day that had a poor forecast at best.
It turned out to be a mostly dry morning with some sunshine, although the wind was fierce at higher elevation.
After a quick stop at the trig at 614m height, we headed back across the mossy, heathery and peat haggy plateau. We tried to skirt around some of the deeper hags this time, although it was difficult to avoid them all.
Another trig at Carn an Uillt Bhric could be seen in the distance. It would be possible to bag this trig first and the Fiona second but we had traversed across the side of the hill to the south as we ascended earlier and so it made sense to head to Carn an Uillt Bhric on our return.
After stopping for a short while on Carn an Uillt Bhric at 599m elevation, we descended the rough terrain to the south-east. It wasn’t long before we rejoined the wide track and made a brisk downhill return.
We enjoyed the Findhorn valley views once again and looked across at a series of wind turbines and wondered why the wind was not turning them.
We were also delighted that the rain held off until we were sitting in my vehicle again and ready to negotiate the rutted track-road back towards Cawdor and the A96.
The route of 9.5km return with 450m of ascent was not arduous and it turned out to be a lot more enjoyable than any of us had expected.