After completing our Rum Circumperambulation, we pitched the tent at the shore front campsite, had a shower at the marvellous Kinloch Castle hostel and enjoyed a mince pie and chips in the castle ‘bistro’. Once dinner was despatched, there was only one thing for it – a pint of Red Cuillin ale in the lovely castle common room bar.
After warming our bones in front of the magnificent fire awhile, we tottered off to the tent. It had started raining and continued all night and for much of the following day with varying intensity – from drizzle to monsoon and back again with only brief pauses. Walking was entirely off the agenda, but the castle made for a fine refuge from the weather. We hung around the castle all day, playing scrabble, eating in the bistro and enjoying a guided tour of the castle generously conducted by Linda Hoejlund, the visitor service manager. It was fascinating looking around this treasure house of exotic Edwardiana, but we gained an insight into the mammoth scale of the task facing Linda and her team, just to keep the castle ticking over. Kinloch Castle is in need of extensive renovation work including a major overhaul of the roof. It would be a real shame if the castle were to slump into creeping entropy – it’s a major asset for the island and its tiny community, but the SNH (Scottish National Heritage) has limited resources.
That evening, after a very agreeable day of relaxation, we enjoyed ‘oriental night’ in the bistro before making the inevitable pilgrimage to the bar. ‘Are you away tomorrow?’ asked the lovely barmaid. Fiona replied that we were catching the 2pm ferry and the barmaid said that this was a shame as the weather was forecast to be spectacularly good.
That was it. Back to the tent, alarm set; an appointment with the Rum Cuillin was on the morning’s agenda.
Up before dawn, we collected our waterproofs, gaiters and boots from the castle drying room and set of along the path by the Allt Slugan.
The path is very distinct and easy to follow as it climbs beside the river – crossing a couple of burns flowing into it along the way – until it reaches the Coire Dubh. This didn’t stop me losing the path by crossing what looked like a ford across the river and following some ATV tracks which soon became indistinct. Once we’d gained the corrie I could see the path on the other side of the river and realised my error. We kept close to the river and soon arrived at a partially collapsed old stone dam. Here the path conveniently crossed to our side of the river. This is where the path marked on the OS Explorer map runs out. A short distance ahead, 160 metres above and almost directly south of where we stood, the low point of the Bealach Bairc-mheall between Barkeval and Hallival provided the obvious line of ascent. However, there was no sign of a path making directly for the bealach, but there was a distinct path skirting around the eastern side of the corrie as it ascended. this looked promising, so we followed her up. After gaining around 100 metres, we realised that this path would take us over the Cnapan Breaca, which made for a more direct route to the eastern end of the bealach and thence onto Hallival, this is the route used by folk who are not involving Barkeval in their round of the Rum Cuillin.
Once over the Cnapan Breaca, we were gazing up at the magnificent spectacle of Hallival above us with bright morning sunlight flooding around the distinctively-shaped summit from the east.
As we climbed, a sheen of frost was evident on the rocky terrain. From below, several large, vertical outcrops of gabbro looked to present something of an obstacle between us and the summit. As is often the case, once we’d got amongst it there was no real problem stitching together a route up through the rocky terrain though the frost meant three-point contact was the order of the day. We were soon standing by the cairn on the 722-metre summit. It’s no overstatement to say that the views were breathtaking. In every direction. To the south stood the daunting eminence of Askival, at 812 metres the highest of the Rum Cuillin.
To the south-west, Trollaval (right) and Ainshval…
…and Sgurr nan Gillean beyond Ainshval – tucked behind Askival in this pic:
To the south-east, Eigg lay resplendent, bathed in the intense morning sunlight.
To the south-west, we looked down the Atlantic Corrie to Glen Harris and Barkeval, with Ard Nev, Orval and Fionchra beyond:
We could have stayed atop Hallival a long while on such a pristine morning, but we decided to knock off Barkeval while we were here and then leg it back for the ferry. Somewhat elated by the experience, we had to remember just how slippery the frost-sheened rock was in places. We descended to the bealach with due caution before climbing the 130 metres to the summit of Barkeval (591m). The actual summit is around three-quarters of a kilometre west beyond the first cairn encountered at 517 metres. There are several rocky outcrops on the summit ridge and finding the top in murky conditions would be a challenge. Today though we were enjoying the loveliest day that 2011 had yet produced.
Once we were on the true summit, we took in the views onto Ard Nev, Orval and Fionchra:
Down Glen Harris to Harris Bay:
The same view enhanced by Fiona’s Caspar David Friedrich-esque posing:
The view back up the Atlantic Corrie to Hallival and Askival was quite good too:
Checking my watch, I realised we only had two hours to get back down to Kinloch, strike camp, pack and hot foot it to the ferry slipway. Time to go.
We made it with five minutes or so to spare. It really was the best use of a morning I’ve had in a while; I think Fiona might agree. We celebrated with a fine lunch of CalMac haddock and chips. It’s not a bad old life.