Hills: Creag Thoraraidh and Cnoc na Maoile
Date: Sunday 5th April 2015
Company: Myself and Cuillin
Distance: 16.7km, Ascent: 735m
Time: 4Hrs 50Mins

Earlier this week, I re-read my trip report from April 2010 of my ascent of Maiden Pap, Smean, Morven and Scaraben. This inspired me to revisit the area today to ascend the two Sub2000ft Marilyns above Helmsdale.

The drive North passing through Golspie, Brora and Helmsdale is always an enjoyable one. This morning was no different. On reaching Helmsdale the temperature was already 9C.

I set off walking with the intention of ascending Creag Thoraraidh from Navidale, returning to the car and then driving round to Caen, on the A897, to ascend Cnoc na Maoile.

Click here to see a map of the route undertaken

The track ascending Creag Thoraraidh is actually a tarmac road that goes to within a few hundred metres of the summit.

Creag Thoraraidh from Navidale track:

The ascent via the tarmac road was nice and easy. I saw numerous bird species during the ascent including Goldfinch, Grouse and Skylark.

Track leading up Creag Thoraraidh to the radio mast:

Looking down to Marrel:

The air clarity today was quite good. I could make out the Bin of Cullen, Ben Rinnes and the Cairngorms across the Moray Firth.

Looking across the Moray Firth to the Cairngorms (zoom):

The tarmac road led to a large radio mast that was not marked on my map. I assume this mast is fairly new.

Approaching the radio mast:

Beyond the mast, I made my way across wet moss and heather to the featureless summit.

Looking towards the transmitter:

Morven, Smean and Scaraben from the featureless summit of Creag Thoraraidh:

After visiting the summit, I took a small diversion to also visit the trig point.

Cuillin atop the trig point on Creag Thoraraidh:

On looking at the map, I happened to notice another top of equal height. Both Creag Thoraraidh and Cnoc Coir' a' Phuill are both 404m. I wasn't sure if these tops had been surveyed to establish which was higher so I decided to head out to Cnoc Coir' a' Phuill just in case it was the actual summit.

It would appear these hills have been surveyed and Creag Thoraraidh is 20cm higher than Cnoc Coir a' Phuill.

Heading across to Cnoc Coir' a' Phuill:

The terrain between Creag Thoraraidh and Cnoc Coir' a' Phuill was fairly wet underfoot. Heading out to this slightly lower top was definitely worthwhile as it is a better viewpoint than Creag Thoraraidh.

Morven, Smean and Scaraben:

Morven (zoom):

Smean (zoom):

Scaraben (zoom):

Looking back to Creag Thoraraidh from pole near the summit of Cnoc Coir' a' Phuill:

At the summit of Cnoc Coir' a' Phuill, I decided that it would now make more sense to walk out to Cnoc na Maoile instead of returning to the car and doing this hill from the A897.

The walk from Cnoc Coir' a' Phuill to Cnoc na Maoile was again very wet underfoot. If tackling these hills, it would be best to wait until there has been a prolonged dry spell.

Heading from Cnoc Coir' a' Phuill across to Cnoc na Maoile:

Cnoc na Maoile:

Smean and Scaraben:

Looking back towards Creag Thoraraidh:

Creag Thoraraidh and the Moray Firth:

Looking across the Moray Firth towards the Cairngorms:

After what seemed like an eternity of bog stomping, I reached the summit of Cnoc na Maoile. Cnoc na Maoile is a good viewpoint.

Morven, Smean, Maiden Pap and Scaraben from the summit of Cnoc na Maoile:

View out West:

Cuillin at the summit of Cnoc na Maoile:

The walk back towards Navidale was not great. On reflection, I think it would have been better to cross the Caen Burn further upstream.

Crossing the Caen Burn:

It was nice to eventually pick up the tarmac road which I followed back down to Navidale. The temperature was now 19C; a scorchio Easter Sunday .