Date: Saturday 16th April 2016
Company: Just myself
Distance: 11.9km, Ascent: 250m
On looking out the hostel window on Saturday morning, I could see lots of
snow on the hills and the weather looked fairly dismal. Having ascended
Roineabhal on Friday, the most southerly Marilyn on Harris, I decided on
Saturday to ascend Muirneag, the most northerly Marilyn on Lewis. Hopefully the weather would improve
on the drive North.
On approaching Tarbert and the North Harris hills, the roads were covered in snow
and it was dingin' doon. However on approaching Stornoway, I left the bad weather behind continuing
northwards with blue sky overhead. Good idea to head North.
ascend Muirneag, I decided to start from New Tolsta to take advantage of a
landrover track heading a short distance in towards the hill. On the OS
Landranger map, the land beyond looked extremely flat. Extremely flat land
often means very wet. There are no trip reports for an ascent of this hill
on either WalkHighlands or Scottish Hills. I therefore suspect this hill is
not frequently climbed.
On arriving in New Tolsta,
I parked just to the side of the start of the track leading to Loch Diridean.
I set off walking along the track towards Loch Diridean. The walk along the track was pleasant.
Track leading from New Tolsta to Loch Diridean:
Looking North from Loch Diridean track:
As I approached the end of the track, I wondered if there might be a track, a path, ATV tracks
or even animal tracks beyond. No such luck! The circa 4km from the end of the track to the base of Muirneag are completely trackless.
Loch Diridean from the track end with Muirneag in distance:
Walking 4km (each way) through trackless hags and bog was not overly inspiring. Never mind, I would hopefully see lots of wildlife? Nope, not a single bird!
Lots of hags and bog en-route to Muirneag:
From Loch Diridean, I pretty-much just headed in a straight line towards Muirneag
trying to avoid the worst of the hags and bog. I aimed for the middle of Loch na Cloich hoping that it would be easy to cross the narrow middle section.
Approaching Loch na Cloich:
Looking across Loch na Cloich to Muirneag:
Getting across the middle of Loch na Cloich was much easier than expected. There is a good land bridge between the two sections of loch with literally just a step over a wee burn in the middle.
Land bridge across the middle of Loch na Cloich:
Beyond Loch na Cloich, the terrain was still haggy and boggy.
Looking back across awful terrain:
Despite feeling like I had walked for miles, Muirneag still looked a long way off.
Muirneag still some way off:
I was looking forward to reaching the base of Muirneag as I suspected the terrain might improve on reaching the hill.
Unfortunately, the terrain up the hill was just as bad.
The next photo shows the extent of flat terrain I had crossed. Loch Diridean and the good initial track are
located behind the wee hill in the middle of the photo.
Looking back across the flat expanse of boggy ground:
Looking back during the ascent of Muirneag:
Looking back towards the Eye Peninsula:
I was glad, and somewhat relieved, to reach the summit of Muirneag although I was 100% aware that I had to return back the same way.
At the summit of Muirneag:
I actually quite enjoyed the views from the summit. There are not many, if any, hills in Scotland surrounded by such an expanse of flat terrain.
Looking back towards the start from the summit of Muirneag:
I didn't take many photos during the walk back. It was just a case of avoid
hags, avoid bog, avoid hags, avoid bog ...
Walking alongside Loch na Cloich:
With much relief, I reached the good track beyond Loch Diridean and continued out back towards the car. During the walk out, I could see the snow-covered hills of Assynt in the distance.
I think I kind of enjoyed Muirneag in some strange kind of way. I will not however be hurrying back for a second ascent