Bunloit, Loch Ness, Scotland.
On the slopes of Meall Fuar-Mhonaidh, the heather waved gently in the wind. The Gaelic name translates to ‘hill of the cold slopes’, slopes covered with a vegetation that was so typical for the highlands. Together with the signature Scottish weather, it accompanied me on my way to the top. Although it was an august day, not many tourists find their way up there.
After indulging in that ‘top of the hill’ moment for a while, I descended a bit. Going up and down on previously walked subsequent hills, until I found a spot guarded from the wind, overlooking the Scottish backland. I folded myself down between my feet on the moorland hill.
Whenever I find myself in a place that deeply resonates with me, I try to live as slowly as possible. A place like this. All around me the wind was playing with the grass and the heather, making wrinkles in the small ponds covering the hinterland. A landscape of hills and mountains, so typical and so familiar in strange ways. It had the habit of reminding me of lands further north.
Small bees and other insects flew around my feet, completely careless about my presence. Maybe because my feet (and honestly my legs too) were covered in a healthy layer of highland mud. The result of a good 10 centimetres of soil trying to slide down between hills while I was trying to sneak past.
I sat there for a good half an hour, trying to make a mental imprint of every little detail. The colours of the hills, the smell of the wind, the touch of the atmosphere. Accompanied by a spectacular view over Loch Ness, I resumed the descend.
The way to the highest point above Loch Ness starts at a small carpark at the end of the road in Bunloit, next to ‘Loch Ness Clay Works Pottery and Café’, a cosy place for a pot of tea after the hike! Coming from Drumnadrochit, a swirling road will take straight up to the parking lot. The starting point is clearly marked with a ‘hill footpath’ sign.
The hike starts by taking you through birch and hazel woodland, up through open moorland. This rocky part up through the heather is already breathtakingly beautiful. After a while you will have to cross a high stile deer fence. Looking behind your back, you will can see Loch Ness already. A view that will keep expanding as you walk the muddy path up to the top. The open land will not only expose you to slippery mud, but also to the elements, dress appropriately!
After ascending a good 500 meters (and a false top), you will be rewarded by a full view over not only the full length of Loch Ness, but also over the whole Great Glen Fault, from Ben Nevis to Inverness.
The top stands at 699 meters high and it will take you anywhere between 1,5 and 2,5 hours to walk the 4,5 kilometres to the top. You then walk the same way back down. The walk is fairly easy and straightforward, but you still have to ascend 500 meters, so don’t take it lightly either.