Slioch and Treeless Forests

Majestic is the word.

One of the classic vistas of the Highlands of Scotland is looking South East down Loch Maree towards Slioch. A view fit for a Queen. Indeed Queen Victoria famously visited the loch in 1877. Her great great granddaughter will have visited too no doubt.

Of a little less historic significance my brother and I climbed Slioch in 2001. A cold overcast Summer’s day. Strangely for a mountain that dominates its immediate surroundings it remains hidden for the long walk that takes you to it’s base. My neighbour advised that by taking a boat across the loch direct to the base of Slioch this would obviate the 2 mile walk. But then you have to know someone with a boat on Loch Maree.

Very boggy underfoot to start the climb and heavy going until half way up. Most of the initial approach takes you up and alongside a substantial but precipitous burn, Abhainn an Fhasaigh, with some sizeable pools and waterfalls – bit steep for sea trout or salmon I would imagine but certainly some brownies – I wish I had my rod on me. Eventually with height the walking becomes easier and the approach from the South will take you onto a plateau and into Slioch Corrie.

From the corrie straight up the steep grassy banks and towards the summit (3,219 feet). From the summit there are wonderful views into the vast empty spaces of Letterewe Forest.  Loch Gharbaig and Lochan Fada are shown below (and on the O/S map below). I’m always amazed how much wilderness remains on our crowded island.

Sharp eyed readers will note that Letterewe Forest appears to have no trees. This phenomenon is not uncommon in the United Kingdom. It is certainly very common in Wester Ross: Applecross, Ben Damph, Glenshieldag, Kinlochewe, Shieldag and Torridon Forests have no trees either.

The word forest was introduced by the Normans and did not describe woodlands at all but rather a term meaning land that was separate from central administrative or common law. Often this  designated an area of hunting ground (mainly deer). This may or may not have been a wooded area. It was only until the 19th and 20th centuries that forest came to mean a large area covered with trees. The old names remained unchanged however which now leaves a lot of walkers scratching their heads at those ghostly upland forest areas marked on their O/S maps today.

On that note I’ll leave you with a tree – a Scots Pine by Loch Maree.


About The Weary Traveller

I like to walk up and down hills. I've been so very fortunate to have lived most of my life in the Far East (Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and the Middle East (Qatar, Oman and U.A.E). I now live and work in Bangkok. I'm past the half century now and can't help but feel that some of the mountains that I've climbed lately I should have done yesteryear. The mind is willing if the legs are not always so. Here are some stories and realized dreams of hills climbed and, dales and deserts crossed. With a bit of art thrown in. I hope you might enjoy.
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3 Responses to Slioch and Treeless Forests

  1. Lovely photos and, as always, some interesting trivia.

  2. Beautiful, my favourite part of the UK and the only place I have ever seen a pine martin.

  3. Andrew Elder says:

    The trees of the Fisherfield and Letterewe forests were harvested and burnt in local ironworks in the 1600s. Their roots can still be found in some of the peat hags of the area.

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