I decided to head back up towards Bridge of Orchy today to visit a very special old woman. The Cailleach (Gaelic for “old woman” or “hag”) is a water-worn stone who “lives” with her family in a small house in a remote glen in western Perthshire.
In a tradition that stretches back certainly hundreds of years and possibly thousands, each year the family is brought out of the house in the spring, and returned to the house for the winter. Getting to the house, known as Tigh na Cailleach or Tigh nam Bodach isn’t particularly easy.
I decided on approaching from the Bridge of Orchy side as it’s a shorter route than from the more usual Glen Lyon side. Driving up the side of Loch Lomond from Glasgow I saw a Search & Rescue helicopter flying low over the water, and when I got to Bridge of Orchy it was sitting next to the car park beside the Bridge of Orchy Hotel.
I set off up the same path I used a few weeks ago (when I went to climb Beinn Dórain) towards Coire an Dóthaidh.
There’s a small pool of water in Coire an Dóthaidh and in it I had seen some large tadpoles back on my visit in August, so I had another look today in the hope of maybe seeing some frogs, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Once in Coire a’ Ghabhalaich instead of turning right for the path onto Beinn Dórain I carried on over into the glen on the other side which follows the Allt Coire a’ Ghabhalaich. After following the river for a while, I looked back up towards where I’d come from.
In front of me was the rounded mass of Beinn a’ Chùirn.
The ground here was very boggy after recent rain, so I moved off the glen’s floor and instead made my way along the (steep) lower edge of Beinn an Dóthaidh, all the while heading towards Beinn a’ Chùirn (with Loch Lyon beyond).
As I made my way north between Beinn an Dóthaidh and Beinn a’ Chùirn, the Allt Coire a’ Ghabhalaich curved south-east to join the Allt an Lùin and Allt a’ Chùirn and pass Beinn nam Fuaran.
Ahead of me I spotted some red deer, obviously finding the steep terrain much easier than I was!
After about three hours of walking I finally made it into Gleann Cailliche and started following the north bank of the Allt Cailliche which tumbles its way over a series of waterfalls through the glen to Loch Lyon.
Eventually I got to the Tigh na Cailleach and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s such a magical site, made all the more special by the legends associated with it and the length of time the tradition has been continued.
Unfortunately I couldn’t spend as long as I wanted here as I was conscious it was quite late in the day, so after a wee while spent enjoying the site I started to head back up Gleann Cailliche. Looking back along Allt na Cailiche shows Meall Dail beyond the end of the glen.
A bit further up as I climbed my way out of Gleann Cailliche I looked back towards Beinn a’ Chùirn.
The light was fading fast now, and it took me another hour or so to get back to Coire a’ Ghabhalaich, where I looked back towards Loch Lyon.
By the time I started my descent through Coire a’ Ghabhalaich and Coire an Dóthaidh it was actually dark and I needed my headtorch to see the path and it was pitch black when I got back to the car park, but walking in the dark was a small price to pay for experiencing such a magical place as the Tigh na Cailleach.