The Angry Corrie 18: Apr-Jun 1994


Hill Types No. 1: The Bastard

Just occasionally, very occasionally, we here at TAC Corporation like to include the odd piece of prose that describes what it is like to actually walk up a hill, instead of going on about maps, electric lochs, sheep, science, and ten more things that have not much to do with hill walking (although interesting). So, your attention please, for a small and little-known hill in South Kintyre, at NR758123 (Sheet 68 if you must know).

There's a fence along both sides of the road, but parking is no problem as you can just squeeze in by a gate without blocking the entrance, and there's no danger of another car wanting to stop in such an out-of-the-way spot. You expect to be able to nip up this wee pimple in next to no time, but The Bastard turns out to have more than its share of traps.

You climb over the access gate, stroll a hundred yards or so across short easy grass, then suddenly you're in the swamp. Not a bog, note, as it's not muddy as such, just what appears to be grass turns out to be some sort of mangrove unique to this part of Scotland. Sod this, let's turn uphill. You swear mildly as you catch your cag on the barbed wire concealed in the next fence, then it's a short stretch of traditional highland tussock - nae problem for one experienced in the art of tuft leaping. But within fifty yards it's fence number three, and after that progress is reduced to a slow jerky sort of wade. It's the type of deep ankle-grabbing heather that you haven't encountered for years, knocking the weak-kneed Perthshire variety well into division two. Before long it starts to get steep, and you wonder if it's actually possible to make upward progress through this stuff, so you start to traverse round the inland side of the peak, looking for a better gradient. There is not the slightest sign of a sheep track; this is dense, pristine vegetation. It's the same all the way on up to the summit plateau, where there are just a couple of patches of open grass, one of them big enough for a small cairn. Which is a big surprise as you were almost certain it was a first ascent.

It's a bit murky but the cloud is still clear of the top, and you have a view out to Sanda Island and its attendant Sheep, with the sea foaming round their base in the strengthening breeze. You scan the horizon further left and can just see way out at sea some highly improbable shape that looks like it's been transplanted from St Kilda. You've completely lost your bearings and for a while you wonder if you're imagining it, when it suddenly dawns on you that it must be Ailsa Craig. Not for the first time you decide that you really must make the effort to get there some day and scale its mighty-looking cliffs. Then you start to consider the pleasures of the descent ahead, and without much further thought you plunge straight back into the purple entanglement, grateful that The Bastard is only 188 metres high.

By the time you're back on the friendly tarmac there's still enough of the day left to continue your leisurely drive round a fine stretch of coast. You set off in a positive mood, thinking perhaps of a fine pint of froth in the old inn with a sea view that surely lies round the next bend, where old McStupid the barman could tell a tale or two about local hill names.

Ten minutes later you're heading back northward wondering how such an unspoilt peninsula came to end up with a Shug-forsaken dump like Southend at its tip, rather like hearing some sentimental bagpipe shitcrap at the end of your favourite tape. You're still mulling this over when the mist starts rolling in from the sea, you can't see a damn thing on the road, and suddenly your desire is always to be somewhere else. Beinn na Lice will just have to wait for another day.

Alan Blanco


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