Walking through the Fisherfield forest, often called the Great Wilderness, brings with it an experience few people get to enjoy as part of a normal, everyday existence. In the well developed land of Great Britain, where tarmaced roads have been run to the furthest flung corners of the island, it is hard to get away from the marks of human civilisation. Fisherfield is one of the most isolated spots by this measure with the encircling roads failing to encroach on this unspoilt area of wild land. Dominated by hills, mountains and lochs there are few buildings and fewer people.
It is areas like this that draw me to the mountains of Scotland and after my time in Fisherfield a few weeks ago I was intrigued to know where the most remote hills lie. Places like Knoydart, Assynt and the Monadhliath come to mind, but what about specific hills? Luckily, a member of the Scottish Hills forum recently posted the results of an interesting exercise, adding a new twist to what we consider the most remote hills of Scotland.
Remoteness is typically determined by “as the crow flies” distances from things like roads. Doing this you can determine that the remotest grid reference in the UK is a point around seven miles from the nearest piece of tarmac on the shoulder of Ruadh Stac Mor in Fisherfield at NH02020 77000.
Though this seems a rather meagre distance, the wild areas of the country are also generally the most rugged and this can turn a short straight line distance into quite a challenging journey, only doable on foot. In considering his definition of remoteness, the forum member took into account a measure of how long it takes to get somewhere if you are a walker. To arrive at his conclusions he estimated distance and ascent for a particular hill and then multiplied these figures by twelve minutes for every kilometre walked and twelve minutes for every 100m ascended. Doubling these he arrived at an approximate time for a round trip based on the closest/easiest route of ascent. His top ten is shown below:
|1||12 37 09 48||Mullach na Dheiragain + Top + Top||Affric||M||N|
|2||10 38 09 36||Beinn Bheoil + Top||Alder||M||Y|
|3||10 38 09 36||Ruadh Stac Mor||Fisherfield||M||N|
|4||11 37 09 36||A’ Mhaighdean||Fisherfield||M||N|
|5||10 37 09 24||Carn an Fhidhleir||Tarf||M||Y|
|6||10 37 09 24||Beinn Bhreac||Tarf||C||Y|
|7||09 37 09 12||Creag Mhor||Sutherland||G||N|
|8||18 27 09 00||Lurg Mhor + Top||Monar||M||Y|
|9||12 33 09 00||Stuc Fraoch Choire||Affric||MT||N|
|10||09 34 08 36||Ben Alder||Alder||M||Y|
It should be noted that the Knoydart Munros and Corbetts (with the exception of Ben Aden down near the bottom of the full list) do not make an appearance on this list as the possibility of catching a ferry from Mallaig to Inverie dramatically reduces the walking distance. You can view the full thirty-eight hills by viewing this spreadsheet.
This list interested me because over the last few months I have been on or near several of the summits in this top 38 list and have visited the summits of 14 of them in total. In March I backpacked through the Atholl forest and bagged the remote Munros of Carn an Fhidlier (#5) and An Sgarsoch (#11) with their neighbouring Corbett Beinn Bhreac (#6); in May I backpacked around the western end of Loch Monar bagging Bidein a’ Choire Sheasgaich (#14) and Lurg Mhor (#8); and in June I travelled to Corrour station and backpacked around the Ben Alder group including Ben Alder (#10) and Beinn Bheoil (#2). Just last month I walked through Fisherfield which gave me views of A’ Mhaighdean (#4) and Ruadh Stac Mor (#3), Beinn Tarsuinn (#24) and Beinn Dearg Mor (#28).
However, the fact remains that the most remote hill on the list, one of the Munros in Glen Affric (which I have seen from across the glen on Beinn Fiondlaidh (#18)) is only a long day walk away from a road, a ten hour round trip. It makes me think about the huge distances involved in Alaska or the Yukon where distance from a road is not measured in hours, but more often in days if not weeks.
A sense of wilderness is a strange thing. Backpacking has opened my eyes to solitude and isolation, to that feeling of being miles away from anywhere. In reality this is much more psychological than factual isolation. A wild camp last October besides the shores of Loch Einich felt wonderfully remote, despite being two hours from the car. This remoteness was a combination of lack of people and the wonderful autumnal weather which quite often had the peaks shrouded and mist drifting along the surface of the loch. Wrapped in your own world you could be a million miles from anywhere.
Neverthless the list of remote hills provides plenty of inspiration for backpacking trips (and in fact only one of the hills I’ve bagged was done without involving a wild camp) so I think I know where I’ll be seeking inspiration for my next few trips.
So how many of the remote hills listed here have you climbed and where have you felt most isolated or most remote?