Gone are the days when we could make a trip northwards on a whim. The arrival of several little feet and postings abroad for some mean the car-free team are a little armchair-bound these days.
Happily, we have several willing and talented scribes happy to contribute to our blog. This time, we are delighted to welcome Geoff Allan, author of The Scottish Bothy Bible and an all-round car-free walking enthusiast.
View of Loch Treig
"I'm a great champion of the Scotland's public transport network, and the vast majority of the research for The Scottish Bothy Bible was undertaken without the use of a car. The combination of train, ferry and bike has taken me to the furthest corners of Scotland, and I embraced the opportunity to rediscover the country at a slower pace.
For the trip to Staoineag, one of my favourite bothies, the car is completely taken out of the equation because it starts from Corrour, the only UK station that you cannot drive to. Being dropped off here effectively saves you a ten mile walk in from either Spean Bridge or Rannoch, and the pulse quickens as you step onto the platform, knowing that you're immersed straight into the wilderness.
Loking east back to Loch Treig on the coarse heather section
On my last trip I had to remain particularly vigilant because it had snowed overnight, and I was heading in the bothy alone. However, I love the extra frisson of a solo adventure; my mind quickly empties of all life's day to day preoccupations as I focus on the first cup of tea I'll make on arrival, and keeping myself as warm and dry as possible.
From the station (NN 356 664) head north east, parallel to the railway line, along a path signposted to Spean Bridge. After just over a mile, cross a footbridge over the Allt á Chamabhreac and pick up a wide unmetalled road which leads down to a hydroelectric scheme on the short south side of Loch Treig, completed at the beginning of 2016. Until relatively recently sections of this path were a boggy morass, but thankfully today it is much improved.
Continue on round the loch to until you see Creaguaineach Lodge, and just before the bridge take a small path to the left, running along the south side of the Abhainn Rath. A new signpost here adds an element of doubt, as it only directs you over the bridge to Spean Bridge, and back the way you have come and on to Rannoch. Push on for 500 yards across a carpet of coarse heather before being enveloped in a close canopy of silver birch high above the river.
In the winter, the bothy isn't in the sun for very long!
Once the Allt Cam nan Aighean has been negotiated, the only stream crossed on the walk in, (normally passable even in spate), the trail gently rises past some impressive rapids, and onto the flats just before the bothy. Although its easy to navigate in daylight, the path around the long meander can be elusive in the dark. If your arriving on the last train of the day, look out for the old iron estate fence posts that lead west parallel to the river bank.
View from across the stepping stones across the Abhainn Rath
Staoineag is a special place, and because it is most accessible by train, appeals to a wider cross-section of people than you would more typically expect to see at a bothy. I'm looking forward to my tenth visit in the near future, and have always taken home happy memories."
Walk in time: 2½ to 3 hours
Distance: 5 miles
Terrain: Track and riverside path
Word and pictures by Geoff Allan, author of 'The Scottish Bothy Bible: The complete guide to Scotland's bothies and how to reach them'.
For a chance to win a signed first edition copy of Geoff's book, simply add a car-free walk to our website.