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The Rum Corbetts

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The island of Rum sits like a companion jewel to Skye, in the twinkling waters of the Hebridean Sea. It is separated from Skye by the Sound of Skye and like that fine island has its own Cuillin. The range of hills on Rum is of course smaller than the Black Cuillin but in their own way they are splendid hills, with their own nature, rock and wildlife!

This suggested walk takes in both Corbetts on the island and while mid-winter may not be the best time to risk both the sea crossing and the hill climate, a settled spell could provide an unexpected bonus. Additionally, the dreadful midges and horse flies suffered here in summer will be absent. Stormy weather could also arrange an unexpected extension to the trip.

The island is a National Nature Reserve, under the aegis of Scottish Natural Heritage. Those hoping to access the hills must contact the chief warden on Rum (The White House, Isle of Rum. Tel: 01687 462026). There are four sailings per week of the CalMac boat from Mallaig to Loch Scresort (Tel: 01687 462403), and it is also possible to arrange other ferryboats from Mallaig and in the summer, from Arisaig (Tel: 01687 450224). Visitors who would like to stay overnight on Rum should pre-book the hostel, bothy or campsite accommodation. For further information, please contact the Reserve Office (Tel: 01687 462026).

There is camping at Loch Scresort, a bothy at Dibidil and self-catering and full board at Kinloch Castle and in one or two homes on the island. There is a small shop and post office in Kinloch. It may also be possible to arrange bothy accommodation in Kinloch itself.

This walk begins and ends at Kinloch, and takes in Hallival, Askival, Trallval and Ainshval. There is the option of including Sgurr nan Gillean.

Take the path through the grounds of Kinloch Castle and up into Coire Dubh, at the head of which is the raspy gravel ground of the Bealach Bairc-mheall. Go east then south east up the broad NW ridge of Hallival, which has a steep and rocky finish (723m). The next peak, Askival, is very obvious to the south. Descend the south ridge of Hallival, easily on grass after several short rocky steps then above the col take the narrow north ridge of Askival.

There is an obstacle on the ridge, the Askival Pinnacle. Either climb this steep and narrow prow on the west side (difficult), or avoid it easily by a traverse on the east side. The traverse leads to steep but easy rocks below the summit (812m).

The route now descends the west ridge to reach the Bealach an Oir. Continue up the east ridge of Trallval to gain its twin towers at the summit then make a steep, rocky descent to the Bealach an Fhuarain. If scrambling is not on your diet, from the Bealach an Oir a traverse can be made across grassy slopes under the SE face of Trallval, reaching the same point as above.

Above lies a rocky buttress on the lower north ridge of Ainshval. Avoid this by making a rising right traverse over scree and rocks to gain a level shoulder on the ridge. The difficult scrambly bits ahead can be avoided by taking a narrow path on the east side, climbing up and across the screes just below the crest. With perhaps some relief the grassy summit of Ainshval will then be reached.

The weary can now decide to return to Kinloch via a return to the Bealach an Fhuarain (taking the north ridge of Ainshval again), traversing to the Bealach an Oir, and then making a long traverse north across the Atlantic Coire, with the rocky west face of Askival high above. This takes one back to the Bealach Bairc-mheall and the steady descent back to Kinloch.

Alternatively, if you wish to make a "grand slam" and take in Sgurr nan Gillean, partake of more food and drink then from the summit of Ainshval take the easy grassy ridge south to Sgurr nan Gillean. There are two interim summits before the very fine viewpoint of Sgurr nan Gillean is reached.

To return to Kinloch, either go back to Ainshval, then take the return route described above, or go south for some way to avoid cliffs on Gillean's east flank before turning east to gain the track from Loch Papadil to Kinloch via Dibidil Bothy. This path is frequently muddy and if you are fit and the weather is clear the return over the hills and bealachs may be preferable.

Did I mention the Manx Shearwater? These characters spend most of their lives at sea and winter in the waters off Brazil but they migrate north in March to breed in burrows on the upper slopes of Rum's highest hills. Just below some of the summits you may see their small burrow entrances. They will be away at sea fishing during the day, to return home as night falls, bulletting in without hesitation to the precise burrow. Some burrows have painted numbers on adjacent rocks but not by the Shearwaters! Much research is carried out on Rum.

The island population of over 60,000 pairs is one of the largest breeding Manx Shearwater colonies in the world. Also, if you are very lucky, you may spot a white-tailed sea eagle. A project to reintroduce them to Scotland began here in 1975. By the time it ended in 1985 a total of 82 young sea eagles from Norway had been released from Rum and many are now breeding successfully in the wild.

A reminder that visitors who would like to stay overnight on Rum should pre-book the hostel, bothy or campsite accommodation. For further information, please contact the Reserve Office (tel: 01687 462026). Finally, the guided tour round Kinloch Castle is highly recommended.


Maps: OS Sheet 39 'Rum, Eigg & Muck'
Distance: 14 km (to Ainshval and back over hills), 19 km (over Gillean and east coast track return)
Ascent: 1400 m (add c. 100m for Gillean)
Time: 7-9 hours, depending on route
Food & Drink: Kinloch Castle can arrange food. Otherwise BYOB or be at the mercy of a small west coast shop!


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