Walk: Morven wilderness

[Maiden Pap (centre) from near Braeval; Morven with a cloud cap behind (right)]

This is a walk unlike any other in Scotland. The highest summit in Caithness, Morven (not to be confused with Morven, Aberdeenshire) looks more like an Icelandic volcano than a Highland peak, with extremely steep, grassy sides tapering to a windswept summit with fantastic views. Maiden Pap is a miniature version of Morven, but perhaps even steeper with cloudberries growing in lush, shady gullies on its northern slopes. Smean completes the trio of energy-sapping ascents. In between the other two hills, it looks less dramatic from a distance but its summit is adorned with huge rocky tors. Somehow the hills' respective names describe each of their characters perfectly. Difficult terrain makes this a tough circuit; wait for good underfoot conditions, otherwise you'll be cursing yourself as you struggle through wet, pathless grass and heather between the various high points.

[It's a long way away: Morven (centre) beyond Smean (just left of shot) seen from the slopes of Maiden Pap]

Name: Walk: Morven wilderness ★★☆
Length: 17 km / 11 miles
Ascent: 940 metres
Main summits: Maiden Pap (484 metres, sub-2000'); Smean (511 metres, sub-2000'); Morven (706 metres, Graham)
Start / finish: Car park at minor road end near Braemore Lodge, G.R.: ND 073304 / symphonic cheered surfaces

Route: Car park - Braeval - leave track at ND 051301 - Maiden Pap via northern gullies - Smean - Morven - Corrichoich - Braeval - start
Terrain: Tracks at start and from Corrichoich to the finish. Otherwise mostly pathless, tough and sometimes wet terrain. Reaching the summits each involve negotiating extremely steep but generally grassy ground.
Wildlife today: Deer around Braemore; frogs, moths and cloudberries on Maiden Pap; extensive cotton adding colour to the moorland.
Weather today: Sunny intervals to start but tending to cloud over: blustery high up with a little rain on descent from Morven. Temperatures probably in single figures higher up.

[Cloudberry growing on the slopes of Maiden Pap]


Route credit: Scotland off the beaten track

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