I had been looking forward to the walk from Corrour to Dalwhinnie. Although it was a long way, I estimated 26 miles, it wasn’t too hard going, the scenery was going to be wonderful, and I was familiar with much of the route having covered it when I was training for the Caledonian Challenge, a 54-mile, 24-hour charity walk from Fort William to Ardlui at the top end of Loch Lomond, two years previously. More importantly, we didn’t have a train to catch.
The train pulled out of Roy Bridge at 08.02 on a crisp, clear morning bound for Tulloch Bridge, Corrour, Rannoch Moor and on to Glasgow down the rail track we had travelled up the previous afternoon. Half a mile past Tulloch Bridge we saw a large, ginger fox, sitting in the field next to the rail track. It was a beautiful animal and I took it as an omen. This was going to be a good day.
We alighted at Corrour and quickly prepared ourselves for the day ahead. My first action was to put on my sweat shirt and rain jacket as, despite the thin sun and high cloud cover, there was a distinctly chilly wind blowing directly into our faces over the open moorland.
A mile ahead could be seen the Youth Hostel where Allison has stayed, lying on a flat promontory looking up the flat grey waters of Loch Ossian, at the far end of which, almost hidden in the surrounding forest, could be seen the grey form of Corrour Lodge. To the left stood the bulk of Beinn na Lap, to the right Carn Dearg.
It was good to be moving again and I fell into conversation with Dugendra as we strolled along. Corporal Dugendra Tamang, 33, came from Ramechap in East Nepal and had been a clerk in the army for just under 12 years. His was a military family – his brother was in 69 Gurkha Field Support Squadron, QGE and both his father and grandfather had been in the 7th Gurkha Rifles.
He had the studied air of an academic and was unfailingly polite and deferential. Two years previously he had been in Baghdad together with his brother and his father who at that time had been working with a security firm. Having three members of one family on operations in Iraq had been front page news in the military press at the time.
Twenty minutes later we were in the lee of the birch trees, rhododendrons and pine trees that flanked the track to Corrour Lodge. It was warm and still, so off came the rain jacket and sweat shirt. Almost immediately I was attacked by Beelzebug – Satan in the form of a swarm of midges, the obscene little blighters attacking every exposed piece of skin they could find.
I desperately tried to find my bottle of Skin So Soft having given up on the more aggressive varieties of insect repellent and sprayed myself with copious quantities of the stuff. It was at this point that I realised that Skin So Soft does not repel midges as my arms were black with the blighters. What it does do however is stop them from biting you. It was a hugely relieved old crock that continued his way down the track.
At the head of the loch we came to the rather forbidding grey edifice of Corrour Lodge nestled in the trees. This is a new building designed for the Rausing family by the Canadian architect Moshe Safdie, the original Victorian-era great house on the site having been destroyed by fire in 1940. According to the Corrour Lodge website:
“A glass vaulted Great Hall forms the center (sic) of the house and is flanked by two masonry volumes, one rectangular, the other cylindrical. These volumes are penetrated by conical and pyramidal glass structures. Surviving original granite outbuildings accommodate kitchens and other back-of-house functions. The split-face granite surfaces of the new structure match those of the original. Corrour Lodge is sited so that all guest rooms have views of Loch Ossian, while walkways and terraces afford views of the surrounding Highlands. In approving the design, The Royal Fine Arts Commission for Scotland noted that the complex is ‘destined to become one of the few examples of world-class 20th Century architecture in Scotland’”.
Frankly darlings from where I was standing it looked like some Soviet mausoleum, although I am prepared to accept that if I was to see it from the inside the vision of the architect made real might change my mind.
For those of you who fancy the privilege you can hire Corrour Lodge, with all the accompanying bells and whistles that the well-heeled have come to expect. According to an article in a glossy travel website:
“Tucked into 48,000 traditional acres, the lodge is unexpectedly 21st-century: a £20-million architectural marvel of glass and steel on the edge of Loch Ossian. I was not immediately sure that it worked, but it does. The high ceilings and galleries fill the rooms with light. The modern furniture looks great but is also comfortable and there to be used. Contemporary canvases and sculptures sit alongside ancient elk antlers.
Corrour Lodge houses up to 40 guests. As well as stalking, it offers walks, mountain biking, fly fishing, off-roading, golf and pony trekking.
Dream Escape offers an all-inclusive Corrour Experience from £6,500 per person based on six people staying for four days and three nights, with transfers in three high performance sports cars. The price includes all meals, house wines, falconry display with West Highland Hawking, helicopter transfers to The Three Chimneys on Skye, with lunch and Talisker private whisky tour and tasting, sniper training, pony trekking, fishing, boat trips, cooking demo by the head chef of Abstract and an eight-course Gala dinner with rare whiskies”.
What with the credit crunch and all I think we’ll stick with Blackpool again this year.
Half a mile back down the loch we could see a small boat with four people in it, presumably the Rausings or paying house guests on a fishing trip. I thought how fortunate and privileged they were to have such glories at their disposal, but then again, so did I, and I had it for free.