Thursday, 8 January 2009

Beinn Bharrain

It was a damp and dismal thawing type of day yesterday so we treated ourselves to an new approach and a whole new peak- the last one on Arran for us, which we had been saving up for a special occasion. Beinn Bharrain lies at the southern end of the Pirnmill Hills- rolling whalebacks with spectacular views over the Kilbrannon Sound to Kintyre- when not fogged in with dense clag. The scots word is dreich which is a wonderfully onomatopoeic word that describes the miserable wet foggy weather that encloses west coast islands from time to time. We certainly had plenty of that yesterday. Not quite sure why we saved Beinn Bharrain for so long. We have stopped short on Mullach Buidhe and I have walked around its bouldery lower flanks on many occasions. Perhaps we just wanted to really savour the last hill...
We took a pathless and rocky crest with several awkward granite steps which from below looks deceptively straightforward. The ridge encircles a small coire with Beinn Bharrain sitting at the southernmost end. The top is flat and broad, with scoops of erosion eaten out of the rounded slopes by powerful westerly gales. A pair of ravens circled overhead in the mist. Most of the time we couldn't see them but could just hear their guttoral rhythmic croaking through the gloom. Although these hills are not as high as the main range, there are plenty of mountain plants that grow up here. There are particularly lush and verdant communities of mosses clinging on in the shelter of granite stacks that scatter the coire rim.
The picture shows three common mountain mosses of Arran, in a sheltered hollow of rough granite near the top of Beinn Bharrain. The tall fingery one is known as fir club moss, and produces characteristic wiry stems that grow upwards in defiance of the prevailing weather. It has a small cousin, alpine club moss, which is found only on the highest and most exposed slopes of the Goatfell Range. The fluffy moss at the back is a type of Racomitrium, another classic hillside moss with a dry woolly texture. In front a type Sphagnum, a family of porous and soggy mosses that thrive in damp places and form the basis of peat bogs. The plant has been used as a wound dressing in the past and was gathered during the 2nd world war and send to the front. It is extremely absorbent when dry due to its loose cell structure and is said to have antiseptic properties!
Coming back down we were treated to a lifting of the mist and a wonderful view of the failing light over the Kilbrannon Sound. All in all a wonderful day out and proof that you don't need great weather to have fun in the hills.

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