Trio of monuments is target of run up Fyrish
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The prominent Fyrish monument overlooking the Cromarty Firth on the hills between Evanton and Alness is an instantly recognisable landmark, but how many people know about the other two monuments close by?
Judging by the number of footprints I followed on a snowy day, the other two are certainly no secret these days. Nevertheless, I had never sought either of them out on numerus previous visits, so that was my aim as I headed to the Jubilee Path car park ready for a wintry run.
Each of the three monuments is said to have been built on the orders of General Sir Hector Munro of Novar in the late 18th century as a way of bringing work to local people who were lacking in food and employment.
It is said that Sir Hector even rolled stones back down the hillside each night to prolong the labour he was able to offer his tenants.
Anybody who has walked to the top of the 453m Cnoc Fyrish summit, where the monument was built, will have some idea what effort might have been involved in such an endeavour.
Today I would be leaving the main monument until last, so as I started my run along the Jubilee Path, I cut off at the first crossroads with a vehicular forest track, turning right to follow it around the southern slopes of Cnoc Duchaire.
The navigation is pretty straightforward here, as you basically keep left at each junction. However, the snow got quite deep as I gradually climbed higher, so I double checked the map at one less obvious junction. Sure enough, I kept left to pass the line of an old fence but soon found the way blocked by fallen trees and deep snow.
It looked like there was a way past by following a line to the left, which did eventually lead past the obstruction and back towards the main path up the Poll a’ Mhucainn to the north-west of Cnoc Fyrish.
As the path started to drop slightly, I recognised where I was. A stony track leading left leads up to Cnoc Fyrish and would be used on my return later on.
But for now I continued downhill, fording the Allt Càm then crossing the Allt a’ Choin via a bridge where the track bends left. The gorge drops away dramatically below, where these two waterways merge to form the Big Burn on its way into the firth.
At a junction shortly after the bridge I turned left to head downhill fairly steeply. Not far down here an obvious footpath cut off into the woods on the right. I followed the footsteps on this great little winding trail through the trees, which I was sure would lead to my first monument of the day on Creag Ruadh.
I was enjoying the run through here anyway, a long descent through the plantation, and it wasn’t long before I caught sight of the large monument, which the path passes right under. Three beams of old wood still hang loosely above the ‘doorway’ and a tree grows from the arch above.
I’d expected this path to be an out and back to the track, but as it continued I decided to keep following it down through the trees, reckoning I would rejoin my track further down.
I wasn’t entirely sure whereabouts on the track it dumped me out, but I turned right and kept going until the junction below Meann Chnoc – the hill on which the other monument is located.
Turning right, I reached an open area just before a five-way junction. From here, a muddy path leads left up the west ridge of the hill, so I jogged and walked the short distance to the top, where the structure can be found.
My searching was over now, so I could concentrate on just enjoying a gentle run for a while now, as I headed back down and continued straight on at the junction. It’s flat – though pretty wet – for a while before I had to fork right to climb steeply soon after crossing a burn.
There was some walking involved in this little ascent, I must admit, but it was a great excuse to take in the views back over the firth and, higher up, to the back of the Ben Wyvis massif.
Another right turn is needed as you climb higher still, looping back to follow the edge of the forest on a beautifully snowy path. The views along here are phenomenal – over the busy firth to the Cromarty Sutors and ahead to Cnoc Fyrish, with the final monument of the day clearly visible against the backdrop of a briefly blue sky.
The track drops to the junction above the Allt a’ Choin, where I turned left to retrace my steps over the burn then across the ford and back up to the track below Cnoc Fyrish. Turning right, I climbed slowly to the high point of the route and my third and final monument of the day.
From here I would follow the Jubilee Path all the way back. The path was icy – more so than any other stretch I’d covered so far – but there was just enough of a dusting of snow on the top to get some grip as I made my way down.
I passed the little lochan with the winter sun doing its best to shine some warmth into its frozen body, and lower down forgot all about the bridge over the Contullich Burn as I nearly overshot the edge on a fast descent!
There was no more drama as I rolled down to the car park to enjoy a warm drink and that wonderful glow that comes after a winter’s run.
Fyrish three monuments
Distance 9 miles / 15km
Terrain Forest tracks and paths, hilly
Start/finish Jubilee path car park, near Alness
Map OS Landranger 21; OS Explorer 432 & 438
Exploring the hills behind Evanton and Alness in search of the three monuments of Fyrish