Slioch must surely be one of the most celebrated, most photographed and most picturesque Munros in Scotland. It has been painted, filmed and written about for as long as man has done such things, for good reason to. Nestled in amongst the flowing hills of North West Scotland, Slioch occupies a position at the head of mythical Loch Maree which really does seem Edenic. Somehow this little corner of the land has escaped the foul exploitation witnessed across the rest of Scotland and it remains almost completely free of farcical wind turbines. As such, it retains its integrity as one of the world’s finest landscapes and tourists from around the world come to gawp at its glory in large numbers every year.
Anyone who knows the area well will be able to tell you that most of the tourists are Dutch and German and that out of the British contingent, Yorkshires men and women seem to be the most plentiful in number. All are clearly essential to the local economy and the Malcolm Mowat’s team know better than anyone just how insatiable their appetite for Scottish tartan scarves really is!
Slioch rests in Wester Ross and it dominates the landscape in which it rests in the same way that Everest dominates the Himalayas. Composed of some of the oldest rock in the world, it has three jagged sides as well as a gentler slope which the vast majority of those seeking to scale its heights utilise. As is usual with these things, its Gaelic name, Sleagh, reflects this image and it translates into spear.
Those used to traipsing through the area will often see wild goats with some of the most dramatic horns seen on anything in this country. So large are they that they rank more than respectably on the sizing scales used by big game hunters in Africa! If you ever find one of their skulls then you should ask the landowner for permission to take it home so that you can polish it up and mount it on a plaque of some sort. Such is their grandeur that they really do merit this. The ancestors of the current goats you may see were once domesticated but for numerous reasons over the decades they have become feral.
Although magnificent creatures to gaze at, they are slow and numerous (it’s relatively common to see them in groups of more than 30). As they have a voracious appetite and no natural predators like wolves or Eurasian lynx, they have actually become a bit of a pest. The rare flora that populates the rocky crags around Slioch are granted no mercy by the goats, which eat anything green which comes their way, including sharp and beautifully scented gorse! This explains the fenced off areas which have been created which you will see dotted around the place. These have been erected in the hope of halting the destruction, but in reality they struggle to stand up to the onslaught they receive from the weather conditions.
As such the big estates have stepped in to help provide some sort of balance and they deserve real credit for doing so as no public money has been forthcoming to help with the issue of what is ultimately a non-native pest. Shooting parties will at apt times in the year add goat to their hauls, which is wonderful news to anyone who cares for Scottish plants. It’s rather nice to think of the spicy smell of Moroccan inspired goat tagines lingering in the air outside very traditional Scottish lodges. The guests, draped in fine tartan scarves, of course, no doubt relish the opportunity to taste something other than venison!
Once you have spent half the day getting to the top of Slioch you are greeted to one of the finest views imaginable. Present before you is a breathtaking landscape encompassing Fisherfield Forest, the Torridons and Loch Maree. It’s of little surprise to learn that this area is/ was once referred to as being the last great wilderness in Scotland or The Great Wilderness. The policies of the SNP have ensured that the meaning of this has been lessened significantly, though, as wind turbines bang heavily on the doors of this magical area. Let’s pray that those overseeing those crimes against the Scottish people are dragged away from their offices in Edinburgh to Slioch so they can see what they are ruining.
In the meantime, the whole team here at Malcolm Mowat’s urge you to put on your walking boots, grab your camera and get yourself over here ASAP. Remember to pack appropriate gear, perhaps a purple tartan scarf, though, as it does get notoriously nippy when the wind picks up on top.