Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Stories of Corrour

Corrour cannot be reached by road, the nearest roadend is at Rannoch (10 miles to the south) or at Tulloch (16 miles to the north).

At one time, a train had pulled up at Corrour. On moving away, the guard's van, at the rear of the train broke loose, with the guard still in it. The van moved down hill and approached Rannoch Station at speed. The signalman there had been warned of the runaway but knew a person was on board. Runaway carriages would normally be derailed, but that could kill the guard. So it was allowed through, and it continued down the next 25 miles of track, past Gortan Sidings to Bridge of Orchy. The guard's van did not stop until 3 miles south of Bridge of Orchy, 40 miles from the place where it broke loose. The guard was still soundly asleep and hadn't got a clue what had been going on.

The track leading down to Loch Ossian, 1 mile to the east used to carry the gentry who were coming to the Corrour Estate for a spot of deerstalking. At the pier, on the western end of the loch, they would embark a paddle steamer, which would convey them the 4 miles up the loch to the shooting lodge. This ceased in 1910, when cars took over from the steamer, which was dismantled and transported by rail to waters new.

The steamer pier fell into disrepair, and this claimed one life in the 1980s. The youth hostel at the time was manned by Yorkshireman Tom Rigg, who I met in the 1990s whilst stopping at Loch Ossian Youth Hostel. One of his friends had called round in March, and the pier was iced up. The friend walked up the pier, slipped and fell through the frozen surface of the loch. When Tom returned, the break had frozen over, but he was aware that his friend was due. He searched Corrour high and low, but only found the body when the ice melted and the rucksack surfaced by the pier.

I have swam in Loch Ossian myself on a summer's evening, when there were no midges. The youth hostel has since been done up, but in the '90s, before Tom retired, it was legendary. He would entice fully grown stags into the hostel with chocolate biscuits. He would not give it to the animal until it was standing with front legs on a chair. The hostellers were all snapping away with cameras.

(photograph courtesy Ruud F. Witte)
The ablutions were done using water from the loch. If you wanted a bath, you were welcome to use the loch. If you wanted to pee, you were invited to use the grass. If you needed to do a number two, there was a privy, but you were requested to bolt the door, else it would blow away. Corrour is windy. Numbers two went into a bucket with a dollop of disinfectant. The outhouses have since been demolished and replaced by a compost toilet, like what was used on Taransay during Castaway 2000.

Loch Ossian Youth Hostel hosts the "Around the loch in under an hour" club. You may join if you can run the 7½ miles, including two stiles, within 60 minutes. I believe the record stands at 43 minutes. I've walked around it in 3 hours, which is more sensible.

One more story surrounding this place is concerned with midges. Rum is infamous for its midges, but my worst midge experience was at Corrour. On leaving the hostel one morning at 7.30 am, to catch the 8.15 train (at that time), I found myself being eaten alive by midges the moment I stood still. They weren't a problem on the 25 minute hike to the station, but on arrival there I was facing 20 minutes of purgatory. In despair, I joined the rest of the club wrapping a towel round my head to keep the blighters out. When the train finally came, the driver cast one eye at that motley lot on the platform and slammed his window shut. Everybody piled on the train, and all its passengers spent the next half hour killing all the midges that had come on board with them.

Another tale surrounding Corrour relates to a house, situated 2 miles south of the station, where the line crosses a river. Lubnaclach was the home of a gentleman who frequented the hostel as a friend of the warden, Tom Rigg, but he was quite gutted when I first visited. On arriving at his home, he found it had gone up in flames. The guest book for 1990 records his lament for Lubnaclach, which to this day stands as a shell by the river.

Finally, on proceeding further south, I noticed something odd on a journey in 1996. A toilet bowl was sitting on top of a hillock. Everybody on the train was laughing as well. A year later, I passed down the same stretch of line - and now a teddy was sitting in the toilet on the hillock. The next year loo and bear had gone.

Tom Rigg, who used to be warden at Loch Ossian Youth Hostel retired in 1995. He returned to Yorkshire, where he died shortly afterwards. I'm led to believe that he could not bear being away from Corrour.

You can view pictures from 2005 on this site. The Tom Rigg featured there is actually a dog.


  1. Imagine, the guard sleeping through all of that ~ perhaps it was for the best.  I cannot believe the antlers on that stag, beautiful.  I went into 2005, #12, 20 & 21 are absolutely breathtaking pictures. I hope you have framed them for presentation.  I also saw Tom gnawing away on a large antler?  Fun tales & great shots.

  2. What a wonderful write....very interesting...thank you for sharing...June:)

  3. Loved the stories, all of them.

  4. I enjoyed your story today Guido...more so because I am still in my bed trying to get over my 'bug'.  To walk up and down, even if its by photograph, of the hills and mountains of Scotland is the best way staving off boredom.  Lol!
    I loved the flora and fauna shots on your route.  You had to be careful of where you stepped by the look of things.  The summit of Sgor Choinnich looked as though it was a beach many moons ago now.  I suppose the thawing of the powerful glaciers ground the rocks down to leave this residue.  Amazing!  I wonder how long the names stayed which were drawn into the sand?
    I really enjoyed these views. And you are a wonderful story teller. <smile>