There’s a quirky convention in Scottish selected climbs guidebooks of awarding truly exceptional routes a 4* accolade (in a system which generally runs to max 3*s) There are about 50 across the whole country. So far this year we’ve ticked Edgehog, Storm, Archer Ridge, and Bloodlust Direct. The valley crags of Gairloch around Loch Maree hide another 4* encounter in the form of The Bug, E2 5b, and likened by many to the classic Diabeig Pillar a bit further south, which gets the same grade. We did that a few years ago and thought it excellent, so we were up for The Bug!
The Tollie crags are hidden away, overlooking Loch Maree, accessed by a narrow farm road – you park right by the shore in an utterly charming postcard scene, complete with decaying jetty posts and an immaculate wooden rowing boat.
Lower Tollie crag is clearly visible above you, but it’s another 5 minutes approach that would be facilitated by a machete. Not much traffic on this path, and it looks like the same can be said for the routes, which look a bit overgrown. We press on another “5 minutes” to the upper crag, which is fresher and has magnificent views from above the tree line. The start of The Bug is obvious as it’s the only patch of grass amongst the bracken, and it follows an obvious crack for the most part, but it certainly doesn’t look over travelled and there’s no signs of chalk.
Anyway, the route turns out to be every bit as good as advertised – and much better than it looks! Steady climbing up slabby territory on great holds, with a couple of stiffer but well protected moves through steepenings. Pulling through the second of these I was thinking E1 rather than E2, then the crack disappeared for about 20ft and a few slightly thinner moves leftwards are needed to regain it. That’ll be the E2 bit. Another 20ft and you’re on easy ground 45m of fun and continuous climbing and well worth the 4*.
Back at the loch side, Helen is back in the water. Toasty!