Corrie Habbie: the Site of General Colby's Ordnance Survey Camp

In chapter two of The Immeasurable Wilds, I describe the Ordnance Survey expedition to the far north, under the command of the hardy General Colby. The account is noteworthy for the remarkable trek he led from their camp on Corriehabbie, an outlier that lies to the north of the main Cairngorm range, down to Skye and back via Loch Maree in 1819. I had always wanted to climb Corriehabbie to see what remained of Colby's camp, and the opportunity presented itself on a recent trip to Scotland (early July 2022).

As I approached the hill, I saw a distinctive peak, its summit shrouded in mist, which I took to be Corriehabbie. I stopped my car and took a photo, soon to discover that this was not Corriehabbie, but rather Ben Rinnes (left). Corriehabbie was altogether less impressive (right).

I had a description with me of the walk to the top, but could not find many of the tracks that were mentioned until I reached the summit ridge.

There, I found the remains of a stony track leading up to the summit cairn.

The only structure remaining at the top is the shelter that surrounds the trig point (left), but this is surrounded by indentations in the ground (right) that could possibly be the remains of further structures erected by the survey, for they were based here from June until September, and might have erected semi-permanent dwellings.

Corrie Habbie (it seems to have been two words in the 19th century, but is now one) has been described in one of the guides I read online as "the most boring hill in Scotland." The Ordnance Survey were not looking for a striking landmark but rather a high point that gave them good views all around. Here are some of the vistas, taken from near the trig point:

Looking to the north, with pockets of sea just visible in the distance.
Looking towards the high Cairngorms

And this, I believe, was the direction in which General Colby led his men, "as on a steeplechase, running down the mountain at full speed...crossing several beautiful glens, wading the streams which flowed through them, and regardless of all difficulties that were not absolutely unsurmountable on foot." (Robert Dawson, quoted in Portlock's biography of General Colby):