Ben Hope is like Muckle Flugga, Cape Horn or Vladivostock; places that are supremely appealing because they lie at geographic extremities. While Ben Hope may not mark the start or end of a continent, it has the honour of being the most northerly of Scotland’s 284 Munros. It’s not the hardest, highest or prettiest, while it is one of the most straightforward, with a summit that is attainable in an hour’s walk from Strath More.
I had sympathy for the writer Robert Macfarlane, who spent a winter’s night on Hope, describing it as “one of the least accommodating places to which I had ever come”. I battled through similarly wretched weather: snow underfoot, frantic southerlies and a pea-soup mist. All was grey until the shroud lifted for a glorious moment to reveal Foinaven, Loch Eribol and the Kyle of Tongue, only for the curtains to be tightly drawn again. It was a place where it seemed the sun would never shine and the wind would never stop blowing. I vowed to test my theory by returning on the summer solstice, when it is said that the convergence of Hope’s elevation and latitude means the sun does not dip below the horizon.