Missing Merlins, Tails and
Fairy Albacore N4172 on Whiten Head.
(Distance covered =
10.5 mile/Ascent =+646m)
The walk to this crashsite was going to be a record breaker for me. It wasn't because it was the most notherley mainland crashsite I've visited; that title goes to the Spitfire on Dunnet head*; but because it was the most people I've ever gone on a wreckhunting walk with.
We again rendevouzed with Chris for this one but this time he had fetched along his son, so there were 5 of us altogether. We all met up at a small carpark just west of East Strathan, below which was a nice sheltered little beach where we camped for the night.
above and below:-Not a bad place to camp.
I'd been to this location in 2018 to visit the crashsite of AW Whitley BD678 on Ben Hutig**, not long after that visit a relative of one of the Whitley's crew contacted me; he told me that there was a Rolls Royce Merlin from the Whitley sitting in a Farm Yard at Achininver when he had visited, so as well as going to look for remains of the Albacore we were also going to see if we could find that. While we were setting up camp Chris went back to his car for something and while he was there a Farmer driving up the road in a Tractor stopped to chat with him. We thought the Farmer had stopped to tell Chris we couldn't camp on the beach but it transpired Chris had flagged him down to ask him if he had any local knowledge of the crashsites in the area. The Farmer knew of the engine as it had been his yard it was in, but according to him a Museum in Wales had removed it a good few years earlier with the intention of returning it to running condition.
Setting off nice and early the following morning; the three Amigos now temporarily the 5 Amigos.
The Albacore crashsite we were off to look for was about 2.5 miles west of the remains of Whitley BD678, our route was the same as the one I took in 2018 but about 3/4's of a mile from the Whitley we turned west to cross over the northern end of the Ben Hutig summit ridge.
above and below:-On the landrover track to Loch na h-Uamhachd.
Heading west towards the northern end of Ben Hutig.
above and below:-Views from the west side of Ben Hutig, one of the peaks in the distance above is Cranstackie, where DH Mosquito DZ486 crashed***.
A small unnamed loch hidden beneath the western slopes of Ben Hutig.
The fuselage of the Fairy Albacore that crashed just west of Loch Riabhach on Whiten Head had been recovered in 1974, and using the tail recovered from the crashsite of Albacore N4389 it has been restored and is now on display at the Fleet Air Arm Museum. The fact the tail from another Albacore had been used gave us hope that there may well be a smashed up tail from N4172 still to be found on the moors.
The restored remains of N4172 and N4389.
above and below:-Approaching Loch Riabhach.
Having a brief break at Loch Riabhach before commencing our search for bits of Albacore. above and below:-The area where Fairy Albacore N4172 crashed. We never found the hoped for remains of an Albacore tail, all we found were some pieces of alluminium tubing which were most likely bracing from the wings; nearby was a scar which we believed was where the Albacore wreckage used to lie as the terrain in the background closely matched that on a photo Stuart had found of the fuselage before it was recovered.
Although there were no traces in this scar after comparison to an image of the Albacore fuselage before it was removed we believe it to be where the wreckage used to lie. above and below:-A piece of the bracing tube found on Whiten Head above and some on the restored Albacore at the Fleet Air Arm Museum below. More wreckage photos. After leaving Loch Riabhach for the return walk to the cars, Chris and his son headed off to check out the remains of the Whitley as they hadn't been to the site before, while myself Stuart and Chloe took a more direct route up and over Ben Hutig in the hope of gaining some nice views from the top on the way. Above and next three photos:-Views from the top of Ben Hutig. *--Spitfire on Dunnet Head **--Whitley BD678 ***--Cranstackie.