West Scotland Trail Section 03. Strathcarron, Torridon and Fisherfield

Day 16. Morvich to Iron Lodge. 17 km. 7.5 hours. 780m up. 650m down. I was late in leaving and did not get going until 1030. It was partly because I slept in at the campsite until 0830. It was overcast but there were large blue patches in the sky and the forecast was for these to increase. Initially my route took me through the rest of the dispersed rural hamlet of Morvich beside the river which flowed gently. The riverside path followed the curves through vibrant woods, whose floor was covered in a carpet of bluebells. Evenually I got to a junction where there were two paths one up Gleann Lichd which went south of Beinn Fada and on to Glen Affric eventually, and the other to the north of Beinn Fada and on to the Falls of Glomach. I took the latter. I could not help noticing the enourmous ravines which came down the south face of Beinn Fada and its neighbour to the north, A’Ghlas bheinn. They were deep and narrow and rocky on each side. I guess that small glacial tongues came down here once scouring the ravines deeper and deeper. 

088. Looking west back down to Loch Duich and Kintail from the start of the climb up to Falls of Glomach

The north path went through a regenerating forest to a higher pasture where it split again. Unfortunately I was distracted and did not notice my turning and went a good kilometre up the wrong valley. By the time I realized I had alread gained 100 metres. I could have continued but it would have been much longer than cutting my loses and returning to the junction I missed, which is what I did, returning through the nice regenerating decidious woods. Once in the field again I found the right path which lead me north across the Abhainn Chonaig burn to a field full of heavily pregnant ewes and a forestry track. I followed the forestry track up a narrowing valley which was mostly covered in conifer plantation but did have copses of decidious trees, mostly beech and birch, which were vibrant green with their new spring leaves. Occasionally I thought the conifers were on fire as there was so much pollen wafting off the trees in the small breeze I thought it was smoke. After 2 km the track crossed a small concrete bridge and immeadiately after it I had to leave it and climb up a steep side valley.

089. A most splendid beech tree in full vibrant spring grandeur in the last of the forest before the climb up to the Falls of Glomach starts in ernest


Just at the junction I bumped into an English father and son coming towards me and a Polish couple going my way. We stopped for a good 10 minute chat before me and the Poles went on up the side valley. I chatted with him for at least half of the hour long ascent, and it make the climb much less ardous although he was very fit and his wife was forging ahead. About half way up he left me and pushed on to catch up with his wife. It left me time to appreaciate the wildness of this small wild valley with its tiny path travesing up the northern side. The sun was more fully out and 60% of the sky was blue now. As I neared the top of the valley at the pass, Bealach na Sroine, 524m the gradient eased. It was warm now in the strong spring sun and I stopped for a rest and drink before the short descent into the valley on the east side, where there was a stream which plunged over a lip at the Falls of Glomach. 

090. Looking back down the wild valley on the climb up to Bealach na Sroine pass before the short descent to the top of Falls of Glomach.

the Falls of Glomach are Britian’s highest waterfall  I guess they are around a 100 metre drop in two adjacent sections one of 35 metres and then immeadiatly afterwards one of 65 metres. There is a path down beside the falls to a viewpoint, however the path is steep and sometimes slippery, especially if the rock is greasy with wet. It was not the case today as the falls were small and there was no spray. From one point about level with the split in the falls I could get a vantage point on a rock and see the entire drop. With this very low water level it looked quite calm but I am sure after 100mm of rain in 24 hours, which you might get in a November downpour, then the ground would be shaking with the violence of the spectacle and everything would be drenched in plumes of spray. The path ended at this viewpoint and I had to climb back to the top of the falls to continue, as below the viewpoint the valley became a gorge. 

091. The Falls of Glomach. This usually thunderous spectacle was greatly diminished by the drought-like spring conditions

I chatted with the nice Poles again at the top who were inspired to spend the night camped at the top of the falls. In the sun their grassy patch was very inviting. However I wanted to get down to the valley at least. The path went down the spur to the west of the falls. It was frequently rocky and often steep. There was plently of scope for a bad slip here so I was cautious especially with my big rucksack. Gingerly I made my way down frequently going over rock ridges,  or crossing side valleys, for about an hour until I reached the easy lower slopes and could then stride out again as I dropped into the main Glen Elchaig. The was a great view to the NE up this valley past a loch on the valley floor to the older simple lodges of Carnach Lodge and way beyond at the head of the valley Iron Lodge. I crossed a bridge over the stream which led away from the Falls of Glomach and then another over the River Elchaig to reach the valley floor. just on the other side was a nice track, grassy in the middle and with verdant verges which I would follow for the rest of the day. The gorse was in full bloom and smelt of coconut. Its vibrant yellow made a great foreground to the azure blue waters of Lochan na Lietreach and the dull golden hillsides, which were just starting to green slightly. 

092. Looking back up to the Falls of Glomach and the gorge below it from half way down the descent to Glen Elchaig.

I turned right and walked up the track. Soon I reached an older man who was lying in the most awkward looking position. So much so I though he had collapsed. He was however 76 and doing the TGO challenge. He now lived in London but was originally from Austria. I waited for him and we chatted at we walked up beside the beautiful loch chatting. He had a slow disjointed gait and I thought he looked tired despite still being on his day one.

093. Looking up Glen Elchaig past the lovely Lochan na Lietreach to Carnach Lodge and Iron Lodge at the end of the valley

At Carnach I thought about camping. The lodge was on the brink of falling into disrepair with some roof flashings and some slates missing. I then remembered this farmer farmed deer rather than sheep and there was a feeding bale on the old lawn and some deer around it. The ground would be infested with ticks so I decided to move on and continue the chat. Half way to Iron Lodge the older Austrian needed a break so I carried on past herds of deer who barely moved off the track as I approached. A long hour after reaching the track below the loch I finally reached Iron Lodge. It was also on the brink of falling into disrepair but could still be saved. It was too far off the beaten track to be anything touristic or holiday accomodation and I struggled to see what purpose it might serve if the farmer preserved it. I camped right on the grassy track by the Iron Lodge with the last rays on the tent before I went inside. There was a fat tick which must have fallen off a deer in the last few days in the porch of the tent. It was like a small grape and now slightly withering and not so turgid. I assumed some 5,000 tiny ticks were incubating inside it in preparation for a massed hatching and flicked it aside.  I was tired, too tired to write so fell asleep after dinner.  

Day 17. Iron Lodge to Ben Dronaig Bothy. 16 km. 6 hours. 580m up. 520m down. I got up early at 0630 and was away by 0800. It was a beautiful morning with the sun out and the the mountains glowing in the early morning sun. It was windstill and virtually cloudless. By the time I was ready to leave the sun was on the tent and I took my jacket off. At Iron Lodge 3 valleys meet to form the main Glen Elchaig valley. I was to take the valley which headed off to the north. I seemed to remember previously the tracked stopped, but it went on up the valley first on the west of the burn and then on the east. It made the long slow climb up to the watershed much easier with a track. My legs were tired after the heavy pack and long ascent of yesterday but the glorious condtions alleviated that and it was a very easy pleasent stroll. 

094. Looking down to Iron Lodge and Glen Elchaig in the early morning on the climb up the pass over to Maol Bhuidhe Bothy

As I climbed a wild corrie opened up to my left on the east face of Faochaig, a corbett to my west. While on the other side of the pass was another corbett called Aonach Buidhe. It only took an hour to reach the pass between these corbetts at 466 metres. I thought the road might end here but to my delight it continued down the otherside albeit much more a argocat route that a track and with frequent boggy bits. It was much easier than going cross country or following a boggy walkers track with its braided sections through marshy areas. 

As I went down the open hillside small rivulets entered from each side draining small bowls until there was enough water for a small burn to form. It grew quite quickly and there was soon a streambed with rocks and some small gravel areas. In front of me was the corbett of Beinn Dronaig rising like a grassy whaleback, with very few crags or outcrops. It looked out of place here in the west of Scotland and would have looked at home in the Borders. I passed close to one small lochan off to my right and then saw the distinctive white walls of Maol Bhuidhe bothy beside its copse of trees in a fence in an otherwise barren and grassy landscape. 

When I reached the bothy my back was tired with the rucksack. I dumped it at the door and chatted with a man doing the CWT from North to South with an enviably light pack. We sat on the stone bench outside in the warm morning air and talked about the trip each was doing. He said he only saw an average og 6-10 people heading north on the Cape Wrath Trail every day which was reassuring as this was the peak season. Once he had gone I went inside to the newly polished-up bothy to get a chair and write on the windowsill. The Mountain Bothies Association maintain some 50 bothies in Scotland on behalf of the landlord or estate owner for walkers and mountaineers to use. Occasionally they had time and funds to repair one, and this one had just been done and the timber still smelt of resin and an efficient small pot belly stove had been installed. It had 3 rooms and sleeping platforms for 10 people. Some of the best evenings of my life have been spent in bothies. As I wrote I noticed just how many small passerine birds kept emerging from the tiny copse to feed on insects around. I saw multiple Wheatear, Chaffinch and Wagtail come and go. It just goes to show what would happen if all of Scotland was rewilded with native woods.  

095. Looking south from the east ridge of Ben Dronaig to Loch Croushie with Maol Bhuidhe Bothy beyond it beside the small copse

After writing I eventially left at 1400. I was stiff, especially my back, after being hunched up writing and now with this heavy rucksack with nearly a weeks food. I shuffled down past the small native copse with multiple spieces of tree and on down to the river. The river was the outflow of the reed fringed Loch Croushie, which surprisingly flowed west to the Atlantic rather than the North Sea. It was easy to step across stones but in wet weather this would be a wade. After crossing the river the path crossed 2 kilometres of boggy tussock with the odd peat hag. The path all but dissapeared as each walker made their own way across it so there was not a distinct trail. I followed my nose and occasionally a path formed only to disperse again. I tried to avoid making the mistake I usually do and that is climbing too high. I did have a GPX route on my watch and trusted it to lead me over the spur, which was the east ridge of Ben Dronaig mountain. Right on cue it met the rough stalkers path on the otherside which I followed down to the sandy bays at the east end of Loch Calavie.

096. Looking across Loch Calavie from the beach at the east end. The peach coloured sands is from granite in the surrounding mountains.

I crossed a bridge over the outflow which this time flowed east down to the North Sea and then skirted two lovely peach coloured sandy bays before I got to the main track. I remember there was a controversy with this track and the Scottish Mountaineering Council when it was bulldozed 20 years ago. The Attadade Estate felt it was unfairly criticised and one of their defences was that it would green over given time. Now 20 years later it had completely greened over and blended in well. I walked along its grassy middle just above the lake as small sandpiper type birds hopped from cove to cove. From this side Ben Dronaig was completly different and it was covered in crags to the extent it would be difficult to go up it without using your hands.  At the far end on the loch was a small climb to the watershed and then the track descended 2 km to Ben Dronaig lodge, a shooters cabin really rather than a mansion.

The simple single story wooden lodge, perhaps 80 years old, was owned by the Attadale Estate and they made one of the outhouses beside it available as a bothy. I had stayed here twice before and it was a great walkers and munro baggers shelter and often convivial. There were 4 middle aged Scots here who had been climbing the hills on this weekend. It did not take long before connections were made and one was a work complice of a very good friend of mine. Outdoor Scotland is a small world. I had a great evening chat with them until 2100 when we all went to bed. I was quite tired due to the rucksack,  the weight of which was not dropping as fast as I would have liked, and the next two days will be quite testing for my stamina and fortitude. 

Day 18. Ben Dronaig Bothy to Coire Fionnaraich Bothy. 19 km. 8 hours. 490m up. 520m down. It was warm outside but the sky was covered in a thin film of cloud I noticed when we all woke at about 0630. After a quick breakfast and small chat we all managed to pack up and left around 0800. I left first but they were fast walkers and quickly caught me up and overtook me. We followed a large broad track which really would take ages to green over. The large road was essentially constructed to build two micro hydro plants, built some 8 years ago and was now used to maintain them, which did not require much. The first micro plant was up the valley toward the tiny Bearnais Bothy and the second was just a kilometre down the road where a small intake dam had been constructed. I crossed on a bridge below the dam and then a short kilometre later left the road to follow a barely discernible path across the heather and bog. 

097. Leaving Ben Dronaig bothy in the morning with my new pals en route over the hills on the path to Strathcarron

The path climbed quickly and soon became more established  on the north side of a small stream. After a good half hour the path reached the easy pass, Bealach Alltan Ruairidh. From here there was a great view looking back to the open valley where the small Ben Dronaig Lodge was still just visible. It was the high point of the morning and from here there was a long slow descent past the two smaller Fuara Lochans, which had extensive green reed beds growing on their fringes. The descent was across a featureless landscape which occasionally dropped off into a wooded valley to the south west. After a few kilometres the path veered north west and passed a few more small lochans. None had islets on them so were probably not suitable for divers to nest at. To the north I could see the valley I was going up in the evening flanked by mountains of Torridonian Sandstone and between them I could see the giants of Torridon, namely Liathach and Beinn Eighe where I would be tomorrow. It was very pleasing to see them as they rivalled Knoydart in their spectacular nature. 

098. Looking east from the path over the hills to Strathcarron towards Ben Dronaig Bothy beside the copse of trees in the distance

At this cluster of lochans the rocky footpath started to descend to the village of Strathcarron which I could just see. The blue waters of Lochcarron appeared, with the tide up to the grassy channels at the end of the loch. I could clearly see the white church at the village of Lochcarron, but most of the village was obscured by a knoll. I reached a well constructed deer fence and went over an enormous style to enter a fabulous area of regeneration. I think the small crofting hamlet of Achintee had given over its common grazing to native woodlands and it was wonderful to see so much greenery sprouting. Small rowans were everywhere and some,  just the height of me, were covered in flowers. In 50 years this will be a lush thriving woodland. The path soon reached the 10 houses of Achintee and then continued down to the main A890 road. On reaching it I discovered I could walk on a small path for 300 metres across a verge to reach the level crossing, the train station and my objective namely the hotel. 

099. On the path over to Stathcarron with the mountains of Torridon in the distance to the north

I had banked on having lunch here and luckily it was open and serving. The owner and his wife were from Edinburgh and had been here for 5 years. I got the impression he could not handle the stress of running a pub well,  and at busy times would be at bursting point. The menu was simple, like a child’s menu, but there was enough there to keep me going. As I waited for each course I updated the blog and generally rested my tired shoulders. Although I thought the rucksack was considerably lighter today. As I ate the skies darkened and there was the rare flash of lightning. Soon there was a short downpour and I was grateful to be inside. 

100. Coming down to Strathcarron with the tide in at the head of Loch Carron. The white building in the distance is the old church.

After a couple of hours at the pub it was time to move on and the weather had cleared. I walked north on the main road for a few hundred metres and crossed the sluggish mature River Carron on a bridge. The water level was very low. Just after the bridge over the river was a gate which I took and then followed the north bank of the River  as it meandered. It was a lovely walk through glowing gorse and passing a series of named fishing pools on the river. There was a large old lodge house here called New Kelso and the fertile alluvial grazing beside it was full of ewes and lambs.

101. Walking along the north side of the Carron River near New Kelso between Strathcarron and Coulags

The riparian path continued well past the New Kelso and then entered mixed woodland with native and conifer plantation areas. I sauntered along through it with my rucksack remarkably trouble free, I had obviously just eaten enough food so it was not below the critical weight of around 20 kg. The track was fast and I quickly ticked off the kilometres to Coulags. However I remembered the last kilometre was on a grassy verge beside the main road and I wanted to avoid it but the alternative paths did not link up. I decided to chance the alternative and was delighted when the track went well beyond what the map indicated. However it got smaller and smaller and eventually petered out just as I reached the Fionn Abhainn burn. I had to either force a route through the woods and undergrowth of willow or cross the burn and pick up a track on the other side. As it was very low I opted for the latter although in anything but these current conditions it would have been a shin deep wade. I was lucky and hopped across on stones and found the track. It led me past a field of Belted Galloway cattle,  some of which were brown rather than black, which I had never seen before. When I reached the A89 all I had to do was cross it to find my final track of the day. 

102. Coire Fionnariach Bothy is some 4 km north of Coulags and is in the heart of the mountains between Glen Carron and Glen Torridon

By now the rain was on again and I had to put on my jacket. There was a flash of lightning from time to time too. However the final 3 kilometres was up a small track beside the Fionn Abhainn burn into the heart of this southern limit of Torridonian mountains,  characterised by steep steps of sandstone. The further up the glen I went the more the mountains on each side leered over me like old men frozen in curiosity. After 2 km the track reached a small micro dam and then diminished to a rocky path. I followed it over a bridge to the west side of the burn where it continued for another kilometre to the lovely bothy. Coire Fionnaraich Bothy is one of my favourites as it is large and spacious with two wood panelled rooms upstairs also. The rain ceased well before I reached it and the 3 who were staying at the bothy already were outside chatting. 

I joined them briefly. There was the recently retired Cambridge University Geology Professor, an older gent from Birmingham and a young Belgium teacher. The latter two were doing the CWT north to south. I chatted with them all,  amazed at just who one might meet in a bothy,  and then went in to sort myself out in an empty upstairs room. I then went down for a good chat with the professor and picked his brains about my geological curiosities. We all cooked together quite late and then chatted before everyone went to bed at 2100. I had still not written so stayed up for another two hours typing in my room until 2300. 

Day 19. Coire Fionnaraich Bothy to Coire Mhic Fhearchair. 19 km. 8 hours. 970m up. 560m down. I was up first just after 0700 and the rest followed quickly. Over breakfast I chatted with the man from Birmingham. He was very gentle and kindly and had just retired. “From what” I enquired. From being a zoo keeper at Chester Zoo where he was involved with the primates. It was a job he obviously loved. Bothies have a way of bringing an eclectic mix of folk together and this one was a fine example. The geology professor and the Belgium teacher soon joined us and we had an enthusiastic chat. I had to pull myself away at 0830 as I had a long day ahead.

It was a fine windstill morning but overcast and the forecast was for rain. However at the moment the summits were clear and there were some impressive summits as I wandered up the glen to Loch Coire Fionnaraich. The most impressive was Moal Chean Dearg, 923m, which had a terrific north shoulder of stacked layers of Torridonian Sandstone and patches of Quartzite.  The loch was fringed in peach coloured beaches with bits of sandstone and quartzite around the fringes. Trout were rising in the middle but around the edges I scared off a few which were basking in the warmer shallow water. Ahead of me was the headwall on the valley and I could see the morning’s task which was to climb the path which diagonally climbed it from west to the high pass on the east. 

103. Loch Corie Fionnariach in the early morning. My route went up the valley headwall in the centre of the picture from left rising to to pass on the right.

Before long I was starting to ascend this path. It must have been an old constructed stalkers track as it was well made and the gradient was comfortable. Some 20 minutes after the loch a branch went east over a pass and down to Annat on the shores of Loch Torridon. My path continues east up the diagonal ascent to the pass on the north side of the quartzite pyramid of Sjorr Ruadh, 962m. The sun was shining on it occasionally and its flanks were gleaming with cascades of light scree. As I climbed I saw an eagle. This time I was sure it was a golden eagle as its wingspan was more slender and it flew with more panache. It eventually landed on the rocks above me but it was too far to get a meaningful picture, although I did get a bad one. On and on the path traversed until it reached the rocky ridge. I thought this was the top but it continued to climb with some zig zags round the north shoulder of Sgorr Ruadh and then a further kilometre to the east on a more level contour across quartzite debris. 

104. Looking up at the NE face of Maol Chean dearg from the climb up the headwall of Corie Fionnariach between Glens Carron and Torridon

To the north a marvellous view unfolded with two of Scotland’s most iconic mountains Beinn Eighe and the superlative Liathach and both were still clear. Between them and me was the vast classic U shaped Glen Torridon which could have graced any geography textbook as an example of a glacial valley. The descent down to it was long and initially the path was faint. I trusted my GPX track and it kept me on course and soon enough the path got more and more distinct. It would have been a much more arduous descent otherwise as there had once been a large glacier here and as it melted some 10,000 years ago it left piles of moraine scattered all over the place called drumlins. The path wove an easy route through them on a generally gravel surface which was much easier than going on a freestyle route. I once went a freestyle route 15 years ago because I started heading down too early. After a good hour I reached the SMC Ling Hut, a clubhouse for climbers in Torridon. I walked round the east side of the lochan it sat on and soon reached the single track A896 where there was a parking place with the almost tame deer waiting to be fed. All the way down Liathach grew in stature and started to loom over me with the Fasarinen Pinnacles running along the crest like the spiny defences on a giant dinosaur. 

105. On the descent from the pass down into Glen Torridon you can see Loch Torridon and the bare landscape around the hamlet of Diabeg

I was getting tired but mindful of the darkening skies so pushed on quickly up the Allt Coire Dubh Mor stream which tumbled down in the deep valley between Liathach and Beinn Eighe. The valley curved to the west right round the base of the east end of Liathach and from here I could look up nearly 1000 metres of layer upon layer of steps of Torridonian sandstone, all of which was laid down nearly a billion years ago when this part of Scotland was a vast estuary in sea much like the Mississippi estuary is today. After a good hour the excellent path crossed the main valley stream on large stepping stones and then started to veer north and then east round the rocky west end of Beinn Eighe. As I headed up this path the north face of Liathach came into view with its steep north facing cories and steep walls and had it been a lighter rock and with less vegetation could have been the Dolomites. About a kilometre from the end the rain which had been threatening all day finally arrived. Initially it was half hearted but soon it started to fall in earnest  with large drops and the rocky path was soon running with trickles of water. To the north was an empty quarter with a handful of seldom visited Torridonian monoliths rising to over 800 metres from the flat Lewisian Gneiss basement from which they rose like squat chess pieces. 

106. The south face of the iconic Liathach with the Farsarinen Pinnacles making up the most jagged part of the ridge.

The final climb up to Corie Mhic Fhearchair was up steps of sandstone with a stream cascading down the steps to my left. The stream drained the loch above beside which I hoped to camp. As I reached the loch I was pleased to see that the corie was still clear despite the rain as it contained the Triple Buttress, an infamous and very spectacular climbing crag made up of 3 pillars of sandstone. It lay across the loch to the south as I was now on the north side of Beinn Eighe. I found a damp spot to camp on a nearly muddy patch at the bottom of some slabs and dived into the tent dripping wet. Soon the rain intensified and water began to pool outside and I was thankful for the Macpac quality bathtub floor of the tent. Nevertheless the floor became wet as everything condensed on it. I wrote a little but was tired and decided to sleep with the rain now pelting the tent quite loudly. There was little cheer in the tent and an air of cold damp pervaded everything.

107. The north side of Liathach and in particular its peak Mullach an Rathain, 1023m, the highest at the peak at the west end of Liathach

Day 20. Coire Mhic Fhearchair to Kinlochewe. 13 km. 5.5 hours. 270m up. 820m down. It was still raining in the morning and everything was wet or damp. My sleeping bag was just damp. The bathtub groundsheet was like a waterbed as a few centimetres of water underneath it sloshed about. With no small discipline I got up at 0630, ate breakfast and packed up and was off by 0800. The rain was a little lighter but it was still 3 star misery. It would have been five if the mist was down and it was windy. I remembered from 12 years ago I would now have a few hours of picking a route across very very rough ground with no path. 

108. My tent in Corie Mhic Fhearchair with the Triple Buttress in the middle of the photo partly obscured by the heavy rain.

Initially I dropped down off the lip of the corie and down the heather and boulder slope. I remembered it was difficult to traverse across the slope higher up so I decided to go down to the more level ground down by the burn below. It worked well and I came across a track, perhaps a deer track as there were no footprints. I followed the animal path a little too eagerly as I thought the deer would know best. However, in my optimism I did not notice I was straying further and further from where I should be, which was traversing the tricky and arduous north face of Ruadh stac Mor. By the time I came to my senses I was a good kilometre to the north following the burn down the wrong valley. I could still rescue the situation with some difficulty and head diagonally back up the mountain towards a wild and inaccessible corie in the middle of the north side of Beinn Eighe. The trouble was I had to pick my own path through knee high heather through drumlins of moraine which were piled up all over the place. After a good hour of climbing I eventually reached where I should have been. I discovered that there was still no path here and the terrain was just as hospitable as it was 12 years ago so I had not lost much time and effort as the suggested route was a bloodsome slog. I followed it roughly as I picked a way through quartzite debris for almost an hour climbing and descending around the drumlins of stone until I entered a high valley between the corbetts of Ruadh stac Beag and Meall a’Ghuibhais. There was virtually no sandstone left and the rock on the mountains, scree and in the valley at this eastern end of Beinn Eighe was quartzite. It was less forgiving than sandstone, more slippery and I had to be more attentive as to where I was putting my feet. 

109. Heading down from Coire Mhic Fhearchair with the sublime waterfall to start the very rough pathless traverse along the base of the north side of Beinn Eighe, 1010m.

Soon the route entered a high level area, possibly a lake which had been filled in by sediment over the last few thousand years. At last the going became easier as I could follow the wetter softer ground beside the stream. The stream meandered through this area with banks of fine quartzite gravel. It was incredibly clear and where there were pools there was no loss of visibility and the water had a lovely emerald hue to it. After a good kilometre of this flatter area the stream veered south to a very remote hidden corie on the north of Beinn Eighe which I am sure is very little visited. I however continued east up a slight ridge with an ever increasing path in the white quartzite gravel to reach a shallow pass. As I got to it I saw that further east in Scotland the weather was plausible, and it was only grim behind me on Beinn Eighe and the rest of Torridon. 

110. The lost valley on the north side of Beinn Eighe with the small river meandering across the small plain with sandy beaches and crystal clear water.

The top of the pass was marked by a large cairn of white stones and I was delighted to see that there was now a good path leading down all the way to the grassy fields around Kinlochewe. I started pounding down the gravel of the path as it contoured down through a few deeper stream beds  On my left the huge Slioch mountain, 980m, came into view on the other side of Loch Maree, a very large freshwater loch. After a good hour I crossed the final stream bed and then started to head down a spur to the head of Loch Maree between two shallow ravines. The ravines were full of pine which had regenerated from some of the hardy venerable stock which had been there for aeons. It was great to see such a recovery in this otherwise inhospitable terrain. Before long I reached the valley floor and then walked on a lovely soft path of sandy gravel towards the village a kilometre away. The pinewoods here were full of birdsong and I saw many chaffinches. Unexpectedly I rounded the corner and there was the petrol station.

111. Heading down to the green fields and the fleshpots of Kinlochewe with the rain finally ceased.

112. The mountain of Slioch, 981m, (left) dominates the eastern side of loch Maree. I hope to go up the narrow valley, Glean Bianasdail, to the south of it in the centre to reach Loch Fada in Fisherfield tomorrow

It was busy with portly motorcyclists and 2 other hikers. The hikers invited me over and I sat with them. One from Cornwall and a very chatty friendly one from Selkirk. They were both doing the CWT also. I got some food and great coffee and had lunch while chatting about the trail. Mindful of my damp sleeping bag, wet tent, stinking clothes and hours of tying I phoned the hotel but they were full, the campsite had its maximum allocation of 3 tents already and the B and B I once stayed at had closed down. However the petrol station owner told me about a caravan. I phoned and it was free this evening. I booked it. An hour later I was getting ensconced with all my wet equipment on the line, my stinking hiking clothes in the washing machine and me in the shower. It was perfect. The rain returned later in the evening and I sat in the caravan and watched it fall as I typed away in comfort. I had enough food to eat in so I did not have to visit the hotel for dinner. It was the most perfect solution.    

113. There was a lot of birdsong in the regenerating pinewoods to the NW of Kinlochewe. I saw many chaffinches here. This one was eating insects on a willow.

Day 21. Kinlochewe to Achneigie Woods. 24 km. 8.5 hours. 730m up. 660m down. I slept well in the caravan and woke up quite early at 0600. By the time I had my breakfast of granola and the one she left for me of toast and jam, and then packed it was 0800. It was a nice calm day and there were large blue patches. The forecast was good also. I was in good spirits but knew I had a long but exciting day. Initially I walked up the cycle beside the road passing Kinlochewe Lodge which was trying to eradicate its feral Rhododendrons. After the lodge the road went through some gorgeous beech woods and then crossed the Kinlochewe River. It was quite wide but the deciduous canopies on each side nearly met over the still water. I followed the small road past the school to a parking place with a few walkers vans parked up for those doing the Munro of Slioch

114. Crossing the Kinlochewe River on the bridge overvtobthe start of the Slioch path.

A path left this parking space and headed NW along the edge of the verdant valley floor. The path was squeezed between the fields and river on the west side and the lower ramparts of Beinn a’Mhuinidh, 692m on the east side. It was a very pretty walk as I went along a corridor of mature deciduous trees and below me the flanks of the river were lined with gorse in full vibrant yellow flower. The path was generally flat and easy underfoot. Cuckoos were everywhere in the woods and I even saw one flying over me calling as it went. At first glance it could have been mistaken for a small kestrel. The further I walked the more the massif of Slioch showed itself. It was the star of the show this morning and I would walk beneath it. Eventually the fields and delta gave way to Loch Maree and I followed its shoreline for a kilometre before coming to the tumbling Abhainnan an Ehasaigh burn which cascaded out of Glean Bianasdail valley to the east of Slioch. I left the lochside path here which continued to Letterewe and followed the rocky track up the valley. 

115. Looking at the delta where the Kinlochewe River enters Loch Maree

It was a mountain walk as the path was narrow and rocky and the valley was deep. On the NW side the steps and ramparts of Slioch rose up until the bulge of the mountain blocked the view higher. The burn flowed in a ravine over a series of small waterfalls. The sides of the raving were lined with old alders and pines. I knew from previously there was a special pine here and was looking for it but did not see it until a craggy section. It was a tree which every man aspires to be. Growing in difficult circumstances on the rocky side of the gorge it had for at least a century thrived in the most inhospitable place to become a venerable giant. It was immensely stout and gnarled but very strong also, like a giant bonsai. I found an old photo of it and took a more modern one to compare. Not much had changed and it still stood proud and steadfast. I admired it for 5 minutes before pushing on up the glen. I saw another eagle here. It looked like a golden eagle as its wings were quite slender but its tail was very wedge shaped which made me doubt it. It effortlessly used the updraughts to climb effortlessly. It took a good hour and a half to climb up some 300 metres up the side of the deep valley. The path had to climb as there was a narrow gorge to avoid and it went over the top of it. At the highest point a terrific view of the mountains of the Fisherfield came into view on the other side of the deep azure blue of Loch Fada. From here I could now look back and see the top of Slioch on top of a ramp which was surrounded by cliffs. It was a quick short descent to Loch Fada where I had to cross the outflow just before it entered the gorge I had just walked over. If the water was very high after Biblical rain this would be tricky and the preferred route then would be the duller option up Gleann na Muice, which is where the Cape Wrath Trail goes. 

116. The venerable old pine tree growing on the side of the gorge in Gleann Bianasdail.

At Loch Fada the path follows the shore round past a couple of gravel beaches with absolutely stunning views up the length of this remote hidden loch sandwiched in a slot between the mountains of Letterewe and Fisherfield. The sun was warm and I lingered on a beach and almost went for a dip in the stupendous setting but didn’t. At the north end of the main beach there was a small path which led up the hillside for a few hundred metres to meet the main Cape Wrath Trail. I would now follow it NE over a shoulder with a small lochan at the top. From here on the shallow pass I could look north down to the lower Bealach nan Croise a good kilometre away. It was the watershed between Loch Maree and Loch na Sealga which drained into Gruinard Bay eventually. Between me and this lower pass was some very peaty ground with large hags and plenty of diversions to cross boggy sections. In the middle of it was a small stream draining Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair, 1018m, one of the biggest Fisherfield Munros. The stream had cut a ravine in the bedrock and I remembered to head west and keep height to allow an easy crossing. I actually stopped for a late lunch at this stream and relaxed on the slightly sloping bedrock, which was covered in the fossilised dimples of pipe worm casts, like frozen raindrops. After lunch I continued down some 20 minutes to the watershed at the Bealach nan Croise. 

117. Looking west down Loch Fada from the beach at the east end. Left are the Letterewe Mountains and Fisherfield to the right

118. On the climb up to Bealach nan Croise and looking back to Loch Fada and Slioch mountain beyond it.

I had been going for about 6 hours now but still had a lot to go. However it was all downhill now and the path was much better than I remembered it. Pretty soon I could see glimpses of Loch an Nid, a small lake fabled for its beauty. Within an hour I had reached it and was surprised at how blue it was. There was a gravel lined river leading into it and a gravel beach across the north end where the outflow was. I walked along the curves of the gravel river flowing into it thinking that this is where the Atlantic Salmon would come to spawn in the gravel beds. They would have to come up all the way from Gruinard Bay and could only do it when the river was in spate. The fry and smolt of the salmon would then develop here in Loch an Nid before they themselves went down stream to the Atlantic to feed and grow in the sea before returning to the gravel burn of their youth to start the whole cycle again. Unfortunately commercial fish farming has played havoc with this natural cycle and hardly any salmon now make the journey up here to spawn anymore. 

119. The first views of An Teallach mountain with Loch an Nid in the foreground.

As I walked down the east side of Loch an Nid I noticed the curious bare rock slabs which covered much of the east face of Sgurr Ban, 989m. The slabs were at quite a shallow angle, perhaps 25 degrees and it would be quite possible to walk up them from the loch to the summit. A little further down the valley another of Scotland’s most iconic mountains, namely An Teallach, 1060m, came into view with the infamous Corrag Bhuidhe, a scramblers mecca, sitting on the ridge near the summit. My route now followed a stalkers track for another 4 km down the valley towards An Teallach mountain. Here at a junction of two burns was a flatter alluvial plain where the river ran. On this plain was an enchanting wood, Achneigie Wood, which was largely composed of very old alder trees which I reckoned would be about 200 years old. Between the trees were sunny grassy glades. I had camped here before and was now looking forward to camp here again and found it much better than pressing on another 4 kilometres to the lovely but inevitably busy bothy of Sheneval.The gorse was vibrant around the wood in the more inhospitable ground at the edge of the woods. I found a nice spot and had the tent up quickly. The only problem with this wood was deer and cattle also sheltered here in poor weather so I should expect it to be dense with ticks. It was but once in the tent I was safe. As I ate and wrote there were some very close visits by noisy cuckoos some of which sound like they were in the tree above me. It had been a very very good day but quite long and I was tired.

120. The delightful ancient Alder woods at Achneigie beside the river with An Tealkach in the background.

Day 21. Achneigie Woods to Inverlael. 23 km. 8.5 hours. 800m up. 890m down. I had a beautiful sleep in the woods and was woken by many cuckoos who seemed to be gathering in the trees above me. When I got up there were about 5 of them frolicking in the old venerable alders. I should imagine cuckoos have been migrating from the Congo Basin to breed here in the nest of pipits and warblers for hundreds of generations. Once their eggs were laid in the host nests there was little for them to do except sing and play. It was warm outside and a lovely morning. As I packed, a mixed herd of Belted Galloway and Highland Cattle with their calves came down the track to the meadows around the confluence of the streams. It was a scene out of a romantic Victorian painting. The only problem was the ticks. There were 11 alone on the groundsheet as I rolled it up. I can never remember such a bad tick year. 

121. Looking down on Achneigie Woods from the track over to CorrieHallie on the A832. In the background is Beinn Chlaidheimh, 913m, which misses out on Munro status by half a metre.

I left around 0730 and walked past the cattle to reach the base of the track which I knew would take me over the hillside and down to the road at Dundonnell. The walk up the track was quite steep on this warm morning and I was soon sweating and the midge repellant I put on for the onslaught of the insects last night was running into my eyes stinging them. As I climbed more and more of the magnificent corie on the north side of An Teallach came into view. I knew I would see more of it soon as I walked north and was eager for the view. It was one of the biggest and steepest cories in Scotland. After 3 km the track levelled out and it was soon joined by the path from Shenavall bothy which climbed up steeply and then crossed the rocky moorland. There were a couple of CWT hikers on it and they got to the junction at the same time as me. One was from Israel and the other Dutch. I had met them before at the cafe at the Kinlochewe filling station. I chatted with the Israeli man from the top of the ridge all the way down to the road an hour away. Unfortunately I was a little distracted and did not get to fully appreciate An Teallach as I passed it but knew I would have a good view later in the afternoon. At Corrie Hallie on the road we walked north for half a kilometre keeping well on the verge of this busy road before the turnoff to Dundonnell. Here our path went over a lovely old bridge to the small hamlet. We parted company here as he was a faster walker than me and with a lighter rucksack, and I also needed a break. 


122. Coire Loch Toll an Lochan, the southerly of the two west cories of An Teallach.

The path now went up and over the hill to Inverbroom on a path I had seen called the Kirk Road or the Coffin Road. It was a lovely path although it was hot in the early afternoon sun in the still air of the mixed deciduous woods. As I climbed above the woods there was a slight breeze but the spring sun was merciless. I got to a small cascading stream and stopped here for a long cold drink. There were cuckoos here too but more importantly a magnificent view of the twin cories of An Teallach. The most southerly one was slightly more impressive with its huge cliffs and buttresses culminating in Lord Berkeley’s Seat, a prow which overlooked the sheer cliffs.

123. Coire A’Ghlas Thuill, the northerly of the two west cories of An Teallach.


After my much needed break I continued up for a good hour and a half. I could not remember it being so long but eventually I got to the lochan at the top. Now the Beinn Dearg massif opened up before me across the other side of Inverbroom. I had a last look at An Teallach before starting the long descent of 400 metres. Soon the verdant well organised fields of Inverbroom appeared laid out across the flat valley floor. It could see Loch Broom off to the north, The tide was half way and the shallows had a green hue but the rest of the Loch was dark blue. Around the head of the loch and each side of the river the gorse was egg yolk yellow. However what really impressed me was the green fields full of sheep and lambs. It was a long, occasionally steep descent before I reached them. 

124. From the top on the Coffin Road between Dundonnell and Inverbroom looking down onto the fields around the head of Loch Broom

Once on the valley floor I had to walk south for about 4 km through these fields. They were full of Texel sheep each with an average of 2 lambs. In all I must have passed 20 fields, each with 50 sheep. Everything was so well ordered and maintained. Every stone wall, every gate was in perfect order. The main Inverbroom Lodge and the farm building were in immaculate shape and gleaming white with fresh whitewash. This was one of the best maintained estates I had seen. 

125. Looking up the valley floor of Inverbroom towards Inverlael with the verdant fields spread across the valley

As I walked along the track a pick up came towards me and stopped for a chat. I knew it was Scott Renwick who was the tenant farmer of the Inverbroom Estate. I had stayed with him as a B&B guest when I did this walk 12 years ago. We chatted for a good half hour and he seemed to know all the farmers I knew, including Norman Stodart on Skye, the Bowsers of Auchlyne and even Sybil Machpherson who ran the squalid farm I passed through at Dalmally. He was a very likeable man with an infectious chuckle and good humour.  He offered me a lift to Inverlael but I said I had to walk. He was partly responsible for the well managed farm and here was the owner of all the sheep. If there was a benchmark for how a farm should be run then Scott Renwick would be the standard for others to try and achieve. 

126. Looking across the fields of Inverbroom with grazing Texel sheep. The white buildings are the sheds of Inverbroom Lodge which is hidden in
the trees

I continued up the track for another 3 km then crossed the Inverbroom River. I now had to double on the main road for nearly a kilometre but to my relief there was a small path along a woodland walk with many specimen trees including a gigantic Douglas Fir and a humongous Sequoia. At the end of the woodland walk I crossed the road and arrived at Inverlael Bunkhouse where I had stayed a few times. Iain, who owned the place, had received my resupply package and it was on my bed. There was a very nice Scottish man and English woman already here and I chatted with them before heading into the shower. The Scottish man had previously cooked a lot of Chilli con Carne and offered it for dinner. We all ate together around the convivial table before I wrote the blog. 

127. Looking south up the Inverbroom River with lush vegetation on the side. In the distance is one of the Fannich mountains

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