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Affric Kintail Way from west to east

Affric Kintail Way from west to east


Postby westgate » Mon Jun 05, 2023 2:58 pm

Route description: Affric Kintail Way

Date walked: 11/05/2023

Time taken: 4 days

Distance: 79.2 km

Ascent: 1402m

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Day 1: Shiel Bridge to Alltbeithe Hostel. 19.5 kms 476m ascent

Having stayed overnight in Inverness, I am at the bus station in good time for the journey to Shiel Bridge and the start of my walk. The weather is good and the bus journey pleasant alongside Loch Ness then turning west to Shiel Bridge. The driver kindly drops me at Kintail Lodge Hotel, even though not an official bus stop, saving a couple of kilometres walking.

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The start of my walk

I set off in good spirits. The weather is good, the legs feel strong and the pack is not too heavy (11.9 kgms with food, water and gas). I drop in to Kintail Crafts store, previously visited when I walked the Cape Wrath Trail, and continue past Morvich campsite and arrive at the official start of the Affric Kintail Way.

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The start of the AKW

It is an easy path along Glen Lichd following the River Croe. The weather is glorious and the walking is easy.

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Glorious weather and scenery

After about 10kms the gradient steepens and the route passes waterfalls before bending to the NE and entering Glen Affric. I arrive at Camban bothy and call in to see who is there. I am invited to stay but want to get a few more kilometres under my belt. I later learn that it got crowded and a bit noisy, so I am pleased I didn’t stay.

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Camban bothy

My goal for tonight is to make Alltbeithe hostel, the most remote hostel in the UK. I am not staying there, but will pitch my tent nearby to meet other Challengers and use any facilities. I arrive at 7pm. There are about six other tents camped nearby. The bothy is not open but it has a wonderfully clean flushing toilet with towel and soap! What joy.

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Alltbeihe hostel

I pitch my tent in a lovely spot after a successful and enjoyable first day.

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My pitch for the night


Day 2: Alltbeithe hostel to Caledonian Pine forest shortly before Dog Falls. 22.9 kms 246m ascent

I wake to a beatiful morning and pack up at leisure before continuing along the beautiful Glen Affric.

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Glen Affric

After about 8 kms I reach the eastern end of Glen Affric and enter Forestry Commision land on a 4×4 track. The walking is tedious compared with the open glens, and the pine trees slope steeply down the hillside on either side of the path. This makes it hard to find any open ground to pitch my tent.

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Forestry Commission track

A couple walking in the other direction ask if I have seen anywhere to pitch a tent, as they are getting weary and looking for somewhere to camp. Luckily for them, I had seen a small patch of grass by a bridge where I had stopped for some lunch. Too early for me, but ideal for them. My planned overnight stop proved impossible, so I press on later and longer than planned before finding a small spot where I can pitch the tent.

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Looking north

This was the view looking north across the loch below, which shows how inhospitable the terrain was for camping. But turning the other way the view was less inviting!

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My view for the night!

I had to pitch right behind some sort of industrial unit associated with nearby forestry works. But at least the ground was flat.

Day 3: Caledonian Pine forest to Bearnock campsite. 22.4 kms 479m ascent

I am up early in case the workers arrive, though I have forgotten it is Saturday, so unlikley they will be working. It is calm and still, but chilly. I continue on the trail to the river by Dog Falls. My legs feel stiff and I can feel a blister developing on my right toe (later protected with a Compeed plaster). I meet a couple who also had difficulty finding a spot to camp last night, so ended up in the car park by the Falls despite a ‘No Camping’ sign.

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Dog Falls

I have some breakfast at the picnic table by the Falls, and use the nice clean toilet (such facilities are invaluable when wild camping!) The rest of the morning is a relentless uphill slog along forestry tracks until arriving at Cannich, a small village with a store.

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Cannich

I replenish with a few supplies from an unfriendly server, and buy a hot pie and coffee for lunch, which I eat outside at a picnic table. I ask the shop lady if she will refill my water bottle and she looks daggers at me, but does agree. Time to be off.

From Cannich the Affric Kintail route has been re-routed through Kerrow Woods to avoid a lengthy road section. This is welcome, and they have obviously worked hard on installing new gates and fencing, but the landscape is bereft of interest as it is bare land after felling and clearing of trees.

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The re-routed path from Cannich

The new route briefly joins the A83 before branching off again on a circuitous track, but I decide to stay on the road for slightly further before taking a narrow and quiet road signed Buntait, which heads directly to my destination, and is much shorter and easier. I arrive at Bearnock campsite which is a strange place, a bit like the Marie Celeste. I can’t find any member of staff, but the nice modern communal kitchen, dining area and toilets are open for use. I make myself at home and phone a number on the front door to ask if I can camp. The website says: ‘We have a wonderful location for you’. But I am told to pitch next to a bright yellow industrial unit (for the second night in a row!) It is in the glamping field, but there is nothing much glamorous about it. Still, the kitchen and dining area are very welcome as it saves cooking in the tent; but it’s all a bit surreal. A woman asks me if a know how to turn on the hot water in their lodge, and a man arrives asking for the key to his cabin! Time for bed.

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In the glamping field

Day 4: Bearnock campsite to Drumnadrochit. 14.4 kms 201m ascent

I am up and away, still without seeing any member of staff. The OS map shows a nice clear track leading back to rejoin the Affric Kintail Way but it entails about 200m of struggling though dense, overgrown forest, fallen trees, and boggy ground to finally get back on the offical path. From here it is an easy walk along undulating forest tracks. It is clear a lot of work has been put into developing this section of the Way to encourage casual walkers, but it is all a bit too bland for me; I’m on a Challenge, not a stroll.

I arrive at Drumnadrochit at lunchtime and enjoy a bowl of fish chowder in a busy restaurant. My journey continued across Loch Ness and on for another 11 days to St Cyrus on the east coast. But for this report on the Affric Kintail Way, this is where it finishes.

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Drumnadrochit


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About to cross Loch Ness


Postscript

The first half of the Way (starting in the west) is wonderful scenery through Glen Lichd and Glen Affric. The second half is less exciting, being mainly on forestry tracks; and it is difficult to find a nice camping spot in this forest section. Overall, I would recommend people to start at Shiel Bridge, walk a day and a half to camp at the eastern end of Glen Affric, then retrace your steps to view the scenery in the opposite direction. Unless of course you want to actually say you have completed the AKW in full.
westgate
Scrambler
 
Posts: 23
Joined: Feb 12, 2018

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