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The Cape Wrath Trail May 2011

The Cape Wrath Trail May 2011

Postby Billymaca » Tue Jun 07, 2011 4:35 pm

Route description: Cape Wrath Trail

Date walked: 07/05/2011

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Cape Wrath Trail May 2011

Day 1 14th Fortwilliam to Achnacarry NN157892 14.0
Day 2 15th Achnacarry to Sourlies NM869950 20.2
Day 3 16th Sourlies to Kinlochhourn NG953065 15.5
Day 4 17th Kinlochhourn to Morvich NG961211 14.4
Day 5 18th Morvich to Bernais Lodge NH020430 21.3
Day 6 19th Bernais Lodge to Kinlochewe NH030619 18.7

Day 7 20th DAY OFF Kinlochewe Caravan park

Day 8 21st Kinlochewe to Shenevall NH065809 16.7
Day 9 22nd Shenevall to Knockdamph NH287954 23.3
Day 10 23rd Knockdamph to Benmore Lodge NC328130 19.0
Day 11 24th Benmore Lodge to Glendhu NC284337 18.6
Day 12 25th Glendhu to Rhicinich NC256524 21.3
Day 13 26th Rhiconich to Sandwood bay NC219650 11.6


Day 15 26th Sandwood bay Cape Wrath NC260747 9.3

223.9 miles in total

Day 13 and 15 to be joined together, weather permitting and if not live firing on the ranges.

Ok! This is my walk report of the CWT which is not meant to inspire anybody into doing it but just a report of how it can turn out in the West of Scotland due to the sun and heat.
I have lived in the West of Scotland almost all of my life and can’t remember a May as wet as this year, Three weeks where every day it rained. I was looking forward to it and had planned it for many months. The duration was to be 14/15 days, Half my food was posted forward to Kinlochewe caravan park where I was to take a day off to rest and reorganise myself for the second half of the walk.

Day 1. I started at 11:00 in FortBilly
, it was a nice easy stroll along the Great Glen Way
Neptunes Staircase
as far as Achnacarry where I turned off to go along the shores of Loch Arkaig, The weather in FortBilly was dry but overcast with a light breeze, By the time I reached Coal it had started to rain, The temperature dropped and the wind picked up, but at least it was at my back. After turning off to Achnacarry I stopped at the Clan Cameron museum
for a break, a look around and to get out of the rain, which by now was getting quite heavy. Out of the museum through the estate and back onto the B8005 which had now turned west along loch Arkaig. MY GOD!, The wind was howling down the loch driving the rain into my face, which I’m sure was horizontal and not touching down until it hit a vertical tree or mountain side. Hood up, head down and plodding on, I eventually found a nice sheltered pitch for the night out of the wind beside a burn at NN153894.

Day 2. I had a great nights sleep, a good breakfast and was ready to set off by 07:00.
GOOD GOD! The weather, what can I say to describe it? I can’t find any words other than relentless. The walk along the shores of loch Arkaig itself was easy, Tarmac with gradual ups and downs,
I’m sure on a good day it would have beautiful scenery but the cloud base wasn’t far off the water. I met several bedraggled TGO challengers and had a good blether with them.
Once I reached Strathan the tarmac was over, It was now onto a farm dirt track all the way to upper Glendessarry where I turned right over a stile, I could see the path that crossed the grassy hillside, it was running like a burn so I walked beside it, the grass was like a sponge, no point trying to keep my feet dry. Once I had passed Lochan a’ Mhaim I made a big mistake, I remember reading somewhere that “when you get to the end of the loch, cross the burn as soon as you can”, But I didn’t, I forgot, So I kept on going down the South bank instead of the North, It wasn’t long before I was in the gorge with a rock face to my left and an almost vertical drop down to the burn, The further I went the tighter the gorge got. At one point in the gorge I was aware of a deep rumble, I turned round to look back up the gorge to be confronted with a helicopter creeping through between the cloud base and the floor of the gorge, It was at eye level and no more than 100 feet away, I gave them a wave but the two of them looked terrified so I got no response. Once I crossed the burn and corrected my mistake, which I can only put down to tiredness and being fed up with the weather the going was much easier down hill into Sourlies at the head of loch Nevis.
Looking down into the head of Loch Nevis (Sourlies bothy)
Sourlies bothy was full so I set up camp right outside on the well manicured lawn, had dinner and went to bed fully dressed as it was cold. At 03:30 I awoke to the roar of the burns which by now had turned into rivers, confused by the floor of my Vango Tempest 150 feeling like jelly and being up in the air around me, I got out of my sleeping bag and opened the door of the inner only to be met by a wall of water rushing in, Well my arse was a blur, I was out of that tent faster than a fast thing. The only things that weren’t under water were my down sleeping bag and the Pacific outdoor air mat, they were floating. Camera, phone, Satmap and battery pack all under water, jiggered! So no more pictures !

Day 3 A non eventful day relaxing and drying out, met Meg from over the pond, she was walking Scotland with no agenda, Also met a bloke from down south who was doing Munros, sorry I can’t remember his name, but any way he left in the morning when the tide went out, to go into the next glen so that he could set up camp as a base to climb the next munros on his list, that was the last we saw of him, or so we thought, Late in the afternoon, He was unable to cross the river in the next glen so had to return back to Sourlies but found the tide in by that time. He got back to Sourlies by wading through the sea up to his chest with a full rucksack on. He burst into the bothy, saturated, water running out of everything and had to spend the next day drying everything out.

Day 4 The river down into Sourlies had now returned back to a burn so I made the decision to bail out as the forecast wasn’t good for the next few days. When I arrived at Sourlies I had taken the paper map out of the waterproof case because I wasn’t needing it again, the last I remember having it was in the tent where I put it on the floor. The white thing floating in loch Nevis on the morning I was washed out must have been the map, Now I didn’t have a map to get back out. I knew of a bothy (Glenpean) further back which I decided to go to in the off chance that there was a map left behind by someone else.
The rain had eased off to torrential rain on the way back to A’chuil Bothy which I found empty, A nice easy, soaking wet, short walk. Had dinner and went to bed early.

Day 5 Started 06:30 because of the extra miles to go to Glenpean bothy and back looking for a map of the area, which there was, So thank you, who ever you are for leaving the laminated map, because of this I could now get out via Glean Cuirnean to Glenfinnan. This was a simple, wet underfoot, howling gale, uphill most of the way, in as usual, driving rain and occasionally a good hail shower thrown in just to make it interesting, Finally arriving at Glenfinnan in the afternoon. From there the train was the simple way back to FortBilly.

I have been doing long distance walks for several years now, but I have never walked in such horrendous, miserable and cold weather. I will try again at some point in the future but will split it into two separate weeks when it’s easier to pick the weather.

I take my hat off to any of the other people that were doing it at the same time if they completed it, well done!
Last edited by Billymaca on Sat Mar 10, 2012 8:39 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: The Cape Wrath Trail May 2011

Postby mountainstar » Tue Jun 07, 2011 7:08 pm

Hello Billy,
Very interested to read your report on a few counts....Ist I did the CWT a few years ago... http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=2875 ...also in some terrible weather, at least in the 1st week, which also was in May.
2nd. I was doing the TGO challenge this May as well, wished I'd have bumped into you for a chat, you don't mention which days or dates so I can't tell when you were doing what. I was walking from Lochairlort to Oban Bothy on Friday 13th May. Oban Bothy to Kinbreak Bothy on Sat 14th. and Kinbreak Bothy to Tomdoun Hotel on Sun 15th.
“when you get to the end of the loch, cross the burn as soon as you can” Yes easily missed if you don't know and think about it, as there is a path that continues on the south side towards the gorge (Don't know how far it goes, but i have looked at it and thought "that might fool a few people") and the path can't really be seen on the north side as it goes uphill for a short section, which is out of sight and you don't expect.
Hope you have better luck next time. I know how much planning goes into it.

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Re: The Cape Wrath Trail May 2011

Postby andyp » Wed Jun 08, 2011 6:54 am

Have been thinking of doing this hike for a while now and probably in May because of the usual good weather!! This has served as a useful reminder of how things don't always go to plan - the planning in my head usually involves long clear spring days, not raging winds and incessant torrential rain :crazy:

Thanks for report Billy and better luck and weather next time 8)
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Re: The Cape Wrath Trail May 2011

Postby IainG » Mon Jun 20, 2011 3:40 pm

Glad you managed it, well done!

One day, I'm going to do this one as they claim the section from Kinlochewe to the end is outstanding. I'll wait for better weather though!
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Re: The Cape Wrath Trail May 2011

Postby LDPWalker » Tue Jun 21, 2011 3:28 pm

I did it in splendid weather in September 2009, but reading that report made me realise how lucky I was..... No matter which route you take, Kinlochewe to Cape Wrath is splendid. I went Kinlochewe, Braemore, Oykel Bridge, Incnadamph, Kylesku, Kinlochbervie as there is accommodation at all those places. The 32 mile Kinlochbervie Hotel to Cape Wrath AND back on the same day was fun.... After all that effort the mist came in on my last day and I didn't really see Cape Wrath!!!

Incidentally, the bus from Durness back to Inverness has to be the best bus ride in the UK, what a journey!!
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Re: The Cape Wrath Trail May 2011

Postby Sponge » Wed Jul 06, 2011 2:23 pm

Hi Billy

I'm certain you will have another go and take it to the end.

I did the walk a couple of years ago (lots and lots of rain which made crossing some of the burns a bit tricky at times, not to mention the pleasures of putting on cold and soaking gear day after day!) I've since done variations of the walk all of them good (cant say the same of the weather but when its good life doesn't get much better).

I've met quite a few walkers who have tried the walk and stopped for various reasons. Two stand out; A journalist who told me he had walked in extensively in Afghanistan, Pakistan and China. He said he'd lost his nerve trying to find the path on the section between Soulies and Barrisdale. The other guy was an American who had walked the Appalachian Trail the year before, he gave up on day two after falling in a bog.

It's one of the best walks I have ever done. Walk light and just keep one foot going in front of the other. Oh and don't forget to enjoy it.

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Re: The Cape Wrath Trail May 2011

Postby cookachoo » Thu Jul 07, 2011 2:52 pm

Hi Billymaca

Thank you, thank you. I was reading this at work and had a great laugh, I had to explain what I was laughing at. You really cheered me up.

In my mind, I was with you every step of the way, and could just picture the horrendous conditions and everything you went through. Fleeing out of the tent, that was brilliant, although, I guess at the time it wasn't funny. Or maybe you did have a wee laugh to yourself?????

I have recently read a fabulous book on the CWT and would really love to try it maybe next year, so have been reading all I can about it.

You had such bad luck, I don't know if there is a best time to do this walk??????

I hope you have better luck next time. And keep the sense of humour. Great.
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Re: The Cape Wrath Trail May 2011

Postby frankieman » Sat Oct 01, 2011 11:37 pm

Hello Billymaca,

You have no idea how good it was to read your account because I and a friend had as tough a time as you and had to turn back as well. Whats more, we were only a few days behind you. We left Fort William on the 21st of May and followed the same route as you as far as Loch Arkaig. By the 23rd we were north of Loch Garry and the weather was atrocious. I have spent a lot of time offshore in small boats and I have never experienced weather on land like this. By the time we started to look for a way across the River Loyne, we had both been completely immersed in streams that you would normally expect to hop across. The Loyne looked like the sea and we eventually found a place to have a go. The banks were about three foot under water and it was impossible to try and pick a route. I made it across but my partner got knocked over and was off. I could not run as fast as the river was taking him - it was like a washing machine, a foot here, a head there, etc. About 30 metres further the river bent right and the current took him to the left bank. I had not got there yet and he couldn't hold on and was off again. Finally a rock brought him to a halt. I struggled to pull him out but we got there. We were meant to start climbing again, up and over to make Cluanie Inn that night but it was clear to both of us that we might make it up but we wouldn't make it down again. We were both properly soaked including all our kit and it was now a blizzard with the wind belting along the valley at 130mph we later found out. We decided to walk west into the wind because there was a building on the map which looked useful. It was about 5 miles, at times we were on our hands and knees just to stay on the track. I was bodily picked up and thrown off the path at one point ( 125kg dry ). There was hail, snow, rain, everything. It was such a physical effort to walk into the wind that it kept the hypothermia at bay for a few miles but eventually one realised that the cold was winning. By the time we reached shelter, my partner was well on the way and needed help to get food down and into a reasonably warm state. The only thing he had in a dry bag was his sleeping bag unlike me who had to wring the water out of mine. It was a terrible cold and long night. The wind was blowing the hail up under the eaves and onto your face through the night. This was not a bothy but a shed next to a boarded up house called Alltbeithe near where Glen Quoich runs into the loch.
The next morning we had to make a decision. We knew that more rain was coming and that the next river would be worse.
Furthermore we were feeling pretty beaten up and we needed to get dry and rest up etc. so we headed south and got to the Tomdoun Hotel where we got a taxi back to a hostel at Laggan and dried out and recovered a bit - what an excellent place. The next day we did Ben Nevis without packs and then decided to do the West Highland Way but heading south. For a year, the 'mission' had been Cape Wrath and I didn't really appreciate the 1st day or 2 of the WHW but after a while got into it and enjoyed it. A high point was getting to Kinlochleven and realising that we didn't need most of the 20kg plus on each of our backs and going to the Post Office and sending most of it home!
Anyway, you must have felt the same and probably, like me, often thought that you shoud have carried on....
We are starting to think about next May now and this time we will make it - see you at the Cape!
Thanks for your post!
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Re: The Cape Wrath Trail May 2011

Postby alankimber » Wed Mar 21, 2012 5:55 pm

Hello Billymaca,

What do you think about an idea which is surfacing to re-route the Cape Wrath Trail via the Great Glen Way? Check out www.grough.co.uk for more details.

Copy this link into your browser and have a look. Personally I'd say it was daft and misses out a huge chunk of the most magnificent land on the trek. Enjoy your walking.

Take care,

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Re: The Cape Wrath Trail May 2011

Postby Billymaca » Thu Mar 29, 2012 7:32 pm

Hello AlanKimber.
Thanks for introducing me to grough.co.uk and capewrathtrailguide.org. I wasn’t aware of them.
I’m sure you will regret asking me that one, as I am now going to witter on and on and on, on, on, on, n, n, n, zzzzzzzzzzzz!

This is just my opinion!

The Cape Wrath Trail in many Backpackers minds is that it is probably one of the most challenging routes that they will be likely to undertake in this country and as such the day that it’s nailed down as a definitive route either in literature or way markers, whichever route chosen would be a shame for various reasons.

As it stands right now people who wish to do the trail can do so by planning their own personal route according to their own or groups ability and in the areas that they wish to see taking hints, tips and advice from others who have completed it. If it were nailed down it may force some people who may not have the ability into areas that they are not confident in, and vice versa an accomplished walker may not find it challenging enough.

The planning, preparation and anticipation aspect of the Trail can be just as exciting and rewarding as the actual walking off it, So by nailing it down, making it a definitive trail route, that would take that aspect away and for some it takes some of the pleasure away as well.
For the people who have completed the Cape Wrath Trail in the past but wish to do so again they can change it as they like according to the experiences of their previous walk, thus making it more pleasurable for them,
As you will have read I walked in from the Great Glen Way as far as Achnacarry along Loch Arkaig into Sourlies, and I came back out via Glean Cuirnean to Glenfinnan. Now that I am preparing for the route again in about 6 weeks time, I have changed it starting at Glenfinnan. Having gone in from Loch arkaig last year and enjoyed it I wouldn’t do it again, I much preferred the walk out, Next year I may decide to go in from Glen Garry. This is what I am trying to express as a personal view, It’s open to variations depending on the individuals preference, and that’s a good thing I think.

I think that that’s why the Cape Wrath Trail and the TGO Challenge is so desirable to so many. The individual decides the route, high, low, easy or hard, it’s their choice and it can be a different experience each time.

I wonder what mountainstars view is on this one as he has completed both, would he do either the Cape Wrath or the TGO route exactly the same as before or would he change it and why?
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Re: The Cape Wrath Trail May 2011

Postby Essan » Thu Mar 29, 2012 8:41 pm

Yes, the great thing about the Cape Wrath Trail is that it is not a waymarked path and everyone can follow a slightly different route according to weather and inclination. Long may it stay so. The fun is in studying the map and working out the best route for yourself - not in following what someone else says in a book is best route.

I did it before it existed, treking from Glenfinnan to Cape Wrath as part of my 'long walk' during the winter if 1989. Took me two months (although I didn't follow a direct route and had a few diversions along the way) :)
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Re: The Cape Wrath Trail May 2011

Postby andyp » Tue Apr 03, 2012 10:15 pm

I intend to do the CWT in May this year and agree that the beauty of such a trip is it being an 'unofficial' route - way marking a definitive route is totally unnecessary and will detract from the feeling of remoteness.

On a separate point, I am concerned at the use of the military range at present - it has been active throughout March and now also planned for April. How can I find out what the plans are for May? I understood that Sundays were no firing days but that seems to not be the case with the present exercises. Advice please, thanks.
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Re: The Cape Wrath Trail May 2011

Postby Billymaca » Wed Apr 04, 2012 10:11 am

Hello Andyp,
I also have been looking for more info on the range dates, next update for it isn’t until Friday 27th April. I have given the MOD Range hotline a ring http://www.capewrath.org.uk/08_MOD_Exercise_Info.htm but you only get a recorded message with the dates and times of April, the girl speaking is on speed I think, my god she talks fast. Hopefully it will be over in May as I plan to go through on or about the 17th/18th.

Yes! I have just spoken to a lassie in Tain MOD who says that the range will be closed from 1st to 20th May for lambing, to be confirmed tomorrow when I phone back to speak to her boss.

Enjoy the walk and maybe i will see you along the way !
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Re: The Cape Wrath Trail May 2011

Postby andyp » Wed Apr 04, 2012 10:52 pm

Thanks for the info Billymaca - my current plan passes through CW around 23rd May (we have a bargain berth booked to Fort William for 8/9th May for start).

Any chance you can post the MOD number so I can check for later dates as well.

Not sure on the start route yet - depends on train arrivals/ferry times. Probably end up doing your Canal route, then along Loch Arkaig.

Good luck and hopefully you (and we!) have some half decent weather - I'm not banking on any based on your report above :lol:
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Re: The Cape Wrath Trail May 2011

Postby Billymaca » Fri Apr 06, 2012 5:41 pm

Hello andyp, Sorry I was at work yesterday and didn't get a chance to confirm the dates with them, now that we are in a bank holiday weekend, I can't get them, probably until Tuesday. Their number is 01862892185 and the girls name is Islay.
Hope this helps and if you get definitive dates from her let me know because I am at work until Wednesday and then away walking the WHW and the GGW, I may not get a chance to phone again for some time.
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