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The Cape Wrath Trail - Glenfinnan to Strathcarron (May 2013)

The Cape Wrath Trail - Glenfinnan to Strathcarron (May 2013)

Postby Lagrannoch Boy » Mon Jun 10, 2013 10:05 pm

Route description: Cape Wrath Trail

Date walked: 18/05/2013

Time taken: 7 days

Distance: 120 km

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This was the second attempt for my mate Terry and I to complete the section of the Cape Wrath Trail between Fort William and Ulapool. Last year (2012) we had to abandon the walk as our tent was wrecked by the bad storms on the 12th/13th May.

This year we decided to start from Glenfinnan to avoid the walk along Loch Eil. So we travelled by car from my home in Dunfermline to Crianlarich to catch the 10.44 train to Glenfinnan.

Day 1: Sat 18th May 2013. Glenfinnan to Glen Dessarry Bothy (13 miles)

We arrived in Glennfinan Station at 12.44 and headed for the hills. It was overcast with a strong wind as we left the station and made our way down the main road and then up and through the railway viaduct.

Glenfinnan Viaduct.jpg
Glenfinnan Viaduct about 1.5 miles from Rail Station

The initial walk up the glen was easy and then we had a steep climb up and over Streap and Sgurr Thuilm.

Day1 Climb.jpg
Initial climb up from Glenfinnan - this is a steep hard climb

The top of the pass was very misty as we faced the steep decent down into Gleann Cuirean. The decent is quite tricky and care is needed. We then walked on the LHS of the river and crossed it 3 times due to landslides where it was not easy to follow the river. It is best to keep the river on your LHS. At the junction of the rivers we then climbed up into the forest and follow the road to the A’Chuil Bothy which we reached at 7pm. Unfortunately we had the misfortune to share the bothy with “Stag Party” where a team of about 10 young men decided to party in to the early hours; so we did not sleep well that night. The bothy was also quite cold for May so finding some wood and building a fire did improve the conditions.

Day 2: Sunday 19th May 2013. Glen Dessarry Bothy to NM898 002

By 8am we were on the move and headed for Sourlies.

A'Chuil Bothy.jpg
Leaving A'Chuil Both on the start of day 2

The weather was dull and overcast but ideal for hiking. The path through the forest and onto Lochan a Mhaim was rough, wet and boggy.

On Route to Sourlies 2.jpg
On route to Sourlies

The climb down near to the Lochan was wet, tricky and again care was needed.

Descent to Lochan a Mhaim.jpg
Descent to Lochan a Mhaim

The path along the Lochan is good and a small “Cairn” on the opposite bank marks the best place to cross the river. The path then climbs briefly until we caught sight of Loch Nevis. The decent thereafter is steep and rocky until you cross the bridge.

Descent towards Sourlies.jpg
Descent to Sourlies

And then is was along to the shores of the loch to Sourlies Bothy. It was now 1pm and we decided to take our lunch. The walk between Glen Dessarry and Sourlies was tough and took a lot longer than we expected.

By 2pm we were on the move. The tide was going out so we managed to walk a good way along the stony shoreline of Loch Nevis and skip a across the headland to the marsh flats. We also had the pleasure of close up of a young stag who was snacking on some seaweed.

Monarch of the Glen.jpg
Monarch of the Glen

We then carefully maneuvered our way through the marsh flats and crossed the rickety bridge at Carnoch. At this point we met another hiker here whose friend the previous day had fell waste deep into a bog when crossing the marshes.

The friend had gone home on the boat from Inverie. When crossing the marshes the bridge is to the left of the large derelict buildings.
We then walked along the LHS of the River Carnoch until reaching NM898 002 where we camped for the night on a great spot near the river.

River Carnoch.jpg
River Carnoch

Camp Site.jpg
Camp Site

It was now 6pm and the weather was closing in. It was long day and we had planned to be at Barisdale, but the going was too tough. If we had continued the chances were we would have had to camp higher up the pass and in a much more exposed position.

Day 3: Monday 20th May 2013. NM898 002 to Kinloch Hourn

We woke up at 6.30am to a damp and misty morning and visibility was poor.

Camp Site Day 2.jpg
The Morning of day 3

We delayed our start until 9.00am but the mountain above was still covered in mist. So we set of and climbed/scrambled north up a steep sloop keeping the falls/stream on our RHS until reaching the well defined path which took us up Mam Unndalain and to the descend into Glen Unndalain and down to Barisdale.

Descent towards Barisdale.jpg
Descent to Barisdale

It was now 1.00pm and we took some lunch in the bothy. The bothy has running water and a toilet. Barisdale charges £3 per for the Bothy and £1 for the use of the camp site. We donated £1 for using the facilities for lunch.

By 2.00pm we were on the move and shortly after we meet two hikers. One had a wet sleeping bag under his arm; the story was it fell of his backpack and rolled into the sea-loch. His mate then stripped off and swam to retrieve the bag. We also encountered a hiker from Germany after a brief exchange about how tough the conditions were and where he was heading (Skye); we went on our ways

The path between Barisdale and Kinloch Hourn is well defined but there are some difficult steep stony climbs and descents on the route.

On Route to Kinloch Horne 1.jpg
On Route to Kinloch Hourn

We arrived at 6.00pm and after paying £1 to the stalkers wife we set up camp next the river. This was a pleasant site to camp, ground was flat, could be a bit exposed if the wind picked up. We had previous meet up with three young Germans who were heading out the mountains, and we later found out they had run out of food. Note there is a public telephone available at the stalkers cottage and filter water. There is also a Farmhouse that has a café and toilet, it closed at 5:00 so we were unable to sample its delights.

Day 4 : Tuesday 21st May 2013, Kinloch Horne to Morvich Camp Site

By 8.00am we were on the move.We passed the stalkers cottage and then had the initial steep climb up through the forest following the electricity pylons. This was a tough start to the day.

Initial Climb from Kinloch.jpg
Initial climb from Kinloch Hourn (The camping area is near the road)

The path then goes around the mountains until you start the long tiring and difficult climb up to the Bealach. The climb up to Bealach Coire Mhalagain is very hard going with no clear path.

Boggy & wet route.jpg
Route conditions as we walk up to the Bealach

The hard climb 1.jpg
Climbing up to the top of the Bealach

The hard climb.jpg
From the Bealach looking back at the hard climb (Boy it was tough)

On reaching the Bealach immediately look for the “stones” path which is on your LHS as you start the descent. Do not climb down to the lochan, you will only waste time. The views here are spectacular. The “stones” are rocky, uneven and potentially dangerous in wet weather and it would be easy to twist an ankle or worst. Hiking poles are an absolute must on this hike.

The Stones.jpg
The "Stones" path - this is difficult and great care is needed

The descent thereafter is well defined but care is needed as it is steep and stony on some sections. On the final section there is no path down into the glen so we carefully made our way down until reaching the river. The descent down the glen until the reaching the merging of the rivers is ill defined, wet and boggy.

Shiel Brigde 1.jpg
Our first sight of Loch Duich as we head for Shiel Bridge

Once crossing the rivers you reach the path which takes you down into Shiel Bridge. As you descent down into Shiel Bridge you will see the camp site on your RHS. This is where the petrol station/shop is situated and where we did a re-stocked of food. Either go through the camp-site to reach it or if this is not possible when you head in to Shiel Bridge turn right at the T-Junction when meeting the main road, the shop is about 400 metre walk.

We then headed for the Morvich Camp Site and eventually we arrived at 6.30pm. Boy we were tired; it was a long hard day. We also had a wonderful dinner that evening of a packet of Smash potatoes with a large tin of Heinz Pork Sausages in baked beans each – truly a food of the gods after a long day’s trek!! :D

Morvich Camp Site has great facilities:-
1 Washing machines x 2- a full wash costs £3
2 Spin dryer – costs 60p
3 Tumble dryer – costs 70p
4 Drying room for outdoor clothing
5 Lounge
6 Showers / toilets (the showers were very welcomed after a long day)
7 Cooking area.

They charged us £12.60 for the tent pitch and use of their facilities.

Day 5 : Wednesday 22nd May 2013. Morvich Camp Site to Killilan

Due to early morning rain we had a late start, leaving the camp site at 10.30am. We had a gentle start but we met heavy rain and had to stop to put on our rain gear, which slowed our climb up through the forest. We then had the long gradual climb up and along the glen and through to Allt an Loed Ghaineamhaich.

The path then is easy going over the Bealach na Sroine to the Falls of Glomach. This section is a very exposed and we had to face hailstones and strong winds.

Walking over Bealach na Sroine heading to the Falls of Glomach.jpg
Walking over Bealach na Sroine heading to the falls

The Falls were in full flight and we walked down the path to take some pictures, which is quite tricky and a slip could potentially be dangerous. We then took the main path down the ravine and great care is needed. We had again to face hailstones and a strong wind which made the descent quite a challenge.

The Falls of Glomach.jpg
The Falls of Glomach

The Falls of Glomach (2).jpg
The Falls of Glomach

On completing the decent we then crossed two bridges to meet to main estate road which takes you to Killilan. Terry for some reason decided to “romp” to Killilan!!!!

Once through the Killilan hamlet we crossed the bridge over the river. We then decided to walk along the river bank and found a nice spot the stop for the night. Our tent was eventually established but we had to do this between spells of heavy rain. It was now 7pm. It was a wet, windy and cold night.

Day 6 : Thursday 23rd May 2013. Killilan to Strathcarron

We woke to a cold, miserable and wet morning. To our surprise all the mountains around us had a good covering of snow; no wonder we were feeling cold. We had some warm emergency breakfasts and where on our way by 9.30am. The weather continued to be poor and we encountered Snow / Sleet /Rain.
We then walked along the river and met the main path which takes you up Glen Ling.

Cape Wrath 1 091.jpg
Walking up from the river from Killilan

Then heading north we crossed on the RHS of Cara Allt na Bradh till meeting the forest. The path through the forest is well defined and then meets the main forest/estate road which takes you to the main road to Strathcarron. We eventually reached the rail station at 3pm.

Cape Wrath 1 095.jpg
Strathcarron marshes

We then met a friendly local who offered us a lift to the camp site at Loch Carron Village where we spent the night. Lochcarron has two small supermarkets if re-stocking is needed, a pub and a restaurant if you get tempted. The camp site was closed as the owners were away but we made a small donation as we left. The campsite is basic but does have tap for water and basic toilet and shower facilities – worth checking when it is open before you set out

Cape Wrath 1 109.jpg
Looking over Loch Carron from our Camp Site

Day 7 : Friday 24th May 2013. Strathcarron to Dunfermline

We managed to get a lift to the Strathcarron Rail Station from a friendly Munro Basher who was headed to Maol-bhuidhe bothy. We had coffee and scones – very good - in the Strathcarron hotel next to the train station before catching the 12.40 pm train to Inverness arriving at 2.40pm.

The Hotel does have a small field that you can use as a campsite with the hotel owners permission, however not sure what facilities of the hotel you can use. It is our intention to use this as the starting point when we resume the hike next year. We then caught the X80 bus to the Ferry Toll, at the Forth Road Bridge where my wife collected us. Home – a good shower, beer and a hearty meal was then awaiting us.

Next year (2014) we will do the sections between Strathcarron to Oykel Bridge.
Do not under-estimate how tough this hike is, good planning and the ability to alter plans is an absolute must.

Notes:- Key items for the Cape Wrath Walk
1 Gaiters - these help to keep your boots from getting totally wet.
2 Hiking poles / stick
4 OS Maps
5 Guide Book
6 Sufficient Food if you get delayed due to bad weather
7 Rain gear.

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Last edited by Lagrannoch Boy on Fri Jun 14, 2013 6:04 pm, edited 6 times in total.
Lagrannoch Boy
Posts: 3
Joined: May 31, 2012

Re: Cape Wrath - Glenfinnan to Strathcarron (May 2013)

Postby mountainstar » Tue Jun 11, 2013 11:22 am

Nice to see you managed to do it after the last years failure.
Brings back great memories of my trip a few years ago, thanks for sharing. :D
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