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The Affric Kintail Way with (almost) Sgurr an Airgid

The Affric Kintail Way with (almost) Sgurr an Airgid


Postby WalkingDutchman » Mon Aug 17, 2015 8:23 pm

Route description: Affric Kintail Way

Date walked: 10/08/2015

Time taken: 5 days

Distance: 84.6 km

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Walked the Affric Kintail Way, and thought to add Sgurr an Airgid as a little dessert at the end. That last bit was unfortunately not to be, but I still had a great time. Especially the last two days of the trail are beautiful. The first two days become a bit boring after 15 Km or so in my opinion (and the last 7km from Drumnadrochit to Cannich are absolute crap - I don't travel all the way to the Highlands to dodge cars - much better cardodging to be experienced here in the Netherlands if you like that sort of thing...). Anyway, as usual for me this trip starts with a travel day.

Day 0: Travel day
Itinerary: Hoorn - Amsterdam - Aberdeen - Inverness (Car - Airplane - Train)
Always a bitch. This time I took a fairly late flight over though, so did not have to get up in the wee hours. That was the good thing. Then driving to the airport, waiting for the flight, flying, waiting for my backpack, waiting for the train ... you get the picture. Why does travelling always seem to consist of so much waiting? As a matter of fact I would find out at the end of this trip, but more on that later (no, I'm not going to spoil it - if you can't wait just scroll down already :wink: ).

Had booked me a room in the Mercure hotel in Inverness. Not because it's sucha nice hotel, but it is conveniently close by the bus- and train station, and Johnny Foxes next door is a nice place to kill some time or grab a bite to eat. Which I dutifully did after checking in, including the mandatory pint of ale. Strolled along the river for a while after dinner, returned early-ish to my room to repack my backpack so it would be ready for walking. And an early-ish night, after the equally mandatory whisky (bit smallish selection in that hotel bar... pity).

Day one: Drumnadrochit - Cannich (22.6 Km)
Got up fairly late. After breakfast, checking out and all that faff arrived at Inverness bus station at a quarter to nine. Caught the 9:15 bus to Drumnadrochit, and arrived on schedule. Finally the real fun could start (like getting out my water proofs and keeping them handy, because the weather looked shifty...).
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The start of the trail once you get outside of the village

This first bit was familiar, since I'd been walking here a couple of years ago. Still, it's a nice walk through the woods. I had printed out the rout desirption from here, and brought the Harvey's map as well. Together it made navigation a doddle, especially with the huge signposts everywhere. Felt a bit like cheating to be honest (I like my hikes to be rugged and pathless :wink: ), but since this was a very last minute thing I didn't really have the time to prepare a "proper" hike. Anyway, the weather was cooperating so far (it stayed dry), the trails were easy, and the views were good...
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Pretty iconic I thought ...

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Then the clouds started thickening. Just before I left the woods to join the road towards Cannich, I decided to take a little break. Good thing there was a bus shelter on that T-junction too...
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Because this happened about 5 minutes after I sat down for a bit of a drink, a bite and a ciggie:
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Decided to wait it out a little. Got going again, dodging cars all the way to Cannich :( This last bit is OK, but it would have been nicer if there was some way to get to Cannich without having to walk 7Km on the road. I tried to find a way on the map, but didn't see anything obvious.

It got dry when I got there though, which was nice. Meant that I could at least pitch my tent in the dry, and prepare my dinner without getting soaked. In the evening I discovered that there were dryers available, so dried my coat and my merino (even though you're not supposed to throw your merino's in the dryer, I still did - and it was none the worse for it. It was lovely and dry the next morning though :D ). It started raining again later that night, and it kept raining through most of the night. The temperature dropped quite a bit as well, so I was really glad for my down jacket and my heavy Snugpack sleeping bag. It takes up about twice as much space as my regular one, but is far more comfy in cold conditions. And it was cold (my little thermometer/whistle/magnifying glass thingy said it was 6-8 degrees C...)

Day two: Cannich - Loch Affric (23.1 Km)
One thing about camping: I always wake up early from the sun rising. But somehow I never seem to be able to get walking again before 10am. I'm a bit like a diesel that way: slow to start, but don't stop once I do get going :wink:
This morning wasn't any different. The weather forecast looked good, dry and only partly cloudy. After the usual porridge and coffee for breakfast, packing up, lacing up boots (and generally faffing about slowly - it IS a vacation after all!) it was about 10am when I set off. A little bit of walking on tarmac, with the odd car, but luckily not too long afterwards the trail turns off the road and onto some nice forestry tracks.
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Made for decent going, with a bit off drizzle now and then to brighten my day. Right around reaching Dog Falls my stomach started telling me that the porridge from that morning wouldn't be enough for the whole day, so I decided to hog a picknick bench and have my lunch. Clouds had opened up a bit by this time, so it was rather pleasant.
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That is, until these guys started yelling at me demanding that I'd share my lunch. Since I was clearly outnumbered, I obliged (which didn't quiet them, by the way...)
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The bit just past Dog Falls was rather busy, with day trippers visiting the falls themselves. That convinced me not to do so (I prefer a bit of solitude), but just carry on. More woodlands tracks, some bits across farmland (had to watch my step to avoid cow landmines). The route description here (which I was carrying) says to look out for a sign pointing to a viewpoint. Believe me, it really is worth it to check it out. I had just taken a break, so didn't really want to take another, but the views were just too beautiful.
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So I just sat there for a while until the "tourists" walked off and left me to enjoy the views in silence...
Still had a ways to go though, so after a while I trudged on. Every now and then the trees on the right

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would allow a view of the lochs:

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And almost every time I would take a little break to enjoy :D Didn't make for fast going, but my goal is to enjoy - not to set a world speed record :wink:

Then the last challenge for the day presented itself: find a place to camp. Where the route description says stage two ends, isn't anything suitable. So I kept walking, and after passing the the two houses on the right and the footpath to Cougie there was a little spot that allowed me to use a rock to hammer in some tent pegs.
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Probably not the best spot (so close to the path, and relatively close to those houses, which were occupied), but I was knackered, my right hip was bothering me, and I could not find anything else. Several times some folk would walk past, and some said hello, but others didn't say anything (then again - maybe they did not see me, I was hiding inside from the midges), so I guess it was OK. The next morning a pickup truck from the forestry services drove past while I was sipping my coffee - and didn't even slow down, so I was happy. It was a rather nice and beautiful spot actually. Just too bad the breeze kept dying down, which enabled the midges to have a feast :( Good thing the temperature dropped like a stone around sunset, because that seemed to make them disappear. Which enabled me to enjoy a wee dram in front of the tent enjoying the peace and quiet.

Day three: Loch Affric - Camban Bothy (15.2 Km)
Today was one of the days I was most looking forward to. Woke up around 6-ish, breakfast, coffee, striking camp... about 10am when I finally set off. Nice weather, just enough of a breeze, overcast though so not as warm. Still good hiking weather. The woods begin to dissipate, and the views become so beautiful that I start walking with my camera in my hand. If I don't, I spend more time putting it away and taking it out than walking ....

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After a while I found a little burn with nice fast-flowing water to fill up on my water-supply. Breakfast and coffee this morning had all but depleted my water bottles, so finally could fill up. I usually carry 2 1-litre bottles in my backpack plus a 0.7 litre drinking bottle on the belt of my backpack - that way I usually only have to worry about finding a good watersource once or twice a day.

It isn't very busy, even though the track is rather well trodden. Met just a few folks, not many. The end of the Glen finally comes into view:
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It's hard not to simply cram this trip log full of photo's :D

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Once past the woodsy bits, I noticed a lot of small little orchids in bloom. Quite beautiful ittle flowers:
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Once past the trail that leads around the northern shore of Lochh Affric, the trail really became quiet. Didn't see anybody until later in the afternoon, when the yout hostel came into view. Then I noticed somebody walking quite far behind me, and a groep on horseback even further behind. Still a beautiful glen, lovely and quiet and peaceful. Sometimes I write in my trip logs "remind me why I am doing this" (usually after a long day when I'm knackered and different parts of my body are hurting :wink: ), but looking at these photos again reminded me 8) .

I wanted to take a little break at the youth hostel, but wasn't going to stay there. My plan was to walk on and stay in Camban Bothy. Still, had a little chat with the hostess (forgot her name :shock: ). At some point she said that I looked familiar, and I was thinking the same thing. But I could not for the life of me remember how, when or where. Of course memory being a bit slower as you grow older, an hour or two later I remembered: In 2013 I had stayed in Shenavall bothy. When I arrived there were two girls already there, and one of them told me (while enjoying a quiet ciggie outside) that she ran a youth hostel in Glen Affric, and came here because her friend wanted to do some climbing (well, can't get a better location for that than at the back off Ann Teallach, can you?). Quite the coincidence, really, since I only get to the Highlands once a year. Twice if I'm very lucky. She asked if I wanted to stay, but it was a bit early in the day still for me to stop already. Besides that, my original plan was to stay at the bothy (and maybe try to duplicate Ossian22's best ever tent pitch :lol: ). She then told me that just the day before she stopped by the bothy and cleaned out a lot of rubbish. I hate it when people have to clean up after others: if you can carry it in, surely you can carry it out? Especially after you've emptied it ...
Anyway, let's not go there, lest I spoil the mood of a trip report of a walk that I enjoyed very much.

When stopped at the hostel, the group on horseback overtook me. I would keep seeing them in the distance, and later would think it quite amazing that those horses actually managed some of those goat trails.

Looking back, I did think to myself that it might actually be a great place to stay for a night or two and do some day-hikes in this area:
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After continuing on, the glen became a bit less soft, and the path became a bit rougher. Not difficult, but so far the glen had been rather soft and the track was a good 4x4 track. After the hostel it started to become a bit more remote and rough feeling. The clouds had broken a little, and some sun came out here and there. Really made the scenery beautiful.

I arrived a the bothy at around 5-ish, and just saw the group on horseback leave:
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It was too bad they forgot to close the door: if I hadn't arrived, it might have been banging about for a couple of days. Luckily none of the horses had left any presents in front of the bothy (I had to sidestep some horse-apples here and there on the trail though). Turns out the bothy is empty, so I choose my bunk and settle down. Water boiling for some tea, dry socks, boots off and crocs on, sun shining... life sometimes is really good. Carried one of the benches outside to enjoy my tea in the sunshine.
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The low sunlight streaking across the hills made this an absolutely beautiful experience...
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While sitting there enjoying myself, I kept thinking I heard voices, but didn't see anybody. Untill finally I could make out two people coming down off Ciste Dhubh, right across from the bothy. Turned out to be two girls, coming across Ciste Dhubh, on their way to the hostel, where they had reserved beds. Had a nice chat (and they had a nice rest) before they moved on. We also spotted two others coming down, but they dissapeared and never passed the bothy. Then after that I was alone again, and it would stay that way the whole night and next morning (which doesn't bother me at all: I like a good bothy night as much as anybody, but I also love to be alone).

So far a beautiful day, with luckily very good weather. a wee bit of drizzle earlier in the day, but not even enough to don any waterproof stuff, and ending in a beautiful sunset.

Day four: Camban Bothy - Ruarach (14.5 Km)
Woke up to an absolutley beautiful day. Sun shining, and after a while a breeze came up so the midges were kept at bay. Slept rather well, despite the creaking and groaning of the bothy (I suspect the aluminium roof kept contracting and expaning due to temperature changes). As a bonus, my aches in hip and knee were gone today. That may also have to do with the less even path, my hip usually starts to bother me if I walk too long on tarmac with a load. But today I didn't feel a twinge :D

After breakfast, two cups of coffee (it was sinmply too good to leave in a hurry :wink: ) I packed my gear, then gave a bothy a good sweep with the broom to leave it tidy for the next folks.
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And walked off, into some of the most stunning scenery. Since it rendered me rather speechless, I'll let the photos do the talking:
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Allt Grannda waterfall

And finally I emerged from the gorge into Gleann Lichd:

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Here it widens out again, and after the mountaineering hut (which was being re-roofed) the path becomes a 4x4 track again. It is quite beautiful in it's own right:
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And the weather was absolutely beautiful. Too bad that it would not hold until the next day, as we will see later on. After walking Gleann Lichd, I arrived at the Ruarach B&B where I had booked two nights. Nice place, good beds and it was nice to be able to take a long hot shower. After freshening up and changing into my spare clothes, I walked to the Jac-o-bite for dinner. Quite a nice place, quick service and the food was good. Walking back saw a beautiful sunset over Loch Duich:
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Back at the B&B I poured myself a wee dram from my mandatory hip flask (this year I brought a 16-year old Lagavulin :D ), grabbed my book and settled on one of the comfortable couches in the living room for a lazy comfortable evening.

Day five: Ruarach - (partway up) Sgurr an Airgid (9.2 Km)
Since this walk is only four days, and I was travelling back on Saturday, I had the Friday to myself. So I had planned to head up Sgurr an Airgid, since the walk reports I had read here promised beautiful views. The day started cloudy though, not a very good sign. Sgurr an Airgid had it's head in the clouds, so it would be usueless going up if it stayed that way. But I was hoping that as the day wore on, the clouds might lift a little, because yesterday had been such a brilliant day. So around 10-ish I set off (yes, that time is never going to change I think, unless I set an alarm or something). The route description is a wee bit dated I think: in section three it talks about a new bulldozed track, but that bulldozing had happened at least a couple of years ago judging by the weeds and grasses growing everywhere :lol:

The views from even a little ways up are nice though:
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And the path is easy to follow (navigation-wise this trip wasn't anything near a challenge :wink: ). Once up at the cairn, I decided to sit down for a bit of food and a ponder over plans. Clouds had not lifted anything at all. Worse yet, they started to come up at me from below:
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And slowly they rolled up onto the ridge:
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That's where they stayed though. It was rather eerie, it felt as if I was sitting in a great big cave of cloud. Since Sgurr an Airgid's head never lifted it's veil of clouds, I decided to slowly head down again. For me walking to a summit is useless if there aren't any views to be had - I'm not interested in walking blindly through fog just for the sake of being able to say I was at the summit. No offence meant to all the baggers here, but I simply can't see the benefit.

So down again. At first it was a bit tricky, because visibility had closed in to almost nothing, but after dropping about 50meter down everything opened up again. Some of the clouds thinned out a little, which made for some beautiful light:
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Unfortunately the battery in my camera had given up, so I had to use the camera in my phone from here on out. It's too bad the clouds were so low, it would have been a nice little continuation of what was a really enjoyable experience. After making my way down again, with numerous stops just to enjoy the views, I returned to the B&B fairly early. But that was ok, because it allowed me to have a nice hot shower and a wee nap before heading out for dinner :D .

Too bad my last day had already arrived: I always love being in the Highlands. But I suppose all good things must come to and end as well. Luckily I still had a couple of drams in my hip flask to drown my sorrow (which meant I slept rather well that night).

Day six: Travel day
Itinerary: Ruarach - Inverness - Aberdeen - Amsterdam - Hoorn (Bus - Train - Airplane - Car)
So: the last day, and one that I was anticipating with a bit of dread. Usually if I plan intineraries like this I make sure I have plenty of time in between changes. This time that wasn't really possible. I had 20 minutes in Inverness to catch the train, which would get me to Aberdeen in enough time to catch my flight. If however I'd miss the train, the next train would probably mean I'd miss my flight. So the bus couldn't be too late, otherwise I'd have a problem.

So I plane brekafast and packing and checking out with enough time that I'm half an hour before the bus should arrive at the bust stop. And the bus arrived after about 45 minuteds waiting.... That bus ride was rather nerve-wracking. Luckily the bus driver made up some time, so I ended up with 10 minutes in Inverness, which got me on the right train, and I caught my flight in good time. Now I knew why I always planned quite a bit of time in between trains, busses and planes... Unfortunately catching my flight also meant my time for 2015 in the Highlands was over :(

Afterwards...
All in all I think this is a great walk. Navigation is so easy anybody can do this, the paths are good and very easy too. The first two days become a bit boring after 15Km or so, and the last 7Km on day one (the bit along the road to Cannich) was not very nice. It's doable, sure, and there is usually enough room on the verge to get out of the way, but I just don't like car-dodging for a hobby. That said: the last two days more than make up for that. Absolutlely beautiful walking. I am glad I did this trail, even though it is a bit crowded for my taste. I like a bit of solitude now and then :wink:
Last edited by WalkingDutchman on Fri Dec 18, 2015 11:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
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WalkingDutchman
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Re: The Affric Kintail Way with (almost) Sgurr an Airgid

Postby petert847 » Sat Oct 31, 2015 1:19 am

Thanks for the great report - helped me to decide to grab 3 days to do the cannich to morvich bit when the weather looked ok. People had evaporated by end of October - just saw three in three days. And the landscape has turned golden brown from the lush green of your trip.
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Joined: Jan 13, 2013

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