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Glorious Glenfinnan

Glorious Glenfinnan

Postby Daveyf » Sat Jul 20, 2019 11:09 am

Route description: Sgurr Thuilm and Sgurr nan Coireachan

Munros included on this walk: Sgurr nan Coireachan (Glenfinnan), Sgurr Thuilm

Date walked: 06/05/2019

Time taken: 12.5 hours

Distance: 23 km

Ascent: 1428m

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It felt good to be back in the Highlands again, even if it was at 4 o’clock in the morning. Time for my annual pilgrimage north of the border had once again arrived. The 20 mile trip from base at Arisaig took no time at all despite having to avoid at least 4 giant stags out on an early doors (for me anyway) meander along the A830. I get the feeling these huge beasts simply couldn’t care less about the traffic and if sadly one did get in the way of a metallic box on rubber tyres they’d simply shrug it off and gloat at the driver trying to pull themselves out of a ditch, magnificent creatures, and solid as the hills they roam.
Pulling into the empty car park at Glenfinnan the skies were already beginning to lighten. Knowing I had almost a 4 mile walk along the well-made track before I started to gain any height, It was straight out of the car and into my boots and walking before I could say ‘Don’t forget your poles’. I’d walked this first mile or so before when visiting McAlpine’s Glenfinnan Viaduct a few years before, it hadn’t changed much from what I could see which wasn’t much in the dim light and why would it? It did have an eerie feeling at that hour and I’m sure a competent photographer would have made a far better job of capturing it in this early first light.
Glenfinnan Viaduct before sunrise

After about 30 minutes of fairly brisk walking it suddenly dawned on me that my trekking poles were not where they should be in the palms of my hand but safe and sound still in the back of the car! In my enthusiasm to get walking before waking the sparrows, I’d completely forgotten my extra pair of limbs. Shall I go back for them? I’d been so reliant on them for some time now I wasn’t sure how I’d cope without them. It would mean another hour to get back to the car and return to where I was now kicking myself…nah I’ll be fine, not everyone on the hills uses them, I’m sure I’ll manage fine.
A little further along the track running parallel to the River Finnan a noise draws my attention to the river, and just as I look to the river I see a herd of about a dozen deer taking a paddle, they see me at about the very same time, stare at me for less than a second then bolt across the path and up the hill and gone. I’m surprised they didn’t see me long before, must be the absence of poles putting me into stealth mode. Great to have seen them so close.
Think I'm being watched

I carry on walking very aware of being watched by a few of the deer probably tutting amongst themselves assuming I was lost! Still making good progress along the path with the river to one side and woodland to the other, I get another fleeting glimpse of wildlife. Scurrying from the river bank into the woodland, an animal bigger than a squirrel and maybe about the size of a cat, seems to me a long way from any houses for a domestic cat to be on the prowl out here? I convince myself it was a pine martin or a very close cousin, I can’t be sure as I was about maybe 80 yards away in low light and not even wearing my glasses, so who knows, could have been a giraffe!
Passing the Corryhully bothy the light begins to take hold and Sgurr Thuilm can be seen in the distance with a sprinkling of snow laying on the top.
Corryhully bothy

Just shy of an hour and a half into the walk, the track swings around a concrete weir, crosses a tributary, then after about another 100 yards a tiny marker appears on the left it’s easy to miss and similar to those signs seen in formal gardens giving the Latin name of a rare species of Venus Flytrap. Anyway this sign is clearly marked Sgurr Thuilm so finally I leave the track and head on up the hill and start to gain a little height.Reaching the snow line at a little over two thousand feet the weather takes a turn for the worse and snow starts to fall, not heavily but backed by a stiffening breeze so a quick stop is required to add a layer before I get soaked. Already there are great views. To the west the huge bowl of Coire Thollaidh and the route that lie ahead.
Coire Thollaidh with Sgurr nan Coireachan in the centre

To the east Streap peers through the mist, just 18 feet short of Munro status it’s still an imposing sight shrouded in dragons breath fighting the rays of the sun.
Streap peering through the mist

The path so far hadn’t been too bad to keep to, losing it here and there but generally fairly easy to follow, however with snow on the ground and no footprints to follow it wasn’t quite so obvious although it wasn’t long before the fence posts came to my rescue, keeping these on my left it’s not hard to find a route almost to the top. With the summit in sight I veer off right leaving the fence posts behind for the last 400 yards. On reaching the summit at 3159ft the view east towards Loch Arkaig is still in and out of the clouds. To the west Loch Morar is just visible in the distance.
Sgurr Thuilm summit

At the top of Sgurr Thuilm looking towards Sgurr nan Coireachan

After taking in the summit views it’s time to wander back towards the fence posts and turn right along the wide ridge towards Sgurr nan Coireachan. Its an easy route to follow, for the most part the path is visible and when it’s not just follow the fence posts and you can’t go wrong. The ridge walk is a series of ups and downs, no particularly strenuous ascents which maybe is just as well as I’m minus my poles. The views are stunning, from the craggy west flank of Thuilm behind me, superb views of Knoydart out to the north, numerous lochans along the route and Coire Thollaidh out to the left.
Western crags of Sgurr Thuilm

Sgurr Thuilm from the West top

Looking back to Sgurr Thuilm and West top

Looking ahead to the tops surrounding Coire Thollaidh

There are another 4 subsidiary tops along the ridge route, Sgurr Thuilm West Top, Beinn Gharbh East Top, Beinn Gharbh and Meall an Tarmachain all measuring in at between 2575ft and 2815ft and strung out along a 2 ½ mile stretch of easy ridgetop walking. Even though it’s a relatively painless series of ascents and descents, I still take the opportunity to take a break on the summit of each bump, just to take in the views of course!
At the top of Beinn Gharbh with Meall an Tarmachain and Sgurr nan Coireachan ahead

Cloudy skies over Loch Arkaig

Sgurr nan Coireachan

North towards the Knoydart Munros


Soon the climb to Munro number 2 begins, its a little steeper in places and the ground is rockier, but not too arduous. Once at the top at 3136ft there’s a cosy little wind break surrounding a cylindrical trig point. By now the clouds have lifted a little and by the time I reach Sgurr nan Coireachan the snow has all but disappeared. The clearer skies show Loch Morar heading out to the coast, beyond that Eigg, Rum and Skye are dotted along the horizon. Peaks, lochs and glens are abundant in every direction and it feels wonderfully remote, apart from the 4 legged locals I haven’t seen a soul all day.
Sgurr nan Coireachan from Meall an Tarmachain

Admiring the view from Sgurr nan Coireachan

It’s now time to start heading back, so heading south off the hill, I hunt the path homeward bound, occasionally steep before rising up gently again for another subsidiary top of Sgurr a’ Choire Riabhaich, at 2795ft it’s the last one of the day but probably gives the best view of Glenfinnan itself and the snaky River Finnan winding back to Loch Shiel.
Climbing down from Sgurr nan Coireachan

Across Coire Thollaidh back towards Sgurr Thuilm

Looking back towards Sgurr nan Coireachan from Sgurr a Choire Riabhaich

Sgurr Thuilm, now without snow

Glenfinnan and the long trek back to the car

The path down is mostly obvious and some 5 miles distant. Soon it’s off the hill and back onto the man made track and turning right to follow the river. After a while a waterfall floods across the track and is a welcome distraction from the trudge back to the car park. An opportunity to re-fill the water bottles and a last little breather before the last leg back to so called civilisation.
Ideal opportunity to re-fill the water bottles on the main track back to the car

It’s a weary me that eventually arrives back at the car over 12 hours after leaving it, considerably less enthusiasm in my legs but still bucket loads in my heart for these beautiful hills and for the next outing after a day’s recovery.
Munro compleatist
Posts: 26
Munros:14   Corbetts:5
Sub 2000:1   Hewitts:50
Wainwrights:22   Islands:2
Joined: May 4, 2017
Location: Hampshire, miles from the nearest mountain!

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