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Adventures on the Affric Kintail Way!

Adventures on the Affric Kintail Way!


Postby LailaQuiche » Mon Nov 18, 2019 12:37 pm

Route description: Affric Kintail Way

Date walked: 19/09/2019

Time taken: 4 days

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The West Highland Way had given me and my friend Anna a taste for long distance walking and after a hard slog of physio and rest to heal up my dodgy knee, we had soon hatched our next adventure...the Affric Kintail Way!
Having read numerous negative reports of the Drumnadrochit to Cannich stretch, we decided to start from Cannich and spend our extra day doing some hills instead.

We both travelled up to Inverness on the Wednesday and stayed at my friend's flat. The bus options for Inverness to Cannich were very awkward, we would either need to get a bus at 6.20am or wait until 12.30pm. Luckily my friend's boyfriend offered to give us a lift straight to Cannich - thanks Ian!

Day 1
Cannich to Glen Affric

We were dropped off in Cannich and putting on our big packs felt like greeting an old friend. We set off in good spirits on the road that leads out of the village and up into the forest. We were delighted to see the sun shining down and were both extremely excited about the adventure ahead. It wasn't long before we reached Dog Falls and found a nice rock next to the river to have some lunch on.

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Sufficiently refuelled, we headed onward and soon the dog walkers disappeared and it was just me and Anna walking along in the blissful sun. A young French woman suddenly appeared on a bike and seemed very excited to see us. She was in Scotland by herself for her holidays and had rented a bike to go for a cycle. When we told her our plans for the weekend, she was desperate to join us. She was insistent that she would accompany us on our planned hill walk on the Saturday and was determined she would find a way to the hostel...though didn't seem to grasp just how remote the hostel is and seemed to think she'd be able to get dropped off there! With promises she would try and find a way there and meet us on Saturday morning, she cycled off into the sun. She never did make it to Alltbeithe. Justine, we love your ambition!
Onward we plodded and soon the views begun to open up across the loch as the trees dropped behind us.

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We soon reached the River Affric car park. We continued on for another mile and a half in search of a good spot to pitch our tent. We found a lovely patch next to the river with a delightful view of Sgurr nan Lapaich. After a paddle in the river to cool our feet, we set up the tent and made some dinner. We decided on cous cous for our first meal. After accidentally putting in far too much water, we decided to go for a two course meal....Soup to start (ie. cous cous water....) with cous cous to follow....Surprisingly delicious, would recommend.
With the sun beginning to set and it starting to get chilly, we made a little fire to sit next to as the sky slowly darkened and the stars begun to appear. We lay out under the stars until the encroaching chill in the air forced us to retreat into the tent to do a little bedtime crossword...when I say 'we', I mean 'I'...Anna was soon out like a light and of no use!

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Day 2
Glen Affric to Alltbeithe Hostel

We awoke feeling rather chilly and when I unzipped the tent I was shocked to find it covered in ice!! No wonder we were so cold. With some hot porridge and coffee to warm and wake us up, we got everything packed up. The sun was already shining and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.
We set off on the path once again and the beauty of Glen Affric appeared quite suddenly! Me and Anna were almost delirious with excitement and stopped for some snacks to celebrate.

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We were passed by a man and a dog, the only other person we would see until we reached the hostel. He was also doing the Affric Kintail Way.
We headed onward and the sun really begun to heat up. The trousers were rolled up and sun cream applied. I was glad I had made the last minute decision to buy a pair of sunglasses in Inverness! The views just continued to get better and better, the loch looking beautiful with the blue sky reflected in it. With such amazing scenes, the miles passed by quickly. We stopped for some lunch in the welcome shade of a rock. It was at this point we realised Anna can't count and had not taken a sufficient amount of rye bread for our 4 day adventure. We were on rations!!
We were joined in the shade by the man and his dog, who was the sweetest little pup who was enjoying all the attention! We had a chinwag with him and then headed on. As we gained a bit of height, a breeze picked up much to our relief and made the going a lot easier.

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We stopped for a quick paddle in the river to cool off. Anna's phone unfortunately met its death when she accidentally knelt on it against a rock. Having only just had the screen fixed the week before, she was not best impressed.

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Feeling refreshed, we walked the last mile towards the hostel. Anna fell to victim to a surprise bog and her whole foot disappeared and her boot was nearly sooked right off! With a broken phone and a soggy foot, Anna was less than impressed but soon cheered up when we finally saw the quaint little hostel sitting amongst the mountains.
We were warmly welcomed in by the warden Hannah who had some freshly baked scones waiting for us - delicious! We were given a quick tour and showed to our dorm.

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Feeling sticky and sweaty, we decided to go for a swim in the river. We found the perfect spot and enjoyed the most refreshing dunk in the chilly water - just what we needed after a very hot day. We baked on the rocks for a while before returning to the hostel for a shower. We spent the rest of the evening relaxing outside in the sun and then retreating indoors where we played an extremely tense game of Uno with two lovely ladies called Kirsty and Sheila. A wonderful end to a wonderful day! We headed to the form for a luxurious sleep in a bed, excited for our epic hill walk the following day.

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Day 3
Mullach na Dheiragain, Sgurr Ceathreamhnan and An Socach

Alltbeithe Hostel to Camban Bothy


We awoke early to see yet another clear, cloudless blue sky and we knew straight away it was going to be a special day.
We enjoyed some porridge and coffee and got our day packs organised for the day. We set off from the hostel at 8am, the air still cool and the hills bathed in a warm auburn light.
We headed up the path that leads all the way to the bealach. It was an excellent path almost all the way up though disappeared somewhat in the Bog Lands. The hot weather had helped dry up the bogs a bit and we picked our way through without incident until....I hear a shriek and turn around to see Anna has almost disappeared from view!! Anna had landed her leg thigh deep in a sneaky bog hole! Anna the Bog Magnet was less than impressed though luckily with the sun and a stiff breeze, it wouldn't be long before her soggy leg dried off.

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We soon reached the bealach and eyed up our first goal....the illusive Mullach nan Dheiragain. We found the cairn that marks the route down into the boglands of the coire. It was a steep descent initially, but we made light work of the boggy expanse and made sure to aim for the lowest part of the ridge ahead as advised by Hannah. We soon reached the bealach and enjoyed a quick break. The wind had picked up and we sheltered behind a rock to scran a snack. Sufficiently refuelled, we headed off towards Mullach. It was dawning on us just how far away the summit was as we looked across the never ending ridge! We enjoyed the ascent along the ridge which passed over a small boulderfield, just to keep us on our toes.

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The sun continued to shine, the sky was impossibly clear and we could see all the way to Skye with the Cuillins looking impressive in the distance. 3 hours after setting off from the hostel, we reached the summit of Mullach nan Dheiragain and found some shelter from the wind to soak in the magnificent views which stretched for miles around. After some rye bread rations, we set off back the way we had come towards our next target, Sgurr na Ceathreamhnan, looking very impressive up ahead.

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As we reached the bealach, the ridge to the summit looked delightful! The poles were put away and we ploughed up, enjoying some mild scrambly bits which kept things interesting. We soon arrived at the summit and were again blown away by the magnificent views, especially the eerie expanses of the bogs which almost looked like an alien planet.

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We stopped for a snack and a rest but were keen to keep going. I thought we would be burst after 2 days of walking beforehand but we both agreed we must have felt like we were flying up because we had little day packs on instead of our big packs. The difference was astounding, we were new women!
The ridge off Sgurr na C is a surprisingly long, knobbly beast. We skipped our way down, down, down and then found ourselves suddenly going up, up, up a very unnecessary lumpy knoll...who designed this hill?! With some relief, we finally found ourselves back down at the bealach, ready to tackle An Socach, our final challenge. I was feeling a bit weary as we plodded up and was relieved when we finally reached the summit. I enjoyed a little lie down and some rye bread and could feel myself recharging as we basked in the sun. After a rest, we begun to head back down. We had only met 2 other groups on the hills that day and had not seen anyone since the ridge up to the summit of Mullach. The feeling of isolation and remoteness was delicious. Though this did mean we had to use a rock and timer mode on my phone to get a picture of the two of us!!

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The descent back down to the hostel was uneventful but delightful with the sun still shining down. We arrived back at the hostel just over 8 hours after we had set off. We enjoyed some refreshments outside the hostel and planned our next move. We had planned on camping nearby the hostel and then walking from there to Morvich the following day. However, we were both still feeling pretty fresh so we decided we would plough on to Camban bothy. With our backpacks on and back in Snail Mode, we set off into the slowly setting sun....though nearly ended up walking along a completely different path!! Luckily it did not take us long to realise! The walk to the bothy was beautiful, though the sun was almost blinding us because it was so low in the sky! We sung some songs to keep us going and soon arrived at the picturesque little bothy.
We had a lovely evening eating our last supper (noodles) and gazing out on the hills as the sun set before enjoying a cosy sleep in the bothy.

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Day 4
Camban Bothy to Sheil Bridge

We awoke in high spirits ready for our final day and a tinge of sadness that it would soon all be over. We enjoyed some breakfast and got our bags packed up for the final time. We both felt raring to go....that is until I sat in some cold porridge. :( What a way to start the day.

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Off we set along the path for the walk to Morvich. Once again, the day promised some lovely weather. The narrow, rocky path twisted between the mountains in the most delightful way, going up and down, crossing a waterfall and ascending slowly towards Morvich.

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Just when we thought it wasn't possible, the views just seemed to get increasingly better with the broad River Affric meandering through the mountains under the blue sky. We came across a curious little house at the bottom of the glen.

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Soon we begun to see the first telltale signs of civilisation, passing a field of sheep being rounded up by a collie and soon some houses. We reached the road and enjoyed picking some blackberries as we made our way slowly to the official end. We both agreed we didn't want it to be over!

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To celebrate, we headed to the pub Kintail Lodge where we enjoyed an absolutely delicious meal and some even more delicious pints!

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What an end to the most fabulous adventure. One of the bar staff at the hotel kindly gave us a lift back up to Allt a’ Chruinn and we got the long bus back to Glasgow which drove us through the mountains that slowly disappeared into the night.

What a walk! I honestly couldn't recommend the Affric Kintail Way enough. It's a whole different kettle of fish to the West Highland Way which was so sociable with pubs on every corner. The AK Way offers something a lot more remote and wild and I can barely put into words just how beautiful it is. Now, what will our next adventure be...
LailaQuiche
 
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Re: Adventures on the Affric Kintail Way!

Postby HalfManHalfTitanium » Mon Nov 18, 2019 12:52 pm

What an amazing route, with a real sense of wilderness to it.

Stunning photos - capturing the wonderful atmosphere of Affric.

Coincidentally I saw a toad on the track at exactly the same spot (but I was just pottering around Loch Affric) https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=61095.

Tim
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Re: Adventures on the Affric Kintail Way!

Postby petert847 » Wed Nov 20, 2019 8:54 pm

Lovely report - stunning photos - such a great walk. Brought it all back.
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Re: Adventures on the Affric Kintail Way!

Postby Petr Dakota » Fri Jan 17, 2020 7:35 pm

Another great report from AKW ! :clap: Hope to do it with my daughter this year :) thanks for sharing :thumbup:
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Re: Adventures on the Affric Kintail Way!

Postby LailaQuiche » Sun Feb 02, 2020 11:18 am

Petr Dakota wrote:Another great report from AKW ! :clap: Hope to do it with my daughter this year :) thanks for sharing :thumbup:


I can't recommend it enough, it is ridiculously beautiful and honestly just perfect in every single way.
LailaQuiche
 
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Re: Adventures on the Affric Kintail Way!

Postby Freshman » Tue Mar 23, 2021 8:40 am

What an inspiring diary! It makes me want to pack my bag and leave at once - but who doesn't feel the same way these days.
Thanks for the story and the images, that will stay in my mind for a while.
Cheers from Berlin, Stefan
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