Sunday 22 June 2014

Sort of the Affric Kintail Way - Day Three - River Affric to Shiel Bridge

Wild campsite by rapids on River Affric (NH139208)

I woke about 3.30am, just as it was starting to get light, by a pattering that I assumed was the forecast rain. I listened for a while, expecting it to get harder, but no, just the lightest of pattering on the tent. I had a peek outside, to find a still, serene morning, grey, but bright, with dark clouds over only the highest hills. But I was zipping up the tent in sharp order - a calm grey morning is heaven to the midges - and they were lying siege on the tent.

Rafe - River Affric looking west into West Affric (NH140207)

Lesson 2 - When you buy an insect head net, ensure that it says "midge net" not "mosquito net". Mosquito nets are just plain useless in Scotland.

But Lesson 1 would be - Don't lend your "midge net" to your son to do his geology field work - it might just never reappear! - and then you won't need to buy a "mosquito net" in the mistaken assumption that it'll keep out the midges!

Looking back along the River Affric to our campsite from AKW (NH140207)

Not being able to get back to sleep and wanting to get a head start on the heavy rain that was forecast, I was soon up.

I munched a couple of biscuits whilst breaking camp, took about 50 photographs of the Affric hills, hauled Rafie out of the river about 10 times and never stood still even for a moment. We were back on the Affric Kintail Way (AKW) at 5am.

Achnamulloch - looking west into West Affric

After crossing a couple of ditches via planks, the track took us over the River Affric on a good bridge at Achnamulloch, we headed west - no problems with navigation the route was obvious, as well as being well waymarked.

The scenery was different from yesterday - the open hillside of the Scottish deer forest, green and gold, with moiling clouds above - different but totally beautiful, wild and exposed.

Bridge over the River Affric at Achnamulloch (NH133206)

The rain seemed to be holding off, it even started to look a bit brighter...

Glenaffric Forest and the AKW

Once beyond the buildings at Achnamulloch, the track became a path, the waymarks changed from fingerpost signs to posts.

Waterfalls on Allt Coire Chaidhell by AKW (NH108208)

The pictures tell it all...

Looking west along River Affric in West Affric from AKW

Looking back (east) along River Affric from AKW

We arrived at the hostel at Alltbeithe at about 7am - people were about - sitting outside having breakfast, fastening boots and donning rucksacks - I received a few cheery "Good Mornings" and it was good to see that some of the guests had dogs with them. Something to remember - Jim and I have a few Munro's to bag around the area (can't wait!) and the hostel looked like a good base.

Alltbeithe Youth Hostel in Glen Affric (NH079202)

It also felt like a good time for a proper breakfast - so beside Allt Beithe Garbh, just west of the hostel, we sat down, brewed up and Rafie had a paddle. 

A few other walkers went by, all with a wave or a "Morning" - friendly bunch, us walkers, you know!

Rafe - A good place for breakfast - by Allt Beithe Garbh in Glen Affric (NH073198)

After a good breakfast and a breather, we marched on...

From this point there were no more AKW waymarks - just a hand painted sign saying "footpath" with an arrow...

This was the point in the walk where we didn't know which glen the AKW would take through to Kintail, as we were doing the walk before the route was opened and completely waymarked!

I had already made the decision to take the northerly glen, Gleann Gniomhaidh, rather than the southerly glen, Gleann Lichd. Both had looked similar lengths, the northerly had slightly more ascent, but not by that much - I think it was Loch a'Bhealaich and Gleann Gaorsiac - it just looked wilder and more remote on the map. 

(As it turned out the actual AKW takes the southerly route through Gleann Lichd - but never mind!).

At the start of our ascent into Gleann Gniomhaidh - views back (east) to Glen Affric

I missed the Gleann Gniomhaidh path (it was almost where I had been sitting for breakfast), but realised my mistake at the footbridge over Allt Gleann Gniomhaidh (NH070197) and yomped west over heather and tussock to get back to the path in the glen. 

Rafe in Gleann Gniomhaidh - views west

More new views...

The path was, to say the least, intermittent. One minute it was a good smooth gravel path, the next it had disappeared into peat bog and peat hags - only to reappear a few hundred metres further on looking like a made path! strange...

Gleann Gniomhaidh peat hag path - views east

It made for interesting walking. And the views were once again wonderful.

The glen gently ascended into the heart of the mountains, the heights were rock crags and gullies, shrouded in mist and dotted with snow.

As we ascended the forecast rain started. But it only added to the atmosphere...

Loch a'Bhealaich and Bealach an Sgairne

Just before we got to Loch a'Bhealaich we reached a particularly muddy bit. The path led straight into it and reappeared about 10 metres away at the other side - an expanse of deep brown gunge extending to a deer fence to my left and the loch to my right. It was deep, dark and sticky! I could tell this, because Rafe was already in it, up to his belly!! There were a few boulders and stones scattered across the mud, but with my big pack!!? would I get across? After a few minutes of dithering - I went to see if the deer fence was an option, or if I could get over by the loch - no, where the path was, was the narrowest and boulderiest (!) point. Deep breath - get on with it (there was nobody with a camera!!) - hop, skip, jump, wobble, jump - and I was past. What was all the kerfuffle about?

Rafe - Loch a'Bhealaich and Gleann Gaorsaic

Rafe certainly didn't think there was anything wrong with getting up to his haunches in mud. I soon had him in the loch for a swill off...

The rain had stopped and the skies looked brighter. The views were opening up again. A great view of Bealach an Sgairne between Beinn Fhada and A'Ghlas-bheinn, a proper notch in the mountains - and our route into Kintail.

Rafe at the summit of Bealach an Sgairne (NH015214)

Jacket off and up we went. It was short and steep, the views behind into Gleann Gniomhaidh and Gleann Gaorsaic improving with every step. 

Rafie and I stopped at Bealach an Sgairne - a definite gateway from Affric into Kintail. We put Gleann Gniomhaidh behind us and headed steeply down into Gleann Choinneachain and then onto Loch Duich and Shiel Bridge.

Gleann Gniomhaidh and Loch a'Bhealaich from Bealach an Sgairne

The path was good and the views were new (again) - when we looked at the descent ahead of us, we realised quite how much we had climbed over the last few days.

Descent into Gleann Choinneachain from Bealach an Sgairne

As usual descent (on a good path) doesn't take long...

Looking back to Bealach an Sgairne from descent into 
Gleann Choinneachain

We met a couple of walkers on their way to Beinn Fhada...

Gleann Choinneachain

But otherwise we had the glen to ourselves.

Looking back to Bealach an Sgairne from Gleann Choinneachain

Looking back towards Bealach an Sgairne from Gleann Choinneachain

As we got closer to sea level, the weather improved and the temperature increased. Definitely time for a spot of lunch...

Time for lunch in Gleann Choinneachain

The path meandered through forest, passing a path junction signposted "Falls of Glomach" (info stored away for future use!) and along the river before depositing us in the tiny settlement of Inchacro.

Strath Croe and Loch Duich

Here we were requested to keep to the path (many little hand painted signs with arrows!), across the bridge over the River Croe, and back onto tarmac. Just a short distance west along the road, the Gleann Lichd track (and the official AKW route) also meets the road (another route for another day!).

Rafe cools off in the River Croe at Morvich

Rafe had a swim in the River Croe, just before we arrived at Morvich (which I now know is the official end of the AKW) and its large Caravan Club campsite.

The campsite looked good, and we were (both of us) rather tired by this point. But I wanted to restock - and the garage at Shiel Bridge has a shop as well as a campsite...

Llamas at Inversheil - views west of Loch Duich

A couple of miles on tarmac at the end of a long day seemed like hard work, but the surroundings were great - Loch Duich ringed by the mountains of Kintail - once on A87 there was a good pavement/footpath all the way to Shiel Bridge and parts of the path took us away from the road and around the coast.

Not sure if Rafe has ever seen llamas before - he certainly found them interesting.

Rafe at Shiel Bridge campsite

It wasn't long before we had paid our dues at the campsite and purchased some goodies at the shop.

Tent up, brewed up, ahhhhh....

The campsite was nestled beneath by some of the most iconic hills in Scotland - today the summits were shrouded in swirling cloud - once the big pack was off, Rafe and I felt like a bit of an explore about the area.

The Allt Undalain runs to the west side of the campsite, Rafe had great fun plodging in the water and jumping from rock to rock. We followed the path south, which led up over Blar Salachaidh and into Gleann Undalain (our route for the next section of our walk) taking in the moody views east towards the South Glen Shiel Ridge and west to the hills of Kintail. 

Back at the campsite, I missed my midgy net again!

Blar Salachaidh, looking north east to Glen Shiel hills (NG937183)

Read on - Sort of the Affric Kintail Way - Day Four - Shiel Bridge to Moyle

Route:  Wild campsite by waterfall (NH139208), E along Glen Affric track to Alltbeith Youth Hostel, continue E to Allt Beith Garbh, cross foot bridge and turn NW on path on W shore of burn, path W through Gleann Gniomhaidh, pass S of Loch a'Bhealaich, W to Bealach an Sgairne, path through Gleann Choinneachain to Inchacro, minor road to Morvich, minor road to Allt a Chruinn, A87 to campsite at Shiel Bridge (NG938187)

Statistics:  Distance: 25.6km  Ascent: 460m  Time: 9 hours

No comments:

Post a Comment

Beinn Bhrotain and Monadh Mor

Setting off from Glen Feshie - it was chilly - before the sun had a chance to peep over the hills...  Off we go! Jim - Setting off near Auch...