Wednesday 25 June 2014

Sort of the Affric Kintail Way - Day Five - Moyle to Glenelg

View west from Moyle campsite down Glen More to the hills above Kylerhea on Skye

Just a morning stroll down the road to Glenelg to be picked up by Jim and Freddie (back from Uni).

So... a leisurely breakfast and break of camp (no midges!) and a quiet chat with the neighbours (a couple from the south, in a small caravan, who had been in the campsite for three weeks and never want to go home!). Once we were ready and I had finished my third cup of tea, we wandered west to complete the last little piece of our walk.

Rafe had his constitutional plodge in a body of water, the Glenmore River, which flowed beside the campsite and  narrow road.

Rafe - in Glenmore River near Moyle

We looked back fondly at the campsite - I think we'll be back!

Looking back (east) over Moyle campsite to the hills of Glensheil Forest

The telephone box marked on the map was at the farm - hopefully Steve had been able to get through to his wife yesterday to arrange that lift!

Glen More - views west

We didn't see a car until we met the "main" road from Mam Ratagan. But once on this road, there was quite a lot of traffic.

Target practice - near Moyle

We walked through several small settlements and there were a few people about, everyone had a "Morning" or an "Aye aye" as we passed - there were crofters working with their sheep, cutting peats and working the land - so different from yesterday's wild places, empty of people.

Glen More - views west

The few miles went by quickly and we were soon in Glenelg.

Near the end...

There was still no phone signal though - Jim and I had arranged to meet in Glenelg at lunchtime and it would have been nice to be able to get through to check he was on his way.

Sound of Sleat and Kyle Rhea from Glenelg

We called into the little shop in Glenelg - yum. The lady in the shop told me that there is a phone signal down by the War Memorial (apparently oftentimes there are crowds of people there - not paying their respects, but making phone calls!). So I sat outside the shop and ate and drank my purchases (apart from the ones Rafe ate) chatting away to various locals (they really are lovely people) with every intention of ringing Jim from the War Memorial.

Rafe - Sound of Sleat and Kyle Rhea from Glenelg

But as soon as we set off again, who should drive by, but Jim and Freddie, full of smiles and waves. Rafe and I continued on down to the War Memorial anyway, we wanted to finish on the shore. Jim and Freddie walked back from the car park to meet us, and we did the last few metres together.

We had views across a glassy Kyle Rhea and Sound of Sleat to Skye, the rolling green of southern Skye - a lovely finish to a wonderful walk.

Where are we going next!

Glenelg War Memorial with the Sound of Sleat and Skye beyond

Route:  Campsite at Moyle (NG879191), NW along minor road to junction at NG863199, turn W (left) and follow minor road through Glen More to junction at NG821198, turn SW (left) into Glenelg, follow minor road through village to War Memorial on waterfront (NG809192)

Statistics:  Distance: 7.9km   Ascent: 40m  Time: 2.45hours

Conclusion:  I thoroughly enjoyed the walk from start to finish. Obviously I didn't do the official Affric Kintail Way, starting in Glen Urquhart rather than Drumnadrochit, taking a different glen out of Affric into Kintail etc. Maybe I'll do the proper route next year? But, what I did do was well waymarked and easy to follow. There was no uninteresting bits, views and history all along the way. The only bit that needs sorting is from Corrimony to Cannich - just a little bit too much road walking (and it can be a busy road!). Hopefully, if the route is a success and it brings money into the community, landowners will get on board and agree to a route through the fields and over the hills at that point. The only really big investment will be a footbridge over the river at Corrimony. I also would like to see the walk lengthened - I went over the hills from Sheil Bridge into Glenelg, but what about a route along Loch Duich toward Kyle of Lochalsh and then Skye? There's lots of routes that could be linked! But then it wouldn't be from Affric to Kintail....
Do the route - it's superb!

Tuesday 24 June 2014

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

Allt Undalain by Shiel Bridge campsite

We were up and about, packed, breakfasted and ready to go by about 9;30am. No rush today, just a short walk over the hills and down into Glen More by Glenelg.

I'd been chatting the day before to a couple of caravanners, also staying in the campsite, about walking in the Scottish hills. Steve, from West Yorkshire, seemed interested in the route I was taking today and had asked me to show him on the map. He said that he might try the route sometime during his stay at Shiel Bridge.

North west along Loch Duich from Blar Salachaidh

Rafe and I headed south initially, back along the path beside Allt Undalain. Rafe couldn't resist getting his feet wet yet again. The path zigzagged steeply up diminutive Blar Salachaidh before descending to the footbridge over the gorge on the burn. The water was churning about through the narrow chute - it would be most impressive in spate!

Allt Undalain gorge (NG937180)

The path through Gleann Undalain feels wonderfully remote, untouched by man. Well known hills, famous hills even, seen from a different angle - the South Glen Shiel Ridge, The Saddle, Beinn Sgritheall...

Golden Ringed Dragonfly in Gleann Undalain

The going was easy...

Rafe - Gleann Undalain with views south to The Saddle

As we turned west and started to ascend towards the bealach that would take us over the top into Glen More, we spied Steve from West Yorkshire, with his little collie, Jess, coming along the path a little way back...

Gleann Undalain views south east along Coire Caol to
Meallan Odhar and Sgurr na Forcan

As we climbed slowly (big pack, you know!), Steve gradually caught up and soon Rafe and Jess were gambolling about amongst the tussocks.

Gleann Undalain to Coire Uaine

It seemed they were joining us for our walk today.

Looking back (north) into Gleann Undalain and Coire Caol over Meallan Odhar to Five Sisters ridge

As we ascended, Steve explained that, although he and his wife do quite a lot of low level walking, they haven't any experience in wilder country, far from roads, phone signal and potential help. He also admitted not being very handy with map and compass! So I had been volunteered to be guide for the day!! Steve was going to ring his wife to come and get him in the car, from Glen More - he was hoping for a phone signal...

Steve, Jess and Rafe  at bealach above Gleann Undalain between Sgurr a'Gharg Gharaidh and Sgurr Mhic Bharraich (NG921162) 

As we ascended to the bealach, the views opened up - it was nice to see the reaction of someone new to the hills.

Rafe and Jess had a swim and a stick fetching competition in Loch Coire nan Crogachan at the bealach between Sgurr a'Gharg Gharaidh and Sgurr Mhic Bharraich, whilst Steve and I had a bite to eat.

Decent towards Glen More (Glenelg) from near Loch Coire nan Crogachan

Before we headed down towards Glen More.

Steve was overwhelmed by the vastness, openness and wildness.

Waterfalls on Allt a'Ghleannain (NG916165)

He was a bit less impressed by the deteriorating state of the path. Once over the bealach, as the terrain changed and, it would appear less people take the route, the path became intermittent and boggy. Steve was concerned that we had somehow got off the path and were heading for a slow death in a peat bog. (Good job he wasn't with us in Gleann Gniomhaidh on Day Three!). But, he accepted that we were right when I showed him the map and pointed out several landmarks.

Views back (east) to bealach
between Sgurr Mhic Bharraich and Sgurr a'Gharg Gharaidh  

Rafe, Steve and Jess - views south west from our descent to Glen More (Glenelg)

It really did feel quite remote... Wonderful.

Ruins at Bealachassan on our descent into Glen More (NG897174)

As we reached Moyle Wood, the heavens opened and we had the first real rain of our trip. The trees offered some shelter, but it really pelted down.

Views south west from near Lionachan to Beinn Sgritheall

The walking was easier now, on forestry tracks, the road improved and the countryside became more pastoral.

We passed the couple of houses that make up Lionachan and then Moyle, before coming out of the trees, into sudden sunshine and the campsite.

Campsite at Moyle (NG879191)

Steve had no phone signal!

On checking the map, we found that there was a phone box marked about 1km down the road at a farm. Steve decided to go for that - and if it wasn't there anymore, or out of order, he would just have to walk up the road to Mam Ratagan and over the top into Kintail until he got a signal (or possibly walk all the way back to Shiel Bridge!).

So, we said goodbye to Steve and Jess (and hopefully haven't put them off walking in the hills completely!) and they headed off along the road, never to be seen again.

Foxgloves in Moyle Wood

Rafe and I left the rucksack at the campsite and trotted up the hill to the farm to pay our dues. Rafe was happy to find that they had two collies - quite ready to play in the garden for a few minutes.

The tent went up, the stove went on and tea was served. The sun was out and all our wet stuff was drying on the fence. It felt like home already.

The campsite had new facilities - a ready made module, especially for small campsites, delivered, plugged into electricity and water and ready to go - it looked like a small shipping container! One loo - perfectly adequate. And a shower room - the shower itself was fine, clean and hot, but there was only about 8 inches to spare around two sides of the shower cubicle - it would be a squeeze if you were of a slightly larger build! I didn't care at this point. The shower did its job.

Views south east to bealach between Sgurr Mhic Bharraich and Sgurr a'Gharg Gharaid
from Moyle Wood 

We had a bit of an explore around Moyle Wood - full of foxgloves.

West from Moyle campsite to the hills above Kylerhea on Skye

Before retiring to the campsite for a lounge about - the weather was absolutely gorgeous.

West from Moyle campsite to the hills above Kylerhea on Skye

As were the surroundings.

Sleepy Rafe at Moyle campsite

After tea, we had another walk, before Rafe became further acquainted with the farm dogs.

Rafe makes friends with the locals at Moyle campsite

A beautiful evening, we watched the gloaming over the hills of Skye to the west...

Evening -  Moyle campsite to the hills above Kylerhea on Skye

Read on - Sort of the Affric Kintail Way - Day Five - Moyle to Glenelg

Route: Campsite at Shiel Bridge (NG938187), path running S from campsite entrance through Gleann Undalain, turning W zigzaging beside Allt na h-innse Garbhe, running S of Loch Coire nan Cregachan, continue on path to ruin at Bealachassan (NG896174) continue NW through clear fell site and on to Lionachan and Moyle, continue NW on minor road to campsite at NG879191.

Statistics:  Distance: 15.6km  Ascent: 680m  Time: 5 hours

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

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...