I spent a full week in Assynt in the North West of Scotland on my last trip. It caught my attention during my very first visit in 2014. You can read my report of the hill that brought me up there, Cul Baeg, here. In my pursuit of long distance walks, I had looked at doing parts of the Cape Wraith Trail, which traversed this area and is considered the most difficult trail in the country. Although single days of the trail were not advised, I did manage a few sections during my stay, but let’s begin at the beginning.
The first walk I did was quite fine; Cul Mor with the members of an Aberdeenshire walking group who were staying at the lodge with me. It allowed me to follow, and consequently summit this hill; only four of the original group of 13 made it all the way to the top. There were many opportunities to turn back, and I wondered whether I should too (tired, first hill, wrong colour hat…) but a few people kept on. If they could, I could, and I did. The views along the way and from the plateau before the final ascent are the best.
That last climb, up a boulderfield was not fun, and the wind made any kind of lingering at the summit unreasonable. Up there, we huddled around the trig point, in a stone shelter and had congratulatory snacks. We wandered back down, somewhat off track for a while, but that just meant harder going not getting lost, since the landmarks along the trail were quite distinct.
Two days later, I did my personal favorite of that trip, Bone Caves Cross Country, follow the link to read that report.
On a ‘day off’ I decided to take a road trip even further north, to visit Durness. The local landscapes and beaches were worth the detour. The driving wasn’t great fun, single tracks, all that wrong side of the road stuff, but it was my only longish drive in the whole week.
A day or so later, I did a small solo walk to a beautiful collection of three hills, Quinag, that dominate the landscape beyond the local Munroe’s. I seemed to be passing them constantly, and decided it was worth a try, by myself. It was another exercise in self-encouragement; ‘that’s enough, enough, ok a little more, no that’s enough…’
I did manage to summit one of the three Corbetts after much hesitation, but my arguments to go no further were equally convincing. I regret not going for at least one more peak that day, and know that I would have benefited from the company of keener walkers. No matter, the pictures of the hill are as lovely as those from the hill.
Cape Wraith Trail – a sliver
Let me rave for just a few seconds about my accommodations. Inchnadamph Lodge is a wonderful hostel which attracts reasonable walkers and is located in the middle of this fantastic landscape. Besides perfect facilities, kitchen, laundry, drying rooms etc. the people I met while staying there were an absolute bonus and probably made my trip.
On the day before I was to leave, I managed to follow a hostel friend as he continued his trek along the Cape Wraith Trail. This would be my second small section of the trail; my Bone Caves cross country walk used the trail for the last third. We planned to split up and I would exit through another route.
The access back to the Cape Wraith Trail is close to the Lodge, a small path, that takes off left from the track that continues into Gleann Dubh. You are soon skirting another valley, surrounded by hills, and eventually pass a series of lochen known for fishing. I say known, since we met a guy who was planning to spend his day there. We had to ford a few of the lochens’ feeder streams, but came out dry shod.
We than started an actual assent, toward the col or Bealach n’a h-Uidhe between Glas Bheinn and Beinn Uidhe. We chatted walking life; Adrien found the walking easier, even uphill, after a full rest day; we both noticed that pack-weight almost disappeared when climbing.
We contemplated a snack break, at the bealach or somewhere with a view on the other side. Not a chance. This was one windy spot. Staying upright was a bigger and bigger challenge as we approached the highpoint. Dropping down the serpentine path on the other side, we expected the wind to calm, but were disappointed. After (finally) a wind-blown snack, we parted, and I was to make my way to a road along the path to (from) one of Britain’s most important waterfalls Eas a’hual Aluinn.
On my own, I was able to read the landscape described on the map, a throwback to my landscape architecture training. That said, I was very pleased (read relieved) to find a couple of other lodge friends at the river that became the falls. Having made the journey in, they had an advantage for the return. This was not pleasant walking, although I had heard that from others.
This strange rocky landscape though, was what I wanted, what brought me back to Assynt, and it did not disappoint.