Hiking the Affric Kintail Way, Scotland

Affric Kintail Way

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Affric Kintail WayAffric Kintail Way – An insignificant Facebook message quickly became a planning for a hiking trip to Scotland. After the first meeting, accompanied by local beers and Scottish Whiskey, the plans were made. I was looking for a trip for four men of middle age and my father and uncle were looking for an alternative to explore the area by rented car. As trail, I chose the Affric Kintail Way with a short extension on the Great Glenn Way towards Inverness. Via the Great Glenn way the trail connects seamlessly with the West Highland Way, Cape Wrath, East Highland Way, … and so the long distance possibilities are endless in Scotland.

Day I & II Inverness – Drumnadrochit

Great Glen Way ↔ 33.2 km 463 m ↓ 430 m GPX

We flew early in the morning from Brussels to Inverness where we arrived at noon. We got to the rental office, where the person in charge seemed to have walked away from the Little Britain cast, to pick up the car. With an excellent mood we drove to Inverness where we stayed at Ardross Glencairn, a B & B in the center of town. We did some sightseeing, went to do some shopping, visited the pub and crawled into our bed. The next day the hiking excursion could really begin.

Inverness CastleAfter a full British breakfast, we left at Inverness Castle on the Great Glenn Way on the banks of the Ness River. The Great Glen Way stretches for 117 km from coast to coast across the Highlands, linking the city of Fort William and the regional capital of Inverness. The trail follows the major natural fault line of the Great Glen which divides Scotland from coast to coast. We follow the first 30 kilometers towards Drumnadrochit to continue afterwards on the Affric Kintail Way.

Abriachan Eco-Campsite & CafeThis stretch of the Great Glen Way is generally easy to explore on foot through agricultural areas and forests, you get beautiful panoramas of Loch Ness and the mountains to the north. After a boring stretch through the gray suburbs of Inverness and a rolling golf course we come after some climbs in the woods. Through the sticky snow we walk on through dark green pine forests and bare heathland. On the way we take a short detour to drink something in the Abriachan Eco-Campsite & Cafe. Located high in the hills north of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands, Abriachan Eco-Campsite & Cafe is a popular attraction on the ‘Great Glen Way’. The friendly boss Sandra and her husband seem to have walked away from a Highlander movie. We drink excellent black coffee and English tea and amuse ourselves with the explanation of the eloquent owner. Highly recommended for everyone on the Great Glen Way!

Great Glen wayAfter about twenty-three kilometers the soft forest trail goes down and we get a panoramic view of Loch Ness, not a trace of the famous monster but we enjoy the beautiful view. After a few kilometers hiking we see Urquhart castle on the green banks of the vast lake. There are three unpleasant kilometers on a busy asphalt road towards Drumnadrochit where our welcome committee treats us with well-earned food and drinks. After everyone has eaten (and drunk), one of the men in the now noisy company informs the waitress that she is a look-a-like of Dolly. I’m still not sure if he meant the busty Miss Parton or the famous Scottish sheep. Time to go to sleep. 😉

Day III Drumnadrochit – Cannich

Affric Kintail ↔ 24.30 km 525 m ↓ 473 m GPX

Great Glen WayOn the second day we start on the Affrick Kintail Way, a fully signposted, excellent cross-country route of 70 kilometers for hikers. Officially opened in 2015, the Affric Kintail Road runs from Drumnadrochit on the banks of Loch Ness, to Morvich in Kintail. The starting point makes it possible to connect with the Great Glen Way and with it a large part of Scotland’s long distance walking network. The end point at Morvich makes a link possible with the much more challenging and serious Cape Wrath Trail.

Affric KintailWe arrange some provisions in the small shop before we start. The first kilometers of the Affric Kintail Way immediately go up so we quickly get a nice view of the valley and Loch Meiklie. The trail then gradually descends over forest paths into the village of Cannich. The last 5 miles run completely over a busy road (A831) and are nothing short of unpleasant. For a moment the doubt strikes, is this the beautiful trip I had in mind? The first stage is in retrospect not worth the trouble and maybe just a connecting piece with the Great Glen Way. Fortunately, the rest of the trip will more than make up for the disappointment of the first hurdle. Arriving in Cannich we cross the Glass River and drink some glasses in the local pub, there is also a SPAR where we hit whiskey for the rest of the trip.

Day IV Cannich – Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhoin

Affric Kintail ↔ 20.65 km 448 m ↓ 345 m GPX

Affric Kintail WayDay three also starts with a tough climb, over a small asphalt road it goes up a few kilometers before we turn on a muddy forest road. We are happy that the paved road is behind us and feel that the Affric Kintail Way really starts here. You go up and down along dark pine woods and occasionally we get a glimpse of the graceful valley.

We descend on a narrow forest path and arrive at a public parking lot near the Benevean dam. We eat reindeer soup on the banks of the swirling Affric River before continuing on our way. After a short climb we arrive at a beautiful viewpoint. We get a nice panoramic view of what the next days have to offer. Blue carved mountain lakes, wild rivers, fresh pine forests and snowy peaks. Time for a single malt.

Glen AffricThose ‘beardo’s’ that I’ve been walking with have never heard of ‘lightweight’ hiking. They pull and drag bottles of whiskey, cans of coke, chairs, and other trinkets. It makes the trip a bit heavier but at certain times it is also very pleasant. The rest of the day we walk along a wide cattle track along the banks of the vast lake through the woods and past babbling brooks that flow down from the mountain. When the evening falls we find a suitable place to sleep, it is a search because many pieces are too swampy to set up the tent. Eventually we find an idyllic sleeping place at the end of the Beinn a ‘Mheadhoin lake on an enclosed pebble beach. We set up tent and tarp, make a campfire, eat, bake smoked bacon and try to ration the whiskey. The latter succeeds moderately so we will have to do it with less in the next few days. Jan dares to do some laps in the cold loch. After a nice warm evening, thanks to fireman Jan, we crawl in our sleeping bag for a rainy night.

Dag V Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhoin – Camban Bothy

Affric Kintail ↔ 23.38 km 431 m ↓ 363 m GPX

Glen Affric youth HostelWith sleepy eyes we get out of our warm sleeping bag early in the morning. It is chilly and we decide to pack everything and have breakfast later when it is warmer. We stroll along some smaller lakes that eventually turn into Loch Affric. We eat some granola in the morning sun and enjoy the panoramic view. As we walk further along Loch Affric, the landscape gets wider and there are fewer forests. Everything here is historically empty and eaten by deer and sheep. The valleys are now completely fenced and one tries to reforest the desiccated low plains. We find it beautiful this way. We see another black grouse flying up and see the famous Scottish red grouse. At the simple ‘Strawberry house’ we rest for a while. Then it goes through marshy wetland and moorland where the Affric river meanders through the plain full of peat soil. We pass ferocious waterfalls and streams of clear water. The track has now changed into a mountain path with boulders.

Affric Kintail WayAfter a while we see the youth hostel of Alltbeithe appearing in the distance. The ‘Glen Affric youth Hostel‘ is a refurbished bothy on the Affric Kintail Way which is now operated by the ‘Scottish Youth Hostels Association’. It is a unique and secluded youth hostel with twenty-four beds at ten kilometers from the nearest road. When we passed by, the youth hostel was not yet open for the summer season, there was an emergency shelter that you could use. We make lunch and do another round of whiskey before taking the last three kilometers. Eventually we arrive at the Camban bothy after some climbing. A bothy is a simple hut, usually freely accessible. Bothies can be found in remote mountain areas in Scotland, Northern England and Wales. They are fairly common in the Scottish Highlands. “Bothy” could be derived from the Gaelic bothan, which means “little hut.” Unfortunately, many people still leave their rubbish in the Bothies, empty bottles, gas canisters and a bag full of waste. Waste is a danger for wild and domestic animals and has no place in this beautiful nature. Leave no trace!

Camban Bothy

We have the company of the Dutch Guy. We enjoy the view, play card, go exploring in the area and put some dried figs on whiskey for later in the evening. When the darkness falls and it gets colder we crawl in our sleeping bag for some well-deserved night’s rest.

Dag VI Camban Bothy – Morvich

Affric Kintail ↔ 15.21 km 215 m ↓ 522 m GPX

Affric Kintail WayWe leave the beautiful bothy early in the morning and continue our journey on the Affric Kintail Way. Every day the landscape seems to become more beautiful. We stroll along mountain paths through the beautiful scenery where lambs that barely stand on their feet are gazing at us. Snowy peaks look down on us while clear waterfalls plunge high down the jagged rocks. We descend steeply and eventually end up in a wide valley where the Croe river makes its way through the peat towards Morvich. It is easy walking again on a country road. Eventually we arrive in the village of Morvich at noon, where we are welcomed by my father and uncle. What a magnificent trip through a wonderful landscape. A must for anyone who wants to explore Scotland. The trail is not technically and fairly easy to do for novice hikers. A good alternative to the busier West Highland Way, for example, certainly in my opinion.

Map

Day VII & VIII Isle of Skye

Isle of SkyeWe spend the rest of our vacation on The Isle of Skye where we rented a cottage in Torrin. We join our fathers and father-in-law and explore the island, make a boat trip to the base of the Cuillin mountain range, do some short walks on the Trotternish ridge and make the pubs unsafe. Another wonderful piece of Scotland. My sincere thanks to the three Jannen, Koen and my father to make a fantastic trip!

Practical

Transport

We did fly on Inverness with British Airways from Zaventem (BXL) (with stop in London Heathrow). We parked our car at Zaventem for 78 € for 10 days. Naturally, the national airport is also perfectly accessible by public transport.

Inverness is the airport closest to the Scottish Highlands. Flying on Glasgow or Edinburgh is often a bit cheaper and there are more flights. Keep in mind that you still have to spend time and money to move to the north. From Inverness you can immediately leave on the Great Glen Way.

Between Morvich (end of Affric Kintail Way) and Inverness there is a bus service (line 917 Inverness / Skye – 1h40 min.) From Scottish Citylink. Cannich is also served by bus from Inverness. Drumnadrochit has a good bus service, on the route between Inverness and Fort William (both have train stations).

Car rental

EasyTerra Car Rental is an independent price comparison tool for car rental. The prices of the well-known car rental companies are compared in their system, so that you can always book your rental car at a favorable price. We rented a car for nine days (6 p.) For 470 €.

Signage & supplying

Both the Great Glenn Way and the Affric Kintail Way are well signposted. Both trails have their own card. There are overview maps to download on the site of the Affric Kintail Way

You can buy food, drink and fuel in Inverness, Drumnadrochit and to a limited extent in Cannich. There is water enough along the trail so purifying water is no problem.

Weather

We went early April and had beautiful weather. Waterproof gear hardly came out of the backpack. Never assume, however, that you will have nice weather in Scotland and provide for all weather conditions. A week of sun in the Scottish highlands seems to me to be the exception rather than the rule 😉

Keep in mind that in the summer months there can be many ‘midges‘, and take a good spray. Small insects can be a reasonable fun spoiler.

You can go HERE for the current climatic conditions on the trail.

Sleeping

Scotland knows the ‘Scottisch Outdoor Act‘, so you can camp in the wild but there are rules to be followed.

The three main principles of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code are:

  1. Respect the interests of other people
  2. Take care of the environment
  3. Take responsibility for your own actions

After our night in the B & B in Inverness we slept in Drumadrochit, Cannich, Loch Beinn a ‘Mheadhoin and Camban bothy.

Along the way you will also pass the ‘Glen Affric youth Hostel‘, a refurbished bothy which is now operated by the Scottish Youth Hostels Association. It is a unique and secluded youth hostel with twenty-four beds at ten kilometers from the nearest road. When we passed by, the youth hostel was not yet open for the summer season (late April to late September, view the site for exact dates).

The only bothy to stay on this trail is that of Camban, located between Alltbeithe and Morvich. For information about all the bothies of Scotland you can visit the website of the Mountain Bothies Association. Stick to the Bothy code!

In Drumnadrochit, Cannich and Morvic there are accommodation options. There is a large campsite at the finish in Morvich.

Books

There are many guides on the Great Glen Way and the rest of the Scottish Highlands to read. The Affrick Kintail Way has only been a signposted trail since 2015 and there are currently fewer guides to find.

Rating

The first stage on the Great Glen Way was better, beside the first and last kilometers, than I had expected in advance.

The first trip to Cannich on the Affric Kintail was disappointing. Little variation and a very long piece of asphalt. Fortunately, the rest of the trail makes up for it! Should I do it again? I would skip the first stage of the trail and stay a day longer at the youth hotel or bothy to explore the area and mountains.

The Affric Kintail Way is a very nice trail without being too technical and with an acceptable number of altimeters. The trail runs over old cattle trails and mountain trails. We hardly met anyone on the way. In my opinion more beautiful and quieter than his better-known brother the West Highland Way. You have to be self-sufficient, contrary to the WHW. On the way there are no shops, campings or hotels after Cannich (outside the youth hostel, not open all year round, please inquire before departure)

* English is not my native language, found spelling mistakes or grammatical errors? Let me know so that I can adapt the text for future readers. Thanks!

Links

Photos Great Glen & Affric Kintail Way

Photos Isle of Skye