Highlands hike

After the beautiful drive through the highlands there was no way I could move on without hiking some of it. After a quick read of some options on walkhighlands.com (excellent resource for route recommendations) I decided to climb the nearby Ben More Assynt, the highest peak in the north highlands at just under 1000m.
The first day was a long hard hike that took its toll, and after a night camped on the side of a Loch I made my way pretty much directly break to the car, nursing an injured knee.

The area around the west of the highlands is somewhat bleak but still very compelling. The main thing that’s stood out to me is the bright autumn colour, something I always previously associated only with the leaves on trees turning orange.
Here, the color comes from the heather which has turned a rich golden brown, nowhere near as dull as I’d expected. When the sun hits it it really glows, an effect I’ve been lucky to see lots of with the continuing good weather.


Day 1
Start: Inchnadamph (80m)
Distance Walked: 23km
Elevation Gain: 1098m
Highest Point: 998m
End: Loch Ailsh (200m)

Left the hostel at Ullapool and headed a little way back north to Inchnadamph and parked up (80m).
Took the path up into Gleann Dubh, following the river as it rose up through the valley. Good path initially, soon became a bit boggy.
At the head of the valley the path ascended steeply then switched back for a scramble up to the summit of Conival (987m).
Clear views from here in all directions, with a ridgeline running across to Ben Assynt, tallest peak in the area.
Made me way along the ridgeline, dropping about 100m before climbing back up to the summit of Ben More Assynt (998m).
Route from Conival was a bit of a scramble with loose rock all along the ridgeline, very glad of the clear skies abs relatively low wind. Would have been very nervous in strong wind or rain.
From the summit of Ben More Assynt decided to pick my own route down to the northeast, following a tongue that looked to descend gradually towards Glen Cassley. Was a bit nervous of making my own way, but the route proved sound, easier than the path if anything. Fairly firm scattered rocks and a little bit of boggyness. Saw a herd of deer on the way down, big stag and his ladies.
After following the river Allton Aonghais down (350m) I intercepted a path heading south east.
At first this was a good gravel track, but before long it cut off across a bog. Tough going, starting to get tired. Slipped and twisted my knee under me, nothing serious but that’s going to hurt tomorrow.
Followed the track past Loch Carn nan Conbhairean where I’d hoped the path would get a bit firmer. Unfortunately stayed boggy until the path climbed up the flank of Meall an Aonaich (430m).
From there it was a slog down past Loch Sail an Ruathair to the woods around Loch Ailsh where I set up camp (200m). Guy whizzed past me on a quad bike with a stag strapped to the back on the way down, hope it wasn’t the same one I saw earlier.
Almost 9 hours of walking today and feeling it, almost dark by the time the tent was up. Full dark by 7:30, not much to do but rest up and wait for sleep.

Day 2
Start: Loch Ailsh (200m)
Distance Walked: 16km
Elevation Gain: Minimal
Highest Point: 200m
End: Inchnadamph (80m)

Cold night, fortunately I packed the 3 season sleeping bag in anticipation. Bloody bulky, but does make for a cosy sleep. Ice on the tent when I woke up.
As expected the knee had stiffened up overnight, painful start. Extending or twisting the leg resulted in the knee starting to buckle, so the goal of the day was to get back to the car over the flattest and firmest terrain possible.
Started off around Loch Ailsh which looked beautiful in the morning mist.
From there headed almost due north ask the way back to Inchnadamph, past Loch Borralan and up past Loch Awe.
Not the most exciting route, but the weather stayed fine so it was pleasant enough. Took nearly 5 hours to hobble the distance even with the route choice and I was glad to get back to the car.
From there drove back to Inverness where a street festival starts tomorrow. Should be fun.

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