Helen Rose: Hillwalking Diary October 2002

Glen Affric

photo: Glen Affricc Mountains and Lochs. In my pursuit of Munros, I have visited many corners of Scotland and indeed bagging Munros is a great way to get to know Scotland and enjoy some of the finest scenery in the world. One of the Glens I have long since wanted to visit is Glen Affric which is described in guide books as the most beautiful glen in Scotland. It is surrounded by ancient Caledonian Pine Forest and there is a presently a preservation project underway to conserve these beautiful native pines. The name Affric is derived from the Gaelic and means a dappled ford.

Glen Affric is to the north west of Inverness and the nearest village is Cannich where we stayed at the private hostel, which is very comfortable, for a modest £7 each per night in twin rooms. The intention was to have two days bagging Munros from Glen Affric.As it is a five hour drive we had a leisurely drive up calling in at Fort William for a little retail therapy in the shops there. After settling in at the hostel, we had a dinner at the local pub, the Slaters Arms followed by a few drams in the bar.

The area around Cannich is very beautiful with mountains and lochs and appeals to with its pretty villages and interesting things to see such as the Groam House Picts Museum. I had visited a friend in the area last year intending to walk in Glen Affric but the weather was very wet so we spent the time discovering the interesting tea shops, art galleries and even visited a local winery so there is plenty to do even in inclement weather.

photo: Glen Affricc. On the Saturday we bagged two new Munros and most of us decided not to go on to the third as it was very misty and we would not have had the views we wanted. On the Sunday we set out once again to Glen Affric. We drove up the Glen to the subsidiary Gleann nam Fiadh near the west end of Loch Beinn a'Mheadhoin and walked along the track in the glen finding a path up the shoulder to the west of Tom a'Choinich ( this means Hill of the Moss in Gaelic) which took us through the heathery slopes to the rockier section below the summit. We were glad to leave the heather behind since the midges were out in force as it was a humid, misty morning. In about three hours from when we started walking we were on the summit which was a large flat grassy plateau.

Having had lunch in the mist on the summit, we descended steeply down a narrowing crest to the bealach where the weather had cleared and we met Gerry and two others on their way up to Tom a'Choinich where Gerena had the previous day left a miniature of whisky for Gerry to celebrate his 200th Munro! He was delighted at the thought and that evening in the Hostel we had an Ian Mac dinner with a cheescake decorated to celebrate Gerry's achievement. At the rate Gerry is ticking off the Munros, he will finish them in record time by next year.

photo: Glen Affricc. We went on to climb up to the summit of Toll Creagach ( Rocky Hollow) in glorious weather where we sat in the sunshine and admired the views over Loch Mullardoch to the Mullardoch Hills. They are four Munros best reached by boat from the loch but are a big day and can wait until another time. I thought it would be fun to phone my elderly Mother from the top of a mountain so successfully reached her on the mobile. Needless to say, she was not impressed to have a telephone call from the top of a mountain as she does not see the point of climbing hills as they are there only to be admired from the glen!

As it was a beautiful sunny day for our return home, we stopped off at Fort Augustus on the Caledonian Canal. Too often, we rush back from hill walking weekends and miss seeing interesting parts of Scotland. The Caledonian Canal links three fresh water lochs providing a passage from the North Sea through Scotland to the Atlantic Ocean from the towns of Inverness to Fort William. The Canal was completed in 1820 after nineteen years of work. The canal is 22 miles long but the complete journey is about 70 miles. There are 29 locks and in Fort Augustus we watched many pleasure boats negotiating the three locks there. The canal is also used by fishing boats and small cargo boats. Loch Ness is one of the lochs linking the Caledonian Canal and is famous for Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster which has a dedicated museum at Drumnadrochit on the side of Loch Ness.

This area is known as the Great Glen and recently a long distance footpath has opened to allow people to walk from Fort William to Inverness and is known as the Great Glen Way. I know that I am constantly extolling the beauty of our pocket sized country of Scotland but honestly it is all true so come and see for yourself. Well, that's me done my bit for the tourist industry!

Coming Attraction English Lake District

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Thanks to Tom Addie and Stuart Adams for the photos.

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