The increasingly popular Cape Wrath Trail was undertaken by a Thistle Trekking group for the third time this year on the 7th of August. Having been in the role of Trek Manager for the previous month’s CWT it was great to be the Walking Guide for this one, and to have the support of Ollie as Trek Manager.
We met our group in the ever popular Geographer restaurant and discussed the 11 days and 157 miles of walking which lay between us and the Cape. There were a few nerves and doubts, naturally given that this is our most challenge trek, but also a friendly atmosphere and it was clear this was a group that would support each other through the challenges of the trek.
Day 1: Kinloch Hourn to Glen Shiel
The first day of our trek began at Kinloch Hourn on the edges of the wild and beautiful Knoydart. We choose this point to start our CWT to avoid starting an already tough trek with a couple of nights wild camping and heavy packs. (If you are interested in completing the section between Fort William and Kinloch Hourn have a look at our North West Wilderness Weekend and our blog post about the trek to find out more.)
This day is a fantastic introduction to the trail involving all the adventurous ingredients which make this trail such a challenge – trackless terrain, a high mountain pass, great views and river crossings. With a mixed forecast we luckily avoided most of the rain showers, except when we sat down for lunch. Unfortunately, this would become a bit of a theme and a running joke of the trek…
Day 2: Glen Shiel to Killilan
We began the second day in good spirits after a breakfast worthy of a long conversation, and after a short road section began to climb through the forest. We looked back at the views over Kintail before descending to the head of the Falls of Glomach. The overnight rain and showers of the day meant the falls were in full flow; a spectacular 113m streak of white water and a wall of noise. We descended over tricky ground to the valley to finish the day on the flat in the warmth of a dry afternoon.
Day 3: Killilan to Achnashellach
By day three you begin to get the sense of noticeable northwards progress and we trekked through to Strathcarron and lunch at the Pottery. From here we followed the river to Achnashellach Station. We took a slight variation on our usual route which was only possible due to the exceptionally dry summer. It allowed us to stay off the road for a little while longer. With no official line or way-markers on the Cape Wrath Trail comes a certain amount of freedom to choose your own way.
Day 4: Achnashellach to Kinlochewe
Day four started with a sustained climb through plantation woodland before the magnificent Torridon Mountains grew on the horizon. It was a clear day with cloud base well above the peaks of the quartzite capped Beinn Eighe. We enjoyed good going on excellent tracks as Liathach crept into view on our left. There was one more short climb and a midge interrupted lunch stop before a descent into Kinlochewe. Some bush whacking and crossing of bogs and burns was rewarded with a mid-afternoon finish in the sunshine. Time for a beer and a good rest before a big day through Fisherfield.
Day 5: Kinlochewe to Corrie Hallie
Coming in at over 20 miles this was our biggest day on the trail. It began on excellent Land Rover tracks before leaving the path at the south eastern shore of Lochan Fada. From here we made for Bealach na Croise with a declaration of, “I just love this!”, from Nicole, who had found the Scotland she had come in search of. We were now on one of the most remote sections of the trail and she delighted in the trackless freedom of it all. The forecast rain arrived at 4pm and Ollie joined us with extra biscuits and moral support. All of our group completed possibly the toughest day of the trek and the idea of getting all the way to the Cape began to seem ever more achievable.
Day 6: Corrie Hallie to Leckmelm
In the morning we drove back out to Corrie Hallie from our accommodation in Ullapool in heavy rain but in the knowledge we had a relatively short day ahead and rest day to come. Having donned the waterproofs and battened down the hatches we set out just as the rain abated. In increasing warmth and humidity we climbed and took off layers at a similar rate. We ascended steadily to Loch an Tiompain (our highest point of the day) before dropping steeply to Croftown for a lunch stop. We ate, dry and midge free, as a Merlin flew behind us, out of sight of the group and unidentified by myself or Ollie until it had departed (but it was there, we promise). The road section to Leckmelm was done at marching pace and our rest day was reached.
Day 7: Ullapool
The summer bustle of the town of Ullapool makes for a perfect rest day location. With galleries and museums, book shops and outdoor shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants the town has everything needed to relax the legs. Gerry chose a walk as the best way to spend a rest day and headed for the lighthouse along the coast – a walk he highly recommends. Emma took the ferry for a day trip to Stornoway. Nicole and Patrick took the chance to head out on a wildlife spotting cruise. For the rest it was a chance to catch-up with family and enjoy taking the load off the feet for a day. The group met-up in the evening to celebrate Jill’s birthday with meal at the Ceilidh Place. A great way to enter the second half of the Cape Wrath Trail.