by Cat Webster
Cat is a qualified Mountain Leader and keen photographer of the outdoors. You can find her fantastic photos of the Scottish landscape on her Instagram page. Cat is also a Lowe Alpine ambassador and a good friend of Thistle Trekking.
With the right company and conditions, even the most uninspiring trudge has the potential to become a favourite walk. But of all the places I am most looking forward to rediscovering when it is safe to do so, the Fisherfield Forest is top of the list. Situated in the far north-west, the area known as the Great Wilderness is one of the most remote parts of Scotland, and particularly in spring, when the weather can be kind and the midges not yet a menace, it is a very special place to be.
At its heart is Shenavall, a much-loved bothy in a spectacular location. From the north at Corrie Hallie, it’s a 7km hike in over boggy moorland, skirting the slopes of An Teallach – The Forge – one of the finest mountains in Scotland. When the bothy finally comes into view, with the impressive Corbett Beinn Dearg Mor rising beyond, it is a sight that will stay long in the memory. As a popular stop on the Cape Wrath Trail it’s a very busy spot for long-distance hikers, and for keen hillwalkers makes an ideal jumping off point to the round of six Fisherfield Munros beyond – one of the highlights of many baggers’ rounds.
My favourite trip to the area was a late spring solo outing to climb two of these – A’Mhaighdean and neighbouring Ruadh Stac Mor – known as some of the remotest Munros and definitely among my favourites. Setting off from Shenavall, the first obstacles hikers encounter are the sizeable rivers that sweep down to Loch na Sealga. These infamous crossings are certainly not to be underestimated in spate. Friends and I once wasted hours searching for a safe place to cross, an attempt on the round cut short at four as a result.
Fortunately in dry conditions the crossing is light work and my tent was soon pitched high in Gleann na Muice, a dramatic place surrounded by mountains, where wonderful quiet spots for wild camping can be found along the river. The view down the glen with my morning coffee, An Teallach reflected in the water, was a memorable moment and a perfect start to the day.
My route followed the river upwards before a steep haul to gain the lower slopes of A’Mhaighdean and onwards to the summit, where gentle grassy slopes drop away spectacularly. To the south, Slioch and the steep wall of Beinn Lair dominate, with the great Torridon peaks rising behind. To the west, Fionn Loch stretches out towards Poolewe and the sea beyond. On a clear day it is without a doubt one of the best views in Scotland. The remoteness of these mountains means that many people opt to race round and tick off all six summits in one continuous great sweep. A great achievement, but take your time and the rewards can be greater. On this occasion I was glad to have time to laze on the summit in the sun and savour the view, free from the pressure of time.
Tearing myself away, some tricky route finding and easy scrambling brought me on to Ruadh Stac Mor, another spectacular summit where the ridgeline of Beinn Dearg Bheag and Beinn Dearg Mor to the north was crying out for a return visit. Of course no good hot day in the hills would be complete without a dip in a mountain pool, and I discovered some ideal spots on the descent in the cool waters of the Allt Gleann na Muice Beag.
Returning to the bothy to meet friends as planned, an amazing day was topped off with them supplying the one thing missing– an ice-cold beer freshly cooled in the river, to sip as the sun set over Shenavall. Days like these are what draws me to the mountains again and again, and like many I’ve been missing that sense of freedom and adventure recently. Hopefully we will all be able to enjoy them again soon and when that day comes I highly recommend you put Fisherfield on your list!
If you are interested in a guided walk on this or any other walks, hikes and treks in our ‘Favourite Walks’ series just get in touch with us by email, phone or through our social media pages. firstname.lastname@example.org