Our guide Harry recently lead our first ever Affric Kintail Way group trek. Here he recounts the joys of Glen Affric and a unique stay on one our Scotland’s most remote hostels.
It is always exciting to lead a trek for the first time and the Affric Kintail Way was a new one for Thistle Trekking so I was hoping the guests would enjoy our inaugural trip. Having walked through the area years ago I was excited to get back and to show a group what a special place it is.
The way almost makes a coast-to-coast crossing of Scotland beginning as it starts just 15 miles from Inverness at the monster infested loch-side town of Drumnadrochit. As we drove along on our arrival day, we peered out at the vast waters but no sign of Nessie this time. We gathered for a delicious welcome meal to get to know the group, a small one of just four but with members from Germany and the US as well as the UK we had lots of interesting stories to share.
Setting off on day one we were geared up for some harsh weather that never really appeared. Climbing up out of the town we steadily gained height with views back to Loch Ness and on up the attractive Glen Urquhart ahead. Bright yellow gorse flowers and a good sighting of a red kite were highlights and we enjoyed the shelter of the forest from a fresh easterly breeze.
After a welcome bit of shelter in the van for a brew at a road crossing (thanks Ian!) we continued on newly laid paths climbing up onto more open slopes, giving us views ahead to the mountains which we would be walking through. Our last section took us up and over another small rise until we looked down on the pretty village of Cannich.
After a warm welcome and a comfortable night, we were off again climbing up out of Cannich with lovely views of Strath Glass. The cold weather meant we were glad of our gloves, but the occasional soft hail showers were at our backs and bounced off us without getting us wet. After the descent to the road into Glen Affric we met Ian who joined us for a quick detour to the thundering gorge of Dog Falls. A climb up on the other side gained us a superb lunch spot with fine views of the Loch and the snow-capped Munros beyond.
Forestry tracks with our first encounters with the ancient Caledonian pines that make this area so special took us steadily down to be joined by the trusty Ian for the last section to our minibus and a chance to see the views again as we drove back to Cannich for the night.
Day 3 began cloudy and cool as we started again form the road end peering through the trees at the opulence of the grand building and manicured lawns of Glen Affric Lodge. Not for us such luxury! Instead, we were headed for the modest but far more friendly delights of Glen Affric Youth Hostel!
As the morning brightened, we progressed along the south shore of Loch Affric with a superb panorama of mountains across the water and the wonderful shapely Scots pine trees framing the views. After taking our time to enjoy the views and spot an Osprey high above we bade farewell to Ian, as he set off back to transfer the van and our luggage to the west. The last few kilometres beyond the loch took us out of the woods and up into more open country but the weather had turned kinder, and we were soon enjoying a cup of tea outside the hostel provided by the lovely friendly warden Marc.
Glen Affric Youth hostel is possibly the closest thing to an Alpine Hut we have in Scotland and the wooden panelling and roaring fire inside give it the same cosy atmosphere. Be warned though there is no heating in the dorms so be sure your sleeping bag is warm enough for the season!
We were treated to a beautiful sunset that evening and a herd of red deer up close and after a convivial evening with our fellow hostellers we retired to our bunks.
On a bright sunny morning we said our farewells to Marc who had looked after us so well and set off towards the gap in the stunning Kintail mountains which would allow us through to the West coast.
We passed Camban bothy which made the YHA seem like Glen Affric Lodge by comparison. Spotting the deer again as we went as well as a heron, we steadily gained height to the pass and the watershed which marked the start of our descent. A fine view of the waterfall and gorge below us made a scenic lunch spot and after a slightly steeper descent made for a few creaks and strains we were met at the head of Glen Lichd by Ian who accompanied us down the valley to Morvich and the west coast.
Enjoying a celebratory final meal together we reflected on what a cracking walk it had been with weather and scenery to be very grateful for. Good company and hospitality were the themes of the trip, and I am sure these will always be a feature of the walk in the future whatever the weather.
April is a fantastic time of year for a walk in the highlands offering no midges and a good chance of fine weather but don’t forget it can still be chilly so “Ne’er cast a clout ‘til May is out!”
Affric Kintail Way 2024
We have a couple of spaces available on our late August Affric Kintail Way trek, and we have already have our dates in the calendar for 2024. If you like the look of this trek simply follow the link to find out more and book your place.