So this was our last day, and it turned out to be this nicest day of the whole week, apart from the day we left which typically was even nicer. We left our chalet at around 12.30 and driving out from Melvaig to Gairloch just around the corner from us we saw a giant bird soaring on the cliffs just above the road. Here is the somewhat terrible photo, but enough to show that it is indeed an eagle, a sea (or white tailed) eagle I think.
So it was a good start to the day, we drove on out to Incheril, just past Kinlochewe. The walk we planned to do is a 13 mile circular walk starting at Loch Maree and climbing up to the mountainous Lochan Fada. The walking book reckons it takes 7-8 hours, and the sunsets at about 8 o’clock resulting in the light being lost around 8.30. Anyone keeping up with our current timescale probably realises that as usual we’re a bit tight on time. We arrived and parked at Incheril and started of on our walk around 1.30pm. It’s a beautiful day, I really don’t need a jacket but the sensible hiker that I am I take it anyway.
I realised that I’ve done this part of the walk before, some time ago.
Here we are in 2014 on a lovely sunny day.
And then back to 2011 on much rainier day where you can see how the flooding has come up the trees beside the river.
After you continue walking toward the loch and alongside the river that feeds it the path comes right onto the shores of Loch Maree itself and then diverts away again to a bridge over river Abhainn na Fhasaigh, which comes from the munro Slioch.
Crossing the river you can continue along the current path which would lead you to Letterewe, or as our book doesn’t say but wants, turn right and head up the river.
This irritates me. The book doesn’t say anything useful like ‘cross over a large bridge and then turn right to follow the river..’ It merely states ‘after around 3km look for an arrow made of stones on a grassy sward…’ Really? Of all the distinctive features that you could pick that are large, permanent and immovable; bridges, rivers and mountains, you pick a stone ‘arrow’ buried in the grass. Well I’m sure that’ll be there a few years down the line for all us walkers, lets just hope they’ve also employed a local and his strimmer with the sole purpose of maintaining the all important arrow, otherwise, heaven forfend, the grass may grow and we shall all wander lost amongst the mountains.
They have in our guide, put a map though. This shows one bridge over the river (there are two) and the route of the path. By the way, it’s not 3km in any way shape or form and I’m not sure what the point of adding a scale to map is when it resolutely ignores proportion.
For any of you current walkers who may be interested this the current ‘waymark’, although it’ll probably get kicked over by a sheep next week so I wouldn’t bank on that too much.
Following the path upstream there are a lot of waterfalls, about five really good ones. Here at the bottom by the bridge is the first with them continuing all up the hillside by the path.
It’s possible to go down and look at them better from stones jutting out into the river itself to although you then have to get back onto the path. It’s not as difficult as it’s being made to look, I promise.
Continuing up the river…
The higher you climb the better the view of Beinn Eighe gets behind you.
The path the opens out into a glen and meanders along the bottom of the valley beside the river.
From here the paths starts to climb up and over the ridge ahead of you. Here we passed a lot of muddy wilder enthusiastic mountain bikers, excluding the last lady who just wasn’t impressed with the whole thing and has given up sitting on her bike completely. I can’t say I blame her, safe to say it doesn’t appeal to me.
We gradually climb higher up the valley. I didn’t realise at this point that there’s a load of crap on the lens of my camera which is getting all in my photos, but after taking one particularly terrible photo of Slioch with the sun behind it I actually realised and then the photos get a bit better!
Looking down onto the loch from the ridge in the foothills of Slioch.
Slicoh comes into view again next to us. It’s funny, while going through the glen earlier you walk alongside this daunting munro and as you are so close to it you start to think the peak you can see, not so far above you is actually the summit. It starts to look very manageable, you could just pop up there if you fancied it… then you come around the corner and realise that you’re actually looking at a very small corie with the massive mountain itself rising far above it in the background. ‘Oh, maybe not’.
Getting a bit close to the loch.
And now after a fairly long descent, coming onto a near level.
It mentions in the book that if the river is in spate you will not be able to cross it and continue the circular walk as it is too deep and dangerous. It hasn’t rained all that much and when we get to the river it looks perfectly passable, 6m wide dotting with stepping stone.
So we start trying to cross. You get about half way then realise that the next stepping stone is under water, and while it’s only a little bit it’s enough to cover the whole rock in a slimy algae. Try to hop on that and we’re going to fall in, there’s no real other path across and it’s not quite as simple as it looks.
We wander downstream a bit to see if there’s any better placed rocks but here, although it narrows, it gets a lot deeper and there’s not better option. We’ve come this far, and I refuse to go back. We’ll just have to take our shoes off and walk through.
So here we go. Lee gallantly offers to carry me but I’ve crossed enough rivers to know that while it looks very easy the once you start standing on the slippery rocks and they all move around, you’re not going to be able to do it with me sitting on you.
And then I go for it, I get about halfway and then have to stop on the rock in the middle and wait for my feet to stop hurting. The water is so incredibly cold and fast flowing after about 30 seconds you’re completely number and another 30 seconds and it really starts to hurt! You can’t just run through either, the rocks are incredibly slippy and move as you stand on them, you really have to try and balance.
Well I’m kind of committed now… so after a little break I manage to get across without falling in and only getting the bottom half of my jean wet, they don’t roll up well.
If you want to see me swearing profusely, Lee has kindly videoed it.
There is another river, but it’s only little and has some proper stepping stones. Fortunate because after sitting there holding my feet for 5 minutes and having a hot coffee I’m still not totally in touch with my toes.
Views back to Slioch.
And now we start walking around the side of the loch, to start with there’s a path but this soon disappears.
Between the crossing of the river and the path we’re trying to rejoin on the other side there’s about 2.5km of marshy rough ground. According to our map, we can cross between the end of Lochan Fada and the next small loch down, but there’s no set route.
We hop from island to island and much to my surprise manage to cross between the lochs.
Some frog spawn spotted on the way.
The path weaves down through the valley and new forestry plantations similar to those at Loch Bad na Sgalag.
Nearing the bottom of the valley, you cross over a footbridge and the remote heights of Kinlochewe come into view. Although it looks like several houses, there is only one the other being deserted and slightly ruined.
According to the map the back now curves round to the right and follows a small tarmac round out towards Beinn Eighe. This is the shortest side of a kind of square shape that we have walked. But it isn’t, the road is actually very long and just keeps going. We’re a bit tired by now and losing the light, but we are rewarded with some lovely views to the sun setting over Beinn Eighe on the way out and a few stags on the hillside above.
And we’re finally back at the car just as we start to lose the light. It’s a beautiful walk that I would recommend to anyone in the area, beware the stepping stones!