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GLEN SHIEL

Glen Shiel  lies on the Road to Skye between Loch Cluanie and Loch Duich. On both sides some of the biggest mountains in Britain tower above as you drive west towards Loch Alsh and the Isle of Skye. At the centre of these mountains lies the Cluanie Inn, isolated and brooding, but a very comfortable hotel. Any mountain walker will have visited the bar after a tough walk..

In total 21 Munros and 3 Corbetts lie either side of the Glen, 15 are Top 500 Summits.

The Top 500 Summits are listed below;

1      A’ Chralaig                                     3,675 ft                    2      Sgurr nan Conbhairean               3,638 ft

3      Sgurr Fhuaran                               3,506 ft                  4      Sgurr a’ Bhealaich Dheirg           3,399 ft

5      Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe                  3,369 ft                  6      Aonach air Chrith                         3,345 ft

7      Sgurr an Doire Leathain              3,314 ft                   8      The Saddle                                     3,310 ft

9      Aonach Mheadhoin                     3,284 ft                    10    Ciste Dhubh                                   3,212 ft

11    Sgurr na Sgine                               3,104 ft                    12    Creag nan Damh                           3,012 ft

13    Buidhe Bheinn                              2,905 ft                     14    Am Bathach                                   2,618 ft

15    Druim nan Cnamh                        2,589 ft

These are my favourite 2 walks in the area;

1. The South Glen Shiel ridge

13 miles road to road. 6,100 ft of climbing

Aonach Air Chrith               3,345 ft

Sgurr An Doire Leathain    3,314 ft

Creag nan Damh                 3,012 ft

The South Glenshiel ridge runs east to west for eight miles, starting from just south of the Cluanie Inn, and finishing south of the Glen Shiel battle site, where the Redcoats defeated the Jacobites in 1719. The ridge never drops below 2,500ft and contains seven Munros. If completing all seven Munros it is beneficial to have two cars, one at the start point, the Cluanie Inn, and one at the end, near the Glen Shiel battle site.

From the Cluanie Inn follow the old road which goes south crossing the western end of Loch Cluanie. Walk along the old road for three kilometres until the road meets the broad north ridge of Creag a’ Mhaim, then climb just west of south to the summit of Creag a’ Mhaim (3,107ft), the first Munro.

South Glen Shiel Ridge
South Glen Shiel Ridge. Chris Wood.

Follow the ridge west over Druim Shionnach (3,239ft), a Munro, and continue to Aonach Air Chrith, the third Munro and first Top 500 Summit, the highest point on the ridge. The ridge continues west over Maol Chinn-dearg (3,218ft), Sgurr an Doire Leathain (3,314ft), Sgurr an Lochain (3,294ft) to Creag nan Damh (3,107ft), the final Munro and a Top 500 Summit. The final traverse between Sgurr an Lochain and Sgurr an Doire Leathain feels a long way, partly because it will be late in the day and you will be starting to tire.

From the summit of Creag nan Damh, descend steeply north east to Am Fraoch-choire. At 1,300ft there is a path which leads back to the A87 near the Glen Shiel battle site and hopefully a lift back to the Cluanie Inn

2. The Five Sisters of Kintail

7 miles road to road. 4,500 ft of climbing.

Sgurr Fhuaran                    3,506 ft

Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe      3,369 ft

The five peaks seen in the classic view from Loch Duich (see below) are known as the Five Sisters of Kintail . Two are Top 500 Summits, Sgurr Fhuaran, the middle and clearly biggest peak, and Sgurr na Ciste Dubh, slightly hidden on the far right of the picture. Sgurr Carnach, second from the right, is a Munro.

Loch Duich & the 5 Sisters
Loch Duich & the 5 Sisters. Heather Thomas Smith.

The two peaks on the left of the photo, Sgurr na Moraich and Sgurr nan Saighead do not qualify as Munros, Corbetts or Top 500 Summits as the drops are under 500ft. However Sgurr na Moraich is a Corbett Top and HUMP (hills with a drop of 100 metres) and Sgurr nan Saighead is a Munro Top and HUMP.

The Five Sisters lie at the west end of Glen Shiel and their traverse has always been one of the classic Scottish walks. In 1773 James Boswell, in his journal of a tour of the Hebrides, describes Sgurr Fhuaran and quotes ‘We passed through Glen Shiel….One mountain I called immense. No, said he, but it is a considerable protruberance’.

It is best to go east to west because of the good views out to sea and the advantage of a 600ft starting height. If possible leave a car at Shiel Bridge and drive east up the A87 to grid reference 009136, one mile past the Glenshiel battle site. Ascend north, up steep hillside, between a gap in the trees to the Bealach na Lapain.

You are now on the main ridge which is followed all the way to Sgurr nan Saighead. Firstly ascend west to Sgurr nan Spainteach, a Munro Top. There is then a short descent before the path climbs to Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe, a Top 500 Summit and the most westerly of the Five Sisters. From here descend north west turning north to a col at 2,800ft. A stony ascent then leads to Sgurr na Carnach, the second Munro. Now descend steeply north to a saddle at just over 2,800ft before a longer 700ft ascent lead to Sgurr na Fhuaran, the high point of the day.

Five Sisters of Kintail
Five Sisters of Kintail. Chris Wood.

From Sgurr Fhuaran descend north west, north, then north west again to reach the lowest point on the ridge before Sgurr nan Saighead, 2,650ft. The ridge bends north west to the summit of Sgurr nan Saighead, perhaps a little unlucky not to be a Munro. From here descend north west on the ridge, then leave the main ridge to descend north of west towards Sgurr an t-Searraich. At the bealach before Sgurr an t-Searraich, descend south east towards Loch Shiel, aiming for the footbridge at 947181.

By completing both walks you will have ticked off ten Munros, five of which are Top 500 Summits, and traversed some of the finest hills in Britain.