Affric Kintail Way – Background
My recent posts have been to do with the upcoming Cape Wrath Trail walk that I’ll be doing towards the end of April, but in order to prepare for that walk, I’m also doing a shorter Scottish trail next week, in the run-up to Easter. The Affric Kintail Way is a newly devised route, officially opened in 2015 by Cameron McNeish and runs East to West, around 45 miles from Drumnadrochit to Morvich.
I’ve taken some of the background blurb from the Strathglass Marketing Group’s website; one of the bodies that has been instrumental in the creation of the walk.
The lead for developing the walk is being taken by the Strathglass Marketing Group (SMG) with support from Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS), National Trust for Scotland (NTS), Destination Loch Ness (DLN) and Glenurquhart Community Council. The Affric Kintail Way mainly follows existing path networks, mostly on land owned by FCS and NTS, enhanced by suitable signage where appropriate.
The idea of developing the Affric Kintail Way is to promote an area of outstanding natural beauty to a wider walkers’ audience by extending the well-known walk through Glen Affric over to the west at Kintail by providing a link to the Great Glen Way at Drumnadrochit via Glenurquhart. This now creates a new designated walking route which with promotion could become a popular walk for those looking for a bit of solitude while walking through some of the last areas of wild lands left in the Highlands. Copied from the Strathglass Marketing Group website
You can have a closer look at the route, using the embedded OS map below. Use your mouse scroll wheel to zoom in and out (or the scale slider in the map window) and the map adjusts accordingly, to give you a different scale.
It seems, to me at least, counter-intuitive to walk from East to West and when I first looked at this walk, I automatically assumed it would finish at Drumnadrochit, rather than start there. UK weather is typically westerly, so walking from Drum, you’re likely to be walking into headwinds if the weather is bad. Although there’s an argument that you’ll have the sun at your back on an East to West walk, realistically, it’s to your left for most of the day, especially this early in the year. So, we’re doing it backwards according the way the walk was designed, but the right way as far as I’m concerned.
We plan to start walking around midday on the Wednesday and finish about the same time on the Saturday. If we can cover 15 miles on each of the two full days, we can share the remaining 15 miles or so across the two half days. This is an unhurried pace, but it’s still early in the walking calendar for me and I’m not sure my hill legs will cope with anything more ambitious than this. I’ve been training hard, albeit on the flat, since Christmas. I’ve averaged 11,800 steps per day this year and lost quite a lot of the weight I gained in 2015, but there’s no preparation for hill walking, like hill walking, and that’s something I’ve not managed to do much of so far.
Travel logistics are often painful on a linear walk and although both ends have a bus service, it’s not exactly what you’d call frequent, so we did consider using two cars. However, the petrol costs were prohibitive and a little calculation proved that it would be much cheaper to use one car, share the fuel cost and get a taxi to the start of the walk, returning along the trail to our car. We found a taxi firm in Drum that will take us, and our packs, to the start at Morvich, for a little about £75.
I was surprised to find that the trail can be cycled, as well as walked. The Way uses many established tracks and paths along its length and there’s very little, if any, bog-hopping or heather-bashing needed to traverse it. In some ways this is a little disappointing, but in many others, it’s a huge relief – “at the end of the day”, I consoled myself, “the walk is more about the scenery and the environment than the actual path”. However, I do have mental images of us dodging mountain bikers for three days – and we all know how much fun that can be!
We’ll be backpacking the route of course. A cyclist may be able to complete the Way in one day, but we can’t and although there’s a Youth Hostel and some scattered B&B accommodation along the route, the trail is surely best appreciated when you can pitch anywhere you like, surrounded by mountains and looking up at the stars! From what I’ve gleaned from various websites, some of the B&B accommodation will pick you up from points along the route so you don’t need to carry all your gear with you. As much as anything of course, I’m using the Affric Kintail Way to test the kit I’ll be taking on the section of the Cape Wrath Trail I’ll be doing a month later.
I’ve done a Kit List for this trip and if you’re interested, you can see it here: Affric Kintail Way Kit List in Google Sheet
There’s an official Affric Kintail Trail website, which has a route walkthrough, maps and lots of other useful information.
PS: I must add a small note of gratitude to the fantastic service provided by Geograph.org.uk who collate photos by OS grid square. This means that I can provide images in my blog posts, for places I’ve never walked, using a Creative Commons Licence that attributes the original photographer. All of the images in this post have been sourced in this way.
Upper course of the Allt Grannda – The Allt Grannda here has become a sizeable body of water, fed by the various streams around the head of the pass. Ciste Dhubh is the peak in the background.