The first week of November in Scotland- probably not considered by many a great time of year for backpacking across the Glens, but Lynn had booked a week off work, I was currently a man of leisure and the forecast was looking reasonably settled.
The weekend proceeding the walk, I was thinking it would be good to get a short backpacking trip in before the end of the year and thought the 44 mile Affric Kintail Way would be a good choice as the route was fairly low level keeping to the glens.
Tuesday 2nd of November came and were up early and on the road to Drumnadrochit where we would leave the car and catch the bus to the west and start our walk from the road end at Morvich.
In typical fashion, the bus was late and we finally started our walk at 11.15 that morning. My reason’s for starting at the west were down to bus times and the prevailing wind- but I would say that this walk would be better from from east to west as it gets more scenic the further west you go.
The first two miles were up the single track road to Morvich, which was quite pretty for a road walk- then we reached the official start of the A.K.W at the entrance to Glen Lichd.
The walk up the glen by the River Croe follows a Land Rover track as far as Glenlicht House which is a locked cottage used by the Edinburgh University Mountaineering Club- lovely location nestled between Beinn Fhada to the north and the Kintail hills to the south.
At the cottage- the track ends and the toughest part of our day awaited us as we made our way up the steep but well engineered path which winds it’s way up the beautiful pass onwards to Glen Affric.
This part of the walk in my opinion is the most scenic part of the walk- so much to see around every corner!
Eventually the steep path slackend off and gave way to a wide glen and it was only a few kilometers to our destionation for the evening- Camban Bothy. We had our tent with us, but you cant beat a night in a bothy huddled around a warm fire, so we were also carrying a couple of firelogs for the Bothy fire.
The Bothy consists of two rooms- both of which have fire places and bunks. The room we stayed in had a table and benches.
After we had settled in the for the evening, we ate our food and sat in front of the fire and had several drams of Glenmorangie. Another Bothy we had to ourselves for the night!
During the night we awoken by a banging noise- at first Lynn thought it could have been a mouse up in the ceiling, but this was far too loud for a mouse and the noise seemed to be coming from outside. I was sure, that in acual fact- the banging noise were of deer locking their antlers together in a fight. After a while the noise stopped and we fell back asleep.
Middle of the night, again we were awoken by a loud bang. I listenend away to this great noise for a while and decided to quietly get up to see these deer fighting, but Bothy doors seem to be generally quite noisy when you open them, and by the time I was outsided shining my headtorch in all directions- to my disapointment, they had gone.
Next moring we were up early and were walking by 8.am. The first part of the day took us to Altbeithie Youth Hostel which is closed in the winter months, but the leave one of the rooms in the outbuilding open in the winter months for use in an emergency.
A couple of hundred meters before the hostel, I noticed a cracking patch of flat short grass next to the river which would be ideal for two or three tents, but I would imagine that in the summer this would be a very popular spot to camp.
Weather was relatively good although when we stopped to look behind us, there were a few showers coming in from the west- but they were confined to the tops and corries.
We soon reached the iron bridge where we had left the bikes here last year when we did the Munro of An Socach. This is a nice place to stop with a waterfall and a deep pool flowing under the bridge. The glens and hills take on a really nice golden colour at this time of year and the highest tops even had a fresh dusting of snow capping the summits.
We had a short break here for a bite to eat and rested the legs from carrying the big packs.
We were now well and truly on our way walking through the heart of Glen Affric and in a short time we passed Strawberry Cottage (another mountaineering club hut) and Altnamulloch Bothy – a locked building frequently used by the company Trees for Life when they have groups of people staying that are involved in tree planting etc.. to help the natural regeneration of the glen.
Onto the south side of the glen now and we headed along the track above Loch Affric- this track I have walked and cycled many times from the car park at the east end of the loch.
I have affectionately always called this track- The Yellow Brick Road. Me and Lynn were debating which characters we were from The Wizard of Ozz!
It was on this track we finally met another couple walking the A.K.W. They were from Germany and were hoping to get to the Bothy before nightfall.
Previous evening in the Bothy, I was looking at the map- looking for a spot to wild camp for the next night and had eye-balled a flat looking spot on the shores of Loch Beinn a’ Mheadoin. Of course what looks flat, could just as well be a bog or clumps of heather. Luckily when we spoke to the German couple- they had camped at this very spot and it looked like we had our pitch for the night sorted.
We arrived at out chosen spot by the loch by mid aftenoon and decided it was far nough for the day. There probably is enough room here for two tents- the spot behind our tent was flatter but the ground was damp, so we chose the drier and slightly sloping area of ground. I should have put up the then 90 degrees the other way as even although it was a slight slope- it was enough for our sleeping mats to keeping sliding to one corner of the tent!
Otherwise it was a lovely spot- we had a good supply of running water from a burn nearby and it was a cracking location overlooking the loch. Unfortunately we had no whisky left as we had both consumed the contents of both hip flasks the previous evening!
Next morning after breakfast we packed up and headed along the track on the south side of the loch which took us to the car park at Dog Falls where we stopped for a brew.
After stopping for refreshments, we continued across the road and up a rather steep path which took us onto a forestry road which carries on towards the Village of Cannich- our destination for the evening.
I had checked a few days previous to the walk and found out the campsite was open all year round. Great for all year round backpackers, and great for me and Lynn as we both fancied a good shower. Stopping for a night in the Village also had its other benefits of a shop and pub, and I thought I would treat us both to a pub meal.
We had a couple of pints and something to eat at The Slaters Arms. Now I dont want to say to much, but the owners could do with taking a course in hospitality management! I’ve since read about many mixed reviews on this establishments. I will say this- the owners are very Jekyll/Hyde. You would think they would welcome trade from all the walkers but….
Last day of our walk- fourteen miles to Drumnadrochit. The only bad thing about this trail, is that you have to endure four miles of road walking from Cannich, but we fairly marched on, and soon we were back on the forest tracks again. This part of the route was fairly pleasant, apart from the diversion near the end because of forestry works which takes you up over the hill instead of the intended route which contours round the hill- but this isnt permanent.
We soon were walking down the hill towards Drumnadrochit and were heading through the village back to where I had parked the car. Word of warning- there are several zebra crossings in Drumnadrochit.Both times when we used them properly as pedestrians, we stood at the pavement waiting for the approaching traffic to stop and on both occasions, both cars just sped by. We were clearly visible and stood at the edge of the pavement both times- preparing to cross expecting the cars to slow down, but this did not happen.
Overall this is a great walk- 44 miles long, but our total including the walk along the Morvich road from the bus and the forestry diversion probably took it up to 47 miles.
I would do this walk again, but next time from the east and you could easily turn this into a coast to coast walk by taking the Great Glen Way from Inverness to Drumnadrochit and following the Affric Kintail Way through to the west.