Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail

In late April, May and early June 2012 north west Scotland had a lot fine and very warm weather so one day in May I decided I'd fill a gap in my short walks in the area. 

Sitting in the car park by Loch Maree after I had finished this walk I asked myself, “Why?”

Not, why did I bother but why had I not attempted this before now? It is one of the best short walks I have done.

The Beinn Eighe Visitor Centre and the car park by Loch Maree, where the walk starts, have been familiar sights on the way to Gairloch and the north west coast from many years but I had never tried the walk.

The guide booklet for the trail, apart from providing lots of information about the wildlife and scenery stresses that it is a mountain walk and advises on appropriate equipment and preparation.

The walk is only 6.5km and the height gained is a little over 500m, but all the ascent is in less than 2.5km.

The trail starts by passing under the A832 and climbing gently through the forest of Scots pine by a stream that will be seen again on the way down. Soon the track goes over a bridge. The forest is left behind and below as the path steepens quickly on to open hillside.

The middle section of the ascent is the steepest and most exposed but there is little danger as the track is wide.

                         Shadow on the trees from the steepest section of the path

The steepness does mean height is gained very quickly and the view back towards and across Loch Maree is spectacular. If you want you can check your progress by the cairns at 305m and 460m.

   Path above the 305m cairn looking towards the head of Loch Maree

   Loch Maree and Slioch

Fairly soon the highest point is reached and from the summit cairn the views are well worth the effort, particularly the northern side of Beinn Eighe. Close to the cairn there is a small stone construction that looks as if it could be used as a shelter at night.

   Beinn Eighe from the summit cairn

   Slioch from the summit

   Kinlochewe and Glen Docherty

The path turns north west towards Meall a' Ghiubhais and passes two lochs before going downhill just after the Lunar loch. Some parts of the descent are steep and at one point steps have been cut into the rock to help in bad weather.

   The return path

The gorge of the Allt na h-Airighe (the stream that was seen at the start of the walk) comes into view. All of the gorge cannot be seen but it is still impressive with a waterfall and many pine trees clinging to the vertical sides.

   The gorge

The trail descends away from the gorge to join the Woodland Trail and returns to the car park.

Although the guide book in not essential as the path is clear I think it is essential for the information on flora, fauna, geology – just the right amount and accurately linked to what you can see.