Sunday 16 June 2024

My Cape Wrath Trail walk

Along the Allt Grannda

My Cape Wrath Trail walk started in sunshine and ended in rain, wind and cold that had me stopping three or four days from the end. There’s no set route. Start in Fort William and walk to Cape Wrath by whichever way you choose. There are suggested routes though, on websites, maps and in a guidebook, all giving various alternatives.

Start in Fort William

From Fort William there are western and eastern options. Having walked much of the western one in Knoydart last year (see this post) I decided to start with the eastern one which initially follows the Great Glen Way. This makes for easy walking and a waymarked path for the first day or so.

Mist rising from Loch Lochy. Early morning at my first camp.

I began at the end of the long hot dry spell in May and was in shorts and t-shirt for the first five days, which took me from Fort William to Morvich and Glen Shiel. After that those garments disappeared into the depths of my pack never to emerge again.

Loch Lochy in the Great Glen

The first section along the Caledonian Canal also provides many places for food and drink and I barely touched my supplies until the evening of the second day. The easy walking continues after the Great Glen Way is left and the route turns west along forest roads above Loch Garry. Once these roads run out at the end of the loch everything changes. An intermittent narrow and hard-to-follow boggy path runs through tussocks and heather. The going is arduous and it took me a while to find anywhere to camp. The landscape improves dramatically however, with a feeling of entering the mountains.

Waterfall on the Allt Grannda

The three days from Glen Garry north over the eastern edge of the Glen Shiel hills to the western end of Glen Affric and then west along the Allt Grannda were a delight with fine views, sunshine, and mostly good paths and tracks. The highlight was the narrow gorge of the Allt Grannda where the path winds across the steep hillside high above the river which crashes down in waterfalls and cascades. This section has been a favourite for many years and I was happy to return after too long away.

The excellent path above the Allt Grannda

At Morvich I ate some fresh food and came down with a stomach bug, which was ironic. I know exactly what it was! I spent a day feeling weak and unwell as the clouds rolled in and rain fell. The dry spell was over.

The Falls of Glomach

I left Morvich for a mostly wet walk to Strathcarron via the Falls of Glomach – as spectacular as ever -, Iron Lodge, Maol Buidhe bothy, and Bendronaig Lodge, a meandering route that would be excellent in good weather. As it was the clouds stayed low on the hills and rain fell frequently.

Much of the time after Morvich was like this

The wet cloudy weather continued as I walked through the Torridon hills and past An Teallach to Inverlael at the head of Loch Broom. However the clouds were often were broken and more interesting visually and there were occasional clearances and bursts of sunshine, especially in the evening. This is an area I know well so I could imagine the big hills that lay hidden all around.

Cloud fill Coire Mhic Fhearchair on Beinn Eighe in Torridon

An Teallach did appear though. An overcast sky made for dull, flat light but the mountain looked as splendid as ever. It was the first hill I’d seen clearly since leaving Morvich.

An Teallach

At Inverlael I had arranged to meet my friend Tony Hobbs who was joining me for the next section to Inchnadamph. I had planned on a day off in Ullapool, which is not far from Inverlael, and Tony had said he’d book somewhere. He had, forty miles away in Lochinver! Everywhere in or near Ullapool was fully booked. So we had a pleasant two nights in the Culag Hotel in Lochinver where we met another CWT walker, also here because everywhere else was booked. In Lochinver we heard the first forecast for the much colder, stormier weather to come.

Waterfall in Glen Douchary

Back on the walk we had good weather for our first camp in Glen Douchary though and for a splendid walk along the lovely gorge in the glen and another camp in the sun by Rappach Water.

Tony Hobbs and his dog Lassie in Glen Douchary

The stormy weather began the next day with heavy showers and an increasingly strong wind as we headed up Glen Oykel. Loch Ailsh was in the mist. The forest was dripping. We did find a small open area in the trees for a sheltered camp. No views, just big Sitka spruce, but we were out of the wind.

Tony and Lassie above the River Traligill after we'd come through the bealach 

Back in the full force of it the next day we continued up the glen and then up to the narrow Bealach Trallgil at just over 500 metres. As we came through the pass the wind was ferocious, blasting right in our faces, which at least meant it was unlikely to knock us off the narrow path into the rocky gorge below. Again that evening we were able to find a sheltered site. Here I began to have doubts about going on. The strong NW wind was meant to continue for many more days, bringing colder air down from the Arctic with snow on the tops.

Walking out to Inchnadamph on the last day

By morning my mind was made up. I didn’t want to struggle into this weather just to reach Cape Wrath. I’d stop at Inchnadamph and come back later for the final few days. I’d walked this section before, indeed I’d walked most of the whole route before, and I am in a position to return at almost any time. If this had been a one-off trip far from home I would have continued despite the weather, as I have done on other long walks. But here, only a few hours from where I live, there was no need.

I enjoyed the Cape Wrath Trail as I always enjoy backpacking, moving on each day, camping each night. It was interesting to do a mostly low level walk through the mountains rather than go over them. I’ll write another piece about my thoughts on the environment along the way soon.

I posted some pictures of my camps on the trail here and some pictures of clouds and mist along the way here.


  1. Enjoyed your write up Chris. I tried to follow your route on the map. I think I got it 👍 Brought back some great memories. Liz.

  2. Lovely photos & description, but I’ve looked in vain for The Allt Grannda in your magisterial Cicerone tome , “Scotland”. A hidden gem for the mountain lover?
    Best wishes.

    1. Thank you! Glad you like my writing and my book. I couldn't fit everything into the latter, The route is very briefly described on page 366 as Glen Affric to Loch Duich.