The Cape Wrath Trail
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A guidebook to the Cape Wrath Trail, a long-distance trek through the Scottish Highlands from Fort William to Cape Wrath. The Cape Wrath Trail is a 230 mile, 3-week challenge through wild and magnificent landscapes, such as Morar, Knoydart, Torridon and Assynt. Crossing such empty country, it is for the experienced backpacker only.
- April, May and June are ideal months to walk the trail. September and October are also good, but there may be diversions due to deer stalking and military operations at the cape. In July and August the days are superbly long and the weather can be fine, but midges will be in full flight. The limited accommodation along the trail may also be booked up at this time of year
- Fort William, Glenfinnan, Barisdale, Kinloch Hourn, Shiel Bridge, Strathcarron, Kinlochewe, Dundonnell, Ullapool, Bridge of Orchy, Inchnadamph, Kylesku, Rhiconich, Kinlochbervie, Durness
- The Cape Wrath Trail is regarded as the toughest long distance backpacking trail in Britain. It crosses remote, sparsely populated, potentially dangerous mountain country. There are no pack carrying services and often no clear paths. Limited re-supply points require self sufficiency for many days together. Not a route for beginners or those unfamiliar with remote, rugged mountain areas
- Must See
- Glenfinnan monument and viaduct, the gloriously remote rough bounds of Knoydart, Barisdale, Forcan ridge, Falls of Glomach, Beinn Eighe, Lochan Fada, Shenavall, An Teallach, Glen Douchary, Glen Oykel, Ben More, Glencoul, Arkle, Foinaven, Sandwood Bay, Cape Wrath lighthouse
The essential guidebook to the Cape Wrath Trail, a long-distance trek from Fort William to Cape Wrath crossing the wild north west of the Scottish Highlands. The route is described from north to south in 14 stages, with 6 alternative stages along the way, allowing for a flexible itinerary of between two and three weeks. A long tough trek with no waymarking, this is for the tried and tested backpacker.
The Cape Wrath Trail is regarded as the toughest long-distance route in Britain and offers unparalleled freedom and adventure to the experienced and self-sufficient backpacker prepared to walk for many days in remote wilderness. Travelling through the wild and rugged landscapes of Morar, Knoydart, Torridon and Assynt, to the peaks of Arkle, Foinaven and Ben More, and a dramatic finale at the Cape, it will test the limits of your endurance. But for those who are up to the challenge, the rewards are a chance to experience a solitude rarely found in modern life and to explore the beauty of these truly wild landscapes.
This guidebook includes OS mapping, route profiles and detailed route descriptions and gives you all the information you need about accommodation (including hotels, bothies, B&Bs and bunkhouses), campsites and amenities en route, to help you plan and prepare for this epic challenge.
Geology and wildlife
When to go
Money and communications
Preparation and planning
What to take
Waywarking and access
Maps and navigation
Using this guide
1 Fort William to Strathcarron
Stage 1 Fort William to Glenfinnan
Stage 2 Glenfinnan to Glen Dessarry
Stage 3 Glen Dessarry to Barisdale
Stage 4 Barisdale to Morvich (near Shiel Bridge)
Alternative Stage 1 Fort William to Laggan
Alternative Stage 2 Laggan to Cluanie
Alternative Stage 3 Cluanie to Morvich (near Shiel Bridge)
Stage 5 Morvich (near Shiel Bridge) to Strathcarron
2 Strathcarron to Inverlael (near Ullapool)
Stage 6 Strathcarron to Kinlochewe
Alternative Stage 6 Bendronaig to Kinlochewe
Stage 7 Kinlochewe to Strath na Sealga
Stage 8 Strath na Sealga to Inverlael (near Ullapool)
3 Inverlael to Cape Wrath
Stage 9 Inverlael (near Ullapool) to Oykel Bridge
Alternative Stage 9 Ullapool to Oykel Bridge
Stage 10 Oykel Bridge to Inchnadamph (or Loch Ailsh)
Stage 11 Inchnadamph to Glendhu
Alternative Stage 11 Loch Ailsh to Glendhu
Stage 12 Glendhu to Rhiconich
Stage 13 Rhiconich to Sandwood Bay
Stage 14 Sandwood Bay to Cape Wrath
Appendix A Route summary table
Appendix B Accommodation
Appendix C Shops, cafés and Post Offices
Appendix D Useful websites
Appendix E Maps
Appendix F Further reading
Maps and navigation
Choice of maps is quite a personal thing. Some prefer the extra detail of the Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 scale on mountainous sections, others like to have maps of this scale available at all times. Some swear by Harvey maps, others find them difficult to interpret. Carrying paper maps will add a fair bit of weight to your pack so it’s worth giving some thought to the different options.
If you opt to carry the original paper maps, you can post them home from points of civilisation with pre-paid envelopes once they have served their purpose. The advantage is that you’ll have the full maps available at all times, but you’ll have to put up with extra weight. A map case is essential to keep your maps in good repair as a bit of ‘scotch mist’ (a local euphemism for torrential rain) can reduce an unprotected map to mulch in a matter of minutes. Laminated versions of Ordnance Survey maps (called ActiveMaps) are available for many OS sheets, although they are heavier and more expensive than the regular versions. All Harvey maps are both waterproof and lightweight, but they do not currently cover the full trail.
There is an increasingly wide range of Ordnance Survey mapping programmes for personal computers that allow you to plan and print the relevant sections of the route: MemoryMap, Quo and Anquet are the market leaders. There are also a number of good web-based route planners that allow you to plot your journey – Grough, Trailzilla and Walk Highlands all work well, with slightly different features. Toughprint paper can be used to print weatherproof maps at home or you could make colour photocopies from your OS maps which can then be laminated. Although this approach will save weight, you may find yourself lacking the wider map area and context needed in an emergency or for a detour. Weight savings must always be balanced with safety.
A full list of Ordnance Survey and Harvey maps covering the Cape Wrath Trail can be found in Appendix E. To walk the trail safely you will need to be a competent navigator, confident in taking, setting and walking on bearings and orientating yourself in low visibility on featureless terrain. If you are carrying a GPS device it should only be used as an aid, not as your primary method of navigation. No electronic device can be completely relied upon in the outdoors environment, particularly one as wet as Scotland.
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Gerry’s Hostel in Achnashellach is now open under new management and welcomes guests to the hostel. For more information see http://www.gerryshostel-achnashellach.co.uk
Getting from Maol Bhuidhe Bothy to Bendronaig Bothy, there are two clear possibilities - clockwise or anti clockwise. The guide prescribes the clockwise approach; but the anti-clockwise route is now much easier and locally recommended. The stalkers’ track shown as a dashed line on the Harvey Map on the east of Beinn Dronaig (but not followed by the red-lined path) has now been bulldozed well round the mountain so that from Maol Bhuidhe Bothy all you need to do is to go north across the river then head straight up the hill for about 500m and follow a 'motorway' track round to Loch Calavie and on to Bendronaig Bothy.
The long zigzags through the forest above Inverlael can be avoided if you simply continue along the forest track from 191854 to 204853, then follow it north round the bend, you can pick up the minor track zigzagging up the hill (shown on the Harvey Map but not on the map in the Cicerone guide) from 206856 to 206858 and then re-join the major track up the hill and out of the forest.
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Iain Harper completed the Cape Wrath Trail in 2009. Armed with his research he approached Cicerone to write the definitive guidebook to the trek. Iain has walked extensively in the Highlands for 20 years, enjoys running ultra marathons and lives with his wife Kay in the Cotswolds.View Guidebooks by Iain Harper
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