The sun shone on the G-Force and I as we enjoyed an Easter weekend of Munro bagging in the Glen Shiel area of the Scottish Highlands.
Day one was a mountain walk that we had been hoping to complete for year or so, the seven Munros of the South Glen Shiel Ridge. We’d even set out to do the high level hike a few weeks previously but we had to cut it short because of high levels of snow.
On Saturday, however, the weather could not have looked more promising with a bright blue sky, warm sun and hardly any wind.
While 16 miles of mountain walking, seven Munros and a total ascent of more than 1800 metres is enough of an undertaking, there is also a tortuous three-mile walk back along the road at the end of the walk to contemplate.
Luckily, I am not afraid to talk to strangers!
As G and I approached the start of the walk at the Cluanie Inn I spotted two separate couples also headed in the same direction. An exchange revealed that they were also a bit concerned about the walk or hitch-hike back to their cars. So we quickly sorted ourselves and dropped two cars at the end of the walk.
There was another bonus to this chat: We ended up walking – and making friends – with the couples, Paul and Em from Fife and Jimmy and Denise from the Borders. If you have a long walk ahead of you, no matter how much you enjoy your partner’s company and however bright the sun shines, it’s always a pleasure to pass the time with new outdoorsy people.
Brilliantly, we were all about the same speed of walking – and we found we had a lot to talk about.
Seven Munros in 10 hours
The South Glen Shiel Ridge takes between nine hours and 12 hours on average to walk. We took our time, talking as we walked; stopping to take in the views every so often; and sitting down on each summit for food and photographs.
So we did not rush, but then again we did not hang about either. The full walk, including more than 1800 metres of ascent, took us 10 hours.
The hike to the start of the first ascent is long but not steep. A trail winds gently uphill until you reach the base of the first Munro. A stalker’s path then zig-zags uphill to reach the summit of Creag a’ Mhaim (947 metres). I make it sound easy and, in reality, it wasn’t actually too difficult. There were a few stepper sections but before we knew it we were on the first Munro peak.
The second Munro Druim Shionnach (987m) was quick to bag, too. There is a short section of narrow-ish ridge but nothing too daunting. If you like full-on ridge line views, the Glen Shiel route is utterly superb. Thanks to clear blue skies, at every summit we could see what we had walked and what we had ahead of us.
Munro number three takes a little longer to bag. It’s around three kilometres on and there are a few bumps in-between. Aonach air Chrith (1021m) is the tallest peak on the ridge.
A few more minor summits took us to the fourth Munro, Maol Chinn-Dearg (981metres). Looking at my watch, time was passing quickly but the pace was fairly easy-going and we knew we had many hours of sun and daylight ahead of us.
The next top is a peak called Sgurr Coire na Feinne, which did have us wondering if it was a Munro or not. However, we had maps and a guide so we knew it wasn’t a Munro qualifier.
The next Munro is Sgurr an Doire Leathain (1010 metres). This one involves a longer descent and ascent and then a short detour. We met another couple on this summit who had walked the first four Munros the day before and were completing the seven by walking three on the Saturday.
By this point I was starting to feel the pain in my quads. All the ups and downs were having an impact although I kept on thinking: “That’s five bags and only two to go!”
The thing about Munros is that on some trips you can spend all day reaching the peak of just one Munro, while on others you can walk multiple Munros in just one hike.
The South Glen Shiel Ridge is described as a “Munro-baggers delight”. Walk Highlands continue: “Nowhere else in the Highlands can so many peaks be climbed in a day, with minimal descent between the summits. The views are excellent all the way.”
I couldn’t agree more. Sgurr an Lochain (1004m) is Munro number six and from here you can see another two summits. The first is not a Munro and most walkers bypass this higher point, heading straight for Creag nan Damh, the seventh Munro of the day.
While this Munro is not too strenuous, after a full day of walking my dull and weary leg muscles made it a bit of a chore. The views are truly superb though and it’s at this point that I knew we’d achieved what we had been planning for a long time: The Seven Munros of Glen Shiel in one day.
The agony of the descent
It’s most often the descent that I find the hardest – and the long, long final hike off the South Glen Shiel Ridge was exactly as I’d been dreading. For the first time all day I stopped chatting and gritted my teeth as my quad muscles squealed at me and my shoulders cried out loud.
It seemed like we were walking that last stretch forever and when the cars finally came into view we didn’t seem to be reaching them with enough speed. A final one kilometre of chatting with Denise and Em made things a little easier on the mind but I was over the moon when I eventually got to sit down on the bumper of the campervan to remove my walking boots.
Without our cars to meet us at the end of the walk we may well have spent another hour or two walking back to the start along the A87. Of course, we might have been lucky with hitch hiking. But, then again, we might not have been.
It was great to have walked with good company and to have two of our three cars waiting for us at the end of the walk. We toasted our general brilliance in the Cluanie Inn afterwards!
Pub meal and a campervan night
As we are discovering, a campervan makes life much simpler in Scotland’s great outdoors. It’s so wonderful to enjoy a weekend without having to worry about accommodation or where to eat. After our epic walk we ate in Cluanie Inn, enjoyed a couple of drinks, and then walked across the road to where our campervan was parked. Five minutes later we were in bed and falling asleep.
Read about Easter weekend day two: Three Munros, two poles and a ferry to a pub.