Hiking in Glen Affric: Carn Eige, Mam Sodhail & Beinn Fhionnlaidh

Jun 29, 2018 | Hikes, Munros, Scotland's Mountains

Hiking in Glen Affric offers an array of stunning viewpoints and arguably this hike has the best in the northern Highlands.

There are few places where you get such a panoramic view of several of Scotland’s major mountain ranges.

On a clear day, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and humbled by the sheer epicness of the country’s rolling landscape. This hike gives you a real impression of the character of Scotland’s landscape.

carn eige main ridge

Contents


Munros Climbed


  1. Carn Eige – 1183 metres (3881 ft) – pronounced CARN-IGGE
  2. Beinn Fhionnlaidh – 1005 metres (3297 ft) – pronounced BAYN-YEWEL-AY (Gaelic for Finlay)
  3. Mam Sodhail – 1181 metres (3875 ft) – pronounced MAM-SOWL

 

Getting There


There’s only one way to get to Glen Affric so once you’re on the right road it’s very tough to get lost.

At Drumnadrochit take the A831 signposted to Cannich. Follow the road to Cannich for 12.5 miles (20 km), head straight through the village and take a left at the t-junction. Continue along this road for a short while until you pass the Fasnakyle power station on your left.

Take a right onto the single track road and continue for approximately 15 minutes to Chisholm Bridge. Right before the bridge on your left, there’s a large layby.

Leave your car here – the hike starts on the track across the road.

Check out the exact location on Google Maps.

 

Difficulty


4/5

While it’s a long walk, the vast majority is on grassy ridges or clearly marked paths. It warrants a 4 because of the distance.

The challenging sections are the mild rocky scrambles before you reach Carn Eige, as well as the awkward bypass as you come back from Beinn Fhionnlaidh.

There are also some very boggy patches as you leave the path on the descent.

 

Duration & Length


Duration: 9 – 12 hours

Length: 17.5 miles (28.2 km)

My time is just shy of 9 hours but this is because I ended up running along the entry path to the Munros. I chose a hot summer’s day and the flies were nothing short of horrific.

track screenshot on viewranger

Ordnance Survey Map for Route: Explorer 414 and Explorer 415.

Where To Stay


There are a few decent options in Cannich which is just a few miles from Glen Affric. Some top picks are:

The Hike


From the car park at Chisholm Bridge, head west on the forestry track by the roadside.

track leading to Munros

The first couple of miles follow this track

This first section is by far the easiest. Follow the track for about 2 miles where it turns into a footpath.

Stick to the side of the river, Abhainn Gleann nam Fiadh, as you pass the rocky southern slopes of Tom a’ Choinnich.

path alongside glen affric river

The track eventually becomes a beaten up path

Soon after this the path kind of forks off to the left following the river, or to the right up the hill.

Follow the path going up the hill staying to the right of the narrow stream. At this point, you’re faced with the rocky slopes of Garbh Bhealach. There’s an opening between the rock faces making for an easy passage.

ridge on first main ascent

Follow the slopes up to this ridge ahead.

Continue on up onto the Bhealach towards the steep and scree covered mound of rock ahead. This is Sron Garbh and once at the top, it’s a relatively steady ridge walk over to the summit cairn of Carn Eige. While Sron Garbh looks intimidating, there’s a clear path zigzagging its way to the top. Part of the way has even been made into a stone staircase.

rocky scree covered slopes

Garbh Bhealach climb looms ahead

Ahead is a quite stunning ridge over to Ston Coire Dhomhnuill. There are rocky sections of the ridge which make for some semi-difficult scrambling but these sections have a bypass if you so wish. The trail then veers to the left for the final but short ascent up to Carn Eige!

This is the day’s first major peak – the 12th highest in the British Isles and the highest point of the northern highlands!

On a clear day, this is arguably one of the best viewpoints in the Highlands.

view from carn eige

Highest point in the northern Highlands

To the northwest loom the Torridon hills, directly to the east is the ominous Cuillin ridge on Skye while to the south Ben Nevis lies overlooking everything.

The next part of the hike is down to the significantly smaller Beinn Fhionnlaidh. If you’re on a mission to bag all Munros then you’ll want to go for this. If you’re on a more relaxed hike just for a day out in the hills then this peak is unnecessary.

If the weather is clear then the next section is dead obvious. Beinn Fhionnlaidh sits almost directly to the north and looks tiny in comparison to Carn Eige. The summit is 178 metres lower.

climb up beinn fhionnlaidh

Follow the grassy slopes up to Munro number 2

Follow the path down Stob Coire Lochan and over the Bealach Beag towards the summit of Fhionnlaidh. The walk up is relatively short and straightforward.

Enjoy being on top of one of Scotland’s most remote peaks! The hills you can see straight ahead and over the loch are the Mullardoch Munros.

Retrace your steps back towards Carn Eige. You can bypass the summit by cutting across the mountain’s western slopes. There are remnants of a path but it’s relatively unclear so take care.

track along the side of carn eige

Take care on the western slopes of Carn Eige

The final stretch before you reach the ridge again is rocky with lots of loose stones. Once past this section, you’re back on course with the day’s final peak straight ahead!

NOTE: In winter if the ground is covered with snow then I recommend going back up and over Carn Eige as opposed to taking the bypass.

Follow the winding path up to the summit of Mam Sodhail! At 1181 metres it’s only 2 metres less than it’s neighbour, Carn Eige. It’s got an enormous summit cairn – one of the biggest I’ve seen to date.

giant cairn on the summit of mam sodhail

The cairn is so massive it was hard to get it with a view!

Views are equally as stunning as Carn Eige so take some time to soak it all in!

Now begins the plod back to civilisation. You have 2 options:

The simpler one is to head south and take the stalker’s path down to Loch Affric and all the way back to the Affric car park.

If the weather is good, however, then I recommend following the ridge southeast over to Sgurr na Lapaich. The ridge is relatively flat with a mild climb up to the cairn on Sgurr na Lapaich.

ridge at beginning of the descent

Sgurr na Lapaich Munro Top lies at the end of this ridge

NOTE: The Munro with the name Sgurr na Lapaich is actually in Mullardoch, this one is just a Munro top.

From here, the descent begins. Head southeast and follow the path all the way until it flattens out and disappears.

Traverse the moorland directly east until you eventually come to a well-marked track. Follow this down to Affric Lodge and take a left towards the car park.

track at the end of hiking in glen affric

This track comes straight after crossing a river

It’s about a mile back to the Affric car park and a further mile to Chisholm Bridge (where you should have left your car).

 

Nearby Hikes & Things To Do


Hikes

Glen Affric is a bit of a goldmine for hikes. There are 8 Munros and several other smaller mountains and trails to suit your level.

For a shorter and less challenging Munro hike check out Tom a’ Choinich and Toll Creagach.

The Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan Group are 3 Munros best accessed from the Youth Hostel. This hike can also be combined with the Munros in this review making for a mammoth day in the hills.

Another extremely popular route is from Alltbeithe to Morvich which is the last step of the Affric Kintail Way.

To Do

To Conclude


If you’re planning a visit to the northern highlands and haven’t thought about hiking in Glen Affric then I hope this guide helps to change your mind.

It’s one of the country’s remotest areas and has some of the most stunning landscape.

Many keen hikers are familiar with Affric and it’s among my favourite hiking spots in northern Scotland.

Thanks a lot for reading and please drop a comment with any questions or anything you’d like to add! 🙂SaveSaveSaveSave

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