Hiking in the Stunning Glen Affric, Scotland

Jan 26, 2019 | Hiking, Scotland

Glen Affric is one of Scotland’s absolute hidden beauties. It really is one of the country’s most spectacular locations and is sufficiently off the tourist trail that visitors tend to bypass it for the more common attractions.

The video below, courtesy of BBC The Social, will give you a little taster of what Glen Affric is like!

Not to say it doesn’t get its fair share of tourists, but if you like to avoid the crowds then this is somewhere I’d definitely visit if you’re in northern Scotland.

The Glen in total covers around 56 square miles. This consists of mountains, serene lochs and a diverse mix of birch, oak and pine trees. It’s a great place to go in the summer for a chilled walk around Loch Affric or to head to Dog Falls for a picnic. I enjoy this from time to time but the main reason I’m ever in Glen Affric is to hike some of the mountains.

There are 5 of Scotland’s Munros in Glen Affric but you can also access a further 3, these are some of the country’s most isolated peaks. What I love about these hikes is that, even in the middle of summer, it’s not uncommon to have an entire day on the hills without coming across another fellow hiker. You get a real sense of remoteness that is lacking in some of Scotland’s more southern peaks.

view of cairn in glen affric

Glen Affric has some of Scotland’s best mountains for hiking

Contents

Getting There


Thousands of tourists each year take cruises on Loch Ness, visit the historic Urquhart Castle and flood the local visitor centres. While this is all great for tourism, what if you could escape the crowds for a while?

Glen Affric is a great option for this and it always amazes me how many people seem to bypass it when they visit the local area!

Take the A831 from Drumnadrochit signposted to Cannich. Follow this road for a little over 25 miles and it takes you deep into Glen Affric. You’ll pass through the small village of Cannich and soon after here the road goes from double to single.

The remaining few miles consist of steep and winding roads through some beautiful countryside.

There are a few places you can park, the car park is right at the end of Loch Affric but there are also various laybys along the road – it all depends what you want to do!

I would always recommend you take a car. Public transport will take you as far as Cannich and according to VisitScotland, buses run from Beauly to the head of Affric from July to September. It also takes bikes which is another excellent way to explore Glen Affric!

One thing to remember is change for the parking meter! I don’t agree that they charge for parking here but at the time of writing it’s only £2 for the whole day.

Hiking in Glen Affric


Let’s get straight to the main reason I wanted to write this post.

There are so many options for hiking and walking in Glen Affric. Here I’ll briefly summarise the Munro hikes and provide links to the more complete versions of each individual hike.

There are also plenty of leisurely family walks such as along the River Affric, or at the beautiful Dog Falls. There’s an option for everyone – not just mountaineers!

view of loch affric

As mentioned, there are 5 Munros officially in Glen Affric but you can access a further 3 from the Alltbeithe Youth Hostel (the UK’s most remote hostel, check out some more awesome remote hostels here). These peaks can all be tackled individually but I’ll talk about them in the combinations I did them. Some are so close together that it makes sense to combine a few of them at the same time.

 

Tom a’ Choinich and Toll Creagach

These two are the easiest to reach. They’re closest to the road and the starting point is at the Chisolm Bridge which is as you come into Glen Affric. There are a couple of ways you can take them on, I did Tom a’ Choinich first and then incorporated Toll Creagach on the way back.

my brother admiring the view from tom a choinich

The views from the climb up Tom a’ Choinich are beautiful

Tom a’ Choinich is the much more impressive of the two. The views on offer from the top are nothing short of spectacular if you get a clear day.

There are also epic views along the bealach connecting the two peaks. To the north, you’ve got Loch Mullardoch which separates Glen Affric from the Loch Mullardoch Munros. To the south is Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhoin and beyond that Glen Shiel which is also home to some of Scotland’s most beautiful mountains.

If you fancy a mammoth day out in the hills then it’s possible to combine these with Carn Eige, Mam Sodhail and Beinn Fhionnlaidh. Bear in mind this would be a beast of a hike and you’d most likely need a long summer’s day for it.

Because they’re so close to the road, it’s also easy to just do one of these if you so wish. Tom a’ Choinich is definitely more popular but Toll Creagach on its own would make for a shorter walk.

ridge between the two peaks

The ridge between Tom a’ Choinich and Toll Creagach

These two hills are definitely the best ones for beginner hikers or those wanting a more challenging walk (but nothing too brutal).

You can see my hike report here.

 

Carn Eige, Beinn Fhionnlaidh and Mam Sodhail

I’ve done these three a couple of times, the most recent being in July 2018 on one of the hottest days of the year. It’s a long day out in some of northern Scotland’s tallest mountains. They offer spectacular viewpoints and on a clear day you’ll easily see Ben Nevis to the south and the Cuillin Ridge on Skye to your west.

trig point on carn eige

Weather like this make the views even more spectacular

Initially, this one seems like a bit of a slog because you’ve got such a long walk in. It’s several miles from the road until you actually start ascending Carn Eige. Because they’re so isolated, I felt like it was a good idea to do all three at once.

Some hikers like to just climb Carn Eige and then head back. Another option is to take the stalker’s path up to Mam Sodhail and back down.

the cairn on mam sodhail

The cairn on Mam Sodhail is one of the biggest I’ve seen

Beinn Fhionnlaidh kind of feels a bit like the anomaly here. Whatever way you want to get there, it is a hassle.

The most obvious route is from the summit of Carn Eige, which sits directly to the south of Beinn Fhionnlaidh. It’s simply a case of going there and back. After hours of walking this can feel daunting but, especially if you’re just into it for the Munro bagging, it’s really not worth coming all the way back out just for that one!

You can see my hike report here.

 

An Socach, Mullach Na Dheiragain and Sgurr Nan Ceathreamhnan

I don’t think these ones are technically ‘in Glen Affric’, rather they’re accessible from Glen Affric. They are some of Scotland’s most isolated Munros and whatever way you approach them, you’ve got a long day out.

view of the dome shaped sgurr nan ceathreamhnan

The peak of Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan

The best place to start this hike is from Alltbeithe Youth Hostel. Most sensible hikers choose to stay here either the night before or after (or both!). It’s just over a 12-mile walk from the hostel. We decided to cycle from the Glen Affric car park to the hostel, do the hike, and cycle back.

I would only recommend this if it’s a long summer’s day and you consider yourself very fit. The cycle is over 5 miles each way and it’s mostly over rocky and sandy terrain.

Sgurr Nan Ceathreamhnan is the most spectacular of the three. It’s got a dome-shaped peak with several ridges leading up to it. The ascent is rocky and bouldery at times so should be climbed with caution.

me on the peak of mullach na dheiragain

The summit of one of the UK’s most isolated peaks!

Mullach Na Dheirigan is one of the UK’s most isolated mountains – it’s a long steady walk up to the summit which actually feels quite uninspiring. Getting there feels like an achievement and at that moment you can officially consider yourself as one of the UK’s most inaccessible people!

An Socach is at the start of the hike and can be tackled first to get it out of the way, or on the way back to Alltbeithe.

You can see my hike report here.

 

Carn a’ Choire Ghairbh and Aonach Shasuinn

These two Corbetts can also be accessed from Glen Affric. At the time of writing I’ve not climbed these but from what I’ve read they make for a tough day’s walking.

They are normally best accessed by leaving your car at the main car park and heading along the path running alongside the south side of Loch Affric. The path soon veers south and up towards the two Corbetts.

You can read more about this route here.

 

Other Things To Do


Of course, Glen Affric isn’t just for hikers. There are plenty of activities that make visiting this amazing part of the country worthwhile. Below are listed some of the best things to see/do while in Glen Affric.

 

The Affric-Kintail Way

Technically, the Affric-Kintail way goes from Drumnadrochit through to Morvich. It passes straight through Glen Affric and it’s not uncommon for walkers to just do a section of the walk.

Walking from Glen Affric through to Kintail can be done in a day, a popular finishing point is the Cluanie Inn in Glen Shiel!

More information on the complete route can be seen here.

 

Dog Falls

Dog Falls consists of several waterfalls along the River Affric. There are a series of paths leading you to different walks around the falls making it a great place to go with young ones. The walks aren’t too strenuous and take you through some of Affric’s woodlands and forested areas.

view of glen affric  mountains from dog falls

Woodlands Trails

Similar to above, there are plenty of paths marking woodland trails through the forests around Glen Affric.

There are several laybys and parking spaces along the road into Glen Affric and you’ll always find one of these paths quite close by. Dog Falls is an excellent place to start and there are a few different routes you can take from it.

Check out this excellent pdf for some information on Affric’s woodland trails.

 

Picnics

Particularly in the summer months, Glen Affric is an excellent place for a walk and a picnic! There are lots of picnic benches dotted around the place and you can also just set up wherever you feel like. Just don’t forget to clean up after yourself!

 

Viewpoints

There are plenty of viewpoints all over the glen. Some of the best ones are from the Munros I described earlier in the post.

If you’re not going to be climbing any mountains then you can also gain some altitude on the woodland trails which offer some great views. There’s a brilliant viewpoint trail from the Glen Affric Car Park. It gives you a panoramic of Loch Affric and beyond.

woodland trails in glen affric near plodda falls

This woodland trail is near Plodda Falls, another of Affric’s waterfalls

Cycling

Glen Affric is not just a walker’s paradise. Its quiet roads and breathtaking scenery make it an ideal place for cyclists. The Loch Affric circuit is one I’ve done a few times but you have plenty of options.

Mountain bikers also won’t be short on routes. There are some seriously hair-raising trails for the more experienced while you can also take your kids on some of the relaxed forestry tracks.

Have a look at some of the routes here.

 

Fishing

Glen Affric offers some brilliant fishing for both the avid anglers to the casual fisherman. Trout is the most common but there’s also the chance to catch salmon and the rarer wild brown trout.

The River Glass and River Farrar have lots of excellent spots for anglers while there are also plenty of lochs ideal for trout fishing. One of the most popular in the Glen Affric area is Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhain.

Be aware that most fishing can only be done with a permit – you can get more details locally.

 

Attractions Near Glen Affric

Most guides called something along the lines of “things to do in Glen Affric” actually tend to include everything in the nearby area.

Listed below are some attractions NOT in Glen Affric, but which are nearby and worth visiting if you have time.

view of urquhart castle

The famous Urquhart Castle is one of the main attractions near Glen Affric

Accommodation in Glen Affric


There’s not a massive selection in Glen Affric itself, most visitors tend to find accommodation in nearby Cannich or Beauly.

There are loads of options, from hotels to your own self-catering cabins or chalets. If you’re familiar with Scotland’s camping laws then you’ll also know you’re free to bring a tent and camp anywhere you like (as long as you follow a few basic rules).

Some of the most popular accommodation options when visiting Glen Affric are:

Conclusion


Glen Affric is undoubtedly one of Scotland’s most beautiful areas and it’s surprisingly still quite untouched. It does feel like it’s getting steadily busier with tourists each year but is still nothing in comparison to places like Loch Ness and Glen Coe.

Whether you’re into tough mountain hikes or more leisurely family walks, you’ll definitely find something for you in Glen Affric. There are also several other activities depending on what takes your fancy!

As always, thanks a lot for reading and please feel free to leave any comments or questions in the box below. 🙂

 

 

14 Comments

  1. Glen Affric must be an interesting place to visit. The pictures I see are actually good but it seems Glen Affric is a very isolated region. What interests me most is the opportunity to take amazing pictures in these area. It seems nature is undisturbed here and I’m sure I’ll have a lot of joy with my camera.

    Reply
    • Thanks very much for your comment!

      Glen Affric is a really amazing place and there is so much to see here. As you rightly say, it’s a great place for photographers with plenty of nature and wildlife.

      Reply
  2. Going to Scotland has always been one of my dreams. I am not too inspired by Europe, maybe because I was born here but Scotland has always been the exception. Thank you for the very informative post, I did not know of this place but this coming summer me and my family are planning to visit Scotalnd and I will sure mark this place to be visited on my holiday itenerary

    Reply
    • Thanks a lot for your comment!

      Scotland is a beautiful country and you should absolutely consider visiting Glen Affric if you decide to visit! Scotland is getting more touristy each year but Glen Affric is one of the quieter parts.

      Reply
  3. The video makes this place look absolutely gorgeous! I love the mountains and I think this would be an awesome place to hike! I’ve hiked in the mountains in Montana and the hills in the Ozark Mountains, but I’ve not hiked in them out of the United States—yet! I love solitude, so this sounds like the perfect place for me to visit. (Although I would like to see Loch Ness, too!) The views that you show are just beautiful! 

    How snowy does it get? When is the best time to visit to avoid the snows?

    I am definitely putting Glen Affric, Scotland on my “bucket list!”

    Reply
    • Thanks a lot for commenting!

      If you love solitude then Glen Affric would be an ideal place for you to visit! It gets quite snowy in the winter but it’s definitely not as much as Montana. Scotland is quite well protected by the Gulf Stream so our winters are often wetter than they are snowy. Saying that, we do sometimes get exceptions where there are several feet of snow!

      Reply
  4. if anything to go with those pictures is to go with that place surely looks stunning and it should be discovered and enjoy you have done very well in highlighting what we have been missing in that part of Scotland I hope we shall get visit those areas.hiking is my thing I would love to walk along those walking trail it would be maverous

    Reply
    • You should definitely consider visiting Glen Affric if you like hiking and walking 🙂

      Reply
  5. Glen affric is a great place for tourists. I love to travel a lot, I have visited some tourist destinations in Africa. I love mountains. 

    I may consider Glen affric in my next vacation trip. I will like to have an experience of the mountain hikes, the dog fall and of course river affric. 

    Reply
    • If you like mountain hikes then you’ll definitely love it in Glen Affric! It is one of the many hiking opportunities in Scotland.

      Reply
  6. Hello Stephen,This is a truly in-depth review on the off beaten path destination that a tourist should visit when in Scotland.  I was in Edinburgh last year with my family and it was amazing.  I should have known Glen Affric beforehand so that i could have planned it together with Edinburgh.  Nevertheless, the review on this magical place is very helpful.  I will surely visit this place the next time im in Scotland. Glen Affric is truly a sight to behold for hiking.

    Reply
    • Thanks a lot for your comment!

      I’m glad you liked Edinburgh! It’s a beautiful city and one of the UK’s highlights. Next time you are in Scotland you should definitely consider heading up to Glen Affric. It’s an excellent way of escaping the crowds and breathing some country air.

      Reply
  7. There some experience, as an human, we just need to have regardless of who we are. I love being in rocky place, but not withstanding, I must have the experience of nice and calm environment. If not for anything, at least for meditation.

    Thanks to this wonderful writer for gritting about such a wonderful place like Glen Affric.

    This might be a perfect valentine for me and my Girlfriend

    Reply
    • You should definitely consider Glen Affric if you enjoy the outdoors and hiking! It’s a truly stunning place 🙂

      Reply

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