The Strathfarrar Munros: An Untouched Glen
The Strathfarrar munros consist of Sgurr na Ruaidhe (SKURR-NA-RUIYA), Carn nan Gobhar (CARN-NA-GOER), Sgurr a’ Choire Ghlais (SKURR-A-HOYER-GLASH) and Sgurr Fhuar-thuill (SKURR-FUAR-HUY). There are four munros in total which, for the majority of munro baggers and keen hikers, are all generally climbed on the same day. These munros follow the same pattern as the vast majority of peaks in such close proximity – a tough initial ascent followed by an undulating ridge over the summits.
It is, of course, possible to separate the four into two separate hikes if you’re not feeling prepared for the distance ahead, or if you’re limited by weather conditions.
These four munros are actually very unique because they are located in a fenced off area with two estates. It’s a limited access area which only lets a certain amount of vehicles in at any given time – this means that you’ll need to plan your hike accordingly. This leads me onto my first, and probably most important, point.
Glen Strathfarrar Access
Lots of you are probably already asking “but why?”. I’m not 100% sure of the reasons why the Glen Strathfarrar access is so limited but I know that it has to do with the dam which is located at the very far end of the single track road.
There is one road which leads from the entrance gate all the way to the dam at the end. As well as for hikers, Glen Strathfarrar is a dream for cyclists because only 25 cars are allowed in at any one time. There’s also a special number you can call (it’s on the pass you’ll receive from the gatekeeper) if you wish to do some fishing.
This restriction is only in place during the months of April – October. The only way to access the glen in the winter months from November – March is by being a member of Mountaineering Scotland or the BMC. The summer schedule is as follows:
April: 9 – 6
May: 9 – 7
June: 9 – 8
July: 9 – 8
August: 9 – 8
September: 9 – 7
October: 9 – 6
Bear in mind that last vehicle access is granted an hour before closing time. Also, these times are non-negotiable so don’t even try and arrive early because your pleas will fall on deaf ears.
If your plan is to do all 4 munros then I recommend that you get to the gate for 9 am. This gives you an early as possible start and allows you enough time to complete the hike, unpressured, with plenty of time to spare before the gate is locked. Don’t expect too many smiles or much haste from the gatekeepers in the morning, just go with the flow and you should be in by 9:05 at the latest!
It’s also worth mentioning that these restrictions are only in place for motorised vehicles. If you are coming by foot or on a bicycle then, as long as you follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, then you can come and go as you please. Camping is also permitted in Glen Strathfarrar, obviously as long as it doesn’t involve a motorised vehicle.
I’ve put this part at the beginning because I made the mistake of getting myself all prepared and ready to get there at 7 am to realise that, as I checked the route description, I couldn’t get in until 9 o’clock. Great planning there…. 😀
Glen Strathfarrar is located in Inverness-Shire, the Northern Highlands. If you’re coming from Inverness then follow the A82 out to Drumnadrochit, just after passing the big Loch Ness Exhibition Centre take a right with signs to Cannich. Continue along this road, the A831, for 12.5 miles (20 km) to Cannich where you’ll take a right at the t-junction. Follow this 1.5 lane width road for another 7 miles (11.3 km) until you get to the hamlet of Struy. On your right lies Struy church, take a left turn straight after and follow the single track road all the way up to the entrance gate.
If you’re there for bang on 9 in the morning, they should come out and open the gate for you. If you arrive later in the day then it may be required that you ring the doorbell.
Follow the road into Glen Strathfarrar for about another 15 minutes, it’s about another 8 miles (12.9 km) and, not long after you pass the first big loch, you’ll see a grassy car park on your right.
This is the starting point. You can see the exact location on the map at the bottom of this post.
The initial hike up Sgurr na Ruaidhe is definitely the toughest ascent of the entire route. After this, it’s just a case of following the undulating path over the remaining three peaks. There are a couple of rocky scrambles on the ascent up peaks 2 and 3.
I recommend coming with two cars (if you’re a group), or drop your bike off at the point where the end of the hike meets the road again. It’s just over 4 miles down the Glen Strathfarrar road which is a bit of a killer walk back after the hike.
Duration & Length
Duration: 5 – 9 hours.
Length: 15.7 miles (25 km) (including the walk back along the road at the end).
For the hike itself back down to the road you should set aside 5 – 7 hours. For experienced hikers around 5 is more realistic whereas think about 7 if you like long breaks to take in the scenery. Add an extra 1.5 hours onto this for the walk back to the car park along the road.
Where To Stay
Your best options are Beauly, which is 10 miles (16 km), or Cannich, which is 7 miles from the entrance gate. The campsite in Cannich is probably the most popular option because it also gives you close access to Glen Affric – home to several munros.
The Munro Circuit
The path starts in the big grassy car park. It’s a self-explanatory zigzagging ascent that passes a small dam on your left after about 10 minutes. From here, follow the path up onto the open moorlands and you will see Carn nan Gobhar, the second munro of the day, straight ahead.
Take care on some of the boggy patches, especially after heavy rain. Continue along the path which starts to veer to the right and then straight up your first ascent of the day. Follow the mossy slopes all the way up. Don’t worry about following a path here because there isn’t a clear one until you pass the first false summit. From here, there are noticeable quad or argo tracks which lead all the way up to the summit plateau. Straight ahead on the other side of the plateau is the day’s first cairn – well done!
After taking a breather, head down the south-west side of the mountain. The descent is brief before the terrain evens out again and the second munro stands as a big, mossy lump straight ahead. This is probably the easiest peak of the day with a steady climb up to the summit. Take care on the last few metres where it’s quite rocky and will probably require some scrambling. The summit itself is covered in rocks and the cairn is directly to your right as you make it past the bouldery scramble.
Follow the ridge down and along towards Sgurr a’ Choire Ghlais. It’s a steep climb up to the day’s highest munro with a brief rocky section right at the end. This isn’t as bad as the rocks on number 2. There are two large cairns on the summit, one immediately to your right and another one further along to your left.
Descend past the cairn on your right and, taking care to avoid the rocky scree, make your way down onto the final ridge. In my opinion, this part of the hike is the most spectacular as you approach munro number 4, Sgurr Fhuar-thuill. There’s a defined path which takes you up a steep climb where you have the option of a short detour onto a slightly smaller peak to the right. On a nice day it’s well worth it because of the spectacular views. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is the top of the munro though, that’s the next peak which requires another short descent and a final steep climb to complete your day’s round!
Follow the path off the summit and down the steep bank. The terrain evens out a bit more as you near Loch Toll a’ Mhuic below. Continue along this self-explanatory path all the way past the loch and back to the road. You’ll pass some nice waterfalls and, looking back, get epic views of what you just descended.
Back down at the road is where it pays off to have brought a bike or organised a lift. The car park where you started is located another 4 miles along the road. You’ll pass Braulen Lodge on your left and, if you’re not too exhausted, will be able to enjoy a scenic walk back to the car.
Although a slight nuisance with the restricted access in summer and no access in winter, the Strathfarrar munros offer some of the most peaceful and untouched landscape in the Scottish Highlands. Make sure you plan your accommodation if coming from afar and that you pay close attention to the opening and closing times.
I would recommend that beginner hikers maybe look at some other munros before attempting these because it is a relatively tough day of walking.
To cap off an excellent hike, you might even be lucky enough to spot some deer which are often in the field on your left just before the gate exiting Glen Strathfarrar.
As always, thanks a lot for reading and please leave any comments below! 😀