The Glen Affric Munros: Sgurr Nan Ceathreamhnan Group
The Glen Affric munros are some of Scotland’s most dramatic mountains. They are also some of the remotest in the country, with the Sgurr Nan Ceathreamhnan group being no exception. Unless you’re a seasoned pro, you’ll want to avoid these mountains in the winter and, regardless of the time of year, make sure that you’re well prepared.
Many people ask why it’s called the ‘Sgurr Nan Ceathreamhnan group’ when this is the name of only 1 out of the 3 peaks. I can only assume that it’s because this is the highest, and easily the most epic, peak of the day.
1. Mullach Na Dheiragain – 982 metres – pronounced MULLACH-NA-GERRIGEN.
2. Sgurr Nan Ceathreamhnan – 1151 metres – pronounced SKOOR-NA-KERALIN.
3. An Socach – 921 metres – pronounced AN-SOCH-GACH.
If you’re not a munro bagger, or not at all familiar with the Scottish mountains, then check out my article on the mountains in Scotland which will give you a detailed overview of what a munro is and much more.
These isolated peaks are not as easy to get to as the others located in this part of the country.
The first step is getting to Glen Affric. If you’re coming from Inverness then follow the A82 for 14 miles (22.5km) from Inverness towards Drumnadrochit. After passing the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre on your right-hand side, you’ll take a right turn following signs to Cannich.
If you’re coming up the A82 then pass through the village of Drumnadrochit. At the end of the village take a sharp left straight after the bridge. This is the same turn taking you towards Cannich.
Cannich is 13 miles (21km) along this road and, once you arrive, take a left at the t-junction. Continue along this 1 – 1.5 lane road until you reach Glen Affric; this is a further 20-minute drive. At Glen Affric go over the new-looking wooden bridge and park at the head of Loch Affric in the forestry car park.
There is a toll machine but when I was there it wasn’t actually working so I didn’t have to pay the £2 parking fee.
For the exact location, check out the map at the end of this post.
From The Car Park To The Munros
In terms of taking a vehicle, the closest you’ll get to these munros is the car park. I’m afraid to tell you that your starting point is a further 9 miles (14.5km) into the wilderness. There are a few ways that you can go about this. The number 1 option for most hikers is to head out early in the morning to the Glen Affric Youth Hostel and start the hike up the munros mid/late morning. They’ll then spend the night at the hostel.
I decided to do the whole thing in one day, only because I live semi-locally, and this turned out to be very tough. The initial 9 mile (14.5km) cycle and 12 mile (19km) hike is just about bearable but the cycle back to the car park almost finished me off.
From the Glen Affric car park, follow the road which crosses the bridge and has a locked gate on the other side. This is to restrict vehicular access – only forestry workers and others with special permission can drive along here. My friend and I were considering to take the risk but decided to avoid it just in case there was a hefty fine involved. Follow the forestry track for about 5 miles (8km) until you reach an open part of the terrain at the end of Loch Affric.
Here there’s a less clear track which leads down to your right towards the large house-like building in front of you. You need to pass this building and head up onto the extremely stony and rocky forestry track which heads all the way to the Glen Affric Youth Hostel. This track is approximately 4 miles (6.4km) and I recommend that you take it easy because there are lots of big, loose stones.
The Glen Affric Youth Hostel is a green building with a yellow roof. There’s also a mini wind turbine just outside it which is visible from quite a distance. This is the most isolated hostel in the entire United Kingdom so well done for making it this far! There are several options from here: you can walk over to Kintail which has another spectacular array of mountains, you can do the Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan group which starts directly behind the hostel, AND if you’re feeling adventurous you can even do a few more munros in the area.
The Glen Affric Youth Hostel prices start from £22.50 per night – see here for more details.
Hiking Some Of The UK’s Most Isolated Munros
The path of these Glen Affric munros starts directly behind the hostel. It’s a surprisingly clear path (considering the fact that you’re in the middle of nowhere). Continue up this clear path through the gated deer fences which are fastened by a latch. After you go through the second gate, the terrain starts to get a bit rougher and the path begins to fade away.
If you look directly ahead and up, you’ll see a ridge at the top which goes up to both the left and the right. Get up to this ridge and turn right, this is you on course for your first peak of the day. There’s an initially steep ascent but it quickly levels out and the final stretch up to the summit of An Socach is gradual. Well done! This is the first munro of the day.
Retrace your steps back to the ridge where turning left would take you back down to the Glen Affric Youth Hostel. Obviously, you have two more peaks to climb before thinking about that!
From here you have two options: you can cut down into the bowl-shaped valley, ascend on the other side and head all the way across the ridge to Mullach Na Dheiragain, the day’s most isolated munro OR, before doing this, you can scale the most dramatic and highest peak of the day. It’s entirely down to you. I personally recommend that you get the most isolated one out of the way first; I thought that it might be a bit gruelling to climb up the higher peak, and then have another 2 – 3 hour slog until the third one.
Head through the bowl-shaped valley, located at the foot of Sgurr Nan Ceathreamhnan, and climb up to the ridge on the other side. Once you’re on the ridge, it’s just a case of following it all the way along to Mullach Na Dheiragain. It’s a good hour from here and the way back is the exact same route. The ridge is fairly steady with some very rocky sections but it’s nothing too difficult.
You’ll know that you’re approaching the peak of munro number 2 when the incline gradually starts to get steeper and the path leads off to the left. Ignore this and head straight up to the summit cairn. Don’t be fooled by the peak you see slightly ahead, this is the lower summit of Mullach Sithidh which is defined as a murdo.
That’s number 2 ticked off and now it’s time to the most tedious part of the day. You need to retrace your steps back from where you came, try not to tire yourself out because the final and highest munro of the day awaits.
The peak of Sgurr Nan Ceathreamhnan looks amazing on a clear day, it’s got a pointy summit and has a tough, rocky ascent. Take your time as you clamber your way up the stony ridge, it’s nothing terribly difficult but the beginner hiker should take extra care.
The cairn is perched on the narrow summit and views of the entire day’s route can be seen. Well done!
The walk back to the Glen Affric Youth Hostel is fairly self-explanatory. From the cairn there’s a second path descending the opposite side to where you came up. Follow this all the way down and around the ridge to where your initial ascent to the day’s first munro was.
Follow this same path all the way through the 2 deer fences and back down to the hostel. Congratulations! You’ve just climbed 3 of the most isolated mountains in the entire United Kingdom.
NOTE: I only recommend that you go with the higher peak first if you are just wanting to climb 2 munros for the day. This is a much more realistic option if you’re staying at the hostel and doing a bit of walking. For the munro baggers out there though, you’ll be wanting to do all 3 because if not it’ll just mean coming all the way back to this extremely remote part of the country.
It is, however, entirely down to personal preference!
Now that you’re back, you can enjoy a hearty meal and well-earned night’s sleep in the hostel. For the ambitious out there, you’ve still got another 9 mile (14.5km) cycle back to the car park!
As I stressed before, I highly recommend that you stay a night in the hostel, finishing the hike with the knowledge that I still had to cycle back to the car park wasn’t too pleasant. The journey itself was nothing short of horrendous. Plus, the horrific early evening Scottish highland midges just added to all the fun…..
When I say moderate I am solely referring to the actual hike, not the journey to and from the Glen Affric Youth Hostel. If this were included in one whole day then it would definitely be categorised as hard/very hard.
It’s a steady and fairly taxing hike up from the hostel to the summit of the first munro, An Socach. After this, it’s really a case of undulating terrain and a few rocky scrambles.
The hike, in general, is not one of the toughest in terms of terrain. The hardest climb is undoubtedly the day’s final munro, Sgurr Nan Ceathreamhnan. This is a rocky scramble with fairly steep slopes on either side.
In winter you’ll need crampons and plenty of relevant winter clothing. Danger levels increase ten-fold in the winter and I would only recommend it if you have plenty of mountaineering experience in snowy conditions.
At other times of the year this is what you’ll need:
- Waterproofs (jacket and trousers)
- Good hiking boots
- Plenty of food and water
- Smartphone with Viewranger App
Duration & Length
Duration: 7 – 10 hours (10 – 13 hours including the cycle)
Length: 12 miles (30 miles including the cycle)
As you can see from my screenshot, it took me bang on 7 hours.
Please ignore the straight line from the end munro back to the ridge! I accidentally shut down the app during this part of the hike so just assume that it’s the same as the route to the right.
If you’re a keen hiker then I would say that 7 – 8 hours is a good time to aim for, or if you go at a more leisurely pace then I would recommend setting aside 8 – 10 hours. Remember that physical fitness also plays a big part in how long it will take.
Where To Stay
There are a few options for accommodation in Glen Affric. The most popular for these Glen Affric munros is undoubtedly the Glen Affric Youth Hostel. It lies right on the starting path and is simply the most logical choice. A more expensive option is the Glen Affric Lodge which has several bedrooms as well as the Stable Cottage.
There is accommodation in Cannich, the most popular being Cannich Woodland Camping.
There are also several B&B’s situated all the way from Drumnadrochit to Cannich, it’s just a case of taking your pick.
The Sgurr Nan Ceathreamhnan group are undoubtedly the Glen Affric munros which require the most work and patience.
Located in the middle of nowhere (quite literally) the journey to get to the foot of these mysterious mountains is long and can be somewhat tedious. The rewards are, however: stunning scenery, diverse landscapes and the chance to see plenty of wildlife.
These munros are definitely not for the faint-hearted but are highly recommended for those who wish to experience the true definition of wilderness.
As always, thanks a lot for reading and please share your stories or ask any questions in the comments section below. I reply to everything. 🙂