The Saddle: Kintail’s Most Spectacular Mountain (And Sgurr Na Sgine)
If you’ve done your research or are familiar with Scotland’s great mountains then you will definitely know all about The Saddle and Forcan Ridge. The stunning views from the summit of The Saddle are some of the best in the Highlands. The peak can also be reached by taking a rough path which avoids the Forcan Ridge but if you want the true experience, you should brave the scramble! The ridge itself is narrow with steep drops on either side but doesn’t pose too many problems if care is taken. Many opt to take the path bypassing the bad step.
- The Saddle – 1010 metres (3314 ft)
- Sgurr Na Sgine – 946 metres (3104 ft) – pronounced SKUR-NA-SKEEN-E
If you’d like more of an explanation on the definition of a ‘munro’ or just some general information on Scotland’s mountains then check out this post which goes into further detail.
If you’re familiar with the area because of its variety of incredibly popular hikes then this won’t be too difficult.
Coming from the north or south, follow the A82 until you reach Invermoriston. Here you turn onto the A87 heading towards the Isle of Skye.
Continue along this road for 32 miles (51.5 km). This will take you past the Cluanie Inn and the Glen Shiel car park. You’ll reach the lay-by on the right-hand side of the road which is where you’ll need to leave your car for the hike.
Check out the map at the end of this post for the exact location.
What makes this hike hard is the famous scramble involved. If you are planning on crossing the Forcan Ridge and the bad step then it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Make it easier for yourself by going in favourable weather conditions. It is not a climb I would like to do with low visibility, high winds, heavy rain nor snow. It’s definitely one of the toughest in Kintail but it is 100% worth the challenging climb.
Duration & Length
Duration: 5.5 – 9 hours.
Length: 8 miles (13 km).
The hike took me a little under 6 hours and that was mainly down to several photo stops (which I highly recommend). Apart from that, I was hiking at a decent pace so I would say that 6 – 7 hours is a realistic time. If you are slower or relatively inexperienced then I would aim for around 8 – 9 hours.
Where To Stay
There are a few options nearby but your best bet would be the Shielbridge Campsite and Caravan Park which is a couple of miles further along the road towards Kyle of Lochalsh.
There is also the Cluanie Inn which is located on the A87 back towards Invermoriston.
From the lay-by, walk back along the road about 100 metres and cross over onto the starting path. Follow this clearly marked path for the first section of the hike. The beginning is fairly straightforward with some parts slightly steeper than others, but nothing too challenging. The views of Kintail get steadily more epic the higher you get.
Eventually, after about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) you’ll reach the starting point of the ridge (commonly known as a ‘col’ in mountaineering terms). This is is the end of the climbing for a short while. Follow the winding path up some steps and along the steady ridge until you reach the real challenge – the Forcan Ridge.
The Forcan Ridge And The Saddle
Here you can make a choice: take the path heading off to your left and around the ridge, or head straight up the ridge itself. This entirely depends on you and I’m sure that beforehand you’ll have an idea of which route you would prefer to take. If you’re not a confident scrambler or the conditions are poor then you may want to skip this part. This section alone may well be how you ended up on this blog!
I chose a stunning day with wall-to-wall sunshine so there was no way that I was going to miss out this famous ridge. The initial scramble up is fairly straightforward but the higher you get, the more exposed it becomes. Some of the rocks require you to carefully hoist your weight up with a combination of upper and lower body strength. You can avoid these particular rocks by taking the clear path to the right.
After this scrambling section, you’ll find yourself on Sgurr na Forcan – a minor peak en route to the top of The Saddle. Continue up the ridge until you reach the famous bad step which is undoubtedly the hardest part of the hike. This can be bypassed by taking paths both to the left and the right. If you do decide to head up and over the bad step then take care. The ascent is easy but descending the other side involves an extremely steep descent of at least 10 metres. Take your time here, you will have no choice but to use both your hands and feet.
For me personally, this was one of the most difficult and nerve-racking situations I have experienced on a hike. I cursed on almost every step whilst lowering myself down and will happily admit that I was very relieved when I reached the flat ground. I’m not trying to deter you from challenging yourself, but it’s just to make sure that you take care and are prepared!
From here, it’s a breeze up to the amazing summit of The Saddle. Head up past a minor summit and on to the peak of the day’s first munro. If you chose a clear day, which you most definitely should, then you can enjoy immense views of the ridge you have just traversed and Kintail’s surrounding mountains.
Sgurr na Sgine
Just to the south of the trig point on the summit of The Saddle, you’ll see a path which starts to lead down the mountain in the same general direction as you have just come. Follow this clear path down the mountainside and eventually, it disappears into the rocks of the Forcan Ridge.
Stick to the right of the dry stone dyke and head over to the slopes past the Forcan Ridge. You’ll see some old metal fence posts which symbolise the start of your ascent to the peak of Sgurr na Sgine.
After the previous challenge, this is relatively easy and pretty boring in comparison!
Once you reach the ridge, head south (to the right) and up the final ridge where the cairn of Sgurr na Sgine’s summit is located by the edge on the other side of the ridge.
Head back along the ridge the same way and, instead of descending back down towards The Saddle, continue along the ridge until you reach the cairn right at the end. From here you get some stunning views of Sgurr na Sgine, much better than on the summit itself. Enjoy one last look over at The Saddle before starting the real descent back to the road.
From here, it’s a case of heading straight down. It is very steep so take care but there is a clearly marked path all the way down. You’ll climb over a stile at a deer fence before the final part of the descent. Right at the bottom, there’s a fairly rough river to cross which finishes off the day nicely. Directly opposite where this hike ends is the looming dominance of the Five Sisters.
Back at the main road, you are now only a few hundred meters from the lay-by where you started the hike.
Being one of the finest peaks in the entire country, I 100% recommend that you save this hike for the sunniest and clearest day possible. Keep an eye on the Met Office App and make sure that you take a good camera!
The hike itself isn’t easy but beginners shouldn’t be put off by the Forcan Ridge or the bad step. Both can be easily bypassed in order to reach the stunning views on The Saddle.
As always, thanks a lot for reading and if you have any questions or anything to add then please leave your comments below. 🙂