The South Glen Shiel Ridge is definitely a munro bagger’s dream. This is the easiest place in the country to tick off several munros at once, 7 to be exact. The other trails which can tick off 7 or more require you to be super fit and it’s an extremely long day. This hike, however, can be accomplished by anyone of average fitness.
The seven munros are as follows:
Creag a’ Mhaim (CREAK-A-VAIM) – 947 metres (3107 ft)
Druim Shionnach (DROOIM-HYOOMOCH) – 987 metres (3238 ft)
Aonach Air Chrith (OONOCH-EER-CHREE) – 1021 metres (3350 ft)
Maol Chinn-dearg (MUWL-CHIN-CHEREG) – 981 metres (3219 ft)
Sgurr an Doire Leathain (SKOOR-AN-DURRA-LECHIN) – 1010 metres (3314 ft)
Sgurr an Lochain (SKOOR-AN-LOCHAN) – 1004 metres (3294 ft)
Creag nan Damh (CREAK-NAN-DAFF) – 918 metres (3012 ft)
The prospect of scaling 7 peaks in one day is pretty daunting to a lot of hikers but, in my opinion, the hike itself is quite deceptive. The toughest part is reaching the top of the first munro and after that, it’s just a case of following the ridge all the way along. Each peak still requires its own climb, some tougher than others, but it’s comforting to know that once you reach the first peak you can relax knowing that the toughest part is behind.
The hike itself offers some truly spectacular scenery with views of the Cuillin mountains on Skye to the east and Ben Nevis to the south. On the other side of the road down below is the south-western tip of Glen Affric which really puts into perspective the true vastness of Scotland’s landscape.
It would be possible to split the route up into two separate parts. The majority of hikers would find this inconvenient and you’ll realise what I mean when you get up there. The two easiest access points are the starting and ending locations, which I’ll touch on, and this is why it makes sense to do all 7 at once. It also feels great scratching all 7 off your map at the end of the day!
The starting point of the hike is located in a truly stunning part of the country. Deep in Glenmoriston along the road to Skye you’ll find the Cluanie Inn (a good lodging option) on your left hand side. Turning left just before the inn, there’s a small, grassy car park which is the day’s starting point.
If you’re coming from Inverness then you’ll want to follow the A82 for 28 miles (45 km) to Invermoriston, where you’ll take a right turn onto the A887 towards Kyle of Lochalsh and Skye. 25 miles (40km) along this road is the Cluanie Inn.
If you’re coming up from around Glasgow then just follow the A82 all the way to Invermoriston, or from Edinburgh follow the A9 up until Dalwhinnie where you’ll take a left onto the A889 which shortly after links onto the A86 and eventually the A82.
The hike takes a little planning beforehand and it’s highly recommended that you take two vehicles if you’re not alone. As you probably realised, the end point is quite a distance along the road past the starting point. 7 miles (11 km) to be exact. Unless you’re comfortable hitchhiking or don’t mind the extra 7 mile walk (after the massive hike), then it’s definitely recommended that you have something sorted out for the end. The most common option is to take two cars, drop one off at the end point, drive back to the Cluanie Inn starting point where the car can be collected on the way back later on. There’s also a local bus service but they are not very frequent.
See the map at the end of this post for the car park’s exact location.
The walk itself is actually not too strenuous when compared to other munro routes but it’s the sheer distance which tires out more than anything.
Make sure you get a day with decent weather by referring to the met office website in advance and start as early as possible. If you’re coming from afar then I recommend spending a night or two nearby.
Obviously, use common sense if you decide to hike in winter. Conditions can change drastically for the worse, as on every munro, and there are sections where the ridge is rocky and narrow so requires extra caution.
Duration & Length
Duration: 9 – 12 hours
Length: 17 miles (27 km)
For the more experienced hikers or the super-fit, you could maybe aim for the 7 – 8 hour mark but for the majority of people I would say go for 9 hours minimum. If you’re not an experienced hiker and think you’ll need a lot of breaks or simply would like to go slowly, then 11 – 12 hours is more realistic.
Where To Stay
The obvious option is the Cluanie Inn which is conveniently located right at the hike’s starting point. Shielbridge Caravan Park and Campsite is also a popular budget choice which is located 11 miles (17.7 km) from the Cluanie Inn, about a 15 minute drive.
Slightly further away you will find plenty hotel and B&B options in Kyle of Lochalsh and Invermoriston.
The 7 Munros
The hike begins on a private road which leads from the previously mentioned car park right next to the Cluanie Inn. The road slowly ascends giving fantastic views of Loch Cluanie and the mountains opposite. Follow this road until you reach a relatively clear stalkers’ path which zigzags its way up the side of the day’s first munro. Follow this path, which becomes gradually more defined, until you reach the summit of Creag a’ Mhaim. That’s the toughest ascent of the day already behind you and the rest of the route is a similar story of undulating ridges between peaks.
On a clear day, you’ll get a clear view of the ridge stretching for miles ahead. The scenery itself sort of reminded me of a Lord of the Rings style movie shot.
From peak number one, it’s a simple descent and a case of following the ridge a short distance until it begins to narrow. The ascent up to Druim Shionnach begins here and it’s a gradual climb. Just before the summit there’s a narrow, rocky section which you can avoid if you take the path providing a short detour off to your left.
The walk along to the third peak is arguably the least strenuous of the day with a flat ridge leading along to a steady climb up to Aonach Air Chrith. This section should take a good 45 minutes to an hour with the distance being just under 2 miles (3.2 km). Well done! You’ve now made it up to the ridge’s highest point.
You’re now almost at the halfway point. Looking back you’ll probably be surprised by the distance you’ve covered with the first munro a small peak in the distance. Looking ahead the remaining four munros can be clearly made out on a good day, with rolling hills scattered behind as far as the eye can see.
Take care on the first part as you descend from peak number three. There’s an extremely rocky section which requires some sliding and most likely the use of both hands. After this short descent, the path steadies again and the walk along the ridge is self-explanatory.
Looking south (directly to your left), you can see a small reservoir which meets Loch Quioich. The surrounding woodland is the Glenquoich Forest.
Following the grassy path, you will eventually reach peak number four, Maol Chinn-Dearg. From here, you take a narrow, muddy path which allows you to skip two smaller peaks and get right back onto the ridge approaching number five.
This ascent feels particularly long and is a bit of a slog. I think this is probably down to fatigue, though, because that feeling slowly seemed to increase for me as the day went on.
When you get to the final ascent up to the summit of Sgurr an Doire Leathain, you’ll see an old rusted and broken fence to your left. The bent and twisted poles serve as a kind of line you can follow up to the top. The summit itself requires a very small detour to your right and along the ridge in order to reach the cairn. This peak provided a nice lunch spot with plenty of semi-comfortable rocks and mounds to sit on. On a clear day you can also spot Ben Nevis to the south-east.
The next peak, Sgurr an Lochain, can be seen directly ahead and feels like a very short distance away. These two, numbers 5 and 6, are the closest together out of all seven munros.
Sgurr an Lochain is undoubtedly the pointiest of the day’s munros and the walk is straightforward with the path easily followed by the eye up to the summit. Here you’ll also see remnants of that old fence dotted along the ascent. That’s you made it to number six and you’re almost there!
Looking from the summit of Sgurr an Lochain you’ll see two peaks ahead. Don’t be deceived into thinking that the first one is your final ascent of the day. You’ll actually bypass this one via a clearly marked path to the left which leads along to number seven, Creag nan Damh.
This one definitely felt like the longest climb of the day. The peak actually requires quite a lengthy descent beforehand which can feel a bit demoralising. If energy levels are running low (which is perfectly understandable at this stage!) then focus on the thought that this is the day’s final climb.
Follow the zigzagging path all the way up over the rocky terrain and to the day’s final cairn.
Congratulations! That’s seven munros to tick off your list and (almost) the end of a very long day.
The descending path starts straight after the seventh cairn of the day. There are actually two routes you can take.
The first, which is the one I decided to take, is to head straight down to your right. You’ll see a fairly steep, grassy drop with lots of scree, the main road is visible in the distance. This descent is a test for tired legs and is heavy on the knees.
You will continue down the awkward slopes and will be required to cross the main river two or three times as you follow the path. Eventually, you’ll end up on the main road where a short 2-minute walk takes you back to the final lay-by where you ideally have a lift taking you back to the starting point.
If not then it’s another 7 mile (11 km) walk back along the road. 😀
The other route is more popular and probably a slightly steadier descent. I think that it’s considered the easier way to go down and I just didn’t do it to try and save a bit of time.
From what I’m told it’s just a case of following a clearly marked stalkers’ path around the back-side of the munro, over a bridge, and back to the main road.
The South Glen Shiel Ridge is an excellent choice for those looking to bag as many munros as possible in a single day. 7 munros may sound daunting at first but the most difficult thing is definitely the distance.
The hike itself isn’t as tough as several others in the country and can be accomplished by anyone who has a bit of endurance and some hiking experience. If you haven’t done any hiking in Scotland then I would recommend looking at some easier routes before tackling one of this length.
A great way to finish the day off is a meal and a pint at the Cluanie Inn!
Thanks a lot for reading and if you have anything to add, any interesting stories, or any questions then PLEASE leave your comments below. 😀
South Glen Shiel Ridge Car Park