Saturday, 13 October 2012

Glen Affric

Glen Affric is often stated to be the finest of Scotland's glens, although this is like claiming that Talisker is the finest malt whisky - heated argument ensues. Many people will prefer Glen Coe, Glen Torridon, Glen Nevis, Glen Feshie or another of Scotland's beautiful glens. What Glen Affric boasts in its thirty mile length though is a variety and spaciousness of scenery that the more obviously spectacular glens like Coe and Torridon lack. It scrubs up well enough, don't you think?

Picture courtesy / Chris Morton:

My early trips to Glen Affric were all hill bagging expeditions, acessing on foot the wild glens around Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan from the north, south and west. But from the east Glen Affric can be accessed in part by road, and this is the part that is most famous for its mixed scenery of hill, water and forest. I must confess I had not been this way until I had already bagged all the Munros higher up the glen where it is grander and more bare. But this glen is just one of four similar, car accessible glens whose rivers drain into the River Beauly. Glen Strathfarrar, to the north, shares its qualities of spaciousness and mixed forest/mountain views.

Loch Beinn a' Mheadhoin from the Glen Affric walk:

Arriving in Glen Affric from Strathglass, there is one obvious low level walk, which is to park the car at the scenic Dog Falls, then walk west along the forest track to the south of Loch Beinn a' Mheadhoin to Loch Affric. You are now far from your car, and can either retrace your steps or walk back along the road.

More adventurous types will go further west. Beyond Loch Affric, the glen becomes bare and treeless, passes a couple of mountain huts, and the walker can chose to descend to Kintail via the waterfalls of Glen Licht, or pass under the cliffs of the wonderfully names Gates of Affric. Which would you choose?

Glen Affric:

This used to be sporting estate country, Victorian and Edwardian industrialists playing at Highland lairds in an emptied landscape, tresspassing discouraged. Times have changed, and today, curious walkers on the way to Plodda Falls wander around the ruins of play-homes like Guibhsachan.

Guibhsachan Ruin (Gordon Brown/

My favourite time for a backpacking expedition to Glen Affric is early summer, late snows wreathing the tops and the black river skin-quenching to bathe in. The wide, wild, empty heads of the glens emptying into the Beauly are a world away from their well-wooded roadsides. This is, I think, the best area in Scotland to come backpacking for several days and see next to nobody. But I should leave that for another post, perhaps?


blueskyscotland said...

Great time to see Glen Affric in the autumn.I always seem to go in the depths of winter when it can be grim at times.Big mountains,long days,too old.

Robert Craig said...

Best time must be late spring / early summer. No midges, long dry days, not too hot or muggy. Perfect backpacking.