I enjoyed a fabulous trip backpacking a Highland coast to coast walk with Duncan at the end of April. We had been planning it for a while and intended a couple of nights camping while walking from west to east. After meeting up at the Forest Way Bunkhouse the night before we changed our minds. This was mainly due to the amount of climbing on the first day with the original plan. So the next day we would start walking in the east at Ardgay and walk to Inverlael in the west!

Day One: Ardgay to Gleann Mor

We made an early start on our first day and dropped a car off at Inverlael where we would finish our coast to coast. A long drive over to Ardgay on the east coast followed before we could start walking.

It was mainly on asphalt to begin with as we walked along the quiet road above the River Carron. This would be our companion for most of the day. Everywhere we looked along the spring flowers were out in force with bright splashes of colour. Unfortunately we did have some light showers, but the sunshine in between was wonderful. A cold wind would also accompany us for most of our coast to coast walk.

At Glencalvie Lodge we made a short detour to admire the impressive tree house before turning towards the Alladale Estate. Another wee detour took us to a viewpoint of the Eas Charron – waterfall before heading for Gleann Mor. The regeneration of the native woodland on the estate is fantastic with a beautiful mixture of trees. It was really very enjoyable.

As we climbed up into Gleann Mor we began to look for a camping spot. We passed a couple of early contenders due to the strong and cold wind. A little further on and we found a lovely spot though it was also where the estate feed their cattle. This herd is there to improve the riparian ecosystem. The views were great and we settled in for a chilly night!

Day Two: Gleann Mor to Gleann Beag

As we packed up in the morning sunshine we met some of the estate workers who were leaving feed for the cattle. Luckily we only met the cattle once we were walking along Gleann Mor. They were very happy to see their fresh hay!

The route of a highland coast to coast took us through to Deanaich Lodge, but long before that we left the regenerating woodlands for the open glens. Quite a stark contrast. It was still a chilling wind so we found some shelter by the lodge for some food and drink. This was also the point at which we discussed a potential optional extra to our backpacking trip. Right ahead of us was Meall a’Chaorainn a Graham. We could traverse it I suggested if we left our big packs in the heather?

A short while later we were climbing the very steep flanks of Meall a’Chaorainn. It was really steep and I’m not sure Duncan thanked me for that. However, the views were fantastic from the summit and we could see the Beinn Dearg hills and Am Faochagach. We could also see right down Gleann Mor along the route we had walked. In the other direction was the remote Gleann Beag where we were heading next!

A rough descent brought us back to the track in the glen and a wee walk reunited us with our packs. There were a lot of red deer about and even some skeins of geese flying overhead. We were planning to camp for the second night, but most likely near Glen Beg Bothy.

While we were up Meall a’Chaorainn talked about the bothy and a quick google suggested that the roof had been repaired. Since it’s no longer an MBA maintained Bothy and so remote we thought it would be worth a look…

The track ends at a dam and sluice that I think takes water though towards Loch Vaich. It’s mainly pathless from here to Glenbeg bothy, but there was a faint quadbike track and regular deer trods making the walking easier. The scenery is fantastic with the steep sides of Gleann Beag and Eas Choul above the bothy. I went for a little explore after we arrived at the bothy and definietly some good swimming pools.

Glenbeg Bothy was dry inside after entering through the rickety and well ventilated door. It was in excellent condition so we decided to stay the night. When the temperature plummeted and rain started we were pleased with our decision!

Day Three: Gleann Beag to Inverlael

The final day of a highland coast to coast was always going to be a challenge. It would involve some rough walking and climbing up to 750m to gain a stalkers path to Inverlael. When we woke up the rain had turned to snow and there was a thin covering outside. Suddenly the sun broke though giving some fantastic light. This was to be the pattern for the day. Heavy winter showers with bright sunny spells.

Our route was looking quite white as we walked into upper Gleann Beg and there were lots of deer low down. In the end the climb was pretty straightforward and even the stream crossings were easy. We climbed into the cloud and snow, but not for long because the cloud cleared to reveal Gleann Beg behind us. It was beautiful walking and after some food we continued through Coire an Lochan Sgeirich.

It wasn’t long before we were following the stalkers path in the sun towards Inverlael. However, a final heavy snow shower engulfed us for an hour and it was the heaviest yet. When it finally cleared we had a very warm and sunny walk out to Inverlael. It got hotter and hotter!

We had returned to Forest Way Bunkhouse well ahead of our expected time. So after a cup of coffee we drove back to Ardgay to retrieve Duncan’s car before heading for home. Backpacking a highland coast to coast was great fun passing through some truly remote countryside!

If you’re interested in doing a backpacking trip in the Scottish Highlands or are want to know more about this route then please get in touch!

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