We were waiting for the all clear after another lockdown to start our backpacking trip along the Cape Wrath Trail. Our plan was to start walking on 29th April and hopefully finish by the 16th May. We planned to walk off Cape Wrath so there would be no drama if the bus and ferry were not running. It would be the second time hiking the full trail with Pamela and John. Our first time had been in the wettest July that I have experienced!

Cape Wrath Trail: Fort William to Shielbridge: 5 days

We began in the sunshine on a crisp spring day after a night in Fort William. A short walk to catch the Camusnagaul ferry and we were backpacking the Cape Wrath Trail. It would stay fairly cold and sunny for our first few days making for wonderful wild camping. Things would change later!!

After camping in Cona Glen we headed over towards Glenfinnan and beyond. Walking through the Bealach a’Chaorainn we remembered our previous trip and the torrential rain. We even had a broken tent pole due to the stormy weather here last time. The going was fantastic and we had no issues with river crossings as we walked through Glen Dessary. There was brilliant sunshine during our wildcamp near Eilean Tioram. We carried plenty of water with us so we could relax as there is no water suplly at this wonderful camp.

Hiking along the River Carnoch and climbing over the Mam Unndalain was fine underfoot. It can often be one of the hardest sections of the Cape Wrath Trail. We dropped into Barrisdale and continued to Kinloch Hourn. The cafe was open so we enjoyed some tea and cake in the sunshine outside. Before leaving we filled up our water and headed over the river to camp. A great location if you’re backpacking along the Cape Wrath Trail.

The steep climb up out of Kinloch Hourn went well and we made good progress knowing that the weather was nearly upon us. As we reached the top of Bealach Coire Mhalagain the snow was falling and as we contoured around the Saddle it got much worse. Heavy snow and strong gusting winds made for slow progress. As we tried to descend into Coire Caol we had to link arms to keep from blowing away. The wind was extremely strong and caught our backpacks like sails. It was like walking through a washing machine for an hour before wading across the Allt Undalain. From here it was extremely wet all the way to finally reach The Kintail Lodge Hotel. They were wonderful since we were wetter than the sea!

Cape Wrath Trail: Shielbridge to Kinlochewe: 3 days

We had a long discussion over dinner about whether to continue backpacking along the Cape Wrath Trail. It had been horrendous weather during the walk to Shielbridge, but it was looking better. The weather forecast was for a mix of snow showers and bright spells, but not the same strong winds. Phew!

Having resupplied we set off in good weather and climbed out from Morvich to the Falls of Glomach. The hills were definitely much snowier now, but above the level of our route. We dropped down the steep section into Glen Elchaig that was thankfully free of snow – this bit is steep and the path is narrow. The weather was stunning and we decided to camp early as the snow was due overnight. We found a lovely sheltered spot by the stream and relaxed.

In the morning the snow was heavy and lying all around our camp. We packed up and walked through a winter wonderland to reach Maol Bhuidhe bothy in the sunshine. A rest here whilst drying our tents outside was very restorative. Timing was everything as we packed up our tents before more snow showers arrived. It was a cold river crossing before we walked over to Loch Calavie and on around towards Loch an Laoigh. Because of the snow level we changed our route at this point and made for the Bealach Bhearnais. It would mean a more direct and easier route through to Kinlochewe.

The bealach was amazingly snowy and in between snow showers was incredibly bright. An easy descent took us to the shoogley wire bridge over to a good camping spot. It was more sensible to ford the river here especially as we were planning to camp on the other side. After a cold night we headed over the Coulin Pass before good tracks all the way to The Kinlochewe Hotel.

Cape Wrath Trail: Kinlochewe to Oykel Bridge: 3 days

The next day was fantastic weather. We were dry and well rested, but before setting off we visited the post office. It can be useful to post things home or ahead of you on the Cape Wrath Trail. Additionally you can buy more camping gas here or at the garage along the road.

Once underway its easy walking on the track into the wilds of the Fisherfield. In every direction we had snowy mountains looking superb, but there was a cold wind. The going gets rougher when climbing away from Lochan Fada because the path is left behind. We enjoyed reminiscing about our previous journey through this section when we had to wade the rivers whilst in spate. However, this time they were not too deep and we could sit in the sunshine once safely across. We continued walking down Strath Nid and climbed up to the high point above Corriehallie. The views of the Fisherfield hills were sensational. A short way down we camped for the night.

The following day was colder and windier with the forecast to deteriorate as the day went on. Because we had a big day we didn’t hang around in the morning and were soon traversing the old coffin road to Inverlael. It’s a wild and quiet section of the route with great views of An Teallach behind. We were soon walking the short and dangerous section of the main road to Ullapool. When we reached the Inverlael carpark and left the road we met my friend and fellow guide John King. He had just abandonded an attempt on Beinn Dearg with his group.

After listening carefully to his report on the conditions higher up we knew the next section would be challenging. Basically we had to cross over high ground to reach our intended camping spot near some ruins lower down at Douchary. Besides we would be relatively sheltered at first climbing up through the forestry so carried on. It was actually fine until we began descending to the other side. The winds whipped up fiercely and the sleet was drenching. This was as bad as our descent into Shielbridge, but worse because we were camping!

We made it to the ruins and it was wild with very strong gales. After searching thoroughly I found a spot up the Allt Siolar – see photo morning after. Even here it was pretty desperate, but the tents went up fine and we managed some sleep. Thankfully the winds eased significantly in the middle of the night. In the morning we set off to pick up the track into Strath Mulzie so that we would have an easier walk. I think it’s fair to say we were exhausted after the weather the previous day. Our route choice meant we were down at The Oykel Bridge Hotel by early afternoon.

The Hotel is in a great location and is very welcoming if you’re on the Cape Wrath Trail. They have an amazing drying room since they’re primarily a fishing destination. I have even know them to take a package if you’re not staying with them. Obviously it’s worth enjoying some food and drink too!

Cape Wrath Trail: Oykel Bridge to Kinlochbervie: 3.5 days

We were well refreshed after our night in Oykel Bridge and had also resupplied. The weather was significantly better for the next few days as we walked along the River Oykel. It’s a comparatively easy section along the river until you reach the upper River Oykel. We even found lots of Primroses flowering. Once up there the path slowly deteriorates as you climb to the Bealach Trallgil. The scenery is wonderful and once through the pass we found a lovely campsite beyond the Trallgill caves.

There are some great stalkers paths through these hills making the climbing much easier. We enjoyed good views of the Assynt hills as we climbed towards the Bealach na h-Uidhe. Once over the pass we walked into the cloud as we descended. This made for very atmospheric walking. After a path junction the route starts to descend steeply and the path disappears, but by now we were below the cloud. It’s a rough walk beneath Eas a’Chual Aluinn and out to the bothy at Glencoul. We decided to stay here for the night and after a hot drink the weather cleared magnificently. The reflections in Loch Glencoul as well as views back the way we had come were terrific!

The next day we headed round to Gleanndubh in some lovely weather. As we headed away towards Ben Stack the cloud was down, but we stayed dry most of the way. Eventually we found a good spot to camp beyond Loch Stack beneath Arkle. Following a dry night we walked through to Rhiconnich and along the road to The Old School Restaurant. We were staying here for an extra night of luxury and enjoyed a great meal sitting outside in the sunshine. This had been a specific request during the planning of this walk.

Cape Wrath Trail: Kinlochbervie to Cape Wrath: 1.5 days

Before setting off towards Cape Wrath from here we had to check about the military firing range. We had phoned from Oykel Bridge to be told they would be firing and that was what the website aslo said. However, you should always try phoning again and we were informed we would be fine as long as we were off before Monday. Perfect!

We hadn’t met many people while backpacking the Cape Wrath Trail and a couple back in Cona Glen at the start; a solo fastpacker south of Oykel Bridge (he had been in Ullapool the stormy night). However, a different couple caught up with us at the restaurant so we swapped tales as well as our information about the firing range. They were going to finish at Sandwood because the website said the range was in use. There was a quick phone call to the Cape Wrath Ferry to see if he would pick us up on Sunday. He had heard the firing range was not being used and would be there if we phone him once we had signal again – a couple of miles before the ferry.

It was overcast while we walked along the old peat road and onto the pathless moor. We had reasonable views including towards Sandwood bay on our way to Strathan Bothy. Our plan was to camp at Sandwood so after lunch in the bothy we made our way there. It was quiet and we had a lovely wild camp there.

We woke to a beautiful morning with sunshine for a stroll on the beach with breakfast. It was a lovely walk up and along the coast to with beautiful wildflowers in abundance. There were carpets of Moss Campion and Mountain Avens. The route undulates and we soon entered the firing range. Shortly afterwards you get a view of the Cape Wrath lighthouse in the distance. It would be sometime before we reached it and the offical end of the Cape Wrath Trail. When we did it was beautiful sunshine and we enjoyed some cake and coffee at the Ozone Cafe. They hadn’t seen anybody else for sometime. It was a perfect finish though we still had to walk off the cape!

Walking off Cape Wrath: 1.5 days

After finishing the Cape Wrath Trail at the Lighthouse we kept walking to reach the beautiful Kearvaig. It is a lovely place to relax and the weather was glorious! We enjoyed some alcoholic refreshments that we had carried here and a beautiful dry evening. The following day we walked along the old road towards the Cape Wrath Ferry. We called as planned and were met by the small boat to take us across the Kyle of Durness.

We got a taxi from the Durness Bus up to Durness – we would travel with them back down to Inverness the next day. The guesthouse let us leave our bags while we went for a short walk out to Balnakeil. We enjoyed a fantastic takeaway Indian meal to celebrate our successful trip since there were no restaurants open yet. It was such a good feeling having completed the Cape Wrath Trail in such wonderful and at times challenging weather!

Are you thinking about backpacking the Cape Wrath Trail? You definitely should and if you need a guide or help with specific sections then get in touch!

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