Back to the hills
A family friendly hill walk in Ardgour
As the summer season tails off, it is time to rest the arms and exercise the legs. Time to head back into the mountains and explore ready for next year. This is when I hope to be offering more guided family mountain walking adventures.
For this reason, and to have a good day out with my family, I set off to explore one of the most northern hills on the West Highland Peninsulas. Stob Coire a’Chearcaill is an easily accessible mountain giving a real sense of scale to this remote part of the Scottish Highlands and putting it among many bigger mountains, such as Ben Nevis. The Munro’s around 'The Ben' are clearly visible as are the very overlooked Corbett’s of Ardgour and Sunart.
Reasons to do this
It's a stunning location for a family mountain walking experience with wide ranging views across to Ben Nevis and over Ardgour. Navigation quiet straightforward and, apart from the mid-section, walking is easy going even from the top of the track across to the summit.
Out and back route that is quite steep in the middle section. While the track makes much of the route easy to follow, the rocky path down is loose in places.
Park on the A861 on the south shores of Loch Eil at Blaich (NN 048 771) at the east end of a small woodland. Park on the loch side of the road and you will not be obstructing the entrances to houses or worksites.
Walk over the cattle grid and up the tarmac drive towards some trees and an old stone barn. This is where the road turns into a hard-packed gravel track.
A hard packed track leads up the first 470m of ascent and onto the hill proper. The zig-zag path can be seen above the woodland. This track guides you through a deer gate and then up a series of zig-zags onto the ridge at an altitude of around 470 meters.
From here there are a few cairns to follow in a west-south-westwards direction across two unmanned peaks (609m and 700m). Here it turns southwards and makes the final ascent (roughly 1:8) on easy terrain to the summit at 770m. There are no footpaths throughout this section save the occasional trace of footfall. The walking is easy and therefore suitable for a family mountain walking experience as long as everyone has suitable mountain boots with ankle support.
The view across to the summit remained me of my time guiding and lecturing on Pen y Fan and Corn Dhu in the Brecon Beacons. Certainly the relative ease of terrain was comparable and the height only 100 meters less (but starting at sea level not 440 meters). It also had the bonus of no footpaths and very few visitors giving it a much more wilderness feel.
A trig point and summit cairn / wind shelter await you before you make the return. This is via the same route and we were blessed with a rainbow throughout. We even saw our own shadows after several weeks of very strong winds and overcast skies! Truly a fitting end to a great family mountain walking adventure.
Alternative (longer) route
It would be possible to park at Stronchreggan and head up Meall an t-Slamain (467m). From here head westwards to join the above route at the top of the track. From the summit of Stob Coire a’Chearcaill head south-westwards along a broad ridge to an unmanned peak (558m). Finally descend to Meal Ruadh (325m) before rejoining the road and your car at Stronchreggan.