Cape Wrath Trail - Itinerary North to South - day 1-Durness

Cape Wrath Trail – North to South Itinerary

Cape Wrath Trail
Here is Britain’s toughest hike mapped out: The Cape Wrath Trail North to South, itinerary in 17 days (199 miles). This route follows the western side via Shiel Bridge. There are numerous options marked on the Harvey maps to go high or low, I suggest you see what the weather is like and decide as you go.

Day 1 – Cape Wrath to Sandwood Bay

13 km / 8 miles – 8 hours

I had totally underestimated how long it would take to get anywhere on this trail. I hadn’t taken into account the bog, or going slightly off track for an hour. And then of course there were the water crossings. I stopped at each one to change into my river shoes, not trusting myself to stay upright on the stepping stones which were scattered across the streams. I wasn’t quite sure why I bothered – my carefully waxed-up Hanwag boots couldn’t keep up with Scottish terrain or weather and beyond the first two hours, I had wet feet for the entire 17-day hike. Cue trench foot.

The weather had been unexpectantly glorious the day before and early that morning. Predictably though, as soon as we set off at 11.15am, (a late start as we had to get the 10-minute tin boat across from Durness and then the one-hour mini bus drive) it started to rain. And rain. And rain. It lasted four solid days, to the point that I wasn’t even aware that it was raining any more.

Navigationally, day one wasn’t difficult. We veered off track trying to cut out a long bog trotting section, only to make it even longer! I was still in shock that it took me eight hours to walk nine miles when I normally walk 15 miles a day, four times a week. Welcome to the land of bog and hills. And for me, wet feet.

Need to Know Info – Cape Wrath to Sandwood Bay
    • The Cape Wrath ferry (£4.50) leaves from Durness between 08.30 and 09.30 depending on tides and the ferry man. It takes 10 minutes but there will be several crossings depending on the amount of passengers (it can only take 10 at a time). It’s best to arrive 45-30 minutes earlier to ensure you get a place on the minibus the other side. The ferry and bus service runs May to September. More info here.
    • The Cape Wrath minibus (£7) takes an hour from the ferry landing area and the drivers have a fabulous sense of humour to entertain the tourists. The lighthouse has a big pull – it’s the most north-westerly one on the British mainland.
    • The lighthouse cafe is understandably very basic, being run only by a generator. You can get tea and instant coffee and simple sandwiches with crisps. There weren’t any functioning toilets when I was there in August 2016.
    • The terrain is boggy and undulating. Sandwood Bay always seems like it’s just round the corner, but it’s not!
    • There’s a bothy you can stay in near Sandwood Bay but it sounded like it would be quite full as we met a few Cape Wrathers plus day hikers heading over to it, so we wild camped near the beach.
    • There are no amenities beyond the lighthouse to buy anything.
    • Cape Wrath is a military training area and is not open all year round. Check here for the latest information or contact MOD Range Control at Faraid Head. Tel: 01971 511242 or the out of hours number 0800 833300.
    • Easy navigation in bad weather.

See also Top Tips for the Cape Wrath Trail

 

Day 2 – Sandwood Bay to near Lochstack Lodge via Kinlochbervie and Rhichonich

30 km / 18.5 miles – 8 hours

Cape Wrath Trail - Itinerary North to South - day 2-Rhiconich
Cape Wrath Trail – Itinerary North to South – Day 2 – Rhiconich

With the heavy rainfall, we had to stick to the road for the whole day. It meant that we put in some mileage but road walking is never too exciting. From Sandwood Bay to Blairmore, the lochs had all overflown and we had to deviate to the fence line at Loch na Gainimh to get round. It would have come up to my knee a day or two day later, I’m quite sure.

The view over the sea loch of Inchard is spectacular, even when it’s fighting through the mist. You can stop at London stores (if you ask why it’s called that the shopkeeper gets rather affronted) and get a hot pie or a coffee and sit overlooking the loch.

There was no chance of walking along the Rhiconich River with the rain that had fallen, stick to the roads if there’s been heavy rainfall.

Need to Know Info – Sandwood Bay to near Lochstack Lodge
  • There is a little gift shop in Kinlochbervie with a really friendly guy working there who sells cappuccinos (you have to drink it on the go as there are no seats) – it’s the first place you come to selling anything without deviating into the industrial estate. There’s also a hardware shop that sells drinks and bits and bobs. Beyond that you’ll come to London Stores in Rhiconich which sells hot pies, food, gas canisters
  • There are also several accommodation options in Kinlochbervie, but all were booked out when we went past mid-August. Possibly by drowned out Cape Wrathers not able to get beyond the flooded lochs and rivers heading north.
  • There are public toilets just beyond Rhiconich on the main road.
  • You can pick up a bus from Rhiconich up to Durness (time – 13.29) or over to Inverness (16.29) if you need to cut the trip short for any reason.
  • Wild camp near the river (not too close if it’s been chucking it down – it had risen a good six inches by the morning).
  • Easy navigation in bad weather

 

Day 3 – Lochstack Lodge to Glencoul Bothy

26.5 km / 16.5 miles – 9 hours

We had wanted to go over the high route from Lochstack Lodge and up around Ben Stack, but with the continual rain and hemmed-in mist there would have been rivers instead of streams, enormous man-swallowing bog holes instead of a bit of marsh and 30-metre visibility instead of views. So we opted for the road to Achfary and wandered up along a forestry path. The map doesn’t show the two large paths that are now in the forestry area before you start going uphill, so take the one on the left going upwards. The other is just a path for the wagons.

Cape Wrath Trail - Itinerary North to South - Day 3 - Glencoul Bothy
Cape Wrath Trail – Itinerary North to South – Day 3 – Glencoul Bothy

The road route in the morning is dreary but once Loch Glendhu comes into view, it’s fabulous. You can look out over a yawning bridge that spans the broken land from Kylestrome to Kylesku.

You have a choice of staying at Glendhu bothy or carrying on to Glencoul. I’d most definitely recommend staying at the latter as the next day is a slog. Expect the paths from Glendhu to Glencoul bothy to be little rivulets, but nothing difficult. I was, yet again, surprised at how long it took to get from one place to the next – believing that two hours would be sufficient between huts. Ha! Three and half hours later, we rounded the loch and finished at Glencoul. And was I glad to see it!

Need to Know Info – Lochstack Lodge to Glencoul Bothy
  • No shops, cafes or anywhere to buy anything.
  • Take the road route to Achfary if it’s been raining heavily.
  • Two choices of bothies: Glendhu and Glencoul but I’d opt for Glencoul to get the mileage in the next day. There are two rooms downstairs at Glencoul and an upstairs area, too, at Glendhu.
  • If you take the low route, the terrain is road and tracks.
  • Beautiful views once the loch comes into view.
  • Easy navigation in bad weather.

 

Day 4 – Glencoul Bothy to Inchnadamph Hostel

13.5 km / 8.3 miles – 8-9 hours (climb to 623metres)

Cape Wrath Trail - Itinerary North to South - day 4 - River Crossing
Cape Wrath Trail – Itinerary North to South – Day 4 – River Crossing

This was definitely one of the two worst days. The rain had been relentless for three solid days yet the swollen rivers still had to be crossed. We took the route that hugs Loch Beag and paced up and down the river bank like angry cats, looking for a spot to cross. We should have been looking earlier, perhaps we could have crossed it further down, but the bad weather had caused grumpy moods and we’d forgotten to look closer to the loch mouth. It seemed to take forever to reach the crossing place on the map.

It turned out that the exact spot where the map said to cross was the best place in heavy rain (at least within 100 metres either side of it). I was scared – the river was fast flowing and my phobia is water. Thankfully that doesn’t include rain or I’d have had several nervous breakdowns by this stage. The river came up to my thigh and the force of it would have had me half way to the Outer Hebrides had I been alone. Thankfully, the two of us got across but then we had a slog up a wind- and rain-beaten mountain.

The visibility was shocking and there were only smatterings of a track every now and then. We weren’t 100 percent sure where we were at times, but followed a vague trail, muddy footprints and the compass. At the top, we lost the tack completely and got down to Loch Fleodach on a compass bearing. Once down, there were two more river-wading exercises waiting for us. One would have been do-able alone, while the other might have been too fast flowing for me. We then reached a steady, not rain-entrenched path, where the going was easy. But alas, that was only the last three kilometres to Inchnadamph! When we looked behind us, the path upwards was really clear before the mist gobbled it up, but when we’d been at the top it was nowhere to be seen. I’d say this day was much harder navigationally walking north to south than the more traditional route of south to north

Need to Know Info – Glencoul Bothy to Inchnadamph Hostel
  • There are no shops or any facilities until you reach the hostel in Inchnadamph where there is a small food shop (it sells midge nets and Smidge, too). It also has a fabulous dry room which will dry out just about everything. £20 / night for a dorm bed. In term time, though, it is ofen used for exclusive use for geology students studying Lewisian gneiss, so might be worth checking ahead.
  • The terrain is boggy and mountainous with three main river crossings which when in spate, need a lot of strength to cross. I doubt I’d have got across them alone.
  • It’s a gruelling walk if the weather is bad but I hear the views are pretty spectacular on a clear day.
  • Give yourself longer than you think for this day – we had underestimated its difficulty.
  • Difficult navigation in bad weather

 

Day 5 – Inchnadamph Hostel to Benmore Lodge

17 km / 10.5 miles – 9 hours

Cape Wrath Trail - Itinerary North to South - Day 5 - Assynt Valley
Cape Wrath Trail – Itinerary North to South – Day 5 – Assynt Valley

Walking through the Assynt valley is simply incredible. The packed glacier that once stood there has morphed this landscape into a cavernous valley that stretches for miles. Its enormity is humbling and the isolation awe inspiring.

The day started out with a light drizzle and mist obscured the tops of the hills. It took only an hour of walking on wet ground for my amazingly dry boots (thanks to the dry room in Inchnadamph) to let water in again. I was yet again plagued by heavy, water-sodden boots and wet, blistered feet.

I enjoyed the day – the rain let up and we plodded across the tops of peat bogs, not following a track but simply making our own route. There were three river crossings (There were three river crossings (you only need to do two, see the bullet points below).

Cape Wrath trail north to south itinerary - Assynt Loch
Day 5 – Cape Wrath trail north to south itinerary – looking back over Assynt Loch
Need to Know Info – Inchnadamph Hostel to Benmore Lodge
  • The scenery is spectacular – you’re looking down into a vast valley and I believe that walking this section of the Cape Wrath Trail north to south gives far more spectacular views.
  • Walk to the caves that are signposted on the trail as you leave Inchnadamph and cross the river where there is a footbridge. Then continue in the same direction as the route marked out on the map, you’ll just be the other side of the river which you have to cross later anyway. I really do believe that Harvey maps try to make this hike far more difficult than it need be in many places. There’s a footbridge, use it!
  • The terrain follows a path for the first hour and then we were jumping from bog mound to bog mound, but this I didn’t mind at all, I was so blown away by the size of the valley. There is a path higher up that you can follow to make your life easier (we just didn’t bother trying to get on it). Once out of the valley, you’re back on a path again.
  • We wild camped in the forest past Benmore Lodge which is set in a stunning location, but the house is not open to hikers.
  • The midges are fierce where we camped – the rain had stopped by the afternoon and they were out in force.
  • Easy navigation in bad weather.

 

Day 6 – Benmore Lodge to Knockdamph

29 km / 18 miles – 10 hours

Cape Wrath Trail - Itinerary North to South - Day 6 - Benmore Lodge
Cape Wrath Trail – Itinerary North to South – Day 6 – Benmore Lodge

This is an easy day under foot and navigationally. The scenery from Benmore Lodge to Oykell Bridge is quintessentially Scottish: smoky-hued mountains in the background giving way to pink heather, separated by a gushing river. I had fallen in love with the place. However, beyond the pub in Oykell Bridge the track becomes a bit monotonous. We had to plough on to Knockdamph bothy as the second tent pole snapped putting it up (the wind a few days earlier had taken one pole out and put its toll on this one). We were going to wild camp before Knockdamph but had to march on, my feet protesting after being on them for so long.

Need to Know Info – Benmore Lodge to Knockdamph
  • During the hunting season around August (especially August 12), there is a small diversion to follow beyond Benmore Lodge. Look out for blue rocks to demark the alternative route.
  • You can stop at Oykell Bridge pub for lunch (12.00-14.00) – the club sandwiches are massive and really tasty.
  • The scenery to Oykell Bridge is fabulous.
  • The terrain is mainly flat and along wide tracks.
  • You can stop at Schoolhouse bothy (three rooms in total, including a single room) or carry on to Knockdamph bothy (two bedrooms upstairs and two rooms downstairs), about two to three hours away.
  • There are things called bridges (imagine!) to cross over the rivers on this stretch.
  • Easy navigation in bad weather.

 

Day 7 – Knockdamph Bothy to above Inverlael via Ullapool

17.5 km / 10.8 miles (we hitched for an additional 10 miles)

We had to divert to Ullapool to get splints to fix the tent poles, but other people may choose to skip Ullapool completely. However, it’s the best place on the hike to get supplies and there’s an amazing chip shop (The Seaforth) there. We hitched the last three miles along Loch Achall and a further seven miles from Ullapool to Inverlael.

The walk from the bothy started with the view of Loch an Daimh being totally obscured by morning mist. We had our second wash of the hike (woohoo!) in Loch Achall as we were suddenly blessed with a heatwave of 23 degrees (I’d heard rumours of its coming for the past four days but hadn’t believed a damn word of it).

It was an easy walk to Ullapool and a pretty one, too. Loch Achall is spectacular in the sun with an ultra deep blue hue and a cute boat house sitting on the shore. Beyond Ullapool and once at Inverlael, the climb up to where we wild camped was steep, but half of it is in the shade of the trees, so if it’s hot, you’re protected.

Cape Wrath Trail - Itinerary North to South - Day 7 - Loch Achall
Cape Wrath Trail – Itinerary North to South – Day 7 – Loch Achall

The view from above Inverlael looking out towards the An Teallach range is mind blowing.

Need to Know Info – Knockdamph Bothy to above Inverlael
  • We hitched the last three miles to Ullapool which gave us enough time to restock, eat and crack on with the route (there’s a massive Tesco and two camping shops, cafes, pubs).
  • You’ll have to hitch out of Ullapool to Inverlael Lodge as there isn’t any pavement to walk along the road. There are a fair few bends and quite a bit of fast moving traffic on the A835.
  • The terrain is quite flat to Ullapool, then there’s a steep climb up to above Inverlael. We camped not far from Loch an Tiompain and were rewarded with most incredible view. If only the midges had left us alone for long enough to enjoy it! You’ll have to scout about for a patch of non-bog.
  • Get your water topped up in Ullapool – there weren’t any flowing rivers or streams to get refills from once we’d left.
  • Easy navigation in good weather – you’ll probably be on a compass bearing above Inverlael if the weather’s bad as you might lose sight of the track.

 

Day 8 – Above Inverlael (Loch an Tiompain) to Loch an Nid

18 km / 11 miles – 8 hours

Cape Wrath Trail - Itinerary North to South - Day 8 - An Teallach
Cape Wrath Trail – Itinerary North to South – Day 8 – An Teallach

The day started out flat with incredible views out across the mountain range. It then descended to a forest and then up to An Teallach. It was one of my favourite days for landscapes, with serrated mountains, bright yellowy/green tinted grass and slow moving rivers. It was of course made all the better by the 27-degree heat and pure blue skies that we were suddenly graced with.

Beyond An Teallach it’s a walk down to the river where you can paddle if the weather’s nice, then walk along it and up to Loch an Nid. You can have a wash at the loch, just don’t go in too far as it suddenly drops and is really deep.

Need to Know Info – Above Inverlael to Loch an Nid
  • Fabulous scenery – one of the best days for views on the hike (maybe because I couldn’t see much for the first four days!).
  • The terrain is flat, followed by a steep downwards section and a slow upwards one and repeat. You’re on a track for the whole day so nothing difficult.
  • No shops or amenities.
  • You have the choice of veering off to Shenavall bothy, but there’s not much point if you’re not staying there. We wild camped at a little loch about seven kilometres further on instead.
  • The navigation is easy in good weather, and I imagine quite easy in bad weather, too.

 

Day 9 – Loch an Nid to Kinlochbervie

We walked off track by about 6 miles and had to hitch to Kinlochbervie
18 km / 11 miles if you stay on the right track!

Cape Wrath Trail - Itinerary North to South - Day 9 - we were lost here
Cape Wrath Trail – Itinerary North to South – Day 9 – we were lost here

I have a confession to make. We made an absolute rooky error and veered off on the wrong path. The midges were munching on us in the morning and we simply wanted to run away and didn’t check the map properly. We walked for a good few hours on a completely different track (I wasn’t map reading this day…), hit a road and then had to hitch to Kinlochbervie. So there’s not much point me writing about the route to be honest.

All I’d say is that at Loch an Nid, watch the track and take a compass bearing. Then stick to it and don’t take the path that veers to the left or you’ll be lost like we were. I must admit that the scenery was stunning wherever we were!

  • In Kinlochbervie there’s a little shop open 09.30-17.30 where you can buy food supplies, socks, gas canisters, a pub open for fantastic but expensive evening meals and a café open from 09.00-18.00. It sells lovely cakes.
  • There’s a bunkhouse (a very cheap version of a hostel). The drying room there is pretty useless, it just uses a dehumidifier. There are no laundry facilities at the bunkhouse or neighbouring hotel.

 

Day 10 – Kinlochbervie to Bernaise Bothy via Coulin Pass and Craig

26.5 km / 16.4 miles – 11 hours (climb of 620 metres)

This day was one of my least favourite ones. We started out through fields and then it went into brambles and became a nightmare both navigationally and physically. The midges were in a frenzy, there were fallen trees all over the place and bog, no track and no landmarks to put the map to for a good hour. We eventually came to some signposts but I wasn’t sure if they were for us or not as the name of a trail wasn’t marked on the map. We followed them anyway and got out of the undergrowth.

I was completely fed up by mid-morning especially as we could have skipped the field/forest nightmare and walked along the A896.

The walk was particularly uninteresting (though not difficult to follow) until we got to last three hours  – starting at the ascent above Achnashellach Forest. Then it’s a trudge up the hill (of course the rain and wind had started again) but as you’re going up, the view is well worth it. You can hear birds of prey, see wild deer and I was half expecting to see a wild cat. But there were none – they probably don’t live over this way but it looked to my untrained eyes like the perfect, isolated place for them.

Need to Know Info – Kinlochbervie to Bernaise Bothy
  • No facilities or amenities once you’ve left Kinlochbervie.
  • Take the A896 out of Kinlochbervie and save yourself the time and hassle of the boggy undergrowth that we trawled through.
  • Then you’re on a wide lorry track for most of the time until you go up the mountain.
  • Keep your eyes out for wild deer and any other wildlife – it’s beautifully isolated up there.
  • Stay at Bernaise bothy – just a one-room, yet very cozy bothy.
  • Medium navigation in bad weather.
Cape Wrath Trail - Itinerary North to South - Day 10 - Near Bernaise Bothy
Cape Wrath Trail – Itinerary North to South – Day 11 – Near Bernaise Bothy
Day 11 – Bernaise Bothy to Faddoch Village in Kllilan Estate

23 km / 14.3 miles – 9-10 hours

You have two choices here to get over towards Carnach. Unfortunately, we chose the least interesting one. We went past Bendroig bothy and along a rather dull stretch of track that’s being widened – for what we presumed is going to become a hydroelectric area – before going south to Nonach Lodge. Instead, I’d recommend going east before you come to Bendroig Lodge (it’s a private bothy with toilets!) and skirt past Loch Calavie and go via Maol-bhuidhe bothy. That’s the higher route (466 metres) to Carnach.

Need to Know Info – Bernaise Bothy to Faddoch Village in Kllilan Estate
  • From Bernaise bothy, keep to higher ground to get across the bog fields until you hit the path closer to the loch (Loch an Laoigh).
  • I’d recommend going east before you come to Bendroig Lodge and skirt past Loch Calavie.
  • If you come along the route we did, get water higher up as there are cows and bullocks once on Killilan Estate, or use water purification tablets if top up lower down.
  • The terrain is a bit of bog hopping, wide tracks and a road.
  • The scenery is great until you hit the big track, then it becomes a bit dull, hence the recommendation for the other way.

 

Day 12 – Killilan Estate to Shiel Bridge

20.5 km / 12.7 miles – 7 hours

Cape Wrath Trail - Itinerary North to South - Day 12 - Highland Cow
Cape Wrath Trail – Itinerary North to South – Day 12 – Highland Cow

Not a particularly amazing route, this one. There’s some lowland walking through bullock and bull fields which can feel slightly intimidating. If they seem uneasy, veer away from them (into the boggy area if necessary) and you should get past OK.

Beyond the livestock area, the walk heads upwards to some unspectacular waterfalls, the Falls of Glomach, along a narrow and rocky path. The stones can be slippery, so take extra care if it’s raining. And if it isn’t raining, you have the delightful midges as company – they are in abundance here, next to a stream and among trees. You should get a bit of respite from them at the top of the falls if the wind picks up. You’ll come across a fair few day hikers on this route, all heading to the falls from the other side. Beyond the falls, you’ll head down towards Morvich, around the loch and over to Shiel Bridge.

Need to Know Info – Killilan Estate to Shiel Bridge Info
  • The scenery isn’t anything to write home about
  • The terrain is paths, slippery rocks and pavement/road
  • There’s a steep climb up to the water falls
  • Beware of the bullocks in the fields
  • There’ a campsite at Shiel Bridge and about 1.5 miles before there, you’ll come across a pub and a bunkhouse.
  • You can buy food and supplies, including gas canisters, at Shiel Bridge garage (part of the campsite), open until 18.00.
  • Easy to medium navigation in bad weather.

 

Day 13 – Shiel Bridge to Kinloch Hourn

19 km / 11.8 miles – 8-9 hours (climb to 821 metres)

The path starts out at the campsite and winds gently to a valley. Then it’s upwards to the saddle with a steep climb. The path fizzles out and you’ll just be aiming for the saddle by traversing the grassy hillside.

The mist and drizzle laid into us as we were ascending, making the navigation really tough. Visibility was down to about 20 metres in front at a height of 500 metres and the strong winds were like a slap in the face. Luckily our backpacks were heavy enough to keep us on our feet.

Getting off the saddle and into the correct valley needs some work. At the top of the saddle, there are two paths heading in the same direction and only one marked on the map (one high, one low). Follow the lowest track and you’ll come to iron posts which you should follow until you reach a loch an (a tiny loch). Then you need to head south west / right into an area that doesn’t even seem like you’re going into a valley if the visibility is bad. You are. You’ll come down the side of a stream which is bog engulfed for about an hour or more. Then you’ll hit a main track and then the going’s easy.

You’ll come to Kinloch Hourn after following the winding path. Make sure you don’t camp on the manicured grass. A campsite is marked on the map but it is simply paying to wild camp. We camped on the lawn, not realising it was a garden, and the woman who lives in the nearby house went ballistic at the three tents pitched there. Maybe by now she has put a sign up alerting people not to camp on what looks like a camp site and just wild camp on the uneven land by the river.

Need to Know Info – Shiel Bridge to Kinloch Hourn
  • The terrain is steep, rocky at the top of the saddle, muddy and boggy and a couple of tracks at the beginning and end of the day.
  • There are no facilities once you have left Shiel Bridge.
  • There is a ‘campsite’ marked on the map but it is simply wild camping. So there is no campsite but the woman in the house nearby will charge £1 per tent for wild camping there.
  • There is also a B&B the other side of the loch but I think you’d need to book in advance.
  • We went over to the B&B that evening and asked if we could have breakfast there and he said yes! £10 for cereal, toast, eggs, beans (no meat though), tea or coffee. You need to book the night before and there are no guarantees he’ll say yes.
  • The midges are an absolute nightmare here.
  • Difficult navigation in bad weather.

 

Day 14 – Kinloch Hourn to Sourlies Bothy

25 km / 15.5 miles – 11.5 hours (climb to 525 metres)

Cape Wrath Trail - Itinerary North to South - Day 14 - Knoydart
Cape Wrath Trail – Itinerary North to South – Day 14 – Knoydart

This was another beast of a day and the second half was not much fun. Although, before that, the walk was fabulous. The morning started out walking along the picturesque loch with dancing heather and crystal blue water. We stopped for a snack at a private bothy (you have to pay to stay here if you choose to, but there are toilets – luxury!).

Beyond the bothy you’ll gain some ground and suddenly be looking out over the remotest area in Britain, Knoydart. That’s when the magic hit and I realised how insignificant we are in this vast envionment. The mountains are craggy and inhospitable and there’s nothing but wilderness in either direction. It feels like the remotest part of Britain still has a firm grasp on utter isolation.

However, it’s coming down from Gleann Unndalain that turns the day into a nightmare. There’s no track, no footsteps, you’re simply heading down to the river over fallen tree branches, scrambling on rocks, getting stuck between rocks! And then there’s bog hopping for the rest of the day. We didn’t really see or find a track, so we trudged along the river, going from low to high ground for four solid hours. I also managed to fall over in the bog at least twice which has me laughing now, but I don’t think I was too amused at the time. Even cracking open the emergency Haribos didn’t put a smile on my face for very long.

Beyond the ruins and nearly at the foot of the loch, there’s a bog flat area (not a mud flat area), which people had told us horror stories about coming the other way. However, we didn’t think it was any worse than what we’d been through. I was seriously over bog trotting by the time we finished, which was just before sunset. We’d had a good five to six hours of it and I was quite fed up! At least the weather held up – I imagine it would have been really tricky coming down from Gleann Unndalain in bad visibility.

The bothy is really popular so arriving later than mid-afternoon will mean you’ll be camping.

Need to Know Info – Kinloch Hourn to Sourlies Bothy
  • There are no facilities en route
  • There’s a bothy but it will more than likely be full if you arrive late (it’s used by many people not doing Cape Wrath, too)
  • The terrain starts out flat, then goes up, there’s scrambling and a whole afternoon of bog trotting.
  • Medium navigation in good weather. Difficult navigation in bad weather

 

DAY 15 – Sourlies Bothy to Corryhully Bothy

24 km / 15 miles – 8.5 to 9.5 hours (climb to 470 metres)

Cape Wrath Trail - Itinerary North to South - Day 15
Cape Wrath Trail – Itinerary North to South – Day 15

The morning took us ages to walk. There were holes in the ground, bog and rocks to negotiate and no track. We came across a sign pointing to Sourlies Bothy, where we’d just come from, which said it was four hours away. It had taken us just over five. On the way, though, is a beautiful little loch where you can bathe or rest about two hours from the bothy and well worth stopping at. You’ll eventually reach a forest track and go past some fabulous lodges before a slow and gradual bog-filled slog up to a saddle. I’d lost my strength by the afternoon and had a dizzy spell, so getting to the saddle was slow going. My Kendal Mint Cake got me through it!

Once over the top, you’ll be on a wide forest track and then you’re only about 40 minutes from Corryhully bothy. It actually has electricity in it (yes, seriously!) with lights and a kettle and a little donation box to contribute to the use of it. (To be hooked up to the national electricity grid there have to be five properties but there were only four houses in the area, so they included the bothy and everyone got electricity.) It’s really cold at night – sleep away from the windows if possible.

Need to Know Info – Sourlies Bothy to Corryhully Bothy
  • No amenities en route.
  • The terrain is boggy, uneven, a bit of scrambling (nothing too serious) some tracks, a gradual uphill climb
  • The navigation is easy to medium in good weather

 

Day 16 – Corryhully Bothy to A861

29 km / 18 miles – 8 hours

Cape Wrath Trail - Itinerary North to South - Day 16
Cape Wrath Trail – Itinerary North to South – Day 16

This day was really pleasant. It started out with a four-kilometre walk to Glenfinnan, past the viaduct that everyone (except me) knows from films such as Harry Potter and TV dramas. We walked on to the visitor centre in Glenfinnan and waited for it to open – I wanted some more snacks.

The walk then goes along a track and up around the side of a hill and alongside the river until you are opposite Fort William. It’s a lovely serene day and apart from going up around the hill, it’s relatively flat. There’s livestock once you round the hill, so fill up with water before you reach the river lower down on the other side.

You have the choice of walking all the way to the ferry terminal opposite Fort William, wild camping somewhere, and getting the first ferry at 8am or do as I did and wild camp about 2 hours from the ferry and get the 10.15 ferry the next day.

  • There’s a café at Glenfinnan (opens at 09.30 July – Aug / 10.00 other months) but it only sells sandwiches, cakes and chocolate bars.
  • The scenery is picturesque
  • Fill up your water bottles high up as you’ll hit livestock when you come down to the river
  • It’s an easy walking day.
  • There’s a style signposted ‘Cona’ that you go over and follow the footsteps/track to the left and then along the stream until you reach the highest point of the day before descending to the river. At the highest point, follow the track to the left, don’t go straight on.
  • Easy navigation in good weather. Medium to difficult in bad weather.

 

DAY 17 – Start of A861 to Fort William

10.5 km / 6.5 miles – 2.5 hours to the ferry at Camusnagaul

This is the final day – latte and chocolate cake await your arrival in Fort William! (You could slam these last few miles into the previous day but you’d still have to wait till morning to get the ferry across.)

It’s an easy walk along the A861, where there isn’t much traffic to contend with. There’s a grass verge you can jump onto if vehicles go past, otherwise you can plod along the road itself. You can stock up on water from the myriad waterfalls. Just check the map to see how high they’re coming from so you can guess if there’ll be any livestock above or not. When I trotted past, all the streams were gushing into the loch from the torrential downpour that had started the night before.

Need to Know Info – Start of A861 to Fort William Info
  • Ferries go from Camusnagaul to Fort William Mon-Sat (£1.50) only at:
    08.15
    10.15
    12.30
    16.35
  • The terrain is flat road walking.
  • Easy navigation.
  • If all the accommodation is full in Fort William (I arrived on August Bank Holiday), there’s Glen Nevis Caravan and Camping Park, a three-mile walk from the ferry terminal in Fort William. It has decent facilities but lets itself down with no shelter to cook under. It can also be very noisy till late on weekends with campers arriving to bolt up Ben Nevis.

And there you have it – a 17-day itinerary for the Cape Wrath Trail North to South – 320.5 km / 199 miles. Enjoy! (And feel free to leave any feedback for future hikers below.)

See also:
Top Tips for the Cape Wrath Trail
Cape Wrath Trail – A Tale of Hitching and Hiking
UPDATE 2017

I covered part of the Cape Wrath trail again in 2017 on my 2,500-mile hike and was able to walk faster than the times stated above. My feet weren’t blistered this time round and one piece of kit I’d wholeheartedly recommend is a pair of waterproof Sealskinz socks. On the Cape Wrath trail, Goretex doesn’t really do much.

Jane Batchelor is currently hiking 2,500 miles through Britain, looking at the history of the country in chronological order. For more photos, follow her Facebook and Instagram pages. To find out more about her journey, click here.

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