Wandering the wild west

By James Carron

There's nothing quite like the tranquility of a mountain lochan on a calm day to soothe the soul, still waters stretching out from a deserted pebble beach, not a ripple in ; sight to disturb the moment. Lochan Fada, is just such a spot. On a windless day the serene surface is motionless, a polished sheet of glass framed by the craggy peaks of Wester Ross.

It's a world away from the thundering waterfalls of the glen below, just a few minutes walk away, where Lochan Fada's contents spill down to Loch Maree in the shadow of Slioch, a huge hulk of Torridonian sandstone. Setting out along the banks of the meandering Kinlochewe River, this route rises up past the falls to Lochan Fada, looping back through two remote and beautiful glens. Red deer and wild goats are among the wildlife you may spot here, sharing the hillsides with grazing sheep.

So, let's set off. Pass through a kissing gate on the north side of the car park and turn left. Follow the path west alongside the fence towards a small graveyard and on to a stone outbuilding above a small croft. From the building, continue north west between the bracken-covered hillside on one side and grazing land on the other to a high gate not far on. Go through the gate and the path continues to another gate before it drops to cross a wide wooden footbridge.

From the bridge, continue along the riverside, passing through pockets of woodland and bracken until the path reaches a fork, the more obvious way going left while a grassy path bears right. Take the right hand option and continue along below a waterfall to the southern end of Loch Maree where the path rises through oak, birch and alder trees clinging to the slope above the water. Views open out to the Beinn Eighe nature reserve on the other side. The path crosses a small burn within the trees and continues on over open hillside to a bridge spanning a more substantial torrent. Cross the wooden footbridge over the tumbling Abhainn an Fhasaigh and once across the path passes through a pair of metal posts. It climbs to the right, rising alongside the river, a cascade of dramatic white falls framed by tall Scots Pine trees, the occasional birch adding a regal glint of silver. The path climbs through the glen with views opening out over Loch Maree. It is in the valley here, on the craggy outcrops that line the hillside, that you may spot wild goats grazing. There are also several waterfalls on either side so keep your eyes peeled. The ascent is quite strenuous but the path is good although it can be wet underfoot. Up to the left is Slioch. The name is Gaelic for spear and when viewed from above the mountain does resemble a spearhead, the 980 metre summit sitting out towards the sharp end. Continue up the glen path until it reaches its highest point.

At the top the path descends in a fairly indirect curve to cross the burn as it leaves Lochan Fada. Continue down to the burn crossing, the lochan in view below. Where the path meets the burn, there is no bridge, just a series of rocks which can be used as stepping stones. Take care if they are wet because they may be slippery. Once safely over, a path skirts round the lochside, passing several strips of stony beach before is rises over a headland to a longer beach. Lochan Fada is a remote spot and it is worth stopping briefly on one of the beaches to drink in the solitude and perhaps enjoy a packed lunch. In Gaelic the word 'fada' means 'long', making this the long lochan. A simple bit of map measuring reveals it to be just over four miles in length which is pretty good going for a lochan. It is framed on two sides by high peaks, very steep slopes falling to the water's edge at the far away northern end. The slopes at the southern end are a bit more gently, creating the peaceful beaches separating the water from the surrounding moorland. At the far end of the final long beach, you reach a channel.

Cross the narrow course of water and the path bears right, climbing over the open hillside above a smattering of small lochans in the base of the valley down to the right. It continues to gain height, passing by the ruin of an old bothy, before undulating over the open hillside to eventually meet the top end of a solid track.

The track descends quite steeply, losing height quickly to reach a bridge a mile below. Cross the bridge and a short distance on the way curves right around the hillside to reach a junction of tracks by a stone shed and enclosure at Heights of Kinlochewe. The tiny structure sits firmly in the middle of sheep grazing country so dogs should go on the lead from here to the end. Turn right and head south along the track. It passes a cottage on the left and then an abandoned house up to the right. Further on it meets up with the river beyond an open field and follows the increasingly turbulent water down over open grazing land. There are various waterfalls and pools lower down as the flow gains momentum. Continue on the track for just under three miles until you reach Incheril.

Approaching Incheril, the track rises to a new house. Skirt to the right behind the property and a short distance on the kissing gate at the top end of the car park is reached.


Distance 13 miles/20kms. ;
Map OS Landranger 1:50,000 sheet 19. ;
Start/parking Public car park at Incheril, grid ref NH 037624. To reach the car park, the access road leaves the A832 on the east side of Kinlochewe. Follow the track straight through Incheril and the car park is at the very end. ;
Grading Track and good paths through remote country with no escape routes other than turning back. This route is suitable for fit walkers and older children. Sheep grazing over much of the route means dogs have to be under control. Midges can be a problem on a still day here so pack some repellent or a mesh hood. Stalking takes place on weekdays between September 15 and November 15 when the route is best avoided. If in doubt, check with the estate. Their telephone number is 01445 760207.