I love Scotland with its feel of wilderness and rugged beauty – and the North West really excels with both. It is my all-time favourite location for walking, camping and climbing. I used to live in Scotland and have spent a lot of time exploring its remote mountains and glens. Tourism is booming in many parts of the country now and especially summers can get very busy. It is not unusual to see lines of campervans heading up north for summer weekends. But with a little effort it is still possible to get into some truly wild spaces in Scotland. And I really can’t recommend the West Coast enough for any outdoor lover. I am lucky in the sense that my partner is from Lochaber and has introduced me to the amazing places he grew up visiting. Our wanders frequently take us away from the popular spots and into the less known areas. Read on to hear more about one of Scotland’s hidden gems and a great day I recently had while on a hill walk by Loch Quoich.
Scotland has 282 munros – or hills above 3000 feet (914m). The munro Sgùrr a’ Mhaoraich, rising above the blue water of Loch Quoich, is a relatively straightforward undertaking and a good choice for a confident walker looking to get into munro bagging. This peak stands at 1027 meters above the sea level and provides an excellent viewpoint over the wilderness of Knoydart. It has a real sense of isolation and remoteness, despite being easily accessible from the road. The route up takes you over varied terrain, keeping the walk interesting and engaging, without ever being too challenging. Unfortunately, the day we chose for our hike was not very conducive to taking nice photographs. There was low hanging cloud, little light and mist in abundance. However, I managed to get a couple of quick shots when the cloud lifted for a moment. Hopefully, you will enjoy them!
Hill of the Shellfish
Sgùrr a’ Mhaoraich is a lovely little hill. The name is Scottish Gaelic and can be translated roughly as Hill of the Shellfish. There are numerous words in Gaelic denoting hills and mountains. Sgùrr specifically refers to high pointed hills or mountains. The second word maoraich, on the other hand, translates as shellfish, or it can refer specifically to limpets. It is thought that the mountain has got its name from the cone-like shape of its summit, with its summit ridges shaped and ribbed like the shell of a limpet. Gaelic hill names are often incredibly descriptive and focus on noting the features which set a hill apart from its neighbours.
How to get to Loch Quoich
Loch Quoich is just over an hour’s drive north from Fort William. It is accessed by a long and winding single-track road which turns off from the A87 (the road to the Isle of Skye) near Invergarry. The traffic immediately quiets down as you turn off the main road. Here it really feels like you have the hills to yourself. Much of the drive is fairly unremarkable but every now and then it is possible to catch a glimpse of the stunning Loch Garry below. Finally, the impressive Loch Quoich Dam is reached just as the landscape opens up. From here the views over Loch Quoich and its surrounding munros are breath-taking. However, this loch is regulated by hydro energy schemes so the water level can vary a lot or change quickly. To start this walk, we parked in a lay-by just after the bridge halfway down the loch. From here you can just follow the road for a couple of minutes to the start of the path.
The route up and over Sgùrr a’ Mhaoraich
The track up is a small, but pleasant, stalkers’ path. It zigzags its way up the initial grassy slopes onto the ridge at a gentle angle. The start of the walk can be a little wet but drier and firmer ground is reached quickly. A great thing about this walk is that you start at around the height of 200m above the sea level. And therefore, the great views around you open up early into the walk. On the upper slopes of the ridge, the path disappears into the rocky ground. But here and there useful little cairns mark the easiest path to take.
The route climbs over multiple little tops before reaching the first summit of the day – Sgùrr Coire nan Eiricheallach. From here the path initially drops down to gain the ridge leading up to Sgùrr a’ Mhaoraich. The route winds itself along the side of the pleasant ridgeline, never too exposed or technical, before a final steep push gets you all the way to the summit. In a typical Scottish fashion, the cloud came in before we reached the summit. And therefore, the views we had been enjoying on the way up were gone as we got to the top. After a lunch, which we ate sheltering behind a rocky outcrop, we decided to walk up the neighbouring hill as well. And so, continued north towards Am Bàthaich.
Just one more hill
Just as we started to drop to the col between the two hills, the cloud lifted for a minute and I managed to get a couple of quick photos! The path descents steeply and I took my time zigzagging down and weaving my way round the scree and rocks. The col itself is absolutely magical! And probably my favourite part of the whole walk. There are deep pools of clear water between rocky outcrops and a lovely view over Loch Hourn in the west. There is an otherworldly sense of peace and quiet over this landscape, sheltered as it is by the surrounding hills. I would have enjoyed exploring here a bit more, but my partner was already marching up the next hill rising steeply above us! The way up was hard on grassy ledges and rocky steps. But the effort was thankfully short-lived as we quickly regained high ground.
Taking in the rounded ridge of Am Bàthaich was a lovely way to finish the walk. There is a gentleness in the grassy slopes of this hill, which its rocky neighbour lacks. In my opinion this ridge could have gone on a bit longer, as it is over way too soon. And so, we finished our mini-adventure by descending steep slopes down towards the River Quoich. We found that a lot of infrastructure related to the numerous hydro schemes around here had been put to place since our (admittedly quite old) OS map was published. Therefore, the land looked quite different to what we had expected from the map. Regardless we finished the walk along a pleasant track back to the car. The road stays high above the reservoir guaranteeing nice views. And we spotted a lot of deer grazing on the banks below us.
Sgùrr a’ Mhaoraich is a lovely hill walk by Loch Quoich. This route was around 14km and took us 6 hours car-to-car. It is a relatively straightforward munro to climb and I definitely recommend this route for its views! If you are a beginner looking to get into hiking or hillwalking, read my How to Get into Hiking: a Guide to Hiking for Beginners.
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