Approaching the Rough Bounds of Knoydart from the east – [# 166 – 168]

Sgurr nan Coireachan (953m); Garbh Chioch Mhor (1013m) &
Sgurr na Ciche (1040m)

  • Pronunciation:             Skoor nern Korrachun; Garav Cheeyerch Voar; Skoor nuh Keechya
  • Translation:                  Peak of the Corries; Big Stony Breast; Peak of the Beast
  • Total distance:             26.9km
  • Total time:                    10hrs 10mins
  • Total ascent:                 1663m
  • Weather:                        Bright with high clouds and plenty of broken sunshine. Quite warm.
  • Start / end location:   At the end of the public road on the north side of Loch Arkaig. [OS Map Sheet 33 – Grid Ref: NM 988 916]
  • Map:                                A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window. The map displays on most browsers, but not unfortunately Internet Explorer.

Looking WSW from the southern flanks of Sgurr nan Coireachan towards Sgurr na h-Aide

Looking WSW from the head of Loch Arkaig over Strathan (house) to (L-R) Streap, Sgurr Thuilm and Sgurr nan Coireachan (Glen Finnan)

We drove along the single-track that road wound its way along the north shore of Loch Arkaig to service the few cottages that nestle at the eastern edge of the wild bounds of Knoydart – the remote region bounded by Glen Finnan to the south and Loch Hourn to the north. Apart from a very small isolated section of land rover track along the coast of Inverie Bay on Loch Nevis the region contains no roads. Inverie is the only settlement of any significance and has a pier and a public house – the Old Forge Inn, reputed to be the remotest pub on mainland Britain.

There is no vehicular access to Knoydart and so instead visitors are required to walk in or arrive by boat. An absolutely stunning way to travel is by the little postal ferry that departs from the fishing port of Mallaig on the west coast to the south of Loch Nevis. Walking routes include our one from the head of Loch Arkaig or from the north by Barrisdale Bay.

Pausing to admire the view WSW from the southern flanks of Sgurr nan Coireachan towards Sgurr na h-Aide with the isles of Eigg and Rum just visible

Looking towards Garbh Chioch Mhor from near the summit of Sgurr nan Coireachan

At the head of the Loch Arkaig, where the public road terminated by Strathan, we parked the car and began the long walk westward along Glen Dessarry. Our route started off on a land-rover track and after 2.5km we passed the large Glendessarry Lodge, which had been newly rebuilt after the old one suffered from fire damage in the early 2000s. A little further along the glen we came to the end of the track by a little cottage called Upper Glendessary, which was probably used by one of the estate workers. A walkers’ path that was signposted to Soulies Bothy at the head of Loch Nevis detoured around the north side of the cottage before it then skirted the boundary of a large track of conifer plantation.

Just over halfway along the plantation boundary fence we crossed the Allt Coire nan Uth burn, which signalled the point that we left the main west-bound Glen Dessarry path and headed north to climb up the broad south ridge of Sgurr nan Coireachan.

[In the Highlands there are several mountains that share the same name, which usually isn’t too much of an issue unless they reside close to one another. Sgurr nan Coireachan is one example where there are two Munros in very close proximity that share this name. One to the north of Glen Dessarry and the other, only 8km away to the south of Glen Pean.]

Cameron on the summit of Sgurr nan Coireachan (Glen Dessarry) with (L-R) Garbh Chioch Mhor, Sgurr na Ciche & Meall Buidhe in the background

A thin but discernible path weaved its way up the steeply sloping south ridge to reach the summit of Sgurr nan Coireachan at 953m or 3,127ft. Despite a slight haze on the horizon, as we climbed higher up on the ridge we began to see westward beyond the nearby peak of Sgurr na h-Aide to the isles of Eigg and Rum in the Inner Hebrides. It was a really sensational view: Eigg, with its low flat profile except for one large lump called An Sgurr, and Rum with its jagged mountainous outline. We can’t wait to visit both of these islands.

From the summit of Sgurr nan Coireachan (L-R) Garbh Chioch Mhor, Sgurr na Ciche, Meall Buidhe & Luinne Bheinn - with Skye Cuillin in the background

The summit of Sgurr nan Coireachan was also a brilliant vantage point to see across the jagged jumble of peaks that reside with the Rough Bounds of Knoydart: included our next two objectives of Garbh Choich Mhor and Sgurr na Ciche, the latter being the highest peak in the region. From the summit we descended west down a very steep path to a large col below where a small lone tent was pitched. From the other side of the col a short steep climb took us onto a more modestly inclined ridge that offered a lovely ascent to the top of Garbh Choich Beag followed shortly by the summit of Garbh Choich Mhor at 1013m or 3,323ft.

Elaine on the summit of Garbh Chioch Mhor with (L-R) Sgurr Mor and Sgurr nan Coireachan behind

Sgurr na Ciche lay only around 800m away to the NW, but required us to drop down to a small col about 250m below before a sharp climb of nearly 300m took us to the summit at 1040m or 3,412ft. Immediately to the NW of Sgurr na Ciche the slopes of the mountain dropped away a thousand metres in a dramatic fashion to the meandering River Carnach below. Beyond, the other three Munros in the area of Meall Buidhe, Luinne Bheinn and Ladhar Bheinn were all clearly discernable amongst all of the other region’s peaks. As too was Loch Nevis as it arced and disappeared around the flank of Sgurr Coire nan Gobhar before re-emerging again at Inverie Bay. Barrisdale Bay to the north on Loch Hourn was just visible and to the northeast Loch Quoich stretched out towards Glen Garry.

Approaching the summit of Sgurr na Ciche

We descended back to the col before turning SW and plunged down through a precipitous little gorge where we emerged below the silver-grey cliffs on the south side of Garbh Choich Mhor. We traversed southeastwards below these cliffs and then down another grassy decline until we eventually joined the end of a path that, after another few hundred meters of descent, intersected the main path through Glen Dessarry. A long, and in places boggy, walk of around 9km took us back to our car that was parked at the head of Loch Arkaig.

Looking west from the summit of Sgurr na Ciche with Loch Nevis arcing round Beinn Bhuidhe

When we come back to tackle the remaining three peaks in the west of the Rough Bounds of Knoydart we’ll use the little postal ferry to provide us with access as far as Inverie Bay – where I’m sure we’ll make use of the hospitality of Britain’s remotest pub. Today, however, there was no such hostelry but instead tea from our flask! All in all it has been a wonderful day.

About Cameron Speirs

Born and brought up in the Scottish Highlands, Cameron, has been interested in outdoor pursuits since he was a wee lad. Over the last few decades he has climbed extensively in the Italian Dolomites as well as summiting the Matterhorn and several other 4000m alpine peaks. Closer to home he has spent many wonderful weekends mountaineering and biking in Snowdonia, Cairngorms, Glen Coe, Skye and Lochaber.
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