Rough Bounds of Knoydart from Loch Cuaich

Rough Bounds from Loch Cuaich

Challenging Munro bagging route in the Rough Bounds of Knoydart

From Loch Cuaich Dam, a hike up Gairich is followed by a challenging route following well defined paths and stalkers tracks along crests to Sgurr na Ciche, the highest peak in the Rough Bounds of Knoydart.



Route outline


Munros

Sgurr na Ciche, 

Gairich, 

Sgurr Mor, 

Sgurr nan Coireachan, 

Garbh Chioch Mor

Corbetts

Sgurr an Fhuarain

Ascent 3240m (10620ft)
Distance 39km (24m)
Time 15:05hr
Start Loch Cuaich Dam
Grid Ref : NH067024
Finish Caolie Water, Loch Quoich
Grid Ref : NG985036
Terrain
easy hard
Nav
easy hard
Effort
easy hard
Scenery
ok fab


Land entrances to the Knoydart peninsula are guarded by rugged mountains and long glens. This area is known as The Rough Bounds of Knoydart and comprises many hills surrounding Glen Dessarry, Glen Kingie and Loch Cuaich (Loch Quoich on older maps).

This long and challenging hillwalking route follows crests around Loch Cuaich (Loch Quoich on older maps) and can unveil some of the area's pre-dammed history if the loch level is low. The route starts from the Quoich dam and travels over Munro and Corbett summits in a westwards facing direction, presenting fine views ahead while progress is made.



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Route description


1. Getting to Loch Cuaich (Loch Quoich)

View from the Quoich Dam to Gairich

View from the Quoich Dam to Gairich

The A87 travels from Invergarry in the Great Glen westwards through Kintail and onwards to Skye. On this road, around 8km west of Invergarry and above the shores of Loch Garry, there is a junction with an unclassified road which is marked heading to Tomdoun and Kinlochourn (sic).

Follow the unclassified road as it travels above the River Garry until the Loch Cuaich Dam is met. There is limited parking available is a layby close to the dam, with more a short distance further along the road. Parking used to be available below the dam, but since the landslip in 2019, a gate has since been installed across the access road to this.

To avoid a 10km walk back along tarmac at the end of the day, leave a bike (or another vehicle if in a group) at the north-western end of Loch Cuaich by the iron-girder remains of a bridge over Caolie Water (grid ref NG985036).


2. Gairich

On the eastern shoulder of Gairich

On the eastern shoulder of Gairich

By the northern side of the dam, head through a gate (most likely unlocked) to access the dam. Cross the dam then begin to head south-westward on a path above the shore of Loch Quoich.

The path veers away from the shoreline heading in a more southerly direction. This path, though well defined and probably a stalker's track in its day, is mucky and wet over much of 2km before it looses height as it begins to drop down to the forests of Glen Kingie.

By the side of the forest there is a junction in the paths - aim directly uphill and hike up some peat-bog and wet grass to join a fine stalkers path that heads westwards up Gairich's long eastern shoulder. Continue for 3km along this path, which becomes fainter, to the base of Gairich's steep 300m climb.

The path heads around the hill into the coire below Gairich, so instead aim directly up the grass-covered slope ahead. Higher up the path is briefly met again before it becomes a rough trod below some rock. Some easy scrambling is followed by a pleasant walk along a worn path to reach the cairn on Gairich's summit.

Scrambling up the final section on Gairich

Scrambling up the final section on Gairich

If Gairich is the only target for the day, simply about turn and re-trace your steps - total ascent for this is around 850m over a distance of 15km.

Scrambling up the final section on Gairich

Scrambling up the final section on Gairich


3. Sgurr an Fhuarain

Stalkers path below Gairich Beag, Shurr an Fhuarain ahead

Stalkers path below Gairich Beag, Shurr an Fhuarain ahead

Leave Gairich's summit behind and head south-west over easy ground. The edge of Coire Liath is met and followed, which in turn leads to an interesting little gap.

Head around the gap, then drop down a grass-covered slope to the wide flat area on Gairich Beag . Cross this and to pick up a decent old stalker's path that zig-zags down the western slopes of Gairich Beag.

At the base of Gairich Beag is Clach na Meineir , across which a track travels from Glen Kingie to Loch Quoich. Cross this track and the accompanying line of old fence-posts and hike over the soggy ground of Clach na Meineir to pick up and follow the faint remains of another stalkers path heading southwards.

The old stalker's path gradually disappears into grass, from where strike up steep grassy ground up onto the eastern arm of Sgurr an Fhuarain.

Pathless grass covered ground is ascended aside occasional old irons fence-posts. The crest of the hill widens and the fence-posts are left behind to instead aim directly uphill for the remaining 150m ascent to Sgurr an Fhuarain's summit with its conical trig point and small cairn.

On Sgurr Fhuarain, looking to Sgurr Mor

On Sgurr Fhuarain, looking to Sgurr Mor

At a height of 901m, Sgurr an Fhuarain is only a few metres lower than Gairich, but alas this peak is a just 'mere' Corbett ! The views from Sgurr an Fhuarain's summit are quite stunning.

On Sgurr Fhuarain, looking to Sgurr Mor

On Sgurr Fhuarain, looking to Sgurr Mor


4. Sgurr Mor

At the bealach below Sgurr Mor

At the bealach below Sgurr Mor

At just over 2km away, Sgurr Mor appears surprisingly close when viewed from Sgurr an Fhuarain's summit.

Head west from Sgurr an Fhuarain's summit along a faint path over pleasant grass covered ground on its western shoulder. While taking in the views ahead, a height of 200m is lost descending the shoulder's gentle slope over a distance of just over 1km to reach the bealach between Sgurr an Fhuarain and Sgurr Mor.

From the bealach, start heading up Sgurr Mor east facing grassy slope, the path now more obvious . As the route turns north-west, the path narrows and zig-zags a bit as terrain becomes a tad rougher than that of the descent of Sgurr an Fhuarain.

Further up and after climbing around 200m, the path turns westwards for the final climb up rockier ground onto Sgurr Mor's summit crest. The faint path crosses undulating ground to reach Sgurr Mor's summit , where a cairn made up of a large untidy pile of stones and boulders stands and provides just enough shelter out of any wind.

Approaching Sgurr Mor's summit from the east

Approaching Sgurr Mor's summit from the east

There are excellent views to be had in all directions, with the route's remaining Munro peaks appearing much closer than earlier.

Approaching Sgurr Mor's summit from the east

Approaching Sgurr Mor's summit from the east


5. Sgurr nan Coireachan

View from Sgurr Mor over Sgurr Beag and An Eag to The Rough Bounds

View from Sgurr Mor over Sgurr Beag and An Eag to The Rough Bounds

From Sgurr Mor, aim downhill and southwards on a well defined stalker's path that twists and turns as it descends. Around 250m of height is lost to reach a shallow bealach below the minor bump of Sgurr Beag. The path continues up Sgurr Beag , becoming faint as it approaches the summit.

Continuing onwards from Sgurr Beag, the path becomes more obvious again as the hill's grass-covered south-western crest is descended. Another bealach, this one wider than the previous one and with a few small lochans. An old stalker's path crosses the bealach from Glen Kingie to Loch Quoich, perhaps an escape route if needed.

On the opposite side of the bealach stands the north-eastern shoulder of An Eag. Stalkers paths don't climb this, but there are traces of a fainter path and the route is obvious following the crest of the An Eag's shoulder.

An Eag's summit is reached, where a line of old iron fence posts is picked up and followed heading west. There's a drop of only 80m or so before the final col before Sgurr nan Coireachan col is reached.

A hike tracing the faint path up grassy ground with occasional clambers up some slabs while following fence-posts, reaches the summit crest of Sgurr nan Coireachan around 500m north-east of of its highest point. Turn south-west and follow a fairly clear trod aside posts to Sgurr nan Coireachan's summit .

Looking back to Sgurr Mor from An Eag

Looking back to Sgurr Mor from An Eag

There's a small untidy cairn marking Sgurr nan Coireachan's top which is a wonderful place to sit and awe at the view ahead to Garbh Chioch Mor, Sgurr na Ciche and beyond to Knoydart and Skye.

Looking back to Sgurr Mor from An Eag

Looking back to Sgurr Mor from An Eag


6. Garbh Chioch Mor

Garbh Chioch Mhor and Sgurr na Ciche from Sgurr nan Coireachan

Garbh Chioch Mhor and Sgurr na Ciche from Sgurr nan Coireachan

Leaving Sgurr nan Coireachan's summit behind and on a twisty worn path, follow the line of fence posts westwards as it descends steeply. After losing a fair bit of height, the steepness eases and soggy Bealach Coire nan Gall is reached.

Cross the bealach on a faint path under some slabs. A wall takes over from the fence-posts with the path hugging this as it makes its way up the shoulder of Garbh Chioch Beag .

Ahead, crests can be quite narrow in some parts with some light scrambling required to move over the occasional rocky outcrops. There is one minor rise just before reaching the top of Garbh Chioch Mor and I've found it easier to stick to the grassy ground just south of this and contour around it to attain the ground before the final climb to the summit.

Garbh Choich Mor from Garbh Chioch Beag

Garbh Choich Mor from Garbh Chioch Beag

Garbh Chioch Mor has two summit cairns around 100m apart - the easterly one indicates the highest point.

Garbh Choich Mor from Garbh Chioch Beag

Garbh Choich Mor from Garbh Chioch Beag


7. Sgurr na Ciche

Sgurr na Ciche from Garbh Chioch Mhor

Sgurr na Ciche from Garbh Chioch Mhor

The path continues to follow the wall along Garbh Chioch Mor's crest westwards. Encountered on route are some occasional short sections of easy scrambling on grippy rock and there are some impressive cliff and crag formations to view as they drop northwards into the coire below.

The stunning ruggedness of Sgurr na Ciche finally comes into view !

The wall turns north-west-north and heads down to Bealach na h-Eangair , meeting with a couple of small lochans on the way. Above the bealach, leave the wall behind and instead head on an obvious path uphill following a small watercourse on a grassy bank.

The path disappears into boulders and in mist the way ahead may not be obvious - look right (north) and you should be able to pick out a route heading uphill. As the boulders are left behind, the path becomes obvious again and is followed as it zig-zags steeply up a small cairn on Sgurr na Ciche's eastern arm.

Now on the Sgurr na Ciche's crest, turn left (west) and follow the path for few minutes to reach its summit where a small cairn stands offering little shelter out of any winds.

Final climb to Sgurr na Ciche summit, looking back to Garbh Chioch Mhor

Final climb to Sgurr na Ciche summit, looking back to Garbh Chioch Mhor

Sgurr na Ciche's summit is a fantastic vantage point ! In particular, the views looking down Loch Nevis and out to Eigg, Rum and Skye are quite awesome.

Final climb to Sgurr na Ciche summit, looking back to Garbh Chioch Mhor

Final climb to Sgurr na Ciche summit, looking back to Garbh Chioch Mhor


8. Return along Loch Quoich

Looking down Sgurr na Ciche's north-east shoulder to Loch Quoich

Looking down Sgurr na Ciche's north-east shoulder to Loch Quoich

About-turning on Sgurr na Ciche's summit the view ahead and along Loch Quoich give an idea of what remains still to be hiked !

Retrace your steps back to the small cairn on Sgurr na Ciche's eastern crest, but instead of returning to bealach, continue east along the mountain's crest on pathless ground for around 250m. Turn north-east and drop 150m. The route is straightforward, but occasional slight detours are need to avoid rocky sections.

Briefly picking up the old wall again, the route then continues north-east over a rise, then drops 200m down grass-covered ground, avoiding rocky outcrops on the way to reach the top of a grassy bank dropping eastwards.

Turn down this grassy bank and trace the course of a burn downhill to the glen below, where pick up a stalker's track heading north-east. Follow this track to the western end of Loch Quoich where two dams are crossed.

From the dams, a rough and rather neglected track continues along the northern shore. This track was built to enable the construction of the dams in the late 1950's, therefore it shouldn't come as a surprise that after 4km, the track heads straight into the loch.

A vague, wet path takes over from the track and shortly after the Abhainn Chosaidh is met and needs crossed - this can be difficult if in spate, in which case a detour upstream will be needed.

Dam at western end of Loch Quoich

Dam at western end of Loch Quoich

Further on, you may find the faint path above the shoreline a tiresome trudge, a shorter alternative is to climb the 200m up Sron Lice na Fearna for a direct line back to the roadside at the north-western end of the loch.

Dam at western end of Loch Quoich

Dam at western end of Loch Quoich





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Alternative and nearby routes »


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A cycle along Glen Dessarry leads to a gully scramble and a traverse following old walls on the fine ridge from Sgurr na Ciche over Garbh Chioch Mor to Sgurr nan Coireachan.

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