Cranstackie and Beinn Spionnaidh from Loch Eriboll

Hillwalking route up Cranstackie and Beinn Spionnaidh from Loch Eriboll

Starting from near the southern end of Loch Eriboll, this largely pathless route strikes over grass, through forestry and up the side of the lovely Allt Leacach to reach the bouldery summits of Cranstackie and Beinn Spionnaidh.



Route outline


  Map base ©OpenStreetMap
Corbetts

Cranstackie

Beinn Spionnaidh

Ascent 1025m (3360ft)
Distance 11km (7m)
Time 4:30hr
Start/finish Head of Loch Eriboll
Grid Ref : NC391553
Terrain
easy hard
Nav
easy hard
Effort
easy hard
Scenery
ok fab


This route is the quieter of the two direct options heading up Cranstackie and Beinn Spionnaidh, the other approaching from Carbreck to the north. As such, there are no paths to follow until higher up on the crests between the summits, though ground cover lower down is never so demanding so to impede progress. Higher up, the crests of both hills are covered in boulderfield making for tricky navigation in thick mist, though you'll be in no doubt when reaching the summits as both are well indicated - a trig point on Beinn Spionnaidh and a well defined cairn on Cranstackie



Route map




Route description


1. Getting to Loch Eriboll

Cranstackie from the Amhainn an t-Sratha Bhig

Loch Eriboll is in the far north of Scotland a few miles south-east of Durness. The route begins from the southern end of the loch on its western side, just north of the bridge over the Amhainn an t-Sratha Bhig where there is the entrance to Polla fish-farm. There's room for a car or two to squeeze into the side of the junction.

As this lies on the popular and scenic NC500 driving route, the narrow road can be very busy in summer.


2. Beinn Spionnaidh

Approaching Beinn Spionnaidh, with obvious break in boulderfield ahead

From the entrance to Polla, looking up toward Beinn Spionnaidh, you'll see the Allt Leacach flowing down through a break in forestry. On the northern bank of this burn, begin to walk uphill over grass and through heather - beware the wire remnants of a old deer-fence near the start. There are faint traces of previous boots, but in the main the route is pathless.

About halfway through the forest, there is a small bridge over the burn - handy if you miss crossing the burn higher up on the return. Through the forest, continue to follow the northern bank of the Allt Leacach. Higher up, boulderfield is encountered, though keeping to the edge of the burn avoids most of this.

At around a height of 400m, the burn splits and gradually disappears into a re-entrant above which more boulderfield is encountered. Ahead, a heather and grass-covered break in the boulders can be seen (see pic) - aim up this, then pick up some more easy terrain heading to the left (west).

At around a height of 600m boulderfield is unavoidable and a direct bearing onto the crest and to Beinn Spionnaidh's summit is made. The summit indicator consists of a trig point encircled by a stone shelter.


3. Cranstackie

Path up Cranstackie from the bealach

From Beinn Spionnaidh's summit trig, about turn and follow the hill's wide crest south-west. Quartzite boulderfield is crossed the length of the crest (around 500m) before descending begins.

After dropping to around c700m , boulderfield is gradually left behind, being replaced wth delightful grassy slopes. Never too steep, descend to the soggy col between Beinn Spionnaidh and Cranstackie.

After crossing the bealach, a faint path can be followed up Cranstackie's north-eastern shoulder. This grass-covered shoulder narrows, then broadens higher up. A bit further up , grass is replaced by more boulderfield for the final pull up to Cranstackie's summit .

Cranstackie's top is marked with a cairn perched above a short precipitous drop to the north-west. Stunning views in all directions !


4. Return

Descending back down aside the Allt Leacach

Cranstackie's southern shoulder looks most impressive, topped with quartzite boulders as it runs the length above Srath Dionard. However, it doesn't look a particularly enjoyable walking or running descent route particularly with the addition of searching for a suitable river crossing in Srath Beag below later in the day.

Instead, from Cranstackie's summit, retrace your steps to the bealach below Beinn Spionnaidh . Ahead, to avoid the steep ground above Coire an Uinnseinn, climb a couple of contours, then turning south-east, head around the coire and below some rocky outcrops.

Make a beeline for the Allt Leacach and ideally cross it above the 400m contour as below this you'll be stuck on the south side of the burn until the bridge halfway through the forest. Retrace your steps back to the roadside.





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