Reay Forest Corbetts from Lone

Hillwalking route up Foinaven, Meall Horn and Arkle from Achfary

Heading in from the roadside at the southern end of Loch Stack, this spectacular circular route takes in the 3 Corbett summits of Meall Horn, Foinaven and Arkle. A fine track leads into the remote area, thereafter paths are few, terrain is rough, mountain crests are many and navigation can be challenging.



Route outline


  Map base ©OpenStreetMap
Corbetts

Ganu Mor, Foinaven

Arkle

Meall Horn

Ascent 2550m (8360ft)
Distance 31km (19m)
Time 12:00hr
Start/finish Near Achfary
Grid Ref : NC297402
Terrain
easy hard
Nav
easy hard
Effort
easy hard
Scenery
ok fab


This is a spectacular outing taking in the three Corbett peaks of Meall Horn, Arkle and mighty Foinaven in a circular route.

The route starts from near Achfary at the southern end of Loch Stack and initially follows a private road. The road becomes a track as it heads into the Reay Forest wilderness, which higher up if left behind and where terrain is pathless for most of the route over the summits and mountain crests. This is a challenging route where navigation skills and route choice will be tested.



Route map




Route description


1. Getting to Achfary

Ruin at Lone, Arkle beyond

In the far north of Scotland, Foinaven, Arkle and Meall Horn lie in the vast area of Reay Forest over looking the A838 travelling from Lairg to Laxford Bridge and Rhiconich. A few miles south-east of Laxford Bridge is Loch Stack and at its southern end, just north of the hamlet of Achfary, there is a private road heading northwards. This is where the route begins and there is ample parking at the junction of this road or by the bridge over the inflow to Loch Stack.


2. Meall Horn

Meall Horn from the track above the Allt Horn

Leaving the public road behind, head over the bridge on the private road, then north up to the house at Airdachuilinn . The road is tarred to this house, thereafter a track leads to the sheds and bridge over the Allt Horn at Lone .

Cross the bridge and shortly thereafter the track comes to a junction - take the left fork and continue over a couple more bridges to a forested area guarded by two remarkable rocks either side of the track.

Continue following the track as it traces a route above the Allt Horn for roughly 3km to just below the 400m contour . Leave the track here and aim eastwards, initially losing a little height, bounding over peat hags and through heather. Heather ground cover gradually is replaced by grass as height is gained and any rocky outcrops are easily avoided.

Meall Horn's summit is reached on which a decent cairn rests from where fine views can be savoured.


3. Ganu Mor, Foinaven

Approaching Foinaven from the south-east

Foinaven has an array of summits and ridges with the highest point being just about as far away as possible from Meall Horn. There's a right mix of terrain ahead awaiting !

From Meall Horn's summit, turn north-west and head along the hill's crest its northern high point, Creagan Meall Horn . From this minor summit, aim west-north-west and you should be able to pick a route down to Bealach Horn avoiding crags - the going is steep and loose, but not overly difficult.

Cross the bealach and the track , then travel northwards for 2km, picking for a grassy route amongst the slabs and boulders.

Contour around Creag Dionard (minor summit at 778m and not marked on the OS maps) on its western side above the crags that drop to Coir a' Chruiteir. Now heading west, gain the minor summit (marked 808m) - do not be tempted to by-pass this summit by its northern side !

We're now on Foinaven's ridge - there's some easy scrambling to enjoy on the way, but take care, particularly in wet conditions as the quartzite boulders can be very slippy.

Drop to Cadha na Beucaich, where there is a small stone shelter , then up to A' Cheir Ghorm . The spur heading north-east from A' Cheir Ghorm is most impressive and a scrambling route can be taken along it to drop down to Srath Dionard.

Continue along the ridge over one more rise to Foinaven's summit, Ganu Mor . The flat summit crest has two small cairns 150m apart, of which the western marks the top. Stunning views from here and on clear days you can see to Orkney !


4. Arkle

Arkle from the Cadha na Beucaich screes

On Ganu Mor, about turn and retrace your steps along Foinaven's crests to the shelter on Cadha na Beucaich . Aiming south-west, begin to descend an excellent scree-run - if you enjoy scree-running, this is a pretty good 'un and will bring a smile to your face - for that a bit apprehensive, it's easier than it looks.

Gradually heather takes over from the scree and a line of old wooden posts is met. Follow these posts travelling southwards to cross the track coming up from Lochstack Lodge, then aim for the eastern end of Loch na Tuadh .

Cross the burn flowing into the loch (some care required in spate), then keeping some crags ahead on your right, climb up heather clad slopes.

Ground levels out somewhat and Arkle's eastern shoulder comes into view, scree everywhere. Look to the left (south) side of this shoulder and the base of a relatively easy route can be picked out. This line follows stunted heather for the most part, avoiding boulderfield, scree and rocky outcrops.

Ascent is steep and gradually boulderfield replaces heather, but it's not long before the crst of Arkle's eastern spur is reached and terrain becomes more manageable. Arkle's broad summit crest is reached - time for a break on the small cairn that sits on the summit and take in the vast views.


5. Return

Descending Arkle with view over Loch Stack to Ben Stack

Arkle's stunning crest curves around the scree filled coire of Am Bathaich below. Immediately after leaving the summit, the ridge narrows and an amazing causeway of quartzite is crossed - some care required, particularly if damp ! This leads on to a minor summit at 751m.

The ridge then broadens and a faint path is followed down to a col, then up to Arkle's southern summit .

Now on a very broad and flat plateau of small stones, head southwards. After around 500m, the plateau is left behind and the final descent of the day begins. Using lines of grass between slabs and rocks, descend in a generally southwards direction, taking care not to be pulled too far to the right (west). Evenutally the track above the Allt Horn is picked up and retraced back to the roadside.





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