We hiked The Affric Kintail Way in Mid-May. 44 miles (71 Km) from Drumnadrochit on Loch Ness to Morvich with in excess of 6000 feet of ascent over the course of the trail. The AKW is a fully signposted and a superb cross-country route for experienced travellers and mountain bikers.
We carried our rucksacks and began the journey at 6am.
30 minutes- Kilmarnock to Glasgow Buchanan bus station.
5 hours- Buchanan station to Inverness (The engine went on fire and we switched bus).
30 minutes– Inverness to Drumnadrochit.
Day 1: Starting 2 hours behind schedule due to the bus fiasco. We hiked 13 Km from Drumnadrochit to the junction where the forest trail meets the main road A831 and pitched our tent for the night. A flowing river was just across the road.
- Fairly smooth and easy hike.
- Not many water streams.
- Ideally we would have camped in Cannich but we didn’t make it.
Day 2: We hiked 24 Km. The main road lead us to Cannich where we had an AMAZING breakfast at the cafe of the campsite/ caravan site! I highly recommend stopping there. Vegetarian breakfast and coffee cost £8.
The route was a combination of roads, ancient drove roads and wet rough underfoot. We passed through the STUNNING Dog Falls. We camped on the side of the trail at the edge of loch Beinn a ‘Mheadhoin. It was a rainy night.
- Mostly ascent.
- The most scenic day (The beauty we experienced was nothing but MAGICAL!).
- There is an outstanding spot at the eastern end of Loch Affric where you can camp.
- No phone signal until the end of the trail.
Day 3: We hiked 24 Km. The remotest and most mountainous part of the trail. It rained all day long. It was muddy, wet and boggy. Some serious thigh work was needed to “conquer” the steep ascents and descents. We passed by Alltbeithe Youth Hostel, the highest and most remote in the Highlands (If you plan on staying for the night, make sure you book ahead as it’s often full). Shortly after that, we reached a great place to shelter from the rain, Camban bothy (A hut used as a mountain refuge. You can stay there as long as you respect the rules). We camped at the foot of the five sister mountain range in a beautiful stage-like spot right next to Glen licht House which is another bothy that’s available for hire to walkers and climbers wanting to stay in this fantastic mountain location.
- Water streams and rivers are everywhere.
- Remember: The direction of river flow indicates the direction of descent.
- Stock up on food before you reach this part of the trail as there is nowhere to get supplies.
- You can finish the trail on this day and camp at the campsite near the finish line.
- Deers, rabbits, birds and sheep are everywhere.
Day 4: We hiked 10 Km. The track started to widen and civilization started creeping in. After hitting the finish line, we were rewarded by a Fjord, a narrow and deep inlet of the Atlantic ocean between high cliffs. We had a nice breakfast at Ault Na Chruinn and caught the express Citylink bus to Glasgow at the road A87.
- Mostly downhills.
- Cafes and restaurants are within easy reach at Ault Na Chruinn.
Pro-tips & Recommendations:
- Snacks will keep you going. Take as many as you can carry.
- First aid kit is a must-have.
- Respect the roughness and power of wilderness. Don’t macho up and train before you hit the trail.
- The weather can be funny. Waterproofs are a must for this route.
- Mosquito repellent is a no brainer. Midges can be savage lol.
- Long distance hiking is a bit of strength and a lot of endurance.
- Dried food is your fuel.
- OS Locate and Viewranger are my favorite free offline Apps. Check them out.
- Invest in a good pair of hiking boots. Your legs and feet carry you and your rucksack. So make sure they’re warm, dry and perfectly fit because blisters suck.
- If it’s uncomfortably cold in the tent, put on your waterproof jacket and trousers and sleep in your full gear. We had a couple of brutally cold nights and my husband woke up the next morning saying: “The best advice I’ve got from you is to sleep fully geared”. The layers keep you warm, but the waterproofs help retain the heat around your body.
- Never touch or eat any plant you don’t know. We all know what happened to Christopher McCandless from the movie Into The Wild.
- PACK SMART. I’ll make a separate post dedicated to how to pack. But long story short, weight is CRUCIAL in long distance hiking. The more weight you carry, the slower you’ll walk and the less you’ll enjoy the beauty of the wilderness.
- Litter is an eyesore and a risk to the wildlife. Take an extra bag to carry your litter. There are not many waste bins.
- If you wanna take the whole experience to another level, take Mountain skills course and you’ll never look at hiking the same way again. We took ours with Mountaineering Scotland. Our instructor Heather, a stunning well-seasoned lady taught us navigation, route choice, coping with different terrains, emergency procedures and many more. It was totally worth the money and time!
- You could start the trail from either side, Drumnardochit or Morvich. However I would recommend starting from Drumnadrochit as there is a very long and steep ascent if you come from Morvich side.
- Check out the official website of the trail.
- If sh*t hits the fan, mountain rescue jeeps are at both ends of the trail. Call or msg 999 and give your exact grid reference (You can get that from the apps I mentioned).
Brands: (I wish I could say this is sponsored but it’s not, lol)
Some brands are cheap and useless, others are over-priced. If you wanna invest in a good gear but you don’t know which brands to go for, here are some of our recommendations:
My rucksack: Osprey
Ken’s rucksack: Vango
Sleeping bag: Vango