1689333098 Slioch kayak and hike FionaOutdoors | phillipspacc

Slioch kayak and hike – FionaOutdoors


I wrote about a kayak and hike up Slioch Mountain in the Scottish Highlands in the June 2023 issue of the scottish magazine. If you enjoyed the article, you can purchase future magazines or request a subscription.

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Descent down Loch Maree

When I return to a mountain, I always prefer to find a new route to the top. But Slioch, a dramatically precipitous peak in Wester Ross in northwest Scotland, has few options for getting closer.

Rising above picturesque Loch Maree, the 981m peak has steep crags on most sides, plus the more common ascent via Coire na Sleaghaich to the south-east.

Except the map revealed another option: cross the lake to get to the mountain.

It turned out to be a brilliant idea, and for two reasons. Firstly, the water route would avoid the need to walk a notoriously boggy 4 km riverside path from Incheril, near the village of Kinlochewe. Secondly, the views from Slioch were immediately mesmerizing as my husband Gordon and I pushed our kayaks towards Loch Maree.

The paddle from the south coast, just off the main A832, to the north coast is less than 1km and looking up from our kayaks the mountain seemed intimidatingly steep, rugged and spectacular.

It’s no wonder Slioch appears so frequently in Scottish photography exhibits, from postcards and greeting cards to calendars.

An earlier forecast of calm weather seemed to have been less than optimistic, and a sometimes breezy easterly wind caused Gordon and I to wander rather than row straight across the lake.

It didn’t matter, though, because we were sure our route would be much quicker than walking to Slioch, and in any case, it was exciting to kayak to the base of a mountain.

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1689333094 236 Slioch kayak and hike FionaOutdoors | phillipspacc

From kayaking to walking

Arriving in the shallows just off the north shore, we got out of our boats, hauled them to safety, and swapped out kayak drysuits and buoyancy aids for walking gear. Everything had stayed dry thanks to the sealed hatches in the kayaks.

We welcomed a tenuous path that took us from the shoreline, through a patchwork of small trees, gorse, heather, and clumps of grass to the main track. We join him before a bridge over Abhainn an Fhasaigh, a river that flows into Loch Maree.

At a crossroads we turn right to begin the ascent to Slioch. The ascent was fairly gentle at first, but then it became steeper as I traveled towards Gleann Biannasdail. At another junction, we walked to the left, although the other path seemed tempting. He was heading down the Abhainn an Fhasaigh side towards a waterfall.

As I checked the map, I noticed that the route went up to Lochan Fada, where another path descended into neighboring Gleann na Muice. If a summit hadn’t been the focus of the day, I would have happily explored this trail.

However, Slioch was one of the last 30 Gordon Munros to bag his second run of the 282 Scottish mountains with an elevation of over 3,000 ft (914.4 m), so he was not persuaded to wander anywhere. other side.

Our route from 200m high to a col became more evident. This is a popular mountain and one path has been worn down into the grass and rocks so we rarely needed to check our location.

We were also lucky with clear views on this stage and looking back we could see the jagged outline of Loch Maree, with the Beinn Eighe range behind it, getting smaller and smaller.

The route is almost constantly, and testing, uphill and also steep in sections. We were glad to reach a more gradual incline after rounding the base of a lower summit, Sgùrr Dubh and entering the grassy bowl of Coire na Sleaghaich, though it was short lived and we were soon faced with another rocky incline.

In a lochan, actually one of two small lakes, we sit on a large rock to rest in the nice sun and recharge with snacks. It was hard to tear ourselves away from the spectacular view over the lake and west towards steeper mountain peaks.

Beyond the lochans, the route continued up a steep, eroded path, first over rocks and then over grass. For a while the trail went back and forth with some parts fading into soggy wet ground and this required more concentration to stay on track.

Then, from about 750 m high, we find ourselves in the middle of a thick fog. The clouds that had been distant before had moved closer to cover the summit of Slioch.

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We could see Beinn Alligin in the distance.
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However, although it was disappointing that our sight was obscured, a specter of the Brocken suddenly presented itself to us, and we marveled at the magnified shadow of ourselves cast in the air above the clouds and in a magical arc of light.

A short descent, followed by yet another climb, brought us to a geodesic point, but we knew from our earlier Slicoh hike that this was not the highest point. Although the fog prevented us from seeing the true summit, we remembered that it was only a short walk to the burial mound on the north peak.

Brilliantly, the clouds began to disperse and we were treated to a magnificent view to the south, west and north, over the Torridon Mountains, as well as Fisherfield and Letterewe forests. Loch Maree and the many islands stretched out below us, and beyond we could see the west coast, a vast sea, and the outline of the Hebridean islands.

A circuit to wear in a Munro top

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1689333095 515 Slioch kayak and hike FionaOutdoors | phillipspacc

There was an option at the top of Slioch to just go back the same route at the start, but I was looking forward to another high peak further east. A ridge, An t-Aon Cheum, provided an undulating, sometimes narrow route to reach Sgùrr an Tuill Bhain, which at 933m is the height of Munro but classified as Munro Top. There are 277 listed subsidiary Munro Summits in Scotland.

With the cloud coming and going, Gordon and I enjoyed the drama of suddenly seeing, and then not seeing, the mountainous panorama.

Descending south-east along the northern edge of Coire na Sleaghaich, we searched for the path that would take us to the shore of Loch Maree. At this point, we also found ourselves walking alongside another hiker.

He told us how strong winds the day before had forced him to withdraw from his climb to Slioch. He had enjoyed his second (and successful) attempt today, but he wasn’t looking forward to the swampy road back to the start.

I was about to walk that section for the fourth time in two days. As hard as we tried, Gordon and I found it hard not to sound smug when we told him about our rowing on the lake.

Kayak around Loch Maree

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Leaving the walkway just after the bridge over Abhainn an Fhasaigh, we made the short hike back to our kayaks, and in reverse, changed out of our hiking gear for kayak clothing and safety gear.

An expected tailwind that should have brought us quickly back to our starting point failed to materialize and instead we felt a strong westerly breeze. He made paddling to the south shore more challenging but, well, you guessed it, considerably more enjoyable than a long soggy walk at the end of the day.

Made: Slioch is translated from the Gaelic word « sleagh », which means « the spear ». The shape of the mountain is most obvious when viewed from Lochan Fada to the northeast.

Route details:

Start and finish: Car park for Coille na Glas Letire Trails, off Au832, northwest of Kinlochewe.

Distance: 14km

Unevenness: 1084m.

OS of maps: Explorer 435.

Required equipment:



spray deck

buoyancy aid

Cagoule or dry suit

backpack for a walk

walking clothes

Waterproof jacket and pants.

Spare insulator jacket

Mountain boots

gloves and hats

Food and water

map and compass

Emergency blanket or bivvy bag

Mobile phone