Cape Wrath Trail

Day 0: Newcastle - Fort William - Gleann Camgharaidh


I’d been waiting for this day for months. The train tickets were booked, kit packed, and maps and routes all printed, sorted and neatly compiled. Today was to be filled by the long journey up to Fort William. My train left Newcastle at 7.40 to Glasgow and I then had a 2 hour wait before catching a second train to Fort William. The plan was to then catch a further train from Fort William to Loch Eilside station. A change was not necessary though, this train didn’t in fact terminate until Mllaig. I did however have to request the driver to stop at the station. As I found out later in the trip there are many places in the Highlands where you stop trains in much the same way people stop busses in the towns and cities to the south.

I finally made Locheilside station at about 4.45pm and after a 5 minute sort of my bag and replacing my Crocs with my walking boots, I set off. I had toyed with the idea of starting the trek from Glenfinnan (the variant stage in the book), but instead decided to take on the original route. I had read of some tricky descents from the bealach on that trail, and even one of landslides and death defying acts required around the waterfall. I decided that the original route, despite its additional distance and climbing would be a ‘simpler’ one.

_ _
[Noth to the Cape!]

I had a 2 mile road walk from the station to the start of the trail that would see me head north from the road up Gleann Fionnlighe. The plan for that night was simply to seek out a wild camp and ready myself for the next day. It was such a warm and light evening though that I decided to just walk until I either got tired or the light started to turn. The walk up the Glen was an easy one with a good track continuing all the way up until Na Socachan. At this point the OS 1:50K shows the track turning left and continuing along the lower banks of Gulvain. There is also another track below that one not marked on the map. This the one that I followed until its end, around half way up to the bealach between Gualann nan Osna and Gulvain. From here the going gets tough, and it becomes a slog over bog and moor to the pass at about 1600ft. Navigationally, this section was very easy but tough physically, especially on the final climb. In retrospect, this was probably more due to the weight of a full bag of rations, being it so early on in the trail. I don’t like to depend on anyone or anything for my success (or lack of it!) and so carried enough calories for the full 10 days, adding 7Kg to an already 19Kg Bergen. 

[Views from the bealach]

The views from the bealach give the first impressions of what the trail will bring: wild, remote, and beautiful rugged landscapes. Views back down and the Glen and even more so down toward Gleann Camgharaidh are stunning. I made the Bealach at about 8pm, good going so far, 3 hours and 8 miles on. With no suitable places to pitch the decision to keep moving was an obvious one. I descended from the Bealach North North Easterly. The book suggests a NNW decent, but from my position this looked quite steep and very rough. The decent, although still quite rough and boggy was not too tricky and about half way down I noticed a tent already pitched by the river side. I decided to head that way in the hope of the ground being good. The tent belonged to a couple who were walking to Inverey and were busy fighting the midges as I passed by and said hello. The ground in the glen was very rough and I struggled to find a semi-dry and flat spot. I did eventually though and so camped down for the night at about 9pm.

About 3 year ago I had the pleasure of wild camping on Rannoch Moor (near the remains of Ba cottage). I’ll never forget the midges that night; it was like a cloud of black wrath descending. I’ve often regaled the story to those thinking of camping during the summer months in the Highlands. No more though, my new anecdote is now of Gleann Camgharaidh. The shear number of the little sods was unbelievable. I donned a head net but struggled to even see through the mesh such were the number of midges landing on that and the rest of my clothing. I had to go through a full military decontamination exercise (consisting of beating myself senseless and running in circles) before diving through the door of my tent and promptly zipping it shut for the night.

[Wild camp at Gleann Camgharaidh]

Weary from the days travel and early evening yomp I had a quick flapjack, a few jelly babies and out came the sleeping bag…’shut-eye’ soon followed!

I felt good about knocking out the 8-9 mile that night thinking that I was definitely now on track to complete the trail with 10 full days remaining. I had booked 2 trains home from Inverness, one on the 3rd and another on the 4th August, this allowed me either a 10 or an 11 day trek with a full day travel back to Inverness required. Booking well in advance meant I paid £30 in total for the 2 tickets, a journey that on the day would cost over £100 for one! This was by far the longest trek I’d undertaken since my daughter was born 13 month ago, and so the only option in my head was the 10 day one, I wrote on my route notes that night “I miss Amelia so much”, how on earth was I going to manage the next 11 nights?!