Walk 1163 - printer friendly version
Fraoch Bheinn from Strathan (Loch Arkaig) Walk
Author - Lou Johnson
Length - 5.0 miles / 8.1 km
Ascent - 2700 feet / 818 metres
Grade - moderate
Start - OS grid reference NM987916
Lat 56.971648 + Long -5.3134561
Postcode PH34 4EL (approx. location only)
This walk is inspirational will be remembered for a long time. Taking you to the edge of a wilderness, it provides a taste of solitude hard to find in our crowded island. From the small settlement of Gairlochy to the west of Spean Bridge, a narrow road heads west for over 20km along the shores of Loch Arkaig to Strathan. The lochside road needs care and provides nearly half an hour of increasing anticipation as you head into the mountains. Reaching the end of the public road at a gate (grid ref. NM987916), you are in beautiful, wild Glen Dessarry surrounded by hills. Apart from a few scattered buildings you have reached a very isolated part of Scotland - the edge of the "Rough Bounds of Knoydart".
There is enough space to park a few cars and our objective, as yet out of view, lies to the north. It is wild unfrequented country and although walkers use the valley paths, few venture onto the hills. As expected we were alone for the whole day with only red deer as our companions. Following the track west, ignore the left fork to the neat white house of Strathan and continue to reach the bridge over the Dearg Allt coming in from your right. The path to take heads north just before the bridge and its start is hard to locate. However as you follow the stream upwards into the hills the path becomes more obvious. Height is gained easily and the path levels off near a derelict fence. Fording the stream here is easy, aided by some timber pallets, and you need to head across some rough ground to gain the main ridge of Fraoch Bheinn.
From now on there are no paths to follow. You are on your own. After crossing the lower slopes of the ridge, which are wet and boggy in places, it is a case of choosing the easiest line up through low crags and over grass to the summit. Nowhere is any scrambling required and although there are a few false tops the summit is reached without problem. As height is gained the views improve and by the time you settle down beside the cairn you have an unrestricted view in every direction. The detail of the view is stupendous and armed with a map you can slowly work you way around the awesome panorama identifying the many hills and other landmarks of interest.
Adding to the feeling of wilderness, the weather played its part. Every so often dark shower clouds moved rapidly across the landscape depositing their contents across the hills. Luckily we stayed dry and watched in wonder as mother nature followed its time honoured course. Reluctantly leaving the summit, we let Fraoch Bheinn in peace, pleased our short visit had been so memorable. Retracing our route down the main ridge we opted to follow the rough track on the west side of the Dearg Allt to reach the main track in the Glen. Slowly plodding back to our car, the real sense of solitude remained as another shower headed down Glen Dessarry towards us. It had a been a great day and an experience I would recommend.