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ACTIVE OUTDOORS: Glen Shiel Corbett of Sgurr Mhic Bharraich offers spectacular high point on west coast


By John Davidson

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A view from the summit cairn to Morvich at the head of Loch Duich.
A view from the summit cairn to Morvich at the head of Loch Duich.

Standing proudly at the western end of Glen Shiel above the shores of Loch Duich, Sgurr Mhic Bharraich is the last high point on a ridge that stretches for miles.

Being slightly lower than the nine Munros that grace the southern flanks of this stunning glen, it is perhaps a less sought-after summit.

However, at 779m it is classified as a Corbett and, more importantly, provides some of the most spectacular views in the area.

From the top you can look across to the angular tops of the Five Sisters, glance south-west to see the bulk of Beinn Sgritheall, get a glimpse of The Saddle’s Forcan Ridge and even make out Skye’s Cuillin mountain range on a clear day.

As a mountain route, it’s a pretty short outing, but as the start is at sea level there’s no getting away from the fact that there’s some serious ascent involved. It’s also worth noting that, while a good stalkers’ path is followed for much of the way, the final stretch is pathless, steep and rough with a few crags about, so navigation and mountain skills are a must for this hike.

Loch Coire nan Crogachan sits just below the bealach between Glen Shiel and Glen More.
Loch Coire nan Crogachan sits just below the bealach between Glen Shiel and Glen More.

It starts at the campsite at Shiel Bridge, from where you follow the track through a gate then turn immediately left to stay on the east side of the river on a clear path that climbs steeply for a short way.

After less than a kilometre, the Allt Undalain is crossed by a bridge over some falls and the path continues on the west side of the water.

The good path gains height gradually now, allowing you to take in the views as the eye is drawn ahead to the mass of Sgurr na Creige that rises ahead where the valley splits.

A direct ascent of that spur – not recommended – would lead you straight to the summit of The Saddle, and from different angles as you walk you can see the outline of the Forcan Ridge, a knife-edge scrambling route that is the most impressive and most challenging in the glen.

Today’s walk is much more straightforward, as it follows the path towards the confluence of burns before bending right to climb to a bealach.

Sgurr na Creige which leads to The Saddle, with the Forcan Ridge visible to the left of the picture.
Sgurr na Creige which leads to The Saddle, with the Forcan Ridge visible to the left of the picture.

Ignore the track that leads left to follow the river more closely into the Coire Uaine, instead climbing west towards Loch Coire nan Crogachan. You’ll find plenty of opportunities to pause for breath on the steep climb and peer into the hidden bowl of Coire Uaine below The Saddle, a spectacular and remote spot.

Marker posts for the Lochalsh Trail are dotted along the path as it ascends to the bealach just beyond Loch Coire nan Crogachan, which provides a lovely spot high in the hills.

A cairn a short way on marks the bealach before that path starts its descent into Glen More to meet the road at Moyle that continues to Glenelg, from where a summer ferry operates between the mainland and Skye.

However, our route up the Corbett leaves the path at the high point to climb Sgurr Mhic Bharraich. A lot of the guidebooks recommend leaving the path on the east side of the loch, crossing its outflow then ascending the slopes to meet the south-east ridge of the hill.

The Five Sisters can be seen in all their glory from the summit.
The Five Sisters can be seen in all their glory from the summit.

I’d continued as far as the bealach, so made my ascent on the pathless mountain from there, aiming up the steep slopes between the crags, making use of deer tracks and zigzagging my way up to follow a grassy rake I’d observed from the path earlier.

This led me safely under the crags and with a bit of extra effort I made my way up more steep slopes to gain the ridge just a few hundred metres from the summit.

The summit plateau is dotted with knolls, rocks and small lochans, but the most prominent rise is clearly marked with a large cairn.

I took in the views and remembered days spent on the surrounding hills – as well as a memorable weekend climbing Beinn Sgritheall from the nearby Suardalan bothy. While the weather wasn’t completely clear, the cloud lifted enough to identify the peaks and I enjoyed a short stay in this wild and wonderful location.

Looking across to The Saddle and the dramatic bowl of Coire Uaine.
Looking across to The Saddle and the dramatic bowl of Coire Uaine.

While there are more direct return routes, for those who can manage long, steep descents, I opted to return to the bealach and follow the path down, this time using the south-east ridge of the hill before cutting across the hillside to the north of Loch Coire nan Crogachan.

Sgurr Mhic Bharraich certainly offers a good hill trip in its own right, and you can’t ask for much more than this for a perfect west coast setting.

A post for the Lochalsh Trail.
A post for the Lochalsh Trail.

Route details

Sgurr Mhic Bharraich

Distance 8 miles / 13 km

Terrain Good stalkers’ path to bealach, then pathless mountain to summit; navigation and mountain skills required

Start/finish Sheil Bridge, Kintail

Map OS Landranger 33; OS Explorer 413

A Corbett with fine views at the head of Glen Shiel

Sgurr Mhic Bharraich. ©Crown copyright 2024 Ordnance Survey. Media 034/24.
Sgurr Mhic Bharraich. ©Crown copyright 2024 Ordnance Survey. Media 034/24.

Click here to see the route in OS Maps

Looking up to the crags below the summit of Sgurr Mhic Bharraich from the stalkers’ path.
Looking up to the crags below the summit of Sgurr Mhic Bharraich from the stalkers’ path.

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