Start : Signposted Trailhead @ Glas Leitire car park, A832 Loch Maree.
Distance: 4 miles total, there and back
Ascent : 586m or just under 2,000 feet
Rating: 4 stars : it’s a slog but stunning at the top with great views to Slioch, one of the giants which rears above Loch Maree.
I love the North West Highlands and we had booked a few days away in a cottage in Torridon – a place of my heart. The weather had been mostly dry but the winds on the mountain summits ruled out the big stuff – 50mph at 3,000 feet was forecasted as being the least windy day out of our 3 days! High winds seem to be so much more common these days…I can’t remember such constant high winds (at height) as this past year or so. Global warming no doubt!
But that whole area is just so good with so many options no matter the weather. Still keen to get as high as we could, the Mountain Trail above Loch Maree got my vote for a final explore of this gorgeous area which is also one of the most wonderful sections of the North Coast 500 route.In fact with a bit of time, this would make a great half day walk especially in summer.
From Torridon village, it’s a 25 min drive through stunning Glen Torridon to Loch Maree and the well signposted car park of ‘Glas Leitir’ where various well built trails start.
Liathach, the scariest mountain in Torridon, was looking quite awesome, as it usually does…looking back at the mountain as moody clouds lifted and the sun tried to get through…
It was blowing a bit of a hoolie even in this relatively sheltered spot with streamers already streaking across the loch’s dark blue waters.That said, I love seeing lochs and the sea whipped up wildly, even if it doesn’t bode well for walking in the hills! Everything looks so elemental.
There wasn’t a soul about as we got our boots on and checked the rucksacks.Even on a gloomy day, everything looked so colourful.What an area this is, truly magnificent.
There are two options for doing this trail….the recommended route is to go up the very open, rockier trail (left fork) and descend via the so called ‘ gorge’ route. Full details are on walkhighlands website:
But given the strength of the wind, we decided to go up via the gorge this time, hoping that this would at least keep us out of the bitter easterly and provide some shelter.
Off we set, the Caledonian Pine woods stunningly beautiful, woods which have been here for over 8,000 years. This late in the season, the leaves of the silver birches were a deep golden yellow, the bracken dark bronze. Across Loch Maree, the views to Slioch (which means The Spear) opened up quickly, the mountain trying to shed its cap of cloud.I had a horrible feeling that all the mountains might be shrouded by the time we got higher, as the forecast suggested. Ah well, it was good to get out anyway and that wind was fair blowing the cobwebs away!
The path is beautifully engineered though I think they should ban anyone from building a path who has long legs – lots of the steps felt as if they’d been made for giants! But it certainly let us gain height quite quickly.This isn’t a casual stroll of a path but a true hill walk, just one with a much better and drier path than most.It therefore needs good hiking boots as the path gets stonier and rougher as it climbs.
I suppose what I’m also saying is, this route still felt like quite a slog.That said, we’d both had short lived but streaming colds the week before so maybe there were some vestiges of these still in our systems.Or strolling Applecross’s beaches and eating carrot cake in cafes had made us extra lazy. As Chris usually says when I bemoan feeling tired…age doesn’t come alone! I think I expect my 64 year old legs to perform as if they were 40 years younger.
We reached the gorge which was impressive and with the (unnecessary) to me sign which said ‘ do not cross the fence.’ Why would you? I suppose there’s always some nut job.We saw plenty of those at the Grand Canyon, people who weren’t satisfied with the superb viewpoints built along the cliff edges but had to scramble further out onto dodgy tongues of rock for what to me seemed no extra advantage.As an avowed wimp on edges and ledges, I just can’t fathom that mentality.
On we headed up, up, up. It WAS relentless albeit on a decent path.There is an information leaflet at the car park which describes the different habitats you walk through, indicated by way markers.It was quite good to check off each one and gauge what progress we were making!
However, the views behind were just getting better all the time.
Finally we passed the 460m marker – nearly there.
Feeling tired at this point, we had a brief stop for some tea and chocolate.Only 120m ascent to go! Sure enough, in another 15 mins, the beautifully named Lunar Loch came into view.We’d arrived!
We were now in a spectacular, incredibly wild and elemental landscape, rock scoured.Quite awesome actually and in places, lunar like.
It was cold up here at nearly 2,000 feet. In Scotland, mountains under 3,000 feet but more than 2,500 feet are known as Corbetts and one of these – Meall a Ghiubhais – now lay dead ahead.
But the wind did not make it an attractive prospect today.In better conditions and feeling a bit stronger, it would be a great add on to the hike.
Sitting huddled out of the wind, we ate our sandwiches in what was a dramatic spot, almost a moonscape.Then we headed further along the path , exploring this fine area a bit more.
Multiple small lochs appeared all overlooked by Beinn Eighe, one of the Torridon giants and looking intimidatingly rough and rocky.
I really loved this high level path up and after 10 mins, we reached Conservation Cairn, giving more beautiful views.
Across Loch Maree, two thousand feet below, rose The Spear. When the sun shines on its summit slopes, the reason for Slioch’s name is clear.Zoomed below…
We decided not to descend via the rockier, steeper east side of the trail but retrace our steps the way we had come up.
The stone steps were a bit slippy when damp and heading down, but there was no difficulty as such.It took us about 1hr 20 mins to get up to Lunar Loch and we spent about an hour up there.
In fact, it didn’t take much less time to descend – 1hr 15 or so as you have to watch every step on the rocky path.Walking at height in Torridon usually means steep ascents and this was no different. But it was a straightforward, impossible – to – get – lost means of getting safely up into a very wild landscape with fantastic views from the minute we arrived at the car park.Although this being Torridon, I should say, the minute we left our cottage!
And to cap it all, we had still time to drive to Gairloch’s excellent Community Cafe, a big find this trip.Homemade Tiffin, cakes and other yummy things and a lovely shop selling things I really don’t need but love…soap and candles.
Loch Maree and Slioch were looking just beautiful in the afternoon light, which had now improved…
A well deserved stop after a fair bit of effort and a visit to a Gothic landscape which will draw us back again, no doubt about it.
2 thoughts on “The Mountain trail TO Lunar loch, Wester Ross”
What an absolutely beautiful landscape. I lived in Scotland, briefly, and I do miss the wild beauty of it. Chuckling at your comments about signs and nut jobs. I’ll quite often spot a sign and think, ‘ do people really need to be told?’ but it seems, yes. Yes, there are always some people who do.
Thanks Helen…lovely to know you enjoyed the post! Spelling out the obvious seems to be the thing these days, doesn’t it? Maybe health and safety gone mad as organisations try to protect themselves from blame…crazy🙂