Location: Ross and Cromarty

Grade: Moderate mountain walk

Distance: 10 miles/17km

Time: 6-7 hours

The closest most Munro-baggers get to beautiful Strathconon is the four Strathfarrar Munros to the south from where they can gaze towards a jumble of well shaped, albeit lower, hills. Backpackers may well be more familiar with the glen as it forms part of a long cross-Scotland walk from Loch Carron in the west, over the Bealach Bhearnais to Gleann Fhiodhaig, then down to Loch Bennacharain at the head of Strathconon. The route then cuts across the hills to the River Orrin and the Orrin Reservoir from where it’s an easy stroll down to Muir of Ord and the east coast at the Beauly Firth.

We planned nothing as ambitious as that as we renewed acquaintance with Strathconon. The single-track road from Marybank, near Contin, is a delight – well wooded with the River Conon coursing through a rosary of pools and lochans. Beyond Milton the hills begin to rise steeply on either side of the narrowing glen and soon the bulbous nose of Bac an Eich’s north-east ridge, Sgurr Toll Lochain, comes into view, with the hill’s summit ridge climbing off to the west above the glaciated corrie that cradles Loch Toll Lochain.

Bac an Eich shares an elevated and rather isolated position with another Corbett, An Sidhean, and the pair of them dominate an area of high ridges and corrugated upland that stretches between Loch Monar in the south and Strathconon in the north. The whole region is cross-crossed with stalkers’ tracks and deep-set glens, alive with red deer.

We followed the track past the farm at Inverchoran and into the deep-cut Gleann Chorainn. We crossed the burn and took a diagonal ascending line over slopes of tussocky grass towards the outflow of Loch Toll Lochain. A cool breeze discouraged the midges and revitalised us as we climbed higher towards the steep, almost intimidating, nose of the hill’s east ridge, Sgurr Toll Lochain. Rocky outcrops formed steep battlements above the corrie’s loch but in between we could weave a route up very steep grassy slopes – grabbing a handful of withered grass to haul yourself upwards doesn’t make for a confident ascent! Gina, my long-suffering wife, muttered about her preference for Munros, where there are mostly well-worn footpaths to the summits…

From the top of the Sgurr a gentle slope climbs over peat hags and groughs towards the summit where the trig point is contained within its little windbreak. We sat out of the breeze and drank our coffee, and took in the all-encircling views. Ben Wyvis dominated the north, across the other Strathconon Corbetts of Meallan nan Uan and Sgurr a’ Mhuilinn. In the south, the great corrie-bitten massif of Maoile Lunndaidh looked simply leviathan while to the west the unmistakable outline of the Torridon giants cast their spell.

We didn’t hang around on the summit – we had a steep descent ahead of us. My advice is to follow the hill’s north-west ridge for a short distance then, at the first available opportunity, head north onto the west ridge of Meall Buidhe which is then followed down to the ruins at Corriefeol. This avoids the steep, vegetated ravines at the foot of Bac an Eich. Return to the start by following the path along the south bank of the River Meig and Loch Bennacharain, or, if the waters of the loch are high, follow tracks to the road end at Scardroy and take the tarmac trail back to the car.


Map: OS 1:50,000 Landranger sheet 25 (Glen Carron & Loch Affric)

Distance: 10 miles/16km

Approx Time: 6-7 hours

Start/Finish: Strathconon road near Inverchoran Farm (GR: NH 262508).

Transport: None to the start.

Information: Inverness TIC (01463 252401), www.walkhighlands.co.uk

Route: Leave the road and cross the bridge over the River Meig. Pass the farm buildings at Inverchoran and follow the track that climbs into Gleann Chorainn. Drop down to the river and cross it just beyond the end of the forest plantation. Take a diagonal ascending line towards the outflow of Loch Toll Lochain. From the outflow climb the steep grassy slopes between the rock outcrops on Sgurr Toll Lochain. At the top a gentler slope rises across peat hags towards the summit of Bac an Eich. From the summit descend by the NW ridge and then traverse N, above a steep ravine, to the W ridge of Meall Buidhe which is then followed down to Corriefeol. Take the track NE to Scardroy and the end of the tarmac road. Follow the road back to the starting point or alternatively, follow the path along the south bank of Loch Beannacharain.