Carn Eighe, Mam Sodhail and Co. from Glen Affric Walking

Big, wild, and dramatic, the twin peaks of Carn Eighe and Mam Sodhail are the anchor points of this memorable and fairly challenging round. The highest two hills north of the Great Glen, their domed summits offer predictably wide-reaching views, but for fans of ridge walking it's the long eastern ridges that are the real highlights of the range. In Munro-summit-focused guidebooks Carn Eighe and Mam Sodhail are generally described along with Beinn Fhionnlaidh, on the basis that this smaller outlying peak is otherwise a fiddle to reach. I'm not saying don't climb Beinn Fhionnlaidh as an add-on - it's nice enough - but whether bagging Munros is your game, or you're motivated more simply by big quality days, the longer and more logical-looking option on the map ropes in Toll Creagach and Tom a' Choinnich instead, to create a single giant round with four Munro ticks (if you're counting). Including Beinn Fhionnlaidh too would be a fiddly out-and-back leg with considerable extra ascent, and personally I'd leave it for another time (a round of Gleann a' Choilich is one obvious occasion, or perhaps a full house of the Mullardoch Munros if you're feeling sprightly).

Heading for the pinnacles of Stob Coire Dhomhnuill  © Dan Bailey -
Heading for the pinnacles of Stob Coire Dhomhnuill
Fetching Map

Detailed description

NH2172024327 Follow the signposted hill path uphill into the forestry behind the car park, joining a vehicle track (which could be used from the start if you're cycling) after about 1km. Follow this north and then northwest above the Abhainn Gleann nam Fiadh. Pass out of the gated woodland and carry on up-glen along the track to reach a small hydro scheme dam. From here the gravel track becomes a muddy footpath. Stay with this for a further 500m or so, to reach the first of two deeply incised burns running down the southern flank of Toll Creagach.

NH1908625972 Leave the glen path and climb roughly north, saying just east of the burn. The ground is rough and wet, with only occasional traces of path. At about the 600m contour veer northeast away from the burn, climbing over a minor summit (830m) before continuing north up a series of grassy terraces to reach the broad summit of Toll Creagach.
Tom a' Choinnich and Beinn Fhionnlaidh from Toll Creagach  © Dan Bailey -
Tom a' Choinnich and Beinn Fhionnlaidh from Toll Creagach
© Dan Bailey -, Dec 2021

NH1944328288 Descend west-southwest into a slight dip and over a long minor top (spot height 951m) before descending more steeply to the Bealach Toll Easa. Here the ridge crest becomes a bit sharper and better defined, giving quite a steep ascent onto Tom a' Choinnich.

NH1639927326 Continuing west, the grassy ridge soon narrows once more, leading over the summit of Tom a' Choinnich Beag before curving southwest for another steep-ish climb above the crags of Coire Mhic Fhearchair onto An Leth-chreag. A bit rockier than hitherto, the ridge now descends to another col, where you'll meet an old stalker's path climbing from the corrie on the left.

NH1481326575 Follow this trail up the sharp northeast spur of Sron Garbh. It's not quite as precipitous as it looks end-on, and the going is helped by a series of stone steps. Now up above 1100m it's easy going west along the ridge onto Stob a' Coire Dhomhnuill. Here the crest once again becomes narrower, breaking into a short series of rocky teeth. These provide some fun scrambling, though there's also a well-used path bypassing any difficulties. Beyond the pinnacles it's a short easy ascent to Stob a' Choire Dhomhain. Gentler, broader slopes now lead down to a last saddle, before the climb to the wind break and trig point on top of Carn Eighe.
Skye Cuillin from Mam Sodhail  © Dan Bailey -
Skye Cuillin from Mam Sodhail
© Dan Bailey -, Dec 2021

NH1235426193 Assuming you're not detouring to Beinn Fhionnlaidh, take the well-trodden path southwest to the col between Carn Eighe and Mam Sodhail, from where a fairly stiff ascent gains the summit of the north highlands' second highest peak. Mam Sodhail boasts an impressively big cairn, and it's possible to stand inside a hollow on top (pretend you've got your own castle if you like). From here the view is if anything more impressive and comprehensive than Carn Eighe's, spanning a huge swathe of the northern and central highlands.

NH1199925316 Heading east, a sharply defined ridge soon takes shape, giving quite a steep descent in a grand airy position. This enjoyable grassy ridge continues over an un-named top, and then the minor top of Mullach Cadha Rainich, before descending to a low point at a col. A steady ascent along the top edge of an ancient landslip feature brings you onto Sgurr na Lapaich. This was once listed as a separate Munro, and probably deserves to re-enter the list.

NH1540624389 To descend, pick up a well-trodden path down the southeast spur. Taking care to avoid crags on the left, this trail makes a fairly devious winding descent between slabby outcrops, on ground that would not feel straightforward in darkness or poor visibility. Having reached the peat bogs below, head roughly east. You will probably lose the trail among the hummocks and hollows, so keep bearing for a prominent bend in a track, as marked on maps.
Glen Affric from Sgurr na Lapaich  © Dan Bailey -
Glen Affric from Sgurr na Lapaich
© Dan Bailey -, Dec 2021

NH1770523919 This track leads, after about 2km, to the shore of Loch Affric by Affric Lodge. Turn left onto the main glen track, which leads along the water's edge to the end of the public road at the car park between Loch Affric and Loch Beinn a' Mheadhoin. With its big lochs and significant areas of regenerating native woodland, Glen Affric is often lauded as the most beautiful highland glen, and the final road tramp back back to Chisholme Bridge is a scenic finish to a long day.

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Further Routes

by Dan Bailey UKH

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