Carn Dearg, Carn Sgulain and A' Chailleach - the Newtonmore Trio Walking

No one, except perhaps a windfarm developer or a grouse botherer, would claim the Monadhliath were Scotland's most promising mountains. Sprawling soggily over almost an entire OS Landranger map sheet, the area's chief distinction for hill fans is arguably its empty spaciousness. On its southern fringe however the land tilts up into a series of bigger and more attractive hills. Combining easy access and wide horizons, this round of the three Munros above Newtonmore is an enjoyable moorland stride with a remote feel. Though a fairly big circuit, it's not too taxing underfoot, making it a reasonably achievable day.

Carn Dearg from Carn Ban  © Dan Bailey -
Carn Dearg from Carn Ban
Fetching Map

Detailed description

NN6928899766 Follow the track downhill, soon crossing the Allt a' Chaorainn. Continue west through grazing pastures. Just before reaching the old farm buildings at Glenballoch turn right onto a grassy ATV track heading northwest past a pine plantation. Aim for the far corner of the field, to meet the gravel track up the glen of the Allt Fionndrigh. Follow the track up the steep-sided glen, and where the main route begins to fade into boggy ground cut left to reach a footbridge over the burn.

NH6594701929 An ATV track climbs steeply south-southwest beside a small burn towards a saddle. As you reach boggy level ground bear right on a less distinct track leading uphill. Soon branch left at a vague junction, taking the very soggy track slightly downhill towards the head of Gleann Ballach. On the far side of the glen rises the craggy wall of Carn Dearg. Most route descriptions advocate climbing this first Munro via the boggy head of the glen, before backtracking to the summit; however a steeper direct alternative allows a more complete traverse of the fine summit ridge.
Hills of the distant west from Carn Dearg  © Dan Bailey -
Hills of the distant west from Carn Dearg
© Dan Bailey -

NH6493301892 Hop across the Allt Ballach and head west. Ascending steadily, the boggy ground soon becomes dry and rocky. Aim straight ahead for the steep east flank of Carn Dearg's southeast top, following an obvious grassy line between rock outcrops. In season, carpets of blaeberries provide a good excuse for breathers on the climb. Skirt left of the summit crags to reach the almost-level ridge crest. From the southeast top, a pleasant 750m stroll brings you along the cliff edge to Carn Dearg's main summit, the most dramatic and distinctive hilltop in the Mondahliath, and a great viewpoint.
A' Chailleach from Carn Dearg  © Dan Bailey -
A' Chailleach from Carn Dearg
© Dan Bailey -

NH6355502397 Descend north-northwest, bearing left where the path forks, before crossing a little notch and climbing to the broad summit of Carn Ban. From here a line of old metal fenceposts leads all the way to the day's second Munro - a navigational lifeline on a misty day. At first quite stony underfoot, becoming grassy and finally very boggy, the long leg from here to Carn Sgulain is an enjoyable high moorland stride in remote surroundings. Pass over Carn Balloach and Meall na Creughaich, and then the vague top of Meall a' Bhothain.

NH6636905669 From here descend into a very waterlogged notch at the head of the well-named Coire Bog, then climb to the un-named top at spot height 908m. The fenceposts lead on over a gloopy, peaty, saddle before the final very easy climb onto Carn Sgulain, a summit chiefly notable for the fact that it appears on the Munro list.

NH6829605811 Retrace your steps to the peat-fest saddle, then turn left and enjoy more bogs on the way down to the steep little burn cutting of the Allt Cuil na Caillich. Climb out the far side and follow the well-used path uphill to the summit of A'Chailleach. Marked by a large cairn with a built-in windbreak, the day's third Munro has great views out over Speyside to the Cairngorms.

NH6810804168 A well-trodden path descends south, at first steeply, then over more level boggy ground, then steeply again on the lower slopes leading down towards the Allt a' Chaorainn. Pass a rustic little bothy, and continue downhill to the floor of the glen. The Allt a' Chaorainn can usually be forded at several points, but if the water is too high then follow the west bank to a well-built bridge hidden in the wooded gorge a little way downstream. On the east side of the burn, a soggy path soon leads to a stony vehicle track. Without further ado this descends south, passing a pine plantation to return to the car park in Glen Banchor.

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