A magnificent pair of craggy hills sharing a high col pitted with idyllic lochans, Fuar Tholl and Sgorr Ruadh are the focus of this achievable day, a route that's high on impact for the relatively modest effort. For a longer day you could complete the classic Coire Lair skyline over Beinn Liath Mhor, or head west for Maol Cheann-dearg. Threaded with helpful paths winding through big scenery, the Coulin Forest is a fantastic area to wander, and there are no dull options.
See our article on this route
metres / Distance
NH0052948375 Walk up the forest track, turn right past houses, and cross the railway at Achnashellach station. Go uphill to a track junction and turn left, passing through a deer fence before following the track into pretty open pine woods, with an impressive view of Fuar Tholl's eastern ramparts ahead. At a sign, turn left onto a footpath, which follows the River Lair upstream to exit the woods. Zigzag uphill, passing through rounded sandstone slabs into the mouth of Coire Lair.
NG9904650158 A cairn marks a path junction. Here go left, to cross the River Lair (in spate this may only be safely done some distance upstream). The path now winds westwards, climbing below Fuar Tholl's cliffs towards the Bealach Mor.
NG9717149398 Before the high point of the col is reached, turn left off the path and ad-lib south into Coire Mainnrichean, dominated by the strikingly huge molar-shaped Mainreachan Buttress (home to some classic winter climbs). Bear left of the buttress to pick up a rough scree path zigzagging steeply up onto a saddle on Fuar Tholl's broad summit right. Bear northeast to the stone-walled shelter marking the high point.
NG9754648941 Returning to the saddle, go west and then northwest out onto the prow of the Mainreachan Buttress. Continue to the hill's lower west top before bearing north, then northwest, to descend quite steeply to the Bealach Mor. Cross the stalker's path and pick your way through a complex wonderland of slabby crags and clear lochans, heading for the rather shapeless southern flank of Sgorr Ruadh.
NG9636049865 Begin the ascent from just west of Lochan a' Bhealaich Mhoir. The climb on grass, scree and the occasional sandstone slab is a bit of a plod; stay left for the easiest ground. The summit is a fantastic viewpoint overlooking the neighbouring Coulin hills, and the stupendous jagged skyline of Liathach.
NG9590050504 While it might be tempting to vary the descent by aiming east of Loch a' Bhealaich Mhoir, retracing your steps gives easier ground. Make your way back to the stalker's path, and then just return whence you came.
Start/Finish: Layby on A890 by old telephone box at the turn-off for Achnashellach train station, NH005483
Nearest town: Lochcarron
Terrain: Where the route strays off the excellent stalker's and walker's paths the going is rough and rocky. Some steep ground, some scree; but not much in the way of bogs.
Seasonal variations: A scenic winter route, with some steep ground but no technical difficulty. Take care crossing the River Lair if water levels are high, when it may be necessary to detour some way upstream.