The Five Sisters of Kintail Walking

Everyone's heard of the Five Sisters; you can hardly miss them. But more than just a famously pointy backdrop to Loch Duich, their traverse is a ridge walk of the highest quality, a little bit scrambly and with a whole lot of scenery. This is the western half of the North Glenshiel Ridge, a long classic that most teams will probably want to split over two separate visits - especially at a time of year with limited daylight, or snow on the ground. The eagle-eyed may note that the route described avoids the westernmost and least appealing Sister, and might more correctly be titled Four Sisters. On the other hand the traverse also includes more attractive peaks at the eastern end which are not official siblings. At the time it's always felt to me more logical to miss out Sgurr na Moraich than climb it, a view that the well-used descent path suggests many share; it is easily added if you prefer completeness.

Heading for Sgurr nan Spainteach at the eastern end of the Five Sisters ridge  © Dan Bailey -
Heading for Sgurr nan Spainteach at the eastern end of the Five Sisters ridge
Fetching Map

Detailed description

NH0090113561 At the bottom corner of the fenced forestry enclosure pick up an old stalker's path, muddy at the start and then eroded and rubbly, zigzagging up the open slope west of the pines. The path bears right along the top edge of the woods; look out for a cairn marking the continuation of the ascent, a steep slog leading up to the Bealach an Lapain

NH0100114507 Heading west, the ridge narrows, rising to the minor top of Beinn Odhar, and then on up to the airy summit of Sgurr nan Spainteach, named after the Spanish troops who fought in the Jacobite-Hanoverian battle of Glen Shiel in 1719.
Sgurr na Carnach and Sgurr Fhuaran from Sgurr nan Spainteach  © Dan Bailey -
Sgurr na Carnach and Sgurr Fhuaran from Sgurr nan Spainteach
© Dan Bailey -

NG9913515007 Rocky ground leads west to an apparent impasse. Descend this step on the ridge direct (grade 1 scramble) rather than trying to outflank it. The ridge now divides into two crests, an odd feature that might lead you astray in mist. Cross to the left-hand crest for the bouldery ascent onto Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe, the first Munro of three and the first Sister of the five. There's more rough and rocky ground on the descent into the Bealach na Craoibhe, then a steep and rocky ascent to the bold peak of Sgurr na Carnach - Munro and Sister two.

NG9770715880 Take care on the descent north, which has scrambly steps and passes close to the mountain's steep northeast face. From the next col, the Bealach na Carnach, the trail zigzags up onto Sgurr Fhuaran, the big sister of the brood, the third Munro, and a really grand peak.

NG9783216672 A direct descent north from here is not feasible, so first drop some way down the mountain's northwest ridge, before cutting right across the flank to pick up the fantastic connecting ridge running out towards Sgurr nan Saighead. A traversing trail bypasses this fourth Sister, but it's arguably the best peak of the day, with its striking slabby eastern face giving it a real sense of exposure. Still ignoring the flanking path, carry on along the ridge with a little light scrambling, to the smaller top of Beinn Bhuidhe.
Sgurr Fhuaran from Sgurr nan Saighead  © Dan Bailey -
Sgurr Fhuaran from Sgurr nan Saighead
© Dan Bailey -

NG9696918156 Those intent on Sister five, Sgurr na Moraich, will stick with the main ridge. For a quicker finish head down Beinn Bhuidhe's broad west ridge. As height is lost, bear right towards Coire na Criche. Hop over the Allt a' Chruinn to join a well-engineered path following the burn downstream. On its final steep descent the trail zigzags around the edge of a deep gorge, soon leading down to a small water treatment works above Allt a' Chruinn village. A vehicle track goes down past houses to the road.

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Further Routes

by Dan Bailey UKH

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