Beinn Sgritheall Range - the full traverse Walking

Few big Scottish hills rise from sea to summit quite as abruptly as Beinn Sgritheall. Guarding the entrance to Loch Hourn, this steep-sided wedge of rock and scree has a truly gull's eye outlook over the water to the hills of Knoydart, and out to Rum and Skye. Sgritheall is generally treated as a solitary entity, being the sole 3000-footer in the Glenelg hinterland, but if you discount Munro status it can be seen for what it really is - just one peak of many jostling along the north shore of the loch. Combining several of them makes for a logical, challenging round. The standard Sgritheall-only graunch from Arnisdale in the south has brevity on its side, but this longer circuit from the north offers more, from the fascinating brochs of Gleann Beag to the wild, cliffy corrie scenery on the under-appreciated north side of the Munro. And if bagging's your game, there's something here on three different lists - the knobbly Graham Beinn a' Chapuill; Munro Beinn Sgritheall itself; and a pair of fine Corbetts, Beinn na h-Eaglaise and Beinn na Caorach.

Arnisdale and Loch Hourn form Beinn Sgritheall  © Dan Bailey -
Arnisdale and Loch Hourn form Beinn Sgritheall
Fetching Map

Detailed description

NG8467016561 On the way to the start it's worth stopping along the road to visit the massive and well-preserved brochs of Dun Telve and Dun Troddan. Sightseeing done, go through a gate to pass Balvraid farm, and follow a track up-glen. This soon passes a third broch, ruinous but sited on a spectacular perch above a wooded gorge - a real defensive position. Continue up-track, going through a gate into some forestry and then passing under a pylon line (if developer SSEN gets its way, these small inconspicuous pylons will soon be replaced by giants, and this area will never be the same). A few hundred metres further on is a footbridge across a pretty gorge on the Abhainn a' Ghlinne Bhig. At the time of writing this was in a dangerous state. Crossing cannot be recommended, and our route line is presented here in expectation of its repair. A detour as per the return leg will add 20 minutes to your day, but might save a bridge collapse - which does look to be a very real possibility.

NG8660215596 Once established above the trees at the foot of the east ridge of Beinn a' Chapuill, go under the pylon line and head uphill. The long ridge proves a fantastic route, with a view over wooded crags back down to Gleann Beag. A vague path follows the lower ridge, sometimes just down on its left flank. Things get a little rocky higher up, but there's no scrambling. Beinn a' Chapuill's extensive summit plateau is a wonderland of craggy knolls and miniature lochans; the high point is towards the top of the east ridge, not one of the many other summits as shown on OS 1:50,000 mapping.
A great advert for Grahams, Five Sisters and The Saddle from the east ridge of Beinn a' Chapuill   © Dan Bailey -
A great advert for Grahams, Five Sisters and The Saddle from the east ridge of Beinn a' Chapuill
© Dan Bailey -

NG8349714860 Weave through the complex ground, passing just west of a lochan to reach the edge of the steep slope overlooking the Bealach na h-Oidhche, the low col separating Chapuill from Sgritheall. Follow grassy ground leftwards at first, then loop quite hard right to avoid the steep, broken lower slopes directly above the bealach.
The north side of Beinn Sgritheall is pretty impressive  © Dan Bailey -
The north side of Beinn Sgritheall is pretty impressive
© Dan Bailey -

NG8343614153 Heading southeast, and then east, ascend a pathless grassy spur bounding the left side of Sgritheall's northern corrie. This soon develops into a rocky ridge. A steep ascent leads to a short spectacular crest above the slabby crags of Coire Dubh. Above a flatter area, the crest rises in a final steep step leading to the broad grassy scoop just north of Beinn Sgritheall's summit. Turning left, follow a final crest above the Coire Min cliffs before bearing right to reach the summit wind break. Unusually, this features two old trig pillars, one toppled. The sudden view out over 900m of air to Loch Hourn is jaw-dropping.
On the spectacular, little-used northeast ridge of Beinn Sgritheall  © Dan Bailey -
On the spectacular, little-used northeast ridge of Beinn Sgritheall
© Dan Bailey -

NG8359212673 Head back east, then turn southeast to descend a short, exposed section of ridge (no difficulty, but take care in icy snow - a slip from here could go a very long way). The ridge soon eases into a pleasant, grassy saddle, before a short climb onto Beinn Sgritheall's east top. The descent to the Bealach Arnasdail is on steep grass and eroded scree; on leaving the summit be careful not to be drawn too far right by a decoy path that leads to even steeper scree.

NG8502212143 From here the ascent of Beinn an h-Eaglaise is only for confident walkers, and if it's wet or icy think hard before committing. A row of old metal fenceposts takes an unfeasibly direct route up the hill's precipitous northwest flank (how were they built, without fatalities?). The posts are an unreliable guide to the safer ground, which is only relative in any case, and generally found a little further left, where broken crags give way to merely 50-degree grass. This climb of 200m is exciting nearly all the way.
Rum and Eigg from Beinn na h-Eaglaise  © Dan Bailey -
Rum and Eigg from Beinn na h-Eaglaise
© Dan Bailey -

NG8542812005 More rusty fenceposts, here about 2m high, lead on over the summit and down the very enjoyable northeast ridge to a low, grassy col (a point that could be reached from the Bealach Arnasdail if you were put off by the steep climb of stage 6). Ascend a little way, then skirt right of a minor top (spot height 605m) to another broad col. The ascent southeast and then south along the rocky summit ridge of Beinn na Caorach is easygoing compared with previous hills on the round - more stubby metal posts show the way. Return towards spot height 605m.

NG8642313039 A broad ridge points north, offering a quick easy descent on a vague grassy path. As the ridge broadens into tussock and bogs, bear right to reach the northern corner of a pine plantation. Follow the bank of the Allt Ghleann Aoidhdailean to a shallow point on a bend where the burn is more easily crossed (care in spate). Gain a vehicle track, which passes back under the pylons before curving right to eventually join the main track in Gleann Beag. Head west back to Balvraid.

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Further Routes

by Dan Bailey UKH

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