Loch Monar Circuit Walking

This Route Card accompanies a UKH destination article: http://www.ukhillwalking.com/articles/page.php?id=3687 The Munros circling the head of Loch Monar are some of the least accessible in Scotland, stunning mountains with an inspiring back-of-beyond atmosphere. This is ideal backpacking country. For day trips though, the northern approach from Glen Carron is the quickest (and therefore most popular) way in, with the hills generally being visited in twos or threes. In contrast this route coming in from the east along remote Glen Strathfarrar is a much more considerable undertaking, but aesthetically superior. It allows a neat circuit to be made over all the major hills - five Munros and one Corbett. This extended lap of the loch can be treated either as a mega one-day challenge or a weekend expedition; either has its attractions.
The walk starts from the Loch Monar dam, about 26km from Struy along the private road up Glen Strathfarrar. Vehicle access on this road is restricted at all times of year and particularly difficult in winter. Details can be found on the MCofS website: http://www.mcofs.org.uk/strathfarrar-access.asp There is no overnight parking in the glen, but even if trying the circuit in one day most people will want to do it from an overnight camp near the dam. This means cycling in from Struy - a 52km-odd round trip on the bike to add to an already-taxing walk itself. It's a tough weekend, all things considered - but one of the best. Hats off to anyone mad enough to do the whole thing in a single day, cycling included.

Chaorachain (left), Lunndaidh and Loch Monar from Lurg Mhor © Dan Bailey  © Dan Bailey
Chaorachain (left), Lunndaidh and Loch Monar from Lurg Mhor © Dan Bailey
Fetching Map

Detailed description

NH2031139415 Take the track to Monar Lodge, where a signed footpath cuts right to avoid the grounds. Go left at a junction of paths, climbing through a little rocky pass to regain the shore of Loch Monar. An old stalker's path now follows the shoreline into Coire Fionnarach. Head inland on the east bank of the burn, passing a sheep enclosure.

NH1617942788 At a burn junction cross the main stream and take an indistinct path up towards Toll a'Choin. Where the Allt Toll a' Choin divides take the right branch to reach the upper corrie; here go right onto the southeast ridge of Maoile Lunndaidh; a nice route to the summit.

NH1349045775 Cross the plateau to the minor tops of Creag Toll a' Choin and then Carn nam Fiaclan. From here descend west(ish) down a broad shoulder, before cutting steeply downhill to the low col of the Drochaid Mhuilich. Ahead is the steep rocky north face of the Sgurr a' Chaorachain group. Climb the middle one of three obvious craggy spurs to reach the col west of Bidean an Eoin Dearg, then follow the summit ridge to Sgurr a' Chaorachain itself.

NH0874844713 Descend the steep west ridge, then climb the equally steep east ridge of Sgurr Choinnich. Go down this hill's well defined west ridge to the col just above the major pass of the Bealach Bhearnais. A path of sorts leads up over several minor tops to the main summit of Corbett Beinn Tharsuinn.

NH0552043327 Descend roughly southwest, passing right of a small lochan then bearing right to a saddle. From here a steep diagonal line leads down to the lower pass below Bidein a' Choire Sheasgaich. The ascent of this hill needs some route finding savvy in poor visibility. Climb an eroded path through the lower outcrops, bearing right to reach the first major rock tier. Climb this via a damp groove, then continue up to an obvious terrace. Go left along this to find a slanting rake that provides a more or less hands-free ascent route through the craggy upper tier (a cairn shows the start of the climb). Easier ground leads through outcrops, over a little top and past a lochan. Then climb to the pointy summit of Sheasgaich (aka Cheesecake, which at this stage in the day will probably be an attractive idea).

NH0491641260 It's a long easy descent and reascent onto Lurg Mhor's summit, the last major climb of the circuit.

NH0646640450 Follow the high ground more or less east, where a narrow rocky arete soon takes shape; this gives an exciting little scramble in an airy position - the difficulties (such as they are) can't be avoided. If it was longer this ridge would be a well known classic. The ground soon eases onto the Meall Mhor summit. Now just follow the grassy east ridge off the hill, an easy descent with bird's eye views over Loch Monar. The lower slopes are boggy, leading to isolated Pait Lodge.

NH1202739978 Cross a bridge and skirt left of the house, then turn away from the loch shore on an obvious track running roughly south to the Allt Riabhachain. Go upstream past a bier. Where a tributary flows into this ford the main burn and follow the side stream uphill. It very soon splits; stay with the left branch onto the boggy saddle between Meallan Buidhe and Meallan Buidhe na Fheadain.

NH1363137407 Splosh your way east down into Gleann Innis an Loichel, where a clear path is met. This goes down-glen, soon becoming a vehicle track that leads back to the east end of Loch Monar. There are two separate dams; cross the first, then loop a headland to reach the second, and the road back out to Struy.

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