Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Saturday, 3 April 2010

A June day on Ben More Coigach*

Beinn Ghobhlach

 As an antidote to the recent return of snow, sleet and strong winds I began looking at some photographs of summer days spent on the hills of the NW Highlands, and one set of images in particular transported me northwards: I was in Coigach on two magical June days.

Coigach means 'Fifth-part', the old Celtic custom being to divide land into five parts. So Coigach is the Coigach of Ross, the fifth part of the Cromarties and it is the land from Outer Loch Broom to the Sutherland border.

It had been several years since we had visited this area and now we were returning to meet friends based at Ardmair Bay, some three miles north of Ullapool. When we arrived, the bay was hidden by a rolling sea mist which occasionally shredded and eventually dispersed revealing blue skies and lovely Beinn Ghoblach.

As you descend the steep hill towards Ardmair the most striking sight is Ben More Coigach appearing as a wall of sandstone riven with gullies. Its westernmost top, Garbh Choireachan, drops abruptly to the coastal path which joins the Achiltibuie road near Culnacraig. Exposed to the Minch, the settlements along this coast are offered some welcome protection by the Summer Isles.

We had climbed Ben More Coigach many years previously but our two friends had not and we needed no persuading to accompany them on a second ascent. Parking at Blughasary we took the track to the bridge over the River Runie, quiet after six weeks of drought, and continued along the coastal path before breaking off up the slopes to the east of Beannan Beaga to Lochan Eadan dha Bheinn. Higher up we crossed great slabs dotted with spheres of rock, all Torridonian sandstone, before the final ascent to Speicein Coinnich.

The slopes to Speicein Coinnich

We were soon on this first top and the true character of the hill was revealed to our two companions (well four actually, including their dogs). On the summit of Ben More itself, we enjoyed a leisurely lunch and discussed where to go next. Tom pondered taking the narrow ridge to Garbh Choireachan and returning to Blughasary by the previously mentioned (and exciting in places) coastal path. Lynne and I had already been along the ridge to Garbh Choireachan and were happy to visit again, but a return by the path on such a perfect day for the tops was easily rejected by all of us.

 Long ago the postman walked this arduous coastal route to deliver the mail and was paid 2/3d per journey. 'Taking the Rock' was how folk described the way via Ben More Coigach when coming to or from Ullapool.

The interesting ridge to Garbh Choireachan

In the end we decided to head for Sgurr an Fhidhleir, an impressive peak with 200m cliffs plunging to Lochan an Tuath.

Sgurr an Fhidhleir from Beinn an Eoin

 From the opposite shore of this lochan rises twin-topped Beinn an Eoin, 619m, which we all agreed looked worthy of attention.

Sgorr Tuath, Beinn an Eoin - familiar hills beyond

From Sgurr an Fhidhleir's airy summit the hills of the Inverpolly Nature Reserve, Assynt and Sutherland were a familiar and welcome sight. We lingered at the cairn, reluctant to leave, but eventually turned and retraced our route to Speicein Coinnich. Terns graced the head of Loch a' Chlaiginn as we passed on our way back. Curlews called on the moor. It had been a grand day shared with good friends and the comment made by Colin Kirkus to Alf Bridge on the summit of Sgurr Alasdair summed up our feelings:

"You know Alf, going to the right place at the right time, with the right people is all that really matters. What one does is purely incidental."

Today, Coigach had been the right place; Tom and Chris the right people.

*Note: I have not used the OS spelling of Ben (Mor) Coigach but have opted for the fully anglicized form rather the half-way house as it were. Both forms seem acceptable. Probably something like 'Beinn Mhòr ǹa Coigich' is the full Gaelic name, but I'm no expert. As Hamish Brown points out, the experts only disgagree anyway!


  1. We loved the post and the points of interest. It;s truly a beautiful area and one we wish we could visit more often but there is just so much to do and we get so few holidays.
    When you see photographs like these it makes you ask why do we go abroad.
    Thanks for sharing it.

  2. We appreciate your comments Alan and Sheila. You'll not be surprised to learn that not all our holidays here have had such good weather!

    But even in wild conditions it is still a magical place to be.

    Hope you can get up soon.

  3. Great post. Just can't wait to get back in June - this time with the (grown up) family. This area still retains that rare quality of remoteness and grandeur so difficult to find elsewhere.

  4. Quite a contrast to our wonderful day in the snow last Friday!
    A wonderful hill, and a lovely ridge, easy for the sure footed, even in snowy conditions.
    I once saw a great Brocken Spectre from the summit of Speicein Coinnich - must dig out the photos!

  5. aardvark1945 - Thanks for your kind words. The spaciousness and, as you say, remoteness and grandeur make it a very special place. Might bump into you in June!

    Phreerunner - I noticed you'd been on a return visit in snowy conditions. Our first time on it was in less than perfect weather, but alas not in snow. Look forward to seeing your photos of the Brocken Spectre.