Walk up Foinaven
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A circular route including the two highest summits of Foinaven, initially on a good track but then on pathless terrain which is very steep and rocky in places and boggy in others.
Route Start Location: Parking area to the east of Gualin House on the A838 between Laxford Bridge and Durness.
|19.66 km||1043 m||7-9 hours|
Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.
Activivity Type: Hard Walk
Summits and Places on this Route
The nearest shops, cafes and petrol stations are at Kinlochbervie and Durness.
The ascent of Ceann Garbh is over steep grass and loose rocks. Be aware of people above and below you but in all likelihood you will have the mountain to yourself.
Between June and September, the Highland midge can really spoil your day if you are not well-protected. There are various products available but Smidge seems to be effective for most people (https://www.smidgeup.com/smidge/)
Parking : n/a
There is parking space for 3-4 cars at the start/finish of the walk
There is no train service in the region and buses are few and far between. Check with https://www.travelinescotland.com
Walk up Foinaven
Like all of the Sutherland mountains, Foinaven rises from low lying flat and boggy terrain and although it is not quite a Munro, it certainly feels like one. This route visits its two highest summits, Ceann Garbh and Ganu Mor, a Corbett Top and Corbett respectively. You can easily add on the summit of A’Che’ir Ghorm (A’Cheir Ghorm) if you want to add another Corbett Top to the walk.
Walk up Foinaven Route Description
Park in the small parking area approximately 500m to the east of Gualin House on the A838 between Laxford Bridge and Durness.
Walk towards Gualin House and pass through the gate on the left hand side of the road.
The track descends gently into Srath Dionard. Continue along the track for approximately six and a half kilometres passing a couple of small bothies where shelter can be taken if required
Leaving the track, the aim is to reach the bealach or col between Cnoc a’ Mhadaidh and Ceann Barbh. This can be done either by walking up the right hand side of the stream towards Coire Duail and then striking steeply uphill to the bealach or by taking a rising traverse over rougher terrain but gaining height more gradually. Whichever option is chosen, relief will be found at the bealach before the steep climb ahead.
The ascent of Ceann Garbh commences with a scramble over a boulder field to the base of the steep north-east slope. There is no easy way up the slope which is littered with rocks and areas of steep grass which can be treacherous when wet. Pick the best way you can find until eventually a narrow path appears and leads to the summit of Ceann Garbh.
The view down into Glas Choire Granda is spectacular as is the view west to the coast. On a clear day the northern tip of the Isle of Lewis can be seen on the horizon. To the south the curving ridge leads to the next objective, the summit of Ganu Mor.
The descent from Ceann Garbh heading towards Ganu MorDescend gently initially over broken ground before reaching a short section of grass. This would make a great spot for a wild camp but would require carrying water from below the bealach. Continue to the first cairn on the flat-ish summit which marks the highest point on Ganu Mor. The larger cairn a few metres to the east is slightly lower but with good visibility it gives more dramatic views into the corries on either side.
With longer daylight hours and good weather a full out and back traverse along the ridge to the south would provide an exceptional mountain day but our route returns towards Ceann Garbh before descending its north-west ridge.
Before the final rise to the summit of Ceann Garbh a cairn marks the point at which the route turns north-west and begins its descent over rocky and uneven ground, gradually losing height as it does. There are occasional marker cairns but in mist they are difficult to spot and good navigational skills will be required to maintain a north-west heading.
At the 500m contour the head of a crag is reached and care is needed on the descent of the steep, boggy ground before some relief is felt as more gentle terrain is reached. There now follows approximately five kilometres of arduous walking over undulating ground covered with small (and not so small) lochans requiring regular detours while maintaining a northerly heading. In good visibility use the mast on Meall na Moine as a marker when the immediate horizon is lost.
If you reach the road with dry feet then give yourself a pat on the back and walk the short distance past Gualin House to return to the car.
To avoid the long and potentially wet and boggy return it may be tempting to continue to the summit of Ceann Garbh and reverse the route of ascent, returning along the much drier estate track. If the ground was dry on the ascent then competent walkers and scramblers may consider this option but in wet or icy conditions a slip or fall on the steep descent to the bealach could have serious consequences.