Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
26th and 27th April
An impressive hill near Lochinver, Sutherland.
I took my time on the long drive up through Ullapool to the shores of Loch Assynt and then a short distance further north to the car park that sits to the east of Quinag. Cuinneag, as I believe it is pronounced, is an impressive mountain with many different faces.
Spidean Coinich (Quinag)
It consists of three spurs that radiate out from a central top. The three spurs form ridges that lead to the tops of Sail Ghorm to the North, Sail Gharbh to the east and Spidean Coinich to the South. When viewed from Kylesku in the north the huge rock buttresses of Sail Gharbh and Sail Ghorm tower above the sea. Seen from the west when leaving Lochinver Sail Ghorm and Spidean Coinich form a long wall of cliffs that dominate the skyline from the road.
A strong westerly wind was blowing, shifting the clouds across the sky at a high rate of knots, the clouds however began to clear in the early afternoon and large patches of blue gave hope for a better finish to the day. After crossing the road from the car park I headed westward along a rocky path that lead across some boggy moor land. The path tends towards Lochan Bealach Cornaidh which sits in the corrie below the east facing cliffs of Spidean Coinich. The wind provided some stiff resistance on occasion despite the heart of the corrie being reasonably sheltered. Heading up toward the obvious bealach on the right of Spidean Coinich I soon reached the ground below the centre top of Quinag. From here a faint path traverses the hillside as it heads up to the east of the bealach on the Sail Gharbh ridge. The wind was now at my back and pushed me on, it was strong but was not causing any problems at this point.
Not lingering on the top of Sail Gharbh I started my return toward Quinag's centre. This proved more testing and upon reaching the bealach below the centre top it was difficult, nigh impossible, to walk in a straight line and quite difficult to even remain rooted to one spot. At one point I'm sure I actually had no contact with the ground as I was momentarily lifted off my feet. I managed to reach the centre top but after short consideration decided it was too dangerous to continue, it was time to return to lower ground.
Sail Ghorm from near the centre of Quinag
As I dropped down the wind became more manageable which came as some relief. Once down I headed into the corrie and toward the sandy shore of Lochan Bealach Cornaidh to enjoy a spot of lunch before heading back to the car.
Glas Bheinn across and Loch Bealach Cornaidh
On Sunday the wind was still blowing but thankfully not as strong as Saturday. I decided to head back onto Quinag to continue my interrupted walk.
Spidean Coinich and Lochan Bealach Cornaidh
Again I made my way toward the lochan in the corrie to the east of Quinag and then onto the centre top. The going was certainly easier and I dropped easily onto the lower reaches of the Sail Ghorm ridge which rises gently to it's top over a couple of km.
The summit cairn afforded enough shelter from the wind to allow a nice spot of tea and piece of cake. The whole ridge gave good views out west to the sea and the many small islands. After once again returning to the centre I dropped south to Bealach a' Chornaidh.
The centre top of Quinag
It was now time to climb up the steep winding slopes of Spidean Coinich. The path crawls up and down along a ridge which narrows significantly in places to lead to the rock strewn top and a huge cairn. I sat enjoying the sun for some time before descending along Spidian Coinich's slabby eastern slopes.
Spidean Coinich eastern slopes
Back down on the lower heathery slopes there were good views over to Glas Bheinn basking in the sunshine behind the car park.
After a change of cloths I started my return journey stopping first at Loch Assynt to view the ruins of Ardveck castle.
Ardvreck Castle on Loch Assynt
Then later I pulled over at Elphin to take in the grand panorama that included Suilven and Canisp.
Suilven and Canisp from Elphin
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