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Walk of the Week: Farrmheall, near Cape Wrath

The rugged north west Sutherland coastline, at Durness on the Cape Wrath penninsula. Picture by Donald MacLeod

The rugged north west Sutherland coastline, at Durness on the Cape Wrath penninsula. Picture by Donald MacLeod

  • by Nick Drainey
 

IT IS off to the far north-west tip of the Scottish mainland this week, before winter gales make most people wait until the spring before venturing to this ruggedly beautiful spot.

It is true that winters in this part of the country can be severe but the clear light can make it enchanting, especially with a lack of people around to spoil the solitude (and there’s little chance of getting stuck behind a caravan after September).

Farrmheall is a hill that is likely overlooked by most walkers, but as a vantage point it is stunning, with views over vast expanses of moor and hill that terminate suddenly at the cliffs of Cape Wrath.

In other directions, the vistas are no less spectacular. The beaches of the north coast, near Durness, can be glimpsed, while Orkney lies offshore. A range of mountains, including Cranstackie and Foinaven, are closer, on either side of the deep Strath Dionard. Further south is the great bulk of Quinag, while the bays and inlets of the jagged coast are laid before you.

The route described here is pathless for a large part of the way, but you would really want to go in clear weather anyway because of the wonderful views.

The lack of paths adds to the sense of remoteness. There are other dramatic mountains in the area but on most you will probably meet other walkers – not a bad thing but sometimes it’s nice to feel you have the whole place to yourself. n

DISTANCE 3 miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED 1,190ft.

TIME 2 to 2½ hours.

MAP OS Landranger 9.

PARKING Drive about four and a half miles north of Rhiconich on the A838 and there is a small, rough parking area on the left of the road, just after crossing a small bridge over the burn Allt na Gualainne.

IN SUMMARY A rough path sets off from the parking area beneath electricity wires towards Farrmheall. Initially, aim for a point between two rocky outcrops on the south-west flank of the hill. Just less than halfway to them from the electricity wires, veer right to cross boggy ground to the broad ridge of Farrmheall.

Bear left and walk up to a point about 100 yards right of the outcrops. Here the terrain becomes stonier and a rough track can be picked out. Follow this up and to the left. Don’t rely on it all the way as it can virtually disappear in places.

It does point you in the right direction for the summit, at the end of a large plateau. Eventually, you reach a summit cairn and the view towards Cape Wrath. Retrace your steps to return to the car.

REFRESHMENTS Rhiconich Hotel is on the main A838.

WHILE IN THE AREA Head south to Assynt to visit Inchnadamph’s ‘bone caves’, where the 8,000-year-old skeletal remains of reindeer, wolf and polar bear were found. In winter the beaches can be stunning with waves crashing on to white sands – head north to Balnakeil or south to Achmelvich, turning left just before Lochinver.

NICK DRAINEY

 

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