Map: Ordnance Survey maps 24, Raasay & Loch Torridon, and 25, Glen Carron & Glen Affric
Distance: 7½ miles
Terrain: Mostly good path, though rougher in middle section
Start point: Beinn Alligin car park, map ref 868576
Time: 3 to 4 hours
Nearest village: Torridon
Recommended refreshment spot: Torridon Stores & Café
With its multi-terraced southern sandstone slopes rearing up from the Glen Torridon road like some enormous castle wall, Liathach (the grey one, from the quartzite that caps the reddish sandstone) is the most awesome.
Tucked away, the almost secretive northern side of Liathach could hardly be more different; wild, precipitous and spectacular, with 600m-high sheer cliffs above the rough Coire na Caime. Nestling beneath a line of spires and towers, this well-named crooked corrie holds two irregularly shaped lochans. The rough grandeur of the northern side and its corries (west to east, Coireag Cham and Coire na Caime, then Coireag Dubh Mor and Coireag Dubh Beag) is well seen from the good path that links two glens, Coire Mhic Nobuil and Coire Dubh Mor (glens tend to be called corries in Torridon). This path offers an attractive west/east traverse on a poor day when cloud is low on the hill.
Arguably, however, the best time to go to appreciate the rugged scenery is on a good day. Ignore the high tops for once.
How should Liathach be pronounced? There appears to be no definitive answer. Most hillwalkers are not au fait with the Gaelic, and even native Gaels may disagree as to pronunciation. I usually say Leeatach, though this is unlikely to be correct. Leeagach is probably the most used pronunciation, perhaps with justification, as an older form of spelling is Liaghach. Nevertheless, I am told locally that the “g” is not pronounced, hence Leea-ach.
From the Beinn Alligin car park, map ref 868576, cross to the east side of the Abhainn Coire Mhic Nobuil (not to be confused with the direct path to Beinn Alligin) where there is a green signpost – Scottish Rights of Way & Access Society public footpath to Coire Dubh. The path goes parallel to the river’s impressive ravine and the pleasantly noisy cascading water; at first through a lovely pine wood, then by gate into open country.
After one mile, at the confluence of the river with the Allt a’Bhealaich, reach and cross the high wooden footbridge (there is also a small wooden marker arrow). Follow the path that heads towards the Horns of Alligin, but after a short distance leave this path at a big cairn and head eastwards.
The middle section of the path, though rougher, eases the way through bouldery, hummocky terrain, with a steady rise leading to the initially tucked away Loch Grobaig of magnificent isolation. It is a slow-going traverse, passing other lochans, some reed-studded, of still water, to eventually reach the indeterminate watershed by the junction where the Coire Mhic Fhearchair of Beinn Eighe comes in beneath the mass of Sail Mhor.
The well-improved path follows the north bank of the Allt a’Choire Dhuibh Mhoir, then crosses the stream, seldom a problem, at the ford stepping stones. The path then descends more steeply from Coire Dubh Mor to reach the large car park (map ref 958569) on the north side of the A896.
A pre-placed bicycle gives an easy and enjoyable return to the Alligin car park, albeit after a stop at Torridon. Recommended for its homemade food and baking, the Torridon Stores & Café is normally open 10am-5pm, though seasonal opening times vary – tel: 01445 791400 or e-mail email@example.com for up-to-date information.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 5 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west