Walk of the week: Loch a’Bhraoin

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With a mixture of track and path, a horseshoe route from Corrie Hallie to Loch a’Bhraoin offers an alternative outing when the high tops may not be appealing. Mind you, the overall climb is still some 600m and the distance 15 miles.

Over the years I have covered all sections, but not in a single day – however, Jimbo has.

We all set off together, but once in Strath na Sealga John and I headed for the deleted Munro, Beinn a’Chlaidheimh, leaving Jimbo to continue on his own. His route goes past Lochivraon bothy, last visited by Jimbo, John, Rhona, Peter and me on 29 November last year. The name means “place of rain showers” and yes, we experienced torrential rain and wind. Previous dates had all been aborted for various reasons, but we were desperate to complete our target of one bothy meet per year.

Gathering at the Loch a’Bhraoin track end, the plan to walk in, do a hill the next day, then walk out, was quickly amended to no hillwalking. Even so, what with full waterproof gear, heavy packs and the certainty of side streams in spate to cross, it was a masochistic two-hour struggle. However, on reaching the charming bothy our spirits were revived; the fire was quickly lit and we had a most convivial evening. Although worried about the overnight storm and the thought of the red corrugated-iron roof being blown away, we slept reasonably well. The walk out, with lighter packs and the wind behind us, was an easier affair.

The route

From the Corrie Hallie car park, map ref 114850, follow the track climbing southwards through the lovely wooded Gleann Chaorachain and so into open country. On reaching the ford used to cross the river, note the new footbridge just upstream, possibly useful in times of spate.

Ignore the path to Shenavall and continue on the track, descending gently over the next mile to 350m, map ref 093807. (I prefer to reach this point from the A832 at Fain Bridge; a higher starting height than Corrie Hallie and a shorter distance, albeit it does mean traversing the oft-wet, lochan-studded moorland. A dry spell and a non-misty day ease the traverse.) It is a steep descent, 200m, to Strath na Sealga and the Abhainn Loch an Nid, which meanders round Beinn a’Chlaidheimh like a castle moat.

Leave the track and cut over past a ruin to the path by the Abhainn Loch an Nid. The way south, by river and loch, has a mixture of track and path which fade away in grassy places, though the route direction is always obvious. From the north end of the loch the path gently rises, turns ESE, and goes through a gap in a dyke to reach a ruin by the 340m watershed. Continuing east by a stream, the path deteriorates, then joins a track ½ mile before Lochivraon at the west end of Loch a’Bhraoin.

Lochivraon has a white-walled cottage used by the estate and a bothy, open to the public, which has an internal toilet and running water thanks to the estate’s beautiful renovation.

Nowadays a roughish track follows the loch side, obliterating much of the mapped path, albeit at times it is pleasurable to stay with shingly sections by the water’s edge. Before reaching the Loch a’Bhraoin boathouse, the track curves away from the loch to join the broad track that climbs gently to the A832, map ref 163761 – and a pre-placed car.

The facts

Maps Ordnance Survey: maps 19, Gairloch & Ullapool, and 20, Beinn Dearg & Loch Broom

Distance: 15 miles

Height: 600 metres

Terrain: Mixture of mostly good track and path

Start point: Corrie Hallie car park by the A832, map ref 114850

Time: 7 to 8 hours

Nearest hamlet: Dundonnell

Recommended refreshment spot: Dundonnell Hotel