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Garbh Bheinn of Ardgour

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Two main features dominate this circuit; on the positive side there is the very fine cliff scenery of Garbh Bheinn, on the negative side the path in Coire an Iubhair is one long squelch! This route is planned to avoid the latter and enjoy the former. The ferry over the narrows of Loch Linnhe currently has a summer timing of 7.20 am to about 9 pm. If you miss the last ferry you are faced with a long drive up the A861 to Loch Eil and back down to Fort William. On the other hand the Ardgour Inn is a four-star haven and you may be happy to enjoy an impromptu night there.

From the ferry go south to the start of Coire an Iubhair and park at the lovely old bridge. (The start of the walk is just off the O.S. map but nothing crucial is hidden.) Pools in the river await your return on a hot day. Cross the bridge and turn up the rocky ridge of Sron a'Gharbh Choire Bhig. Any rocky outcrop can either be bypassed or scrambled up for extra fun. In early summer you will find orchids on this ridge, at over 500m (the common-spotted orchid I think, though I'm weak on plants).

The views south over Loch Linnhe will tempt many stops for breath but the first peak, Sron a'Gharbh Choire Bhig is soon gained at 823m, and if the day is clear the magnificent South Wall of Garbh Bheinn is visible on the other side of Coire an Iubhair. Descend NW to the col at the head of the corrie (748m). If the weather is bad or time is short, you may descend steeply into Coire an Iubhair, threading round fallen boulders and passing through a fine gorge to cross the Abhainn Coire an Iubhair and the long squelch back to the car.

Better, climb north up the rocky slopes to reach the summit of Garbh Bheinn (885m), above the South Wall. The South Ridge plunges down steeply towards Glencoe, whose peaks and summits provide a superb panorama. The route continues over the tops of the various rocky buttresses on the north-east flanks of Garbh Bheinn, to descend the rocky north ridge and so gain the pass of the Bealach Feith'n Amean. Climb up to Beinn Bheag (736m) and traverse the ridge east to Sgorr Mhic Eacharna (650m) passing over a bealach between the two. These last two hills are Grahams (a hill from 610 metres to 761 metres high with a drop of at least 150 metres all round).

The ridge south from the last hill is called Druim an Iubhair. The name Iubhair, Gaelic for Yew trees, occurs throughout this walk and who knows? You may be fortunate enough to spot one. There is certainly a splendidly isolated pine tree in Coire an Iubhair, one well protected by a large rock. Druim an Iubhair bends south to take you back to your starting point at the old bridge. If you happen to be here late on a warm summer's eve, bats will be swirling about the fine old oak. Unfortunately, midges will also be swirling, so a hasty retreat to the 4-star Inn at Ardgour with its real ales, good food and excellent whiskies will be in order.


Maps: OS Sheet 40 'Mallaig & Glenfinnan, Loch Shiel'
Distance: 11 km
Ascent: 1280m
Time: 5 hours
Food & Drink: The Ardgour Inn (west side of ferry crossing)


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