Beinn Leoid via Glendhu and Glencoul. 13th-14th April 2019

Date: Saturday – Sunday 13th-14th April 2019
Distance: 23.8 + 12.8km
Ascent: 1200 + 500m

One of those irksome weeks – a dull, wet weekend ran straight into a working week of light winds and blue skies…..perfect camping weather.

Just to cap it off the weekend saw much higher windspeeds forecast. Grrrr.

Initial forecasts had the far NW as the likeliest spot for sunshine, this brought into play a long held route plan near Kylesku.

The loch system running inland from the Kylesku bridge splits in two – Loch Glendhu and Loch Glencoul. The promontory between the two lochs has a sloping band of cliff, part of the Moine Thrust.

We’d fancied walking around this promontory since a holiday on the loch shore 10 years ago, a few potential routes had been considered, one with a lower camp seemed to suit the bill.

It’s a long drive to the Kylesku Bridge. Parked in the estate car park at Kylestrome (NC 217 345) at 0900 and got cracking. There’s a decent vehicle track which runs out from Kylestrome to Glendhu.

A very chill breeze was blowing from the SE – perceived temperature varied from Baltic in the wind to hot out of it. Nature is cracking on regardless – the trees are getting into leaf and the spring flowers are rushing to use the sunshine before the canopies develop.


Quinag towers over Kylesku – one of Scotland’s most characterful hills.

We yomped along the track. Having been out this way a few times we were hopeful of otter sightings….but none were seen. Choppier water can make them harder to spot.

It’s 7km to Glendhu, where the character of the terrain alters and becomes far rockier.

Glendhu from approach:

We passed the bothy and continued onwards. The vehicle track carries on for a further 5km or so – through Gleann Dubh and onto the shoulders of Beinn Leoid.

We planned to take the track and then ascend Beinn Leoid prior to dropping down to Glencoul to camp.

Gleann Dubh reminded us of the Uig hills on Lewis and the hills of North Harris – scoured rock and very dramatic.

The lower part of the glen had ample areas to pitch a tent.

The track passes through the lower glen before zig-zagging up the headwall.

After another steep pull the road enters the upper glen, a delightful high coire with old summer shielings. Highly tempting to stick the tent down and enjoy the sunshine.

We held to the plan and carried on up the estate track to its end – NC 318 319.

From there we headed a little east across some peaty ground to ascend SW up better ground to Sail na Slataich.

Wind speed by this point were pretty ferocious, walking with big packs in high winds isn’t an easy option.

As we ascended to the 651m point we got better views N towards Foinaven:

We tucked behind some rocks on the NW of the ridge and had a break from the wind. A bit of lunch and a nice view helps recharge the batteries.

Quinag stands prominent to the west across the wind-whipped high lochans:

Back into the wind we headed for Beinn Leoid – picking a route up the slope that minimised boulder fields:

The ascent needed a bit of care as there were frequent hefty gusts buffeting us.

Got up to the summit and had a quick visit to the summit. It’s a cracking viewpoint – Ben Stack, Foinaven and Arkle:

The nearby Grahams, Ben Hee and Ben Klibreck:

A shame it was so windy, although given there’s almost no high ground SE of Beinn Leoid all the way to the Dornoch Firth it shouldn’t have been a surprise!

A few high pitches noted – and the views along Loch Shin too. We retreated off the top carefully across more boulders.

Ben More Assynt and Conival were looking rather tasty:

The plan had been to drop over the 729m SW top and then down to Creag an t-Sniomha. This would be the best route, but to get out of the wind we headed NW down Bealach Beinn Leoid.

This got us out of the worst of the wind, but did give a slightly longer route on more uneven terrain. Regardless, walking is more relaxing in low wind speeds.

Foinaven eventually dropped back down across the lochan-studded landscape.

We took a looping route to join the estate track that runs up from the Glencoul track towards Creag an t-Sniomha. Joined this at NC 298 286. It drops SSE to the pass at NC 299 283.

Quite glad to be back on a decent track, the pass on this side of the Stack of Glencoul is quite high (340m). It’s not too much of a climb to the summit, but having been up it from the other side on a better day we decided to get down to Loch Glencoul.


Stack of Glencoul:

It’s still 4km down to the loch from here, but progress was much faster on the track. Occasionally distracted, a few Ring Ouzels enjoying the mix of rock and vegetation.

The Stack of Glencoul from descent:

Approaching Loch Glencoul:

Got some water from a side-stream a little above the loch – a pleasant change for us to only carry water a short way downhill to camp rather than hundreds of metres uphill.

We took a little while to explore the area and decide where to pitch. As we’d expected there was still a stiff breeze flowing down the pass, but tolerable.

It’s a rather pleasant spot. Wheatears in breeding plumage were patrolling the drystone dyke with occasional bursts of song.

We thought Sail Garbh looks rather like a face gazing up into the cloudscape from this angle:

Decided that a flat grassy pitch near the track was reasonable and got the tent up.

It was good to get into the tent conditions looked idyllic, but a 20+mph wind at fridge temperature feels substantially non-idyllic. In the tent it was rather more comfortable.

Cooked tea, and consumed our treats as the sun set.

Got up a bit after sunset to take a few night shots…..not quite got the focus right:

…and so to bed. A blustery night, but slept pretty well. Wind speeds increased as forecast but the Scarp did a good job.

This pitch was well tucked away from dawn, but we could see dawn’s light on Quinag:

Got cracking with breakfast and got packed up. Air temps were warmer than our last camp, but high winds and no direct sun meant it felt much colder.

The sun eventually lit Glencoul at about 0830.

It would be a fine place to while a day away on a warm spring day:

We got going. The path on the OS runs NNW up the promontory between the lochs before turning back along the S side of Loch Glendhu to Glendhu.

Initially, the path has been widened to an estate track, perhaps to assist with the forestry regeneration. Height (and warmth) is gained quickly up zig-zags. Glencoul is nestled in a dramatic location:

Across Loch Glencoul the charismatic lump of Quinag is associated with the memories of a few great hill days.

The estate track becomes an old stalkers path and rounds the promontory at the 200m level, following the same shelf back down to the head of Loch Glendhu.

Turning the corner the same geological feature can be seen on the opposite shore:

On previous visits we’d looked for the path from the opposite shore but seen nothing. It exists and is quite a nice old path. Bedded in well it simply isn’t visible from afar.

It eventually drops down towards Glendhu.

The cliffs on the far shore are better seen from here.

A large boulder field blocks the way near the end of the loch. We’d wondered what this bit would be like, a clear path has been made – back-breaking work for some.

Got out of the wind at the head of the loch to have some lunch. The sun was warm out of the wind. Had a half hour break before starting on the 2 hour walk back to the car.

A nice stroll back. Even with a stiff breeze the coconut smell of flowering gorse was strong. Undoubtedly the smell of Spring for me.

The Maldie Burn has a decent hydro scheme on it, even so the waterfall was in good flow:

Always optimistic, we were on otter-watch all the way back, but unusually for this area we didn’t see any. We did see some Red-throated divers out on the loch, presumably they’ll be heading for nesting sites soon.

The views were stunning.

A cracking walk. Some extremely characterful terrain and some very interesting new places. A bit of a shame about the wind speeds, but that’s Scotland.

Hopefully be back into the area again sometime.

3 thoughts on “Beinn Leoid via Glendhu and Glencoul. 13th-14th April 2019

    1. A little annoying, but it did persuade us to do this route….had various options of this on the cards for nearly 10 years.

      Really is a fine area…..wish I lived in Inverness!


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