The North Coast 500 provides the focus for an amazing cycling trip around north-west Scotland. Sticking to the route itself brings many rewards, especially the fabulous views of land and sea in the Highlands. But it’s also worth taking the time to explore the area further.
A great suggestion is to spend two or three days hiking the famous Fisherfield mountains. The Dundonnell and Fisherfield Forest covers a vast mountainous area of Wester Ross in the north west Highlands. It is located between Loch Maree and Little Loch Broom.
Known as the Fisherfield 6, there are five Munros and a Corbett to summit and many walkers aim to do all of them in one trip.
A view of the fabulous Fisherfield wilderness area. Credit: FionaOutdoors.co.uk
What is a Munro?
All Scottish mountains with a summit of 3000ft or more are known as Munros. There are 282 Munros. They were first listed by Sir Hugh Munro in the early 20th century and hence the modern day name of the list.
What is a Corbett?
All Scottish mountains with a summit of between 2500ft and 3000ft are known as Corbetts. There are 222 Corbetts. The first list was compiled in the 1920s by John Rooke Corbett.
A long ascent of the Corbett carrying a pack of kit for two days. Credit: FionaOutdoors.co.uk
The top of Beinn a' Chlaidheimh. Credit: FionaOutdoors.co.uk
Walking the Fisherfield 6 over two days
Fiona Russell, aka Fiona Outdoors, spent two days hiking and wild camping with her husband Gordie on a 42km route via all six summits. The total ascent for the trip is 3000 metres so it’s important that you are fit for the hike.
The starting point – and the place to park a car or leave a bicycle – is found on the A832, south of Dundonnell and close to Corrie Hallie.
An obvious track leaves the roadside heading south-west and leads walkers towards the first mountain of the trip (we did the route clockwise).
The track undulates and winds a little but fairly early on you can see the Corbett, Beinn a’ Chlaidheimh rising ahead of you among many other magnificent mountains.
It’s a long and fairly steep hike to the summit of Beinn a’ Chlaidheimh at 2998ft above sea level. Yes, this mountain really is just a couple of feet shy of Munro status.
We met two people on the top, who turned out to be the only other people we saw over the two days of wilderness walking.
A rocky ascent. Credit: Fionaoutdoors.co.uk
We packed enough gear to be sure of being warm even in summer. Credit: FionaOutdoors.co.uk
The next mountain was the Munro, Sgùrr Ban. There was a hike down and then back up over some 3km and it seemed like we might never reach summit two. Between the two peaks, we were grateful for some paths to follow but there was also a long slope of loose rocks to climb.
It has been cloudy on the Corbett summit so we enjoyed walking back below the mist and the resultant views over many mountains, glens and lochs spread out all around.
Munro two (summit three) was the highest peak of the Fisherfields. The top of Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair is at a height of 1018m.
Strangely, given its loftiness, we seemed to arrive a the top quite quickly. After a descent of Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair, a path rose steeply in zig-zags from around 800m to the top of Sgùrr Ban at 989m.
Next up was Beinn Tarsuinn, which is a far smaller Munro at 937m and again it felt relatively easy compared to the earlier Corbett and the first Munro.
We descended a steep southern slope on Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair and then pushed upwards again to the highest point. It was great to have a path to follow and because we were pacing ourselves, I rarely felt out of breath or under pressure.
I confess my legs were beginning to tire a little due to the accumulative ascent and the distance but seeing what looked like the top of Beinn Tarsuinn “just up ahead” gave me a boost of enthusiasm to keep going.
Clouds had descended but then they started to lift again and our views were truly spectacular. It is an area where you run out of superlatives.
Many more summits and then (finally) time for a wild camp. Credit: FionaOutdoors.co.uk
Wild camp on A’ Mhaighdean
Some people might choose to keep walking and complete the full round over a long day – and some of the night! – but we wanted to enjoy the journey and our plan was to find a spot to camp high on Beinn Tarsuinn
We were fortunate with the weather and it wasn’t particularly windy when we finally made it to the top of A’ Mhaighdean.
It was a long hike on tired legs, however, and time seemed to drift a bit. We walked mostly in contented silence, both of us enjoying the peaceful surroundings.
As we neared the summit, two red deer peered at us from a rocky knoll above us.
The early evening views over Fionn Loch, the many islands and across to the Atlantic, from the 967m top of A’ Mhaighdean were fantastic.
A flat and fairly grassy area just to the north-east of the summit provided a perfect camping spot. From the tent door we could look out at the coast yet we were sheltered from any potential overnight winds.
We set up camp, cooked a quick meal on our camping stove and then enjoyed a dram of whisky while watching the sun set. We felt like the luckiest people.
The final summit of the trip. Credit: FionaOutdoors.co.uk
A long walk out along a wide glen. Credit: FionaOutdoors.co.uk
Shenavall Bothy. Credit: FionaOutdoors.co.uk
Day two: One more Munro and a long walk out
Waking up early, we looked down from our camping spot on the final Munro of the trip, Ruadh Stac Mòr. At 918m, it only just qualifies as a Munro and we were quick to head off towards it.
After a short descent, we started another climb. My legs were tired from the previous day but I was jubilant to make it to the final summit of the long Fisherfield outing.
We spent time enjoying the fabulous views once again and then began the long walk back to the road. And it turned out to be very long indeed.
For some reason, in my mind, once I’d reached the final summit it would be “just” a walk back to the car. It was “just” a walk but a very long one.
After a descent, we headed into a wide glen and walked in a north-easterly direction. There were bits and pieces of track and path until a boggy section that we needed to traverse to reach a bothy.
Shenavall bothy is often used as a base for people walking the Fisherfield mountains. We rested for a while and ate some of the last bits and pieces of out food. Looking back towards the mountains that we had walked felt humbling.
Then came the final walk up a steep path and along the same track we had hiked on the outward journey just the day before. It felt like we had been away for much longer than two days.
Gordie had reckoned it would be a quick walk from Shenavall bothy back to the car but it turned out to be 1.5 hours. We were very low on food and water by this point and both of us were keen to be back at the car where we could rest and refuel.
The beauty and grandeur of the Fisherfield Forest. Credit: FionaOutdoors.co.uk
Conclusion: The Fisherfield Munros (and a Corbett)
The two-day walk is one of the best I have ever done. It takes commitment to reach these remote mountains and unless you are fit and speedy, you’ll need at least two days in the great outdoors.
But the rewards far outweigh the challenge. The views at every turn are fabulous and if you are in the area, perhaps cycling the NC 500, it’s a great outing.
See my route.
Alternative idea for a Fisherfields walk
Another option for this trip is to walk 7km from the A832 to reach Shenavall bothy.
You can set up camp here or base yourself in the bothy and this allows you to leave your heaviest kit (ie camping kit / sleeping kit and some of your food) at the base.
The circuit from Shenavall to Shenavall over the Corbett and five Munros is around 29km and an ascent of 2250m.
If you are interested in including this walk as part of a NC500 cycling trip, ask about planning and logistics. Highland Transfers will do all we can to accommodate different plans, ideas and aspirations.