On and Above Loch Maree

A second trip to Poolewe with the intention of getting some winter walking / climbing done, and despite having a great time on the first trip, we were hoping for better weather this time. Having seen the ready availability of quality places to paddle nearby too, I decided to take the kayak this year for any days that seemed less favourable for a walk or being up high if windy.

The two highlights for me of the few days, were a paddle on Loch Maree and an ascent of Slioch overlooking Loch Maree and a lot more besides.

On Loch Maree (Route)

I set off from the Loch Maree Hotel, which seems to be in a state of refurbishment, with the sounds of of power tools at one side of the building and some kind of classical singing at the other. This latter soundtrack seemed appropriate to me launching under grey skies in calm conditions but soon I was far enough away following the coast north then east to hear anything but waterfalls and the occasional car. For the rest of the day, I heard nothing except these two, no birdsong, no people and no boats at all.

Remains of castle

Slioch across Loch Maree

My first stop ashore of the day after numerous pauses on the water to take in scenery, was on the unnamed island (at least according to the OS map) at NG 952 693 which has the remains of a castle, only just though, a basement / dungeon can be made out and some fallen stone can be seen around the place in the undergrowth. Great views and a pleasant stop for lunch.

Next, north across the Loch to an area known as Furnace, named after long past industry in the area. Despite a quick look, I could not find any evidence of the workings even though there are some in the area. I think I figured out where they might be as I paddled further on.

Waterfall at Furnace on Loch Maree's north shore

A surprising amount of driftwood about no doubt a result of all the recent winds.

Time was getting on and with it the skies clearing a bit out towards the coast, despite myself being under cloud, my face could feel the reflected sun off the water. I was paddling west now along Loch Maree’s north shore with Isle Maree in my sights. This is the main sight of interest (at least for me) on the Loch and has a long history. Thankfully it is one of the smaller islands in the archipelago and so I quickly found the graveyard and the money or wish tree. However, despite numerous repeated wanderings of all the paths I could see, I never did find the Norwegian Prince’s grave but it may well have been covered up.

Grey skies, bright skies - looking back at Loch Maree's south shore

Ilse Maree's graveyard

The wishing or money tree

I had arranged a sunset meeting with friends on the coast and had to get my skates on now, either a 2km paddle back direct to the hotel could be taken or an extra twenty minutes could be spent seeing a bit more of the archipelago of which I had only skirted one side of thus far. I decided I could always just head over to meet the guys without getting changed to see a bit more and am glad I did. My remaining route took me along to a channel which splits the group in half and has a few interesting bays and dead-ends to pass, then direct back to the hotel.

Above Loch Maree, Slioch

Our nightly chats about what to do each day had quickly settled on good forecast for Friday being reserved for an ascent of Slioch and in the end eight of us set off in two groups, meeting up finally in the corrie below the summit.

A nice walk of about an hour from Kinlochewe along its river to Loch Maree gave the legs a nice warmup for the big ascent ahead as well as increasingly dramatic views as we went. Some goats joined us for part of this walk but we soon left them when the ascent began as we followed the gorgeous, cascading river Abhainn an Fhasaigh.

Wild goats - just some of a few dozen we saw

Ptarmigan in their winter outfits with Loch Maree behind

Over the day, the weather changed from sunny and warm (winter?) to grey above, breezy and cooler but throughout we had good views over Loch Maree and at summits in all directions, far and wide.

A map of my paddle of the previous day

Looking south to the hills of Torridon

A stunning walk at the harder end of the effort scale, enjoyed by all.

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