Scotland - The Five Sisters

You drown not by falling into a river, but by staying submerged in it.

The wrong side of the river

After two weeks of glorious sunshine in the south Dave E and Tav arrived in Scotland to find more typical Tav’s tour conditions; wet, grey and blustery. The ambition was to climb the Five Sisters of Kintail and with the weather forecast being slightly better on the Friday we set off with high hopes.

The walk took us up a stunning river valley, but soon the amount of water cascading off either side of the valley gave us a taste of the challenges to come. Within 20 mins of starting the weather deteriorated and full waterproofs were called for. After a long, scenic trek up the valley we reached a private bothy and made the turn along the side of a smaller river towards the five sisters ridge.

2 weeks of continuous rain had swollen the river considerably - and although the walking guide book stated you could cross, there was no obvious or straightforward crossing available. After much dithering and discussion we sadly concluded that we would not be getting our hands (or feet) on any of the five sisters that day and turned back to the valley floor.

To extend the walk we continued further up the main valley, climbing alongside a gorge and with views of several stunning waterfalls.

Lunch was taken with views alongside the hanging valley before we turned back for the long trudge out. While we failed to conquer the sisters we were rewarded with 14 miles of stunning, lonely and wild river valley.

Day 2

The weather forecast was for 40mph winds at sea level, which ruled out a second attempt at the sisters so we opted for a circular route straight out of the B&B. The walk started with a pleasant stroll along the lock before finding a footpath alongside a small river that led into the valley. The map showed that the path crossed and recrossed the river. Given our failure of the previous day we approached the route with some trepidation. Thankfully some enterprising souls had created a path that stuck to the left hand bank and avoided the numerous crossings the map suggested.

The valley soon narrowed spectacularly and we were bouldering our way up and over the small river, a much more vigorous and exciting route than we had anticipated.

Eventually we reached the end of the stream and the head of the Valley, with stunning views down into the next valley below. We took lunch here in relative shelter and between showers. As we finished lunch and turned to climb up into the saddle behind us the wind picked up significantly and soon the rain joined it. The next couple of miles were a slog into the wind with the rain into our faces as we climbed up and through the saddle. Eventually we reached the gorge that marked the route down. After some debate about which side we should descend (the usual dodgy map reading from Tav) we commenced with a steep and slippery (Tav flat on his back followed later by a weird pirouette routine) into the valley below.

Once again the river valleys of Scotland rewarded us with stunning views and waterfalls to admire. Eventually we reached the Lock and a country lane with lovely viewpoints across the lock took us back to Dornie and the B&B.

A boozier than usual night followed as live music and whisky persuaded to us to stay much later than intended in the pub. A hungover visit to Eilean Donan castle on Sunday morning before we returned to Inverness.