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Foinaven Circuit, Sutherland, Scotland.
[21.7 km]  Thu 16 May 2019


Sunrise
Lat/Long: 58.468615, -04.899153
OS Grid ref: NC 31005 57022
With a long days walk ahead I was up at 4:50 a.m. and was treated to a lovely sunrise looking out to sea in the distance. I moved from my overnight stop and drove around 2 miles south to park near Gualin House in a small parking area. I was heading for the Foinaven circuit walk which is quite long hence the earlier than normal start.

Fisherman's hut
The sun was still low as I left the car at 6 a.m. and walked a short way south along the road before turning off a long and unsurfaced estate road heading down to Strath Dionard. The first part was a long descent down to the river and in the distance I heard the sound of a cuckoo. The track was easy-going as it headed upstream by the river and after a few kilometres came to a hut just off to the right.  I was expecting it to be locked so I was very surprised when I tried the door and it was open. It was too small for a hunting bothy but inside was a table, gas-ring, Kettle and a bench on the far wall with a comfy chair in the corner.
Kettle and comfy chair
Outside a large gas bottle was locked to the wall. It would appear this is for fishermen. I closed and bolted the door security and continued south along the river. I saw another similar hut down by the river but didn't check it. After about 7.5 km I reached the point where I left the track to turn right and head up towards the east side of Foinaven. There was nothing to mark the point where I left the track. I headed roughly west across featureless terrain with no sign of a path of any kind. I was following a river up to a high corrie but before reaching it made a right turn to head steeply up the mountainside to reach a minor summit call Mhadaidh at 589 m.

Foinaven in the distance
It was an easy climb and gave me good views of my route ahead. Although the walk is called Foinaven the highest summit I am heading for is called Ganu Mor on the map at 914 m. At this minor summit I turned round to the west and started to descend to the saddle before approaching the steep and stoney ridge which would take me up to Ciann. The first part of the climb was through boulderery tangles which were difficult to negotiate as I was always aware of the possibility of boulders moving and falling in the gaps.
Deep
Eventually I reached a steep grassy bank higher up and it was just a case of continuing the slog upwards until the gradient eased. The summit was surprisingly barren as I wandered across the grassy plateau. A cairn was all that marked the summit. Ahead I could see the curved ridge bending to the left to my objective of a large cairn on Foinaven. I descended for a while before starting the easy ridge climb which steepened near the summit. It was interesting to note some snowfields still lurking in the shade. The earlier clear sunrise was now overcast cloud and very hazy but it didn't prevent my enjoyment of the summit.
The views down were very impressive of the very barren rocky scenery. Fortunately there was hardly any wind. To starts my descent I had to return the way Id come. Approaching the saddle I met a walker coming the other way but he was going to carry on over the summit and do a larger round trip. He had climbed up the way I was about to descend.
Foinaven cairn

View from Foinaven

Still snow on Foinaven
The branch off northwest to start the descent is unmarked and I had to use the GPS track which I had on my Garmin. As I suspected it was steep and difficult at times and almost completely unmarked except for the occasional small cairn on the rocks. Thankfully lower down I was able to reach grassy slopes which were much easier to negotiate.  When I eventually reach the bottom of the steep descent I was on a fairly flat bog-land area where my route was directly to the north. I had around for 3km to go and even though I could see Gaulin House and the road way ahead it didn't seem to get any closer as I slogged my way north. I was very thankful for the dry weather as it would be a nightmare in the wet.

Looking back to Foinaven
Eventually the road got closer and I reached it and thankfully started to walk back to my car. There was a cyclist on a touring bike who had stopped to eat some food before continuing to his overnight camp at Durness. I stopped for a while to chat and then left him to finish his crackers and cheese lunch. I reached my car after 22 km of walking.