Kernsary circuit

We’ve been enjoying some wonderful walking in Wester Ross recently – and I thought I’d share one of our favourite routes today – around the shore of Loch Kernsary.

This is a truly glorious landscape to get out and about in: to the south lies beautiful Loch Maree and the mountains of Torridon, and to the east is that area of Scotland known by hillwalkers as the Great Wilderness, so named because it includes some of our most difficult to reach munros. Debates about contested terms like ‘wild’ and ‘remote’ notwithstanding, the landscape around Shenavall and An Teallach is certainly an area in which you are unlikely to run into many people, or encounter any kind of vehicle (apart from the occasional hardy mountain biker).

the Kernsary lochside path is visble here, with Loch Ewe beyond.

This is a place completely defined by water. Parcels of rough, undulating land are divided by a system of fresh water lochs and rivers that flow into Loch Ewe, the Minch, and the Atlantic beyond.

dogs, land, water

This walk starts in Poolewe, by the river Ewe, and begins by skirting the fringes of the Inverewe Estate (home of the famed garden)

Poolewe and Loch Ewe behind

As the land rises, the landscape opens up quickly, to reveal one of the great visual pleasures of this walk: Beinn Airigh Charr and the great peaks beyond.

Descending toward Kernsary, the loch outflow is a beautiful spot to pause and enjoy the view.

Before rising up again, to follow the path along the lochside, passing through some old birch woods.

The views just get better and better . . .

. . . as you follow the full length of the loch.

Behind me, you can see what remains of a crannog, a few metres out from the loch’s south shore. The stone wall rubble, and a group of old conifers are all that remains of this small, island dwelling that may have first been settled more than two thousand years ago.

There’s evidence of more recent human activity further along the loch’s north shore.

In the 1600s, Letterewe was the focus of a small industrial enterprise, smelting iron carried north from England by sea in furnaces fired by locally produced charcoal.

Perhaps because the surrounding woodland was quickly depleted by charcoal production, Letterewe’s iron industry did not last long, but groups of seventeenth-century English iron workers moved to Wester Ross, and later settled here.

One man, a poet, and eighteenth-century descendant of an iron-working family, built a home here by Loch Kernsary, in a place called Innis a Bhaird – the place of the bard. The poet himself was known as Am Bard Sassunnach – a name which suggests his English or Scottish lowland family origins.

It’s certainly a poetic, inspiring landscape!

The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that I’m wearing two coats in these photographs: that’s because we’ve done this walk twice recently, on two different occasions, about a month apart.

In late February, we walked in an anti-clockwise direction, beginning with the easy stretch along the river Ewe and up through the woods, before heading along the rougher lochside. Then, later in March, we went clockwise, with the rough walking first and the easy river-side stomp at the walk’s end.

Because of my variable walking ability, and the tendency of my left foot to become tired and ‘drop’ when walking on uneven ground, I much preferred completing the walk in the clockwise direction, with the easiest few miles last. Also, though all the views around Loch Kernsary are wonderful, the uplifting feeling of walking inland with these hills before you is very hard to beat. Clockwise all the way!

10km / 6 miles. Grid reference: NG 858 808

Further reading

J H Dixon, Gairloch and Guide to Loch Maree (1886)

Jeremy Fenton, Walk Wester Ross: 50+ Walks Loch Torridon to Little Loch Broom. This brilliant booklet is available in print at the Gairloch Museum, or as a PDF download from Jeremy’s website

Paul and Helen Webster, Wester Ross and Lochalsh: 40 Coast and Country Walks (2010) available in the KDD shop