Read on as trip organiser, Stu reports back on our trip into the Scottish wilds, reveals the best kit list, and gives solid tips and advice.
This year Taunton leisure took 7 staff members to Scotland to walk the Affrick Kintail trail, I am going to take you through the trip, a sample kit list, the costs involved, and why we think this type of training is important.
When looking at trips to do, I always look to see what we can do in Scotland, amazing scenery and proper wilderness feeling, the downside is it is pretty far from the southwest! Having done a few backpacking trips in Scotland a walk that came to mind is the Affrick Kintail way, 44 miles over 4 days from Drumnadrochit on Loch ness to Morvich, a good distance for a training event with varied terrain and a mix of campsites and wild camping, a great introduction to trekking for staff and 4 days plus travel time meant 6 days out of office was just about manageable.
We have a Demo pool of equipment staff are able to use and we would be taking a number of items with us on this trip, our generous brands were also kind enough to lend plenty of in-season clothing for staff to test out and see how it really performs, this way there is no pressure for staff to have to buy their own kit for the trip which can quickly add up, it also gives them the chance to use high-end products they might not otherwise get to use.
We planned to go at the start of September when it starts to get a bit cooler, less crowded, and the dreaded midges drop off, in my experience, you don’t get too much rain in September either!
After much consideration, it made the best sense to hire 2 cars and drive the 600-mile trip from Exeter, picking up staff along the way. The team and I looked at flying to Inverness, and at public transport but driving was going to be the easiest to organise for multiple people and would allow us to park a car at the end of the route as a shuttle, it also meant we did not have to rely on planes, trains, and buses being on time. Driving was shared and took us about 10 hours, pretty good timing with a few stops along the way.
We arrived at the campsite Loch Ness Bay Camping at about 5.30pm, unloaded the cars and 2 drivers drove to Morvich to drop off one of the cars, a 2-hour round trip. Meanwhile, the rest of the group pitched all the tents we had and the tarp and did some tent-pitching training on Hilleberg, MSR, and Nordisk. Once the drivers returned, it was time for some food under the tarp in the light rain and turning in, everyone is pretty tired from an early start and day of traveling. It was really exciting to finally be here after a few months of planning and the group could not wait to get started, especially as the latest forecast was for mostly fine weather!
We took a relaxed start to the day, everyone making the most of campsite facilities, the plan was to wild camp for the next 3 nights.
Our next training session was on how to pack away your tent to make it easier to pitch next time, we loaded all the kit we were not taking into the remaining car. Next was rucksack packing and fitting, followed by the use of walking poles. With everyone ready, we headed to the start of the trail at 10.30
The first part of the trail is on forestry paths and roads and is relatively easygoing, we were going at a quick pace, spying views between the trees. A couple of heavy showers greeted us, which were forecast and some waterproofs were donned and doffed as the rain came and went throughout the morning.
It was time for lunch after a couple of hours with a lovely view of Loch Meiklie. Noodles, soup, pb&j wraps, or plain pepperoni slices were on the menu. After 30 minutes or so we carried on, heading along more forestry tracks and descending in the small hamlet of Kylechorky, the official route was still not finished so we followed the diversion along the A831, it was quite warm and sunny now, and the fatigue of carrying a heavy pack all day on hard ground was starting to kick in for some of the staff, we’d more than earned a few breaks for water and relaxing feet. Eventually, we reached the forestry track and it was a relief to get off the busyish road, the plan was to try and find somewhere to wild camp near Loch Riabhanchain, it looked good on the maps and satellite images. This was a mistake! The area around the Loch was locked off due to deer fencing and the ground being incredibly boggy and overgrown making it very slow going, there was nowhere particularly good to camp, it would have been possible with just 1 tent, but we had 4 to try and find reasonable pitches for. The decision was made to head back to the forestry tracks and into the village of Cannich to stay at another campsite, not very exciting but the right choice, because of the late start it was about 7pm by the time the team reached the campsite and set up camp. Spirits were brighter after some food and chat, though there were some sore bodies, especially from staff not used to carrying heavy packs for a longer period.
Starting with a brew and some food camp was packed away, distributing some of the kits around to lighten the load of some of the staff who had too heavier packs the day prior, it was decided we were going to take more stops today and some longer breaks, at times day 1 felt like an unending slog. We had picked out Dog Falls as a place for a good lunch stop. The group and I headed back out onto the trail and climbed up to Comar wood, here we walked through more plantations and came across a viewpoint that was also an Iron Age settlement, what a great place for a break and some photos with some nice views down towards the Glen. The weather blessed us with arm sunshine and a cool breeze.
Continuing along the trail for an hour or so, the team got a glimpse of a Pine Marten through the trees, the first wildlife we had managed to spot. What a blessing! Eventually, the descent down to Dog Falls began, we found a great space on the rocks and got about cooking lunch, a couple of staff also decided to go for a swim in the cool dark water. It was also the perfect place to top up our water and so we did a training session on using the different filters and purifying options. After an hour or so of eating, laying in the sun and some training it was time to head off again.
The trail began a fairly steep incline, and the group took it slow in the afternoon heat, heading up the path to the south of Loch Beinn a’Mheadhoin, there were beautiful glimpses of the Loch through the trees, and eventually, we made it to a great viewing spot, packs were removed to climb the steps and take some photos and take in the great view of the Loch and the mountains in the distance.
Dropping back down towards the shore, the team and I started to think about where we would make camp for the night, the plan was to camp in the woods near Loch a’Chalidheimh. After a couple of hours, we reached the stream indicating this was a good spot to leave the path and set up camp, finding some relatively flat ground among the trees and close enough to the water. There was a training session on how to pitch your tents in a place like this, with lots of roots, bushes, and sticks on the ground. Then the worst thing happened, the wind dropped, and the midges came out! The team had been really lucky so far and not seen much of them at all, now they were in their element, damp still woods. It was relatively early still so we did our best to brave the onslaught and even run through different types of repellent and nets. After a while, it got worse so staff began to head into the relative protection of an inner tent. The plan for the morning was to quickly break camp if it was still and head to the end of the Loch for breakfast where there might be more of a breeze to avoid the onslaught.
Some staff had a not-great night on the uneven ground, but it was a great example of where you can pitch your tent and the importance of taking time to find the right spot.
It was a calm, warm morning, perfect conditions again for the midge, so packed up and were walking by 7.30, once walking they didn’t really bother us. The trail came to the bridge that goes over the river between Loch Beinna’Mheadhoin and Loch Affric at about 9am. A bench on the other side with wonderful views featuring some Crested Grebe. Here we decided to shoot a video on layering and that gave everyone some time to settle/prepare better for the day ahead.
After the video was shot and the water bottles replenished, it was time to finally head toward the mountains. The day was overcast and a bit cooler, with a breeze that picked up. We walked past the fairly impressive Affric Lodge and thought what a great place to stay that would be instead of a tent for the night…
The trees eventually began to clear opening up more impressive views of Loch Affric and the surrounding hills and moorland, they must be a popular cycle track as we were passed numerous times. Taking a few stops for pictures and to take in the scenery, everyone’s mood was better today. There was great scenery and lighter packs from eating 2 days of food. These 2 days would be slightly less distance, we reached the Strawberry cottage and stopped near the river here for some lunch, there was a smattering of drizzle and it certainly felt more like autumn, everyone was glad to have padded jackets and waterproofs. We got some great footage here and everyone was looking forward to making camp in amongst the mountains tonight.
The trail now began to undulate as we headed properly into Glen Affric following the river towards Allbeithe Youth Hostel, continuing about 1KM past the Hostel to a large flat area where a number of tributaries meet, the group found a large flat area and set up the tents and the Tarp for a place to sit out of the passing light showers. Here we got a lot of photos for the website and future content and reviews. There was a training session here on roll mats and sleeping bags and was a lovely chance to reflect on the trip so far, this being the last night on the trail, it was great to be in such a stunning and wild feeling location among good people.
A great moody morning greeted us with a rainbow near the camp and some wonderful lighting, as the camp was broken down we shot some more video content and began the final leg to Morvich, the weather was pretty changeable this morning and the path steadily climbed up giving us great views down the glen. Reaching the Bothy Camban and stopping to take off packs, I got to show staff what a bothy is. As the team continued on we had some stronger winds and more wet weather. Most staff put on full waterproofs. At the next heavy downpour, the decision was made to stop off the trail near a magnificent waterfall, and quickly put up the tarp for some extra protection. After some grub and hot drinks, it was time for the final descent to Morvich.
As the team headed out of the wilds we began to see grazing animals and farmsteads and eventually reached the roads and the final destination of the Morvich ranger station and the parked car left 4 days earlier.
Now was time for the drive back to Loch ness camping and another shuttle run. 2 staff had to wait 2 hours in Morvich, although they had a great view and warm place to sit.
We were all reunited by 6.30pm and had a meal in the town before a long 13-hour drive home the next day.
A great trip with some challenges and a lot learned. I’m very proud of the staff and how they took on this challenge.
We would like to thank the support from all the brands who supported this trip including Rab, Montane, Mountain Equipment, MSR, Optimus, Sea To Summit, and Expedition Foods
Staff knowledge and expertise are a cornerstone of our business, all our staff should have a great base of knowledge of what they are selling, giving customers the ability to trust in what they are being recommended. By running on-the-hill training, we can get staff out on the hills using the gear they are selling and getting expert training from some of the more senior staff members, the knowledge they are able to pass onto customers and other team members and give them the confidence to get outdoors and do more of what they love.
Kit list and costs
Below is a sample Kit list from the team;
Meindl Kansas GTX boots – 740g (single, size 8)
Bridgedale Midweight Hike Sock – 76g
M.E Ibex Pro pant – 530g
Montane Dart LS base Layer – 135g
Rab Nexus Jacket – 320g
M.E Saltoro Jacket – 430g
M.E Saltoro Pant – 310g
Rab Cirrus Alpine – 516g
Osprey Exos 58 – 1.32kg
Optimus Crux HE Weekender stove kit – 358g
Primus Firestick – 105g
Sea to Summit Delta Mug – 125g
Sea-to-Summit Long-Handled Spoon – 12g
Personal first aid kit – 240g
Sea to Summit Pocket Trowel – 87g
STS Ultralight 20l Drybag – 40g
STS Ultralight 6L Drybag – 30g
Rab Vapourise Gloves – 90g
ME Powerstretch Beanie – 30g
Spare base layer legs and top – Approx. 300g
Montane Dart Boxer X 3 – 65g per pair
Bridgedale trekker sock X 4 – 76g per pair
230g Optimus Gas Cartridge – 230g
Sea to Summit Spark III sleeping bag – 745g
Sea to Summit Ether light XT sleeping mat – 560g
Half of Hilleberg Anjan 3GT – Approx. 2.15kg
4 X freeze-dried 800cal Expedition food meals for evenings (1 spare)
4 X instant noodles for Lunches
4 X instant porridge for breakfast
3 X small pack of beef jerky
1 X homemade trail mix
4 X instant coffee
4 x instant hot chocolate
2 X bars of chocolate
Costs for the trip
Besides fuel costs £260 driving from south devon, the only major costs on the trip are campsite fees, we had 3 nights at sites.
2 nights at Loch ness bay camping for £10.50 per night
1 night at Cannich for £9 per night
Both sites were clean and had good facilities
We were able to drop a car at the end, if you are not able to do this there is a regular bus service from Morvich to Drumnadrochit, which take 2 hours, but is inexpensive.