After the Grampians, the Northern Highlands page is slowly on its way, and I hope submitting few more mountains like this one to this area will give more sense to the forthcoming region page... I plan to sumbit a couple of others like Ben Dearg of Ullapool, or A'Ghlas-Bheinn. All pictures of this area are highly welcome !
The Five Sisters of Kintail is (or are, it depends...) one of the most famous massifs in Scotland. Like many other "sisters" around the world, these five are very photogenic and identical. The view of these five prism-shaped pyramids overlooking the bay of Loch Duich is one of the most common objects Scottish postcards.
They also belong to the tallest Munros in size in the Northern Highlands.
As one can expect from such a mountain over the sea level, the ridge walk cumulates a significant total ascent and descent. However it is not technically challenging, just a superb ridge walk.
The "Five Sisters" include the following tops :
- Sgurr nan Spainteach, 990 m (top)
- Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe, 1027m (Munro)
- Sgurr na Carnach, 1002m (Munro, but only since 1997 and recent measurements)
- Sgurr Fhuaran, 1067m (Munro)
- Sgurr nan Saighead, 929m (top)
Sgurr na Moraich, 876m, makes the West end, and is not a part of the five, but some mountaineers include it too in the traverse. The total gain of height reaches about 1500m.
On the foot of the Five Sisters is located the site of the Battle of Glen Shiel, which took place on 10 June 1719, opposing British government troops and an alliance of Jacobites and Spanish, resulting in a victory for the first. Rob Roy, legendary figure and Scottish folk hero (often called the "Scottish Robinhood") and his clan took part in it along with the Mc Gregor clan. The capture of the Eilean Donan Castle, Kintail's most famous monument, was one episod of the battle.
This battle is related in our mountain by the fact it gave the name of the easternmost summit, Sgurr nan Spainteach, named after the Spanish who took position on its slopes. One legend tells that after they were defeated, few of them escaped into the mountains and vanished, they were never captured afterwhile neither their bodies found, and that from this comes the top name. But, of course, one one is hundred percent sure of this, and this kind of stories make all the charm of Scotland.
Shiel Bridge, the locality near the trailheads on Loch Duich, is accessible by the A87 and A82, via the Loch Lochy junction near Fort William, either if we arrive from Glasgow or Edinburgh. From Aberdeen, it is adviseable to go via Inverness.
By public transports, Shiel Bridge belongs to the stops of the autobus going to the Isle of Skye, last before the brige of Kyle of Lochalsh.
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The route is quite obvious as it follows the whole ridge. It is usually made from East to West, allowing the boring approach along the road to be done in first the morning, and to end straight to the pub :)
The pass Bealach an Lapain is the usual starting route, from the trailhead on the old military road, and a gap in the fir forest though which we elevate.
For the end of the walk, some decide to walk Sgurr na Moraich, some other Sgurr an t'Serraich, but most of the hikers generally choose the easier descent through the gap that separate them, and to arrive straight to the pub :)
It is usually tolerated to sleep everywhere in Scottish mountains as long as the location is not in a private property. However bivouacquing is not really needed, unless for the fun, to walk the Five Sisters of Kintail.
Shiel Bridge has an official campsite which makes an ideal base for hiking these mountains as well as many others in the area.
There is another one, oh higher standard, in Morvich, not far.
There are also many B&B of all standards in this little location, one will find without problems using Google (the list is likely to change...). The most famous hotel is certainly the Kintail Lodge Hotel, which also has some bungalows for rent, and a famous pub one can savour a nice beer or whisky.