Ciste Dhubh Circuit

A circular walk on the munro of Ciste Dhubh in Kintail. This walk uses rough hill paths and includes some off path descent on grassy slopes. Please ensure you are properly equipped for a mountain walk as this route takes you into remote countryside between Glen Affric and Kintail. Ensure you carry a map and compass and know how to use them. In winter ice axe and crampons should be carried. Allow at least 5 hours for this walk.

  • Distance: 12.5 km / 7.8 miles
  • Ascent: 800 m / 2600 feet
  • Terrain: Trodden hill path and path-less descent on grassy slopes
  • Start / finish: close to the Cluanie Inn, layby at NH 087 120, on the A83

Route Map

route map

Start the walk from the large layby at grid ref NH 087 120 on the A83. Initially walk westwards along the road for 400m, taking extreme care. After the forestry area and before the bridge, head up through a gate on to the open hill. You should able to find a rather boggy footpath to follow.

This footpath takes you all the way up to the Bealach á Choinich at almost 600m. It is a rough path and quite wet underfoot. An alternative route to the bealach is a track from the Cluanie Inn on the opposite side of the Allt á Caorann Bhig. However, using this track will mean a longer road walk at the end of your walk.

Once you reach the bealach the path takes you through some lumpy ground and then across the watershed to the foot of Ciste Dhubh. Follow the path up steep ground. Although steep at this point the path zig zags up the left side of the slope in front of you and provides an easy means of gaining height. The gradient eases off once you gain the ridge. Take some time to look back to the pointy peak of Am Bàthach behind you as you are going up the hillside.

The path follows the ridge line bearing left of a 877m knoll which is surprising narrow on the far side should you choose to stick to the crest instead of the path. Another gentle up and down is reached before the final steep ascent to the summit on rockier ground. The small summit cairn is reached surprisingly soon as it keeps itself hidden until the last moment. From here on a good day there are views down into the remote Glen Affric with its youth hostel.

Initially return the way you came down the steep slope to the small coll before the first bump on the ridge. At this point bear left (east) down steep but grassy slopes with the summit cliffs to your left. At first there is a feint path but this soon peters out. Pick your way down the slope aiming for the burn in the glen below you. Keep to the left of any burns coming down the slope that you are descending.

You should reach the glen at the watershed where the burn turns south to form the Alt á Chaorainn Mòr. Make sure you are to the north and then the east of this burn. The Glen Affric to Cluanie path is slightly up the slope on the east side of the burn. It is probably easiest to gain height and join it before crossing the burn that flow off the hills to the east.

The path is initially rough and boggy but after about 1km becomes a landrover track which makes for easy walking back to the roadside. From the watershed to the road is just over 4km. A short road walk gets you back to the layby where you started.