Fraochaidh and Glen Creran Woods

The hills on the west side of Glen Creran will be particularly appreciated by those searching for some peace and quiet. None of them reach the magic 3,000ft mark, and so are of no interest to the Munroist, while the relatively small numbers of Corbettistas follow the advice of the SMC guidebook and approach their target from Ballachuilish. Yet, the lower part of Glen Creran, with its lovely deciduous woodland, deserves a visit, and the east ridge of Fraochaidh offers excellent running.

Start from the large carpark at the end of the public road (NN 0357 4886). From here, you have two options. The first is to follow the marked pine marten trail to its most westerly point (NN 0290 4867). From here a path leads off in a SW direction; take this to an old stone foot bridge over Eas an Diblidh (NN 0273 4846; marked on OS 25k map).

Alternatively, set off back along the road until it crosses Eas an Diblidh, then immediately pick up the path heading up the hill (see the 25k map) to the aforementioned bridge; this is my preferred option, the surrounding woodland is beautiful, and the Eas Diblidh stream rather dramatic -- more than adequate compensation for the brief time spent on the road.

Whichever way you get to the bridge, take the level path heading SW; after just a few meters a faint track heads directly up the hill following the stream. In the spring the floor in this upper part of the woods is covered in a mix of bluebells and wild garlic, providing an unusual sensory experience.

The path eventually peters out and the woodland comes to an end. Above the woodland is a typical Scottish overgrazed hillside, and as you emerge from the woods buzzing with life, it's impossible not to be struck by the apparent lack of it. Follow the direction of the stream up to the bealach below Beinn Mhic na Ceisich (391m point on 25k map).

From the bealach head up N to the 627m summit and from here follow the old fence line onto the summit of Fraochaidh (879m). As indicated on the 25k map, this section is damp underfoot, the fence line follows the best ground. The final push onto Fraochaidh is steep, but without difficulties.

Once you have taken in the views from Fraochaidh summit, follow the faint path along its east ridge. The running and scenery are first class, with Sgorr Deargh forming the main backdrop; the path worn out to its summit, so obvious even from this distance, perhaps a cause for reflection on our impact on he hills we love.

Fraochaidh exhibits some interesting geology. The upper part of the mountain is made of slate, which, as you approach Bealach Dearg, briefly changes (to my untrained eye at least) to gneiss, promptly followed by a band of quartzite forming the knoll on its other side. Then, as the ridge turns NE, it changes to orange coloured limestone, covered in alpine flora, with excellent view back at Fraochaidh.

Follow the ridge all the way to Mam Uchdaich bealach where it is crossed by the Ballachuilish path. This has been impacted by recent forestry operations on the Glen Creran side, and a new, broad hard surface path zigzags toward the forestry track. As of the time of writing, it is still possible to pick up the original path near the first sharp turn, descending through a grassy fire break in the woods -- this much to be preferred.

The forestry track initially has little to commend it, other than being gently downhill, but for the last couple of kilometres it renters the lovely deciduous woodland for a pleasant final jog to the finish.

20km / 1600m ascent / ~4h