I love a day in the hills just before Christmas – it’s great to get out in the hills on a short December day with low angled light and a race against the darkness – and to build up an appetite for the festive period. Christmas Eve 2021 came up trumps with a trip to Beinn Enaiglair – a Corbett that lies to the south of Ullapool and Loch Broom. It’s on the western edge of the Beinn Dearg massif, above the Braemore Junction (where the A835 Ullapool and A832 from Poolewe and Gairloch roads meet). The weather forecast for the day looked okay in the northern highlands with clouds and precipitation drifting away southwards through the day as high pressure moved in.
Interactive map of Beinn Enaiglair including the Corbett summit and photos
Important note: Routes on this map are provided as an indication only in good faith. They are approximate and indicative and should not be relied on for navigation or as a guarantee that any specific person will be capable of completing them. Read more here.
It was about 09:00 by the time I arrived at the junction in cold, dreich showery conditions just as it was getting properly light. There is a big layby/parking area on the east side of the road that is also used as a bus stop but has room for plenty of vehicles. A walkers’ or hill path is signposted at the east end of the layby and I think heads round the edge of the woods and back to the north west towards the Home Loch and the path below Beinn Enaiglair. Alternatively, the track from the west end of the layby through the woods towards the estate buildings and lodge can be used on foot or bike despite the discouraging signs. I had the bike with me and although only being a short ride in along the track I used it – taking the zig zag track up the hill to the right past estate buildings just before the lodge.
I left the bike and took the path east up to the Bealach nam Buthan between Meall Doire Faid and Beinn Enaiglair as sleet then snow fell. The wind was whipping through the bealach and along the ridge of Meall Doire Faid – which I gained from the bealach by rough but easy enough terrain. I found a sheltered spot in the lea of a crag on the way back down and got a quick a snack in. Back in the wind through the bealach and exposed to its full force on the initial ascent back out towards Enaiglair I cooled rapidly and my hands were all of a sudden desperately cold. All foreseeable, I should have been more prepared before moving on.
Warmer gloves, another jacket added and a steady plod up the southern slopes of Beinn Enaiglair and I arrived on the summit in better condition. There was also a bit of sun and blue sky appearing though most of the higher summits including Beinn Dearg, An Teallach and the Fannichs were still cloud covered. The wind on the summit was bracing, the wind chill extreme; curtains of spindrift whipped by but the views were opening up.
The descent from Beinn Enaiglair down the east ridge was gentle and the views opened out to the clearing Beinn Dearg and Fannich hills. A party of three ladies were the only people I saw all day close to the summit. A decent old stalkers’ path circumnavigates the whole of Beinn Enaiglair. It crosses the east ridge quite high up at between 600 and 650 metres and then heads round to the north via an unnamed bealach. On the descent to Allt na h-Ighine the wonderful sight of An Teallach appeared round Enaiglair’s west ridge, the massif having cleared during the afternoon.
On the traverse back south towards the Home Loch there were great views over to Fisherfield and the Fannichs as the light began to fade and I disturbed some curious but wary hinds grazing at the base of Beinn Enaiglair’s west ridge.
It was getting dark as I reached the Braemore junction layby. I was glad to reach the car and get out of the biting wind that had clawed at me for most of the day – and grateful to be heading home for the warmth of a family Christmas.
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