Cape Wrath Trail

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Cape Wrath Lighhouse

The Cape Wrath Trail is an unmarked long distance walk, approximately 200 miles in length, from Fort William in Inverness-shire to Cape Wrath in Sutherland, the north-westernmost point of mainland Great Britain. The route was devised and promoted by the "Cape Wrath Trail Company" run by the Lochaber Mountain Access Group.

The Trail visits four or five Highland counties: Inverness-shire, Ross-shire, Cromartyshire and Sutherland, and the Glenfinnan variant visits Argyllshire also.

As it is unmarked and through wild country it takes a feat of navigation as well as boundless energy and is a walk only for the most experienced long-distance hikers. There is no single, set route for the trail, but a starting point (Fort William) and a finishing point (Cape Wrath Lighthouse) and some recommended routes and otherwise a free choice for the exact route.

The starting point of the trail is Fort William, at the south-western end of the Great Glen. This is also the northern end of the West Highland Way, allowing the possibility for the most dedicated walker to combine the two. It is also at the foot of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles.

The Cape Wrath Trail is reckoned the toughest multi-day walk in the United Kingdom, though as much of its route is followed by the Scottish National Trail, which begins at the northern end of the Pennine Way, the latter must be reckoned the tougher.


The trail is not officially endorsed by Scottish Natural Heritage and it is not waymarked nor signposted. Facilities along the trail are also minimal and it covers some of the remotest parts of mainland Great Britain.

Notwithstanding the hardship of the route, and lack of signage nor official imprimatur, the Cape Wrath Trail has grown to be one of the most highly regarded backpacking routes, attracting hikers from around the world.

The route was first publicised in a 1996 book by David Paterson entitled The Cape Wrath Trail: A New 200-mile Walking Route Through the North-west Scottish Highlands. This was followed in 1999 by a separate publication (North to the Cape: A trek from Fort William to Cape Wrath) by Denis Brook and Phil Hinchliffe.

In both versions the trail begins in Fort William and ends at Cape Wrath lighthouse on the northwest tip of the mainland. It connects with the West Highland Way and part of an alternative route suggested by Cameron McNeish follows the Great Glen Way out of Fort William before joining the main route in Glen Shiel.


The guidebooks estimate an experienced walker should be able to traverse the entire route in less than 20 days. However the authors detail slightly different routes and stages for walkers to follow. There are other alternatives on various segments of the route, thus there is yet to be an "official" established route. Many walkers see this variety as a quintessential part of the trail's appeal. The alternatives allow differing access to bothies, provisions, stream crossings and scenery.

Fort William to Morvich

Glenfinnan route

Stage Distance Time Counties Notes
Fort William to Glenfinnan 22 miles 8-10 hours Inverness-shire, Argyllshire
Glenfinnan to A' Chuil 12 miles 5-6.5 hours Inverness-shire
A'ChuilBarrisdale Bay 16 miles 7-9 hours Inverness-shire
Barrisdale BayMorvich 21 miles 9-11 hours Inverness-shire, Ross-shire

Great Glen route

Loch Cluanie
Stage Distance Time Counties Notes
Fort William to Gairlochy 11 miles 4-4.5 hours Inverness-shire
Gairlochy to Mandally 16 miles 6-7 hours Inverness-shire
Mandally to Poulary 12 miles 4-4.5 hours Inverness-shire
Poulary to Cluanie 11 miles 5-6 hours Inverness-shire
Cluanie to Morvich 16 miles 6.5-7 hours Inverness-shire, Ross-shire

Morvich to Cape Wrath

Beinn Eighe from Loch Clair
Stage Distance Time Counties Notes
Morvich to Maol Bhuidhe 14 miles 6.5-7 hours Ross-shire
Maol Bhuidhe to Craig 15 miles 6.5-7 hours Ross-shire
Craig to Kinlochewe 10 miles 4-5 hours Ross-shire
Kinlochewe to Shenavall 18 miles 7-8 hours Ross-shire
Shenavall to Inverlael 21½ miles 4-5 hours Ross-shire, Cromartyshire
Inverlael to Oykel Bridge 21½ miles 8-11 hours Ross-shire
Oykel Bridge to Inchnadamph 20 miles 8-11 hours Ross-shire, Sutherland
Inchnadamph to Kylestrome 17 miles 10-11 hours Sutherland
Kylestrome to Rhiconich 18 miles 9-10 hours Sutherland
Rhiconich to Sandwood Bay 12 miles 4.5-5 hours Sutherland
Sandwood Bay to Cape Wrath 8 miles 3.5-4.5 hours Sutherland

Rib routes

The Cape Wrath Trail organisation promotes, in addition to the main route, ten of “Rib Routes”, whereby the main route is the “spine” and the “ribs” branch off it to provide additional or alternative routes of exploration, and in many cases additional levels of difficulty. Rib Routes add considerable difficulty and length to the Spine Trail. Each one Rib leaves from the main trail then connects back to it.


The Cape Wrath Trail Comapny suggests taking 15 days over the trail. The suggested itinerary, with rib routes coming off the main “spine” at each point are as follows:

View from Fort William
The Kyle of Durness
Day 1 Fort William to Glenfinnan
Day 2 Glenfinnan to Sourlis Rib Route 1: Corrhully Circuit
Day 3 Sourlis to Inverie Knoydart Rib Route 2: Sgurr na Ciche
Day 4 Inverie to Kinlochourn Rib Route 3: Lahdar Bheinn Knoydart
Day 5 Kinlochourn to Sheil Bridge Rib Route 4: Forcan Ridge
Day 6 Sheil Bridge to Strathcarron
Day 7 Strathcarron to Kinlochewe
Day 8 Kinlochewe to Dundonell
  • Rib Route 7: An Teallach
  • Rib Route 8: Seana Bhraigh
Day 9 Dundonell to Oykel Bridge
  • Rib Route 6: Slioch
  • Rib Route 5: Beinn Eighe
Day 10 Ullapool to Oykel Bridge Rib Route 9: Ben More Assynt
Day 11 Oykel Bridge to Inchnadamph Rib Route 10: Fionaven
Day 12 Inchnadamph to Kylesku
Day 13 Kylesku to Rhiconnich
Day 14 Rhiconich to Strathchailleach
Day 15 Cape Wrath to Durness


The trail is completely unmarked and passes through extremely wild and rugged terrain, far from services and facilities for much of the distance. Although many sections follow paths and tracks, there are also some sections which are pathless and a high degree of navigational skill is required. Walkers need to be self-sufficient and to carry food needed between resupply points. There are also several unbridged river crossings which can become dangerous or even impossible in spate conditions.


Fort William, where the trail begins, is well conncetd to the road and rail networks and well supplied with accommodation and facilities for walking and camping.

The end of the trail by contrast is the ilosated headland of Cape Wrath, which is not even connected to the road network; a single lane runs up the cape, linked to the rest of the land by a seasonal tourist bus and ferry to near Durness. The Durness bus can provide onward transport.

Locations on the trail

Places of interest on the trail include:

Villages and locations Mountains and geography

Outside links



  • Harper, Iain: Cicerone, 2013 The Cape Wrath Trail Guide
  • Paterson, David: Peak Publishing, 1996 The Cape Wrath Trail: A New 200-mile Walking Route

Coordinates: 57°36′16″N 5°18′12″W / 57.6045°N 5.3034°W / 57.6045; -5.3034 (Cape Wrath Trail)