Hiking the Affric Kintail Way Long Distance Trail

Hiking the Affric Kintail Way Long Distance Trail

Embracing Ease on Scotland’s Enchanting Wilderness Trail

As the rain patters against my jacket, I can’t help but question my decision to take the “easy” route. After all, I used to relish a challenge – climbing mountains, trekking through extreme conditions, and pushing my limits. But now, as I meander along the well-marked Affric Kintail Way in the Scottish Highlands, I find myself surprisingly content with the simplicity of it all.

The Affric Kintail Way is a 44-mile (71-kilometer) hiking trail that stretches from Drumnadrochit on Loch Ness to Morvich in Kintail. It’s a relatively new addition to Scotland’s long-distance trail repertoire, having officially opened in 2015. Unlike the more famous West Highland Way, the AKW feels delightfully remote and peaceful, with only the occasional fellow hiker crossing our path.

As we set off from Drumnadrochit, the trail leads us through a tapestry of forestry roads, ancient pine forests, and the otherworldly Glen Affric. This glacial valley is often described as the most beautiful glen in Scotland, and it’s easy to see why. The shimmering lochs, misty moorlands, and vibrant autumn foliage create a landscape that feels truly enchanted.

Embracing the Slower Pace

I can’t stop comparing myself to the “old” me – the one who would have eagerly tackled the Munros (mountains over 3,000 feet) that tower above us. But as I walk, I realize that this new, slower pace is exactly what I need. Instead of rushing to set up camp before dark, we leisurely stroll along the trail, stopping to swim in a deserted loch or simply admire the stunning views.

As writer Brooke Nolan describes, “When you remove challenge from outdoor adventure, you’re left with two things: Nature and plenty of time to appreciate it.” And that’s precisely what I’m finding on the Affric Kintail Way.

Discovering the Joys of “Easy” Adventure

As we make our way through the glen, I’m constantly amazed by the beauty of the landscape and the rich history woven into every step. We stop to chat with a solo hiker named Vanessa and spend a cozy evening in the Camban bothy, an ancient stone shelter built in the 1900s. At the remote Glen Affric Youth Hostel, we’re greeted with warm hospitality from the warden, Marc, and enjoy a sociable evening with fellow hikers.

It’s a reminder that sometimes the most rewarding adventures are those that take you on a journey through time as well as space. As the writer from Dinner Stories notes, the Affric Kintail Way is a “perfect trip for people who are new to long distance hiking to test the waters and see how they like it.”

Embracing Change and Finding New Meaning in Adventure

As I reflect on my journey, I realize that my appetite for adventure has indeed changed since the COVID-19 pandemic. What once felt like a failure to live up to my own expectations now feels like an opportunity to embrace a new kind of adventure – one that’s less about pushing myself to the extreme and more about simply being present in the natural world.

Scotland’s long-distance trails, like the Affric Kintail Way, offer a chance to slow down, connect with the landscape, and appreciate the simple beauty of the world around us. It’s a lesson I’m grateful to have learned, and one that I’ll carry with me long after my boots have dried.

As I make my way to the end of the trail at Morvich, I can’t help but feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. Not because I’ve conquered some great physical challenge, but because I’ve allowed myself to simply be, to embrace the ease, and to find new meaning in the very definition of adventure.

So if you find yourself in the Scottish Highlands, I encourage you to lace up your boots and tackle the Affric Kintail Way. Who knows, you might just discover that the true challenge lies in letting go and embracing the joy of the journey.

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