Hiking the Affric Kintail Way

Hiking the Affric Kintail Way

Embracing the Joys of the ‘Easy’ Adventure

As the relentless rain drips down the back of my neck, I can’t help but question my decision to take the “easy” route. The Affric Kintail Way, a 44-mile (71-kilometer) hiking trail that stretches from Drumnadrochit on Loch Ness to Morvich in Kintail, is renowned for its breathtaking scenery and challenging terrain. Yet, here I am, happily following a well-marked path, my toes squelching in my waterlogged boots, trading the prospect of summiting Munros for the comfort of a cozy Scottish pub.

It’s a far cry from the adventurous spirit that once propelled me to conquer peaks and traverse uncharted landscapes. But as I wander through the enchanting Glen Affric, I can’t help but feel a sense of peace wash over me. The ethereal beauty of the native forests, shimmering lochs, and misty moorland is a balm for my soul, and I find myself embracing the “easy” option in a way I never thought possible.

Discovering the Magic of Glen Affric

Officially opened in 2015, the Affric Kintail Way is a relatively new addition to Scotland’s impressive network of long-distance trails. As I make my way through the lush landscape, I can’t help but marvel at the sheer force of nature that has shaped this remarkable place. The deep, shadowy contours of the glen, carved by mighty glaciers over 11,500 years ago, are a testament to the power of mother nature.

The Walkhighlands website describes Glen Affric as “Scotland’s most beautiful glen,” and it’s easy to see why. As I meander through the rich tapestry of reds, yellows, oranges, and golds punctuated by lush greens, I’m struck by the overwhelming sense of peace and tranquility that permeates the air. The Munros that tower above, their peaks shrouded in mist, only add to the enchanting atmosphere, inviting me to explore their secrets at a leisurely pace.

Embracing Ease and Slowing Down

If you had asked me a few years ago, I would have scoffed at the idea of taking the “easy” route. As someone who has conquered challenges like climbing Mount Toubkal in Morocco and skiing across an Arctic plateau, I had always prided myself on my ability to push my limits and seek out the most demanding adventures.

But something shifted after the COVID-19 pandemic. Those 11 months spent in lockdown seemed to have replaced my desire for extreme with a longing for simplicity. Now, as I hike the Affric Kintail Way, I find myself reveling in the joy of taking it slow, of savoring each moment rather than rushing to reach the next summit.

Instead of slogging up hills and navigating by map and compass, I’m happily following a well-mapped and graded trail, taking the time to stop and admire the breathtaking vistas. Rather than setting up camp in the dark after a long, exhausting day, we’re making camp mid-afternoon, sharing stories and enjoying the warmth of a Scottish pub fire.

Embracing the Unexpected

As I let go of my preconceptions about what an adventure should be, I’m constantly amazed by the hidden gems that reveal themselves along the way. Brooke Nolan’s article on Adventure.com captures this sentiment perfectly, as she reflects on the joys of embracing the unexpected and the value of “easy” adventures.

One of the highlights of our journey has been the chance encounters with fellow hikers and the local community. During a mid-morning swim in a deserted loch, we made friends with a solo hiker named Vanessa, and spent an afternoon and night swapping stories in the cozy confines of the Camban bothy. It’s these unexpected moments of connection that have truly enriched our experience, reminding us that the true magic of adventure lies not just in the landscapes we traverse, but in the people we meet along the way.

Leaving Glen Affric with a Newfound Appreciation

As I prepare to bid farewell to the enchanting Glen Affric, I can’t help but feel a sense of gratitude for the lessons I’ve learned on this journey. By letting go of my preconceptions and embracing the joys of the “easy” adventure, I’ve discovered a newfound appreciation for the simple pleasures of being in nature.

The beauty of the Affric Kintail Way lies not just in its stunning vistas, but in the way it invites you to slow down, to connect with the landscape, and to appreciate the rich history and community woven into every step of the trail. And as I look towards the future, I know that I’ll carry these lessons with me, ready to embark on new adventures with a more open and adaptable mindset.

So, if you find yourself drawn to the rolling hills and misty glens of the Scottish Highlands, I urge you to consider the Affric Kintail Way. Whether you’re seeking a challenging trek or a more leisurely exploration, this captivating trail has something to offer every adventurer. And who knows, you might just discover, as I have, that the true thrill lies not in the conquest, but in the journey itself.

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