One of the great advantages of a self catering holiday in Scotland is that it gives you so much more flexibility. From your comfortable base you can plan great days out and have the comfort of knowing that after a long, hard day in the hills, for instance, you’ve got a warm, welcoming home from home to come back to. Talking of long, hard days, they don’t come much longer – or more rewarding – than climbing the two great hills that are Arkle and Foinaven, near Cape Wrath.
If you know anything at all about Scottish mountains, you’ll have heard of these two, or you may recognise the names in another context. Apart from being the names of famous hills, Arkle and Foinaven were legendary racehorses of the 60s who between them won a host of big races, including the Grand National, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and the Irish Grand National.
But back to hillwalking. From your self-catering base in the north west, you are within striking distance of these two hills, which are next door neighbours and can both be climbed in a single round. A word of warning, however: taking on both hills in a day involves 18 miles of hard walking. There’s no technical climbing involved, unless you come in winter, but care is required in sections. Of course, you can devote a day to each hill – they certainly merit it – and feel under less pressure to complete the round in a single push.
What makes these two hills so special?
Arkle and Foinaven provide some of the most magnificent mountain scenery in Scotland. Their quartzite heights sparkle in the light and their rugged profiles can be seen for many miles. Given their remoteness and the demanding terrain, these hills are probably not suitable for novice hillwalkers, unless accompanied by someone more experienced.
A good level of fitness is needed so if you’re staying for a week or more, tackle some smaller hills first and leave these two north-western jewels for last when you’ve got some conditioning. If you’re planning to walk in spring or summer, be sure to come well prepared – and bring plenty of food to sustain you through the long day. There are a number of guidebooks available; Cameron McNeish’s Scotland’s 100 Best Walks ( Lomond) is excellent and includes Arkle and Foinaven. OS Explorer map ( 1:25,000) sheet 445, or OS Landranger (1:50,000) sheet 9, cover both hills.