Glen Cannich - A place of solitude & remoteness
The steep climb out of the village of Cannich through natural woodland and into Glen Cannich follows river and waterfall before the scenery opens to afford glimpses of the impressive hydro dam at the foot of Loch Mullardoch. This is the largest dam in Scotland and the structure straddles half a mile, a massive bastion of concrete. To the west the hills are green and fertile and the ruins of old settlements are scattered along the route, for this was once the country of Clan Chisholm before people were cleared to make way for the sheep. Two of the finest peaks in the Highlands, Mam Sodhail and Carn Eighe lead away to the hills of Kintail.
Those visiting Glen Cannich for the first time are often struck by feelings of solitude and remoteness. Less frequented than its close neighbours, Glen Affric and Glen Strathfarrar, Glen Cannich has much to offer in terms of wild mountain scenery, wildlife and history. The eight mile drive from Cannich along the single track road to the Hydro Electric Dam at Loch Mullardoch is a worthwhile trip irrespective of whether you simply want to admire the views en route, or take to the mountain ridges that surround the Loch.
This section of the Glen is sparsely populated having only a few residents. Several former crofts now provide holiday accommodation or are used as second homes. The outflow of the Mullardoch Dam, the River Cannich, flows through several small lochs including Loch Carrie and Loch Craskie en route to meet with the River Glass. Close to the dam itself the elegant Mullardoch House built as a hunting lodge in 1912 (formerly known as Cosac Lodge), overlooks Loch Sealbhanach. It is now a private house having operated as an hotel for a number of years. Close by was a purpose built camp for the dam builders of the 1940s and 50s.
Loch Mullardoch now stretches for some 10 miles - but this wasn't always the case. On completion of the Mullardoch Dam in 1951 and the subsequent flooding of the upper reaches of the Glen, the waters of two Lochs, Mullardoch and Lungard were combined forming the Loch as it exists today. Prior to the flooding of the glen a right of way in the form of a minor drove road stretched from Strathglass, along the north shore of Loch Mullardoch, dropping down to Kintail via Glen Elchaig.
In 1910 a Reverend Mackay was reputed to have cycled the 35 miles from Kintail to Cannich in a blizzard, while up until the First World War, a horse and cart made a weekly trek from the Glen Affric Hotel to the now submerged Beinn Fionnlaidh (Benula) Lodge.
The old Hydro Board had made a promise, apparently a legal requirement of their licence, that on completion of the hydro electric scheme rights of way were to be restored. Well, more than fifty years later we're still waiting!
Although today Glen Cannich is uninhabited to the west of the dam, records yield evidence of settlements here dating back to the 'Clearances'. In more recent times the glen still supported a number of families. Towards the end of the 19th Century the glen was home to 'eight shepherds, seven gamekeepers and one farmer.'
The growing popularity of deer stalking led to the construction of Beinn Fionnlaidh Lodge. Close by were the stalkers cottages at Coire na Cuillean and Luib na Daimh. Together with the remote settlement at Lungard they disappeared under the rising waters of an enlarged Loch Mullardoch.
Glen Cannich offers superb hillwalking. There are a number of Munros on both sides of Loch Mullardoch. Those on the south side are now invariably climbed from Glen Affric with the possible exception of Beinn Fhionnlaidh that is more accesible from Glen Cannich especially when the Loch Mullardoch Ferry Boat is operating.
On the north side the long ridge from Carn nan Gobhar to An Socach offers a range of possibilities although returning by the stalkers track along the lochside can prove very hard going after a long day in the hills.
Another excellent hillwalk from Glen Cannich is on Sgorr na Diollaid (a humble Corbett!). Approaching Strathglass on the A831 from Drumnadrochit, the saddle of Sgorr na Diollaid is quite prominent on the skyline.
Glen Cannich is also an excellent place to observe red deer. They are present on the lower slopes for most of the year and will feed near to the road allowing visitors to get quite close to them. If you are fortunate you might just catch a glimpse of a Golden Eagle. There is also a thriving adder population on the grassy slopes!
Some useful sources of information: