Otter Lodge Blog: Sgurr an Airgid
Here in the Scottish Highlands, most mountains are also known as hills. There are lots of different kinds of hill: some are spectacular, some notable and some are even ‘noxious’ (the steep kind covered in loose rocks). Then, there are the unsung heroes: the useful hills. These guys aren’t particularly tall, or particularly prominent, but they are there to be climbed in a few hours when more a more ambitious expedition is unfeasible.
Sgurr an Airgid is definitely a useful hill. It’s gaelic name means ‘Peak of Silver’ which is rather lovely. It sits unobtrusively at the head of Loch Duich, heading up a crowd of rather more big and impressive mountains at Kintail: the Five Sister, the Saddle and the South Glen Shiel Ridge. And therein lies the appeal of this ‘lesser’ peak; the stalkers’ path that zig-zigs helpfully up its flank gives you a fantastic view of it’s mighty neighbours pretty much all the way up.
Useful hills are great for families. We went for a summer amble up Sgurr an Airgid with the boys and met another group with even younger kids coming down the path. Each one was kitted out with their own Camelbak Hydration Packs, which made our boys green with envy. It took about an hour or so to get up to the bealach (the gaelic word for a dip or pass between two peaks). The path was nice and easy to follow and we could spend time checking out the local wildlife.
A stone cairn marks the end of the stalkers’ path and we didn’t go further on this trip but it’s fairly straightforward to get to the summit; if a bit boggy. Needless to say the views are fantastic; clusters of peaks all around and below, Loch Duich.
The ‘Peak of Silver’ isn’t just useful, it’s a Corbett. For the uninitiated, Scottish hills/mountains are grouped by height into:
282 Munros (hills over 3000 feet)
221 Corbetts (hills between 2,500 and 3,00 feet)
224 Grahams (hills between 2,000 and 2,499 feet)
Then there are the Murdos, Donalds, Marilyns and Grahams… but let’s not go there.
There are a good number of Munros (the big-uns) that would also classify as useful because they are so easy to walk up. There are also quite a few Corbetts (the wee ones) that are pretty tricky in places; so height is not really an indicator of difficulty. The hill that overlooks Broadford, Beinn na Caillich, doesn’t count as either a Munro or a Corbett but it is a pretty ‘noxious hill’ due the amount of loose scree on it. Sadly, it’s not one we can recommend for a pleasant evening walk. On the other hand, Beinn na Cro, another local hill, doesn’t even count as a Graham but it’s a splendid peak. So, let’s hear it for the useful hills!