Walk: Morven wilderness

Highland | Braemore | Full day walk | ★★★★

[Maiden Pap (centre) from near Braeval; Morven with a cloud cap behind (right)]

This is a walk unlike any other in Scotland. The highest summit in Caithness, Morven (not to be confused with Morven, Aberdeenshire) looks more like an Icelandic volcano than a Highland peak, with extremely steep, grassy sides tapering to a windswept summit with fantastic views. Maiden Pap is a miniature version of Morven, but perhaps even steeper with cloudberries growing in lush, shady gullies on its northern slopes. Smean completes the trio of energy-sapping ascents. In between the other two hills, it looks less dramatic from a distance but its summit is adorned with huge rocky tors. Somehow the hills' respective names describe each of their characters perfectly. Difficult terrain makes this a tough circuit; wait for good underfoot conditions, otherwise you'll be cursing yourself as you struggle through wet, pathless grass and heather between the various high points.

[It's a long way away: Morven (centre) beyond Smean (just left of shot) seen from the slopes of Maiden Pap]

📌 Walk: Morven wilderness ★★★★
Start / finish at car park at minor road end near Braemore Lodge, 5 mi west of Dunbeath, G.R.: ND 073304 ///symphonic.cheered.surfaces

▶ 17 km / 11 mi | ▲ 940 m | ⌚ Full day | Very tough
Summits: Maiden Pap (484 m, sub-2000'); Smean (511 m, sub-2000'); Morven (706 m, Graham)
Terrain: Tracks at start and from Corrichoich to the finish. Otherwise mostly pathless, tough and sometimes wet terrain. Reaching the summits each involve negotiating extremely steep but generally grassy ground.

Route & map

Car park - Braeval - leave track at G.R.: ND 051301 - Maiden Pap via northern gullies - Smean - Morven - Corrichoich - Braeval - start


Route credit: Scotland Off the Beaten Track

On our visit

Wildlife: Deer around Braemore; frogs, moths and cloudberries on Maiden Pap; extensive cotton adding colour to the moorland.
Weather: Sunny intervals to start but tending to cloud over: blustery high up with a little rain on descent from Morven. Temperatures probably in single figures higher up.

[Cloudberry growing on the slopes of Maiden Pap]

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