349. Torridon to Torridon Boat House

September 2019

This was a short up and back walk and my last for 2019. I had done another shortish walk around Gairloch in the morning. This had taken a bit longer than I expected (but was also much better than I had expected) and so it was around 1:30pm when I set off on the drive from Gairloch to Torridon. This was also the last day of a 5-day trip and I had to drive back to Inverness airport in order to return the hire car I was using and to catch my flight home at 20:15. So I was working to a deadline.

A few days earlier I had done the hard walk from Red Point to Lower Diabaig. I had another partly circular and partly up and back walk planned for a full day from Lower Diabaig to Torridon. I knew I didn’t have time to do that now but thought I’d knock a few miles off it (because I heard it would be hard) by walking some of the road section at the eastern end. I could then walk as far as time allowed and then head back, leaving the rest for next time.

The drive around from Gairloch to Torridon took almost 1 hour – longer than I had expected. This is because the road is very indirect. First you must follow the A832 long the south shores of Loch Maree to Kinlochewe then the A896 to Torridon.

This latter road is typical of what seems to pass for an A-road in northern Scotland but would be a country lane elsewhere – all single-track with passing places and in places the road was so pot-holed and broken up it was more like a dirt track! It was also quite busy partly with walkers to the various mountains along the route and partly the NC500 brigade which meant I had to stop quite often to let other traffic pass. Still despite the tricky driving it was absolutely stunning and it was only the fact I wanted to get walking that stopped me from stopping every mile or so to take photographs!

Anyway soon enough I turned off the A896 onto the minor road to Torridon (in practice there was little difference in the standard of roads) and parked in the small parking area at the north of the village past the school marked on the map.

Torridon

The school has since closed (I think about 2012) but is still on the latest maps – it seems to me that the Ordnance Survey don’t very often update many of their Scottish maps, they simply re-print what was published before with a new cover!

Torridon is in a stunningly beautiful location. The few houses are dotted along the single road, in front of which is the the shores of Upper Loch Torridon whilst behind the almost sheer cliffs leading up to the mountains. It really is exceptionally pretty.

Torridon

The walk was easy. After parking I simply headed along the road due west, which hugs the south shore of the loch.

Torridon

The beach marked on the map is mostly shingle and mud rather than the sand suggested, it’s not really a good beach for bathing.

Torridon

Torridon

 

Loch Torridon

The road was fairly flat initially and with very little traffic, mainly because it is a dead-end which serves only a couple of small and isolated communities.

Loch Torridon

I passed a memorial stone on the right whilst to my left could gaze over the loch as the ever changing cloud and sun lit up different parts of the hills.

Torridon

Loch Torridon

Loch Torridon

The mountains about Torridon

After about 1 mile the road forks off the right, heading a bit uphill. Here a track was marked on the map but I was not sure if public access was permitted or if it was a private drive. So I was relieved when I reached it to find that there was a sign showing “Path Inveralligin 3km” signed and also another sign indicating that whilst the track ahead on the shore was private, the public was welcome to walk, cycle or ride a horse along it. It was signed as part of the Torridon Estate and I was glad to see access was permitted.

Loch Torridon

Loch Torridon

The road was little in different in character from the public road, other than some speed bumps. It passed right along the shore which soon had a nice area of pine woodland to my right.

Loch Torridon

I continued passing an isolated white cottage (now a holiday let I believe) and then the boat house a short distance beyond it. I’m not sure that the jetty here is used much now, it looked in poor condition.

At the boat house the track stopped being tarmac and was now a pot-holed track with a 10mph speed limit (which to be honest, seemed rather optimistic!). I decided to end here.

The road to Torridon House

Loch Torridon

There is a car park marked on the map on the public road just north of here which the map suggests has a path that I can use to get back to the shore. Next time I plan to park here and take a circular walk to complete the connection to Lower Diabaig.

I had already booked my first trip for 2020 and I was hopeful that by cutting the distance of the first walk of that trip by doing this short walk, it would not prove to demanding when I came back next time. As my trip was planned for May 2020, several months away I took a photo of me pointing at the map to remind myself where I had got to for next time.

torridon_map

It would turn out this was a good plan as it was to be nearly a year before I was able to come back, but I didn’t know that at the time.

For now it was time to head back to my car in Torridon and then drive on to Inverness Airport. I returned the same way.

Loch Torridon

The private road to Torridon House

Only one car had passed me on the way but on the way back it was 5, not sure why it was busier.

One went along the private drive I had been following, I suspect the people that were hiring the holiday cottage.

Loch Torridon

Once back at my car at Torridon I drove onto Inverness Airport. It took a little over 90 minutes. I stopped at the nearby Tesco to re-fill the car so as to avoid being charged the excessive prices the hire car company charge for fuel if you do not return the car full. I noted this was closing for refurbishment next week which would have been inconvenient for me if I was a week later!

I then continued to the airport and returned the hire car. No problems were identified, so my deposit was returned in full. I was surprised to find that in the 5 days I had hired it, I had covered 724 miles! I was glad that the rental agreement was for unlimited miles and there was not an excess charge. I guess that was one of the issues with staying in Ullapool, so far north of the bits of coast I had got to (but it was all I could get booked). At least next time I had already booked to stay in Kyle of Lochalsh so that wouldn’t happen next year.

I then headed into the airport terminal, got through security with no problems and then got dinner in the bar at the airside part of the airport. As I was just finishing, the aircraft arrived an hour before departure (which was 20:15). On previous trips I have travelled out and back from London Luton Airport with EasyJet. However the flight I normally take home (20:55) is always late when I have used it. Usually between 30 minutes an an hour, but sometimes more. This means I don’t get home until gone midnight, and occasionally it has been gone 1am, not ideal when I need to be at work the next day!

So this time I booked to travel out from London Luton on EasyJet and back to London Heathrow on British Airways, it was actually cheaper too, for some reason the EasyJet flight was much more expensive than usual. The British Airways flight is scheduled to depart at 20:15 and I have a shorter journey home from Heathrow (I had travelled to Luton by train and bus so I didn’t need to get back there to get my own car).

I didn’t know it at the time, but this was to be the last time I would travel from or to Inverness Airport on my coast walk (well, at least for the mainland, maybe I will use it again if I come back to walk the coast of the many islands in future). When the Government shut down the country because of Covid 19 most flights to or from the airport ceased. By the time we were permitted to travel back to Scotland most of the airlines were running such a restricted schedule it didn’t save me any time to fly and had become much more expensive (and I was also reluctant to book with Easyjet again after the hassle they put me through trying to block me getting a refund). So in 2020 I ended up driving all the way and also for the trips I did in 2021. By this point I was far enough south that Glasgow rather than Inverness airport will be more convenient in future (and has a much better service).

The arrival of the plane an hour before departure was a good sign. Meanwhile the EasyJet flight had come up “DELAYED” on the screens – so no change there then and I could feel a bit smug that for once I wasn’t stuck waiting for it! (I later saw it left an hour late, as usual). Sure enough we were boarded and left a few minutes ahead of schedule. It was an uneventful flight and we arrived at London Heathrow 15 minutes early at 21:25, rather than 21:40 as scheduled. I was hoping I might be able to make the National Express coach back to my local station that departed at 21:45 rather than the next (and last) one at 22:30.

However the pilot initially announced they were just waiting for the airbirdge to be attached so we could get off. Then he later came and said that had been done but somehow we’d arrived at a gate that could only handle International Arrivals (and hence would take us to the passport checks), but this was a domestic flight. So instead, stairs would now be placed at the back of the plane and we’d be taken by bus to the domestic arrivals instead! Not ideal and by the time this was done and I got into the public arrivals part of the terminal it was exactly 21:45. I stepped outside to see the coach I wanted just passing. However I was in luck – it was just arriving rather than departing so I was able to catch it. This meant I arrived at home well before 11pm, which I was pleased about it. It had been a good trip.

There is no public transport west of Torridon to avoid a there and back walk. There is a limited bus service to Torridon visitor centre (beside the A896) at the junction with the road to Torridon and Lower Diabaig. This is Westerbus route 705. This is a school bus and so only runs on school days and runs between Shieldaig and Gairloch with a departure in the morning to Gairloch and a bus back in mid to late afternoon.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link.

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348. Lower Diabaig to Torridon Boat House

August 2020

It had been a horrible year and nearly a year has passed since I was last on the coast, due to lockdowns and Covid restrictions. By the time I can make it back to the coast it feels like the best of the summer weather has already passed (which turned out to be the case). Still the weather is fine today.

I was a bit worried about breakfast at the hotel due to the limited capacity due to the dreaded “social distancing”. However arriving for breakfast I’m taken straight to a table. Half the tables are out of use and it’s table service for all the breakfast. Never having stayed at this hotel before I’m not clear if it used to be a buffet breakfast (I suspect so for cold food at least, judging by the table at the far end). Table service can be slow (I prefer a buffet), but the service here is pretty quick, which is nice. The only odd thing is all the food and plates are placed in front of me on a try and I then have to remove them all from the tray as the staff aren’t allowed to touch the plates or cutlery!

After breakfast I get lunch at the Co-Op in Kyle of Lochalsh and then set off for Torridon. It’s quite a long drive round to Torridon, taking around an hour and 20 minutes. However this is the longest I’ll have to drive on this trip, as each day for the next few days I will be getting closer to Kyle of Lochalsh. I had actually walked the coast from Torridon village to the boat house just south east of Torridon House, a couple of miles west of the village last year so I am filling the gap between there and Lower Diabaig today. A car park is marked just north of Torridon House which I’m hoping does exist. The road through Torridon is narrow and runs right along the coast after the village and then climbs steeply. Fortunately the car park does exist, is quite large and there is only one other person here.

As I knew I’d be coming on this trip by car and many of the walks have no public transport I managed to get hold of a folding bike during lockdown that I could fit in the car boot. Being fairly cheap it weighs a ton and is difficult to fold and unfold but I figured that this would cut down on the number of there and back walks I’m going to end up doing, as I can cycle one way and walk back. So my plan now is to cycle to Lower Diabaig. Then I’ll walk back and then drive down to Lower Diabaig again to get retrieve my bike.

I was hoping not to have an audience to fold and unfold my bike, since I’ve only done it once before, but sadly I do as the other people in the car park are also preparing their bicycles, though they have proper bikes, not folding ones. They ask me where I’m going and, looking at my small folding bike, tell me it’s quite a tough road to cycle to Lower Diabaig (and probably thinking “you’ll never make it on that”). Not really what I wanted to hear. I sometimes cycle to work on a canal towpath but I don’t do much road cycling, but I expected it to be easier, being smoother, so was expecting to be there in about 40 minutes . I quickly found it isn’t easier!

If you look at the road to Lower Diabaig on a map you will see lots of “chevron” symbols, which indicate steep hills. There are also a couple of double chevrons that indicate really steep hills. Oh goody! I set off and the first 50 metres or so seem very easy, but soon I begin to climb and it becomes hard work. I make it to the junction to Inveralligin in reasonable time but from there it’s very tough and I end up walking most of the way to a view point. Walking trying to push a bike is much harder than just walking and the bike pedals keep catching on my legs. Finally at the top I can prop the bike up and stop on a seat for a quick rest. The view is stunning, but I need to get on.

View point on the road to Lower Diabaig

View point on the road to Lower Diabaig

View point on the road to Lower Diabaig

I manage to cycle some of the route onwards but even some of the downhills prove steep enough I opt to get off, worried I’m going to burn out the brakes or lose control as the bike with it’s small wheels feels quite unstable if you go too fast.

The road near Lower Diabaig

Finally I reach the junction for Corrie Craggie. Nearly there. The last bit is uphill and just before the end of the road I’m surprised to see someone has somehow managed to get a full-size HGV along this road and “parked” it in one of the passing places. It’s a very tight fit. There doesn’t seem to be anyone in it or nearby and it looks to have been here for some time, which seems odd.

At the end of the road I lock the bike to a small tree, half hidden in the grass. I doubt anyone is going to steal it but if nothing else I’d carried the lock with me, so I might as well use it and take some weight out of my rucksack.

My bike at Lower Diabaig

I also leave my cycle helmet here because although light it’s bulky. I’m knackered too and I haven’t even started walking. Cycling is harder than I expected and I stop for a drink, snack and a bit of a rest.

It’s so good to be finally back at Lower Diabaig. I walk up to the gate I walked through back in September last year, having come from Red Point. Now there is a notice and a bottle of hand sanitiser attached, but fortunately nothing else has changed.

Path to Red Point at Lower Diabaig

My plan now is to follow the road down to Corrie Craggie and then follow a path right around the coast I can see on the map round to the end of the road at Alligin Shuas and then the road and path onwards to Torridon Boat house.

The view from the road is stunning. Here Loch Diabaig ends at a bay enclosed on 3 sides, with the ground around high, rocky and partly tree-covered.

Loch Diabaig

Loch Diabaig

Loch Diabaig

The road heads downhill to the junction for Corrie Craggie and I can already see the pier marked on the map as well as a car park, which  looks quite busy.

Corrie Craggie

At the bottom the last part of the road descends through woodland and I’m soon just above the beach.

Road to Corrie Craggie

There are a few people here and a rocky and pebble beach which to my surprise has the wreckage of a quite sizeable boat on it and I wonder what happened to it for it to end up here in pieces. Given how little of it remains it obviously was wrecked many years ago.

Corrie Craggie

Corrie Craggie

Corrie Craggie

Corrie Craggie

Corrie Craggie

To my surprise there is a restaurant down here, I hadn’t expected to find anywhere to eat in such a remote place. I’m not sure if it’s open at the moment but it looks like the owners are constructing a roof over the outdoor area in the front presumably to provide outdoor dining even if it’s raining – many diners prefer to sit outside with Covid around and with social distancing fewer people can be seated inside so I guess it makes business sense for them to add extra capacity outside.

Corrie Craggie

The path onwards proves easy to find, it starts at the end of public road and is in fact accessed from front garden of last house after crossing a little bridge.

 

Old shop at Corrie Craggie

Path to Alligin Shuas

A rustic sign shows me the way. I make a mental note to turn right at a junction.

Rustic directions at Lower Diabaig

The path is quite tough and climbs very steeply but I soon emerge from the trees and bushes to a fine view back to the beach.

Loch Diabaig

Loch Diabaig

Corrie Craggie

I continue, the path now fainter heading steeply up until I come to a rock ahead and a sheer drop beyond it. Where on earth is the path?

Path near Lower Diabaig

Loch Diabaig

I stop and check the map against my GPS. I’ve gone of course. There is another dead-end path to Araid and it seems I had taken that by mistake and somehow gone off course on that one as well. I have to backtrack and this time spot the junction I missed before. I hadn’t noticed there were actually two paths.

This path is even steeper and I soon come across a gate, a deer gate I think. The ground is so steep I can only just reach the bottom of the gate and there is a rope to help you haul yourself up and open the gate. Quite tricky!

Loch Diabaig

In fact this isn’t really a walk more some scrambling and rock climbing, with a bit of walking in between and there is another section so steep I have to haul myself up by a rope someone has attached for the purpose.

It is hard work but I’m rewarded for my efforts with some stunning views. Now the worst of the climb seems to be over as the path turns a little inland and becomes easier and it’s more walking than scrambling. The path passes two small but pretty lochans.

Loch a Bhealaich Mhoir

First Loch a Bhealaich Mhoir and then Lochan Dubh and here I am high up and can see the the waters of the sea loch of Loch Shieldaig ahead and land the other side.

Lochan Dubh

Although less than a mile away it will take me a couple of days to get to the coast on the other side!

Lochan Dubh

Path between Lower Diabaig and Alligin Shuas

Rounding the corner I soon reach a house that is marked on the map at Port Laire (you can just see it to the left of the left-most tree below).

Path between Lower Diabaig and Alligin Shuas

I had suspected this would be a ruin but it isn’t and looks to be still inhabited and a recent looking out-building beside it. I wonder who lives here or uses it because there is no road access so access is only on this tough path or by boat. The path is supposed to go behind the house according to the map but I couldn’t see any sort of path there so went in front.

Path between Lower Diabaig and Alligin Shuas

The path beyond is a bit easier and very pretty. I’ve seen no one so I stop on a rocky section just above the path for a late lunch. In only a couple of minutes I see someone. She is walking the other way and is as surprised as me to see anyone else here. We have a brief conversation and she is interested to hear I am walking the coast and tells me the path is quite difficult ahead. Well hopefully not as bad as what I’ve passed!

Path between Lower Diabaig and Alligin Shuas

Path between Lower Diabaig and Alligin Shuas

Actually the path isn’t too bad though I have a couple of fords to cross (no bridge) but both are narrow enough I can step over.

Path between Lower Diabaig and Alligin Shuas

A dead end path in theory goes off to the right down to Rubha na h-Airde Glaise. I never see the junction so I decide not to try and make it down there but continue on. This section has taken me quite a bit longer than expected anyway so at least once I reach the road I should make faster progress.

Upper Loch Torridon near Port Laire

Upper Loch Torridon near Port Laire

Upper Loch Torridon near Port Laire

Again the path splits and somehow I have missed the split again. I can see the houses a bit below me and I should be down on that road. I make my own way down to it, having to climb a couple of fences but soon has me back on route and down to the end of the road above the beach at Ob a Bhraighe. It is marked as part sandy on the map and I’m tired after that walk so decide to head down here for a brief rest and snack.

As I’m heading down to the beach a women at the back of the beach standing looking out to sea then turns and sees me and and asks “Can I help you?” in the tone of voice that really means “why the are you here?”. However this is not a garden so I’m not trespassing and on a feint path. I am heading down and only a few metres above the back of the beach. She then demands to know where I’m going (isn’t it obvious – the path only goes to the beach) and I explain I want to get down to the beach but she tells me she wants to head back on the path I am on and tells  me to move off the path to keep 2 metres away so she can get off the beach safely. Would waiting 30 seconds have caused her such a problem? (I think this is more about making me feel unwelcome as much as anything else). She passes staring at me as she goes past without a saying anything (even thank you). What an odd women. I suspect she regards this as her private beach and resents anyone else coming here. Perhaps in lockdown she has been used to there being no one else here and clearly resents me being here.

Anyway now down on the beach I was hoping to stop for a drink but everywhere I stand is full of midges. (2020 seemed to be a particularly bad year for them) so I don’t particularly want to stop here and get bitten so I take a few photos and I give it enough time the odd women is out of my way before heading back.

Upper Loch Torridon

Upper Loch Torridon

Upper Loch Torridon

Upper Loch Torridon

Anyway up from the beach I rejoin the road and when the main route of the road goes left but the track marked on the map is indeed marked as a path through to Inveralligin, as I hoped.

Path to Inveralligin at Canapress

It is in fact a road not a path here, with sheep the main traffic, but it soon ends at Balcenbea but continues as a fairly good track down to the field centre marked on the map.

Road near Inveralligin

A post office is marked here on the map but as I suspected this is long gone (the Ordnance Survey do not seem to update the maps of Scotland very often).

Near Inveralligin

Path to Torridon

Near Inveralligin

Beyond the field centre I cross the bridge and follow a path over a meadow to the road beyond. This is the village of Inveralligin and is spread out for nearly a mile along this road.

Near Inveralligin

Near Inveralligin

Near Inveralligin

River at Inveralligin

Inveralligin

It is an easy walk along the road and at the end I reach somewhere called Rechullin where a sign confirms what I hoped, a path through to Torridon.

Upper Loch Torridon

Track between Rechullin and Torridon

Track between Rechullin and Torridon

This runs fairly close to the shore until in about half a mile I reach an a converted church.

Track between Rechullin and Torridon

Track between Rechullin and Torridon

Here there is a junction of paths and the map shows another path runs closer to the shore so I head on this beside the church to the shore. I head west on the shore and end up on the beach. It is rocky and quite hard going and at the end I reach a stream.

Near Torridon House

Well more a river really. It is too wide and deep to cross without very wet feet. I have diverted off the path so make my own way inland towards the path. It is only about 100 metres back to the path over an area marked as Coire on the map. This turns out to be very hard going as it’s a bog, with long grass, knee high, with deep areas of water between. I make my way slowly bog-hopping back towards the path which is by now a track. I can see it. The problem is it’s the other side of a wire fence, topped by barbed wire. The ground immediately around the fence is bog on both sides. I try to climb the fence but inevitably I end up putting a foot in the deep bog then the other trying to get out. So now I have wet feet! I then had to climb through gorse and another fence to get back onto the proper path. I should have gone back, but it’s easier to say that in hindsight. This is a private road and a public path through the Torridon estate and I can follow it to a bridge over the river I had met at the shore.

Near Torridon House

Once over it’s only a few hundred metres along the lovely wooded road back to the boat house below Torridon House where I had ended way back in September 2019.

Wooded road near Torridon House

I have closed the gap, 11 months after I last got here. It feels good that finally I have made progress along the coast after so long away.

Upper Loch Torridon

Loch Torridon

Of course I’m not done yet! I have covered all the new areas of coast (closing the small gap I left at the end of 2019) but I still need to get back to my car and I’m now very tired after a tough walk and a tough cycle ride. I was hoping there might be an “inland” path back up to the car park (the map suggested there might be) but I can’t see it so I continue east along the private track (but public path) back to the public road. This is a lovely road right along the shore.

Path to Torridon

Back on the road I almost double back on myself climbing up through the trees and back to the car park. I stop for a quick look at the waterfall marked on the map too. It looks quite impressive but I haven’t the energy or the time to get closer (as I want to get back to Kyle of Lochalsh by 8pm and it is already nearly 5:45pm).

Waterfall at Torridon

Now I need to drive back to Lower Diabaig to get my bike. It is quite a tough drive too and the road is very rough in places practically shaking my old car to pieces! It feels like a mountain pass in places. I stop at the top of the steep hill at the little view point to take a photo now the weather is better than when I was here earlier, a heavy rain shower having just passed.

View point on the road to Lower Diabaig

View point on the road to Lower Diabaig

Onwards, back to Lower Diabaig. The drive takes a while as the road is steep, twisty and all single track. I stop my car at the end of the road in the “turning place only” with the hazard lights on whilst I load up the bike. Now time to drive back to Kyle of Lochalsh.

Getting back also proves a challenge. Walking the coast of Britain is a test of many skills but, at least the way I’m doing it, another skill you might not initially expect to test is your driving skills. Many (most) of the roads in the Highlands are single track with passing places, many hills and steep bends. This road is one of the worst. At one point there is a very steep hill with a white-painted house near the top just before a sharp left hand bend. I slow down approaching the bend since I can’t see what’s around it, but then attempting to accelerate away again the front (driven) wheels lose grip and start to spin because it’s so steep and the road is wet. My car quickly comes to a halt. I try to get going now stopped half way up the hill but having lost grip doing a hill start on here is impossible. I have to reverse back down (fortunately, no one was behind) and take it again. This time I don’t slow as much and beep the horn to warn oncoming traffic. This time I make it to the top (I think that when damp this road must be close to the limit of what is possible to drive without 4-wheel drive). Thankfully I have no further incidents on the drive back!

On reaching the hotel I’m not much before 8pm, the last time for an evening meal. I haven’t booked because I don’t know how long the walk is going to take and what time I’m going to back. The lady behind reception (who I suspect is the manager) asks me if I have booked. When I say I haven’t she looks forlon at the book and tells me “it looks pretty busy” and she is not sure they can fit me in. She says she’ll go and ask the staff in the restaurant. Fortunately it’s good news and they can fit me in, so I can have a proper meal and desert to end my day. (The alternative being a takeway, that I went to yesterday or food from the co-op).

It was wonderful to be back on the coast and have such a lovely walk as my first walk in 11 months. I had funnily enough planned that this might be quite an “easy” walk for my first day not being that long in terms of miles and much of it on quiet roads. It had turned out to be anything but (partly due to my mistakes in route finding or trying to stick closer to the coast) but it had certainly been worth it and I had been rewarded with so much beautiful scenery, remote beaches and isolated villages. It was good to be back!

There is no public transport to either end of this walk. The nearest public transport is at Torridon visitor centre (beside the A896) at the junction with the road to Torridon and Lower Diabaig. This is Westerbus route 705. This is a school bus and so only runs on school days and runs between Shieldaig and Gairloch with a departure in the morning to Gairloch and a bus back in mid to late afternoon.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link.

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Finally, back to the coast.

August 2020

It had been a horrible year. My trip to the Scottish highlands in May had been cancelled. At least for that trip I could get a refund as the hotel I had booked was closed (though it took a long time for them to pay it) and I had booked a flight with Easyjet who also allowed me to claim a refund for the flights (as they were cancelled) via their website.

I had another trip book for July. That too got cancelled because accommodation was all still closed in Scotland (but irritatingly, only by a couple of days) and at the time the English were still banned from Scotland other than for essential reasons (Nicola Sturgeons’ dream had come true….).

Unfortunately by then Easyjet had tried a new trick to try and keep my money. Rather than admit my original flight from Luton was cancelled as they did in May, they sent me an email about how it was great news they were still allowing people to go on holiday this summer but it meant they’d had to make a change to my booking. The net result was my flight was now departing a day later, from a different airport (Gatwick) at a different time and with a different flight number. Naturally they didn’t mention anything about a refund for the car hire which would also be cut short by a day since my return flight had not been pushed back by a day (though was also now going at a different time and to a different airport). By now they’d removed the ability to request a refund on their website and said the only way to get a refund was to call them (but if I wanted a voucher, which I didn’t, I could do that via the website).

I had a big dispute. I tried to call many times always either getting a message that they were very busy and to save me waiting “a really long time”, they wern’t able to take my call at the moment (and then cutting me off) or waiting more than an hour before I had to give up (I had to call on my lunch break as the opening hours of the telephone line had been cut short so much). I tried sending an email explaining I didn’t want to take the revised flight and wanted a refund. I got an email after the flight was already due to leave that told me to consult their FAQ. I replied again and was told, weeks later, that I wasn’t entitled to a refund because the flight ran. Well the one I actually booked didn’t! The CAA make it quite clear that if the flight number is changed (it was), it’s a cancellation and the airline is required to offer a refund and pay it within 14 days. In addition it was a package because it included car hire and I had an ABTA certificate attached to the booking which meant that too entitled me to a refund. However none of this appeared to make any difference to Easyjet. As far as they were concerned, they had my money and they were keeping it.

Having found Easyjet  refusing to refund I took it up with the credit card company who when I called and explained the situation and they immediately did a chargeback and refunded me. A few weeks later I got a letter from them saying that Easyjet had disputed it, submitted evidence to prove it and so my refund had been reversed. I was fuming!

Fortunately the credit card I used when I booked was American Express and they are excellent. I got through immediately, to a real person on a free phone number and explained the situation. They listened to what I had to say, told me I’d need to submit my evidence but it sounded like I had a good case. They also said they would share the evidence Easyjet provided to them with me. I was shocked, because when they did so it turned out Easyjet had provided a booking showing only the flight they had moved me to, not the one I originally booked, an extract from their system showing I never checked in for that flight and so was classed as a “no show” and exceptionally rude (and false) statement saying I’d made no attempt to contact them in advance (a lie) and I wasn’t entitled to a refund simply because I was unhappy to travel in the circumstances (despite not knowing why I hadn’t turned up). None of that was true. I had contacted them, that wasn’t the flight I booked and I would happily have travelled if there was actually any accommodation open in Scotland at the time (which at the time there wasn’t). Fortunately submitting all my original booking information, email exchanges (including the one showing the change) and telephone records to show I had called them on multiple occasions before the flight was enough to convince American Express that I was indeed entitled to a refund, had proved I had tried and failed to get one myself and as a result Easyjet had no case. They even told me on the phone that having reviewed it, they thought that Easyjet were “just trying it on”, that they had had a lot of other people in the same situation and in addition they would pay me a small amount of compensation as a goodwill gesture for reversing the refund in the first place. As I said, American Express are excellent!

Still after that trip was also cancelled I had managed to book 4 nights at a hotel in Kyle of Lochalsh in early August in the hope hotels would be open by then. There are two hotels there neither particularly well reviewed. The Lochalsh Hotel and the Kyle Hotel (I think I can see how they came up with those names). I booked the latter as it had slightly better reviews. Unfortunately, it was owned by Bespoke Hotels, owners of the Caledonian Hotel I had stayed at on my last few trips that was very run-down and poor quality and who also owned the Royal Hotel in Thurso where I stayed previously and also found run down (or at least they did own it at the time I booked, but it had been sold on by the time I actually stayed there). Unfortunately I was unable to book the whole time in Kyle of Lochalsh as it was full, so I will have to move to a different hotel in a different town half way through the week.

Finally my luck was in. Hotels in Scotland would be open by that date. Now I needed to sort out how to get there. I wasn’t going to use Easyjet again after my experience trying to get my money back from them before. British Airways weren’t running any flights at the time to Inverness and FlyBe, who used to, had since gone bust. So flying there wasn’t really an option.

What about the train? Well no. There was only one train a day I could get there on. The journey was to involve 4 trains (plus the tube across London), so something was bound to go wrong and the return price was quoted as £348. It took 13 hours and I’d have to wear a mask the whole time and there was no catering “due to Covid”. In addition I would need a hire car when I got there and there is nowhere that hires cars in Kyle of Lochalsh. Or I could take the sleeper train from London to Inverness, which was even more expensive (and I doubted I’d get much sleep anyway). It wasn’t a hard decision to rule that option out.

That meant the only practical option was to take my own car and drive myself, which was also why I opted for a longer trip than usual (9 days/8 nights) though it would take a whole day to get there and a whole day back, giving 7 days of walks. My 12 year old Renault Clio with more than 100,000 miles on the clock perhaps wasn’t ideally suited for the 592 mile drive but it would have to do (I normally walk to work so don’t see the point on spending a lot of money on a “nice” car).

Nearly 600 miles was a long way to drive in a day (and I was glad we haven’t yet been forced into electric cars, where I’d have to add another 3 hours or so of “recharge time” perhaps making it impossible in a single day). Well the drive wasn’t too bad most of the way until I hit a delay on the M90 where roadworks had reduced the road to a single lane and then someone had crashed in this section. That caused a 90 minute hold up, but after that it was clear and I reached the hotel at 8pm. On checking in, I was told that last orders in the restaurant was 8pm but they were fully booked anyway due to reduced capacity due to the dreaded “social distancing”. Oh goody. So no dinner there then. I headed instead to a nearby takeaway where I was told it was cash only and after placing an order I had to stand outside in the rain to wait for it because I wasn’t allowed to wait inside anymore. So pizza in the car for dinner, then. Welcome to travel, 2020 style.

My room, on the 1st floor was pretty tiny, basic and run-down as I expected (though it did seem some of the rooms on the ground floor had been recently refurbished).

Kyle Hotel, Kyle of Lochalsh

The headboard of my bed was against the paper-thin wall to the corridor. My room was at the end of the corridor with a door to the car park right next to it. Every time someone went out to smoke or get something from their car (which was often) the door would close with a loud bang and the wall would vibrate. In addition a hand sanitiser dispenser had been mounted on the wall right the other side with instructions to always use it on entry to the hotel and that made a loud beep and whirr anytime anyone did so (I quickly discovered however that most people didn’t bother). Well I wasn’t expecting much from this hotel but it was still disappointing and I wondered how much sleep I’d get with all the noise. In addition I was told my room would not be cleaned at all during my stay (and I had been provided a bin bag for rubbish), I had to ask at reception for clean towels or tea bags and that capacity at breakfast was limited so I mate have to wait for a free table and I must book for evening meals. Again, welcome to travel 2020 style.

Well having unpacked (one advantage of going by car is I can full the boot with lots of stuff, as I did) I thought I’d take a quick look around Kyle of Lochalsh. Despite all the difficulties in getting here it was so good to finally be back to somewhere by the coast I’d never been before, 11 months after I was last here.

Kyle of Lochalsh is a small place really, more a village, but it did have a bank with cash machine, a CoOp with quite long opening hours, a couple of hotels and pubs, a couple of takeaways and a petrol station. Oh and even the luxury of a railway station (the last time I was anywhere on the coast with a station was Thurso, and indication of just how remote much of the coast of Scotland is). In short whilst it may not be big, it had all I needed. Luckily for me it turned out the other possible hotel, the Lochalsh Hotel was still closed. It was a huge hotel too.

The Lochalsh Hotel, Kyle of Lochalsh

I suspect at one time, Kyle of Lochalsh was a more important place. It was one of the main ferry ports for the Isle of Skye (the other being Mallaig) and I expect many people would stop here whilst waiting for the ferry and perhaps stay overnight on the way there or back. That was probably why the large Lochalsh Hotel had been built at all, being practically opposite where the ferries used to depart. But the opening of the bridge to the Isle of Skye had taken that away. No need for ferries any more and Kyle of Lochalsh was now somewhere most people simply passed through without stopping on the way to Skye.

Kyle of Lochalsh station

Kyle of Lochalsh

Kyle of Lochalsh

Kyle of Lochalsh

I enjoyed the views from the town and the rainbow, signalling the imminent arrival of a heavy shower (after months and months of glorious weather across the whole UK, it seemed it had broken just as I got here).

I headed back to the hotel. I was looking forward to tomorrow very much. At last, I’d be able to do a new coastal walk, after 11 months away. (I worked out 11 months had been the longest time for almost 25 years I’d gone without doing a new coastal walk!).

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It’s 2020 and its all gone wrong.

Sorry if you were expecting another coast walk write up because this week I’m going to have an absolutely massive rant. Sorry to disappoint you and if you don’t want to read a massive rant, stop reading now. Yes I am of course talking about Covid and my views on the matter seem to be rather different and controversial in comparison with most people. Nevertheless that is my view, this is my blog, so I’m going to share them and I’m not asking anyone to agree with me, but I do hope you will be able to at least see things from my perspective even if you don’t agree.

Back in September 2019 I had almost finished my last trip to the Scottish Highlands. As many people know I’m trying to write up my walks in order (going anti-clockwise) even though I mostly didn’t do them in order. My last full day walk on the coast of the Highlands finished at Lower Diabaig and I continued from there, eventually, in 2020. However on my last day of that trip in September 2019 I finished my planned walk early so decided rather than head straight for the airport I’d jump ahead. To limit the amount of driving, I headed for Torridon and parked in the village and did a there and back walk heading west on the road towards Lower Diabaig with the plan to turn back when I had filled the available time. It would cut short my next full days walk.

When I got to where I decided to turn back I took a photo of the map pointing to where I’d got to, so I’d remember for next year (the boat house by the loch). It was near a car park at Torridon House I could use next time so it seemed a good place to stop.

torridon_map

I knew I’d be back next year. Having ended up staying far to far north (in Ullapool) for this trip due to booking too late (though still over 6 months in advance) I knew I’d have to book even earlier to get a place to stay next year somewhere vaguely near the coast I was going to be walking. So I’d already booked my next trip to the Highlands, in May 2020 meaning I already had that to look for. I’d booked a hotel in Kyle of Lochalsh, return flights from to Inverness and a hire car.

It wasn’t however my last trip to Scotland that year. I had decided to start walking some of the coast of Scotland further south. I was out of annual leave but I had worked out that it was just about possible for me to walk some of the coast of Ayrshire in the weekend by taking a flight to Glasgow early on Saturday morning and trains on from there to the coast and return late on Sunday night. I had done two such trips later in the autumn. This had been a success so I’d booked a further two trips for March and April 2020 too so I could make more progress.

During the winter months we started to hear about a new virus. We started to get a few cases here but I don’t think many people were too concerned, I certainly wasn’t. Then China implemented something called “lockdown”, preventing people from even leaving their homes. Nothing like that could happen here, surely? Indeed much of the press was full of that too, that this sort of approach would never be tolerated in the democratic countries in the west (they were wrong, very sadly). Come spring 2020 and it was more and more in the news. Italy had shocked much of the world by also implementing a lock down in parts of the north of the country. It was starting to get a bit scary, but I was not (and never have been) scared of the virus, but I was (and am) very scared of what Governments were doing in response. I had another couple of trips booked abroad during the late winter and early spring.

My last weekend away was in early March 2020, when I went to Marseille to walk some of the French coast, where it was a bit warmer (maybe I’ll do all the French coast in a future project!).  I gather this part of France was at the time a bit of a hotspot. I wasn’t in the least bit concerned. However clearly others were and I realised this when the hotel I had booked called me to check if I was still coming, as they had had a lot of cancellations. I confirmed I would be. I made it to Marseille and though the hotel never said as much I’m pretty sure I was the only guest (which probably explains why they called me). I never saw or heard anyone else, including at breakfast, I never saw any lights on in any other rooms except for my own. It was my last trip abroad for 2020 (and, as it turned out, for 2021 too).

My first trip to Scotland for 2020 was booked for the 28th March, to Ayrshire. A couple of weeks ago the company I work for had told us the company had decided we must all work from home. All company travel was banned and personal travel strongly discouraged. They expected this to be the case for 3 weeks or so. I wasn’t too bothered by this, I knew I could work from home and whilst I’d rather not (up until then I tended to do so only if needed), it was only for a few weeks (yet it was actually 20 months before I stepped foot in the office again). I work in the IT industry but unlike most people, I live and work in the same town. This means my normal way of getting to work is to walk. So I don’t have a stressful or expensive commute and I prefer the separation between home and work so I’d rather work in the office than at home. I am also lucky in that the company benefits at the time were very good – the office had a cafe and the company provided free breakfasts each day (including hot food) and subsidised hot meals at lunch time, so I was used to going to work for breakfast. I wasn’t thrilled at having to turn my “box room” into an office, albeit I hoped temporarily (no … it still is now, more than 18 months later). And I’d have to pay more for having the heating on all day, electricity, cups of tea and so on too.

So that was the first unwelcome change. Of course come late March and I started to worry the Government was going to take action here too. By late March we were being advised to work from home, minimise contact and so on. I tried to carry on as much as normal as I could, but I was watching events I had booked and paid for start to be cancelled, things I was looking forward to, no longer taking place. A week before my planned trip to Scotland, Boris Johnson announced a lockdown in the UK.

I was utterly horrified. However I, stupidly, believed him when he said it was to be “two weeks to flatten the curve”. So a horrible two weeks ahead, but there was a light ahead. It was only two weeks. I could cope. That meant my first trip to Scotland was cancelled. I had a lot of sympathy for the travel industry in particular when all non essential travel was banned. My sympathy was short lived when I tried to get a refund for the trip I had already booked and paid for, a week later on the 29th Mach. The hotel, Premier Inn were quick to refund me, but British Airways insisted that because the flights I had booked were still running and my ticket was “non refundable”, I’d not be seeing a penny of my money back, even though I was legally breaking the law to go on it and hotels were closed if I did get to Scotland. They did, eventually, relent and give me a voucher. It expired before I ever got to use it, so that was the first of much of my money that essentially went down the toilet. Their response would set the tone of other companies. I quickly realised travel insurance was a waste of time when I was told that if the airline had offered a voucher they considered the money “recoverable” and I’d be getting nothing from them. I hadn’t however intended to end up buying a voucher. In the end I lost £1000s.

Now I was alone and isolated. I live alone. I was not allowed to go to work, to see my colleagues. I was not allowed to see my friends. I was not allowed to see my family. I had to miss my dads Birthday and Mother Day. I had to spend my own Birthday, in the first week of April, at home and alone. The Government had implemented something called “social distancing” (which was not, in any way social) and we were only allowed out for exercise and essential shopping.

That too was a draining and upsetting experience. No one wanted to chat, people crossed the road to avoid me and were terrified in coming within 2 metres of you even though most pavements and paths are not 2 metres wide (and the Government guidance was only ever to do this “where possible”). I hated that everyone was just avoiding me and treating me like I was walking toxic-waste.

Many people were put onto Furlough meaning that whilst they didn’t have to work the Government paid most of their wages (but I know of course, we’ll be taxed to the hilt to pay it all back), but I still had to work. The weather was glorious but I was stuck inside whilst I watched most of my neighbours enjoying sitting in the garden with a bottle (or several) of wine on the go each day, or perhaps a barbecue, treating it like a big holiday, because they had been put on furlough.

Trying to watch the TV or listen to the radio was no better and offered no escape. Every single advert break we had “Corona Man” (as I called him) popping up to tell us, again and again, we must stay at home. (Incredibly, even now, 20 months later every single advert break on the radio still does have a Government advert lecturing us in some way). Even places like YouTube and websites quickly became full of adverts saying the same. We had politicians coming on the TV every day for a daily bulletin reminding us to stay at home as much as possible.

Overnight Britain felt like it had been turned into a 3rd world country and the cause was entirely the Government. With most businesses shut down the only places still open were supermarkets and that became a thoroughly depressing experience, having to join a long queue before finally being let in, having to try and avoid everyone else to find masses of empty shelves and having to buy what you could, not what you needed.

For a while I found that my local supermarket, Waitrose, a 5 minute walk away was open at 8am. I don’t normally shop there (too expensive) but given I was working from home I could go there and still get home for 9am and I found that they had many more things in stock then than when I normally did my shopping in the evening after work when the shelves had been stripped bare. Of course that soon get banned too when it was deemed that 8am to 9am was now “pensioners hour” and by the time I could get in, at lunch time, everything I wanted had been sold.

I had a lot of plans for 2020. By the time this all happened, I had booked and paid for 5 trips to Scotland and a weekend in the Yorkshire Dales. I like to do a trip to somewhere remote and beautiful each year (in past years that had included the Faroe Islands, Svalbard and Iceland) and for 2020 I was going for a week to the Lofoten Islands in Norway. This was a very expensive trip but have a look at some photos of the place to see what had attracted me there. I had also booked a weeks holiday to Maderia, a trip to walk the entire coast of Belgium. A weekend trip to Lyon, a trip to Alesund in mainland Norway. All of it became impossible and that was potentially thousands of pounds down the drain – and the potential turned into reality. (I really enjoy, or at least did, enjoy travel so this is what I spend much of my earnings on).

Now I had to spend every lunch time on the phone trying to get money back from airlines, hotels and car hire companies for trips I couldn’t go on. All the companies had reduced hours and more people calling “due to Covid”. It was a depressing experience when it quickly became apparent that although I couldn’t go all these companies would really rather hang on to my money, thanks. That meant then more time on the phone to various credit card company’s and useless travel insurance and ensuing arguments (a particularly long one with EasyJet where they claimed the money back American Express had refunded me, but when I challenged the decision and submitted all the documentation American Express did agree with me that I was entitled to a refund that Easyjet refused me and did refund the money again, this time making it clear that was final and the refund wouldn’t be taken back again … which thankfully turned out to be true).

With pretty much every physical business closed down, sporting events banned, meeting other people banned and so on at least I was still able to do my main hobby, walking, at the weekends. Many people had been cut off from their favourite past-time. At least walking was still allowed. However this had to be from home and of course walking to work and having lived in the same place for many years I felt like I’d walked every path within a few miles of home thousands of time before (I hadn’t … mostly, though some I certainly had walked that often).

However even that was nothing like as enjoyable as it used to be. Whilst the weather through this period was glorious, going for a walk was now stressful. With everything else shut down many other people had decided to go out for walks too (as I did every weekend) and I literally found paths I am used to walking about 10 times busier than usual and with everyone trying to keep apart that made things unpleasant too. If you got stuck behind a slow moving family, for example, it was hard to get past and many were reluctant to do so. Sometimes if I met people coming the other way they would be terrified to pass. I remember in particular one incident where a couple were coming the other way on a narrow path. The main then put his hand out, demanding I don’t come any closer and that I must “go back, because we can’t come in 2 metres of you”. It was a fair way back to the start of the path but well why should I go back? You’re not going to get ill walking past someone for a few seconds and I had just as much right to use the path as he did. If it bothered him, he could go back We’d both chosen to walk it knowing it was less than 2 metres wide, that there might be other people on it and because it’s not straight and with hedges you cannot see if there are others on it. Eventually, when I refused to go back we passed with him turning away, squeezed into the bus and literally trembling with fear at the prospect of passing another person.

I wondered what on earth has become of the country and the people? For most people it’s a mild flu. Many people get no symptoms at all. It seemed extremely over the top to me.

We had also had the disgusting Derbyshire Police flying a drone around and making a film that they then showed all over the TV, proud as punch of themselves for shaming people for briefly stopping to take a photo when out, alone, walking nowhere near anyone else or briefly stopping to admire the view. Fining people for being outside drinking a cup of coffee because this meant they were having a “picnic”. Neighbours were encouraged to grass up anyone having visitors or question why an unfamiliar car was parked.

Things got worse when one Government minister (I think it was Michael Gove) announced that 1 hour of exercise should be the limit. Whilst there was never in fact any time limit (which was later clarified) this didn’t stop many people believing there was. My walks, at least at the weekend were usually several hours long, as had been the case for many years and I continued to do so. This meant I usually took a rucksack with me for drink and food. Now I had to face questions from some nosey people who thought there really was a 1 hour limit and so decided it was there business to know why I had a rucksack with me because I should only be out for an hour. (I used to use the excuse I was stopping at the shops on the way there/back and needed it to carry food, or already was). Then to actually eat or drink because footpaths were so busy, I resorted to finding areas of woodland “access land” on the map so I could get off a path and disappear into the woods where I could eat or drink without, I hoped, being seen from any paths.

In addition the countryside soon became a dumping ground as groups of teenagers (and sometimes families) gathered there, had a picnic (or takeaways and beer) or barbecues and then simply got up and left all the rubbish there, so the countryside was now piled high with litter and mess. I began to resent how many had now taken up my usual past time and I didn’t enjoy even going out for a walk much, always made to feel guilty for leaving the house, eating or wanting to take a photo of a nice view.

2 weeks had become several months. Repeated promises of back to normal by the Easter, then the summer and so on etc had been broken. “2 weeks to flatten the curve” was now some sort of sick joke. There seemed no end in site. Everything I had been looking forward to had been cancelled. It was impossible to make plans. Everything was closed. I felt that I wasn’t living, I was simply existing, from one day to the next. Yes I still had a job so at least I had money coming in and food to eat, but really I was sick of living like this with every day largely the same.

Many of my colleagues were quite happy since they often spend every weekend playing computer games anyway they were very happy to continue to do so now with the excuse they couldn’t do anything else and that by doing so they were “saving lives” as the Government liked to say. So they were all in favour of keeping restrictions going. I couldn’t stand it and wanted them to end right now, so we began to drift apart, I was fed up of hearing their views that it was “too early” to even consider relaxing anything or that they thought it was much too dangerous to go out for walks and I was reckless for doing so.

The country had become a horrible place with curtain twitchers galore trying to see if they could spot someone breaking “the rules” (and most of these things were actually rules, not law).

I began to feel really depressed. There was no end, nothing to look forward to and I was merely existing. I couldn’t even get to any bit of coast, let alone any new bits. I’ve often found that if things are difficult I head somewhere by the coast and just sit for a while on the beach watching and listening to the waves come and go. Looking out to the horizon, watching life go on. It puts things in perspective. The coast can be a real sanctuary to me at difficult times and I couldn’t even do that now.

I couldn’t see when I could ever resume my coastal walk and I gave serious consideration to simply giving up. Trying to plan was throwing good money after bad and only made me more depressed when any prospect of a return to the coast was always dashed. Eventually I decided I’d do exactly that and announced I was giving up. In the end, I did have 2nd thoughts and eventually it was possible to continue, but it was a close thing. I became very depressed and had no motivation for anything. I woke up but could I really be bothered to get out of bed to go to the next room to work?

I went into a downward spiral. The situation had gone on for months, the Government continually lied and there seemed no way out and no end. I didn’t want a “new normal” I didn’t want everything to be “socially distanced, of course”. I wanted life to go back how it was. If people were concerned they could choose to stay at home. Why should everyone be essentially locked up in their own homes? Criminals get solitary confinement, freedoms taken away and curfews. Yet this is what I had been put under and I had done nothing wrong and I felt like I was being treated like a criminal. The actions of the Government felt like an abusive relationship, taking away freedoms and promising a return if you followed the “rules”, only to find excuses why it can’t happen and move the goal posts, again and again.

If you expressed the view you thought the Government had gone too far (which I do think and always have done), in many peoples eyes, this made you in effect a granny murderer. It got to the point that sometimes when going out for a short walk near home I’d cross a railway bridge or a footbridge over a busy main road road and briefly stop and, fortunately only for a small time, feel like perhaps this could be a way out. I never wanted to feel like that and never thought I would but this is what the restrictions had done. I always felt that no matter what happened, there would always be something to look forward to, something you had enjoyed and could do again. But because everything I enjoyed was now impossible I wanted it all to end and this was certainly one way. I was desperate to get somewhere new, to get back to some sort of normality.

Fortunately things did improve a little when the Government announced a support bubble so I could at least see family in person again and eventually, some degree of travel was permitted, but no overnight stays, so at least I could explore some new places again and get to quieter paths and go back to the coast (but of course, so did everyone else).

Of course I thought and hoped that was the end, or at least the beginning of the end. It wasn’t. I couldn’t stand seeing Matt Hancock, Chris Whitty and the rest of them on the TV all the time telling us to stay at home that the situation was very serious and would be the case for quite some time. They were such miserable, depressing people.

Things took a particularly bad turn for me personally when the estate on which I live was suddenly front page news. Some new “South African variant” had been discovered (we’re not supposed to call it that anymore, but I can’t remember what we are supposed to call it so I will) and some people in the area had tested positive. It was all over the news. This was the very first area where this happened. TV cameras roamed the streets, helicopters flew over, we were very strongly discouraged from leaving the area and I watched Matt Hancock (god how I hate that man) on the TV announcing we must “come down hard on it” and that there would be “surge testing” in the area. As a result I even had people coming to the door demanding I take a Covid test. I refused (which did not go down well). I had been working from home all week, hadn’t been to South Africa or know anyone that had. It felt like we had become the same as China with people now even turning up at my front door demanding to test me to see if I’m “clean”. As far as I saw it, it was testing that was driving restrictions. I was (and still am) desperate for restrictions to end and I really feared if any cases of this were found the specific estate where I live would be subject to even tighter restrictions, probably to the point we would not be able to leave at all. I certainly didn’t want to play a part of anything that was going to facilitate that happening. Of course similar “surge testing” later happened in other areas, but living in the place where it happened first meant it was my area that got all the coverage and felt like it was now a “plague area” in the eyes of many which made it even harder if you went anywhere else (which was legal at that point).

The situation did gradually improve and by late summer I was finally able to return to the coast, albeit not at all how I planned it. That wasn’t the end though. Promises that the restrictions would end by certain dates were always broken. We started to have teir systems. Then we had a 2nd national lockdown and the area I live emerged from that in a higher tier it had been in at the start. It is clear to me at least lockdown doesn’t work, it simply makes any return to normal further away as it drags things out (see now how areas that had few restrictions, like Sweden, had a single wave and have largely avoided any re-occurrence whilst places with tougher restrictions see wave after wave). Our immune systems need some exposure to germs to keep working and essentially locking people up in their homes isn’t the answer.

As winter progressed we had more and more restrictions. We were promised a normal Christmas. At last, something to look forward to. But no, that too was taken from us at a the last minute, after most people had already bought food in and presents and so on. I now had a house full of Christmas presents for people I wouldn’t be able to see for months and decorations for an event we’d not be allowed to celebrate. I can’t express how much I hate Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock and all the rest of them for what they have done. This felt like the final straw for me. They have done so much to ruin my quality of life. Life is short and I want to spend as much time as I can doing things I enjoy and they have taken more than 18 months from me so far. (especially as like everyone, I’m not getting any younger). My freedom and quality of life should not be used by the Government as a tool to manage NHS capacity. The NHS is supposed to exist to protect the people, not the other way around.

Even now, 20 months later, we still have many restrictions (particularly in the area I used to enjoy, travel). I only went back to the office for the first time a couple of weeks ago but that too is thoroughly depressing experience, mostly empty, temperature checks on entry (which I always fail for the first few times for being “too cold”, having walked rather than driven in), masks to be worn whenever you get up (which I really really hate), one way systems, no meetings, no food in the cafe (only drinks) and so on. I yearn for things to get back to normal. We were told vaccines were the way back to normal (and I had both) but it seems that too was a lie. I can’t wait for an end to these restrictions hanging over us, the constant threats from the Government about restrictions coming back. I will never forget and I will certainly never forgive what the Government has done.

Sorry I had to get that off my chest and if you got this far, thanks for reading. Like I said I’m not asking you to agree. Next week I’ll be back to writing about the next coastal walk, when I could eventually get back to the highlands of Scotland 11 months after I was last there, in August 2020.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

347. Red Point to Lower Diabaig

September 2019

This was actually the second walk I was doing on this day which in hindsight was probably a mistake. Logistically it was a tricky walk too. The B8056 ends at a car park at a place called Red Point and around 7 miles further along the coast is a tiny hamlet called Lower Diabaig, at the other end of a different dead-end road. The two are linked by a remote path over wild countryside with no (easy) access off the path. There are no buses to either Red Point or Lower Diabaig and nowhere to stay nearby. To drive between them is (according to the AA) a journey of around 45 miles with an estimated driving time of 90 minutes. In short the logistics for this walk are not easy!

In the end I decided to tackle this as an out and back walk, making a total distance of around 13 miles but over quite demanding terrain. An out and back walk is not ideal because it effectively halves the distance I can cover in a day, because I walk it twice! However it turned out to be a fantastic walk and this part of the coast is very much worth making the effort to visit, so I quite enjoyed doing it twice.

I drove from the end point of my previous walk and arrived at the car park at Red Point at a little after 12:30pm. In hindsight starting a bit earlier might have been a better idea, but I had a lot of miles I wanted to cover on this trip (mostly as I was trying to claw back the distance from a walk I’d had to abandon on my previous trip).

I knew I’d be against the clock to get there and back before it got dark and this is not the sort of place I wanted to be trying to walk at night (especially as I’d not got a torch). So a backup plan was to walk as far as a place called Craig and then return from there if time was short. I could then on a later date drive to Lower Diabaig and walk from there to Craig to close the gap I’d leave if I had to do this.

Craig is a tiny place, which has no road access. Today it consists of just a single building! It was formerly a Youth Hostel and I believe was at the time considered the remotest Youth Hostel in Scotland. It is around 2.5 miles from the nearest road and so only accessible on foot and over difficult terrain too. It closed as a youth hostel in 2003. However it has since been taken over by the Mountain Bothies Association as a bothy. So you can also stay here the night if you choose.

I parked in the car park at Red Point. To my irritation one driver had felt the need to park sideways instead and was therefore occupying 4 spaces rather than 1, which was very selfish, but thankfully for me there was still enough other spaces for me to park here.

I stopped in the car to have part of my lunch, but leaving a good few snacks to take with me for the walk  because I knew it was going to be a late finish and I had to drive back to Ullapool at the end, too.

From the car park the path was well signed, showing Craig as 7.5km and Diabaig as 12km.

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I planned to walk to Diabaig and back, so that would be 24km, or about 15 miles (further than I had calculated from the map)!

From the car park there is a choice of routes. To the right a short path leads to the beautiful beach, which is oddly un-named on the map (but that I had visited on my previous walk). However I was following the longer one to Diabaig and this began by heading along the farm track that servers Redpoint Farm.

This was initially a track, almost a road really, though with quite a few potholes and puddles which took me directly into the farm yard. Farm yards are not always the most welcoming places to walkers and I wondered if the onward route would be easy to find.

Thankfully this was one of the more welcoming farms, as a long and rambling sign explained that the footpath went through the farm, what sort of things the farm did and it’s nature value, a few do’s and don’ts and finally wished me an enjoyable walk.

So at least walkers were not being discouraged. The path went directly through the farm yard and then through a gate where it became a rather muddy and water logged track. It had been wet weather recently so the track had been churned up a bit. Either side the area was being grazed by sheep. Lots of sheep! The path then headed back towards the coast and came into a more open area where there seemed to be lots of tracks. There is another good sandy beach to the south here again oddly un-named. The path doesn’t go down to the beach but I wanted to, so I turned off over the open grassy area.

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The land sloped away steeply to the coast and much of this slope was covered with gorse.

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I had to walk back and forth a bit to find a suitable place to descend safely and without having to go through the gorse. I then headed down to this lovely beach.

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To my surprise I didn’t actually have it to myself. There was another couple here walking along the beach near the shore. It was hardly crowded, however!

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Still it was a gorgeous beach and judging by the lack of footprints I suspected me and this couple were the only people to have come to this beach since the last high tide. I walked a bit along the beach and stopped at the back of the dunes for another quick bite to eat.

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Then I headed down to the shore to follow the firm sands near the waves. Beach walks like this are lest common on the west coast of Scotland so I wanted to make the most of the fairly rare opportunity of such a walk!

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The beach here is astonishingly beautiful. In the distance I could see the Torridon mountains and also what I presume to be the Isle of Skye.

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Around 2/3 of the way along the beach is a small tidal island Eilean Tioram that splits the two parts of the beach, but it was low enough tide it was possible to walk to it, not that there is anything much to see, it is only about 50 metres tall and about 25 metres wide.

Further out there were more rocks visible. A fishing station is marked at the back of the beach. In reality this has clearly not been used for a very long time. All the buildings are derelict and roofless except for one that although open at the front has a (very rusty) metal roof which someone (probably the farmer from Redpoint farm) uses to store a few bits of equipment that looked to be fishing related.

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Beyond the roofless building was the footpath sign direction me straight ahead. I had seen lots of these footpath signs so far, which is encouraging, though this was to be the last one until Craig.

The path began as a good path over short grass, nice easy walking.

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This did not last for long. Soon the grass was surrounded by rocks and boulders making for a more difficult walk and parts of the grass were boggy. I reached the first Ford marked on the map. This turned out to be a quite fast flowing burn, that also looked quite deep but it was narrow and the water full of rocks so it was easy enough to simply step across.

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Beyond it the path continued to be very rocky. It was more boulder hopping than walking really, as the area in between the boulders was often wet and boggy which meant I had to watch every step and navigate around the deeper puddles. It requires quite a bit of concentration as you must constantly watch where you are putting your feet as it is all so uneven. All the signs had disappeared too though they were not really as for the most part there was only really one obvious route to take. Occasionally if the path split they seemed to run parallel and re-join, probably just people trying to avoid boggy parts.

Looking back the sandy beach near Red Point was now becoming more distant.

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The path continued to be tough, never flat and never free enough of boulders or bogs you could walk without watching your step for more than a few metres at a time.

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I kept assuming (or perhaps hoping) that at some point the path would become easier and I could actually walk rather than keep stepping and jumping, but it never did. This sounds like it was not enjoyable but it was simply because the scenery was so good.

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The weather too was somewhat changable, but I never had more than a few brief showers, despite a lot of heavy showers being visible nearby. Soon I reached the second ford. This was quite similar to the first, requiring a bit of stepping over lose boulders.

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Still I found a way across that kept me with dry feet. The path had now climbed up a bit with the cliffs and I was quite a way above the sea, but still close by.

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It was wild and remote with rocks, heather, gorse and bracken beside the path. Ahead I could see more mountains, these ones part of Torridon. I had several more small burns to cross. None had a bridge but in all cases there were rocks where, with care, I could find a route through keeping dry feet.

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I stopped for a 15 rest nearby to finish the rest of my lunch and have something to drink and the rest did me good, as my legs did not feel that tired once I set off again.

I now had several more fords to cross now in quick succession and my dry feet luck soon ran out.

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(It seems at around this point I seem to have managed to get something, sun lotion I think, on my camera lens and took a while to notice, so apologies the next few photos are a bit blurry).

At one of them I looked at a route across but realised it wasn’t quite so easy as it looked. I decided to step back to try a different way across but somehow missed stepping back onto the rock and stepped straight into the water! Now I had one dry foot and one very wet one!

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It was now around  2:45pm. I had decided earlier if I did not reach Craig Bothy by 3:30pm, I was going to turn back when I did reach the bothy, and abandon plans to continue to Lower Diabaig today. If I made it to the Bothy by 3:30pm I’d have taken just under 3 hours. I estimated another hour from there onto Lower Diabaig, as I’d read the path on to there was a bit easier, so I’d get there by 4:30pm I hoped. If I could make that time, it would mean getting to Lower Diabaig had taken me around 3 hours, 45 minutes. Assuming a similar time back it would get me back for around 8:15pm – after sunset (which was around 7:50pm), but I knew it would not suddenly get pitch black and it takes a while to get dark once the sunsets. I also knew that the last part of the path was on a fairly easy farm track, so I was not likely to get lost. I could also save time by not going to the beach again but sticking to the track and I’d also stopped for a 15 minutes break or so. So I hoped I’d still make it back by sunset.

I was buoyed because ahead the path soon descended close to the shore again and I could see what I suspected was the point that the Craig river flowed out to the sea and I knew if so, the Bothy was a short distance inland from there.

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The path climbed again as I approached the river and soon I rounded the corner, to see the fast flowing river in a lovely valley below me.

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As I looked inland it soon became wooded and I was surprised that I could not see the Bothy. According to the map it was around 500 metres away so I was hoping to see it, but it must have been hidden by the trees. I also knew there was a footbridge marked on the map, which I also could not see, so I was getting a bit worried that it might no longer exist.

The path was now close by the river to my right. The waters were rushing but it did look possible to ford it without too much difficulty if I had to, but I’d really rather not, so was hoping the bridge would soon come into view.

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Strangely this part of the walk I had expected to be fairly easy actually turned out to be about the hardest part of the whole walk. As the path continue east, inland, the surroundings became increasingly wooded and the path had become, quite literally, a boulder field. I had to keep climbing over boulders to get to the next bit of path ahead and repeat almost every step. There was barely any path visible on the ground and it also became a bit overgrown with bracken. In fact I had read the path if walking in the other way was very hard to find and I could see why. I would have to be careful on the way back but at least having walked one way I knew where the path went. As a result of the terrain, I made slow progress here but eventually the bridge did come into view. I was very glad to see it!

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It had clearly seen better days as a couple of the planks were missing, but I quickly tested that the others felt firm (they did) and so I made my way across. I was glad I had not had to ford the river as now close to it was deeper and wider than it had looked further up the path.

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Now I could see the bothy ahead, with various old buoys tied up in the trees nearby, for some reason. I headed to the door of the bothy which looked well maintained.

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I didn’t need to stop and it was dry, but I decided to have a closer look anyway so I headed to the door. I could see it was bolted so I suspected no one was inside (because if they were – how would they get out?).

I un-bolted it and went inside, the door took you into a small area where a hard-hat was hanging up amongst various other things.

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To the left was the living room which smelt strongly of wood smoke, not surprising as there was a wood burning stove present. Inside was a table a sort of built in cupboard and a washing line, still with some cloths hanging up. There was also a visitor book which I had a quick peek inside and found that people had slept here at least the last 3 nights and it was clearly quite a popular and much loved place.

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One night a group from HF Holidays had stayed here! It looked like for water you took water from the river and (presumably) boiled it. Some had been left behind in plastic bottles but of course I would not risk drinking any because I didn’t know if it had been boiled or how long it had been there! Still it looked comfortable enough with a few chairs and candles and matches left as well as a kettle. Not sure where you get the wood to burn though? Perhaps it’s expected you bring it with you as after all the wood outside is likely to be damp (that might explain where a couple of planks from the footbridge had gone!).

Various ktichen utensils were hanging up too, in fact there seemed to be an over-supply of frying pans! I wondered if these were left from when it used to be a youth hostel or if it was the case walkers bought them here and decided they were too heavy to want to carry back, so left them behind.

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I had a quick look in the bedrooms too. The room the other side on the ground floor looked to have been recently refurbished, possibly not complete as there was fresh wooden planks on the ceiling in places but not all of it. Upstairs there were I think three bedrooms, some had beds others were just sleep on the floor in sleeping bags. One was marked “Private Warden”. I was unclear if that was still the case or if that was a remnant from when this was a youth hostel and no longer applied. The doors to the rooms were very thin, not normal doors presumably because they had to be carried here. Indeed I imagine it must be hard to keep this place in good condition given that everything (even roof tiles, presumably) have to be carried here several miles on foot!

Anyway by now it was around 3:15pm. I had beaten my self-imposed deadline of 3:30pm so I decided to continue onto Lower Diabaig.

I had read from Rosemary and Colins’ account of this walk that the path onwards from here had been recently improved and so was much easier to use. I hoped they were right as if it was as hard as the route I had come on, I’d not get back before dark.

The path climbed away from the bothy over moorland and soon up rocky steps cut into the rocks. This must be the improvements and made things easier. Soon I had climbed out of the valley and had a last look at the bothy (at least for a while, I’d be coming back again on my way back!).

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Once I’d climbed out of the valley the path was indeed easier. In fact it was mostly a proper path you could easily walk rather than hop from rock-to-rock as I had done before.

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Stunning views were opening out ahead as I approached the area known as Torridon, which I had heard was very beautiful, and so it was proving.

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The path went over some rocky open moorland but it was not too hilly. There were again several streams to cross. One had large flat stepping stones (obviously man made) which made things easier. The others had bridges – what luxury!

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I passed the only other people I had seen since leaving Red Point here another couple of walkers going the same way, but they had binoculars and were walking more slowly, sometimes stopping. I was tempted to ask if they had seen anything interesting but I just didn’t have the time to spare so could just issue hello before passing them, I was walking very quickly now.

Soon I began to see signs of civilisations, the round circles of a fish farm visible in the water to my right.

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It was not long before I reached the last hill and ahead I could see buildings again. Beyond them, was Loch Diabaig which was absolutely stunning. The rocky craggy slopes mixed in with trees and gorse and in the distance the hills and Isle of Skye.

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It really was a beautiful place. Soon the path descended towards a house I could see over heather and bracken to a gate in the fence and then down the slope to the road.

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To my right a new house was being built and to the left the road headed gently downhill passing a large green metal barn on the left. All this would have to wait to be explored for next time. Having put foot on tarmac I turned straight back around to head back where I had come! Next time I would walk back to the very end of this road, where I had just stood. I had made it in 1 hour and 5 minutes from the Bothy which was not bad at all. However I knew it would be over 3 hours to get back so I didn’t have time to hang about.

So I turned back retracing my steps. Of course I fairly soon passed the couple I had overtaken earlier. They gave me a cheery hello but didn’t seem surprised to see me turning back. They were the last people I saw until I got back to Ullapool!

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I returned the same way of course, still keeping up a rapid pace, at least as much as the terrain allowed.

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I had a few short showers to contend with but made reasonable progress and in around 1 hour I reached the top of the valley with the Bothy now below me.

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Here a much heavier shower rolled in so I descended the steps as quickly as I could and rushed for the bothy. I made it in before the worst of the rain and sheltered in the living room there for about 10 minutes.

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I had timed it well to get to the only point of cover at the heaviest rain there had been all day. I left a quick note in the visitors book and then once the rain had eased to a bit of drizzle (which soon stopped entirely) I continued back the way I had come.

I soon crossed the river and again found the path back to the coast hard going.

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However as is often the way I found the walk back easier than it had been coming, despite being more tired now. It was not as hard as I had remembered it being, or as boggy. I had bought plenty of sugary snacks and nuts (as well as some Lucozade) which I dipped into from time to time to keep my energy up, which was working well.

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I made better than expected progress and so made it out onto the easier grass just at the end of the beach by the old fishing station at around 7:30pm, still before it got dark.

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There was no one about. This time rather than go down to the beach I intended to continue following the track marked on the map, but when it entered the area of short grass with the sheep there was no real track visible and several possible routes.

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I headed in broadly the right direction and soon made it back towards the farm where I found the more visible track again, passing a clearing full of old bath tubs on the left, which was a little unexpected!

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I continued back along past the farm house and along the farm track with a sense of elation I had successfully tackled one of the harder walks along the coast and I had really really enjoyed it. It had been a wonderful walk despite getting back later than I had originally hoped. On these tough walks there is also a real sense of achievement at the end, which I certainly felt today.

It was now about sunset and so the light was beginning to fade. I took off my rucksack and had a drink that I’d left in the car and then set off back for the long drive to Ullapool. Ullapool was really too far away to have stayed on this trip but it was all I could find, my intended hotel in Gairloch already being full when I booked this trip in February!

So I now had a 1 3/4 hour drive back to Ullapool, though at least mostly on main roads. I was glad to get the mostly single-track B8056 done before it got properly dark and back onto A-roads. At least now all the way back to Ullapool I had a good road (with a lane in each direction) the whole way back and I had driven it many times before. However one hazard I’d encountered on my trip to the highlands in Autumn last year was deer close by the road.

This time I had another encounter, but a little more scary! Near Dundonnell when travelling on a straight stretch of road at around 60mph, and with the headlights on full beam (there was no other traffic around) a large deer ran out into the road a short distance ahead and then, presumably seeing my bright headlights froze in the middle of the road. At that point I wondered if I would be able to stop in time, and jammed on the brakes. Fortunately the brakes in the hire car (which until now hadn’t felt that strong) did work very well when the peddle was pressed to the floor and with a screech of tires I stopped about 5 metres in front of the deer – that was close! The deer still stood staring at me for a minute before running off (I wondered if it was dazzled and confused by the headlights and was about to switch them off to see if that would help when it ran off).

A little shaken I continued on my way back to Ullapool with no further incident. It had been a good day and I didn’t want to end it crashing the car into an unfortunate deer. I’m not sure what is best to do here really. If you cruise along at 30 or 40mph you will soon having someone driving close behind you and trying to overtake (I had no one behind me most at all on the way back until I joined the A835 near Ullapool). This then of course means you are more likely to have a collision if you have to make an emergency stop as most drivers seem to drive at 60mph (or more) on these roads whether night or day and get frustrated at those going slower. (I have only been involved in one car accident in my life and that was when I was being tail-gated for driving at the recently reduced speed limit of 30mph, then had to make an emergency stop to avoid a dog that ran out in front of me and the car behind crashed into mine because they were too close). But if you do travel at that speed you can’t see deer close by the road that might run in front of you because the lights only light the road in front and not much to the sides. It’s tricky to know what to do apart from try to avoid driving at night in the highlands as much as possible!

Irritatingly of course getting back so late there was nowhere to park in the hotel “car park” (in reality, some waste ground round the back, a mixture of tarmac, gravel, foundations of old buildings and grass) so I parked in the public car park near to the Tesco (which is free). I was too late back for dinner at my hotel and probably anywhere else so instead decided to have a cold dinner of food bought from Tesco (fortunately open until 10pm) back in my room.

This had been a wonderful walk and one of my best on the Scottish coast despite being a “there and back” walk. It had been a memorable day along a very varied, wild and remote stretch of the coast and I felt a great sense of accomplishment at having made it there and back in the time I had available without any problems.

There is no public transport available anywhere on this walk. The nearest place with any service is at Kerrysdale near the junction of the A832 and B8056 to the north and to the south at Shieldaig on the A896.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk: Main Link.

Posted in Wester Ross | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

346. Shieldaig to Red Point

September 2019

Looking at the map I realised that tackling the stretch of coast between Shieldaig and Lower Diabaig was going to prove tricky because Shieldaig is on the B8056, which is a dead-end road that ends at Red Point. From there there is a footpath along the coast that leads to Lower Diabaig, at the end of a different dead-end road. If I try and do that all in one day there isn’t any transport back. Even to drive between them takes well over an hour on single-track roads and is over 35 miles. Though there is a bothy at Craig, roughly mid-way along the path it would still mean carrying enough equipment and food for an overnight stay and getting back from Torridon or somewhere further south to Shieldaig after the overnight stay.

It all looked a bit challenging. So I decided on an alternative plan. Two there and back walks. The first from Shieldaig to Red Point and the second from Red Point to Lower Diabaig. This would be the first of those walks. However from looking at the map I decided I could make this a circular walk by following the roads to Red Point and walking back on a path that took a more direct inland route on the way back.

(As an aside I later found out there actually is a bus part way along this road, but it’s a school service and I’m unclear if the general public are permitted to use it, see the bottom for details).

I was staying at the Caledonian Hotel in Ullapool so faced a long drive to reach Shieldaig, it took a little over 90 minutes (it would have made more sense to stay in Gairloch for this trip but there was nowhere available).

I parked in the small car park opposite the hotel I had used before. Today this was already almost full of assorted vehicles, trailers and other equipment so there wasn’t much space, though there was enough space for my car and I hoped I would not find it blocked in on my return! This was just a few metres beyond the entrance to the Shieldaig Lodge Hotel (which I must say looked rather nice!).

This was a simple walk along the road to Badachro initially. There are several settlements on this road, none of them very large, so I was hoping there would be little traffic. Although the road is a B-road that still means it is mostly single track with passing places.

The views over Loch Shieldaig were wonderful even on a grey day like today.

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Loch Shieldaig

The loch includes a tidal island, Eilean Shieldaig, though the tide was far enough in I could not get over there with dry feet, though some kayakers looked to be preparing to do just that from the hotel gardens.

Initially the road was at a low level right along the western edge of the loch, with a low wall on the right, presumably to try to prevent vehicles ending up in the loch. Almost immediately, I encountered the first few cars and had to step onto the grass verge to let them past.

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Loch Shieldaig

I had only been going a few hundred metres when the rain that had been threatening began, but at least the trees beside the loch provided some protection. It was quite heavy rain but had stopped after a little over 5 minutes. A little view point on the corner of the road was proving popular with motorists.

Sadly not long after this the road turns a bit inland and climbs away from the waters edge. Various drive ways turned off the road to the right so I decided against trying to find my own way closer to the coast as I suspected I’d keep ending up in peoples gardens!

The traffic on the road now seemed lighter which was good and after about a mile of road walking I was now alongside Loch Bad a Chrotha (don’t ask me to say that).

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This is quite a sizeable loch, fed by the Badachro river, and the road soon passed over the other end of this, flowing out to the sea.

Weirs had been constructed here at some point but the one nearest me looked to be in poor repair with the water all flowing to the left side, where it looked like part of it had given way (or perhaps that is intentional, I don’t know).

Near Badachro

Near Badachro

In land a footpath headed off with the welcoming sign that “you are most welcome to The Torr” and whilst warning of cows on the path ended with “enjoy your wanderings”. Despite this I wasn’t wandering that way because it would take me inland, my route was to continue along the road.

It did look rather nice though, right alongside the river. The road then turned and climbed away again from the river and then descended into the small village of Badachro.

Near Badachro

This is something of the “hub” of this peninsula, it even has the great luxury of a pub (and one in a lovely location, too).

Badachro, Loch Gairloch

I wandered down the road towards the pub, but it wasn’t yet open, but I wondered about stopping here on my way back. Instead I continued along the road to the western edge of the village and was surprised to see a sign informing me there was also a Gin distillery here.

Badachro, Loch Gairloch

Badachro, Loch Gairloch

At the far end of the bay the road crossed another river this time the one flowing from Loch Bad na h-Achlaise ahead. To my right was a tempting little footbridge over it. I decided to leave the road for a short distance, cross this stream and follow the marked path alongside the beach, this was the more coastal route, after all.

Badachro, Loch Gairloch

This was initially good but I soon decided to drop down onto the foreshore. The path was water logged, a mixture of rain and the tide I think, as it looked to be flooded at high tide. The view was stunning and I stopped to sit on a wall here and have a snack and drink.

Badachro, Loch Gairloch

Badachro, Loch Gairloch

Badachro, Loch Gairloch

Whilst I was doing that the weather brightened up and there was some sunshine which was lovely and really improved the view.

Badachro, Loch Gairloch

Badachro, Loch Gairloch

I walked to the end of the track which lead to a fence which blocked access over to the little island. Whilst it might be possible to walk to the end of the minor road out to the house at the end and find my way along the coast it looked pretty tough so I decided to return to the road. So I followed the minor road back from this part of the village to the “main” road (the B8056) and continued west along this.

Badachro, Loch Gairloch

Only a few metres after it joined the main road I was alongside the loch of Bad na h-Achlaise another sizeable loch and now I was also exposed to the quite strong wind.

Loch bad na h-Achlaise

The road hugged the banks of this loch until it ended.

Loch bad na h-Achlaise

As it did so I entered the scattered village of Port Henderson. Though there is a rocky looking beach here there didn’t seem to be any easy access down to it because the gardens of the houses all went down to it.

Port Henderson

I ignored the dead-end road out to Sron a Mhuilt and stuck to the “main” road through the village because it looked like access along the coast from there would be impossible.

Port Henderson

However there was a second dead-end road out to Uamh ah Fhreiceadain at the western end of the village and I decided to follow this and see if it would be possible to make my own way from there to the beach at Opinan rather than following the road. The last house was a bit before the end of the road and at the end of the road was a turning circle. In the turning circle there was a parked car and just as I passed it I could see the owner walking towards me on a path with a dog.

This was good because it looked like there was indeed a good path and as I got closer I asked the man who confirmed that yes it was a lovely walk and whilst a bit rough in places I should have no problem getting through. Good news!

Indeed there was a path over the heather most of the way and it was mostly fairly obvious. I could follow this right along the coast passing a few rocky beaches and then finally the beautiful sandy beach of Opinan.

The coast near Port Henderson

The coast near Port Henderson

The coast near Port Henderson

I made my way down over the rocks onto the beach and walked along this lovely sandy beach. After all the road walking, it was nice to come across a lovely sandy beach.

Opinan

Opinan

Near the end of the beach I then left the sands and followed a path up through the dunes to the road beyond.

Port Henderson

I continued south along the road to South Erradale, half a mile to the south, another spread out little village. The road soon drops down to cross the river Erradale on a bridge. The river is surprisingly fast flowing.

Near South Erradale

Once over the river the road climbs up again and soon turns back to the coast, now hugging the coast. Sadly I timed this stretch just as another heavy shower blows in, a shame because it’s about the most exposed part of the whole walk.

Again it was quite a heavy shower but quite a short one and soon I’m over the crest of the hill and looking at the fine beach at Red Point below.

Red Point

The road continues to a view point, which offers a wonderful view over the beach.

Red Point

The road now descends and a short distance beyond ends at a parking area. I’m pleased to see this is fairly big as I am planning on using this car park tomorrow, but at least the view point car park provides an alternative if it is full. Before heading back I can’t resist taking the path down to this wonderful beach (I was planning to do that tomorrow instead). The beach is wonderful and from the footprints on the beach (or rather the lack of them) it appears few people have been down here today.

Red Point

Red Point

The sand is indeed quite red, presumably why this is known as Red Point.

Red Point

I stopped in the dunes at the back of the beach for a rest and lunch, the dunes provided some shelter from the wind, which is quite strong (and cold).

After lunch it’s time to re-trace my route back to Shieldaig. I followed the track back up to the car park and also found where the path to Lower Diabaig begins and was pleased to see it was signed, re-assuring.

Red Point

Now I had spotted a path on the map heading back from here to South Erradale which I had planned to follow to avoid returning via the same route. There seemed to be two possible start points at Red Point but the first started from behind a house. I could not see it and trying to climb up the bank there was no sign of the path. I decided instead to continue and take the second start point. This came right down to the road just before it turns to the right. Once again there was no sign of it and despite climbing up onto the grassy bank I couldn’t find any sort of path, any rough sort of possible path soon disappeared into bog and there were no signs for a path either.

I gave up with it and reluctantly returned to the road back to South Erradale.

Red Point

I wasn’t that bothered about this because it wasn’t much of a shortcut along the path anyway looking at the map it was about the same distance.

However once in South Erradale there is another path marked on the map as going over the moors to Badachro. That cuts quite a corner on the return route so I was keen to follow it (I should learn that in Scotland with the state of many of the paths, shorter distance certainly does not equal shorter time taken to walk!). Following the path means taking a right turn along a dead-end minor road just after crossing the river, which is what I did. On reaching the right house I was encouraged to see a sign indeed indicating a footpath to Badachro, 5km so I took it.

After passing over fields the path then climbed over the moorland. It quickly turned into not much of a path, a narrow rocky path over heather covered moorland, often through boggy areas. However there was a post indicating a path. Trouble was little sign of a path!

South Erradale

It turned out to be quite hard work since it was near constant “boulder hopping” and to make matters worse between the boulders was often several inches of water!

Footpath near South Erradale

Still eventually I reached the top and could look ahead over the lochs ahead the large one being Loch Clair and the smaller Lochan nam Breac Odhar.

Footpath near South Erradale

The path soon descended but then came to a flat area with thick grass which was boggy underneath.

A feint path was visible but fortunately a few footpath posts also signed the way so it was a case of just following the signs albeit the path mostly disappeared and the grass was soon long enough it wasn’t possible to see where I was standing so it was inevitable I’d soon stand in enough water to get into my shoes, as indeed I did! (If you look closely below you can just see the 2nd post in the distance, though not much in the way of path between them).

Footpath near South Erradale

The worst section was alongside the loch itself because the path was more a bog here with the water from the loch seeping into the ground. It was a tough section and once past the lochs the path was again not very visible for a while. At one point I lost it entirely and spent quite a while wandering around trying to get back on track, which I did eventually manage to do. After a while there was a small hill and the path became more obvious.

Footpath near South Erradale

Loch Clair

Loch Clair

It was quite a relief when I picked up the track at the end of the path and could follow this back down to the road. I was glad to make it back to the road but my “shortcut” certainly hasn’t saved any time.

It was now a case of turn right and walk along the road for 2 miles or so back to my car. I walked quickly here after all the time lost going over the moors.

It was around 5pm by the time I got back to the car, which was quite a bit later than I expected. Now back by the loch it was really beautiful with the low late afternoon sunshine and the loch now full of water, such a peaceful place and I rather regretted (again) that I wasn’t staying here. It would be a lovely view to wake up to!

Loch Shieldaig

Loch Shieldaig

Loch Shieldaig

Loch Shieldaig

Loch Shieldaig

It shows what a difference the tide being in and the sun makes to a view when you compare these photos with the ones at the start of the walk!

I had a plan to do another short walk after finishing this one (part of the “gap filling” I had to do between Poolewe and Aultbea after I had to cut a previous walks hort). However the longer than expected time taken to walk my “shortcut” path meant time was getting on. In the end I cut that a bit short since I knew it was a good 90 minutes drive back to Ullapool and I also wanted to get dinner when I got there. Well actually, because of the timing and the fact I didn’t fancy a plate of slop from the Caledonian Hotel for dinner I thought I’d head back to Badachro in the hope I might eat in the pub there before heading back. However despite being only just after 5pm it was packed, so much so I could barely even get through the door. With no tables free I gave up that idea (it was too cold to sit outside) and headed back to Ullapool.

This was a lovely walk. Despite being mostly on road the traffic was light and the scenery was good with some lovely sandy beaches, a rarity in this part of Scotland. The path back was however rather tougher than I had expected!

Here are details of the possible public transport for this walk, to avoid some of the doubling back, however I am unclear if this bus is available for the public to use or limited to school children. If planning to use it I suggest ring the company first to check.

Westerbus (no route number) : South Erradale – Port Henderson – Badachro – Shieldaig – Kerrysdale – Gairloch (High School). One bus per day each way on school days only.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link.

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345. Shieldaig to Gairloch

September 2019

This was my last day of a 5 day trip to the north of Scotland and I was staying in Ullapool, which was not the most convenient as it was now really too far north. (I did not do the walks on this trip in the same order I am writing them up). I checked out of the dreadful  Caledonian Hotel (this time, finally, for the last time) and then began the long drive south to Shieldaig. It took a while, but there were no real hold ups. I parked in the small parking area just beyond the Shieldaig Lodge Hotel on the B8056.

As this was a Sunday there wasn’t a bus service running, so this was going to have to be another “there and back” walk, not something I enjoy as much (though this walk turned out to be far better than I had expected).

I planned to start from the south end knowing that this part was going to be the least pleasant, with no pavements and hence did this bit first, earlier in the day, when I hoped the traffic would be lighter.

I followed the road for the short distance from the car park to the hotel where unfortunately the road then immediately turns inland and heads uphill past the hotel and a farm and then turns left.

The B8056 near Shieldaig

Although a B-road it is mostly single-track with passing places. However traffic was fairly light on the way down with only about half a dozen vehicles passing me. The road soon turns left and then has open moorland to the right and woodland to the left, with the tops of a few mountains visible further in the distance.

Moorland near Shieldaig

Moorland near Shieldaig

At the brow of one hill I glimpsed the turning at the start of the road, but it was another brief up and down before I was heading down to the river. The start of this road, the B8056 crosses the river Kerry on a lovely old (but very narrow) stone bridge. As I approached this, the first flowing river was parallel to the road on the right so I could hear, and sometimes see, the rushing water.

The River Kerry near Kerrysdale

Soon I was down at the bridge, crossed the river and was now at the junction with the A832. I was not looking forward to this bit. This road to the right also reduces to a single track road with passing places, but to the left it is a normal A-road with a lane in each direction, and no pavement. The first part of the road had the river Kerry parallel again, now on the left side of the road.

The River Kerry near Kerrysdale

The first part was over flat meadows on either side, probably flood plain. Then I passed through the village of Kerrysdale, a hamlet really, the main building seemingly a bed and breakfast. After that the road crossed a stream and began to climb through the woods of Glen Kerry.

The A832 near Kerrysdale

There was a verge, of sorts, beside the road most of the way but is was uneven and overgrown so not nice to walk on, but at least it gave me somewhere to step aside from the traffic when there were vehicles coming both ways at the same time, or on corners.

The River Kerry near Kerrysdale

The River Kerry, Kerrysdale

The main thing I hate with walking on roads is you really do have to concentrate all the time, keeping your ears and eyes open for cars coming, as they are often coming very quickly and not expecting to find someone walking. As I began to approach Charlestown there was at least some gravelly areas beside the road which were easy to walk on.

Soon the road descended down into Charlestown which I could now see ahead. This is a small village that almost joins Gairloch and it bought with it, joy of joys, a pavement. I knew from my drive down here earlier this continues all the way to Gairloch. The second I had stepped onto the pavement I opted to turn around and walk straight back where I had just come from! I was keen to get off the pavement-less part of the road as early in the day as possible. My plan was to go back to the car, then drive back to Gairloch and complete the 2nd part of the walk.

The walk on the way back took a little less time, but there was noticeably more traffic meaning I had to take more care and I was relieved to turn off onto the quieter B8056.

I returned to my car for a drink but found it surrounded by dogs and people who all seemed to have unloaded from the 4×4 now parked next to me. I got in the car for some peace and quiet and a quick rest and drink but with all the barking dogs around the car I decided to abandon that and drive onto Gairloch. They were quite reluctant to move even from in front of the car!

I drove the 10 minutes or so up to Giarloch and parked in the main car park at Strath Bay on the B8021, where I had caught the bus at the end of my previous walk. There was a fair bit of life here with a cafe and book shop open by the car park and quite a few people around, perhaps having come from the local hotels.

The coast at Gairloch

The coast at Gairloch

Gairloch is a very pretty village and I also found a very cute tabby kitten around the shop that stopped for a stroke between chasing leaves and flies.

The road soon climbed up and then descended down to the little bay beyond, Strathy Bay. This is mostly rocks and pebbles, but there was a bit of sand near the shoreline.

I soon passed the small studio of Two Lochs Radio, which claims to be the smallest radio station in the UK. (Though this claim is also made by Islands FM (formerly Radio Scilly) on the Isles of Scilly).

Two Lochs Radio, Gairloch

I now followed the road behind the bay, though I did head down briefly onto the beach for a snack and drink, now I had found somewhere more peaceful (the break I had intended to have on leaving Shieldaig).

The beach at Gairloch

The road soon crossed a small stream via a bridge and when the “main” road, such as it was turned away from the coast I could continue along on a residential road. I was pleased to spot here one of the “Path” signs informing me there was a footpath along the shore, so I didn’t need to follow the road. That was good news!

The beach at Gairloch

The beach at Gairloch

I followed this to the end of the road where a path then headed up the low cliffs and to the road behind.

The beach at Gairloch

The beach at Gairloch

Here I could follow the pavement passing the large Gairloch Hotel to my left.

The Gairloch Hotel

The Gairloch Hotel

That hotel would have been far more convenient but it was fully booked, though I noted it was also owned by the same chain of hotels as the dreadful Caledonian Hotel I had been staying at in Ullapool (Bespoke Hotels), so I am not sure if it would have been that nice inside if the hotel I had stayed at was anything to judge it by.

I continued on the pavement beside the road, passing a church and then a view point and war memorial just beyond. Here I was able to find a path down to the wonderful beach just beyond it.

The beach at Gairloch

Church in Gairloch

This was a lovely sandy beach, backed by low wooded cliffs.

Gaineamh Moir, Gairloch

The storms of the previous day had left the sands rather covered in foam from the sea. (Due to the poor weather the previous day I had abandoned plans to walk and instead made a visit to Dunrobin Castle on the east coast, where the weather was better). I made my way down to the beach via a bit of rock climbing and walked along the sands, which was much nicer than the road.

Gaineamh Moir, Gairloch

Gaineamh Moir, Gairloch

Gaineamh Moir, Gairloch

A small stream flowed over the beach but it was only a few millimetres deep on the beach so no problem to get over. At the far end I was pleased to find a proper path off the beach.
As I begun to climb the steps from the beach two serious looking walkers came the other way with giant backpacks. I was tempted to ask them where they had been and were going but although they said hello they didn’t look like they wanted to stop, so I left them to it (you can see them stopped on the beach in the photo below).

Gaineamh Moir, Gairloch

Gaineamh Moir, Gairloch

The location of this beach is stunning with the wild open countryside right behind the beach and the white houses of Gairloch visible in the distance.

The path made it’s way around low cliffs to a rocky little bay behind and then up through woodland behind the beach.

The coast near Gairloch Harbour

The coast near Gairloch Harbour

Gaineamh Moir, Gairloch

It was a good path, even with board walks over the boggy parts (though with missing planks) and later it was a properly surfaced path.

Coast path near Gairloch

It was nice to find a proper well made and easy to use footpath, they are rare in this part of Scotland! It was even well signed with these pleasant wooden signs at regular intervals.

Coast path near Gairloch

The pier referred to is not a pleasure pier as such but one from which boat trips operate and is more the jetty at the end of the harbour, a bit further along the coast.

The path headed through trees and heather and I saw a few people walking dogs on it too, it was quite a popular path.

View back to Gairloch

View back to Gairloch

Soon rounding the corner I came to a view over Charlestown. What a view it was too with the wooded mountains in the distance and the narrow bay in front of me, just a shame about the bits of rubble and containers around the harbour.

Charlestown, Gairloch

Charlestown, Gairloch

Charlestown, Gairloch

The path took me down steps to emerge on the road beside a coffee shop (closed) and with a little jetty ahead. To the right was a dead-end, but I wondered down there anyway to explore the harbour.

I was quite surprised because I thought this was more a working harbour but there was 3 or 4 different companies offering various boat trips to see wildlife and one even had a glass-bottomed boat and claimed to operate trips every day. It was closed. Every day, but today, it would seem! Though I think it was not operating because the sea was still very rough from the previous days storm.

I headed to the end of the pier to enjoy the view. Charlestown is in a beautiful sheltered wooded bay and it was a lovely location. I took a few photos too because it is so pretty.

I headed along the minor road that serves Charlestown back towards the main road and was pleased to find that not only was there a shop, but it was open. So I could stop to buy a sandwich for lunch (I left Ullapool too early for anything to be open, it being a Sunday).

So I bought a sandwich and ate it on some seats nearby.

Charlestown, Gairloch

Charlestown, Gairloch4

Charlestown, Gairloch

Charlestown, Gairloch

Then I headed back to the main road and the little bridge that crosses the stream that flows into the bay.

Charlestown, Gairloch

I only had to head a little distance along the road and I had reached the point where I got to earlier, where the pavement ends. I walked up to the exact same spot before making a U-turn and heading back the way I came, therefore closing the gap.

This time, keen to make a more speedy return walk, and for variety, I stuck to the pavement beside the main road instead as it was faster and more direct and with the pavement I was not having to traffic dodge.

Gaineamh Mhor, Gairloch

Gairloch

I passed the Two Lochs Radio once again and headed up the hill back to the small car park, which was now almost full.

Two Lochs Radio, Gairloch

Gairloch

I stopped for another snack and drink and then drove onto Torridon for a short walk before heading to Inverness airport and home, but more about that in a later post.

If you are organised, it is possible to get public transport for part of this walk, as buses do run between Kerrysdale and Gairloch, so you only need to walk there and back along the B8056, but there is only a limited service.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-

Westerbus route 700A : Laide – Aultbea – Poolewe – Gairloch – Kerrysdale – Talladale – Kinlochewe – Achnasheen – Strathpeffer – Dingwall – Inverness. Once per day each way, Tuesday and Saturdays only, this bus also stops at Strath Bay in Gairloch.

Westerbus route 711 : Poolewe – Gairloch – Kerrysdale – Talladale – Kinlochewe – Achnasheen – Garve – Contin – Strathpeffer – Dingwall. This bus runs once per day on Thursday only (also serving Strath Bay in Gairloch).

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link.

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344. Midtown Circular via Cove

September 2019

This was the first day of my 3rd trip to the Scottish Highlands and I was starting the day from home. I drove to Luton Airport where I was booked on the 9:40 Easyjet flight to Inverness. Unfortunately it was late, by a little over an hour due to the pilots being delayed on another flight.

By the time we did arrive the delay had been reduced to around 45 minutes late, which was frustrating and would make my plans for the day somewhat tight. (Though I didn’t know it yet, this would be the last time I’d use Inverness Airport on my coast walk, or at least when tackling the mainland). I headed straight for the Europcar hire desk so I could get to the front of the queue. This worked well and I got served straight away, soon collecting the keys to my hired Vauxhall Corsa. Before heading out to the car I stopped to buy lunch and some drinks (not enough drinks, as it happened) from the WH Smith at the airport and then headed outside to my hire car.

A quick check over and then I set off. I took the A96, A9, A835 and then the A832 the last part of which was down to single-track with passing places (it always amuses me how such a road can be classed as an A-road when there isn’t even room for 2-way traffic!). At Kerrysdale the road was back to 2-way and soon I turned off onto the B8057 to Midtown. Initially, on my previous trip, I had planned to tackle this as a single massive walk as a circular from Poolewe but quickly realised that was too much to contemplate in one day. So I cut the corner by taking the path from Midtown up to the beach at Camas Mor, headed west to Rubha Reidh and then turned south to Gairloch. That left the stretch of coast from Midtown to Camas Mor un-walked so today I was returning to fill that gap in.

Last time, though un-signed on the map, I had found a small “walkers car park” was signed on the ground at the point where the minor road to Inverasdale turns inland from Midtown (and ends less than half a mile later, to become the footpath). So I planned to park here. Unfortunately the car park was very small and much of it was now filled with abandoned building equipment and a trailer. Most of the rest was flooded! The access into it was also very steep. I was a bit worried about “grounding” the car or that the water would be too deep because I couldn’t really see how deep it was from where I was. I stopped at the entrance to it and walked down and concluded the water wasn’t too deep as long as the ground under it was not muddy.

So I drove in very gingerly keeping at least two wheels on the edge and out of the water so if the other lost grip I shouldn’t get stuck. I made it through the flooded part without either grounding the car or flooding it and parked it at the back just out of the water. Not ideal, but there were few other options for parking and I needed to get on! Now I had to try and get back to the road without getting wet feet, which I just about managed by going up the grassy bank!

I was a bit worried parking there and hoped the car would be OK when I got back. Anyway time to get walking. I left the car park and headed up onto the road. Although a B-road it is not busy and I had fine views over Loch Ewe and the coast I have already walked in the distance. The weather was windy but sunny, but with showers forecast.

Loch Ewe from Midtown

Although I was using a the latest edition of the Ordnance Survey map it does seem to me that many of them in the remote parts of Scotland haven’t in practice been updated (other than the photo on the cover) in many years. It showed a post office just ahead of me on the road but there was no sign of it on the ground. I suspect it closed many years ago (a news article I found from 2015 stated it closed “in the last decade”).

The road was not right on the coast but it was higher than the coast meaning I still got a lovely view and the map suggested the fences of the houses went right down to the shore meaning I doubted it would be possible to walk that way anyway (private gardens are not included in the right to roam).

Loch Ewe from Midtown

Loch Ewe from Midtown

I made quick progress on the road and soon reached the tiny village of Inverasdale (which I thought was at the end of the dead-end road but never mind). To be honest here it was hard to know where one village ended and the next started because really there are just houses dotted occasionally alongside the road. My map soon marked a school but again, it had long gone (closed in 2012) I believe, but had since become the “Old Schoolhouse Tea Room” which was open Wednesday and Friday – 2-4:30pm) Well today was Wednesday but it wasn’t yet 2pm and I didn’t have time to wait so onwards.

Inverasdale old school

A shower blew in on the road just ahead, forming a lovely rainbow. Even more lovely for me I avoided the rain as it quickly blew east, out to sea so I got another view of the rainbow now over Loch Ewe and the houses of Aultbea in the distance.

Inverasdale old school

Loch Ewe near Inverasdale

Loch Ewe near Inverasdale

A mile or so further along the road and it crossed the water flowing out of Loch Sguod. This also marked the point the road ran right along the coast and also just as there was a lovely beach. This is Camas na Muic (I think) and it was absolutely beautiful!

Loch Ewe near Inverasdale

That wight house on the hill at the end of the beach also looks like a wonderful place to live.

Beach north of Inverasdale

Beach north of Inverasdale

I could not resist the temptation to go down to the beach and so followed a track off to the right down to the beach.

Beach north of Inverasdale

Beach north of Inverasdale

It was absolutely lovely and I walked along the sand on the beach. The bay is split into two with a small green rocky island in the middle but the beach continued behind this so I could follow the sands onto the second beach. A few streams flow out onto the beach but they were easy to walk through, they were not deep.

Beach north of Inverasdale

Beach north of Inverasdale

Beach north of Inverasdale

Beach north of Inverasdale

Beach north of Inverasdale

Beach north of Inverasdale

Near the far end of the beach I headed off the beach through the dunes. Except only the edge was dunes the rest bracken and various other plants so it was a real battle to get through it because there was no path and I was too stubborn to go back.

Beach north of Inverasdale

Eventually I made it through into the field behind, thankfully with no crop or animals in it, so I could make my way across this and climbed over the gate at the far corner to get back onto the road.

Beach north of Inverasdale

Beach north of Inverasdale

The road cut a corner and soon re-joined the coast at the next beach, Camas Allt Eoin Thomais, a few bays, linked at low tide and with a mixture of stone, shingle and some sand, they didn’t entice me down, so I stuck to the road.

Camas Allt Eoin Thomais

Camas Allt Eoin Thomais

Half a mile beyond the road then hugged another beach, Camas Dubh, another rocky and sand beach.

Cove

Beyond the beach the road continued through the last of the villages, this one called Cove. Passing through this village another heavy shower blew across (but again missed me) and caused another lovely rainbow (this was certainly turning into a walk of rainbows).

Rainbow over the B8057

The road now twisted and turned through a seemingly deserted landscape with a large hill at the end. This turns out to be the location where ships departed in World War II for the Arctic Convoys and there are assorted military structures dotted in the hills nearby.

Russian Convoy

There is a small car park here at the end of the road. Now I planned to make my own way along the coast to a footpath marked on the map at Sgeir Mhor. This was only about 2 miles, but over trackless moorland. I was pleased to find at the car park there was a gate which gave access to the moorland beyond. This led past a small rocky beach.

Sgeir Mhor

I was pleased to find that whilst there wasn’t a proper path as such it was not too hard going as there was mostly tracks (from sheep?) over the ground. Off shore were a few rocky islands, though the largest one had grass on the top.

Camas a Chall

I do remember from my trip to the Isles of Scilly that the difference between an islet and an island is the latter has vegetation on all year, so this one was definitely and island.

The coast west of Cove

The coast west of Cove

Eilean Furadh Mor

The walk to Sgeir Mohr was not as bad as I had imagined I assume the path existed because once there was either some sort of settlement here or perhaps boats were launched from here for fishing, but there was nothing now.

My next challenge was to find where the path headed inland. The problem was I couldn’t find it at all, I walked up and down the beach but could not see anything looking like a path heading inland. In the end I gave up and used the GPS to try and find the right place. I kept ending up in boggy woodland but eventually I found a sort of path that I assumed to be it. This was confirmed when I ended up going past Lochan Dearg on my left, which is marked on the map confirming this was the path.

Loch na Feithe Dirich

Loch Ceann a Charnaich

It continued to Lochan Clais an Fhraoich. Sadly around here the ground became very boggy and it was impossible to keep dry feet. I was pleased when I finally made it to the gap between Loch na Eun and Loch an Draing as I remembered seeing this from walking the path beyond it on my previous trip. I hoped the height gained as I now headed up to the other path would mean it was drier. It wasn’t!

Loch an Draing

Now the rest of the walk I’d done before, as I’d be re-tracing my steps from the last walk south east back to the road. So I won’t write it all up again. I had remembered it being hard. But it was much harder than I had remembered. The path was rarely flat, mostly bog and sometimes disappeared entirely. It was also far wetter than on my previous trip which made it take longer.

Loch an Draing

Loch an Draing

This was made worse when I reached Loch na Feithe Dirich where not only did I lose the path but got caught in a heavy shower that meant I couldn’t get the map out for long enough to work out where I was without it getting soaked.

I struggled through eventually finding the path again, but it was hard going. Another problem is that there are a number of small rivers to cross, none of which have bridges so it takes time to find a safe crossing point (which I did always manage). I was getting worried about the time now, too. It was soon sunset and I still had quite a way to go, I didn’t want to get stuck out here in the dark.

It was a relief when I finally saw the buildings ahead, now with the lights starting to come on. I made my way around the boggy field and finally to the farm at the end. Just as I did so of course the owner emerged into a pick-up truck. Fortunately he looked a bit surprised to see someone and then just returned my hello before driving off. This was the way I came before so I think it is the official path but I still don’t like ending up on someones drive, especially as how often the owners seem to appear just as I get there.

I made my way back along the road now pleased to be back on tarmac as the light was fading fast. I should have packed a torch really but had made it just in time. Fortunately when I got back to the car it was all fine, but it was pretty much pitch black now.

Still I was quite pleased with my achievement of making it, it was a tougher walk than I’d remembered but I’d now managed to plug the gap I had left on my previous trip, which I was pleased about.

I now had the long drive around the coast to Ullapool where I had booked to stay. This wasn’t sensible, at a good pace it was just over 90 minutes! However even booking 10 months ago, back in November 2018, there was nowhere available closer other than B&Bs (and I prefer a hotel), even the large hotel in Gairloch was full for Saturday night and so not wanting to move, I opted to stay in Ullapool again at the awful Caledonian Hotel.

I don’t enjoy driving in the Scottish highlands at night. If you get stuck behind someone it is hard to see ahead without dazzling them because it’s so dark whilst similarly if you get someone behind you they will probably be following you for some time!

I am also a bit wary of driving at the same speed I would in the day because of the hazard of deer. I remember seeing a lot on or very close to the road when driving at night on a previous trip that worried me. This time I had a close encounter when on a straight stretch of road a deer suddenly ran out in front of me on the road. I was doing around 60mph and unfortunately the deer simply stopped dead in the middle of the road and starred at me. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stop in time, but thankfully the brakes in the car were very good and I stopped a few metres short in flurry of tyre smoke! Once I stopped, the deer looked at me for a few seconds then wandered off! Fortunately I wasn’t that far by then from the A835. I know that road better and a lot of it is fenced so it was safer then.

I reached the Caledonian Hotel at Ullapool without further incident. The hotel is a dump but I couldn’t find anywhere else. It hadn’t improved (and was at the time on the market, but I don’t think it sold) and this time the car park (more waste ground) at the back was full as was the small one in front. So I parked the car in the public car park near the Tesco instead, though that was almost full too, but thankfully free of charge. I had to settle for a takeaway for dinner since I was too late for anywhere else to still be serving food.

To my amusement, I was allocated the same room as before. Since my last visit, someone had tried to make an “improvement”. The bath room was accessed by a sliding door (more like a cupboard) with a horrible 1970s shower cubicle and a toilet in and that was all, the sink was in the main room by the window! On the floor last time I was here was some very 1970s light blue lino. This time someone had tried to replace this with a sort of “wood-effect” lino instead. Except rather than remove the old lino they had tried to put it on top! But around the area where the door slides they’d had to cut it away to reveal the old blue lino underneath. They also hadn’t gone right to the edges, so the old blue lino was still visible around the edge of the bathroom too. To make matters worse the new lino had been laid with air bubbles which moved about when you walked on it. I couldn’t understand how the owners would consider such a comically bad job as acceptable! (I assume it was the owners I can’t believe a flooring specialist would do such a bad job).

The shower too had the same fault as before (that I had reported) that the temperature control didn’t work, so it would start of freezing cold, rapidly warm up to the point it was too hot to stand under without risking a scalding, whereupon the shower would come up “Overheat” and then go cool again, before the cycle would repeat. Any attempt to adjust the temperature simply caused the water pressure to drop to a trickle until you turned it back! The TV picture also kept breaking up again, just as before! Oh well it was a bed for the night, I suppose.

There is no public transport available for this walk, the nearest is in Poolewe where a bus runs most days (once per day only).

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link.

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343. Poolewe to Gairloch (Strath) via Rubha Reidh

July 2019

I knew that this was going to be a tough walk and I had puzzled over how to tackle this stretch of coast for some time. A minor road runs up the west side of Loch Ewe to the end of this peninsula whilst a road runs from the lighthouse at it’s north western tip (Rubha Reidh) to Gairloch. The middle section, along the top of this peninsula, joining up these two roads has no path marked most of the way. Given this, the distance and the time it would take to try to find my own route I felt trying to do it at once was too much.

I could split it into 3 there and back walks, but I prefer to avoid walking both ways if I can, as it doubles the distance. Or I could stay overnight on the way but the only suitable accommodation was at the lighthouse, which I gathered was exceptionally unfriendly to walkers (more on that later). Instead I came up with another plan, I’d do this part of the coast as 2 walks, a longer walk (this one) and a shorter one. My plan was to walk north on the west side of Loch Ewe along the B8057. About half way along this road I’d reach a place called Midtown and from here a path was marked heading diagonally north west over the peninsula to the beach at Camas Mor, a short distance from Rubha Reidh. From there I hoped to be able to make my way down to the lighthouse and follow the road back. Essentially, I was going to cut off the north east corner of the peninsula, which I’d come back and walk a different day, in order to reduce the days mileage.

I was staying in Ullapool so it was now quite a distance to drive to Poolewe, so I made an early start and parked beside the public toilets at the south end of the B8057. The first part of the walk should be easy, just follow the road north.

The road initially ran beside the river Ewe but soon turned left onto the shores of Loch Ewe by the Poolewe Hotel. This would have been a far more convenient place to stay for today’s walk, though it looked a bit run-down (but then, the hotel I was staying at was extremely run-down).

Poolewe

The waters of the loch were calm and I could see the woodland on the other side, around Inverewe Gardens. Rounding the corner the road now ran along the south side of the loch and I had a fine view along the length of the loch, out to the open sea.

Loch Ewe at Poolewe

The weather was brightening nicely and I could make out the houses of the various villages along this road.

Loch Ewe at Poolewe

Loch Ewe

I kept with the road rounding the corner to now begin heading up the west side of the loch and crossed Lochboor burn.

Loch Ewe

I passed through the hamlet of Boor and continue along the road soon passing an odd structure on the right, where a concrete platform had been built on top of some rocks. I presume a remnant from World War II, perhaps a gun was mounted on this platform during the war.

Old World War II structure beside Loch Ewe

The road began to climb and head a bit away from the shore but it’s height meant I still got a good view as I headed through the next small village, Naast.

Loch Ewe

The B8057 north of Poolewe

Near Naast

From Naast the road returned to running just above the shore and I was soon approaching the next village, Brae.

Near Naast

This was a little larger than the other villages I had passed through and seemed to have a small fishing community.

Near Naast

The various burns flowing out from the lochs inland had created a short but surprisingly wide river here, which the road crossed via a bridge.

Near Midtown

Near Midtown

Once over this it was only another 500 metres or so to my turn off point. Parking along these single-track roads is difficult so I was very pleased to see a small car park signed here for walkers. That would be perfect for the 2nd part of this walk (on another day), so that was a nice bonus, since it was not marked on the map.

Now I turned left along the minor road which ran for about 500 metres before ending and the path I wanted to follow should continue from the end of this road, if the map was to be believed. The road ended at a farm but the track marked on the map was visible ahead through a gate. I went through the gate and followed this track through a couple of fields where it approached a run-down looking house with lots of junk around it. I was a bit reluctant to get too close but spotted a gate in the other side of the wall which was obviously where the path was meant to go.

I headed to the gate and found a feint path onwards. The path was quite tricky to follow, a mixture of rocky or boggy under foot. At times the path was almost a stream and at others it practically disappeared. Still I was always able to find it even if at times I could only see a step or two ahead. Over to my right I soon head the waters of Loch Sguod, an inland loch.

Ford near Midtown

I had already had to cross several fords but now I met a bigger one at Allt a’ Choire Odhair, which was trickier to cross as the water was pretty fast-flowing. I nearly fell over when the rock I stepped on turned out to be covered in a thin but invisible layer of slime from the water that meant it was like stepping on ice, but fortunately I managed to regain my balance and make it across dry.

Ford near Midtown

Ford near Midtown

I had another couple of fords to cross and soon came to a trickier part.

Loch Sguod

The path began to head near areas of woodland, mixed with bracken. Inevitably, I seemed to end up losing the path here and trying to find my own way through often following what turned out to be deer tracks, or not really tracks at all. Fortunately I usually only seemed to lose it for fairly short distances before spotting it again. The path was however pretty wet and boggy and by now I had damp feet.

Loch Sguod

Continuing along I soon reached the small Loch na Feithe Dirich. This is a small freshwater loch but was beautifully blue and backed by trees, it was very pretty. Part way around however the path re-entered woodland and I soon lost it again.

Loch Ceann a'Charnaich

Path near Lochadraing

At the end of the wooded section was another ford and here I was able to spot the path again. The path opened out for a while to reach another small area of woodland with a stream to cross within, but I didn’t lose the path this time. Another brief open section and I was then passing beside Loch Ceann a Charnaich.

Once past this the path went again into woodland and once again I got lost. I had to back track a couple of times but then ended up beside the waters of the much larger Loch an Draing. This loch is over half a mile long and the water was lovely and blue on this calm sunny day. At the south western end was a little rocky and pebble beach. Since this was dry underfoot, I decided to stop here for lunch. It was a lovely spot and I could sit part in the shade from the trees overhead.

Loch an Draing

Loch an Draing

After lunch I had some difficultly finding the path again and the area to the left of the loch was pretty boggy, but soon I managed to find it again and the path soon headed a little uphill away from the loch, but also climbed meaning it became a little drier underfoot and I could see for a greater distance.

Loch an Draing

Loch an Draing

I had another couple of fords to cross and then, as the map indicated the path was now running beside a dry stone wall, which was presumably something to do with the now abandoned settlement of Lochadraing I could see on the map ahead.

It was a lovely part of the walk with far-reaching views over the lochs and to the sea beyond. The path continued soon near a second, slightly smaller loch, Loch nan Eun.

Loch an Draing

I hadn’t seen anyone for a couple of hours but I suddenly could hear distant voices. I couldn’t see anyone on the path but looking to my right I spotted a couple of fisherman beside the waters of Loch nan Eun. A path did split off the path I was on to the right that seemed to run in the tiny strip of land between the two lochs and heads to a remote bay and I had just passed this. I wondered if they had followed the path I was on earlier today or if they had perhaps been camping overnight at the remote bay. Either way I wasn’t going to go over and ask them, but in some ways I found it re-assuring I wasn’t the only person out here!

A short distance ahead I came to the remains of the tiny village of Lochadraing.

The ruined village of Lochadraing

Little remained now but the outer walls of a couple of houses, now roofless. I don’t know why the village had been built here, or why it came to be abandoned, but it had clearly been abandoned for a very long time. (I couldn’t find much on the internet either, but suggestions are it was likely abandoned around 1900).

Beyond this village the path continued at a higher level with fine views to Loch nan Eun, dotted with a few tiny islands.

Locn nan Eun

Locn nan Eun

Locn nan Eun

This is a remote, wild and beautiful place and I was lucky to see it under such lovely conditions.

The path was a little easier to follow now and I made better progress towards the coast and another abandoned village of Camustrolvaig. Just before the coast I came to a bothy, known as Ivor’s Bothy. I couldn’t resist looking inside despite not wanting or needing to spend the night.

Near Camas Mor

Ivor's bothy, Camustrolvaig

Ivor's bothy, Camustrolvaig

The roof of the bothy was plastic sheeting held down with netting and stones. I later read a fire had destroyed the original roof. It looked comfortable enough with a couple of chairs and benches, one of which had cushions. A jolly roger flag hung from the wall whilst various cooking equipment was left around including a saucepan and even some mugs hanging up from a shelf! There was quite a collection of condiments too (I’m often surprised people choose to carry such things out here, it must be heavy enough to be carrying sleeping bags and so on, without adding a collection of sauces, too!). There was even a bookshelf with such eclectic volumes as a Holy Bible and Barack Obama – Dreams from my Father. It was certainly an interesting little place.

However the weather was fine and I still had quite a way to go so after a brief sit down, I was on my way again. The map suggested there was a sandy beach ahead, at a place called Camas Mor. I know to not always trust this, as often they turn out to be shingle, mud or only visible at low tide.

Soon however I had a view of the beach and – wow!

Camas Mor

What an absolutely stunning beach it was. Beautiful golden sand in a sweeping bay with high, mostly grassy cliffs behind and a beautiful turquoise sea. There was no one on it.

Camas Mor

However there didn’t seem to be an easy way down to it, which probably accounts for that. I stood enjoying the view for a while, enjoying being back on the coast again, after the inland section.

It’s coming to places like this that makes walking the coast so enjoyable. I could also hear the sounds of rushing waters and yes, there was a waterfall flowing down the rocks to the beach.

Camas Mor

I would have to go above this and hope the water was easy to cross in order to continue my walk. Fortunately, once at the top it wasn’t too tricky to cross. This part of the walk had no paths, but in fact through the heather there were reasonable paths along the cliff top. There were several paths a few metres apart, I was not sure if created by other people walking, sheep or both, but I could see some footprints so I knew others had at least walked here.

Camas Mor

Above the beach the view was even more stunning. I began to regret that I hadn’t made more effort to get down there, but I had now climbed away from it and didn’t want to spend the time and energy going back down again. I would enjoy it from here instead.

Camas Mor

Camas Mor

Camas Mor

This bit of the coast actually reminded me of Cornwall a bit. The shallow sandy bay meant the water had a beautiful turquoise colour which stretched for quite a way to the east. I suspect at low tide this beach is very large.

I continued and was surprised to see another walker heading towards me. Where had he come from? He turned out to be German and was trying to get to the beach and told me he was staying nearby (at the lighthouse, perhaps?) and was relieved when I told him it was just ahead and he was indeed going the right way.

The narrow path I was following began to descend with the coast above the little rocky islands at Stac Dubh.

Near Rubha Reidh

Near Rubha Reidh

Here I began to see other people. They weren’t dressed as walkers, so clearly I was near the lighthouse (and car parking) and these were people who had walked a short distance here from their cars. Sure enough, soon I had the lighthouse ahead.

Rubha Reidh lighthouse

It was a wonderful sight. I was pleased to see it too because I knew the hardest part of the walk was done. I still had a long way to go, but it was all along minor roads now, so route finding and conditions under foot should both be a lot easier.

This lighthouse was, for a few years, notorious. I’m not sure if the light itself is still commissioned but I know that for a good while the buildings that surround it (the former lighthouse keeper cottages) had been an outdoor centre, after the light was automated in 1989. (It’s still marked as such on the Ordnance Survey maps, but hasn’t actually been used as that for a number of years). At some point it had been sold to a couple who ran it as a B&B.

They weren’t exactly friendly or welcoming. Despite the “right to roam” in Scotland they seemed to consider that all the land around the lighthouse was their own and the only people that should be allowed to come here were people staying at their B&B. The road leading to the lighthouse has a slightly unusual setup in that it is a private road, but one over which the public have a legal right of way to drive along (as well as walk). Another land-owner provided a small car park for the public to use and I think it was quite a popular place for the locals and visitors to come. The owners of the B&B however regarded it as their own. They began putting locked gates along the road, removing signs indicating public access was allowed, aggressive notices declaring it was all private. They also, from what I can gather used to come and shout at anyone they saw walking nearby, demand they leave and insist that it was all private and they were trespassing (despite the law saying otherwise).

I remember the slightly odd character I found waiting for a bus in Ullapool on a previous walk (to Lochinver) telling me how he had arrived here by Kayak, unaware of the reputation of the owners and immediately pounced on by the owners who demanded to know how he had got here and again gave him the lecture about he he was trespassing and it was all private. He warned me I might have trouble when I got here.

The owners seemed to get in a long legal dispute with the Council over public access along the road (and were removing signs belonging to the Council). I believe it was confirmed that the public do have a right to be here. It does puzzle me why people move to somewhere so remote and immediately fall out with the local community by blocking access (illegaly) to a much-loved local beauty spot. Fortunately for me (and the locals) I believe the previous owners had sold up in the last year to 18 months and moved on. Whilst the new owners did prevent access to the immediate surrounds of the lighthouse on the grounds of privacy (which is fair enough) they were otherwise far more welcoming, restoring public access to the land around, the fine coastal views and the car park. I was glad the previous owners had gone as I was a bit worried about being confronted about being here otherwise.

I could however get a lovely view of the lighthouse from a path above and the coast behind it.

Rubha Reidh lighthouse

I now picked up the road and followed that south. This track, the one over which there had been much dispute over access in previous years would now take me along the western side of the peninsula to the end of the B8021 at Melvaig, which I could then follow to Gairloch.

Near Melvaig

The road undulated a bit, crossing a few streams on bridges, but it was at least dry underfoot so my damp feet were beginning to dry. The views from the road were lovely, with views west along the coast and a few small pebble beaches visible.

Near Melvaig

I could see the top of the lighthouse for a while, even after the rest of the buildings were out of sight. Further out to sea I could see islands on the horizon. Harris and Lewis, I think, which was an unexpected sight.

Near Melvaig

Another private road branches off this road to the left (inland), up to some telecoms masts. Probably a great view from there but I didn’t have the time or energy to walk the mile there and back to look.

North of Melvaig

I continued south along the road, crossing more pretty burns. In a couple of miles, the first houses of Melvaig came into view.

Melvaig

Like many in this part of Scotland, Melvaig is a scattered community and I assume many or most of the houses are crofts. The road ran a couple of hundred metres inland, but was high enough I still had good views over the coast and at the end of the village it then ran largely along the cliff tops.

Near Melvaig

Melvaig also had a good beach. Whilst in the village itself it is marked as pebble, south of it, it becomes sand. I could see that the map was accurate and it was now a lovely sandy beach, called Seana Chamas.

Near Melvaig

Again though, I couldn’t see an easy way down, so opted to enjoy the view from here (I suspect you can get down in Melvaig and walk along the beach, but again I didn’t want to go back to see).

I continued south as the road began to climb further and turn a bit more inland, but I still had wonderful views of Lewis and Harris.

Near Melvaig

I was now approaching the next village, North Erradale. Again, it was a scattered community of I suspect mostly crofts (or former crofts).

Near North Erradale

I could, according to the map, follow a dead-end road further west and then a path connected it to the next village south (Big Sand). It didn’t run right along the coast, but it did run closer to the coast than the road. However I was hoping to get to Gairloch in time to catch the one and only bus of the day back to Poolewe. Whilst the path covers less distance I know from past experience it will probably take longer so reluctantly, I decided to stick to the road here (Fellow coastal walker Ruth did follow this path and it sounds like it was actually pretty good most of the way, in fact I mistakenly told her I used it too, but I now realise I was mistaking it for another path further south I got mixed up with).

Near North Erradale

Near North Erradale

I soon reach the road junction for the village of Big Sand. A sign underneath it warns me “No Beach Access”.

Big Sand

Hmm. Well whilst I didn’t feel too guilty about missing out that path, it wasn’t right along the coast, but the map suggests there is a good beach at Big Sand (and I would presume this beach is how the village it got it’s name), and I would like to visit it. I hope the sign is only referring to vehicles perhaps in an attempt to deter people driving along these single-track roads and finding nowhere to park, so I head along the road.

At a T-junction I turn left and then 100 metres later right to follow the most easterly road towards the coast, as the map shows a path heads east along the shore at the end of this road. The road passes a few bed and breakfast and ends at a “Turning Place” only sign. I don’t see a footpath sign. Ahead there is what looks like a private drive leading down to a house just at the back of the beach. To the right another gate into a private garden. The map suggests the correct way is ahead and I can pick up the path beside this house, but I’m a bit reluctant given it looks like a garden and there isn’t a sign. However on the left there is another gate that is in front of a dilapidated barn in a field. This isn’t someones garden, so I go this way, climbing over the gate, turn right and make my way along the steeply sloping grass bank down to the path and onto the beach.

So there is beach access – sort of! The beach is initially not very sandy and I follow it east to the river Sand. From here I can head a bit inland along stones at the waters edge to a bridge over the river, that also has a ford over it. I cross the bridge into a camp site and follow paths from here back to the beach.

Big Sand

Well the beach is big. And sandy. Big Sand therefore seems an appropriate name. (Though I suspect it’s actually named after the river Sand. Or maybe the river is named after the beach. Oh, I don’t know).

Big Sand

Given the fact it’s summer and there is a campsite behind I am pleasantly surprised that the beach is pretty quiet.  By now however it’s just after 6pm so I suspect many of the families have gone back to their caravans and tents. The number of footprints in the soft sand certainly suggest there have been a lot of people here during the day.

Just off short I can see another island, Longa Island. It is only half a mile away but it is uninhabited and I don’t think there are any boats going there so it’s not possible to visit unless you have your own boat.

Big Sand

I think it’s just used for sheep grazing in the summer. I followed the beach east, passing many sandcastles and some families still on the beach. There is a wonderful backdrop to the beach – many mountains, over in Torridon I think.

Big Sand

Big Sand

At the end I make may way up back through the campsite to the road.

Big Sand

This is a lovely spot with a good sandy beach – there aren’t that many sandy beaches on this part of the coast (though I have passed two of them on this walk!).

It had clouded over a little in the early evening, but cloud was now lifting again. At the south end of the beach the road, and coast, turned to the east into Loch Gairloch. This was very beautiful, with a good number of mountains visible on the other side of the loch. These are the Torridon mountains, I believe.

Loch Gairloch

Gairloch

Gairloch

I had just over 2 miles to go now. My legs and feet were tired and my pace was dropping but I didn’t have a massive amount of time to spare before the bus, so I couldn’t afford to slow down too much.

Soon I saw the houses of Gairloch ahead, which gave me a bit of a second wind!

Gairloch

My destination was in sight! Well actually this part of the coast is fairly developed as there are several villages before Gairloch – Lonemore, Smithstown, Strath and then Gairloch that almost merge. I’m actually only going as far as Strath. This is because the bus lists it stops at “Gairloch Strath Square”. I’m going to pick the bus up from here as it’s closer (and the bus stops there later, giving me more time), though I’m not quite clear if Strath is part of Gairloch or a separate village (and the bus timetable doesn’t help!).

Loch Gairloch

As I head east the road gets busier I suppose no surprise because I’ve passed several villages now, though it’s never that busy and soon I am relieved to find a pavement begins, though it only continues intermittently, sometimes forcing me back on the road. Strath feels quite the metropolis!

Gairloch

I pass a greengrocer and butcher, estate agent, newsagent, a couple of restaurants, a bookshop, a coffee shop, convenience store and also a chip shop. (I later found it even has it’s own radio station). I come to the small car park which I think is the square. Here there is also a proper marked bus stop with a shelter (what luxury!) so I know this is where the bus stops. I can relax now as I’m before the bus is due, in fact a little over 15 minutes time. Just enough time to get a drink from the shop and some chips from the chip shop! I manage to finish my chips and throw the wrapper away just as I see the bus coming in the distance. Well actually it’s a coach. I don’t think it goes any further than here along the B8021 so I presume the bus must turn around here, but it looks a bit tight to do so.

The driver duly reverses into the entrance to the car park. It looks tricky to turn a large coach here but she manages it with apparent ease, watched by a lot of people sitting on various benches eating chips. I am pleased to get on the bus and have a sit down for the brief journey back to Poolewe. My backup plan if I had missed the bus was another 2 hours walking along the main road back to Poolewe. It being the summer I’d have managed that in the light (just), but i was glad it was not necessary. It was only a 15 minutes journey back to Poolewe and then a short walk back to the hotel and my car (though I still had quite a long drive back to Ullapool).

This had been a fantastic walk. One of those really memorable walks with some really stunning and scenery over the remote path to Camas Mor, that beautiful sandy beach and then a short distance to the spectacular lighthouse and it’s views of the islands of the Outer Hebrides (something I hadn’t expected to see). I was lucky the weather was so good, which helped to make it a special walk and the last part, though all along the road was also through really stunning scenery with the mountains of Torridon visible ahead. I was pleased to have made it and my long route had worked out well. Of course, I’d need to come back to miss out the north east corner I had cut off on this walk!

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk. There are two bus routes (neither daily) but between them, they provide one bus per day each way between Gairloch (Strath) and Poolewe most days except for Thursday and Sunday.

Westerbus 707 : Gairloch – Poolewe – Inverewe Gardens – Aultbea – Laide – Badcaul – Dundonnell – Braemore Junction – Ullapool. 1 bus per day each way, Monday, Wednesday and Friday only. (Connection is available at Braemore Junction to/from Inverness).

Westerbus 700A : Laide – Aultbea – Inverewe Gardens – Poolewe – Gairloch – Kerrysdale Junction – Loch Maree Hotel – Kinlochewe – Achnasheen – Lochluichart – Garve – Strathpeffer – Dingwall – Inverness. 1 bus per day each way on Tuesday and Saturday only.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link.

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342. Poolewe to Inverewe Gardens

September 2019

On my trip in July I had to cut back an intended walk from Aultbea to Poolewe on discovering my flight home was cancelled. At that point I had already planned the walks I intended to complete on this trip in September. I didn’t want to “lose” a day on this trip by doing the remainder of the walk between Poolewe and Aultbea as a half day so I tried to squeeze it in before or after other days walk so as to still reach the expected destination at the end of this trip.

I had already done the first part of this, as far south as Inverewe Gardens so now it was time to complete the second part, between Poolewe and Inverewe Gardens. I had already done a most of day walk earlier today so this was a late afternoon walk. On my way back from an earlier walk this morning I had to drive back to Ullapool where I was staying via Poolewe anyway so stopped here on the way back to do this walk.

I parked in the little parking area next to the public toilets at the south end of the B8057. From here I walked back to the A832 and then turned left along it, to cross the River Ewe that feeds Loch Ewe.

The River Ewe, Poolewe

The road only has one lane of traffic (though the rest of this part of the road is two way) but at least it does have a wide pavement. Beyond the bridge I was pleased to see that the pavement continued, albeit more narrow.

Like a lot of villages in the North of Scotland, Poolewe is quite spread out and I passed houses on an intermittent basis. The pavement was on the coastal side of the road right along the back of the beach which was nice, though the beach was mostly pebble.

Loch Ewe near Poolewe

Soon on the right I was passing a large caravan park, which was doing a roaring trade. The somewhat tempting smell of barbecuing sausages and burgers was wafting across from the campsite!

After the campsite I passed a National Trust for Scotland sign that told me I had now entered the Inverewe Estate. I could see the end of the bay ahead with the pretty wooded headland that contains the gardens jutting out to sea at the end of the bay.

Loch Ewe near Poolewe

Loch Ewe near Poolewe

The speed limit on the road soon increased to 60mph but thankfully the pavement continued.

Loch Ewe near Poolewe

As the road turned away from the coast there was a more minor road off to the left which I followed, soon signed as a footpath and whilst there was then a gate across the road there was a pedestrian gate next to it. I went through the pedestrian gate and this soon took me to the car park of Inverewe Gardens, where I had reached last time, now closing the gap.

Inverewe Gardens entrance

By now it was almost 6pm. so I walked back to my car at Poolewe, retracing my steps along the road. I then had a 90 minute or so drive back to Ullapool.

This has been a short but enjoyable walk and it was nice to have a walk where there were no issues with route finding and no dangerous road walking to contemplate because there was a pavement the whole way.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk. There are two bus routes (neither daily) but between them, they provide one bus per day each way between Poolewe and Inverewe Gardens most days except for Thursday and Sunday.

Westerbus 707 : Gairloch – Poolewe– Inverewe Gardens – Aultbea – Laide – Badcaul – Dundonnell – Braemore Junction – Ullapool. 1 bus per day each way, Monday, Wednesday and Friday only. (Connection is available at Braemore Junction to/from Inverness).

Westerbus 700A : Laide – Aultbea – Inverewe Gardens – Poolewe – Gairloch – Kerrysdale Junction – Loch Maree Hotel – Kinlochewe – Achnasheen – Lochluichart – Garve – Strathpeffer – Dingwall – Inverness. 1 bus per day each way on Tuesday and Saturday only.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link.

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