330. Lochinver to Achnahaird

May 2019

This walk took a lot of planning. I was staying, again, at the Caledonian Hotel in Ullapool. I had vowed not to stay there after my experience last time however I booked this trip back in October and even then the only other hotel I could find with a vacancy (The Royal Hotel) the only vacant room, a 4-poster bed room cost almost as much for one night as I was paying for 4 nights at the Caledonian Hotel, which I couldn’t justify. So I was back at the run-down Caledonian.

It took me a long time to come up with a plan for tackling the walk. My planned end point for this walk, Achnahaird had a bus service from Ullapool. My planned start point, Lochinver also had a bus from Ullapool. Unfortunately the services are very infrequent and I could not work out a plan to be able to travel between these places by bus at a time useful for a walk. The bus schedule also did not work for taking the bus from Ullapool in the morning and back in the afternoon or evening no matter which way round I tried it. I also could not work out any other point on route where I could make it work.

However I then realised I had missed an option. The bus from Achnahaird ran a very early service, the school service, to Ullapool. I had actually used the same number bus the previous day and checked with the driver that this particular service is not restricted to only school children and he confirmed that it isn’t restricted and anyone can use it (though note that this service has since been “temporarily” suspended due to Covid, so does not run at all now). If I drove to the parking area at Achnahaird I could take this bus back to Ullapool and be back in time for breakfast at the hotel. Then, after breakfast, I could take the other bus to Lochinver, leaving me the rest of the day to walk back to my car at Achnahaird. It was not the most convenient plan (it required a very early start) but was better than having to walk there and back.

So I made an early start, skipping breakfast and drove to Achnahaird. I left my rucksack in my hotel room (except my wallet, which I’d need for the bus fare) and put the “do not disturb” notice on the door so I’d not find the cleaners in my room when I came back (presuming the hotel does have cleaners, which I was beginning to doubt). I made it to the parking area and found plenty of room to park. My only worry was there was no marked bus stop, so I just stood by the car park. Sure enough the bus came more or less on time and stopped for me, the same driver as the previous day who recognised me again. Fortunately it wasn’t packed full, the children were well behaved and there was some other adults too so I didn’t stick out like a sore thumb! So the journey wasn’t as bad as I had feared and I was soon back at Ullapool school, a short walk back to the hotel.

Here I was in time for the breakfast so could now have a cooked breakfast to set me up for the day (since the room rate included breakfast I was not inclined to skip it!). I then headed up to my room to get my rucksack, to Tesco to get lunch and then to the ferry terminal (which doubles as the bus station too) to wait for the bus.

I soon spotted a vagrant looking man hanging around the area too, with an enormous bag and looking very unkempt. I tried to avoid him but naturally he soon made a beeline for me and asked if I was waiting for the bus to Lochinver. Oh dear, he’s going the same way as me I thought, before confirming that I was. He then gave me a sob-story that had he just arrived on the ferry from the Isle of Lewis having thought he had the offer of a summer job at a hotel there only to tell me that when he got there they knew nothing about it. They had, he told me, eventually and reluctantly agreed to put him up for the night for free but now he had nowhere to go and had come back on the morning ferry. He went on to tell me he had a lot of problems (but thankfully, not what these problems were) and that he was thinking of going up to Kylesku because there was a hotel there and so would start by catching the bus to Lochinver. I did tell him that I didn’t think there was a bus on from Lonchinver to Kylesku but he told me in his bag he had a fold up canoe and would use that to continue north to Kylesku! He told me he was going to go to the hotel there to ask about a getting a job at the hotel (but he didn’t even seem to know if they even had a vacancy). I’m not sure the hotel would be too thrilled with someone turning up wanting a job and (I suspect) somewhere to stay the night, uninvited.

Fortunately at this point what I presumed to be the bus turned up. It was an un-branded grey Ford Transit mini-bus that was not displaying any destination or route number but the driver then stopped to put a board in the windscreen “Lochinver” and called across to ask if we were waiting. Oddly this bus had two members of staff on-boaard and there were only 3 passengers, myself included the whole way. Still it got me to Lochinver and on the way the optimistic job-seeker did tell me about a run-in he had had at the Rubha Reidh lighthouse where he had travelled by his folding canoe only to be accosted by the owners of the lighthouse who found him sitting on the grass nearby, demanded to know how he got there and then told him it was private and to leave! He warned me to be careful in the area. I was curious whether he was homeless or was simply on an extended job-hunting trip but he did seem to know the local coast well. He did ask what I was doing and I explained my plan for the day but did not go into details. Fortunately he did not ask how I was getting back because I was fearful that if I said the word “car” he would then decide to join me for my planned walk and ask for a lift to Kylesku at the end!

The bus dropped me outside the Spar shop in Lochinver. I went in to buy a drink and sat on some steps nearby to drink it, still wondering if the canoeing job-seeker was going to tag along with me. However he soon walked past and that was the last I saw of him. I did wonder what happened to him and how he got on.

Anyway after my complicated travelling arrangements I was now ready to begin my walk. Last time I was in Lochinver it was grey and dull. This time it was a beautiful sunny and warm day. Lochinver looked beautiful.

Lochinver

Lochinver

I headed south along the A837 and came across an excellent idea in a little parking area beside the road. We hear a lot about banks closing (especially at the moment) and leaving towns with no banking service and hence people and businesses have to travel a long way to access another branch (especially a problem for businesses who need to bank their takings). I don’t think there was a bank in Lochinver but instead there was something I’ve never seen before – a mobile bank!

Lochinver mobile bank

This seems like a great idea to me as the bank can stop for a few hours in each settlement and provide a service to a number of communities each day. I don’t know why this isn’t adopted in England (or at least if it is, I’ve never seen it).

The A837 ends at the harbour which I could now see ahead. This is rather industrial with lots of warehouses some of which block the view of a lovely looking hotel (but when I read the reviews it sounds like it’s not so lovely). I bet they don’t mention the next door industry in their publicity!

Lochinver harbour

Lochinver harbour

Lochinver harbour

In theory there are paths marked in an area of woodland just south of the dock that would provide the most coastal route south. In practice I’d read reports of others getting lost and finding the paths all dead-ends. Since I would not be able to see the coast from in the woodland anyway I decided to ignore the path and keep to the road heading south. This heads south to Inverkirkaig and is now an un-classified road, the A-road ending at the harbour.

This soon crossed a river, the water flow out of Loch Culag on a pretty bridge. The water was fast-flowing and the river very rocky, I was surprised at the volume of water on what I thought would be a minor river.

Culag River, Lochinver

Culag River, Lochinver

Culag River, Lochinver

The road headed up hill and I soon came across the school. What a stunning place for a school!

Loch Culag

The school is remote from the rest of the village located on a little peninsula jutting into Loch Culag. What a view the lucky children have from their classrooms, though I did puzzle at how it came to be that the school was built isolated from the rest of the village half a mile down this minor road.

The road wound along the west side of this beautiful loch which looked especially good in the bright spring sunshine with the gorse coming into flower.

Loch Culag

The road soon narrowed to single track and I had a steep climb up away from the loch towards Strathan.

Near Strathan

There was more traffic on the road than I expected and I was surprised when a full HGV came along, I had to go onto the grass to let it past and I wondered where it was going.

Loch Culag

At Strathan I stopped for another drink, it was getting pretty warm and I it had been a steep climb up, stopping by a rusty old barn.

Loch Culag

Strathan

Now refreshed I continued down the road to soon reach the shores of Loch Inver again. I was only about a mile south of the harbour, but it was out of sight behind a little headland now.

However it was only a brief glimpse as the road soon swung back inland and I then reached a junction for the dead-end road to Badnaban.

Badnaban

I considered whether to follow this or not but decided that I would. I was pleased to find the road headed right down to a small but very pretty pebble beach where I stopped for a quick rest. Certainly worth the diversion!

Badnaban

Badnaban

I headed back to the “main” road and turned right towards Inverkirkaig, another steep climb up before I was soon greeted with the view of the bay below.

Inverkirkaig

Very pretty but I must admit I was a little disappointed.

Inverkirkaig

The map had promised a sandy beach and I had planned my lunch stop here. What I found was a pebble and shingle beach with the road running literally right along the back of the beach.

Still despite the lack of sand it made a nice lunch spot, as I could find a spot sheltered from the wind.

After lunch I continued along the road behind the beach which was beautiful in the lovely sunny weather.

Inverkirkaig

Inverkirkaig

Inverkirkaig

Inverkirkaig

At the end of the beach the road, and hence me, turned inland to follow beside the river Kirkaig. This was a beautiful river, shallow and very rocky and with pleasant grassy banks beside the river that would have made a nice picnic spot, sheltered from the wind, if only I hadn’t just finished lunch!

The River Kirkaig

The River Kirkaig

The River Kirkaig

In fact I soon passed a car park and picnic spot where there was a book shop up a dead-end track, not what I had expected to find in such  remote place. I crossed the river via the rather functional bridge. This marked a boundary, though I hadn’t realised it until I got here. I was now leaving Sutherland (for the second, and final) time and crossing into Ross and Cromarty (for the 2nd time).

Kirkaig Bridge

Entering Ross & Cromarty

The county names are a little fluid in the Highlands, the area all being under the control of “The Highland Council” but the older ceremonial counties still marked by signs. The area I have now entered is commonly know as Wester Ross (and the east coast of the county that I have already walked, Easter Ross). So that’s another county done and I reflected that Sutherland has been one of the toughest counties I’ve done when I think I entered it right over the east coast, before entering Caithness and re-entering Sutherland!

The River Kirkaig

Anyway now into a new county the road soon climbed steeply away from the river passing a couple of very pretty lochs. Traffic had dwindled now and I could relax and take in the view.

Loch an Arbhair

Loch an Arbhair

Loch an Arbhair

The road gained a lot of height by my reward was the lovely views.

Near Enard Bay

I could see ahead to two small islands, Eilean Mor and Fraochlan ahead. The road soon began to descend back to the coast and I passed the ruins of some buildings on the right, clearly once there had been a settlement here, but it had all gone now.

Near Enard Bay

Near Enard Bay

I soon came down to the waters edge, now at Loch an Eisg Brachaidh, a sea loch. An old bridge crossed another river to my right that seemed to go to a single house in the woodland but I stuck to the road ahead which now hugged the coast for the next half a mile.

Enard Bay

Enard Bay

Enard Bay

This loch was really beautiful and I got fine views over it, and the cottage on the far side. Beyond the small loch I was looking out into the wider Enard Bay to the headland at the far side (which I’d actually walked the previous day – once again I am not walking the coast quite in order on this trip).

Enard Bay

Enard Bay

Enard Bay

Polly More

I crossed a little bridge at Polly More and came across a surprising sight – a tree growing out of a solid lump of rock (how is that even possible?!).

Polly More

Polly More

Polly More

Rock tree, Polly More

Just beyond I reached the little river valley at Allt Gleann an t-Strathain. The road here turns inland but there are stepping stones marked on the map leading to a path that follows much closer to the coast (and also looked to be a short cut compared with the road) so I hoped to follow this. I had heard mixed reports of this “path” with other coastal walkers reporting they could find no evidence of a path.

First however I had to cross the river. These wern’t really proper stepping stones, more some rocks in a line in the river.

Allt Gleann an t-Strathain

Allt Gleann an t-Strathain

Unfortunately for me a couple were just setting up a tent here so I had an audience to watch me cross, so I was glad to make it across with dry feet and pride intact.

Allt Gleann an t-Strathain

I did have some difficultly initially finding a path in the trees on the far side but soon by heading in the rough direction on the map emerged from the woodland and could soon make out a rough path over the heather.

Path to Lochan Sal

This gave wonderful views and the path soon improved. It wasn’t the best path but at least there was actually a path!

Path to Lochan Sal

Other than the path the countryside was wild. Little lochs, heather and rocks mostly, with no hint of any impact from man on the landscape.

Path to Lochan Sal

The feint path soon took me above the little inlet at Poll Loisgann, which was incredibly pretty in this glorious weather. It looked like it would make a good natural harbour but I didn’t see any evidence of it ever having been used as such.

Poll Loisgann

Poll Loisgann

Another climb and I was now descending down to the shore at Lochan Sal.

Lochan Sal

It had been a tough walk, never flat and very rocky but from here the map showed the onward route is along a track to re-join the road, so I was hoping for an easier walk from here on.

Lochan Sal

However first I had to cross the gap between the coast and Lochan Sal. Here the path went on a narrow wall but with a short gap in it I had to step over. Definitely not somewhere to lose your balance!

Lochan Sal

Beyond this there was a few barns and buildings which I think are to do with fishing (in fact more buildings than the map shows). Fortunately the promised track on the map also existed and was obviously well used by vehicles too making for a much easier walk now.

Inverpolly

Climbing away from the coast I was soon in the scattered village of Inverpolly and heading down to the River Polly. The track alongside the river was easy with the river meandering away to my right through the valley.

Inverpolly

I soon reached the road by a fish farm and then turned right back on the road. I enjoyed  the spectacular views of this unspoilt river valley, surrounded by the mountains of Coigich with a particularly tall one in the distance that I think is Cul Mor.

Strath Polly

Strath Polly

Strath Polly

Strath Polly

I continued on the road through this remote and rugged area to soon enjoy views of Loch Bad a Ghaill and the road below that follows it’s shore.

Strath Polly

Strath Polly

Loch Osgaig

It was incredibly beautiful here. This is a large loch, but it does not reach the sea.

Loch Osgaig

The road comes to a junction beside the loch and here a lady was having a long chat through the car window with the postmen! At the junction I turned right and followed the road, soon along Loch Osgaig. The road here is dead-straight so I had to watch traffic which went quite fast here and I was getting tired now.

Loch Osgaig

I think the bus driver this morning was surprised at the distance I was planning to walk (especially given he also knew how far I’d walked the previous day) and soon the bus came past. He saw me and stopped, congratulating me on nearly finishing and double checking I didn’t want a lift for the last bit (I confirmed I didn’t). It was nice of him to be looking out for me!

Loch Osgaig

Loch Osgaig

At the far end of the loch was a metal boat house and a small sandy beach. I stopped here for a rest, able to get off the road and take in the stunning views of all the mountains in this beautiful area. I really had such wonderful weather for this walk.

Loch Osgaig

Loch Osgaig

Loch Osgaig

Loch Osgaig

At the end of the loch the road, turned left (as did I, sticking with the road) to soon head towards the beach at Achnahaird Bay. This is a long estuary, about a mile tall and though the map shows it as mostly sand, it’s mostly marsh with some sand right beside the river and at the coast. The road soon descended down and at the next T-junction just at the top of the estuary I reached the car park where I had parked many hours earlier.

Achnahaird

Achnahaird

Achnahaird

This has been a stunning walk. Although mostly on road the scenery was glorious throughout, with many views of the coast, rivers, mountains, lochs and remote areas of moorland. It was incredibly varied and I was really spoilt to have such wonderful weather conditions to walk it in. It was also a milestone as I crossed into another county.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk.

Note that the service from Ullapool to Achnahaird no longer runs. It was suspended early in 2020 due to Covid and so far has not resumed so it is no longer possible to do this as a linear walk without a taxi or some alternative transport.

George Rapson Travel bus route 809 : Ullapool – Strathcanaird – Elphin – Ledmore Junction – Inchnadamph – Lochinver. 2-3 buses per day, except on Sundays.

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

Posted in Sutherland, Wester Ross | 1 Comment

Abandoned walk and a visit to Highland Wildlife Park

October 2018

My last day of this trip and my last day in the north of Scotland for 2018. The previous day it had been wet and windy all day and I nearly didn’t walk anywhere at all. In the end, I went ahead with my planned walk, despite the weather.

Today I had a very poor nights sleep. I have moaned about the poor hotel I was staying at before but it certainly didn’t improve as on my last day the fire alarm went off at 2:30am. Waking with a start I was just getting out of bed to find my shoes when it stopped. Obviously a false alarm then, but the problem (well one of them) with this hotel is that every floor board squeaks, there is no sound proofing and every door closes with a loud bang. Of course everyone in the hotel had been woken up, so there then ensued a good hour of banging doors and squeaking floors making it impossible to get back to sleep. I’m not sure if I actually got back to sleep at all after that as a coach tour was also in the hotel and it seemed many of the people on that got up about 5:30am for some reason so it was impossible to sleep after then anyway.

When I did get up at my planned time, feeling very tired I looked out the window to see, as forecast, it was still pouring with rain and windy. I went and had breakfast in the hope the weather would improve (despite not being forecast too). Unsurprisingly, it didn’t. I had to get back to Inverness in the early evening to get a flight back to London Luton so I didn’t especially want to get soaked as I was travelling hand luggage only so would then have to carry a wet bag and clothes around the airport, and change clothes.

After the wet and windy day yesterday I couldn’t get together much enthusiasm for another day of road-walking in the wet and windy weather. I mean I was meant to be doing this for enjoyment and I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy it much in those conditions.

I decided to abandon plans for walking. It was perhaps a mistake to come in October. However when I came to plan (and booked) this trip back in January I was very surprised to find the earliest I could get 4 nights anywhere in Ullapool was mid October! Unfortunately at the time it seemed everywhere in the Highlands gets booked up crazy early so I had little choice over dates. This coastal walk, at leas in northern Scotland, does take a lot of planning.

Having decided it wasn’t weather for walking that left me a free day to fill. Unfortunately whilst Ullapool is a nice town it’s a little short on things to do indoors. There isn’t a museum, a theatre, a cinema, for example. There is Tesco I suppose, but that was about it. So I headed to the rack of tourist leaflets in reception on the hunt for somewhere else I would enjoy to go. I grabbed a few and headed back to my room to decide where to go (fortunately this was in the days where you could just turn up at a tourist attraction and be welcomed rather than be expected to have booked in advance and turned away if not, as is the case now).

I found the Highland Wildlife Park of interest (I like animals) but of course much of that would be outside. Although it wasn’t very close to Ullapool it was not that far from Inverness where I’d have to go later to the airport anyway. Checking the weather forecast for that area it was much better. Mostly dry, with just the risk of showers but also some sunshine. Compared with the forecast for Ulllapool (wind and rain all day), it was much better. So I settled on doing that.

I headed down to reception and checked out. I couldn’t really be bothered to complain about the fire alarm. I’m sure the women there had heard all about it and I didn’t get the impression anyone at the hotel cared about what people thought about the place anyway. I headed down to the car park and set off for wildlife park, which is located off the A9 in the north edge of the Cairngorms National Park (somewhere I had also never been). I had to travel through Aviemore to get there, somewhere else I’ve never been to and it really did feel like a town in the Alps, lots of ski shops and wooden chalets and ski lifts.

I hadn’t realised it, but the park is associated with Edinburgh Zoo so presumably the larger animals are mostly located here where there is more space for them. On arriving I was a bit surprised that you drove in by car and paid from the car window. I hadn’t realised (it probably said in the leaflet) that in fact quite a bit of it is like a safari park that you drive through so you pay first and the car park is then inside.

I was driving a hired car. I suspected that driving it through a safari park was probably against the terms and conditions of the rental agreement (which, naturally, I hadn’t read). The drive through area did not contain monkeys however which in my experience tend to be the animals that cause the problems (I certainly saw that at Longleat Safari Park – where I opted to go through that bit on the parks bus!). So I decided to go ahead anyway and hope for the best. I mean lots of the animals in the drive through area are deer and there are lots of deer in Richmond Park in London which has public roads through it, so I’m sure it’s exactly the same, right? (Later when bored waiting at the airport I did read the terms and conditions and yes, as I suspected, driving through a safari park was not allowed).

So I started with the drive through bit (I actually went through it twice in the end), so here are a few photos I took there.

Highland Wildlife Park

Highland Wildlife Park

Highland Wildlife Park

Highland Wildlife Park

Highland Wildlife Park

Fortunately none of the animals came to close to the car or caused any damage, so I got away with that one (when I returned the car as usual they found no additional damage, so I didn’t get any extra charges so that was all good).

It also turned out that the Cairngorms is really beautiful too, as there were some lovely views from the park itself.

Highland Wildlife Park

With the weather much better here and the leaves turning red and orange, it was a lovely time to see it.

I then looked around the other animals, not in the drive through area. I was especially taken with the beautiful Scottish wild cats. It is nice to see the zoo has some local animals as whilst these wildcats do still live wild there are very few of them, so I’ve never seen any in the wild.

Scottish Wildcat at Highland Wildlife Park

Scottish Wildcat at Highland Wildlife Park

Scottish Wildcat at Highland Wildlife Park

Absolutely beautiful and very cute. Of course there are larger cats too!

Snow Leopard at Highland Wildlife Park

Snow Leopard at Highland Wildlife Park

I don’t think this one likes having it’s photo taken much!

Snow Leopard at Highland Wildlife Park

Amur tiger at Highland Wildlife Park

Amur tiger at Highland Wildlife Park

Lynx at Highland Wildlife Park

Of course, it wasn’t just types of cats here, there were many other animals as well.

Highland Wildlife Park

Highland Wildlife Park

Wolverine at Highland Wildlife Park

Vicuña at Highland Wildlife Park

Red Panda at Highland Wildlife Park

Vicuña at Highland Wildlife Park

Highland Wildlife Park

Snow Monkey at Highland Wildlife Park

Snow Monkey at Highland Wildlife Park

Snow Monkey at Highland Wildlife Park

Snow Monkey at Highland Wildlife Park

Snow Monkey at Highland Wildlife Park

Eurasian Crane at Highland Wildlife Park

One species of animal I got the impression the zoo was especially proud of was their Polar Bears.

Polar bear at Highland Wildlife Park

Polar bear at Highland Wildlife Park

In fact I believe only two zoos in the UK have polar bears (the other being Yorkshire Zoo). At the time they had a new arrival, Hamish, who had been born 8 months or so earlier and was the first polar bear to be born in the UK for 25 years. (He has since moved to Yorkshire Zoo).

I could see him playing though he was actually very brown from all the mud in the water and seemed to particularly enjoy playing with this blue barrel. Very sweet.

Hamish, a polar bear cub at Highland Wildlife Park

Hamish, a polar bear cub at Highland Wildlife Park

Hamish, a polar bear cub at Highland Wildlife Park

They had birds, including owls, too.

Capercaillie at Highland Wildlife Park

Great Grey Owl at Highland Wildlife Park

Great Grey Owl at Highland Wildlife Park

And monkeys.

The Cairngorms National Park viewed from Highland Wildlife Park

The park also had a view point from which to enjoy fine views of the Cairngorms National Park. It is really beautiful, certainly somewhere I want to come back to and explore further.

Polar bear at Highland Wildlife Park

Polar bear at Highland Wildlife Park

The Cairngorms National Park from Highland Wildlife Park

The Cairngorms National Park from Highland Wildlife Park

I had another look at the lovely wild cats again, too.

Scottish Wildcat at Highland Wildlife Park

Scottish Wildcat at Highland Wildlife Park

Scottish Wildcat at Highland Wildlife Park

Before leaving I went around the drive-through area again before it was time to make a move and head back to Inverness. It was a really enjoyable day and well worth the money to come in. It was nice to see the animals had plenty of space and looked well cared for (and many of them had good views too). I think it was the right decision given how poor the weather was in the highlands.

I now headed for Inverness, stopping at the retail park near the airport for dinner at Pizza Hut first (the choice at the airport is very limited), before filling up the hire car with petrol and returning it.

The flight was, as usual, late but I got home eventually. Overall this had been an enjoyable trip. I’d had 2 excellent days of weather 1 OK day and 2 really poor days. I suppose one thing you can say about the weather in the area is it is certainly changeable!

I decided next year to try to plan a bit earlier so I didn’t end up doing the last trip in October, which I hoped would mean I’d come a bit earlier and have better weather next year. This was to be my last trip to Scotland for 2018 – but I would be back again the following spring.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

329. Lochinver to Junction for Stoer Lighthouse

October 2018

This walk is a circular walk I had planned where I followed paths and roads along the coast initially and returned on a more direct route via the road, due to the lack of bus service on this part of the coast.

I was staying in Ullapool and stopped to get lunch at the Tesco and then set off for the drive to Lochinver, which took about an hour. I opted to start from Lochinver as that can be reached by an A-road rather than the somewhat tortuous B869 and was walking to the junction for the road out to Stoer Head lighthouse and Point of Stoer, where I had got to on my last walk (a circular around that headland).

I parked in a little car park just behind the petrol station by the Spar shop. I looked down to the harbour, which looked a bit industrial. Before setting off I headed down to the far side of the children’s play park to look across the pretty loch, sadly not looking it’s best on this grey day.

Loch Inver

It was time to begin the walk and I set off along the grass behind a building (a pub or hotel I think) leading to the river. There was a bench here and a nice view, but I quickly realised it was a dead-end (not a good start!) so I had to head back to the road.

Loch Inver

The River Inver at Lochinver

There are actually two bridges across the river here and I used the first one, which appears much older and carries little traffic these days (but both are still in use).

The River Inver that flows out into the loch here is a bigger river than I had expected and the water was really rushing down the small valley as it reached the loch.

The River Inver at Lochinver

Looking upstream to the more modern bridge that now carries the A-road, it was rather more functional.

The River Inver at Lochinver

Now across the river I could look back across the river to the buildings I had just walked past on the south side of the town.

Lochinver

Lochinver

Now on the north side of the Loch I followed the minor road leading to Baddidarach. Actually there are probably more buildings on the north side of the river here, even though the main town centre is on the other side of the river. I soon passed the Highland Stoneware Pottery (also marked on the map), but did not visit it.

Lochinver

I continued along the road taking the turning to Baddidarach. The road splits here, but both parts end after half a mile or so.

Lochinver

As I headed up the road to Baddidarach I was pleased to see footpath signs directing the way to Ardroe and Achmelvich. I had seen this footpath on the map and intended to follow it, but you never quite know whether the paths marked on maps actually exist in Scotland, so I was pleased to see confirmation that it did.

The path was well signed around houses (I suspect erected by the residents, perhaps fed up with walkers ending up in their gardens!) and soon I left the road behind.

The path was narrow and rocky, with plenty of gentle undulations and the occasional boggy area, but the path was easy to spot, winding it’s way over these remote hills and so it was actually quite easy to use and it was nice to be off roads (not something I’ve done much on this trip).

View back to Lochinver

The height gained meant I soon had views back to Lochinver and a very pointy mountain a bit beyond it (whose name I’m afraid I don’t know).

View back to Lochinver

Although not right on the coast, this path is as close as I can get as there are no other tracks or paths and the terrain to tough to try to find my own route.

The path that had been climbing steadily soon took me past the little Loch an Tuim.

Footpath between Lochinver and Ardroe

There was quite a lot of heather beside the path too, this would be an even prettier walk if you time it for the heather to be in flower.

Footpath between Lochinver and Ardroe

Footpath between Lochinver and Ardroe

The path continued fairly straight now and gently down hill. Ardore, marked on the map and now coming into view consists of just one or two houses with nothing but a dirt road to access them.

Ardroe

Once I reached the houses, I was then following their access drive or road though it was not tarmacked and had grass down the middle it was more a road than path now.

Track to Ardroe

This descended down to the shores of Loch Dubh. I’ve commented before about how the Scots seem to love their fences so much and here they had even built a fence over the waters of the loch. What purpose does it serve in a remote place like this?

Loch Dubh

Beyond the loch the track briefly climbed again to reach a bridge crossing Loch Roe. Here the narrow stream soon widens to the loch and the sea beyond it.

Loch Roe

Looking inland a footbridge was also marked on the map. It had almost rusted away and I wondered what purpose it must have served. Perhaps there used to only be a footpath to Ardoe and the track I was now on had replaced it?

River into Loch Roe

The path then climbed up away from the loch side, but gave me lovely views back down.

Loch Roe

Loch Roe

It continued to climb until I met the minor road leading to Achmelvich. My onwards route was to turn left along this road, which I’d be following for around 1 mile.

It was not busy, but still busier than I had expected given it’s a dead-end road and only a few properties are marked here. What I hadn’t realised (until I got there) is that it also houses a couple of caravan sites (static and touring), a youth hostel and a good beach which had generated the traffic. Still the road was mostly fairly wide and there was a grass verge for part of the way I could walk on.

I continued to the end of the road and onwards on the path to the beach. Though it is grey and cloudy, this was a stunning beach. White sands, beautiful turquoise sea, a few rocks and some nice views out to sea.

Achmelvich

Achmelvich

Achmelvich

I sat in the dunes at the back of the beach for a little while, enjoying the view and eating some of my lunch.

Once I’d had a break I continued over the grassy cliffs at the end of the beach to another smaller sandy beach beyond it.

Achmelvich

Achmelvich

This one was deserted, though there was quite a steep drop down to it from the cliffs I was on, which probably explains why.

Achmelvich

At the end of the beach I made my own way up the cliffs on a rough path beside the stream leading up from the beach.

Achmelvich

I soon found a good path and could follow that heading north passing to the left of a couple of remote houses that enjoy a wonderful view.

North of Achmelvich

I continued north on the path which headed through another valley and climbed up onto the rocky hills beyond. It soon descended again to the little hamlet of Alltan ‘abradhan. Here there was a small group of fairly modern houses.

Alltan' abradhan

I followed a path north from here which continued over the rocky cliffs.

Near Port Alltan

It then descended into a beautiful rocky valley, with a fast flowing stream. Here I could cross the stream via some stepping stones to reach an old mill.

Near Port Alltan

Old Mill at Port Alltan

These were originally corn mills and there were once several in this valley. It was a nice sheltered spot out of the wind and with the constant sound of rushing water. I planned to leave the path here and head up the valley, but before I did so, I found a path down to the shore.

Old Mill at Port Alltan

The map promised a sandy beach but it was high tide and all that was visible was pebbles.

Port Alltan na Bradhan beach

Still I stopped here for the rest of my lunch as it was again out of the wind.

Suitably refreshed, I turned back on the rocky path up the valley which eventually emerges at the road.

Old Mill at Port Alltan

Here I turned left along the road – the rest of my route for the day was along the B869. Still it was easy underfoot, there wasn’t much traffic and soon I enjoyed views of Maiden Loch on the right.

Loch na h-Airghe Bige

The road winds around the southern edge of this long thin loch which stretches for almost half a mile.

Loch na h-Airghe Bige

Within the loch are a couple of tiny rocky islands.

Loch na h-Airghe Bige

Loch na h-Airghe Bige

I continued along the road and soon reached the beach at Clachtoll. This turns out to be more of a resort than I had expected, with a large campsite present.

Clachtoll beach

It was a beautiful place, with another lovely white sandy beach with low rocky cliffs on either side and quite a rough sea.

Clachtoll beach

Clachtoll beach

Clachtoll beach

I was pleased to find that, unexpectedly, there was a good path north along the cliffs. This soon headed up to one of the cliffs, where I found a memorial stone to the Reverend Norman Macleod who apparently led his people 14,000 miles to Nova Scotia, Australia and New Zealand. Beyond the memorial was a gate that looked to lead into a private house, but as I got closer I was pleased to see that it was in fact a well signed path which they signed through several gates through their land.

Clachtoll

Clachtoll

Beyond this the path continued, rough in places, over the low rocky cliffs.

Clachtoll

Clachtoll

Coast path north of Clachtoll

There was a rather boggy area which I just managed to negotiate whilst keeping dry feet. Beyond this I soon came to a large Broch, which has been partially restored. All made of dry-stones I headed through the narrow arch into it. It was an interesting place to explore and well restored and was proving popular, as there were a few people here.

Stoer Broch

Stoer Broch

I continued on a rough path onwards from here. At times it was above the pebble beach on grass, at other times the land had eroded and I was forced onto the pebbles – hard going.

The beach at Stoer

The beach at Stoer

Soon I reached the beach at Stoer. This is mostly pebbles, though the map suggest sand, but I think this is just at low tide. Someone had made a seat out of drift wood here so I stopped for a drink and to eat the last of lunch. Consulting the map I was nearly at the point I’d turn around. I had a little over 1 mile to go to the point I reached on a previous walk. So I headed over the green towards a house and ruined church near the top. I presume the church roof was damaged during storms and the locals could not afford to have it replaced.

Stoer

Once on the road I followed it north through the village of Stoer and onwards past Lochan Sgeireach.

Lochan Sgeireach

The wind was really strong now, forming lines of ripples on the loch.

Lochan Sgeireach

The views inland were stunning too, over the rocky and wild land of Assynt, with a couple of mountains visible in the distance.

IMG_0527

I continued until I reached the junction for the road to Balchladich and Stoer lighthouse, where I walked the previous day, filling in any gap.

For my return route, I planned to stick to the road all the way. In fact I returned to Stoer and the seat of drift wood again for a rest.

Stoer

I don’t like road walking so I decided to change plans and follow the same path back over the beach to Clachtoll. It was a little further, but far more pleasant.

Clachtoll

At Clachtoll I continued along the road passing the loch on my left again and the path down past the old mill. This time I continued on the road. I had about 6km until I reached the main road I estimated, which should take about 90 minutes. I was not especially looking forward to this road section, but having failed to get hold of the Assynt Dial-A-Bus I had little choice.

I continued past Loch an Ordain which was beautiful, a long thin loch with a few little islands in it.

View from the B869

The road continued past the loch and soon climbed steeply to the top of the hill, where a view point was signed.

View from the B869

View from the B869

View from the B869

Over to my right I could see Lochan Sgeireach. Around here just as I reached one of the passing places a car came past and then stopped. The driver offered me a lift, but I declined, to which she seemed a little surprised. As she drove off, I began to regret my decision. I was only walking back this way because it was faster. I was not missing any coast, I had already walked it and if I had accepted her lift, I’d be back to my car in 10 minutes or so (she must have been going to Lochinver, there is nowhere else on the way). I guess it was more or less force of habit that I said no.

Oh well, I’d turned it down, so the road it was.

View from the B869

The road soon began to descend again until I reached the river valley of the stream that flows into Loch Roe again.

View from the B869

The road was briefly wider here but soon returned to single track and passing places. At the stream, I climbed down from the road to end up beside the river valley where I stopped for a rest and a drink, glad to get off the road and beside the water.

I had fine views here too over the marshy land of the river valley. This area really is very wild.

View from the B869

It was soon time to continue and here I continued up the road which now climbed again soon offering fine views inland over to the mountains and the numerous wooded little valleys. Another 15 minutes or so bought me out to the A837. Here there was no pavement initially, but a wide grass verge, soon with a bit of a pavement as I entered the village. Soon I crossed the rushing waters of the river Inver that flows out to the loch here. I then continued past the old bridge I had crossed earlier and back down into the valley.

The River Inver, Loch Inver

Lochinver

I soon reached my car and the end of my walk. I stopped at the Spar here (which was very busy) for a snack and a drink as I was both thirsty and hungry. I sat in the car to eat it and then drove back to Ullapool, where I was staying.

It had been a really enjoyable walk. I had enjoyed a couple of stunning white-sandy beaches and found some really good paths along the coast. The couple of villages I had passed through had also been very pleasant. The road walking back was a bit tedious at times, but more than compensated for by the wonderful views of this stunning area of the coast.

Here are details of the pubic transport needed for this walk.

George Rapson Travel route 809 : Ullapool – Strathcanaird – Elphin – Ledmore Junction – Inchnadamph – Lochinver – Achmelvich – Rhicarn – Stoer – Culkein – Clashnessie – Drumbeg. One bus per day each way, except Sunday. Stops north of Lochinver are only served by passengers already on board or boarding at Lochinver when heading north or by request, by telephone the day before, if travelling south.

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

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328. Clashnessie Circular via Point of Stoer

October 2018

This was the first day of a 5 day trip to the north of Scotland. I had hoped to come up earlier in the year but finding accommodation this far north is difficult and the earliest I could get 4 nights in the same hotel (I booked in January!), was mid October, so that would have to do (and it turned out to be a crap hotel). At least it was before the clocks changed so it was still light reasonably late.

I made an early start, drove to Luton Airport and then took an EasyJet flight from Luton to Inverness, which departed and arrived on time. I arrived in Inverness under clear skies. I had booked a hire car from the airport and was second in the queue, so did not have to wait long. I got the booked car, a Fiat 500 this time in grey.

After checking the car out for damage there was, as usual, more than recorded but the man dismissed all the additional damage I flagged as already covered or too minor to worry. I always have my doubts about this, but so far they have proven to be unfounded (as indeed they were this time).

I see off on the long drive to Clashnessie. I took the A9 north to just passed Tain, then the A836 to Bonar Bridge. I soon turned left onto the A837, where the long streches of single-track road with passing places begins. This time the first section was a bit of a pain as being wooded it was hard to see far ahead and so I had to keep slowing. Once the road opened out onto the moorland I could make better progress.

I then joined the A894 and then lastly the B869. This last road was a bit of a challenge and very slow to drive. The reason being it is all single track with passing places, but also very narrow, twisty and hilly meaning you cannot see far ahead and so have to keep slowing down. It is a challenging drive and took me much longer than expected, though I did at least arrive safely and without any mishaps!

The downside is that it was around 2:30pm when I did finally arrive. I parked on a small car park beside the beach at Clashnessie.

Clashnessie beach

I had planned this walk for today knowing it did not require any additional public transport as it was a circular walk. However I had expected to arrive far earlier than I did – the drive had taken much longer than I had planned for. I knew that meant I would not complete my planned route before it got dark and I had not bought a torch or anything like that. My head said I should abandon it and do a shorter walk. My heart said I had planned this walk, I hate changing my plans and not doing it would throw my plans out. It was also a lovely day in terms of weather and I suspected the scenery on this walk would be excellent. My heart won out, I convinced myself that it did not get dark so quickly this far north so it would be fine.

I was impressed by Clashnessie, it was beautiful and had a wonderful beach, far better than I had anticipated.

Clashnessie beach

My planned route was a circular around the Point of Stoer. I planned to follow the B869 west for a mile and then walk to the end of the minor road to Stoer Head lighthouse, then make my way over the moorland to Point of Stoer and continue to the road at Culkein, follow this for a bit and try and make my way over moorland back to Clashnessie, How much of this would prove to be accessible I didn’t know, but there was only one way to find out.

I had decided to do the “neck” of the walk first, over the B869 south west to the road to Stoer lighthouse. The reason being this was the busiest road I was likely to encounter and given I was unlikely to finish before night fall I didn’t want to walk it at night when I would be invisible to traffic (I hadn’t got any high visibility clothing either).

The road immediately turned away from the coast, crossed the small stream and then headed up through the village. The village was tiny really, but there are very few settlements along this remote part of the coast. The road soon climbed away from the coast and I walked quickly, both keen to make up time and also to get back to the coast. I passed a few houses and there was a bit of traffic (more than I had encountered on the way here). Soon I reached the junction for the road to the Stoer lighthouse. I was pleased to see it was also signed to “Point of Stoer”. I wasn’t sure (because it’s not clear from the map) if you could actually get to the point, so this sign was reassuring that you probably can.

The road soon passed the small Loch Neil Bhain. Beside this was what must surely be one of the prettiest and best located schools in the country, right overlooking this loch, what a stunning place it looked and how I would have loved to go to school here. It was particularly beautiful in the low afternoon sunshine.

Loch Neil Bhain, Rienachait

Loch Neil Bhain, Rienachait

Loch Neil Bhain, Rienachait

Soon I turned away from the loch and followed the road through the scattered hamlet of Balchladich. This soon took me down to the coast again, at Balchladich Bay. This was a lovely beach with large round pebbles at the back and some sand near the shoreline. There was a pretty cottage at the far end of this lovely beach.

Balchladich Bay

Balchladich Bay

Balchladich Bay

Originally, I had thought I would have to follow the road back inland but I was very pleased to find a decent enough path along the grass north of the beach.

The land was low initially, though boggy in places, but there was always a faint track visible ahead. I soon climbed up onto what was now remote and open moorland.

Near Clashmore

This soon descended gradually to a small stream, small enough I could simply step over it.

Near Stoer Point

This led down to another pebble beach.

Near Stoer

My path continued past a couple of cottages I could see on the cliff ahead. I could see from the map a track headed back from here to the road if I needed it.

The cottage nearest the sea looked to be disused, at least as a cottage and I suspect is now used for storage.

Cottage at Rubha Stoer

I was unsure of the other one, but suspected it was also no longer lived in. A shame and I did wonder who owned them (if nothing else, they would surely make good holiday cottages). Passing these cottages I was in some way relieved they wern’t in use as I could walk right past them without feeling like I was intruding. The good path I had found continued right along the coast, my walk was going well.

Soon the path climbed and became more undulating but I could now see the lighthouse ahead (and the road led to it).

Stoer Head lighthouse

I soon made my way along the road to the lighthouse. Sadly you can’t visit it now and I don’t think it is in use because the sign showed you can rent it for a holiday.

Stoer Head lighthouse

Still I do like these buildings and I was pleased to see it was clearly being well cared for. The car park was quite busy and so a lot of people were around the lighthouse, and quite a few walking. I headed to where they were walking and was very pleased to find a proper signed path to Point of Stoer.

I set off on the path. It was quite boggy and actually harder to use than the un-official paths I had used to get this far! I guess because more people walk it, and it has not been surfaced.

Ahead was a large deep valley with another stream, but crossing it posed no problem.

Stoer Head

I passed another rocky little bay with a small waterfall flowing down it. The scenery was beautiful and reminded me a bit of Cornwall.

Stoer Head lighthouse

Inland the view was also stunning with the open moor, dotted with a few lochs and lochans and views to distant mountains. That last part was a real surprise to me as I hadn’t seen so many mountains on my previous trip. I could also see the telecom mast inland, which was a useful landmark, being marked on the map.

Stoer Head

Stoer Head

Stoer Head

Stoer Head

The path I was on soon wound it’s way up to the trig point at Sithean Mor. The Ordnance Survey maps in Scotland are not great. Sometimes paths are marked but don’t exist and other times like this there is no path or track marked but there is a well-used route, it is frustrating and makes planning hard. Someone had even built a circle of stones around the trig point!

Sidhean Mor, Old Man of Stoer

From here a good path descended back to the coast and it was a spectacular location with the sea almost on 3 sides in the low early evening sunshine. The waves crashed below and the walking was easier than I had expected. Soon I caught site of the Old Man of Stoer, a point nearby.

Old Man of Stoer

Here there is a tall rock stack and I could see I was going to get a good view of it in the sunshine. I headed down and was not disappointed. What I was surprised was a wire visible going out to it from the cliffs. I believe it is possible with the right knowledge and equipment to climb up it, but I would not like to do it!

Old Man of Stoer

It was a wonderful location and better still I had it to myself, now most people had not walked this far from the car park (though like me they probably also knew it would soon be dark).

I continued past the Old Man of Stoer to the end of the Point of Stoer itself. It had a little of the feeling like Lands End about it.

Stoer Head

I continued south from the point of Stoer, still finding a faint path along the cliff tops. I could see the mountains in the distance and around the coast to I think Cape Wrath where I was earlier in the year. The sun was now getting very low and I was clear it would not be long before it set – I still had a way to go.

Stoer Head

It was however exceptionally beautiful and I passed a couple of small lochans.

Stoer Head

Stoer Head

The low orange sun was now lighting up the land and picking out all the little hills, and the distant mountains, it was stunning.

Stoer Head

I rounded a couple of large bays one with a rocky beach below. I was now following the remains of a fence (don’t they love these in Scotland?!) but there was no wire left between most of the fence posts and in fact many of the posts had gone too!

Stoer Head

Stoer Head

At times I had to switch sides of the fence to avoid some increasingly boggy areas. At Geodh Ban I soon reached some rocky little islands and rocks just below me. The sun was going down now though and had just dipped below the horizon.

Stoer Head

Stoer Head

Rounding the corner of Rubha an Dunain I was now heading south and soon reached the farm track. I could follow this, accompanied by sheep to head south to the Bay of Culkein.

Culkein

This was a mixture of rocks and sand, so I briefly headed down onto the beach to walk on the sand around the bay, accompanied by a dog walker.

Bay of Culkein

Bay of Culkein

At the end of the bay I rejoined the road and followed that out of the village and crossed the cattle grid. As the road turned further inland I headed off on a faint path off-road heading south. I could see the houses of Achnacarnin, as the lights came on one by one, but I followed the faint path around the cliff edge.

Achnacarnin

Achnacarnin

The light was fading, but I could still see enough. The land got lower as I approached Port Achnancarnan. I could see more houses ahead, the lights now burning bright.

Achnacarnin

I continued around the little rocky beach at Port Achnancarnan, hard to imagine it ever being much of a port!

Achnacarnin

Ahead I had some more steep cliffs and rocky areas to get around but managed to find a faint path. Soon the coast levelled out again a bit. Now I was approaching a farm at the end of the road and I was pleased about this because I could see I could make it to the road if needed. I was encountering a lot of farm fences here but was pleased to find at all of them, there were stiles, which helped me to cross. I was not sure if these were meant for the public or for the farmer, but they were most welcome. I was starting sheep now, who were settling down for the night and not expecting to find someone walking around here!

It was getting so dark now I was struggling to see and I was getting a bit concerned that I could get into trouble if the light faded any more. Still I continued to find stiles until at last I was alongside the north end of the beach at Clashnessie. Almost back now.

I could see from the map a river or stream was marked here. To get around it I’d have to make my way over the rough ground further inland to the road bridge. I decided to head down onto the beach to see if I could wade across instead, but in the very limited light I could not see how deep it was. I decided to try and cross and so took my shoes and socks off. Initially the first part of the stream was only ankle deep, followed by some sand. I thought for a minute I was over but the sound of rushing water ahead suggested a lot more water than I had crossed. Sure enough just ahead it became deeper – much deeper. I rolled up my trousers as much as I could (to my knees) and began to wade through. It got deeper and with a few uneven rocks underfoot. It was getting to the point if it got much deeper I could be in trouble, and it was cold too. But I persevered, soaking my trousers and the water soon narrowed and I was on the beach. Unfortunately I was wearing jeans (I had lighter walking trousers in my rucksack that I had taken as hand luggage, opting to wear heavier jeans in order to keep the size and bulk of my hand-luggage rucksack down for the flight and given the late start had opted not to waste further time changing and put them into the boot of the car).

Safe at last, I made my way to the far end of the beach over the sand. I reached the dunes at the edge and stopped to wipe as much sand of my feet as I could and put my shoes back on. My trousers were wet (and I later found, covered in sand), but I couldn’t do anything about that now. I was, according to the map now right beside the road but I couldn’t even see the car at all though, and with no street lights either I was not sure whether to turn left or right. I then realised the solution was simply to use the unlock on the car key. Fortunately I was in range, the lights flashed and it turns out the car was only about 10 metres away, but I couldn’t see it at all until I’d done that! (Perhaps the problem with a grey car!).

I was relieved to had made it and rather enjoyed this walk. Stunning scenery, beautiful weather, much better paths than I had expected, a good coastal route, a lighthouse and some interesting rock formations. There was also a bit of a sense of adventure at the end! Fortunately my plan to go ahead with this walk anyway had worked out OK and I had loved it. Thankfully, I had a change of clothes in the boot of the car so I could change out of my water logged trousers before I drove to my hotel, which was in Ullapool. It was nice to warm up in the car, but I was not looking forward to the drive over this road in the pitch black.

That road just seemed to on and on. I could sense I was passing water at times, with the reflection from the moon. I saw few cars and did feel very isolated. Fortunately at night the lights of cars coming are visible, even around corners, so I avoided having to reverse in the pitch black. What I did find is a lot of deer, sometimes very close to the road and once running across and you can’t see them until you are almost on top of them as the lights only light the road ahead, not to the side of it. Time was getting on and on, there was no radio signal and I was heartily relived to eventually reach the main road near Lochinver, the A837. Now it was a road with one lane each way all the rest of the way, I was relieved about that. I was less happy when I saw the mileage. 36 miles still to Ullapool! I hadn’t realised it was so far as that (I thought it was about 15 to 20). So it was just after 8:30pm when I finally reached my hotel in Ullapool, the Calednoian Hotel.

This is a large and nice looking hotel from the outside, but I saw from the reviews online that suggested it was not good at all. But it was all I could get for 4 nights and it was at least not too expensive at just over £50 a night. The first problem was there was supposed to be a car park. But there was only room for about 10-15 cars opposite the hotel and all spaces were taken. Driving around the hotel I eventually found a “car park” at the back. I put it in quotes because it mostly seemed to be an area of waste ground, formerly occupied by buildings (you could still see the old floors and the edges of the demolished walls of buildings) with a few run-down but still intact out buildings, with faded and deteriorating signs indicating this was the car park and a skip full of mouldy mattresses. They say first impressions count, and it wasn’t a good first impression!

On entering the hotel I followed wide corridors lined with empty display cases (and some water stains on the ceiling) to reach reception. The reception area actually looks quite nice and I was met by a friendly receptionist. She handed me a key with the name of a different hotel chain printed on it. The corridors in the hotel were stark, tatty and seemingly un-heated, lit with bare fluorescent tubes and decorated with faded pictures. My room was on the top floor at least, because other reviews warned of squeaky floorboards. My room was basic but a little bigger than expected, but the bathroom had no sink (only a shower or toilet) and no shampoo and a horrible bright blue lino floor that looked very 1970s. The sink was in the room.

Cobwebs were hanging from the ceiling. A sign advised me to keep the window closed due to midges. Despite this, the window had been left open and the heater unplugged, so it was cold (but fortunately, not full of midges) and the seal had gone in the window so it was all misted up inside. A half drunk water bottle was left on the floor next to the bed (and I found a sock just under it). It seems my first impression was the right one. Unfortunately I was later to discover that the walls were paper thin, seemingly every floorboard in the hotel creaked and the fire doors in the corridor would loudly bang closed every time anyone came up the stairs. I hung my damp jeans in the wardrobe to dry out (which meant the next time I touched them, in the morning, it sent a cascade of now dry sand into the bottom of the wardrobe – whoops). When I came to have breakfast the next morning, the cutlery had stuck to the table! On pointing this out I was told it was not because of dirt but was due to the type of varnish used on the table (hmmm…..). (I put some photos and a joke (but factually correct) review of the hotel on this previous post).

Due to the late arrival dinner had to be a takeaway from the chip shop next door, which I ate on the bench outside but at least somewhere was still open for hot food, as Ullapool is a small place.

Despite the disappointing hotel, it had been a good first day. I had managed to do my planned walk, I had found a better and easier route than I had expected (which was just as well given the late start), the scenery had been stunning and the weather very good for October.

There is no public transport available for this walk. In theory, the Assynt Dial-a-Bus service could be used however I tried and failed to get hold of them on the number listed.

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

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327. Clashnessie to Nedd

October 2018

I had hoped to make this a linear walk as I had initially thought there wasn’t a bus along the B869 but had since discovered the presence of the Assynt Dial a Bus. According to the website this operated along this road and you can call it to request transport along the road. Sort of like a taxi, but charged at bus prices. The website suggested it was open to anyone, for any purpose so that was good. However I had spent much of the previous day trying to call the number. Either I got no response at all, a message that the mobile I had called was switched off (but I had called a landline) or that there was a fault (I had even tried using two different mobile networks). So having been unable to get hold of this alleged service I had had to abandon that plan and make this a there and back walk. I actually did this walk before the previous one I posted about (Nedd to Unapool), so my plan was to begin in Clashnessie and work eastwards along the road as a there-and-back walk. Then I would continue from where I got to at the end of today tomorrow to complete the walk to the viewpoint on the A894 near Unapool.

I was staying in Ullapool and so drove around to Clashnessie. This is around half way around the remote B869 but I’d learnt from my previous drive here that the B869 is a much easier (and therefore quicker drive) from Lochinver (the section east of Clashnessie seems to have more hills, tight bends, blind summits and narrow sections). So that’s the way I had come and it took me around 1 hour 20 minutes, longer I had hoped. I parked in the car park marked on the map (more a lay-by really) where I’d ended another walk earlier that week. There was a motorhome parked here (probably having spent the night) and another car. But before I’d finished sorting myself out another two cars arrived – clearly it was going to busy! The reason being presumably that it was Saturday and the weather was quite nice.

Clashnessie has a beautiful beach and is in a beautiful location. At the landward end of a small inlet, there are quite a few small islands and headlands to be seen. The beach itself is unusually for this part of Scotland backed by dunes. I can see why this place is popular despite it’s extremely remote location.

The beach at Clashnessi

The beach at Clashnessi

The beach at Clashnessi

Sometimes when I do these out and back walks I do the route there all at once, then walk back. At other times, I walk a mile or two, then double back to the car, move it onwards and so on. By doing the latter it means I can decided when to turn back when I’m tired (or the weather turns) and I’m never too far from the car. The downside is more time spent driving, but at least it gives me somewhere comfortable and warm to sit down for a few minutes for a rest!

I hadn’t quite decided if I was going to follow the latter approach for this walk and I was un-decided whether to head for Drumbeg or go further.

To start with, it looked to me that I could walk a short distance along the beach and climb up rocks and grass to the road above, so that is what I did. Ahead it is absolutely beautiful, with an isolated cottage that overlooks this wonderful beach.

The beach at Clashnessi

Climbing up to the road I can look back over the sandy beach (which looks slightly red) and the hills beyond where I walked in the dark the other evening (but I will cover that in the next post).

The beach at Clashnessi

I continue briefly along the grass beside the road, but it is uneven and full of rocks so I soon head back for the road, which is at least smooth underfoot and traffic is light.

The coast north of Clashnessie

I soon pass that isolated cottage, which is almost on an island.

The coast north of Clashnessie

From the map the house is called Imirfada (there are so few people and homes around here I think each one gets named on the map!).

Though I am surprised how close the front door looks to the beach and the tide line, it looks quite vulnerable and I can see a stone wall has been built in front of it. I wondered why it was not built just slightly higher up part way on the hill behind.

The bay is now heading out of view and behind the house is another rocky beach.

The coast north of Clashnessie

I continue onwards, the road having dropped a little again and now hugging the coast, not much above the waves.

The coast north of Clashnessie

Sadly the road does not continue for long beside the coast and soon I reach the mouth of a Loch na Bruthaich, where the road turns inland.

The road runs alongside the fast flowing waters of the stream from the loch.

Stream out of Loch na Bruthaich near Clashnessie

Soon I reach the Loch itself, though it’s now looking grey and threatening.

Loch na Bruthaich

At the west end of the loch is another parking area (unmarked on the map). I given in to temptation and decide to head back to the car. I’m not giving up yet of course, but decide with the uncertain weather I’m going to do this in a few short sections. I also enjoyed that coastal section again, so it will be nice to do it again in reverse.

Soon back at the beach, it is oddly still sunny here, despite the cloud at the loch and the sun has risen enough now to be shining on the sand.

The beach at Clashnessie

The beach at Clashnessie

The coast north of Clashnessie

I pick up the car and drive the mile or so onwards. I feel lazy driving such a short distance except that I’ve already walked twice as far! Now I’m back at the loch, the cloud has cleared here too and it’s sunny.

Loch na Bruthaich near Clashnessie

I continue on the road by the loch. Here it is busier and 3 or 4 cars pass me in the few hundred metres it takes to walk past the loch. At the end of the loch I stop for a nice view back.

Loch na Bruthaich near Clashnessie

Loch na Bruthaich near Clashnessie

Beyond the loch the road continues with heather and gorse beside the road. A little further along and I pass an old shed and decide there is room to park here just in front of it and so turn around to retrieve my car. Another reason for doing this is that I find drivers in Scotland will often stop to ask if you want a lift. Holding a camera, I find it easy to say it’s fine my car is just down the road and I’m taking photos than just say no when they have seen no car nearby. It does not take me long to reach the bottom of the loch and get back to my car, just as there is a brief shower, good timing!

Loch na Bruthaich near Clashnessie

Returning in the car in front of the shed I’m now not so happy about my parking place and worry I might be in the way of the shed so I park as far from it as possible without blocking the road. I continue anyway and am surprised to find just up the road is an art gallery! There is a what I take to be a parking place alongside (it’s not marked as a passing place) but I suspect it might be private land and it would be cheeky to park there (even though the gallery is closed) as I’m not a customer.

Continuing up the hill I soon pass the end of another loch and rounding the corner the drive to a house. Around here there is some building work going on at the house and cars and vans parked on the grass verge. One of the workers says hello as do I in return but suddenly I feel I don’t want to suddenly turn back just ahead in case they assume i’m lost!

On the right just past it I have lovely views over Loch Eilenach with several small islands and find a place to sit beside it for a quick snack.

Loch na Bruthaich near Clashnessie

Loch Eilenach

Loch Eilenach

Loch Eilenach

Loch Eilenach

Loch Eilenach

Resuming my walk I continue uphill to soon reach the top of the hill and there is a wonderful view ahead of colourful trees, some deciduous (and now becoming autumnal) and pine trees.

The B869 between Clashnessie and Drumbeg

Soon I can see a few houses ahead. There are marked as Oldany on the map.

The B869 between Clashnessie and Drumbeg

Nearing the bottom of the valley and the river there is an area marked Assynt Hydro Scheme right at the bottom of the hill. I decided that the gravel next to the end of the road has space to park without blocking the access or churning up the grass, so I decided to turn back here to get the car, at least having done a good distance before turning back.

Loch Eilenach

Loch Eilenach

I head back past the house with all the building work, but this time the builders have gone so I needn’t have worried about them wondering what I was doing walking up and down the road. I continued back the way I had come to my car fortunately still where I’d left it, without any angry note attached!

I drive around to the Assynt Hydro scheme drive and park beside the end of it and sit in the car for lunch, grateful to have somewhere warm and comfortable to eat. Now I’m ready to leave I’m not entirely comfortable with parking the car here (again), but decide there is little alternative and hoping with houses ahead, there will be some more parking.

Soon I cross the beautiful river, with rushing water and am now in a valley with some flat marshy land around beside the river.

The Oldany River

It is more lush now and it feels like the landscape is less hostile.

The Oldany River valley

Perhaps these buildings were once farms, but they look like houses now.

Oldany

In front of the houses the road soon crosses the river again. I’ve mentioned before the Scottish farmers seeming love of fences and here it is still present – they even fenced off the river!

Oldany River

My hoped for parking doesn’t materialise so I continue along the road, briefly dead straight and heading for the coast again, which I can see ahead (this is meant to be a coastal walk, after all).

The B869 near Drumbeg

Here I can see the water rushing out of the river into Lochan na Leobaig.

Lochan na Leobaig

Just ahead a minor road turns left to the hamlet of Culkein and ends at a jetty. I had considered trying to make my way along the shore here to this jetty, but I can see it’s too rocky, so I abandon that idea and continue on the road. Standing on the bridge with the water flowing out to the loch, it is beautiful.

Lochan na Leobaig

Lochan na Leobaig

The road rounds the rocky bay but soon turns away from the coast again. So I continue on the road soon reaching the very western edge of Loch Drumbeg.

Loch Drumbeg

Here I have a decision to make. I could walk up the road to Culkein, but it’s a dead-end. However if I don’t I’ll be missing out a stretch of coast. I ponder this for a while, but it is still only early afternoon and I’m not feeling that tired. I consider coming back for the car first but then decide no I will follow the road out to Culkein. The road climbs steeply past the remains of some building on the right (I can see a concrete base) and then continues to climb. Soon there is a turning on the left to Polchaple. This is marked as “Craft on the Croft” and I’m not sure if it is open. (Oddly my map also shows cycle hire, which is not listed on the sign). I doubt there is anyone but the proprietor there and I don’t want to feel guilty going there and so ending buying something I don’t want (which I’d also have to carry), so I continue on.

The road drops down into a valley and climbs again to a large house on the right. I continue now and reach the highest point of the road, which descends steeply ahead. To my pleasant surprise someone has erected a bench here! So I sit on it for a few minutes to take in the view. It is quite a view!

Culkein near Drumbeg

A remote white cottage just to my right has the most remarkable view of the loch and numerous small rocky islets and inlets. I can also see right along the bay to Scourie where I walked earlier in the year and possibly Cape Wrath.

Culkein near Drumbeg

Closer, the loch has many islands in it, it’s beautiful. This area, Assynt is a National Scenic Area and I can certainly see why – the walk along this dead-end road was worth it just for this view. The road now descends into more of the village, where there are more buildings.

Culkein near Drumbeg

Culkein near Drumbeg

I pass several houses and then the road continues to descend to the end and a jetty.

Culkein near Drumbeg

Just before this there is a cattle grid and the road is lined with two stone pillars giving the name of the house ahead. It looks like the road ahead has essentially become a private drive and I feel uncomfortable continuing worried this is technically a garden and so even under the Scottish access laws I might be trespassing. I decide to continue until I am in sight of the house and jetty, where I stop just out of sight of the house to enjoy the view. And now it’s back the way I came again!

Culkein near Drumbeg

I retrace my steps back to the top of the hill and continue ahead to a track to the left. Here it looks like there is a track that meets up with the road a little further along towards Drumbeg, saving me about 400 metres of walking. So I decide to follow this and so begin to walk on it. I soon approach a house and realise the onward track seems to go briefly right in front of, or possibly over, their garden. I don’t feel comfortable here and chicken out and decide to return to the road. I’m irritated as I do so to see a van heading up the road (I didn’t want to be seend), but this is only the second house on the road, they won’t be coming down here surely? But then the van indicates down the track I’m wandering along, that leads to only that one house. I’m now worried the driver is going to stop and ask me what I’m doing on “their drive” but instead he gives me a cheery wave and continues (I now feel like I could have walked down the other track past the house and they wouldn’t have minded), but it would look even more odd to turn back again, so I continue. I did wonder what are the chances of me timing it just that the owner came back then?!

I continue back to the road where a car pulls up at the end of the road to Culkein. Are they going to offer me a lift? This is a nice gesture, but I’m meant to be on a walk not a drive so I always decline, which sometimes makes the drivers looks a little hurt you declined! However a post office van soon comes the other way and they stop to chat. The postman hands the ladies post through the window of her car, and they both drive on. I guess the postman must know everyone in this remote area and so this saves the effort of going to their house if he sees them on the way!

I’m not far from Drumbeg now and can see it ahead and it is beautifully located, with the loch on one side and the sea on the other. So I continue along the road, here very scenic with the loch on my right.

Loch Drumbeg

Drumbeg

It does not take me long to reach the car park (this time, a proper one) at the viewpoint overlooking the numerous islands.

Drumbeg viewpoint

Drumbeg viewpoint

I’m glad to make it here. I even find there is an (open) public toilet just beyond the car park so I stop to use this and then begin the walk back to the car.

Drumbeg viewpoint

It does not take so long this time as I don’t divert down to Culkein and it takes me a little over half an hour to get back to the car, still where I left it with no problem. I drive on to the viewpoint at Drumbeg, but it’s quite windy here and I can feel the car “bouncing” in the wind. I stop for a snack and drink and use the opportunity to clear some of the days debris and old drinks bottles from my rucksack.

I could end here now, but I decide it’s only around 3pm and I have some time left to walk a bit further, which means I can shorten the next days walk instead. So I leave the car at this car park and head on to Drumbeg, the weather now having brightened up.

Drumbeg viewpoint

Drumbeg viewpoint

Drumbeg viewpoint

I’m amazed that the road soon gains a pavement, something I’ve not seen in a long while. Even more surprising there is a shop (and it’s open) and also a hotel (which isn’t), though the sign in the hotel window informs me it has now closed for the season as of the previous weekend, though the bar will open for one last time the following evening. It must be a shame to live in somewhere like this when the pub only opens in summer, but I suppose at least there is one. I also passed other people walking on the pavement, I hadn’t seen anyone outside of a car for several hours!

Drumbeg

Soon I reached the end of Drumbeg and enjoyed a look back over the loch on which the village is built.

Drumbeg

The road soon turned left over more moorland and reached another smaller loch, Loch Ruighean an Aitinn.

Loch Ruighean an Aitinn

Loch Ruighean an Aitinn

Soon I’d passed the end of this pretty loch and continued on the road, surrounded by sheep.

The B869 near Drumbeg

The road soon turned to the right and I could see Loch Nedd ahead of me. This is open to the sea, unlike the Loch in Drumbeg.

Loch Nedd

I have no reached small village of Nedd and I was amused to pass this Bothy (at least I think that is what it is) showing a sign “Hippies use back door”!

Nedd Bothy

I continued through this small village. Unlike Drumbeg it has no facilities, unless you count the telephone box! I wondered if there might be somewhere to park here, but the road seemed a bit to narrow. On the left near the last of the houses I passed some sort of stone circle, but I’m not sure if this original or the owners of the house had created it (sorry it’s not very obvious it’s a stone circle from the photo below).

Stone circle, Nedd

Just past this there was a cattle grid and a little parking area to the right of it by a gate. I decided, for the last time, to walk back to the viewpoint in Drumbeg to retrieve my car and move it here. So I retraced my steps through Drumbeg to the viewpoint and drove on to Nedd. I had noticed the road between Nedd and Drumbeg seemed busier when walking and suspect the locals might drive into Drumbeg as it has the shop.

I parked the car and headed down the road to the river that flows out to Loch Nedd. As I headed down the road to the waters edge I came across a small track to the left, which headed down to a small stone jetty where there was a boat moored and some fishing equipment.

Loch Nedd

Loch Nedd

Boats on Loch Nedd

Boats on Loch Nedd

Continuing on the road there was soon a small grassy area on the left with all sorts of old boats around it, in various states of repair (or disrepair). Clearly a little bit of a fishing community exists here (I have wondered what the locals do for a living around here). I continued on the grass beside the road for a bit and then rejoined the road further along. Soon I reached the marshes around the stream, the land suddenly flat after all the hills of the day!

Loch Need

Loch Nedd

Loch Nedd

Loch Nedd

I continued to the bridge over the loch river and decided to call it a day here. It had cut the next days walk shorter which was nice and it was a beautiful place to which I could return.

Loch Nedd

The stream flowing to Loch Nedd

I now turned back and headed back up the hill towards Nedd and my car, for the final time today.

I stopped for a rest in the car before deciding which way to drive back. I opted to continue east along the road instead of returning the way I had come. It is a more challenging drive to the east, but shorter too, though I did end up reversing once because of oncoming traffic (the road is single-track with passing places). I was glad to meet the main road where I could then turn right and make quicker progress back to Ullapool and my hotel.

I don’t like walking there and back, however the scenery along this road was just stunning so for once I didn’t mind, as I got to enjoy the view twice and there was very little traffic to bother me. I was also pleased that the weather had been on my side, and far better than had been forecast. I just had to hope the weather was not too bad the next day (the forecast was not promising) as I didn’t want to leave any gaps in my walking that I would have to fill in on a later trip.

(Having had such lovely weather and scenery for this walk and taken what I hoped would be some lovely photos I was rather annoyed when I got home at the end of this trip to find that I was completely unable to read any of the photos at all on the memory card I had used on this day (and the previous ones) no matter what I tried it in. I tried various bits of software to no avail. I feared the photos were lost for good but I found a company in Germany that were able to recover them all for me, so I managed to get them eventually, even if it was several weeks later!)

There is no public transport available for this walk. In theory, the Assynt Dial A Bus could be called if you arrange it in advance. However, I was not able to get hold of them.

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

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326. View point south of Unapool to Nedd.

October 2018.

Having previously abandoned this walk due to the weather on my previous trip to Scotland, back in July, it was time for attempt number 2. This walk would mostly be on the B869 road which I thought had no public transport. However since I was last here in July I had discovered that there was supposedly a “dial a bus” service that would run along this road that I could call. This wasn’t my first day of this trip and I had spent much of the previous day trying to get hold of this bus in order to avoid doing a there and back walk. However each time when I called the number listed I’d either get a message that there was a fault, that my call could not be connected or the mobile I had called was switched off (which was odd, because the number I called was a landline – presumably re-directed to someones mobile). It wasn’t my phone at fault as I could ring other numbers (I tried my own home number) and tried calling both from my hotel (in Ullapool) and when in the area doing other walks. So I had to give up with the idea of being able to use this bus to make this a linear walk and stick with the original plan of a there and back walk.

Just like last time I attempted this walk, the weather forecast for the day was grim, with heavy rain and strong winds forecast all day. Things did not look good and the forecast was the same for the next day too.

This was the last trip I had planned to Scotland in 2018 so if I didn’t do this walk today or tomorrow (my last day of the trip) it would have to wait until next year and I was desperate not to leave a gap (I knew it would niggle me all through the winter). So I set off on the drive to Unapool in the hope the weather would be better when I got there. I left my very grim hotel in Ullapool, stopping briefly at the Tesco there to get lunch (I was amused to be driving from Ullapool to Unapool!). I then drove on to the car park on the A894, around half a mile north of the junction with the B869 just south of Kylesku. This was exactly as far as I had got in my week long trip here back in July. The car park was more a layby really, but it was off the main road, which was the main thing. It had been mostly dry on the drive here, which had taken just over 1 hour, but as I approached, the rain began.

Loch a' Chàirn Bhàin

I switched off the engine, but the car was being buffeted by the winds, so it was still moving about a bit on the suspensions, whilst the wind blew the rain sideways onto the windows. It was not good conditions for walking! I had something of a sense of deja-vu. I opened the door and had to grab it from being blown away and quickly shut it again. I was not keen to walk in such conditions and considered abandoning the walk, again, much as it would frustrate me to do.

Instead I checked on my phone (via Raintoday) and could see a heavy band of rain was moving across, but it looked like the band of rain was moving east and 15 minutes or so it looked like it might stop (to be replaced with showers). I decided to sit it out in the car for a while (which soon steamed up). Briefly blue sky appeared, but quickly more heavy rain moved in. 15 minutes later it was still raining hard, but in another 5 minutes or so, it had eased to drizzle.

I decided to make a start. Even if I only made it to the start of the B869 I could resume next time away from the main A-road (though it is not exactly busy). So I got out and locked the car and set off up the hill away from the car park. What I hadn’t expected was the wind. It was extremely strong, almost gale force and blowing straight at me. In the stronger gusts, I struggled to move at all and sometimes the wind would rapidly gust and change direction to briefly blow from the left or right instead. When it blew from the left it was dangerous because I couldn’t stop myself being blown from the grass verge beside the road into the road. If it happened when a car was coming, it could be serious.

I decided to battle to the top of the hill and as I neared it, it started to rain again, so I was soon soaking wet. Things were not going well, but I battled on. I reached the minor road to the left (a dead-end to Newton) and then the road descended to the B869.

The B869 meets the A894

When I reached it, the rain had eased but remarkably, I was out of the wind and it was not too bad. I knew from my drive yesterday that sections of the B869 are high and over open moorland, so I suspected the wind would hit me up there. But at least for now it was calm.

I considered whether to turn back and move the car here so that I was closer to the car if the weather turned, but decided against doing so (I feared I’d be too tempted not to finish the walk if the car was close by), so continued.

I soon began to climb and as expected the wind got stronger, but this time it never felt dangerously so. A few showers blew across, but the weather did seem to be calming down a bit. On the right I soon reached the first of many lochs along this road, Loch Unapool. It looked fairly shallow, with bits of reeds poking up above the water.

Loch Nedd

Loch Unapool

The road passed close to it’s south side. This part of the road was high and so I was hit by the wind again, but this time it blew diagonally to me, rather than straight in my face (and at least I knew on the way back, it would be behind me).

I knew from the map I was approaching a river valley, and the road would head steeply down into it. What I hadn’t picked up from the map (though I should have, it is quite clear) is that the water drops into the valley quickly, via an impressive waterfall. It was surrounded by beautiful trees now turning to yellows, reds and oranges of autumn. I wished for a blue sky here, which would really have highlighted the contrast. However the sound of the rushing water was impressive. (Sorry for the poor photos, I was using a waterproof camera, which means it doesn’t get destroyed in the rain but it’s not so good on zoom when the light is poor).

The B869

Waterfall beside the B869

Soon I descended steeply with the road into the valley.

Allt a' Ghamhna near Unapool

Allt a' Ghamhna near Unapool

Near the start of the valley, the road crosses the river though the bridge looked to be having problems, already narrow, red and white plastic barriers were attached to the sides of the bridge narrowing the road further. I’m not sure if it was structural problems with the bridge or simply to protect it from people hitting the sides.

The water of the river seemed shallow, but fast flowing with the river bed lined with rocks. It was very pretty and a stone wall beside the road provided a convenient seat once I climbed over it, so I could stop and have a quick rest overlooking the river.

The valley ran for about 1 mile and near the end, another heavy shower came in, so I took the opportunity to head up into woodland to the left of the road to shelter from the worst of it. It soon passed and I headed back to the road. Now I was nearing the coast again and could soon see across the loch. In it is the rocky island of Eilean a’ Ghamhna. I don’t think it has ever been inhabited, it certainly isn’t now and with no boat or ferry it was not possible for me to visit it.

Loch a' Chàirn Bhàin from the B869

The weather was improving now, with some sunshine visible on the hills at the other side of the loch.

The road climbed out of the valley and the headed at a higher level more or less parallel with the coast, albeit it about 200 metres inland of the water. Between this side of the land and the island of Eilean a’ Ghamhna was a fish farm.

Loch a' Chàirn Bhàin from the B869

Loch a' Chàirn Bhàin from the B869

It was the first sign of any sort of human activity I’d seen so far, apart from the road. This was a pretty spot and the road soon started to descend gently to the valley ahead. Here there was a house and a footpath marked on the map. However on the ground there was no sign of this so called path and in any case from the map the path went right to the house and it’s garden so I decided to stick to the road and not try to find this path.

The B869

Instead I descended down into the valley, the road soon turning left (inland). I soon passed the other end of this footpath, but this end was really the private drive leading to this isolated house.

The B869

Just beyond this there were a few small lochans over to the right and the road then turned left and descended steeply into a valley (steep enough it was marked with two chevrons on the map). Of course, what goes down must go up, and it climbed very steeply back up the other side. I decided to stop for a rest before tackling the climb and at the bottom of the valley headed down to sit on some rocks beside this little river. It was a nice place to stop, out of the wind and by the stone bridge. I was also pleased a couple of cars passed at this point. Although a B-road there is very little traffic, I think it averaged about one every 15 minutes!

The B869

So I was pleased that I had timed it so they passed me when not on the road. As I left the valley I saw the wonderful site of some deer ahead. They had seen me and hurried up the heather banks of the moor beside the road. Once they reached the top of the hill they stopped back to look at me, presumably deciding they were now far enough and high enough that I did not pose them a threat.

Deer beside the B869

After a steep climb up the valley the road then levelled out a, with quite a few trees lining the road. Just past a clump of coniferous woodland there was a road to the right. This was marked as a private road leading to a fish farm only. However the map suggested I could follow this for about 500 metres and then turn back on a footpath to join the road further up. This is a little longer, but it’s more coastal. In fact I could continue to the fish farm, but it’s a dead end and I was not sure how far I’d be able to walk along the road before reaching gates to the fish farm. Instead I decided to continue down the road to the edge of Loch Ardbhair. There was a sand and shingle beach here and I could see there were trees on this side which might provide a sheltered spot for a slightly early lunch.

Loch Ardbhair

When I reached the point I though I was closest to the edge of the loch, I headed off the road through the woodland, descending steeply to the waters edge. Here I found a nice rock to sit on, partly moss covered overlooking the bay.

Loch Ardbhair

It was pretty, even if I wasn’t seeing it at it’s best on this grey and wet day. As I sat on the rocks I could hear loud sounds which I suspected were seals, rather than birds, though I never did see them, I heard the loud calls a few times. The tide at the bay was out and rather than sand and shingle suggested on the map, it was mostly mud, rocks and a few areas of marshy grass.

Having had a nice rest, it was time to resume. Sadly once again I could find no sign of the path marked on the map that would have taken me back to the road a little further along, so I reluctantly stuck with the road from the fish farm back up to the “main” road. The road soon climbed onto a more open moorland like section. Whilst still windy, the wind had died down from earlier and the rain held off. The extra height gained however rewarded me with a fine view over to Loch Ardbhair and the numerous little rocky islands that surround it, it was quite beautiful.

Passing Place

Loch Ardbhair

Loch Ardbhair

Looking back I liked the undulation of the road I had been following, you can see the area of coniferous on the left, which mark the point the road from the fish farm joins the main road.

The B869

Onwards, I continued to enjoy fine views to my right over to the coast. I soon reached another small loch on my right, Loch nan Claidhmhnean. This was another pretty lochan which looked like it was probably quite shallow. I didn’t notice any insects around here though as I went to bed that night I found lots of itchy bites on my legs, there must have been mosquito about even if I could not see them.

The B869 near Nedd

Loch nan Claidhmhnean

The road continued over the moorland and then began the gradual descent into the valley that I head reached the previous day.

The river flowing into Loch Nedd

Soon I reached the river and the stone bridge over it where I had walked to the previous day (I had not done this part of the coast in order), from the opposite direction (from Nedd). Normally this would mean I’d reached the end of my walk. Today, it was only the half way point, and I’d now have to walk all the way back!

Before I did that I stepped off the road and down to the river for a rest stop. On the way back I wasn’t going to take any diversions off the road, but just stick to the road back. It was around 5.5 miles back, I estimated. So off I set.

I climbed back up, past the lochan. The going back was easier, the wind was behind me. The forecast for the afternoon had been for more heavy rain, so I kept up a quick pace in the hope I would get back before the worst of it arrived.

The B869 near Loch Nedd

As I headed up over the high part, I could see rain on the other side of the loch, and the islands disappearing into the resulting mist. Things did not look good, but incredibly the heavy rain I could see around seemed to miss me.

The B869

The B869

Soon I approached the valley with the road to the fish farm again. By now the rain had cleared away again, though it was still very grey. I stopped again to enjoy the wonderful views. Even if I hadn’t been able to walk right beside the shore, I could still enjoy the beautiful coast from the road.

I stopped again at the little bridge I had stopped at last time. Going down was easy, but now I faced a steep climb back up. It was a long climb up, but with the wind behind me not too bad and it kept me nice and warm. On reaching the top you can see how the road sweeps around this valley. Soon I was back up high again with fine views over to the coast and the Kylesku bridge ahead – the end is in sight even if it is still several miles away.

I soon passed the valley with the isolated house on it and knew this meant I’d soon be back on the valley section. As I passed the road to the little fish farm here I could here music, the first sound of another human I’d heard all day, other than the occasional passing car. As I descended into the valley I stopped to sit on the wall again, it is worth taking advantage of any dry spot to sit down out of the rain when you can!

As I neared the end of the valley, the rain started. I had hoped it was a shower, but it got quite hard and kept going for the rest of the walk. Still I had been expecting much worse, so it was not as bad as expected. I picked up my speed keen to get back to the dry car. Soon I reached the road sign marking the end of the B869. The last bit I knew would be busier, because it was an A-road, but at least the wind was behind me now. In the end, it was not that much busier and I soon saw the welcome sign of my car in the lay-by car park I had left it several hours earlier. As it was a hire card, I’d planned for a wet walk and left a change of clothes in the car, so I didn’t have to drive back in wet clothes and risk making the seat all wet (and perhaps staining it). So I got them out and attempted to change my trousers – that’s not easy in the back of a Fiat 500 and I was glad there was little passing traffic to see me! Having changed into dry clothing I set off on the slightly over 1 hour drive back to Ullapool. As usual, there was very little traffic and it was a pleasant drive.

I did not have to go far south before the rain ended. By the time I got back to Ullapool, it was dry and looked to have been so for a while, though I could see rain falling further along the Loch, so it wasn’t far away. As I was back a little earlier than previous days it was not yet dark so I had time for a look around Ullapool. It is a pleasant little town in a beautiful location and apart from my hotel being crap, I liked it there a lot.

Ullapool

Ullapool

Ullapool

I was also pleased I’d filled in any gap, so next time I come to this part of Scotland I won’t have to fill in any gaps further north. This walk had begun to feel like something of a nemesis and I was glad I had resisted the temptation to abandon it for a second time!

There is no public transport available for this walk. In theory, the Assynt Dial A Bus could be called if you arrange it in advance. However, I was not able to get hold of them.

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

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Abandoned walk & a trip on Loch Ness

July 2018

This was my last day of a 9 day long trip based in Durness. My plan for today was to continue from the most southerly point I’d previously reached, namely the viewpoint south of Unapool and then follow the A894 and then along the B869 towards Nedd. Today is Sunday so there isn’t any public transport in the area and in any case there isn’t any public transport at all along this part of the B869 at all. So this was going to be a there-and-back walk. Later in the day I had to get to Inverness airport in order to catch a flight back to London Luton airport where I could retrieve my car and drive the rest of the way home.

However the night before the weather had began to change. It became wet and windy. I was camping at the Sango Sands campsite in Durness. As the evening turned into night the weather got worse and it was wet and windy and becoming increasingly stormy. The weather got worse and worse. Now the problem with camping is in a tent rain is quite noisy but it’s nothing compared to the wind. In gale force winds – as it was, every side of the tent will flap about and move. I always work on the basis that the actual size of a tent can be derived by subtracting one from the quoted “man size” of the tent. So mine was a 2 man tent. This means there is in fact room for one person. (OK perhaps technically 2 if they have no luggage and are very good friends)!

With the tent under strain in the strong winds it was impossible to find a position where the sides of the tents weren’t flapping in to me in the wind, with the poles bending under the force. It was impossible to get out of the noise. The net result was that I got literally no sleep at all during the night. Now the fact I was lying down and not moving much meant my tired muscles from the previous days walking had recovered so my legs at least didn’t feel too tired. The problem was more that I was mentally very tired. With no sleep at all I wasn’t sure I was up to doing a walk but I hate changing my plans so I was certainly going to give it a go in the hope that some exercise would soon wake me up.

I had a shower which perked me up a bit and packed away the tent, sleeping bag and so on. I had travelled up here by air which meant I’d managed to fit my tent, camping equipment and a weeks worth of clothes into a single suitcase and hand luggage rucksack. It had been a tight squeeze to get it all in on the way here. It was an even tighter squeeze to get it back in (perhaps because the tent was wet). I literally had to sit on my suitcase to get the zip to close! Eventually I managed to get it fully zipped up and was ready to make a move.

So now ready to leave I began the drive down to Unapool. However with no sleep and a comfortable seat I soon began to feel tired. Driving when tired is very dangerous (both for me and others) so I stopped at Scourie. I hadn’t gone very far but I stopped here and went to the shop for an energy drink and to buy lunch. Now feeling better I continued on to Unapool and parked at the same place I had finished my last walk.

Unfortunately the weather hadn’t improved. It was still wet and windy. The rain was pouring down and I could see it streaming across the hills, coming down at 45-degree angle in the wind. The wind was strong enough I could feel the car bouncing around in the wind. I turned my phone on to check the weather radar (this was my 9th day in Scotland and had no recharging facilities other than the USB port on the car so kept my phone off most of the time to preserve the battery). There was a lot of rain about and it looked like it would be several hours at least before it cleared. I sat in the car for perhaps 15 minutes hoping the weather forecast was wrong. The weather showed no signs of improving so I decided it was better to get walking than sit here all day.

I set off but the wind was very strong and with the rain blowing into my face it was very unpleasant. I could continue like this but it wasn’t especially enjoyable. I couldn’t enjoy the view. In fact I often couldn’t see it at all! I couldn’t take photos due to the heavy rain and I would get splashed each time a car went past. I decided to retreat back to the car and consider the options. In the end it didn’t take me very long to consider. I could do a walk today but the weather was so unpleasant it wouldn’t be enjoyable. I would get soaked doing it. I would also likely get the car (and perhaps the driving seat) soaked in doing so too which might cause problems when I returned it (it is a hire car). I had had no sleep and I had to get myself and the car back to Inverness. That wasn’t great considering how tired I was now. It would surely be worse after walking 10 miles or more! The point is I want to enjoy it and I felt I wasn’t going to enjoy a walk in these conditions and in my state of tiredness.

So instead I decided to abandon my plans for the day and head to back to Inverness and do something else when I got there. A bit of searching and I settled on a plan to take a boat trip on Loch Ness. I had never been there before, the weather forecast for Inverness was far better and a nice relaxing sit down on a boat sounded rather attractive, where I could enjoy the scenery without expending much energy! I was also conscious that I needed to allow plenty of time for the drive considering how tired I was feeling as I was likely going to need and want to stop.

I ended up stopping every 30 minutes or so on the drive back to Inverness for a leg-stretch. I found that after that amount of time my concentration was beginning to wane and I was feeling very tired so I needed to get out and exercise to keep alert, I didn’t want to have or cause an accident so I stopped as soon as I began to feel too tired.

From what I had found the boat trips went from somewhere called Dochgarroch just west of Inverness on the A82. So I followed the A82 through the Inverness and found the boat trips signed and bought a ticket. I was a bit surprised the boat was not already here but I was told when it would arrive and when to be ready to board, at the lock.

The Caledonian Canal near Inverness

IMG_3925

I was a bit surprised as I thought the boat started from here but the lady in the ticket office told me it had actually started in Inverness! So I could have got on in Inverness rather than drive here which would have been better all around but I had made a mistake in reading the information so would settle for here.

Anyway the boat soon arrived and sitting in the fresh air on deck in sunshine, as it was in Inverness, soon perked me up no end.

The scenery here is lovely and there was a commentary throughout (and a proper one too, not recorded).

Loch Ness

I was surprised how quickly the river had widened to this vast and deep loch. It soon felt far more like being at sea, even though I was inland.

Loch Ness

Loch Ness

There was a number of stately homes visible from the boat alongside the loch. I’m afraid I don’t remember the names of them, even though I was told.

Aldourie Castle, Loch Ness

Cruising on Loch Ness

Cruising on Loch Ness

It was nice to be able to enjoy an ever-changing view without having to expend any effort in achieving it.

Loch Ness

Soon the boat had reached Urquhart Bay and the beautiful ruins of Urquhart Castle.

Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness

It locked stunning and the boat stopped here before beginning the journey back. It was possible to get off here and visit the castle and return on a later boat. Unfortunately the later boat was too late for me to get back to Inverness Airport so I had booked to stay on the same boat and return back to Dochgarroch.

Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness

I would love to visit the castle (I love castles) – but it will have to wait for another time.

Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle viewed from Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness

That said it looked pretty busy, it being the middle of summer. I hadn’t been used to seeing so many people having spent a week in the northern highlands.

On the way back the captain warned us the water would be rough as were heading against the tide and if you stayed out on the lower deck at the front of the boat you would get wet. I did stay out at the front. He was quite right. I did get wet! Still I didn’t mind, it was quite refreshing.

Loch Ness

Loch Ness

The loch was reminded me a little of some of the Fjords in Norway with the high sides to the loch, but of course it is formed by the same process (glaciers) so perhaps not too surprising. Though not as spectacular as Norway it was still beautiful.

Loch Ness

As we headed back into the narrower Caledonian Canal (or is it the River Ness?) the water became calmer again.

Bona Lighthouse, Loch Ness

Loch Ness

The Caledonian Canal

Soon I was back at Dochgarroch.

The Caledonian Canal at Dochgarroch

The Caledonian Canal at Dochgarroch

It had been a most enjoyable trip and just what I needed after a week of walking and a sleepless night. I was soon back at the car for the trip back to Inverness. I stopped at the retail park just west of Inverness Airport for fuel and an early dinner before heading on to the airport to return the car (which fortunately, all went smoothly with no problems found).

I was glad to get through security at the airport for a sit down at the airport. Of course it was a longer sit down than planned, since the flight was an hour or so late, though this was only actually announced a few minutes before the scheduled departure. I don’t think I’ve ever caught this particular flight when it has been on time! The flight was run by Easyjet and the problem is budget airlines like this seem to write their schedule on the assumption that a plane can leave again 30 minutes after it arrives. They very rarely achieve a 30 minute turn-around, which means the plane gets later and later during the day so the later in the day the scheduled time of a flight is the more likely it is to be delayed.

It did not help that the staff at Inverness had decided to be very strict with the hand luggage insisting everyone had to put their bags in the sizer and pay extra if it did not fit. So I had to take my coat and jumper out of my bag and wear them in case they made my bag too big, which was a pain. At last we were on board and heading back to Luton and I did manage to get to sleep on the flight for a little while. Unfortunately I had to wait for my suitcase on arrival this time (normally I travel hand-luggage only) but it did eventually arrived undamaged so I could head back to the long-stay car park in order to get my car and drive home.

It was around 1am when I did get home. However it had been a lovely trip. I was pleased with what I had achieved on this trip – today was the only day I hadn’t walked and I had managed to get further than expected on this trip due to my successful walk around Cape Wrath in a single day. Ending with a lovely day out on Loch Ness had been a nice way to end the trip. I was however certainly glad of a soft bed that wasn’t flapping about in the wind when I got home!

I would be back up to Scotland to continue my coastal walk later that year.

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325. Kylesku to view point south of Unapool

July 2018

This walk is a short one because I completed it after my visit to Handa Island. As it was still early afternoon when I got back from Handa Island I decided to do a short walk before heading back to Durness.

From my planned walks I was using the (summer-only) bus to do linear walks as far south as Kylesku. After that I’d be following the B869, most of which doesn’t have a bus service so for that part I’d be doing there and back walks.  So I thought I’d fill the gap between Kylesku and the beginning of the B869.

I drove down the coast and parked in the car park at the view point at the south end of the Kylesku bridge (the bus dropped me at the entrance to this before).

Kylesku bridge

An information sign in the car park informed me that a ferry service used to run here, introduced in 1948 with turntable ferries initially, later replaced by a roll-on-roll-off ferry. The ferry, surprisingly, used to be free but only operated during day light hours. If you arrived after the ferry had finished for the day it was a 100 mile drive around, via Lairg. Wow. So over 2 hours driving just to cover 100 metres!

From the end of the car park a pleasant path heads down through woodland beside the loch bring me down beside the old ferry slipway and beside the Kylesku hotel.

Woodland at Kylesku

Kylesku

Loch Glencoul near Kylesku

The hotel looked quite nice and outside there was a hut advertising boat trips around the loch to see waterfalls and seals. It sounded nice, however I had missed the last trip of the day so I was not able to do that. I followed the road up past toilets and stopped to admire the view from the car park. It’s a beautiful place despite the mist hanging over the hills.

Loch Glencoul near Kylesku

Loch Glencoul near Kylesku

Loch Glencoul near Kylesku

Loch Glencoul near Kylesku

I soon reached the end of this dead-end road which is where the majority of the buildings that make up Kylesku are located. Now I turned left onto the A894 and began following it south. The road here has a lane in each direction (a rarity in this part of Scotland, even for an A-road) which meant the traffic was faster and with no pavement I had to take care.

Right beside the road was pretty Lochan Dubh and a road beside it leading to some self catering lodges.

Loch Glencoul near Kylesku

The road now began to climb away from the loch. It was clear that had been a lot of engineering to build this road, as the rock either side had been cut away to create the road.

As I reached the top and the road began to level out I reached the tiny village of Unapool (not to be confused with Ullapool … I wonder how many make that mistake in their SatNav!). The view from the road at the top of the village is lovely though the number of ruined buildings I can see above the beach suggests it was once larger (perhaps fishermans cottages?).

Loch Glencoul near Kylesku

Loch Glencoul near Kylesku

Loch Glencoul near Unapool

Despite it’s small size the place boasts a rock shop and museum. Just above the rock shop a little parking area gave me a better view down to the water of Loch Glencoul and I could see new trees had been planted on the headland just below the road.

Loch Glencoul near Unapool

Loch Glencoul near Unapool

This isn’t actually the open sea here. This is the water that flows under the Kylesku bridge, so i’m facing a sort of inland coast!

Loch Glencoul near Unapool

The road now rounds the corner and soon passes an old quarry on the right. It’s clearly not being used for a long time but the cliff face is scarred by the historic quarrying. Rounding the next bend I can now see another tiny settlement below the road. This is Newton. There are only 4 or 5 houses here so it’s a hamlet.

Looking up Loch Glencoul I can see a few little islands. It’s a pretty place and it would be nice to take the boat trip around it.

Loch Glencoul near Unapool

Loch Glencoul near Unapool

Loch Glencoul near Unapool

A short distance ahead I come to a parking area with an information sign. I still have about 500 metres to go before the start of the B869. I intended to walk as far as that, but places to park are not so easy to find in this part of Scotland so I decide to make this my “turn back” point instead because I know I will be able to park here, without obstructing the road, next time.

However first I have some business to attend to. A bench is located beside the layby with the words “please take the time to sit and enjoy the view stop” carved into it. I feel I must oblige. It is indeed a lovely view – but also a little chilly to be hanging around for too long.

Seat at Unapool

Unapool

Unfortunately a shower blows in and I quickly decide that it’s time to leave! It’s a rather wet walk back to the car at Kylesku.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk, if you prefer not to walk there and back.

Durness bus route 804 : Kinlochbervie – Rhiconich – Laxford Bridge – Scourie – KyleskuUnapool – Skaig Bridge – Lochinver (for connection to/from Ullapool). One bus per day each way, Tuesday and Thursday only, from May to end of October only.

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324. Kylesku to Scourie

July 2018

Today promised to be a rather lazier day than usual largely because I was not starting my walk until gone midday. This is because there was only a single daily bus between Scourie and Kylesku (and even then only in the school summer holidays) and it does not depart until nearly midday. The alternative was to take the bus back in the evening but that was also later than I’d like and suggested a lot of waiting about. So I decide to go for the morning bus to Kylesku and walk back to Scourie. (Note that the bus now runs for more of the year).

I left Durness, where I was staying, later than usual and drove to Scourie where I parked near the shop, from which I bought my lunch from the day. I spent much of the morning sitting on the beach or the sea wall at the back of the beach. It was a pleasant enough beach, mostly pebbles, but with a bit of sand too.

Scourie

Scourie

When it was near time for the bus I headed to the bus stop. The timetable at the bus stop hadn’t been updated in at least 10 years (from the date on it) and it was a shame to see how much better the bus service used to be compared with now. However at least there was a service at all, as the alternative would be that I’d have to walk there and back.

The bus arrived on time and the driver was very chatty, telling me about the area. It would be the same driver I had to take me from Durness to Eriboll later in the week (but which I’ve already written up) so we knew that we would meet again. He dropped me off at the south side of the Kylesku bridge.

Kylesku

Kylesku is a tiny place really. The village, such as it is, is along a single road which has a shop, toilet and hotel along it. The hotel looked pretty nice and there were also boat trips operating from the slipway in front of it, taking you around Loch Glendhu, which the sign suggested has a number of pretty waterfalls.

Having reached the end of the road I was pleased to find there was a footpath from here back up to the Kylesku bridge, to save me doubling back along the road. The bridge is an impressive structure.

The Kylesku Bridge

Made of concrete it is flat but still manages to look quite good I think. I’m certainly glad of it’s existence because it crosses a narrowing in Loch Glendhu and without it, it would be a very long walk around.

The bridge has a pavement which means I can relax as I cross the bridge and enjoy the views, rather than dodge the traffic (as this is an A-road). I took a number of pictures from the bridge.

The Kylesku Bridge

The Kylesku Bridge

View from the Kylesku Bridge

View from the Kylesku Bridge

A plaque on the bridge informed me that it was opened by Her Majesty The Queen on the 8th August 1984 and replaced a ferry service that previously operated. In fact at the base of the cliffs I could see what could well be the remains of the old ferry slipway.

The Kylesku Bridge

Having crossed I’m now on a piece of land called Garbh Eilean. I might be terrible at Scottish Gaelic, but I’ve learnt enough to know that Eilean means island. Well it isn’t anymore, but it presumably once was.

The road sweeps left, on this once island giving a good view back at the impressive bridge.

The Kylesku Bridge

I can also see some lovely mountains, with the tops going in and out of the clouds. After the corner, the road climbs up through a cutting, presumably cut into the rock and offers lovely views back over Loch Glendhu.

The A894 near Kylesku

As soon as it has climbed it begins to descend again now to the “causeway” which presumably once separated Garb Eilean from the mainland. Again, it offers lovely views of the loch.

Near Kylesku

Near Kylesku

Near Kylesku

Near Kylesku

Near Kylesku

Near Kylesku

Once on the “mainland” the road begins to climb again, away from the loch but I get some final glimpses of the loch as I climb up, the extra height meaning I can now see much further up the loch.

Near Kylesku

Near Kylesku

I soon pass the road the leads down to the slipway, presumably where the ferry once ran. There are a few buildings down there too, perhaps another part of the village of Kylesku.

Near Kylesku

Now it’s a bit of a plod along the main road. Mostly this is better than I expected since for much of the time there is short-ish grass or gravel beside the road so I can get out of the way of there is a lot of traffic.

The road soon levels out a bit at a view point. A footpath leads from here to a place called Galascaig. However the path is a dead-end and ends just before the shore so I decide to keep to the main road as I don’t think there is much to see.

The road takes me past Loch Creag an Eich on the right, a little loch with lots of plants (lily of some sort, I think), suggesting the water is shallow.

Near Kylesku

Climbing some more the road soon reaches some woodland with glimpses down to a loch which has two names (according to the map). Loch Allt na h-Airbhe or Loch Yucal. I’ll go with Loch Yucal as I stand a slightly better chance of saying it correctly.

Near Kylesku

Near Kylesku

The woodland is part of Duartmore Forest and soon is on both sides of the road. However it looks to be smaller than it once was judging by the amount of it that has been felled beside the road.

I stop for a drink beside the road and am surprised when something very nearby moves. It turns out to be a toad. Not something I expected to find here.

Toad beside the A894

Through the woodland the road descends again down to Loch Duartmore. Here I have a choice. I can stick to the A894. Or I can follow the old A894. At some point the road here has been improved (perhaps when the Kylesku bridge opened) but the old road is at least partly in place. Although actually a little further inland than the main road it’s safer on a traffic free-route than an A-road and I am hoping for a break from the traffic.

In fact the old road goes through a small industrial area (a fish farm, I think) and then splits. To the right it’s a private road into the fish farm but the route of the old public road is off to the left. It’s clearly a route little travelled as it now has grass growing down the middle.

This soon reaches the old bridge over Loch Duartmore, fortunately still in place. Despite the noise from the fish farm, it’s an idyllic spot with a beautiful view.

Duartmore

I can see the more recent bridge on what is now the A894 across the loch. In fact the bridge crosses a stream that flows between Loch Yucal and Loch Duartmore. From Loch Duartmore it becomes the Duartmore Burn which soon reaches the sea.

A bit up from the bridge and away from the fish farm I stop for lunch, as I’ve been going over an hour and want somewhere away from the traffic (another reason I opted for this route).

Near Duartmore

After lunch I continue on the old road, which becomes increasingly rough and climbs before descending and soon heads back to Loch a Mhinidh and just beyond, the A894 again.

Near Duartmore

A gate across the old road prevents traffic using it now but I can get past it on foot and back onto the A894. Half a mile further up the road I have my eye on another diversion. Over to the left (this time nearer the coast) I can see a track leaves the A894 and follows the north side of a stream and turns north to meet a public road at Duartbeg which continues north back to the A894. I am hoping to take this loop instead, as it’s closer to the coast and again gets me away from the traffic. I suspect it is another old part of the A894, largely abandoned after re-alignment of that road.

Once again as I reach it there is a gate across the old road but I am pleased to see a prominent sign “Walkers Welcome. No unauthorised vehicles”. This is good news as it suggests I will be able to get through (and am unlikely to encounter much traffic). Once again the road soon has grass growing down the middle.

The road beside the Duartmore Burn

Soon there is another little bridge and further down a sort of embankment. It turns out there is another small fishing business down here, perhaps a small fish farm. The maintained part of the road ends at a body of water called Bagh Chalbha which is really part of the open sea. It’s nice to see the sea again – this is meant to be a coastal walk after all!

Loch na Creige Ruaidhe

Loch na Creige Ruaidhe

From here the old road turns to the right. It was clear the part I had been walking was still maintained for access. It is very clear that the part I am on now isn’t!

Disused road north of Duartmore

In fact the road is almost entirely overgrown, with just a tiny thin strip of tarmac in the middle that is still walkable, but even that is quite overgrown as you can see above.

Despite the tiny bit of tarmac there are still the remains of old “passing place” signs along it.

Disused road north of Duartmore

I continued north along the road which soon ran along the east side of Loch Duartbeg. A pretty little loch.

Disused road north of Duartmore

Just past this I reached the other end of the old road and emerged via a gate back onto the public road. Now the road was wide enough for a car again and soon I passed Loch Mhuilinn on the left and shortly after Loch a Chreagain Daraich on the right. This latter loch in particular was very pretty and I could just get a good view of it through a gap in the trees.

Near Duartbeg

Near Duartbeg

Near Duartbeg

Sadly this road soon turned away from the loch and began to climb again, back to the A894. This passes by the narrow Loch an Obain on the left this one a small sea loch.

Near Duartbeg

Beyond it I could see the huge number of islands out in the sea. They are all uninhabited and most are tiny, but it is really beautiful.

Near Duartbeg

Now I was back to dodging traffic on the A894 but despite this, it is a very scenic road and soon I was passing another loch on the right. This one is Loch Bad nam Mult.

Near Duartbeg

The road climbed past the loch and soon I was over the brow of the hill and descending into Badcall Bay. Here it looked as if it might be possible to follow a path west around the north side of the bay to the public road at Upper Badcall and follow that back north to the A894.

Heading north up the road I couldn’t see the path they all looked like private drives. I could try and walk along and see but I decided to take the easier option and stick with the main road. This took me past Loch Chreagain Theth on the right, another shallow loch with lily pads on it.

Near Duartbeg

Rounding the corner I was alongside Loch an Daimh Beag.

Near Duartbeg

Then there was the road to Upper Badcall on the left and immediately another loch, Loch an Daimh Mor.

Near Scourie

Near Scourie

Soon I had another dead-end road down to the left. A church was marked at the end but it was only short and didn’t get to the shore. The farm along it had huge piles of junk everywhere and I couldn’t see the church so I stuck to the main road.

Near Scourie

I was soon rounding the corner into Scourie, or the edge of it.

Near Scourie

Here there is a school and rounding the corner I soon came down to Scourie Bay. This was prettier than when I was here earlier, now with some sand visible (though the map shows it as entirely sand!). Scourie is a lovely village.

The beach at Scourie

The beach at Scourie

The beach at Scourie

The beach at Scourie

The beach at Scourie

The beach at Scourie

Now I had just a short walk around the back of this beach to the centre of the village, where I had parked earlier. (No I don’t know why there is a black area at the top right of these photos, but it had gone the next time I used the camera).

Scourie

Scourie

I knew when setting out on the walk today it was going to be mostly A-road walking which I was not especially looking forward to. So I was pleased I had been able to find a couple of diversions off it, onto part of the old route of the road which gave a break from the traffic. It turned out to be far more pleasant than expected with some lovely views and lots of little lochs and lochans to pass on the way and some views of the coast, albeit it often at a distance. Both Kylesku and Scourie are very pleasant little villages too, both set in stunning locations. This had been a good walk, quite relaxing by the standards of this trip and today with easy route finding which was a bonus.

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

Durness bus route 804 : Kinlochbervie – Rhiconich – Laxford Bridge – Scourie – Kylesku – Skaig Bridge – Lochinver (for connection to/from Ullapool). One bus per day each way, Tuesday and Thursday only, from May to end of October only.

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

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323. Handa Island

July 2018

I made a decision on reaching the North Coast of Scotland that to visit every island would take so much time I might never finish the mainland. Instead I decided to concentrate on the mainland, with the intention of coming back to walk around most or all of the Scottish Islands. However almost as soon as I had made an exception, I will walk round islands where I can walk around them in a day. The previous day I had passed the quay at Tarbet where you could take a boat over to Handa Island, which is a small island and hence meets my criteria of being walk-able in a day. . Yesterday I had just missed the last ferry, which was disappointing.

When I arrived back at Durness yesterday there was an unusual cloud formation and I suspected that meant the weather was breaking. Sure enough, this morning it was wet. I set off for Scourie first, stopping at the shop there (and rather regretting that I hadn’t stayed in the campsite at Scourie, which was much nicer than the one at Durness and, importantly, quieter). Having hung around Scourie for a while, I headed on to the minor road leading out to Tarbet. I parked at the car park just a bit above the ferry departure point. It was raining and there was no one about and I wasn’t sure the ferry would run for one person.

Whilst sitting in the car contemplating what to do I was surprised to see the Durness Bus vehicle come down the road and stop. Passengers got out and headed to the ferry hut. I decided to head down to see if this meant I could get over to the island. I was in luck. It turns out this bus was being used by the same walking group I had met previously who managed to get ahead of me going over to Cape Wrath and were also going over to Handa Island today.

I joined them and we were soon donned up with lifejackets. I was the only person not a member of the HF Holidays walking group, which was slightly awkward, as everyone else knew each other, though several of them also remembered me from Cape Wrath and were interested to hear how I got on, given I was doing double the distance they were covering that day.

We had to wear life jackets for the boat trip over to the island, which as usual I made a mess of strapping up! Once done we set off for the short ferry crossing over the Sound oi Handa to the island. The boat used was a small Rib boat. Arrival was onto a beach where we disembarked via a metal “slipway” that was put onto the front of the boat and onto the beach were then met by one of the guides who lives on the island.

She walked us up over the beach to the little visitor centre hut.

Handa Island visitor centre

Here we paid our admission fees and got a map of the island. We had to stop for a talk giving the usual stuff about not diverting off the path and where the toilets were, what to see, where to go and also her mobile number in case of difficulties (not that most phones worked here).

Much of the path was on board-walk. Now we were then left to our own devices. The ferries returned subject to demand, there was no fixed schedule. So the advice was to head back to the hut when you were ready to leave and the ferry would be called once there were enough people. The walking group had a slightly awkward conversation over who would like to leave when and having to with the majority. I left them to it, since I was free to come back when I wanted and planned my route around the island. From the map I could see it was not possible to walk all of the coast, but it was possible to walk around 2/3 of it.

Handa Sound from Handa Island

Handa Sound

Heading away from the ferry and the hut the path climbed away from the shore briefly, soon reaching the remains of the old village. This was last inhabited in 1847 so there is little left, as it was uninhabited after the potato famine. Only the base of the walls can be seen now.

Handa Island former village

Handa Island former village

I continued ahead following the suggested anti-clockwise way around the island heading for the Great Stack. The path soon became board walked (there is a lot of board walk on the island!).

Handa Island

It headed past scrubby grass and heather. Now I had gained height I was back in the mist so visibility was limited. The next point on the coast is the Great Stack on the north coast, which was around 2km away.

Handa Island

Nearing the coast I found myself being dived on by the Great Skuas, as we had been warned might happen. They never actually touched my head, but came close and I was glad when I was past the area they were defending. Here is one of the angry birds!

Handa Island

Soon I reached the coast and was impressed. I hadn’t expected to find such high cliffs on this island. They are around 100 metres above sea level and vertical. On the cliffs themselves are numerous ledges packed with nesting birds.

Handa Island

One of the birds that can be seen on the island is puffins, and I was hoping to see some. Sadly none were about on the cliff tops that I could see and visibility of the ledges below was too poor to make them out.

Handa Island

Still there were hundreds of other birds to be seen, and it was a rather beautiful and impressive site. I continued west to soon reach the top of a deep rocky inlet. The cliffs here were out of bounds due to puffin nesting. However I could appreciate the stunning scenery, even if most of it was hidden in the mist.

I sat on a rock by the cliffs for a while in the hope the mist would clear. I did, briefly, spot a puffin, but not enough to get a photograph on. I turned left and continue around the coast on the good path. Mostly board walk and short grass. Further around the mist began to lift and I got a much better view of all the birds nesting. Guillemots were the most common that I saw. There must have been thousands.

Guillemots on Handa Island

Handa Island

As I headed west, the mist began to clear to reveal the ledges and stunning cliffs and caves of the north west coast of the island. It was much more impressive than I had imagined. I sat and watched them for a while.

Handa Island

As the walking group began to catch me up, I continued on. The cliffs now dropped in height and I was out of the mist. This meant I had a good view of the west coast of the island and it’s beautiful cliffs, now getting lower.

Handa Sound from Handa Island

The path now was mostly stone rather than board walk and a little harder going, but still easier than what passes for a footpath in this part of Scotland!

Boulder Beach, Handa Island

Handa Island

I soon reached the north west point of the island, Poll Ghlup. The path continues on the cliff tops here along this spectacular coast.

Handa Island

The coast of Handa Island

The coast of Handa Island

I soon reached what is almost another island, Meall a’Bhodha. Here the headland was low and narrow with just a thin strip of land keeping it connected to the rest of the island. Sadly access is not permitted to the end.

The coast of Handa Island

Beyond this I came to a few rocky inlets, which looked like they might once have been a small harbour, the cliffs seemed very straight, but I think it is natural. Out to sea, I was lucky to spot a seal.

The north coast of Handa Island

The north coast of Handa Island

Seal at Handa Island

I was really enjoying myself now, with the abundance of wildlife to be found on and around this beautiful island the real highlight. I soon came across a sheltered little bay. Here there were rocks that were dry and I was out the wind, making it warmer. I sat down and began my lunch, but typically soon found myself surrounded by the walking group who wanted to chat. When I had finished my lunch, I made my excuses and continued on.

I continued to spot a seal or two just off the coast of the island. Soon I reached Boulder Bay. From here the walk continued a little back from the sea edge and no almost at sea level, as I had descended from the high cliffs and the south and west of the island is much lower. Whilst not right on the coast the views were spectacular, with a couple of beautiful sandy beaches visible and the thin sound that separates the island from the mainland soon coming into view. The mainland too still had mist on the top of the cliffs.

Handa Island

Handa Island

Heading back to the hut I was re-assured to see other people here now that were neither the wardens nor the walking group. I had become a bit worried no one else had come over to the island apart from me and the walking group, so I’d have to leave with them and they might all be waiting. The presence of other people was good because it meant I could now be more flexible with timings. I decided to walk around the island a second time, now that the weather had improved!

Heading back on the path to the Great Stack.

Handa Island

This was now far busier, so I had to pass several people on the way and once again upset the Great Skuas.

This time the mist had gone, and I was so glad. I could now really appreciate the stunning scenery of this island, it was far far better than I had expected.

Handa Island

Handa Island

Handa Island

Great Stack, Handa Island

It was really stunning, and I took plenty of photographs.

Handa Island

The cliffs were some of the most impressive I had seen. Now I could also appreciate the wildlife, now I could see it and this time managed to get a brief photo of a puffin.

Puffin on Handa Island

There weren’t many, but there were some at least. This time I took things more slowly now I could see the amazing wildlife. There were so many birds, I hadn’t seen so many in one place since Flamborough Head on the Yorkshire coast.

Guillemots on Handa Island

Guillemots on Handa Island

Great Stack, Handa Island

Not only was the site of all these birds so impressive, but so was the noise!

Handa Island

After taking in the views I had missed earlier, I continued on the path back around the west coast.

The coast of Handa Island

The mist was beginning to clear on the mainland now, too. In fact I could soon see impressively tall rock stack at the Point of Stoer, which I’d see on a future walk (but not on this trip). I was looking forward to it already.

Boulder Beach, Handa Island

View from Handa Island

This time when I reached the wooden hut I stopped and chatted with other visitors and the warden. We had enjoyed ourselves and most people had spotted the puffins. It was a nice relaxing sit and when the warden deemed there were enough people for the ferry to run (half a dozen or so), she radioed for the ferrymen to come, whilst we were taken back to the beach.

Soon the ferry arrived and took me back to the island. After a quick visit to the toilets I headed up the small hill back to my car.

Hand Island is a lovely island to visit. The scenery is extremely varied but really the stars of the show are the wildlife and especially the birds around the stack. It is a very impressive sight and sound and I had a wonderful time visiting the island. I was certainly very glad that I hadn’t missed it out.

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

The Handa Island ferry runs during the summer months generally from early April to late September or early October, subject to the weather, Monday – Saturday. Boats typically run on demand (subject to sufficient passengers) between 9am and 2pm on the days of operation.

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

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