339. Aultbea to Laide

July 2019

This was the first day of my second trip of 2019 to the Scottish Highlands. I planned this trip back in October 2018. Despite this the only hotel I could find was the Caledonian Hotel in Ullapool. Again. There is a hotel in Gairloch but it wasn’t available for the full duration of this trip. I had also become frustrated by the fact that the Easyjet flight I usually book to get me home is always late, so I had booked with British Airways from Heathrow instead as they ran flights at times that were suitable to get a walk in on the first and last day.

That went well, because 3 weeks later I got this email.

ba2

It does irritate me intently that British Airways sells tickets for flights before they seem to have established the timetable (this has happened so many times to me) especially as they were at pains to point out I had booked a non-refundable fare so if I wanted to change the time or date of my travel I’d have to pay the difference in fare, plus a £60 “admin” fee. Of course, if British Airways decide to change the time instead, I can’t bill them a £60 admin fee!

Well there was no way I was going to get any walking in if I wasn’t going to get there until after 8pm. So I asked for a refund and booked again with Easyjet from Luton, as I had before. Of course by then the prices had gone up and I’d already booked a hire car with Avis so I kept that booking.

I was finding booking and planning my trips to the coast was becoming increasingly challenging, but at least after this I had no further booking changes.

My flight from Luton was on time and so I headed to Avis desk to collect my hire car. I had apparently qualified for “Avis Preferred” membership by taking flights on Norwegian Airlines to Norway and collecting points, even though I hadn’t hired a car for any of these trips (This was in the days when you could travel abroad without the threat of quarantine or being forced to stick things up your nose and charged for the privilege).

The main advantage this gives is I could go straight to the “preferred” counter at the desk and pick up the keys without the usual barrage of questions about what optional extras I’d like to buy (none). I had also been upgraded to a Citroen C3 which had some bits of rubber stuck on the sides. Not sure what that was all about.

I drove from there to Aultbea which took a little over 90 minutes and I parked on the road by the shop.

Aultbea

Aultbea

Aultbea is on the shores of Loch Ewe, with the Isle of Ewe just off-shore. An information sign told me that Loch Ewe was home of the Arctic Convoys during World War II and was selected because it is remote, a very deep loch and has direct access to the Atlantic. In total during the war, 481 merchant ships left Loch Ewe, bound for Russia. Fortunately that is all long in the past now.

My plan for today was to follow the road was to round the peninsula of Rubha Mor along it’s west coast (facing Loch Ewe) to the top at Greenstone Point and then down the east coast, facing Gruinard Bay to Mellon Udrigle (yes, this really is a place) and back along the road to Laide.

Unfortunately there was no path linking the dead-end roads on either side of the peninsula so I had to hope I’d be able to find my own way. On the positive, the map suggested the area was not especially hilly, but there were many lochs, which likely meant it was going to be wet and boggy.

It was a grey, overcast day and the road soon took me round the corner to overlook another, quieter bay with the Isle of Ewe visible in the loch.

Aultbea

Aultbea

Aultbea

This island is inhabited, by a single family, so it’s not possible to visit. The beach was pebble and I could soon see the houses of the next village, Buailnaluib ahead.

Buailnaluib

One of the houses here had a very odd artwork in the garden. Well since she seemed to be taking my picture, I’d oblige by doing likewise!

Near Ormiscaig

Buailnaluib merged into Ormiscaig and here the road now left the loch shore with houses on the left whose large gardens went right down to the coast. One seemed to contain some stones, perhaps the remains of an old stone circle?

Near Ormiscaig

Near Ormiscaig

I continued along the road through to Mellon Charles and the end of the road.

Near Mellon Charles

At the end of the road a track continued through a gate so I followed it. It soon headed up to the top of a hill. This offered good views back where I had come from. However the problem was where to go now!

Near Mellon Charles

The coast near Mellon Charles

I asked some locals for advice. They were no help.

Near Mellon Charles

Northwards, where I wanted to go it was a very steep drop, way too steep to consider trying to get back down there.

Near Greenstone Point

So instead I had to turn inland until the gradient on my left gradually eased and I judged that I could get down.

Near Greenstone Point

I soon found a place where the hill was shallow enough I could get down and headed back to the coast.

The coast near Mellon Charles

Once down the gradient was less and I made my way over the rough ground aiming for a place called Slaggan.

The coast near Mellon Charles

A track runs from the east side of the peninsula down to here though I believe Slaggan itself is abandoned, but I hoped the track would still exist as it might prove useful if I was unable to make my way further north.

I soon reached Slaggan which has a pretty sandy beach.

Slaggan beach

I wasn’t seeing it at it’s best in the weather today but it was still a beautiful remote and sandy beach and I couldn’t resist going down onto the sands. A stream flows out onto the beach but it was shallow enough on the sand I could use the pebbles in the stream to cross it and keep dry feet.

Slaggan beach

From the back of the beach I made my way up to the top of the grassy cliffs.

Slaggan beach

Once up the land levelled out and I could continue broadly along the top of these grassy cliffs, which soon dropped back almost to sea level.

The coast near Mellon Charles

Areas of rocks sticking up provided sections of brief firm ground to walk on.

The coast near Mellon Charles

The coast near Mellon Charles

I soon reached a small lochan right on the coast (un-named on the map). However it was very windy so I didn’t want to linger, you can tell by the size of the waves on this small loch!

The coast near Mellon Charles

North from here I could see there were again low cliffs, rockier this time so I followed the top of this at times on rough ground at other times following a “sort of” path.

The coast near Mellon Charles

As I headed north I passed a couple of pretty pebble and rock beaches. This is a remote stretch of coast and I wondered how many people had seen these beaches before me. Not many, I suspect.

The coast near Mellon Charles

The coast near Mellon Charles

The path at times improved and became quite obvious, I suspect created by sheep but it was proving easier than expected.

The coast near Mellon Charles

Ahead and over to my right I could see the loch of Loch na Doine Duinne.

Loch na Doire Duinne near Slaggan

This was a fair bit larger and I could see the map showed the stream from the loch flowed out to the coast. I was a bit worried about crossing this but it turned out to be easy enough, I could just step over on the rocks.

Burn from Loch na Doire Duinne near Slaggan

This was the last main hazard according to the map between me and Greenstone Point, the northern tip of this peninsula. The ground was a bit more level from here on and I was able to go the coastal side of the few lochs ahead and soon spotted the end of the headland, marked with a cairn. I was impressed by the amount of lichens on the side of this rock, it was almost hairy!

Greenstone Point

The coast west of Opinan

I continued east as best I could heading on the north side of Loch an Dun-chairn and soon reached a narrow rocky bay.

The coast west of Opinan

The coast west of Opinan

The cliffs here looked very straight and there were stones piled up to form a wall, partly broken. Was this some sort of little harbour or perhaps a quarry? The map didn’t show anything but it was clearly something man made.

East from here I could now see quite a way and see the land flattened ahead of me.

Near Opinan

Near Opinan

I continued to make my own way passing the bay at Camas an Lochain. Here as I neared the waters edge I could hear strange sounds. Looking closely I saw objects in the water. Seals heads!

Camas an Lochain near Opinan

Well the noise was from the seals and they were all staring at me! I guess I had provided some interest for them or perhaps disturbed them approaching, but it was lovely to see them.

I was now close to the end of the road at Opinan but the rain had started again.

The coast near Opinan

I was heading over the rough ground, as I had been all day, walking over some heather. Suddenly and without warning my left foot disappeared into a hole that meant I was into the ground above my knee whilst my right foot stayed at ground level. As I had not seen this hole at all (hidden by the undergrowth) I had been walking along and this had comes as a complete shock. This caused me to fall and the way I fell I kind of expected to hear an ominous crack as I broke something. Fortunately there wasn’t any crack but I suspect I’d have done some sort of injury, falling like that. I extracted my lag back onto solid ground. Well I wasn’t in a huge amount of pain and I could still put weight on it, but my ankle was quite painful. However it wasn’t impossible to walk and if I kept moving it didn’t hurt too much, more of an ache but I could feel as soon as I stopped for any length of time it began to hurt more.

I was lucky not to have done any major damage it seems and I was at least close to the road so I could get help if needed. I continued over the uneven ground, now taking much more care, to the road with no further incident. Well at least from here on I’d be on roads so no risk of falling down holes I hoped (pot-holes won’t be that deep, surely?!). I brushed the mud on my trousers away and tried to move my leg in different directions. A bit painful but everything seemed to be working as it should. I hoped I’d be able to get to Laide anyway but I was worried about the rest of this trip, it was only my first day, after all.

As I reached the road I could see the marshy bay of Allt Loch a Choire ahead. The scenery was taking my mind away from my painful leg, which was good.

Allt Loch Choire near Opinan

I continued on the minor road trying to be as gentle as possible with my left leg as possible. Over in the field was an abandoned caravan. It did puzzle me who put it here and why, there seem to be a surprising number of caravans around crofts in the Highlands.

Near Mellon Udrigle

Over in the woodland behind a fence I soon passed what I assume is a childs play house, it looked as if it had been a real labour of love for someone.

Near Mellon Udrigle

I followed the road to a T-junction at Mellon Udrigle. Here the map suggested there was a nice beach just ahead. If I hadn’t hurt my leg I’d have gone to take a look but I didn’t want to leave the smooth surface of the road for the rough sand, as that might make things worse and prevent me finishing the walk.

So I turned right and the road headed south, almost arrow straight at times and soon passed beside Loch na Beiste on my right. It was quite a big loch, with the wind creating waves on the surface.

Loch na Beiste near Achgarve

Loch na Beiste near Achgarve

Just past this I came to the other end of the track to Slaggan. The sign indicated this was 5km away (oddly signs in Scotland are often in KM) and that the track was unsuitable for motors except rough terrain vehicles. That suggests it’s a fairly decent track to walk on at least, all the way if at least some kind of vehicle can get along it.

Path to Slaggan from Achgarve

I continued along the road into Udrigle where the road joined the side of Gruinard Bay.

The coast near Achgarve

I could see Gruinard Island and beyond the Summer Isles where I had passed on my last trip. A lovely view, despite the grey weather.

The Summer Isles from Laide

THe coast near Laide

I now followed the road south to reach the stores at Laide. This is a petrol station, shop and post office. It was all closed up. Well it was gone 7pm.

Laide Store

When planning this walk I had been expecting it to take less time than it did (I usually under-estimate when walking over rough ground). I had planned to complete the walk by following the A832 over the neck of this peninsula back to my car. This was a little over 2 miles along the road but the presence of a view point on the map suggested it was going to be quite a climb and then descent the other side.

One advantage of being a bit later than expected is that I was only 15 minutes before the arrival of the one and only bus that runs this way along the road. According to the timetable it stopped here at the petrol station in Laide. In the absence of any bus stop I sat on the wall outside. A motorist soon arrived wanting petrol and was disappointed to find the petrol pumps locked. I hope they didn’t have far to go, as I didn’t know where the next nearest petrol station was.

I was a bit nervous as to whether the bus would turn up. Soon I saw a large coach coming. Was that it? It didn’t have a destination displayed and I was expecting something much smaller, but I saw it said “Westerbus” across the windscreen as it got closer, so flagged it down. It was the bus! The driver seemed a little irritated at getting a passenger on at this stage I think because he had to rummage about to get the ticket machine out.

It was a short drive back round to Aultbea but with my leg hurting I was glad of shaving a couple of “positioning” miles off my walk by using the bus. I wasn’t sure how far into Aultbea the bus went so as it happened I got off a little early. Still by now the sun had come out and Aultbea looked lovely in the early evening sunshine.

The coast at Aultbea

Aultbea

I soon passed the Aultbea Hotel. This had suddenly closed down, without warning back in May. It seems the owner simply did a runner, told his staff to close it down and ask all the guests to leave and put a notice stating “Sorry the Hotel is Closed” in the window, and that was it.

Closed Aultbea Hotel

It seems they also didn’t contact anyone already booked even those that had already paid some or all of the cost. I peered in the window to see tables laid and condiments on them, as if set for the evening meal that would never take place.

There are different approaches to take to walking the whole coast. Some, like me, do it as a series of day walks that join up. Others do it continually either with the help of a friend or relative to drive or pick them up at the end of each walk or carry a tent and camp overnight each night. Others make several multi-day (or longer) trips and book somewhere to stay at the end of each days walk. Each approach has their pros and cons. The cons of my approach is the need to arrange transport (or try to) hence relying on often infrequent buses or having to do there and back walks but the pro is I only need to carry what I need for the day with me and have somewhere comfortable as a base to get back to at night. The latter approach has the advantage you can walk between your accommodation, no need for any transport at all, but you have to carry everything with you and you can’t miss a day (for example if the weather is bad) without throwing out all the rest of your plans, so in practice you have to walk pretty much no matter what. Fellow coastal walker “Helpful Mammal” had taken this latter approach and booked a night at the Aultbea Hotel. Having been warned by another walker it was closed unexpectedly he headed to the hotel to find it was true (and the hotel had taken his deposit and not contacted him about it’s closure) leaving him to find somewhere to stay the night with no onward transport (but he was able to find somewhere to spend the night).

I walked past the now closed hotel and back to my hired car. I was glad of a sit down. The short bus journey had made my leg hurt though walking had made it hurt less again. I now had to drive back round the coast to Ullapool.

This didn’t take too long. Unfortunately I had again booked the Caledonian Hotel. Even booking 9 months before departure, it was the only place with availability vaguely near the bits of coast I planned to walk on this trip (probably because it is certainly the worst hotel in Ullapool and probably for some considerable distance).

Nothing had improved at this hotel since my last stay, but this time I had been allocated a room on the middle floor of the 1970s extension behind the main building. This meant I had the delights of creaking floorboards above me, not just from the adjacent rooms and all along the corridor. The room was as bad as before, a horrible bathroom with bright blue 1970s lino that only contained a toilet and a shower (in a tiny horrible 1970s cubicle I had to duck down in), with the sink in the main room. One thing I had noticed is this room had an electric shower. It had clearly been fitted very poorly, shattering many of the tiles and taking great chunks out of the wall too, but I hoped it would be better than the shower I had last time. However on using it, I soon discovered that it started ice cold, but soon became boiling hot. If I attempted to adjust the temperature at all, a red light would come on, the pressure would drop to a trickle and it would not heat the water. I put it back to the setting it was on, which increased the water pressure again but where it went through the cycle of heating the water until it was literally scalding then the “overhear” light came on, it would go cold again and about a minute later, the cycle would repeat. I vowed to report this to reception in the morning but first I headed out to get something to eat. (I did report it, they came to check, agreed it was not working properly, promised to fix it, didn’t, I reported it again and it still wasn’t fixed so I gave up).

On finishing that my leg was really hurting. A good thing in Ullapool is that it has a Tesco that is open to 10pm, a rarity in the highlands. I headed there to get some pain killers and a tube of “Deep Heat”. I hoped the combination of these two might make my leg less painful but I was already worried that my fall earlier had scuppered my plans for the rest of the trip. Back at the hotel I was limping and could barely get up the stairs to my room (no lift). The chances of walking in the morning seemed remote, but I rubbed plenty of the Deep Heat on before bed in the hope it would help. Fortunately, I was able to walk the next day and the pain soon subsided and I didn’t really notice it on the following days. I had been lucky – it had not ruined the rest of my trip.

This had been a varied walk and I was glad I had been able to find a route over the open ground, even if it had meant falling into a hole! I had past some spectacular bits of coast and some lovely beaches as well as a couple of pretty villages, with views to many islands, including the Isle of Ewe, Gruinard Island and the Summer Isles. It was just a shame the weather had been so poor, with rain or drizzle for much of the walk however the sunshine at the end gave me hope the weather would be better tomorrow.

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

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

Westerbus 700A : Laide – Aultbea – Poolewe – Gairloch – Kerrysdale Junction – Loch Maree Hotel – Kinlochewe – Achnasheen – Lochluichart – Garve – Strathpeffer – Dingwall – Inverness. Note that on the return journey the bus only runs between Aultbea and Laide on request. 1 bus per day each way on Tuesday and Saturday only.

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

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338. Dundonnell River to Laide

July 2019

After my previous there and back walk to Scoraig, it was time to make progress south. On this walk I’d be walking the western edge of Little Loch Broom and rounding the corner into Gruinard Bay and finish near it’s western end at Laide. It was going to be a walk pretty much entirely along an A-road which was not great. On the other hand I had already driven this road and knew the traffic was fairly light and it also had another advantage, a bus service.

It was the bus service which was the reason for doing this walk today (and doing the walks on this trip out of order), because although a bus ran daily (except Sundays) from Gairloch to Inverness it took a different route on different days of the week and only ran via Dundonnell 3 times a week and today was one such day. Again due to the bus schedule, I had to make an early start and drive from my hotel in Ullapool to Laide in order to catch the morning bus around to Dundonnell. I parked in a layby along the dead-end road that goes out to Mellon Udrigle (great name!) and headed down to Laide Stores and petrol station to wait for the bus, as this is where the timetable said it stopped.

The bus soon arrived. You never know quite what sort of vehicle is going to operate buses in the Highlands of Scotland. Often they are a small Transit-van type vehicle with no destination board but this one was a full sized coach. I asked to be dropped off at the turning by Dundonnell Bridge which the driver was happy to do. It did not take long and soon we had passed through Dundonnell and so I headed to the front of the bus to make sure the driver had remembered and knew where to stop (the coach, unlike a bus, did not have a “stop” button for passengers to press to indicate to the driver to stop).

I got off at the turning for the road out to Badrallach where I had parked for a previous walk. It is always nice to get the bus ride done first as now I have the rest of the day to walk back and don’t need to worry about meeting a deadline.

The weather for today was forecast to be cloudy with a chance of rain in the morning and sunshine later, which seemed accurate enough. I knew from driving this road that the first couple of miles would not be so pleasant as much of the time the road is in woodland and the trees come almost to the edge of the road. That means no views and probably a good deal of traffic dodging.

The driver had dropped me at the end of the road. I headed a short distance along back to the bridge over the river where I could stop on the grass beside the road to get the things I needed for my walk out of my rucksack off the road, such as the map and camera.

The Dundonnell River

The Dundonnell River

I headed back to the main road and followed the edge of the road, stepping onto the grass when possible when traffic came. The trees on my right limited views, though the river was initially close by and I got occasional glimpses of it through the trees. The road began to climb away from the river valley and soon out of the trees.

Sadly there wasn’t that much to see as the top of the hills either side of the road was covered with low cloud.

Near Dundonnell

Mist beside the A832

I was hoping it would soon lift and clear, but it didn’t seem to and soon drizzle started. I continued through the light drizzle but soon had to put the map away in case it turns to paper-mache in the rain. I knew where I was going anyway, just keep to the road!

I soon reached the edge of the village of Dundonnell. Well village is over-stating things really. It seemed to consist of a farm (Kappoch Farm) and a few hundred meters along the road, a hotel (Dundonnell Hotel) and a couple of houses and that’s about it. I had reached the farm, but outside the farm there was also a telephone box. This was useful as I could briefly head inside out of the rain to check the map. The phone had a notice in it from BT proposing to remove the phone because it had very little use and there is a consultation about it’s removal. The poster was dated 2 days ago but I noticed it had been stuck on top of many similar, but older notices. I believe it’s the case that if someone objects the box stays and so it goes round in circles presumably until either someone doesn’t object within the 42-day consultation or BT give up! Trouble is telephone boxes can be very useful in remote parts of Scotland where mobile signal is poor or non-existent.

Anyway I didn’t want to spend the day in a phone box, it was time to move on. The rain hadn’t eased and in fact got a bit harder, but I continued along the road to Dundonnell Hotel. Walking on wet A-roads is pretty miserable. Not only do you get wet, you also get all the spray from vehicles that pass at speed, and sometimes splashed from the puddles too. When I got to the hotel I stopped to shelter under the overhanging roof of an out building in the car park on the other side of the road and between the building and some recycling bins. (I see from Google Street view this used to be self-service petrol station, but it is not there now).

The rain had got quite hard now so I stopped to check the “rain radar” on my phone. It suggested the rain would pass in about 15 minutes and then it was clear after that. I decided to wait it out. 15 minutes passed and the rain didn’t seem to ease. I gave it another few minutes, but seemingly no change. I couldn’t spend the whole day sheltering behind the bins in a hotel car park. Time to get going, I’ll just have to get wet. Which I did!

Now I was at the point where the river was opening out into the loch, now with a large area of salt marsh beside the road and the river out there somewhere in the mist.

Little Loch Broom at Dundonnell

Little Loch Broom at Dundonnell

Continuing along I fairly quickly reached the end of the marsh and now had open water of the loch beside me. The loch was beginning to widen but this meant I could also only just make out the other side in the drizzle.

Little Loch Broom at Dundonnell

I stopped at a small parking area a bit further up the road to check the weather again which suggested the rain would stop in 15 minutes (again). I carried on, there was nowhere to shelter there anyway.

Little Loch Broom at Dundonnell

The road beyond soon got a crash barrier which is a pain was a walker, I always feel more vulnerable walking next to these barriers as the crash barrier means that if I have to jump out of the way of traffic it’s another obstacle to me getting out the way quickly.

Ahead I had soon reached the small village of Camusnagaul. There were a few houses here and the map suggested also a youth hostel but I gather the youth hostel had closed down for good the previous year.

Little Loch Broom at Camusnagaul

I continued along the road with a few widely scattered houses and in half a mile the map suggested I was now in Ardessie though it is hard to tell where Camusnagaul ended and Ardessie started. Here the road crossed another river and the river was quite wide with fast-flowing water (I guess no surprise given all the rain) and a waterfall. The waterfall was much bigger than I expected. You just don’t notice things like this driving along the road, it was actually a really beautiful waterfall.

Waterfall at Camusnagaul

Waterfall at Camusnagaul

Waterfall at Camusnagaul

The road now ran directly alongside the loch again which had a couple of fish farms out in the waters of the loch (I find it odd these are never shown on maps as I think they are pretty permanent structures).

I was pretty wet now but as I neared the start of the next village (Badbea), where the road begins to head inland a bit from the loch shore again the sky ahead looked noticeably brighter. I was hoping the rain might, at last end.

Little Loch Broom near Camusnagaul

The road now began to climb, giving me a good view back along the loch where I could see the cloud was now lifting and the rain had reduced to drizzle.

Little Loch Broom near Camusnagaul

Just ahead of here I had a decision to make. The main road ahead turned more inland, about a mile and a half inland at one point. However I had reached a junction and a more minor road ran off to the right, closer to the coast, to serve the villages of Badcaul, Durnamuck and Badluachrach (well the map actually shows two different spellings of this last place). This road is much closer to the coast, but the trouble is this road runs for about 2 1/2 miles but is a dead-end. So if I followed it I’d have to come back, but if I stuck to the main road I’d not have to double back but also would not be following the closest route to the coast.

Little Lodch Broom

Another nice feature here was at the junction there is a bus shelter which contained a seat. That meant it was somewhere I could sit down that was dry and out of the rain. I decided to stop for lunch here whilst I decided what to do next. I put my bag down on a plastic box in the bus shelter and began to eat my lunch. Within a couple of minutes a car pulled up in the parking area in front. Then the engine stopped and the occupant got out and started heading towards me. I was hoping for a peaceful and un-interrupted lunch and feared I was about to get moaned at for sitting in here. The next (and only) bus to stop here today wasn’t due for literally hours so I didn’t think I’d be bothering anyone sitting here.

The explanation turned out to be more simple. The box I had put my rucksack on (which wasn’t transparent) contains newspapers. The local newsagent (well not that local, I suspect in Gairloch or Laide) delivers the newspapers for the residents of these three small villages to this plastic box that they leave in the bus shelter, where it’s dry, for them to come and collect. The lady simply wanted to collect her newspaper not come to moan at me! I apologise for putting my bag on the box and she assured me the weather would be better this afternoon and I’d have a good walk. I hoped she was right!

When I had finished lunch the rain had indeed stopped. By this point I had formulated a new plan. I would follow this dead-end road but when I got to the end, rather than come back I’d make my own way across the open ground (well the map suggested it was open) back up to the A-road. No need to double back. It didn’t look steep or rocky and there was an area of woodland right beside the main road that ended roughly parallel with the end of the road, so as I approached the main road I could use that to help navigation.

The first village along the road, Badcaul had a school and church as welll as some houses.

Badcaul

Only a few hundred metres later and I had reached the next village, Durnamuck. The map suggested this contained a post office. It had clearly closed sometime ago (it is now the Old Post Office, a holiday rental).

Just past this another small dead-end branch off this road turned right down to the loch but I didn’t follow it since I could see the end from here. Onwards the road opened a bit more soon passing too small areas of woodland and then I reached the last village, Badluachrach or possibly Badluarach (the Ordnance Survey shows both spellings with a / between them so even they don’t seem sure what it’s called!).

Near Durnamuck

Near Badluachrach

I don’t think there was a road sign welcoming me either, as I was hoping that might settle the name debate! Part way along this road was another dead-end turning for the little jetty.

Badluachrach

This serves the isolated community of Scoraig I had visited on my last walk, which isn’t connected to the road network.

I squelched my way to the end of the road (my shoes still wet) where there was a turning place and actually the road seemed to continue ahead as a path just behind a gate. A check of the map though showed this continued for another 300 metres or so then ended. What purpose it serves I’m not quite sure since there were no further buildings.

Little Loch Broom

So instead I turned left over the open ground. This was a mixture of short heather and very tufty grass and was very uneven under foot and also boggy in places so I had to take it slowly.

Little Loch Broom

I could not even see the area of woodland I was aiming for ahead. But I figured if I turned 90-degrees to the road and maintained that direction I’d get to the main road sooner or later.

Little Loch Broom

It was a bit tougher than expected but soon I began to see the tops of trees on the horizon ahead as I climbed away from the road. Ah good the woodland, as hoped for. I aimed for it’s right hand end and headed alongside the fence between the open area and the woodland. Soon I could hear and then see the traffic ahead. One last irritation – there is a fence between me and the road (of course) and a water-filled ditch. I climbed the former and jumped over the latter, just wide enough I could jump it to end up back on the road.

I was quite pleased now I had made the diversion so not missed out any coast but avoided having to double back, but I had got pretty wet going through all that water-logged heather and grass after the morning rain.

I was now nearing the mouth of Little Loch Broom and could look over to some of the Summer Isles beyond. The road now ran alongside a stream for a while and bought me back to the coast. Here the map suggested a beach at the village of Mungasdale. Here a gate in the fence provided access to the beach. By now not only had the rain stopped but the sun was beginning to come through and it was warming up.

Mungasdale Bay

This is Mungadale Bay and it is a lovely sandy beach, backed by some dunes with a little stream flowing down it. I followed the short path down to the beach and sat here for a short break.

Mungasdale Bay

A mile or so off-shore from this beach is Gruinard Island. This has a rather grizzly past. The islands population had gradually dwindled and it had been uninhabited since some times in the 1920s.  At the height of World War II, in 1942 a chemical warfare test was carried out here by scientists from Porton Down who released anthrax spores here. As it was recognised such a test could cause long-term contamination to surrounding areas, this remote and uninhabited island was picked. 80 sheep were released onto the island as part of the test and began to die within days of the anthrax being released. The Government deemed this a successes and suggested that the tests showed that if Anthrax was released in large German cities it would render them uninhabitable for decades. It had a long legacy when it was discovered how difficult and expensive it would be to now decontaminate the island. At the end of the war in 1945, the islands owner wished for it to be returned but the Government realised it wasn’t safe until decontaminated. The Government decided to acquire the island on the condition that the owner could buy it back for £500 when it was deemed safe.

This dragged on for decades with the Government doing nothing other than periodic testing and forbidding people to go to the island. In the 1980s things took a rather more sinister turn. A group calling themselves Opertion Dark Harvest demanded the Government decontaminate the island. They stated they had been to the island and collected contaminated soil and would leave soil samples from the island “at appropriate points that will ensure the rapid loss of indifference of the government and the equally rapid education of the general public”. Sure enough a package of soil was left outside Porton Down. On testing it was found to contain anthrax. A few days later another package of soil was left outside the hotel in Blackpool where the Conservative Party conference was taking place. This certainly bought the matter to the public’s attention and whilst nothing immediately changed, by 1986 efforts to decontaminate the island had begun. By 1990 it was deemed safe and was re-purchased by the heirs of the original owner for the agreed £500. I’m not sure what it’s used for now. Normally I’m keen to walk around islands but, funnily enough, I’m not so keen to go to this island. I was happy to look at it from here instead.

Gruinard Island

Anyway after a nice sit on the beach I returned on the path to the road to continue my walk. The road continued along the shore and rounded the corner to reach Gruinard Bay. This is a rocky and pebble beach which had a small jetty. Presumably this is, or was, used by boats to get to Gruinard island.

Gruinard Bay

Gruinard Bay

At the far end of the bay is the large Gruinard house and the road passed some of it’s garden.

Gruinard Bay

Near Gruinard House

The Gruinard River flows out to sea here and is quite wide so the road heads inland half a mile or so to cross it so I followed the road to the bridge.

This bit was rather pleasant with the sounds of the rushing water down to my right and views of the river intermittently through the trees.

Gruinard River

Gruinard River

I soon reached the bridge over the road and once over, on the landward side a track ran down beside the river.

Gruinard River

From the map this track seems to run for several miles, ending at a boat house on the shores of Loch na Sealga. Presumably the track is used by fisherman who have boats in the boat house. I wasn’t sure but I dropped off the road to get onto this track and sit beside the river for a minute.

What a beautiful place this is, with the fast-flowing river and the mountains in the distance. It was a lovely spot to rest for a few minutes next to the rushing waters of the river.

Gruinard River

Gruinard River

Soon I decided it was time to move on and return to the road. This heads west, on the landward side of a large hill (Torr Mor) and reaches another lovely beach. This is Camas Gaineamhaich.

Camas Gaineamhaich

It is another glorious sandy beach and I headed from the road down onto the shore. The tide was out so it would be nice to walk along the beach instead.

Camas Gaineamhaich

Camas Gaineamhaich

Camas Gaineamhaich

I was able to follow this lovely beach for about half a mile. to the point the Inverianvie river flows out onto the beach. Here I headed up to the road bridge to cross it (my feet had largely dried out now, so I didn’t want to get them wet again) and crossed via the road.

Inverianvie River

Inverianvie River

Inverianvie River

I didn’t bother to return to the beach since there didn’t seem to be an easy way back to the road which now climbed very steeply.

Camas Gaineamhaich

I huffed and puffed my way up the road to a view point at the top of the hill. This offers a magnificent view over this beautiful beach. What a stunning place it is and quite a few drivers had pulled over to enjoy the view, too.

Camas Gaineamhaich

Out to sea I also had views of the now more distance Gruinard island.

The coast near Gruinard

The coast near Gruinard

The road climbed and then dropped down to a second smaller river (Allt Bad an Luig) and began to climb up the other side.

The coast near Gruinard

The road between Second Coast and First Coast

Soon I passed an odd road sign telling me I’d now reached “Second Coast”. What, Britain has a second coast?! Well no, but I don’t know why this village has such an odd name. Just after I came to another sign telling me I was now at First Coast.

First Coast

What strange names. Both places seemed to just consist of half-dozen or so houses so I’ve no idea how they got these names.

The coast near Laide

I was getting tired now (miles of tarmac walking can be hard on the feet). The road now dropped back down to sea-level beside a rocky beach, but with some sand too.

The coast near Laide

The coast near Laide

Ahead I could see the headland of Rubha Mor (though I’d actually walked that bit of coast already by this point as I didn’t do the walks on this trip in order).

The coast near Laide

The weather had improved now after all the rain in the morning and with the sun now breaking through it was absolutely stunning. Another dead-end road on the left served the small village of Sand and ahead was a caravan site, at the edge of Laide. It looked rather a nice site right beside the beach and with such lovely scenery.

I continued, coming to the turning off the main road where I could follow this back to my (hired) car I had left here many hours earlier.

Hire car at Laide

This had been a walk of two halves. The first part had not been that enjoyable, following an A-road beside the loch (but often hidden from view) in all that rain, but the second part had been wonderful. The weather improved, the sun came out, I passed a couple of spectacular sandy beaches, a couple of impressive rivers and then had the lovely scenery of the last couple of miles into Laide, in the changing light.

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

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

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

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337. Grid reference NH100919 to Badrallach and Scoraig (and back)

July 2019

This walk starts from a rather precise location (except it doesn’t), in that on my previous walk having crossed from the shore of Inverbroom lock this was the point I turned left (south) to get back to where I parked. However in doing so I had missed a dead-end stretch of coast I would have got to if I had turned right here instead.

This walk would take me along the minor road to it’s end at Badrallach however that wasn’t the last place along this thin spit of land between Loch Broom and Little Loch Broom, that honour goes to Scoraig. This is one of those curious places (there are a few in Scotland) that are inaccessible by road. Instead it can only be reached on foot or by boat and I was curious to see what it was like and who might choose to live in such a remote place.

My last walk was the last day of my trip back in May however it is now July as this was my 2nd trip to the Highlands in 2019. This wasn’t my first day of this trip as I hadn’t done the walks in order, I actually arrived and did a different walk yesterday.

That walk hadn’t gone well. Whilst walking over the trackless moorland of Rubha Mor I had fallen down what I presume was a rabbit hole or badger set, up to my knee, that I hadn’t seen through the heather. I had done something to my left leg or ankle in the fall, though I was very fortunate not to break any bones. I was able to complete that walk in a bit of pain but as soon as I stopped walking my leg and ankle became extremely painful whenever I tried to move it. It was so bad I had struggled even to get up the stairs to my room in the hotel.

I feared that was the end of my planned walks for this trip, as I awoke to find my leg still painful. Of course the sensible thing to do might have been to find a doctor or simply to rest it and not walk today. However the purpose of this trip was to walk and I didn’t want to abandon it on only my 2nd day. So I decided that since yesterday it wasn’t too painful whilst actually walking that the pain might subside again when I got going. Well, I could hope.

That was another reason to do this walk today, I suspected it would be easier than the other walks I had planned on the trip as it was partly on road so would likely be the easiest on my leg. When I had joined this road yesterday there was nowhere nearby to park. So instead I drove to the end of the public road at Badrallach, which was nearly the half way point of my walk along this part of the coast.

At the end of the road was a large area suitable to park in except that it had a sign saying “Turning area only, no parking”. Someone had already parked here nearest the “land” end and at 90-degrees to the side of the road. There was room to park side on to the road further inland beside them. I can’t imagine anything large enough comes up here to need all the turning space and if they do then that other car is already in the way, so at least I won’t be making things worse.

Path to Scoraig

By parking here I’d now be doing 2 there and back walks. The first along the road south, to the point I joined it yesterday and the 2nd on the path to Scoraig and back. I decided to opt for the first part along the road first. A flat quiet road was going to be easier on my leg than a rough path over the hills to Scoraig. In addition if I knew I might have trouble walking being on the road, where there was more potential for help made sense than a remote path.

I set off along the road. Initially it was painful and I was limping along, but as I got going it started to hurt less and I could walk a bit more normally. My mind was taken off my hurting leg by the lovely views of Little Loch Broom and the hill of Sail Mhor on the other side.

Loch Broom at Badrallach

The object at the bottom left of the photo above is actually the roof of a house that is sort of built into the hill and meant to blend in a bit more.

Loch Broom at Badrallach

Loch Broom at Badrallach

Badrallach is a small but spread out village running for almost a mile along the road. It has a campsite and youth hostel but not a lot else.

Loch Broom at Badrallach

When I reach the campsite I soon find there is also a bothy and a holiday cottage here, though the site sounds quite basic with an honesty box to pay if the attendant doesn’t come round.

Badrallach campsite

This is about the last building in the village and soon I am climbing out of the village on the minor road. The traffic on the road mainly consists of sheep.

Badrallach road

Badrallach road

On the other side of Little Loch Broom I can see the houses of Camusnagaul. The road is now turning more inland away from the coast, but it’s high enough up I can still see the loch clearly. The road continues to climb and in another mile or so I reach the junction that I got to last time, closing the gap.

Near Badrallach

I am pleased to have made it without too much pain even though a short distance and now I just have to walk back. My leg wasn’t hurting much now and I made it back to the car without problem. At least I had completed some walking today so now I had to decide whether to continue west to Scoraig. I had so far been following a road which has a smooth surface and I wasn’t sure I’d cope so well with the rough ground of a path.

However there was one way to find out and that was to set off! The sign told me it was 8km to Scoraig. I’d be doing double that, as I’d need to walk back.

Path to Scoraig

The path started off easy enough, climbing away from the road but still almost car-wide. It soon narrowed to a path but at least an obvious one.

Path to Scoraig

Path to Scoraig

According to the map the path was a track for about a mile before narrowing to a path that ran near the bottom of the cliffs. The path had levelled out now and rounding the corner I could at least make out a clear path about half way up the cliff face.

Path to Scoraig

Path to Scoraig

This tended to change height as I went along it and soon crossed a couple of streams at a ford, marked as waterfalls on the map, the water flows out of Loch na h-Uidhe above and out of sight.

Path to Scoraig

The sunshine would occasionally start to break through which provided some welcome warmth, as there was a cold wind.

Path to Scoraig

Path to Scoraig

As I approached the village about the first sign of civilisation I saw was this red tractor.

Scoraig

Given the grass growing around it, it hadn’t been used in a while but I puzzled about how it got here. There is no way you could drive a tractor along the path I had followed! (I later realised the answer was almost certainly by boat).

The path soon widened to a track again, now a more sandy than rocky track and clearly is used by vehicles.

Track in Scoraig

At this point I had already had lunch but I was surprised to come across a cafe here which had the curious name “CarNOSH Beag Cafe” and more interestingly the sign stated “eat what you like, pay what you like”.

Cafe in Scoraig

I was tempted to look in but time was getting on and I wanted to get back. In hindsight I am curious as to what it would have been like!

Another surprise was in store when I passed a lighthouse on the right. It was called “The Lighthouse” and a tempting sign “Visitors Welcome” and contained a little museum and information about the place. In fact even the presence of the lighthouse is a surprised as it isn’t marked on the 1:25000 map I was using (but oddly, is marked on the supposedly less detailed 1:50000 map).

Scoraig lighthouse

The information panels inside told me there are around 25 households living here with between 50 and 70 people living here (it fluctuates as not everyone lives here permanently).  Most people work as crofters but also have some other trade. It went on to tell me what the people here do, there are artists (including a graphic designer) who can work remotely on the internet, fisherman, postmen, electricians and even a violin maker. To my surprise there is also a teacher because there is also a school here! In fact there was once a secondary school here too, but it’s mostly mothballed now.

It really felt like quite a thriving little community here. I guess it must be very safe given it’s isolation. The post is still delivered 3 times a week and most supplies are made by boat from Badluachrach on the other side of the loch, though some is still taken in on foot, as I had come. There is a telephone service but no water or mains sewage or electricity, the latter being generated from solar or wind.

Track in Scoraig

What an interesting place this was and I soon left the lighthouse museum and continued past the school and to the jetty at the end of the road that seemed to be the village “workshop”.

Scoraig

Scoraig

Here the many boats were lined up on the beach beside the jetty presumably most households have a boat to get across the loch.

Scoraig

I continued down onto the beach and walked a little way along the beach and stopped for a rest on the pebble beach near a wind turbine (there are surprisingly noisy, close to).

I had a drink and a rest. My leg was only hurting a little now so I had felt confident enough to continue knowing I’d have to walk back, but thought a rest was a good idea, though it did make my leg stiffen up a bit when I was ready to go back.

Now it was time to turn back and re-trace my steps. I loved this little remote village, almost cut off from the rest of the country. The path back was lovely, right along the edge of the loch, though I wondered if the residents felt the same way on a cold winters night, trying to walk home along it in the wind and the rain! I imagine there must be times when the water of the loch is too rough and this is the only way in and out.

Path to Scoraig

I caught up with a couple on the way back who had also walked here to see what the place was like and had loved it too. I was glad to have made the diversion to this unusual little village and it was nice to find such a good path along a beautiful stretch of remote coastline. My leg had more or less stopped hurting by the end of this walk and didn’t give me any more bother for the rest of this trip.

Update 08/09/2021: Fellow coastal walker Alan Pailn has helpfully pointed me in the direction of this interesting article by the BCC about Scoraig and the people that live there.

There is no public transport available for this walk because there is no road. The nearest place with a bus is at the junction with the A832 near Dundonnell.

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

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336. Dundonnell River to Inverbroom Bridge

May 2019

This was my last day of this trip and also a Sunday. This meant I had a deadline to meet (I needed to get to Inverness Airport in time for my flight home) and also no public transport available on a Sunday. So I had planned a circular route to walk much of the west side of Loch Broom and then continue inland to the head of the next loch along the coast, Little Loch Broom.

My plan was to drive around from Ullapool, where I was staying, to a parking area marked on the map beside the A832 just south of the head of Little Loch Broom and Dundonnell House. From here I planned to follow a path that was marked on the map over the hills and back to the shores of Loch Broom. This was the path I had spotted the other end of yesterday, ominously signed as the Coffin Road. Once back on the shores of Loch Broom I’d then walk north along the road along the west side of the loch to Loggie, at the end of the road and pick up a path the map showed running from the end of the road to the former Altnaharrie Inn opposite Ullapool (now closed). From here I’d follow the track up from here to the minor road which I could then follow back down to my parking spot. It was an ambitious plan but I hoped that by tacking, or trying to tackle what I suspected to be the most demanding part first I could then make an assessment as to whether I would have enough time to complete my walk or abandon it and do a simple there and back walk to Loggie and tackle the rest on my next visit.

I set off from Ullapool driving around the loch and joining the A832. Although the roads were pretty good I was surprised how long it took as they don’t go a very direct route. As I approached my planned parking area I was dismayed to see that even at 9am on a Sunday morning it was full up and not only that people were already parking on the grass verge around it (something I didn’t particularly want to do). I wondered where on earth all the people were going. All I could see on the map was an art gallery but I doubted it was a famous artist in such a remote place or a couple of footpaths. I presume one or both of these paths must be very popular as I hadn’t expected to find it full especially as it wasn’t even high season yet. I couldn’t look too much as the parking area was on the other side of the road from me. Dismayed I continued up to the minor road to Badrallach (the road I intended to walk part of on the way back to the car) in order to turn round with the intention of taking a better look on the way back (now it would be on my side of the road) to see if I could find somewhere I could park without causing an obstruction albeit probably on the grass verge (which I hate doing as it turns them to mud). However I was delighted to find at the end of this road there was a little gravel and earth area beside the road by the junction where I could park.

Near Dundonnell House

There was room for perhaps 2 or 3 cars and no one else was parked here. There was a notice warning there was no ferry at Altnaharrie (which I already knew, as I’d have used it if there was) but nothing to say no parking and since I wasn’t on the tarmac of the road itself and was far enough back from the junction to not effect sight-lines I figured this was probably the best place to park. In fact it would shorten the days mileage slightly, which would be a bonus.

Sign on the road to Loggie

I headed along the road to the lovely old stone bridge over the Dundonnell River. Here a man was sat on rocks beside the river (you can see him near the right end of the bridge).

Dundonnell River

I wondered if he had parked where I had planned to and was obviously about to set off on a walk since he had a walking pole on the grass next to him and a large rucksack. I wondered where he was going but he only commented on the weather as I passed so I didn’t like to ask where he was off too. I think he may have been wild camping nearby and drying his stuff out in the sun before setting off. It looked a lovely place to camp right beside the pretty river.

From the bridge, I enjoyed views of the pretty and tranquil river flowing over the rocks through the woodland, it was an idyllic spot.

Dundonnell River

Dundonnell River

Once away from the river the view opened out to the snow covered hills around.

The old Coffin Road between Dundonnell and Inverbroom

This bothered me a little since I would be climbing over hills too and hoped I wasn’t going to find a lot of snow at the top since I wasn’t really equipped for it. However I first had a more pressing problem. I couldn’t find the path! I had hoped given the path was well signed at the other end it would be here too. Sadly it wasn’t. I went up and down the road looking for the point where it should branch off, or I assumed it would (the map wasn’t all that clear) but couldn’t find it at all. In the end I opted to just climb up the grass and heather heading in roughly the right direction in the hope I would intercept the path before it entered the woodland. As much by luck than anything else that was what I managed to do and found a reasonably clear, albeit narrow path. It was odd since I hadn’t been able to find it from the road.

Checking the map carefully as I began along it I was pleased to note that comparing the grid reference of where I was to the map confirmed I was where I should be. This must be the path.

It soon began to climb and the views just got better and better. I was lucky with the weather, almost completely clear blue sky and a light dusting of snow on top of the hills around, it was very beautiful.

The old Coffin Road between Dundonnell and Inverbroom

The old Coffin Road between Dundonnell and Inverbroom

The old Coffin Road between Dundonnell and Inverbroom

The path continued to climb out of the valley where the green pasture and fields soon gave way to open moorland, heather and rocks, as well of course lots of boggy areas (what footpath in the highlands doesn’t have boggy areas!).

The old Coffin Road between Dundonnell and Inverbroom

As I got higher the path actually became much clearer and I could see it stretching off clearly ahead of me for a long distance over the hills.

The old Coffin Road between Dundonnell and Inverbroom

That was excellent as I couldn’t afford the time to keep having to back track or try and forge my own route. I guess being an old coffin road that for people to be able to carry a coffin along this path it couldn’t be too steep.

The old Coffin Road between Dundonnell and Inverbroom

After a while the path levelled out as I reached the top and passed a couple of small lochs, fortunately the path was still fairly easy to follow.

The old Coffin Road between Dundonnell and Inverbroom

The old Coffin Road between Dundonnell and Inverbroom

Loch an Tiompain

Loch an Tiompain

Loch an Fhiona

I continued ahead soon going over the brow of the hill and with a view back to Loch Broom below. The hardest part of the walk was nearly over and I had made good time.

Loch Broom from the old Coffin Road

Loch Broom from the old Coffin Road

The path zig-zagged down as it descended, widening to more of a track, perhaps still used by farm vehicles.

The Coffin Road at Inverbroom

At the valley floor the path then went over a rather boggy field and finally down to the road, here a pretty tree-lined road.

The old Coffin Road to Inverbroom bridge

Near Inverbroom Bridge

The road to Loggie

The road to Loggie

I followed the road back to Inverbroom bridge to ensure I joined up with the previous days walk.

Inverbroom bridge

Now I turned back to follow this road north through various scattered villages to Loggie. A sign welcomed me to Loch Broom and gave the mileage to the various B&Bs and self-catering properties along the road, the furthest being 4 1/2 miles so that was probably the distance to the end of the road.

Clachan

The first village along the road is Clachan. The only buildings here were a couple of houses, a farm and this large church which I imagine serves all the villages along the road.

Clachan

Soon the road ran right beside the river Broom, here quite a narrow river.

Loch Broom near Clachan

It didn’t take long however to reach the loch where suddenly there was a much wider expanse of water beside me.

Loch Broom near Letters

The road began to climb and soon I reached the oddly named scattered village of Letters where some animals roamed on the road.

Loch Broom near Loggie

The loch itself was beautiful, with lovely blue water in the bright sunshine and the patches of woodland and moorland were very visible on the opposite banks of the loch.

Loch Broom near Loggie

A few small but fast-flowing streams flowed off the moor to my left. I was making quicker progress now along the road and soon passed through Arindrean and then reached Rhiroy. Here signs pointed to a side road where rather than give house names or numbers they simply listed the name of the people living there, presumably the houses aren’t named or numbered.

Loggie

I continued along the road to reach Loggie and the end of the public road but could continue on what was still a car-wide track to the edge of somewhere called Newton Loggie.

Newton Loggie

Here the track continued to the shore to a house but the map showed the path as heading just behind the dry stone wall so I left the track and headed for the back of the dry-stone wall.

Newton Loggie

There wasn’t much of a path but at least I could see the wall on the map so knew I was in the right place although in places parts of it had fallen onto the path. At the end I passed a ruined settlement (Newton Loggie, I presume), now all in ruins and found a bit more of a path that headed down to the shore.

Newton Loggie

I could see Ullapool ahead on the other side of the loch, but this side was wild and remote. (You can just see it in the distance on the right hand side below).

Path to Altnaharrie

Path to Altnaharrie

The path soon headed a bit inland again, climbing away from the loch shore. Mostly it was visible albeit at times only a few metres ahead. The fords on the map were quite tricky to cross, at least one of them was as there wasn’t many dry places to stand.

Path to Altnaharrie

Another had a steep drop down over the heather which was also tricky but soon the path opened out again and became more obvious.

Ullapool from Altnaharrie

The shore at Altnaharrie

It soon began to descend again back to the loch shore at Altnaharrie and I could see a few bits of equipment in the loch here. Over the loch I now had a clear view of Ullapool. It was only about half a mile as the crow flies but it had taken me almost two days to walk around the loch!

Dropping down onto the beach there were a few ruined boats.

The shore at Altnaharrie

The shore at Altnaharrie

I wondered if these were once the ferry used to take drinkers and diners across the loch when this building was a pub, but they looked too far gone to have been used as little as 10 years ago. From here a track headed up from the loch shore, the private access road to this house (and former inn).

The shore at Altnaharrie

I kept as far from the building as I could and then picked up the track and followed it. It was car-wide but climbed pretty steeply, but it was easy to follow.

View to Ullapool from Altnaharrie

Ullapool ahead

Near the top I could here an engine and soon a Range Rover appeared over the brow of the hill heading towards me. The owner of the house I expect. This always makes me a little apprehensive – are they going to stop and ask what I’m doing walking along what is essentially their drive (albeit a mile long one)? Fortunately they just give me a wave as I step aside and carry on.

The track passes Loch na h-Airbhe and near the top as I approach the public road I noticed it’s now signed as Castaway Cottage.

Loch na h-Airbhe

I wonder if there is a holiday house down here or if this is now the name of the old inn? Anyway I’m soon back on the public road.

I reckon it will take me about 90 minutes for the rest of the walk so I have made it with enough time to not have to worry about missing my flight from Inverness. The road is almost entirely downhill too, which is nice.

Badrallach Road

Badrallach Road

After about half a mile I come to a couple sitting in their car presumably enjoying the view who also give me a wave as I pass.

Badrallach Road

The walk is easy now just follow the road gently downhill and there is almost no traffic since there is only the small village of Badrallach further along the road, which is at the end of the road. The countryside to my right is wild and open and deserted and in poor weather I imagine it would feel bleak up here but it’s lovely today in the warm sunshine.

Badrallach Road

Sadly signs warn that sheep rustling has taken place here, a surprise in such a remote place (but maybe that’s why, less chance of being seen?). As the road continues to descend it becomes lightly wooded.

Badrallach Road

Road near Dundonnell House

This makes a nice change the trees providing some welcome shade as it’s now quite warm. Although I do find these wooded sections of these narrow single-track roads harder to drive because the trees limit visibility ahead meaning you can’t see any oncoming traffic far ahead, but I don’t need to drive this road today.

Road near Dundonnell House

It continues through some lovely woodland (beech I think?) soon passing the grand house, Dundonnell House, and from here it’s just a short distance onwards to the bridge over the river and back to my car.

Road near Dundonnell House

Road near Dundonnell House

Dundonnell House

The man that was here earlier has gone now and I wonder where he was walking too (I didn’t see him on my route). I continue along the road back to my car.

Dundonnell River

I am really pleased, this was quite an ambitious plan and yet it had worked out well and been a wonderful walk. The scenery was stunning especially the snow-covered hills and mountains near the start and the views over the two Lochs. It had been very varied too with sections right beside the loch and the beautiful woodland near the end of the walk too. Sadly now it was time to head home.

Back at the car I drove back to Inverness Airport via the shops nearby to re-fuel the hire car before returning it to the airport. Fortunately no issues were found when returning the car and I headed into the terminal. Naturally the flight was late and this delay was only announced a few minutes before we should have been taking off though it was obvious given no plane was visible we were going to be late. Frustrating but only a minor frustration on what had been a lovely and successful trip and I was pleased with the progress I had been made and the lovely weather conditions I had had for most days on this trip.

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

Westerbus route 707 : Gairloch – Poolewe – Aultbea – Laide – Badcul – Dundonnell – Braemore Junction – Inverbroom – Ullapool.  One bus per day on Monday, Wednesday and Friday only. It takes around 25 minutes between Dundonnell and the junction for Inverbroom.

D and E Coaches route 813A. Ullapool – Inverbroom Bridge – Clachan – Letters – Loggie. 2 services per day each way, school days only. No service at weekends.

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

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335. Inverbroom bridge to Ullapool

May 2019

Having now reached Ullapool I now had to get around Loch Broom. The west coast of Scotland is an indented coast full of many sea lochs. Some of the lochs have ferries across them but most don’t meaning a long walk around. Unfortunately Loch Broom does not have a ferry so I’ll be walking around it and this walk covers the north side of the loch.

It was, at one time, possible to cross the loch by boat. On the opposite side of the loch was the Altnaharrie Inn. One of the remotest pubs in Scotland, since there were no other buildings there and no public road it was primarily accessed by a boat across the loch. It had a good reputation, with a coveted 2 Michelin stars, but it closed in 2002 and is now a private house and hence no boat crosses the loch any more. This means I will be walking around it.

I must admit I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this walk. I would be mostly walking along the A835 being the only practical route. This is a trunk road and I knew from driving it that it was pretty busy and mostly lacked a pavement. This meant I’d have to spend much of the walk focusing on traffic not the views. On the other hand at least the terrain would be easy and it would make navigation easy.

Another advantage of walking a main road is there is usually a bus, as there was in this case meaning at least I only have to walk it one way. Most of the buses along this road are actually Citylink coaches to Inverness and I wasn’t quite clear if you can buy tickets for these from the driver on the day or if you have to book in advance and I also wasn’t clear if they would stop where I wanted – at the junction for Inverbroom bridge since it isn’t listed as a stopping point. To avoid these issues I had also noticed that there was an occasional ordinary bus service too. Oddly it only ran a few days a week and the only day there was a morning departure from Ullapool was on a Saturday so I decided to do this walk on a Saturday to make use of this bus (it doesn’t run any longer however). Oddly it terminated somewhere called Braemore Junction which I think is literally that, a road junction there is no settlement there. I later found these oddities were explained by the fact it was timed to connect with another bus that runs from Gairloch to Inverness, providing a connection from Ullapool to Inverness.

I was staying in Ullapool so I didn’t need to drive anywhere first and so I headed to the bus station (ferry terminal) in Ullapool at the allotted time and the bus duly arrived. I was surprised to find it was a full size coach in fact clearly a former Scottish Citylink coach since it still had their colours on and I could see where the lettering had been removed. There were only 3 passengers, myself included!

Fortunately the driver was happy to drop me at the junction for Inverbroom bridge and knew where it was. It only took about 10 minutes or so and the driver duly pulled up to let me off.

Inverbroom bridge is the lowest crossing point of Loch Broom so it’s where I’d cross to the other side of the loch, or rather river as it is at this point. Actually I decided to do that now since I spotted there was a handy bench beside the river I could use to faff about in my bag to get my camera and map out and have a drink.

Inverbroom bridge is definitely functional rather than attractive but it served the job of getting me across the loch.

The Inverbroom Bridge

The views from it were rather lovely with the mountains in the distance still with a dusting of snow at the top.

The River Broom from the Inverbroom Bridge

The River Broom from the Inverbroom Bridge

I also did a quick recce for my planned walk tomorrow, which would take me around the other side of the loch and I hoped to follow a path I had seen marked on the map. At the expected place I spotted the sign for it. It was marked Coffin Road.

The Coffin Path, Inverbroom

That didn’t bode well and I hoped it would not be my coffin that would end up going along it! Still that was for tomorrow.

I couldn’t put it off any longer it was time to tackle that road. I initially followed the grass verge but it was uneven and the grass long and damp so I soon stuck to the edge of the road except when traffic was coming, which wasn’t quite as often as I feared.

Initially the road was beside the river broom though often I couldn’t actually make out the river across the marsh.

The river Broom valley

The river Broom valley

Soon the road crossed another river. This is the river Lael and here the road had obviously been improved since an old single carrigeway stone bridge was still in place beside the more modern road bridge obviously built to replace it. I opted to cross via the old bridge since it briefly got me away from the traffic.

River Lael

However it was only a brief respite and soon I was back to the traffic. Well the road, anyway.

The A835

Still the views were lovely and traffic still fairly light.

Soon the river widened into the loch at a place called Lochend and here there was a pebbly beach and a lovely view across the loch.

Inverlael, Loch Broom

Loch Broom near Ardcharnich

Loch Broom near Ardcharnich

The hills on the other side of the loch were dotted with houses, seemingly scattered around at random (this seems quite common in the Highlands).

Loch Broom near Leckmelm

Loch Broom near Leckmelm

The map showed this settlement went by the strange name of Letters. Maybe the first resident was a postmen!

The road passed some woodland and soon began to climb as I approached Ardcharnich.

Loch Broom near Leckmelm

Although still about 4 miles the extra height gained meant I could already make out my destination of Ullapool ahead, jutting out into the loch.

Between the road and the loch was lush looking pasture that seemed to be favoured for sheep grazing. Ardcharnich is a tiny place with just a couple of houses and another river flowing out into the loch. The loch really is beautiful and I was seeing it in lovely weather conditions too.

Loch Broom near Leckmelm

Loch Broom near Ullapool

Loch Broom near Ullapool

Beyond Ardcharnich the road soon entered woodland again where a parking area provided a safe place to stop for a drink.

Soon out of the woodland I was entering the scattered hamlet of Leckmelm, another farming settlement.

Loch Broom near Ullapool

Loch Broom near Ullapool

Loch Broom near Ullapool

Loch Broom near Ullapool

Beyond this the road soon entered woodland again at Leckmelm Wood. Here I had spotted a track up into the woodland beside the road marked on the map that looked to go all the way to Ullapool and ran parallel with the road. I hoped to follow that as it would mean I could get away from the traffic.

Oddly at the first place it was marked as joining the road on the map there was no track and no evidence at all of there ever being one. All I could see was a little stream enclosed by a wall either side. That can’t be a path and was far too overgrown to ever be passable and about a foot deep in water. I continued on the road, reluctantly, still looking for a track into the wood.

On the left I passed the entrance to Leckmelm Gardens. I couldn’t see any of the garden from the road however, it was hidden behind a wall. I hadn’t given up on the woodland route however as I could see 500 metres or so further along the road another track from the road that should join up with the one I wanted to follow.

I continued. This time the track I wanted to follow existed so I followed it, leading to the drive to a couple of houses but here I wanted to turn left. I followed the track left but it came into an area of woodland full of very old caravans, mostly painted green and surrounded by logs and wood. I wasn’t sure if they were lived in but they didn’t look like holiday caravans either. There seemed to be a track going round in a circle around a few caravans. None of this was marked on the map. I felt uneasy walking through there expecting someone to burst out of one of the caravans and want to know what I was doing, but no one did. At the far end of the circle I could see the track I wanted to follow but there was a gate and it appeared to be a private drive. I didn’t feel comfortable walking there as and in fact the whole area was giving me the creeps a bit. It wasn’t on the map and just felt odd and I wasn’t sure what went on here.

I decided to abandon that plan and head back to the road before I was spotted – even though there is a right to roam in Scotland it still felt a bit private here. I got back to the road without being spotted and just after I joined the road a black pick-up truck with blacked-out windows came round the corner ahead. It slowed and then turned up the track I had just emerged from. Fortunately, I had re-joined the road before I was in sight of the truck but it further added to my unease that whoever lived there felt the need to drive around in a truck with blacked out windows. In fact I did wonder if I had triggered a camera or motion sensor or something and they were coming to check what was going on! All in all it gave me the creeps and I felt safer on the road.

After a while the road emerged from the woodland and then climbed a fairly steep hill before the final descent into Ullapool, which I could see ahead again.

Loch Broom near Ullapool

As I approached Ullpaool there was a pavement at last so at least I could concentrate more on the scenery and less on looking out for the traffic! I followed the road to the junction in Ullapool. Here the A835 turns right and the road ahead is now the A893. This must be one of the shortest A-road in Britain, since it runs for about 300 metres before ending!

Loch Broom, Ullapool

I followed this road alongside the pretty harbour to the ferry terminal and then back to the hotel. This walk hadn’t taken that long as it was only early afternoon so I headed on to do the the walk to Rhue (but the previous one I wrote up) so as not to waste the rest of the day.

Having worried about this walk it was more pleasant than I imagined. The scenery throughout was wonderful as I expected and fortunately the traffic not as heavy as I had feared, other than a brief burst of traffic that I suspected corresponded with the ferry arriving at Ullapool and for most of the way there was a grass verge. I was glad however that I had now covered the section on the busy main road.

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

Stagecoach Highlands route 61 : Ullapool – Leckmelm – Braemore Junction – Aultguish Inn – Contin – Strathpeffer – Dingwall – Conon Bridge – Tore – Inverness. 1 – 2 buses per day each way (depending on whether it’s a school day or not), Monday – Friday. No service on Saturday or Sunday. This bus should stop if requested at the junction by Inverbroom Bridge.

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

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334. Rhue to the A835 (and back)

May 2019

My last walk had turned out to be a very long and demanding one, from Achiltibuie to Ullapool. The last part of that walk had taken me along the A835 which mostly ran along the coast so was the most coastal route to walk.

South of Ardmair, however, the road had gone a bit inland and a minor dead-end road led to the village of Rhue and the maps suggested a path ran from the end of this road to a lighthouse on the coast. Due to the distance covered, energy levels and time I had missed walking along this dead-end road on my last walk, so today I was coming back to fill in that gap.

I had done a walk in the morning so it was by now late afternoon. I drove along the A835 and then took the dead-end road out to Rhue as the map showed a car park at the end of the road. I drove along the road and indeed there was a fairly sizeable parking area at the end of the road, a bonus as finding places to park on narrow roads like this can often be a problem.

From the car park I had a wonderful view out to the lighthouse, which I could now see was more a navigation light than a proper lighthouse and beyond that I could see more land on the horizon.

Rhue

To my right these are some of the Summer Isles whilst to the left, the other side of Loch Broom. I was essentially at mouth of Loch Broom on it’s northern side here.

First I decided to walk on the path out to the lighthouse. This was quite well-walked and passed a small pebble beach (unnamed, on the map anyway) on the left.

Rhue

It was a nice looking beach with a small white boat on the grass behind the beach, presumably belonging to the residents of one of the houses.

Rhue

I continued to the end of the path and the lighthouse. Definitely rather functional and more a navigational beacon than a traditional lighthouse (it wasn’t even stripey).

Rhue Lighthouse

Looking west from here I had a fine view up Loch Broom. Though I couldn’t make out Ullapool I could make out the snow-covered mountains behind the head of the loch.

View from Rhue lighthouse

Looking north I had a wonderful view of the hilly terrain I had covered on my previous days walks over the posties path. It looked rather tricky and I was glad I had already done that walk as I suspect looking at this view would have made be rather more apprehensive about it than I was when starting from the other end.

View from Rhue lighthouse

View from Rhue lighthouse

This was a lovely location and I was already very glad I had made the effort to come back to this bit of the coast. Heading back I now followed the path up to the road and continued along the road back inland.

To my right below the road I could make out the ruins of a number of buildings between the road and the shore. Rhue had once been a bigger place.

Loch Broom from Rhue

The other side of the loch too looked a little daunting. I was hoping to make a start on rounding the south side of Loch Broom the following day.

Loch Broom from Rhue

Loch Broom from Rhue

The view inland too was rather lovely with the valley of the Strathan river visible ahead and I could already make out the bridge over it on the A835 ahead, where I was heading.

Near Rhue

In the other direction the river has cut quite a deep valley out to the coast.

The River Strathan near Rhue

The road soon curved to the left and just ahead I reached the A835. I made a point of stepping onto the A-road to reach the point I had passed the previous day and so closed this small gap. The bridge itself is a rather functional affair, made of concrete I think.

The A835 bridge over the river Strathan

Strathan river near Rhue

Now it was time to re-trace my steps back to the car at the end of the road. As I headed back up the road I saw something that would soon be a familiar sight on the west coast of Scotland – a CalMac ferry.

Loch Broom from Rhue

Caledonian MacBrayne (to use their full name) operate the vast majority of ferries in Scotland and along the west coast in particularly there are very many ferries linking to the various islands as well as crossing some lochs, linking two parts of the mainland and providing shorter routes than driving around. In this particular case, this is the MV Loch Seaforth, heading to Ullapool from Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis.

I continued on the road back to the car park where I then drove back to Ullapool where I was staying.

This was only a short walk but I was glad I had made the effort to come back here. The view from the lighthouse at the head of Loch Broom was spectacular both of the coast to the north and south as well as to the Summer Isles out in the open sea and was the highlight but there were also good views throughout on the road, of Loch Broom and inland to the snow-covered mountains, I was surprised to see so much snow still around in May!

Here are details of the public transport for this walk.

There is no public transport along the road to Rhue however there is a bus that stops at the junction with the road to Rhue and the A835 which could be used from Ullapool or Lochinver to access this walk:-

George Rapson Travel route 809 : Ullapool – Strathcanaird – Elphin – Ledmore Junction – Inchnadamph – Lochinver – Achmelvich – Rhicarn – Stoer – Culkein – Clashnessie – Drumbeg. Typically runs twice per day Monday – Saturday. All destinations north of Lochinver to/from Drumbeg are served by request only and only once per day. When heading north just tell the driver. When heading south the bus must be booked by 6pm the previous day by calling 01463 482893 if you are departing from anywhere north of Lochinver. You must ask the driver to alight at the junction with the road to Rhue.

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

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333. Achiltibuie to Ullapool

May 2019

Today I knew was going to be a tough walk as I’d be tackling the “posties path“. This is so called because when a postal service was established, Achiltibuie was not connected to the road network. So twice per week the postman would undertake this demanding walk to deliver mail to the village. Today I’ll be doing the same, but at least I don’t have a bag load of mail to deliver too though of course the postmen would do the return trip in a day and I’ll only be going one way.

Although not a huge mileage I had heard this path was tough and hard to use so I planned this walk carefully. I decided to take the bus to Achiltibue and then walk south. I considered ending in Strathcanaird which would make it a shorter walk but parking looked a bit tricky there so I decided to stick with Ullapool as my planned end point.

As I was taking the bus today I didn’t need to drive anywhere and took the 10am bus to Achiltibue which at least gave me time to have a relaxed breakfast and stock up for lunch (note – this was the only bus service to Achiltibue and it has since ceased to run). The bus arrived on time and by the time it neared Achiltibue I was the only passenger. The bus driver was chatty so I explained my plan. He knew the walk and warned me it was tough and told me he would happily take me to the very end of the road in Achiltibue (I’m not sure if this is off the route of the bus or not) to cut the distance I’d be walking. However I stuck with my plan to get off at the post office, since it was marked on the map and this is what I had planned. The journey also acted as a useful way for me to explain my plan for the following days walk too. He confirmed the school bus was not normally full and available to all, so that was good.

The bus dropped me off at the post office and the driver had been keen to tell me of the facilities of this remote village on the way. The post office was a rather basic building with a corrugated metal roof but outside the reason the posties path was no longer used by postmen was clear, their red van!

Achiltibuie Post Office

The first part of the walk was easy as I’d be following this minor dead-end road south to the beginning of the posties path. Although the road was a few hundred metres back from the coast it was close enough and high enough I could still see out to sea.

Achiltibuie

Achiltibuie

First I passed a small hotel, the Summer Isles Hotel. It was beautifully located with a lovely view of the Summer Isles and seems to have a good reputation for food but it comes at a price (I know, I looked!).

Achiltibuie

Achiltibuie

Further along the road was the Piping School Cafe, another unexpected find in such a remote place.

Polglass

Polglass

Tempting, but I’d only just begun so I gave it a miss. Further along the road was a bus shelter with a couple of plastic chairs in! I suspect this is where the bus normally turns.

Out to sea I could see the islands of Meall nan Gabhar and Horse Island, some of the larger summer isles. Once inhabited, apparently only goats (not horses) live there now.

Badenscallie

Horse Sound near Acheninver

Horse Sound near Acheninver

Along this road the village of Achiltibuie becomes Polglass and then Badenscallie but there is no obvious boundary. However I was now in the latter because I soon crossed over Badenscallie. Given the width of the burn it was in quite a deep valley crossed via a metal bridge.

Acheninver

Acheninver

Just after this I took a diversion off on a minor road that headed right down to the shore. A dead-end, but it would be a shame to miss it out. This took me past a cemetery and then to the shingle beach just beyond. Clearly there had once been living people here too because there was a ruined house on the cliff to the right.

Acheninver

I continued south along the foreshore since the grass was short and the map showed another footpath a bit south alongside the Allt Ach’ a’ Bhraighe river would take me back up to the road.

At the far end of the beach was a ruined boat, just it’s “skeleton” left and another couple of still intact boats that I suspect were also abandoned.

Acheninver

Acheninver

Beyond the end of the beach the walk was a bit tricky for a while but I soon managed to pick up a feint path. The path marked on the map alongside the river however didn’t seem to exist that I could see so I was able to cross the river at the shore and continue on the beach beyond, a mixture of sand and shingle.

Horse Sound near Acheninver

At the end of this beach I was able to cut inland to join up with the access road to a house just behind and follow this back to the road – probably easier than the path up to Achvraie and a short cut, too!

Acheninver

Acheninver

 

Acheninver

Acheninver

Acheninver

Now it was a fairly easy walk along the road for another mile or so to Achduart, the end of the road and the start of the path.

The road to Achduart

At the end of the road the road split with one half going to the last house so I took the left fork and was pleased to see the path was properly signed.

I passed a somewhat dilapidated old farm to the right and then the path begins.

Achduart

To start with it was a proper path, fairly wide and obvious. So far as I could see the main users were sheep!

The posties path near Culnacraig

The posties path near Culnacraig

The posties path near Culnacraig

This is a wile and remote landscape and looking inland there was little sign of man at all, just wild open moorland, no buildings, trees or tracks (other than the one I was on).

The posties path near Culnacraig

The posties path between Culnacraig and Strath Canaird

The posties path between Culnacraig and Strath Canaird

The posties path between Culnacraig and Strath Canaird

The first couple of rivers were crossed by proper footbridges and in fact there are two alternative starts, another from the road at Culnacraig and soon these paths merged.

It was at about that point the path began to deteriorate to a feinter, narrower and more difficult path but I was pleased to see it was still marked with a wooden way mark post.

The posties path between Culnacraig and Strath Canaird

The walk was turning less into a walk and more into rock climbing! The path was no longer so much of a path and the rocky landscape meant I had to watch my footing for every single step, often having to walk on or step over rocks and large pebbles.

The posties path between Culnacraig and Strath Canaird

The posties path between Culnacraig and Strath Canaird

The posties path between Culnacraig and Strath Canaird

The way-marks continued but I had to be increasingly careful to see the path. I could often only spot it a few metres ahead at a time though inevitable when I got a few metres ahead I could spot the continuation of the path.

The posties path between Culnacraig and Strath Canaird

The posties path between Culnacraig and Strath Canaird

Now however there were no bridges and the various streams and burns had to be crossed via fords (in practice, find your own way over the stones as best you can). I nearly came a cropper on one when I stepped onto a stone and it was like a sheet of ice, I presume slippery but invisible weed had grown on it due to the water!

As I headed south east the path became increasingly difficult now heading along a quite steep sloping cliff face. It felt like it was about 45-degrees but I don’t think it was really that steep.

However the path was narrower and I had to watch every step because heather was partly growing over and there was a steep drop to the right.

At a place called Geodha Mor the path turns inland for a few hundred metres in order to get around a larger burn. I could see from the GPS I was approaching this. The cliffs beyond this looked really steep yet the map suggested the path ran below the tops of the cliffs. I couldn’t make it out and it looked like it was going to be very difficult.

The posties path between Culnacraig and Strath Canaird

Geodha Mor

Geodha Mor

Geodha Mor

The path now began to climb steeply and the sun felt as if it was beginning to burn off the cloud, it was getting quite warm. I stopped for a rest and soon spotted other people ahead, the first I had seen since leaving the road. It was a bit of a squeeze to pass on the path but I was re-assured by their presence as it meant it was possible to get through to the other end. They told me the path was quite difficult ahead. I passed on the same advice!

On the far side of the river there was a shingle and rock beach at the base of the cliffs though I didn’t know if the path went down there.

Now the path, as shown on the map, turned inland to follow the side of the Allt a Choire Mhoir river. I could see why now since it had cut almost a gorge, with little water falls.

The posties path between Culnacraig and Strath Canaird

When this ended the path came to the ford over the river which was narrow enough to step over.

The posties path between Culnacraig and Strath Canaird

Soon I was above the beach I had spotted. The path didn’t go down there. It would be possible to get down there but it didn’t look that good and I was keen to conserve energy, so I carried on along the path rather than risk diverting off.

At times I doubted I was still on the proper path it was barely visible but intermittent market arrows would confirm I was. Sadly my thought that the cloud might be lifting was soon dashed as a brief but heavy shower blew in. Here it comes!

The posties path between Culnacraig and Strath Canaird

Fortunately it did not last long and with the path continuing to climb I soon began to feel I was nearing the top.

The posties path between Culnacraig and Strath Canaird

To the south, I could see the island of Isle Martin.

The posties path between Culnacraig and Strath Canaird

This is one of the larger of the summer isles and it’s possible to visit the island, though like all of them it has now permanent human inhabitants.

The posties path between Culnacraig and Strath Canaird

The geology here was spectacular with all the cliffs rocky and flat rocky patches on the path, but sadly only briefly. In the cliffs I could see areas of red, presumably iron deposits.

The posties path between Culnacraig and Strath Canaird

The posties path between Culnacraig and Strath Canaird

The posties path between Culnacraig and Strath Canaird

In the distance, around Loch Broom I could see houses ahead. A look at the map suggested it is Ardmair. It still looked quite a way!

There were several more fords to cross as the path headed a little inland away from the shore though none proved too demanding.

The posties path between Culnacraig and Strath Canaird

The posties path between Culnacraig and Strath Canaird

Although the map suggested I was approaching the valley of the river Canaird, where I expected to soon be dropping the path continued to climb up a valley and passing close to a small lochan.

Loch Barr na h-lubhraich

At last, rounding a corner I could see the river valley below – a long way below! It was a truly spectacular view though.

Camas Mor near Strath Canaird

Isle Martin

There was a good beach I could see at Camas Mor and all the rocky inlets beyond as well as the house of Ardmair.

Camas Mor near Strath Canaird

The path now began to descend steeply and at last I met the sign at the other end of it. It told me Achiltibuie was 9 1/2 miles away. It felt like a lot more!

The posties path

The walk had taken me longer than expected. It was now 16:45 and I still had what I estimated to be about 3 hours to go before I reached Ullapool, assuming I could find a reasonably direct route around the valley of the river Canaird.

The River Canaird

The River Canaird

The path continued beside a fence to the road at a place called Blughasary (great name!). From there that would take me to the road at Strathcanaird. However that was much further inland than I needed or wanted to go. Instead about 500 metres further along I had spotted the map marked a bridge over the river and a track down to Keanchulish House and on to the road there. I wanted to go this way, it would cut a significant distance.

The last bit of the path was very boggy and having managed to keep mostly dry feet so far I know managed to stand in a boggy area I couldn’t see under the grass and get wet feet again. A gate took me out of the first fence but soon I reached a high deer fence between me and the river. I followed it up and down expecting and hoping to find a gate, stile or some way of crossing it. But there wasn’t one.

I couldn’t face the longer diversion inland so resorted to climbing the wire fence. It was about twice the height of me, so I hoped it would hold my weight, I did at least climb next to one of the wooden supports, but it was almost a double fence and very tricky to cross. Eventually I made it over to the track the other side and followed this to the bridge marked on the map hoping it still existed. It did, but you couldn’t see it until almost on top of it!

Glad to make it over the river I now followed the track south. It was wide enough to be used by vehicles (and I suspect is), and so it was nice to be on a flat-ish surface after that tough path.

Near Strath Canaird

The track, as I hoped continued past and in front of Keanchulish House and then along to Glutton Bungalow which I passed and finally I was back on tarmac, in the form of the A835.

Loch Kanaird

A mixed blessing really. At least the surface was easy and navigation easy but now I had to dodge the traffic which goes very fast along this road. Fortunately there was a grass verge and being now into the evening little traffic. I was very tired now but there was no easy way of cutting the walk short now unless I called a taxi from Ullapool, so I continued.

Loch Kanaird

Loch Kanaird

The road climbed up through some trees and then back down to the loch shore by a pier marked on the map. I was surprised to find there was a ferry of some sort over to Isle Martin from here. It is now shown on the map at all though the sign wasn’t giving a lot away!

Loch Kanaird

Isle Martin ferry

Jetty north of Ardmair

I was tempted to visit on a later date but torn between missing out a walk I had planned to do on this trip, but that was a dilemma for another day.

A short distance further along the road and I had reached the village of Ardmair.

Ardmair near Ullapool

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Ardmair near UllapoolArdmair near Ullapool

In fact it’s mostly a caravan and camp site. The road cuts this off leaving the site on a tiny peninsula but I decided to walk through it since it was closer to the coast. I had another motive too. I had eaten all the food and snacks I bought with me and drunk all my drinks and was now extrmely hungry and also pretty thirsty. I hoped the site might be big enough to have a shop or even a cafe of pub. Sadly it was not and the smell of food coming from the motor homes and tents only made me more hungry!

Ardmair near Ullapool

Leaving the campsite I was back on the road alongside the shingle beach. It was nice to have a flat bit of road but of course it didn’t last. Soon the A835 and hence me with it turned inland and headed uphill again. Still I wasn’t going too high and was surprised to see, given it was May how much snow there was on some of the higher hills (mountains?) around.

Snow capped mountains near Ullapool

The A835 near Ullapool

The road crossed the river at Allt an t’Strathain.

The A835 at An Strathan

Here a dead-end road off to the right would take me to the village of Rhue. To stick as close to the coast as possible I should really go there and back along that road. But I hadn’t got the time or energy so I stuck to the main road.

The A835 near Ullapool

Loch Broom near Ullapool

The main road of course soon climbed, quite steeply away from the river to just bypass the top of the hill of Cnoc na Moine. I knew this from driving the road and that it was the last hill!

Soon I went over the brow of the hill and at last I could see Ullapool ahead.

The A835 at Ullapool

Not far to go now before I could sit down now! It was a steep descent down and my feet were hurting now, it had been a long walk.

The A835 at Ullapool

As I approached the town a sign informed me I was now at the end of the North and West Highlands Tourist route. Below it was a sign bearing an EU logo though the rest of it appeared to have faded to nothing so I don’t know what it once said. Given the graffiti I guess not everyone in Ullapool is a fan of the EU!

Welcome to Ullapool

Welcome to Ullapool

The road soon reached the bridge over the Ullapool river. Here I spotted a footpath sign. I didn’t know this path existed but spotting it on the map it looked to be a shorter and more pleasant route into the town, as indeed it was.

It was partly board-walked and much of it through woodland with the remnants of the spring bluebells still present.The river is wide and quite fast flowing but fortunately a footbridge was here to get me across it.

The Ullapool river

The Ullapool river

Crossing the Ullapool river

Now across the river I continued ahead back to the shores of Loch Broom, then turned south towards Ullapool Point. There is a nice green beside the road and beyond it as I neared Ullapool Point another large campsite.

Loch Broom, Ullapool

Ullapool

Finally I rounded the corner and my hotel was just ahead. It was now about 8pm so I got back far later than anticipated. However I did have a big sense of achievement having done that challenging path and loved (almost!) every minute of it. The terrain may have been tough but I was more than rewarded for it by some stunning views of Loch Broom and the various islands within it, as well as the wild moorland inland.

Sadly I had arrived too late for dinner at the hotel (though it was a bit “school dinner” ish anyway so that wasn’t a big loss) so I had to settle for a takeaway from the takeaway next door and more food from the Tesco in Ullapool (I was surprised somewhere as small as Ullapool had a big Tesco but I was very glad of that especially with it being open to 10pm, so there was always somewhere to get food).

There is no longer any public transport available for this walk. (The previous service was withdrawn in March 2020 due to Covid). There is a bus between Strathcanaird and Ullapool which could be used to shorten the walk, however.

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.

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332. Achiltibue to Altandhu (and back)

May 2019

This was a short there and back walk, done in the afternoon after doing a different walk in the morning. I had by this time already walked the coast south from Achiltibue and my previous post ended at Altandu so I had left a short gap so this walk was about plugging that gap!

I drove from Ullapool round to Achiltibue and struggled to find anywhere to park. I had previously spotted an area on the road to Polbain just after the junction with the road to Loch Raa but this was full. Instead I ended up parking next to the public toilet just a few metres from this junction by some information boards (being careful not to block the “keep clear” area in front of some garages the other side of the toilet).

First I walked south from here to the post office in Achiltibue along the road as this is where the bus had dropped me for my walk the previous day (but the next one I’ll write up here!). On the way I passed the general stores, the fire station and the war memorial. Whilst Achiltibue is small I guess it has more facilities than you might expect due to the long distance to anywhere else!

I then returned back the way I had come to the car and this time took the left fork, taking the road to Polbain. The road soon headed down to the beach at the north end of the bay with some flat grass between the road and the beach.

Near Achiltibue

Near Achiltibue

This grass area seems to be a popular un-official camping spot the whole grass was busy with cars, motorhomes and campervans. I often wonder what the locals must feel about these places becoming campsites during the summer as the numbers seem to be growing each year though at least in this case there is a public toilet nearby which I hope minimises some of the, err,  pollution.

Near Achiltibue

At the far end of the beach were some moored boats on the pebble beach and what I presume are old World War II bombs, the outer metal now rusted right through.

Near Achiltibue

Near Achiltibue

At the end of the beach was a very pretty little cottage.

Near Achiltibue

I re-joined the road at the end of the beach and now followed it down to a little pier. The map suggested boat trips ran from here (I presume to the Summer Isles) but there was no evidence of any boat trips when I got here.

Near Achiltibue

The road to the pier was a dead-end so rather than head back to it, I decided to make my own way along the shore, it looked easy enough.

Near Achiltibue

Near Achiltibue

Rounding the corner I reached the bay of Mol a Bhlair.

Near Achiltibue

As I neared Polbain there were fences and stone walls coming right down to the coast. I could I suppose climb these but I managed to make it round the coastal side of all but one of these. The last one I had to go down to some rocks on the beach since they had built the fence right down to the waves, pretty much.

Near Achiltibue

Near Achiltibue

Once around this I managed to make it round, to join the dead-end road to Comas Coille and follow this back up to the junction.

Mol a Bhlair near Polbain

The coast near Polbain

Now I stuck to the road heading north climbing up away from Dornie and passing pretty Loch a Mheallain.

The coast near Polbain

The coast near Polbain

Loch Camas an Fheidh

Loch Camas an Fheidh

Loch Camas an Fheidh

After this loch another dead-end road went off to the left down to Old Dornie (and according to the map, Old Dorney Bay, I was interested to note the differing spellings!).

Old Dorney Bay

Old Dorney Bay

I turned left to follow this dead-end road. Old Dorney Bay was extremely pretty. The bay is about 3/4 of a circle with only a 1/4 open to the sea, making for a very sheltered bay which many boats were taking advantage of, moored in the calm sheltered waters. Just the other side of the bay is the Isle of Ristol.

Old Dorney Bay

The water looked shallow and I must admit I briefly contemplated the idea of trying to wade out to Isle of Ristol but soon decided that was a bad idea (not least because I didn’t know the tide times so even if I got out there I might not be able to get back).

I headed down to the waters edge and stopped for a quick rest, it’s a lovely spot.

Old Dorney Bay

Rather than head back along the road I made my own way along the shore again as the terrain is not too rugged here. I was soon approaching another beach, Camas an Fheidh according to the map.

The beach at Altandhu

This was a mixture of pebbles and lovely almost white sand. It was a lovely spot and backed by a campsite (this time, a proper one).

The beach at Altandhu

The beach at Altandhu

The beach at Altandhu

I continued until I was alongside the campsite and then walked through it to the road. This is opposite the pub (Fuaran Bar) where I had got as far as before, coming from the north so now I had closed the gap. Now I just had to head back to the car.

This time I followed the road south, climbing steeply out of the village passing another pretty loch, Loch Camas an Fheidh.

Loch a Mheallain near Polbain

Loch a Mheallain near Polbain

Loch a Mheallain near Polbain

I soon rejoined the road I had walked earlier, at the junction for Old Dornie. Although inland the views out to the coast were wonderful with all the Summer Isles looking very summery under the near cloudless skies.

The Summer Isles from near Polbain

I zoomed in on the camera making out many of the rocks, islets and islands of this lovely archipelago.

The Summer Isles from near Polbain

The Summer Isles from near Polbain

Most of the islands are uninhabited but I believe it is possible to visit both Tanera More (the closest and largest island) and Isle Martin, however these trips depart from Ullapool even though that is much further away!

The Summer Isles from near Polbain

It really was a stunning view, constantly changing as I walked slowly south along the road. It is easy to get distracted by the view but I had to keep half an eye on the traffic too, though there wasn’t much of it.

The coast near Polbain

Soon I was descending back to Polbain. However I was a bit distracted by something else that caught my eye. Looking south, towards Ullapool I could see mountains (not sure which ones) and was surprised to see that the tops were still covered in snow and it looked pretty deep. I was surprised to see so much snow in May!

The coast near Polbain

The coast near Polbain

The view was lovely and soon I entered the small village of Polbain, which I had missed out on the way here due to following right along the shore. It didn’t have much in the way of facilities, but it did have an art gallery (though I didn’t visit it).

The coast near Polbain

Polbain art gallery

Just past Polbain a track went off left, which was marked on the map. A sign showed this as a path to “Polbain Peat Road and Hill Path” presumably the track was created for people cutting peat, which was used for heating (possibly still is).

A short distance more and I was back at the beach near Achiltibuie. I headed briefly down to the beach, rejoining the road at the far end to return to my car by the public toilet.

The beach north of Achiltibuie

When I planned this I had expected to just follow the road there and back and it might be a bit dull. As it happened it was nothing of the sort as I was able to stick closer to the coast much of the time and it turned out to be far more beautiful than I had expected, including the more “inland” parts of the road as I had been next to lochs for much of the time. The views over to the Summer Isles and snow-capped mountains near Ullapool were especially lovely. It had been a far nicer walk than I had expected.

There is no public transport available for this walk. In the past, KSM bus route 811 served Achiltibue however the service is currently suspended due to Covid (though I suspect it won’t resume at all).

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

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331. Achnahaird to Altandhu

May 2019

This was the first day of my first trip to Scotland of 2019. It was getting increasingly tricky to plan these trips (though if I thought things were getting tricky to organise in 2019 it was going to be much worse in 2020, though I didn’t yet know it). After my last trip, staying at the pretty horrible Caledonian Hotel in Ullapool I was keen to avoid that hotel for my first trip of 2019. So I booked as far back as October 2018. I thought that would be plenty of time. I was wrong. By that time the only other hotel I could find in Ullapool with a room was the Royal Hotel. Unfortunately the only room free was a 4-poster bed room which, as you can imagine did not come cheap. So with great reluctance, I booked at the Caledonian Hotel again. I suppose at least I knew what to expect and I couldn’t justify paying around 3 times the price to stay at the Royal Hotel instead.

As to getting here, well I had been using Easyjet between Luton and Inverness and hiring a car. However I had become frustrated about how the flight back from Inverness is always late, often substantially so. However I choose these flights because it gets me their fastest (and usually cheapest) allowing me to do a walk on the day I arrive and another on the day I go home, preserving more precious annual leave! Thankfully this time I had an alternative. British Airways had re-introduced services between London Heathrow and Inverness and for 2019 had increased to two flights per day on this route and the timings were also good. A 10:15 departure from London and a 20:15 departure back from Inverness so I booked that, along with a hire car. This would also be far more convenient as it takes me a good 30-40 minutes less to get to Heathrow than Luton from home.

However less than 3 weeks after booking the flight I got the dreaded email from British Airways telling me there had been a change to my flight. This irritated me intently. Why sell tickets if you haven’t agreed the flight schedule yet? In any case it was evening more irritating that when booking my ticket it had been made clear that I had booked an inflexible ticket so if I wanted to change to travel at a different time or date I’d have to pay £60 plus any difference in fare. However it seems if British Airways want to change it, unsurprisingly, they don’t pay me £60. So now my outward flight had moved to 18:40 and this was the earliest choice (the late flight was now only 2 hours later). That was no good, so I had to apply for a refund and re-book with Easyjet from Luton again.

So now after an early start I drove to Luton Airport and took the flight to Inverness, where I’d booked a hire car.  The flight was a bit late owing to the pilot being late on another flight, but at least not dramatically so (I think about 40 minutes late leaving). On reaching Inverness I headed to the hire car desk. I’d booked the cheapest car, listed as a “Fiat 500 or similar”. This time I actually got a Kia Picanto GT Line. I don’t know anything about these cars but as long as it worked it wasn’t going to matter much. However on seeing it, I realised the lady that had served me at the desk had missed out a required accessory.

P1080254

Clearly to drive a car like this I was going to need to have a Burberry baseball cap to wear, with the peak facing backwards, yet somehow they had neglected to provide one. Joking aside whilst I didn’t particularly like the look the “GT” performance was welcome on the hilly roads of the Scottish highlands (though the hard suspension a little less so).

I found the car fine to drive and was soon on my way to Achnahaird. I was heading for a car park marked on the map at the south end of Achnahaird Bay, at a junction and beside Loch Raa. The drive was not too bad, only the last minor road was single-track and after a lunch stop en-route I arrived at about 1:45pm.

My plan was to try and find a route around the headland of Rubha Na Coigeach to re-join the road at Reiff and follow that south to Altandhu. Then walk back to the junction just north of Altandhu and follow the road along the neck of the peninsula back to Achnahaird.

I started by heading north along the road to cross the stream out of Loch Raa on the road bridge and then headed down onto the marshes along the western end of Achnahaird Bay.

Achnahaird

The coast at Achnahaird

The water was quite high, in places I could walk on some pebbles beside the water at other times some grass and occasionally, bits of heather. Whilst the map marked sand much of the landward end of the bay was marsh, in this case largely featureless grass (though of the type of grass that grows in salt water). Beyond the very flat marshes I could see the peaks in the distance.

The coast at Achnahaird

As I headed further north, the marsh gave way to sand and dunes – much better.

Achnahaird

As the tide was high in places I had to head up onto the low cliffs as the beach was under water but mostly there was short-ish grass so not too bad underfoot.

Achnahaird

Achnahaird

As I reached the end of the beach though I knew things would get harder, as the terrain was now mostly heather (with some gorse and bracken), but I soon picked up a “sort of” path (I’m never sure if these are made by other people or animals such as sheep or deer).

North of Achnahaird

North of Achnahaird

North of Achnahaird

I was making progress, albeit not especially fast and having seen no one I was surprised to turn back to take a photo and find a couple standing on the headland I’d just walked round.

North of Achnahaird

North of Achnahaird

I hadn’t seem them on the beach so not sure where they came from or were going but I found it re-assuring to know others were here. I gained a little height and the views back were now spectacular. I can’t name all the mountains I’m afraid, all I knew was that there were a lot of them.

North of Achnahaird

Enard Bay

Enard Bay

Enard Bay

I was able to make it along the shore to soon reach a tiny place marked as Camascoille. Buildings were marked on the map but I expected them to be ruined, so I was surprised to see 3 seemingly well-maintained houses.

Camascoille

The surprise was because there is no road, track or even path marked to these houses nor are they on the coast, which made me wonder how the people that live there or own them get here? It’s well over a mile over the moors from the nearest road, which can’t be fun in a gale with bags of shopping!

Just north of these houses I came to the rocky beach at Camas Coille. A pleasant beach but no evidence of a harbour or landing place (I wondered if those houses might be used by fisherman).

Enard Bay

I continued over the moorland now, sometimes with a path and sometimes just having to make my way over the heather, which is quite hard work.

Enard Bay

Half a mile or so ahead I came to a rocky little inlet, presumably a fault line where the rock had been eroded more quickly.

The coast north of Achnahaird

Beyond it was another beach, pebbles and rocks this time. A couple of bays further round I reached a rocky bay near a place marked as Geodha na Ploytach Beag. Here there was an almost flat rocky ledges, I was curious as to the very varied geology on this part of the coast.

The coast north of Achnahaird

The coast north of Achnahaird

The coast north of Achnahaird

I continued on the rough moorland keeping close to the coast. There mostly wasn’t a path but at least the gradients were pretty small so going wasn’t too bad. The scenery was lovely and it was turning into a lovely walk.

The coast north of Achnahaird

Near Rhuba Coigeach

As I neared the tip of the headland however the terrain started to get more hilly. Not dramatically so, but it was a noticeable change and quite spectacular, with almost folds visible in the hills.

Near Rhuba Coigeach

Near Rhuba Coigeach

Soon I had rounded the corner and was now heading south. I soon came across a small beach around a larger bay, Faochag Vick according to the map. Here a tiny bit of sand was visible in amongst the rocks, with the calm waters beyond.

Near Rhuba Coigeach

I rounded this bay and as I got a bit further south I began to find better paths again and soon sheep. The cliff tops now had areas of rocks poking through, sort of like the rocky tors you get in Dartmoor, amongst others.

The coast north of Reiff

The coast north of Reiff

I was unclear if the paths I was now finding were formed by the sheep or those coming to feed them but it was welcome as was the sheep having eaten much of the grass, keeping it short and easy for me to walk on.

The coast north of Reiff

I was making better progress now with the terrain easier and soon reached the bay of Camas Eilean Ghlais and a tiny island within it, of the same name (Eilean Ghlais).

The coast north of Reiff

The coast north of Reiff

The coast north of Reiff

The coast north of Reiff

Just south of here I reached the tall thin Loch Reiff.

The coast north of Reiff

I stuck to the landward size of this as the map suggested this way there was soon a track. This was possibly a mistake since the land sloped steeply (at an angle of about 45 degrees) down to the water and the first flat land had a fence along it. The land beside the fence was eroding and slowly slipping into the loch so I made my way along this with care.

Loch of Reiff

Loch of Reiff

The loch itself is quite pretty with some geese on it. Fortunately the fence at last ended and I could join the proper track marked on the map. This took me to the small village of Reiff overlooking Reiff Bay.

Reiff

It’s another pretty beach a mixture of sand and pebbles but given the colour of the sea there must also be a lot of sand at low tide.

Reiff

Now I could simply follow the road south to the junction just north of Altandhu. I was heading south east further into the sea loch of Loch an Alltain Duibh with the two islands of Ristol and Eilean Mullagrach at the south end of the loch. The former had some nice looking sandy beaches.

Loch an Alltain Duibh

Loch an Alltain Duibh

Loch an Alltain Duibh

Loch an Alltain Duibh

Ahead I could soon see the scattered houses that make up Altandhu.

Loch an Alltain Duibh

Loch an Alltain Duibh

I had been a bit undecided when I set off if, when I reached the junction for the road to Achnahaird if I’d go directly back that way or if I’d extend the walk a bit to Altandhu (which would mean doubling back up the road to go back the same way). In the end, I opted for the latter because I had a long walk planned tomorrow and this would shorten it a bit. So I continued through the facilities of this scattered village and near the south end there is even a pub.

Altandhu

Tempting to stop, but I still had to get back to the car and drive back to Ullapool and I wasn’t sure when the hotel reception might close.

So instead here I turned back and headed back to the road junction and then took the road to Achnahaird. This climbed steeply but did give me a beautiful view over the bay. There are so many islands here!

Altandhu

They are, collectively, called the Summer Isles. I don’t think any are permanently inhabited now but some are during the summer months (I suspect this is how they got their name, oddly Wikipedia doesn’t say why). It is a very beautiful place even on an overcast day like today.

The road soon descended, passing by Loch a Chaoruinn.

Loch a Chaoruinn

Soon the road was descending back to the familiar site of Achnahaird. I headed through the village, still another mile or so to go back to the car park so it was quite late when I arrived.

Achnahaird

It had been a lovely walk. I was pleased to have been able to stick right to the coast all the way around and enjoyed some very beautiful scenery on the way. Even the road part had been pleasant because there isn’t much traffic and the road also offered lovely views.

Now I had to drive down to Ullapool. The roads are mostly single track for the first part so I was glad to get onto the main road, with the luxury of a lane each way! At least I knew the way to the hotel in Ullapool.

It didn’t look any better when I arrived though in the car park I did at least notice that the skip of mouldy mattresses that was here last year had gone. Stepping inside though it was clear nothing much else had changed, it will still very run down. Given the key to my room on heading up the stairs I soon realised it was the same room I had been in on my last stay. I suppose the top floor, where it was located meant I only had squeaky floorboards beneath me, not above as well.

Not much had changed in the room either. At least the cobwebs hanging from the ceiling last time had gone nor did I find a half-drunk bottle of water and a sock by the bed, left from the last occupant, as I had done last time. However opening the wardrobe I did have a surprise. Last time I stayed here (back in October) I had got my jeans damp and covered with sand. I had hung them in the wardrobe, but when I removed them the now dry sand cascaded off into the floor of the wardrobe. That was over 6 months ago and I couldn’t believe it but the sand was still there! It seems no one had cleaned the floor of the wardrobe in all that time!

I had arrived late and hence missed dinner at the hotel (though I’m not sure that is much of a loss) so I settled for a takeway from the takeaway next door.

It had been a good first day and the scenery had been stunning, especially as the walk progressed. A wonderful mix of coast, mountains, lochs and islands. It had a remote and wild feel to it yet I had still been able to find a route that was not too hard going.

There is no public transport available to this area at the time of writing. (When I was here, KSM Bus route 811 ran but this is currently shown as “suspended due to Covid 19” though I suspect it’s likely cancelled for good).

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

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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 | 11 Comments