This was the last day of a 5 day trip to the north of Scotland and I was flying home at the end of the day. It was also a Sunday which meant that there are no buses at all on this part of the coast. So instead I planned a circular route around Strathy Head finishing in the oddly named village of Brawl (anyone for a fight?!) where I’d follow the road down tot he A836 and walk back along the A836 (not as bad as it seems since there isn’t much traffic in this remote area). I also had to be mindful that I had to drive down to Inverness at the end of the day in order to return the hire car and get my flight home and I could not be late for that.
I checked out of my none too great hotel in Thurso and drove west to Strathy. I parked in the same little car park by the chapel in Strathy just a few metres off the A836 that I had used earlier in the week.
The map showed that the coast on the eastern side of the headland of Strathy Point was initially mostly fields dotted with houses. I was also concerned some of these fields might in fact turn out to be gardens and in any case there was a valley at Port an Uillt Rudiah which would mean I’d have to had back to the road to get around it. So I decided to stick to the minor road out to Strathy Point initially. There isn’t much on this little peninsula and it’s a minor road, so I didn’t expect much traffic.
I set off along the road and immediately on my left was open moorland so for much of the time I was able to walk on the edge of that, rather than the road. There were distant views to the coast over to my right.
After about 500 metres the road turned off to the left and I was briefly able to follow a path over the moorland right of the road but soon headed back onto the road. The heather on the moor was starting to come into flower and was very pretty and sheep were grazing openly.
I passed the valley on my right for Port an Uillt Ruaidh. I continued on the road but just ahead of here I saw a man head away from a house on one of those horrible scrambler motorbikes over the moors to my left. I had hoped to avoid that kind of behaviour in this remote and beautiful area. I wasn’t sure if he was trying to round up sheep or just riding about on the moorland, but these bikes will quickly turn the moorland to mud and I had to listen to the noisy engine. I was also concerned I’d encounter the bike later when I planned to walk west from Strathy Point, but thankfully he had gone by then.
I reached the further car park near to the lighthouse, which was already full up. I was surprised by that as it was only just after 10am and the weather was not that great. The road continued ahead, but now it was private and there were quite a few people walking. I could see the lighthouse ahead and wasn’t sure if it might be possible to visit it (sadly not). As I headed out to the lighthouse I was now on open moorland and so with no fences to get in the way I turned right off the road just after Toll Egain.
I made my way over to a memorial seat on the coast and then could find a path over the grass towards the lighthouse. That’s better, no more tarmac! And the sheep grazing on the grass meant it was short and easy to walk on.
Ahead I soon got a view of the Loch between me and the lighthouse (Lochan nam Faoileag). I walked on the hill to the right of it, which was now getting quite rocky.
At the top of the hill was some sort of concrete building, probably from World War II. I was able to follow a path right out to the end of the point by the lighthouse and in fact there was an “almost island” linked by a narrow area of rock. I scrambled over these rocks, where upon the terrain became grass again and I could walk out right to the end of the headland.
I was really glad I did, it was a wonderful view. East I could see the coast I think right the way to Cape Wrath and east back to Dunnet Head.
The geology was stunning with numerous caves and inlets and the cliffs to my left were much higher than I had expected.
Having enjoyed the walk out I headed back to the lighthouse but found it was now a private house, a shame.
I knew now things would get more tricky as I headed away from the road. However I was able to find an easy path over the cliffs west past a spectacular rock arch with a view over the rocky bay.
Initially I could not see a path when I looked ahead but as I walked I continued to spot a path ahead of me right around the coast, albeit I could often only see it for a few metres ahead. It turns out that the sheep had been this way and worn down a nice easy path and so I was able to find a nice easy path over short grass around the craggy and rocky coast. It was a lovely walk with beautiful scenery throughout.
The sun was also beginning to break through the clouds as I passed the little beach near Totegan (rocky, rather than sandy as the map had suggested).
West of Druim Alt a’ Mhuilinn I had to go around a larger inlet, but again there was a good path around it. I hadn’t expected this to be an easy walk like this, or so beautiful.
Rounding the next headland the terrain became much more rocky with areas of exposed rock but again I could always see a path ahead, even if only a few metres ahead. I disturbed some sheep grazing here but at least they helped show me the way!
I was now near the house at Aultivullin. This meant I could head back along the road if needed but again I was able to find a path along the coastal side of the valley here. There were fences but there was a way to go around it on the coastal side at all times. It was a bit boggy near the bottom of the valley but I was able to find a part narrower enough I could jump over the stream and keep dry feet.
It was a rather beautiful little valley with high rocks on either side and some bracken and grass in the valley.
Around the other side of the valley I had one fence to climb over, but there was an area with a sort of wooden gate right at the coastal end, so I could climb over this rather than the barbed wire.
I could then follow a path out to the headland of Rubha Dubh. This was a stunning section of coast. The path was again easy and the scenery so spectacular with a little rocky island, Boursa Island visible ahead of me and a rocky beach beyond it.
Just before the beach I came across a little valley that took me by surprise (it is on the map, but it is easy to miss, as I had), but it was not difficult to get through (I went inland and down into it and back up).
The valley really was stunning though with near sheer cliff face on the eastern side.
The path now climbed high up above the beach. A fisherman obviously used the beach, a couple of boats were left at the back of the beach, out of range of the high tide but on the cliff top was some fishing equipment and some sort of pulley. I presumed the fisherman slid down this somehow! Or perhaps just used it to get equipment up and down and walked down to the beach.
I passed his little pully and climbed high above this rocky beach.
I love hearing the sound of the waves crashing around rocky coast like this, as I was. I was heading towards the west coast of Scotland which I’ve heard is the most spectacular and felt like I was getting a taster of it on this walk.
At the top I could now see clearly around to the small village of Armadale, spread out along the cliffs ahead, an area of greenery in the moorland.
I followed the path up to near the top of Cnoc Glas and then descended down into a most beautiful area. Looking back there were numerous rocky islands and caves formed into the rock, it reminded like parts of the Cornish coast near Bedruthen Steps.
There was a cave here and then even more spectacular, a collapsed cave, where a hole had formed at the top of the cliffs, but there was land all around so you could walk around it (for now).
This is marked as Glupie Bhrael. I was now near the small village of Brawl (a hamlet, really) where I could cut inland to the road (my original plan). But I couldn’t actually see the road, just a single house a bit inland. In any case the much easier than expected terrain meant I’d made better progress than expected. Rather than follow the road from Brawl I decided to continue west and make a longer route.
The cliffs were now lower, so I crossed the little valley ahead and made my way along the coast still on quite an easy path.
However there were a couple of fences I had to climb over again now.
Soon though I had a climb back up to go around Port Fhearchair. Had this really once been a port? It seemed to remote to have been and there were no signs of anything man made down on the beach.
The path over moorland got a bit feinter now, but it was still there. I was now passed the second road to Aultpihurst. I was also now right at the edge of my Ordnance Survey map (and I didn’t have the next one with me, as I hadn’t yet bought it!)
So I could see I should reach a fence ahead. When I did, I could turn left follow the fence, turn right with the fence and then join the road past Cnoc Seonaid back to the A386.
So that’s what I did, but the walk beside that fence was the only tricky part of the whole day. Now there was no path next to the fence, it was just rough moorland. At the first corner it was also very boggy, but a little area of land was fenced off within the fence (why) which I could also see on the map, confirming I was in the right place. And then I spotted the road ahead. Just as planned I could easily get down onto the road.
I stopped for a drink and snack first and then headed down to the road and followed it to the main A836. This too was a scenic walk and I hadn’t realised until I set off along the road how close I was to Armadale, since there was now a beautiful sandy beach just to my right.
I also came across a stile in the fence to the right which I expect could be crossed to get down to the beach, but that would have to wait until next time.
I continued along this road to the main road. I emerged on the A836 where there is a telephone box. I was pleased to see this here, as mobile this is such a remote area and I couldn’t resist lifting the receiver. But then the screen came up “Payphone not commissioned”. I was a bit annoyed about that (oddly, since I didn’t actually want to make a call). There is no mobile signal here so payphones still serve a use. If you’re going to decommission it, surely it makes sense to remove the box or at least remove the telephone. Oddly it must still be getting power for somewhere so someone (BT?) must still be paying for that, so why not leave the phone connected, if the line is still present and working?
After that it was a long and boring walk along the A836.
Though traffic was quiet, sometimes it was 5 minutes or so between cars, though sometimes I’d get a rush of about half a dozen all at once, then silence. The road passed a couple of small lochs too which were quite pretty.
Here’s where to go if you’re looking for a brawl!
This time no one offered me a lift but I was quite happy to walk and soon reached the small car park where I had parked.
It had been a beautiful walk, much easier than I had expected and more spectacular too. It was now time for the long drive to Inverness. It took around 3 hours. I stopped at the Tesco near Inverness Airport to refuel the car (and myself) and then drove it onwards to the airport where I returned it. Thankfully the car hire company could not find any problems with it, so I headed to the airport terminal.
My flight was not until 20:55 (rather later than I’d like, but services are limited to Inverness). So I was a bit annoyed when 20:55 arrived but no plane was there and it was only then announced the flight was expected to be around 90 minutes late (it was). I mean knowing earlier wouldn’t have changed matters I suppose but it’s rather annoying to be thinking you’re about to be on the way home only to find you’re not!
Due to the flight delay I finally got back to my own car at the long-stay car park of Luton Airport around 00:25 and then I had an hour drive back home. I got to bed around 1:45am. Not good, because I had to be at work by 9am in the morning! So I was pretty tired the next day. This was the only frustration that this flight always seems to be late, albeit this trip was the latest I had experienced so far.
This was a stunningly beautiful bit of the coast and I enjoyed this walk way more than I expected. It was helped that for most of the way I was able to find a fairly easy to use “sort of path”, often worn by sheep (who knew sheep like coast walking too?), which meant progress was easier and I could enjoy the scenery more.
I didn’t use public transport for this walk (as it was a Sunday) however to avoid the walk back on the A836, there is a once a day bus service, weekdays only, as below, which will stop at the telephone box on the A836, at the junction with the minor road to Fleuchary, east of Armadale Bay and will drop you at the Strathy Inn:-
Stagecoach Highlands bus route 274 : Thurso – Forss Business and Technology Park – Dounreay – Isauld – Reay – Melvich – Portskerra – Strathy – Armadale – Bettyhill. 1 bus per day, weekdays only (no weekend service). This bus takes 5 minutes to travel between Armadale and Strathy.
Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link.