320. Blairmore to Rhiconich

July 2018

This was my first walk fully along the west coast of Scotland. In theory this would mean heading south but in practice I’d mostly be walking east along the north shore of Loch Inchard (I was going to learn quickly that the west coast of Scotland has a lot of sea lochs). This was a beautiful coast with many wonderful sandy beaches.

I was staying in Durness for this walk, camping at the Sango Sands campsite. This walk served two purposes. The primary one was to walk this part of the coast. The secondary one was to prepare for my planned walk tomorrow (which was the previous walk I wrote up). As tomorrow I planned and hoped to be walking around Cape Wrath and I planned to start from Durness and finish at Blairmore, the first bit of public road I’d reach after rounding Cape Wrath. That meant I wanted to minimise an extra miles at the end of that walk (which was already around 25 miles) and also I needed to leave the car I had hired here in order to get back to the campsite at the end of the walk tomorrow since there aren’t any buses to Blairmore (and even if there were I’d likely be back too late to catch them anyway). Today I would be getting back to Durness by bus, from Rhiconich at the end of the walk (and the junction with the A838), which does have a bus service.

So I drove round to Durness on the A838. Despite being an A-road it is almost entirely a single-track road, though it is quite beautiful heading through a remote and undeveloped valley, with just a couple of farms on the way. It is so remote I’ve taken to listening to Radio 1 on the car radio because the only radio stations it is possible to pick up in this area at all are the BBC national stations and even then only intermittently (most of the time you can scan right through the radio dial and not pick up a single station).

At Rhiconich I turned off onto the B801 to Kinlochbervie and after that unclassified roads to Blairmore. I am hoping that not only is there space to park at Blairmore but that the car park permits over night parking (many don’t, others only prohibit overnight camping, though how often these rules are enforced is another matter). I’m in luck on both counts because the car park does have space and does permit over night parking. There is also an honesty box so I make a donation two cover for two days before leaving the car. Now if I started walking east from Blairmore I’d be missing out a bit of coast, that to Sheigra, so first I head west along the road and take the turning left (unsigned) which heads down to the beach rather than right to the village of Sheigra.

At the end of the road there is a car park (not marked on the map) and a cemetery, which is. It seems an odd place for a cemetery really, there is no church or chapel nearby and the nearest settlement, Sheigra is nearly half a mile away and tiny. On a slightly happier note it is only about a quarter full.

Sheigra cemetery

Beside the cemetery the road ends at a gate leading over fields to the coast. A sign on the gate indicates this is a campsite (which is marked on the map) and payment is by an honesty box. I can’t remember what the toilet facilities were now, but I think it was just some chemical toilets. It looks a lovely place so it’s a bit sad to see no one is here, given it’s July and the school holidays, when you would expect it to be busy.

I pass through the campsite field to reach the beach. It’s a nice beach with some large rocks at the high tide line but plenty of sand at the shore.

Sheigra

Sheigra

Another reason that would be such a nice place to camp right by a good beach. I am slightly regretting not doing so myself. Whilst the campsite I am at is generally very good (certainly in terms of facilities and location) the big let down was the noisy anti-social behaviour of many of the other campers (and complete lack of any enforcement of the site rules) which reminds me why I normally try to avoid camping in the school summer holidays. Here it would have been so much quieter (albeit no shop nearby).

Now the obvious thing here might be to head back up the road since the road is a dead-end and there is no marked path along the coast. However I decided to try and get along the coast to the next bay, Droman, it’s only about half a mile away along the shore but over a mile round by the road.

It wasn’t too tricky there was a single fence to get over but the terrain was not to bad and the land reasonably firm. I also felt I needed a bit of “training” for tomorrow where I’d be covering many miles without paths.

Sheigra

Near Droman

Near Droman

Soon the rocky beach at Droman came into view. Actually the map marks the bay itself as Port Chaligaig and the village as Droman. I think port might be over-doing it. There is a pebble beach and a single small slipway. I mean you could land a boat here but that’s about all. There is also a nice picnic bench on the grass at the back of the beach, but it was a bit early for lunch just yet.

Port Chaligaig

Out to sea I could see the island if Eilean an Roin Mor.

Eilean an Roin Mor

Now I was down at the beach I actually came across a sign indicating a path back from where I had come. So in fact there was an official path even though it’s not on the map.

Path to Sheigra

Droman

Flushed with success I decided to try and get round the coast to the beach marked just east of Droman. This time it was only about 250 metres (but much longer by road). This time, though not marked on the map (again) I spotted a signed footpath and there was a path the whole way. The only confusing thing was that it signed me to somewhere called Polin Beach.

Path to Polin Beach

The Ordnance Survey map I was using, the 1:25000 scale one (the most detailed you can buy) doesn’t show any such place. It does show “Bagh a Phollain”. I assuming that must be the Gaelic for Polin. I later decided to try and confirm it and used  Google Scottish Gaelic to English translator to check and it told me it meant “Poole Bay”. That seems unlikely.

Port Chaligaig

Soon I am over the headland and looking down onto this beach and what a lovely beach it is too. A good sandy beach, quite wide backed with some dunes and with views of the mountains in the distance. Better still, no one else is here so I have the place to myself.

Polin Beach

Polin Beach

It had started cloudy but now the sun looks to be breaking through. I head down onto the beach and followed the beach to the other end. In the 9 minutes (I checked from the EXIF data of the photos) it took me to do that virtually all the cloud has gone and now it’s a glorious sunny morning.

Polin Beach

Polin Beach

Polin Beach

What a stunning beach, it really does surprise me so few people seem to come here. From the eastern end of the beach a path runs up to the car park at the end of the road in Drumnaguie. Presumably this car park is intended for the beach. I’m also told there are mermaids here. That also seems unlikely.

Polin Beach

I am worried about my plan for tomorrow. Yesterday I had made up my mind. This morning I’m having second thoughts and feeling my plan to do Cape Wrath in a day is too ambitious. Perhaps, since I’m so close to the car I’d be better off walking back up this road and trying to walk to Cape Wrath today, and back again and doing another walk from Durness to Cape Wrath tomorrow. I’m also a bit worried about leaving the car in a remote place over night in case it gets damaged. (In hindsight that was very unlikely and in any case it’s a hire car and I have the necessary insurance in place so it shouldn’t cost me a penny if that does happen). This seems like a much better idea so I begin to walk up the road. After only about a minute of walking I’m having second thoughts again. I had it all worked out. I know others have done it in a single day. The weather forecast is good. I should at least try. So now I convince myself my original plan was a good one after all and head back to continue this walk.

So rather than follow the road again I find another path to take me round to the next beach, only a few hundred metres away again. There is a little tidal island (Eilean na h-Aiteig) at the western end of the beach.

Eilean na h-Aiteig

This is Oldshoremore beach and it’s another absolute beauty.

Oldshoremore Beach

Oldshoremore Beach

I can see on the sand a sort of sand sculpture someone made yesterday (I presume) has survived and many footprints in the soft sand further up the beach, suggesting the beach can get quite busy.

Oldshoremore Beach

But not yet it seems, even though it’s nearly 10:30am. I head down onto the beach the only other person on it being a couple walking a dog.

Oldshoremore Beach

The beach is another absolutely stunning beach, with turquoise see and golden sands backed by dunes. It is such a lovely spot.

Oldshoremore Beach

I walk slowly on the beach, I’m in no particular hurry and want to enjoy it. This time the next bit of beach along the shore is at Loch Clash, a little over a mile away. I can see from the map a couple of streams, one flowing out of Lochan so I suspect trying to find a way along the shore here might be a bit trickier. I know I’ve got a long walk tomorrow and don’t want to wear myself out too much for that and since the road runs largely parallel with the shore (albeit about half a mile inland) I decide to use the road for this bit.

Oldshoremore Beach

The road takes me past the beach car park and toilet (only one car, probably that of the dog walkers) and over a little stream to the junction in the village of Oldshoremore, an odd name, but one of the bigger villages on this peninsula.

Oldshoremore

Oldshoremore

The road takes me past Loch na Larach on the left which is a lovely bright blue under the blue skies.

Loch na Larach near Kinlochbervie

Loch na Larach near Kinlochbervie

Loch na Larach near Kinlochbervie

Soon down to the right I can see Loch Clash.

Near Kinlochbervie

Kinlochbervie

I pass a house that has seen better days (I’m always surprised how many abandoned houses there are in northern Scotland).

Kinlochbervie

Here I can follow  the road down to Loch Bervie and the harbour of Kinlochbervie.

Kinlochbervie

It is rather ugly which comes as a bit of a shock after the lovely scenery I’ve had so far.

Kinlochbervie

It’s quite industrial but I guess there is not much other employment in the area. I am not sure what the large building is for but the “garage doors” all along the harbour side suggest it’s probably to do with fishing or boat storage.

Kinlochbervie is the largest village along here. Whilst only a village the road from here eastwards is now a B-road (the B801) and it’s considered important enough the buses will all make a diversion from the main road down to Kinlochbervie and back.

Loch Innis na Ba Buidhe

I follow the B801 through Kinlochbervie which is large enough to have another small shop. The road passes the head of an inland loch, Loch Innis na Ba Buidhe (don’t ask me to say it).

Loch Innis na Ba Buidhe

It is quite beautiful, with some buildings at the far end but much less industrial than the coastal Loch Bervie.

Loch Innis na Ba Buidhe

The road soon climbs up out of Kinlochbervie and to Badcall.

The B801 near Kinlochbervie

Traffic has picked up a fair bit now probably due to it being later in the day and traffic heading to Kinlochbervie. Approaching Badcall I soon go over the brow of the hill and get a wonderful view ahead. The water to the left is Loch Sheigra. It is a sea loch and joined to the water at the right, but it’s not immediately obvious, whilst beyond it is Loch Inchard, now considerably narrower as I head up the loch. Beyond that are numerous mountains. It is really beautiful.

Badcall

Here it’s nice to see a long-derelict building is being repaired, with a roof taking shape and it would surely make a stunning place to live with a view like that to enjoy. Heading past Badcall (which is only a dozen or so houses) the road turns to be alongside tiny Loch Sheigra, which it’s now much clearer to see is accessible to the open sea.

Loch Inchard and Loch Sheigra

The road keeps beside the loch and soon I reach the head of the loch where the water turns to marsh as the land and sea merge.

Loch Inchard

I stuck to the B801 here. There is a dead-end road to Rhuvoult and another to Achriesgill West but neither is joined and there are a lot of fences marked on the map I’d have to climb over so the road seems easier given it’s high up and I can see it all from here anyway, as both roads are 500 metres or so dead-ends.

Loch Inchard

Loch Inchard

The road soon continues into Achriesgill, the last village along this peninsula, overlooking Achriesgill Bay.

Near Achriesgill

The road descends down to a bridge over the stream (Achriesgill Water) that flows out into Loch Inchard here. It is another beautiful place.

Achriesgill Bay

The road soon climbs up away again and I can see the village of Achriesgill now on the top of the hill. Another place with a wonderful view.

Achriesgill Bay

I passed a picnic spot and stopped briefly here. I knew I would be early for my planned bus, but decided not to linger anyway and press on to the main road just in case I get delayed. The road soon climbs again and I am rewarded with a wonderful view along much of Loch Inchard. A line of buoys puzzle me.

Loch Inchard near Rhiconich

There are some metal sheds on the loch shore behind them (unmarked on the map) so I assume it’s a fish farm of some sort but from my experience these usually have round circles, not straight lines.

Loch Inchard near Rhiconich

In the distance I can just see the industry at Kinlochbervie. The road drops down to another valley and then continues at a lower level the rest of the way alongside the loch.

Loch Inchard at Rhiconich

Loch Inchard at Rhiconich

I follow this up to Rhiconich and the junction with the A838. That is the end of my planned walk for today even though it’s only 1:45pm. Normally I’d not finish so early and keep walking some more but I know I have a very long day planned for tomorrow so an easy afternoon seems like a good plan. I also need to get supply’s for the walk tomorrow before the Spar shop closes.

Loch Inchard at Rhiconich

Loch Inchard at Rhiconich

Rhiconich is an odd place. It seems to consist of only 4 buildings. A single house, a police station the Rhiconich Hotel and a toilet block (which has a banner to sign an online petition to keep it open stating that the Highland Council wishes to close the toilet so that may have gone by now too). The walking group I met at the Cape Wrath ferry the following day (but the previous walk I wrote up) were staying at this hotel.

I find the police station especially odd given it’s in the middle of nowhere. I can’t imagine there is much crime here. I suspect the main activity that goes on inside is deciding whose turn it is to make tea!

Behind the toilet block (and police station) is some grass where I can sit to rest and enjoy a fine view over Loch Inchard but also can see the B801 below me. This latter point is important so I can see when the bus is coming. It’s due to drive down to Kinlochbervie first and then come back again (where I plan to catch it), which means I should see it 20 minutes before I need to catch it, on the way out to Kinlochbervie.

Bang on time I spot what initially looks like a white van but as it gets closer I can see it’s a mini bus and it has a board in the front wind screen and “Far North Bus” on the side. Good to see the bus is running I just need to wait for it to come back. The driver must have seen me eyeing up the bus (even though I was sitting down and did not event attempt to flag it down), pulls over and shouts up out the window to me to ask if I’m waiting for the bus. I reply that I am but to Durness, so I’ll wait for him to come back. At least now he knows I’m waiting!

There are no other passengers on board and I suspect he would have been quite happy for me to ride to Kinlochbervie and back (perhaps that’s why he stopped). In fact perhaps that is what he wanted anyway, some company perhaps. Anyway soon I see the bus coming back so head down to the junction. I flag it down anyway though of course the driver knows I’m waiting.

We have a chat about the area on the way back and he asks where I’ve been for a walk. The bus also provides an oppurtunity to enjoy the view, now I am not driving and I took a couple of pictures through the window (though the white-balance seems to have gone wrong on one of them).

View from the A838

View from the A838

It only takes 20 minutes to get back to Durness and the bus stops by the Spar shop so I head in here to get food and snacks for my big walk tomorrow, but with no fridge I have to make do with food that won’t go off before tomorrow. Having got as much as I think I’ll need (and am prepared to carry) I head back to the tent to empty our my rucksack from today’s walk and fill it up with the food I bought in preparation for tomorrow.

Rather than just lie in the tent for the afternoon (which is hot in the sun anyway) I decide to spend much of the afternoon relaxing on the beach instead. The camp site is right beside a lovely beach so I head there for a rest.

Despite how big and busy the campsite is I can see from the cliff top that there is hardly anyone there.

Durness

Durness

Durness

Durness

Durness

That’s good for me, it should be nice and peaceful down there, but it does seem odd, it’s such a good beach (actually there are two bays either side of the little headland I am standing on, but both are practically empty). On the way to the beach I pass through the part of the campsite used by motor-homes. Here I spotted one motor home that caught my eye.

Jane Allens' "victory van"

The motor home I later found out belonged to Jane Allen, she called it her “Victory Van” . (Her website has since disappeared so this is a link to her Facebook page instead). When doing this walk I have often wondered if I would ever meet anyone else walking all the coast of Britain. The answer to that turns out to be yes. Jane is (or was at the time) also doing a walk around the whole coast of Britain, but in one go, rather than stages as I am, raising money for two naval charities (as she had recently retired from the Navy). She had started from HMS Victory in Portsmouth and would be walking back to there, hence why she called it Victory Walk. Her husband was her support crew and would pick her up at the end of each days walk. Later on that day I got in touch with her via Facebook to wish her well noting that I was also walking the coast (albeit in stages) and had spotted her van at the campsite and she was surprised to find I was staying on the campsite too.

I can’t remember now if it was that evening or later in the week now but she invited me in her van to say hello and for a chat. In fact we met up twice (once after I had done Cape Wrath so we could exchange notes!). It was nice to meet a fellow coastal walker too! I didn’t realise at the time but this was actually their home, having sold their house before setting off on the walk so the motor home was their temporary permanent home (if you see what I mean). At this point she had walked all the way from Portsmouth via the east coast of England and Scotland. Sadly Jane had suffered an ankle injury that day (or possibly the previous day) and had been to the doctor and had to rest for a few days so was laid up at Durness for several days and was not especially enjoying this camp site either, despite it’s lovely location. She did get going again but later also suffered a broken leg in Pembrokeshire. However she didn’t let that stop her and finished her walk, back at HMS Victory in Portsmouth in September 2019 after 22 months on the road! So she was indeed victorious. Well done to Jane and I hope that one day I will finish too. I gave them a donation (and another couple later on via the Internet) so was pleased to see the effort had paid off and she had completed her walk.

Anyway to end this day I headed down to that beautiful beach for some relaxation.

The beach at Durness

The beach at Durness

The beach at Durness

This had been a lovely walk. I had come across so many beautiful beaches on the way. In the South of England on a day like this in the middle of July they would be packed but here there was hardly anyone about, I felt privileged to have seen it all especially in such good conditions. As well as the beaches the scenery of Loch Inchard had also impressed, as well as the smaller lochs off it and it was nice to find it was possible to walk between several of the beaches without too much difficulty.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk. Note that there is no scheduled bus west of Kinlochbervie so to do this as a day walk (without leaving your car behind) it may be best to do the part west of Kinlochbervie as a circular walk (perhaps out along the coast and back along the road) and use the bus for the second part to Rhiconich.

Durness Bus / Far North Bus route 806 : Leirinmore (Road End) – Durness – Balnakiel – RhiconichKinlochbervieRhiconich – Laxford Bridge – Scourie – Laxford Bridge – Achfary – Overscaig – Lairg – Lairg Station (for train to Inverness). One bus per day each way Monday – Friday. There is an additional service on school days only between Kinlochbervie and Durness only. On Fridays there is an additional bus between Durness and Ardgay Station for connections by train to/from Inverness. It takes just over 10 minutes between Kinlochbervie Harbour and Rhiconich.

Durness Bus / Far North Bus route 805 : Balnakiel – Durness – Rhiconich – Kinlochbervie – Rhiconich – Laxford Bridge – Scourie – Achfary – Overscaig – Lairg – Bonar Bridge – Ardgay – Ardross – Evanton – Tore – Inverness. One bus per day, Saturday only. Note that the evening bus (back from Inverness) will ONLY serve Kinlochbervie if requested by passengers already on the bus or by calling the previous day. It takes 10 minutes between Kinlochbervie and Rhiconich.

Durness Bus / Far North Bus route 804 : Durness – Rhiconich – Kinlochbervie – Rhiconich – Laxford Bridge – Scourie – Kylesku – Skiag – Lonchinver – Inchnadamph – Ledmore Junction – Ullapool – Ledmore Junction – Lairg – Lairg Station. One bus per day, Monday – Saturday during school summer holidays only. It takes 11 minutes between Kinlochbervie and Rhiconich.

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

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2 Responses to 320. Blairmore to Rhiconich

  1. 5000milewalk says:

    Amazing beaches aren’t they Jon. I guess for most people the drive there could take most of the day though. I was thinking that village of Badcall could have been an omen for your spur-of-the-moment decision to head up to Cape Wrath on this day!

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