321. Rhiconich to Laxford Bridge

July 2018

I had puzzled about how to walk this section of coast. There isn’t a coast path and the nearest obvious route to the coast is to walk along the A838 however a lot of that road isn’t very close to the coast. There are several dead-end roads heading west from this road to various tiny villages and hamlets nearer the coast, but to explore those would mean lots of there-and-back walking. An alternative is to try and find a route right along the coast. The map of this part of the coast really does look like a swiss-cheese. A deserted landscape dotted with many many lochs and lochans. Trying to navigate through that looked really tough. So in the end I settled on a compromise. I’d explore the dead-end roads and see if I could link them up to avoid lots of there and back walking but without attempting to navigate the trackless terrain by the shore.

I was staying at the Sango Sands campsite in Durness. I drove from there along the A838 to Rhiconich hoping to find somewhere to park. It looked like I could park next to the toilet block but it looked like a tight squeeze and in any case I’m sure people wanting to use the toilet would appreciate being able to park there. So I continued a few hundred metres further south where there was a lay-by.

Rhiconich

I now turned down the road to Achlyness. Although Achlyness actually begins almost straight away the road continues for about a mile beyond the village, becomes a track and ends at Rhivichie.

Loch Inchard

Achlyness is a small village, really houses widely spaced vaguely close to the road.

Loch Inchard

Some buildings have clearly been abandoned such as these barns.

Ruined barn, Achlyness

Ruined barn, Achlyness

I am at the head of Loch Inchard slowly heading back towards the open sea. It is drizzly today so the loch is not the beautiful blue it was last time I was here. I can see the line of buoys which I presume is some sort of fish farm.

Loch Inchard

The road runs close to the shore here and I can see the houses on the other side of the loch though the tops of the mountains beyond have disappeared into the mist.

Loch Inchard

Loch Inchard

I have passed the last of the houses of Achlyness now and clearly the road is not often used, clumps of grass grow down the middle.

Loch Inchard

Soon, and before the map suggests, the road stops being a public road and becomes a track but a sign indicates pedestrians, horse riders and cyclists are allowed to continue.

Loch Inchard

Loch Inchard

Loch Inchard

As I near the dry stone wall marked on the map at what the map shows is the end of the public road I turn left onto the open moorland following between this wall and the stream. There is no obvious path but I am aiming for the south side of Caol Lochan.

Loch Inchard

The route climbs and climbs over the rough ground and the wall ends beside the loch. On the map a stream links Caol Lochan with another tiny lochan 200 metres or so to the south, un-named on the map. As I hoped, crossing this is not hard.

Caol Lochan

I continue past this lochan and climb up onto the firmer land a it to the south now alongside the eastern end of Loch Crocach.

Loch Crocach

This is a large loch, mostly tall and narrow but at the north it is also wide and contains a few small islands.

Loch Crocach

Loch CrocachLoch Crocach

My plan now is to continue on the east side of this loch where I hope to pick up a path marked on the map along the north shore of Loch a Chadh-Fi that goes to Ardmore.

I have to keep high here as the ground slopes steeply down to the loch, almost sheer in places and with a lot of ricks. The height gained however gives me a wonderful view over this large loch and it’s islands. This is a wild landscape that I suspect is very rarely visited.

P1050876

Loch Crocach

Over to my left I have another tiny lochan, also un-named.

Loch Crocach

The side of the loch slopes steeply but this time I decide to keep low, it looks as if I can get over the bracken, even if it does mean walking at quite a slope.

Loch Crocach

Progress is slow. It turns out to be very awkward to walk on land at such a slope. Still the loch is beautiful and eventually I reach it’s south edge.

Loch Crocach

Loch Crocach

Loch Crocach

Climbing over the ridge I’m, now looking south to Loch a Chadh-Fi and the tiny settlement of Ardmore. (It’s on the first green area sticking into the right hand edge of the loch).

Loch a Chadh Fi

Loch a Chadh Fi

This is one of a small number of settlements that is not connected to the road network. Access is only on foot or presumably by boat. I can also see the island of Eilean a Chadh-Fi in the loch.

Loch a Chadh Fi

I am pleased to pick up the footpath to Ardmore and it’s nice to have a proper path to follow. It’s actually quite a good path. The postmen used to walk it to deliver the post to Ardmore but this ceased in 2006 after a postmen slipped and the post office claimed it was “too dangerous” to deliver mail here anymore.

Near Ardmore

As I am approaching Ardmore I see a man coming the other way the first person I have seen since Rhiconich. He asks me where I’m going. Well it should be obvious – the path only goes to one place, Ardmore. So I tell him that is where I’m going and then he asks, in a less friendly way, why I’m going there. I tell him I am walking the coast and want to walk this bit. He then says “well this is a small place, so just as long as you are not an axe murderer” and continues on his way. What an odd man. I had wondered why someone would choose to live in such a remote place, perhaps having no company turns you a bit odd! He clearly didn’t want anyone else coming here.

Ardmore

Ardmore is a cluster of houses down by the loch. There are a few boats here, which is not a surprise I would guess this is the more common way of reaching the place along with a lot of canoes. Rather than go right up to the houses I turn back here, as I’ve seen all I wanted to. I wonder if I’m going to meet that odd man again, but fortunately I don’t. At An Coasan is a small landing place but there aren’t any boats here. The steps make a handy seat for me to have a brief rest.

Near Ardmore

Now I follow the path back, heading inland around Cnoc Mhuilinn and to the small village of Portlevorchy.

Near Ardmore

Portlevorchy

This is another tiny place, about half a dozen houses at the end of another public road (that leads back to the A838).

Portlevorchy

Ahead I can see further into Loch a Chadh-Fi and a long flat building which is marked on the map as “adventure school”.

Portlevorchy

I had originally planned to follow the road from here back to the A838. But there is another dead-end road at Skerricha. To walk to the end of this via the road is about 3 miles. However if I can make it round the north side of the loch it is less than a mile.

So I decide to that instead. The tide looks to be out so I am hoping to be able to make it along a rocky beach marked on the north side of the loch. I head down there but find that the beach is really just rocks and at the shore they are all covered with thick sea-weed making them incredibly slippery.

Loch a Chadh-Fi

As I continue the tide is not as far out as I hope and I have to make my way over sea-weed covered boulders or climb up to the rocks to my left.

Loch a Chadh-Fi

It is tiring and I decide to stop for lunch hoping a rest will give me another burst of energy later. It doesn’t really and continuing around the loch turns out to be really really tough. I’ve made a mistake I suspect and after about 45 minutes of struggling over the rocks and boulders I finally have the road in sight!

Lochan a Mhullaich

Loch na Beiste Brice

The road is another narrow single track road that serves Skerricha. All Skerricha consists of is a single tiny farm and the adventure school further along the (then private) track. I don’t explore this but instead turn inland along the road. This passes Lochan a Mhullaich and then approaches a road junction.

Loch na Beiste Brice

This is a bit of a surprise. There are two separate roads from the A838 towards Skerricha that merge here, one for if you are coming from the south and another from the north. I turn right onto the one heading south. The road I’m following doesn’t have a single building on it. Given Skerricha consists of a tiny farm and an adventure school it seems a surprise it is seemingly deemed worth of having two access roads to the A838.

The map even shows an old part of the road looping off this but I can’t see any evidence of it on the ground and soon I reach the A838, just south of a parking area.

The A838 near Laxford Bridge

Here I turn right to follow the A838 south. I’m back to traffic-dodging again as this is a main road, though this is relative, it’s still very quiet by the standards of an A-road, though it does have a lane in each direction here. The road passes Loch na Fiacail on the right with crash barriers alongside.

Loch a Chadh-Fi

Loch a Chadh-Fi

Loch a Chadh-Fi

The road then begins to descend down to Laxford Bay and turns left once alongside the water. Laxford Bay is at the head of the next loch, Loch Laxford and I soon pass an old quay on the right. I don’t know what this is (or was) used for. Perhaps at one point there was a ferry here? (though clearly only at high tide, if so).

Laxford Bay

Alongside the quay is a large brick built shed with a van parked outside of it. Perhaps they use the quay but for what I don’t know. The drizzle has turned into rain again so views up the loch to the sea aren’t great and the sky and sea merge.

Laxford Bay

Across the other side is a mixture of sand and mud as the loch is narrow now.

Laxford Bay

Laxford Bay

I follow the road alongside the loch to reach Laxford Bridge itself. This is a pretty stone bridge with a single lane and marks the nearest crossing over Loch Laxford to the coast, where it narrows to become the River Laxford.

The River Laxford

Laxford Bridge

On the south side of the river is a path towards the sand and rocky bay of Traigh Bad na Baighe. I am glad to see that the path looks in good condition. It is marked on the map but as I have found that is not a guarantee that the path will actually exist! I follow it a short way for a better view of the bridge.

Laxford Bridge

Laxford Bridge is marked on road signs as a destination along this road from perhaps 50 miles or more away. I can see from the map it’s not a big place but I expected to find something a bit more. In fact all there is here is the bridge and a single house. It is also a road junction. After crossing the bridge the A838 turns inland (eventually reaching Lairg), whilst the A894 takes up the route onwards along the coast. That is probably why it features on road signs at all, being a junction of two A-roads.

Now it’s time to head back. I didn’t use the bus for this walk as it is a Sunday and it doesn’t run! So my route back is to return on the more direct route, the A838 all the way back to Rhiconich. It is about 5 miles but I am hoping at a brisk pace I can do in about 90 minutes or so.

Laxford Bay

Soon I am back at the point I joined the road and the rest of the route north is different from my outward route. Navigation is easy, just stick to the road!

The road soon passes over Loch na Thull that runs on both sides of the road effectively the road is a causeway here.

Loch na Thull

It is a bit of a slog back along the road. I am tired after the tough walk over the trackless land and the road is much harder on my feet.

So it is relief when my (hire) car comes into view. If you were paying attention you may have noticed that I actually started the walk a bit south of Rhiconich at the parking place, not where I ended the last walk. This means I have a tiny gap to fill from the parking place back to Rhiconich. So I drop my rucksack in the boot of the car and stop for a quick rest and then walk north along the road to the toilet block and police station where I ended my last walk, to fill this gap. Oddly for such a small place there is a more minor “loop road” off to the right and I can see the old stone bridge over the Rhiconich River here.

Rhiconich River

I presume that this was once the main road and when the road was widened from single track to two lanes (one in each direction) this bridge wasn’t suitable or couldn’t be widened so a new wider bridge was built but the old bridge left in place.

I continued up the road to the toilets and police station to close the gap.

Rhiconich

Here an information sign tells me I am in the North West Highlands Geopark and the sign is a “Geopod” I’m told. Apparently such signs are placed in locations where there is a mobile phone signal and you can scan a QR code to find out more information. I can’t be bothered with that. Instead I head back to my car and drive back to Durness.

I was pleased to have found my own route along this section of coast. It was a shame I couldn’t walk directly along the shore line without great difficultly so spent much of the time more inland than I might have liked. However the geology of this area is amazing with what must be hundreds of lochs and lochans in just a few square miles. It is a very beautiful place and made for a lovely walk albeit quite a hard one.

Although I didn’t use the bus for this walk, here are details of the public transport needed for this walk, to avoid the return along the road.

Durness Bus / Far North Bus route 806 : Leirinmore (Road End) – Durness – Balnakiel – Rhiconich – Kinlochbervie – Rhiconich – Laxford Bridge – Scourie – Laxford Bridge – Achfary – Overscaig – Lairg – Lairg Station (for train to Inverness). One bus per day each way Monday – Friday. On Fridays there is an additional bus between Durness and Ardgay Station for connections by train to/from Inverness. It takes around 5 minutes to travel between Rhiconich and Laxford Bridge.

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. It takes around 5 minutes to travel between Rhiconich and Laxford Bridge.

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. It takes around 5 minutes to travel between Rhiconich and Laxford Bridge.

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

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6 Responses to 321. Rhiconich to Laxford Bridge

  1. 5000milewalk says:

    Well done on finding a route through there Jon! It’s certainly a beautiful landscape.
    My planned route along here is just along the road, which I expect will be quite boring. I might consider following your route now though (in the other direction), I don’t mind tough routes, but normally only if they’re along the coast… I’ll see how I feel on the day 🙂

    • jcombe says:

      Yes it was a difficult decision as to the best route here. I had a sort of compromise as some parts were along the coast albeit others not. The road would certainly be easier and still quite scenic (it’s not exactly the M1).

  2. You’re not an axe murderer, are you?

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