Having struggled to work out a good route for my previous walk this walk promised to be a little easier. The road parts of the walk wasn’t all on A-roads (much of it on minor roads) and there were a couple of footpaths the map suggested I could use, the main one being from Tarbet to Scourie. It would be nice to have a proper path to follow again as most of my previous walks have either had to be on road or finding my own route, with varying degrees of success.
For this walk I was staying at the Sango Sands campsite in Durness. At Laxford Bridge parking looked a little difficult. A gravelly area was a possible option but I wasn’t sure if it was private, it wasn’t marked as a car park. Instead I decided to drive on to Scourie as a car park was marked on the map there and it wasn’t much further.
I drove down to Scourie and parked in the small car park opposite the village shop. I wasn’t actually aware there was a shop here, I had bought lunch in Durness before I left, but it was useful to know for my next walk.
In theory there were no buses north until mid-afternoon except that in fact the morning bus from Durness to Lairg actually leaves the A838 and takes a there and back diversion into Scourie, so I could use this to travel between Scourie and Laxford Bridge in the morning and get the public transport part done first so I had time to walk back without worrying about buses. I was a bit nervous as to whether the bus would turn up as some of the there and back diversions are listed as “if requested”. I hadn’t requested but this one also wasn’t listed as needing to be requested and I hoped that wasn’t a mistake in the timetable. Unfortunately the bus timetable in the bus shelter itself was approximately 10 years old according to the date on it and so completely useless (but a reminder of how much the bus service has reduced in this part of Scotland over that time). Fortunately the bus did arrive, with a few other passengers. I think the driver was a little puzzled that I wanted go to Laxford bridge, there being little there apart from the bridge itself, but I explained I was walking back.
To start with, rather than follow the A894 road west I had seen there is a footpath on the south side of the River Laxford that I hoped to follow to the beach called Traigh Bad ba Baighe and then return to the road from there.
I had already seen the start of the path was good at the end of my previous walk. So I was pleased to find there was actually a pretty good path alongside the river, well marked and easy to follow and it gave me nice views of the river.
Many Scottish rivers are fast-flowing but this one was quite serene, though I suspect that was as much due to the fact there hadn’t been much rain recently.
I watched as the bridge behind me appeared smaller and smaller and soon there was a lot of gravel and small rocks beside the river, presumably the river flows here normally but the water levels were low.
Part way along this path I was surprised to find a house.
It is half a mile or so from any road so it was certainly remote though I suspect the occupants get here by boat. Though another possibility is they use the path I had been following from the road, which might explain why it had been so good.
The jetty marked on the map was in very poor condition so I doubt they use that regularly. The landscape too on the other side of Laxford Bay was quite remarkable with the land a roughly 50/50 mix of bare rock and grass.
Across the bay I could also see the house on the other side with a jetty too. It can’t be a coincidence there are two jetties on either side of the river here so as I suspected last time I was now more certain there was once a ferry here.
Heading uphill briefly to round the corner I was soon in the oddly named bay of Traigh Bad ba Baighe.
The map showed this all as a mixture of sand and shingle – at low tide. I had wondered if I might be able to walk straight across but I could see the tide was at least part in so that wasn’t going to be possible without wet feet.
The path ended as soon as it reached the bay, so instead I continued around the bay on the shingle and pebbles around the edge though further in the bay was indeed dry but the sand was soft and boggy so sticking to the edge was wise.
I originally planned to join the road at the south side of the bay but instead decided to try and find my own route around the coast.
I followed the shore around to the west side of the beach and then turned across the un-even and over-grown ground. It was a bit of a struggle but I made it more or less round to another tiny rocky bay.
The land behind was flooded, then a shingle ridge and then the beach, which had some woodland at the far corner. It was nice finding this remote bays.
Over the little headland and I had a fine view west along Laxford Bay.
The beach here is un-named but the island is Eilean Port a Choit. The map doesn’t show any structures or remains on it.
Sadly a tall wire fence came right down to the beach here and the map showed another a few metres beyond it. What is the purpose of two fences close together in such a remote area? It’s frustrating. So rather than try to climb it, I followed the fence line as best I could back to the A894. It was a struggle because the ground was so un-even but I made it in the end, having to climb over another fence at the road.
My little diversion had taken quite a while so I stuck with the road from now on. Below I could see Weaver’s Bay, about 300 metres away from the road with a few boats moored up in the bay. A track left the road down to a house and I assume the boats are associated with that.
Sadly I now turned inland, away from the coast with the road. However soon I had water on my right again, this time Loch na Claise Fearna.
The first part of the loch looked deep, but further on it was full of lilies, some of them in flower, which were quite pretty and some grass sticking up above the surface of the water so clearly it was shallow at this end.
At the far corner was a little beach with a boat moored up. I couldn’t imagine the boat was used much given the water was shallow and the reeds and Lilly pads behind it.
The boat had a sign inside it that it belonged to the Scourie Hotel and they also owned all the fishing rights here. That is a surprise, since I am still quite far from Scourie.
At the end of the loch I passed an old road bridge, now over to the right suggesting the road had been re-routed and widened at some point and this was the old, now disused, bridge.
Just beyond was a quarry that the map suggested is disused but didn’t look very disused to me.
The road continued south to Loch a Bhagh Ghairmhich and at the north west corner of this I could turn off on the more minor road to Tarbet.
Whilst there hadn’t been masses of traffic on this road when it does come it’s fast so you have to be constantly alert, so it was nicer to be on a more minor road with, I hoped, less traffic.
A sign also said that down this road was the Shorehouse Seafoord Restuarant, open from 12pm to 7pm, but closed on Sundays. 7pm seemed very early to be closing a restaurant! (I suspect it was more a cafe). Sadly I don’t like sea food or it might have made for a nicer lunch.
This road is a long dead-end.
It starts out as one road to reach Loch nam Brac and then goes around the loch in the loop to the small villages of Foindle, Fanagmore and Tarbet. However from Tarbet I should be able to follow a footpath to Scourie, taking a more direct route to avoid having to go the full way around the loop.
The road was single track with passing places, but much of the road surface was covered with a thin layer of loose chippings. I soon passed a tiny loch in the right, it was a very shallow loch, with all the water having grass growing out of it.
Beyond it was the larger and named Loch a Phreasain Challtuinne. This was larger and clearly deeper.
I soon reached the fork and turned right for Foindle (not fondle!). The road climbed and then descended passing the little Clar Loch on the right.
The landscape here is stunning, even if it’s not actually a walk along the coast at this point. I could also see quite bit of the road ahead which meant I could relax a bit with the traffic as I usually had plenty of warning of approaching vehicles.
As it was around 12:30 when the road ran directly alongside the loch I was able to drop down on a few rocks to find a pleasant spot for lunch.
After lunch I continued along the road to Foindle. The road went up and down over the many hills until I could see this small village ahead.
I debated heading along the dead-end road to the village but it ended before it reached the coast and I could see all of the coast from higher up on the “main” road anyway, so I continued on the road and didn’t take this dead-end. I soon had the Loch na h Airigh Glaise on my right. This was large enough to boast a few tiny islands, none had a name (at least, not on the map).
These little lochs (or lochans) really are very pretty. More undulations in the road took me down to Lochan na Ba Ruaidhe.
This was another shallow one with grass growing in much of the water but the heather in bloom around the side of the loch near the road was also really beautiful.
Just beyond this the road crossed a small but fast flowing stream and I could see some of the houses of Fanagmore to the right.
This time the dead-end road to the village ended at the shore so I decided to follow it. It ended at a tiny slipway, surrounded by old lobster pots. Clearly still used for some fishing, albeit on a small scale. It was a lovely peaceful place.
Whilst there wasn’t a beach here, the bay was rocky the sea was incredibly clear and I could make out all the sea-weed covered rocks under the water even quite far out into the bay.
I really liked Fanagmore but soon I had to drag myself away back up the road and then round to Loch Gobhloch.
Another beautiful loch, deeper with lots of tiny rocky hills all around it. It looked like the sort of lake you might find near the top of a mountain rather than almost at sea level.
Again the water was really clear. I continued on the road, another steep climb before reaching the top of the hill and a sign that welcomed me to Tarbet.
I had views down to the little Loch Dubh to my left just before the sea. It looked a very pretty spot.
The road passed a derelict and abandoned cottage on the right, though this one was in better condition than many I have seen.
The road soon descended down to the little bay, marked as Port of Tarbet.
That might seem an overly dramatic name but this one actually is still a port. A little boat leaves here a few times a day in the summer for Handa Island.
When I walked the coast of England I visited pretty much every island. In Scotland there are so many islands I realised if I went and walked around every one, I might never finish. So my plan for the moment is to mostly concentrate on the mainland and then come back and do many (or perhaps all) of the islands later. However I am generally making an exception for smaller islands I can walk around in a day. Handa Island is one such place and given how good the weather was it was very tempting to head over there now. However the last boat of the day was scheduled at 14:00. I checked the time. 14:06. Blast! It would have to wait for another day but perhaps that was no bad thing. If I went out now I’d likely not be back until gone 5pm and that would mean a late arrival in Scourie.
There is the sea-food restaurant here (the one that closes at 7pm), parking, toilets and the shed for the ferry and a few houses but that’s about it. Still more facilities than you might expect in such a small place.
I sat on the beach for a rest for a bit. I checked the map and it looked like Scourie was only just over 4km (4 grid squares away). With the Ordnance Survey map having grid squares of a square KM in size I typically tend to achieve around 4km an hour, but that tends to drop quickly when there isn’t a path. Well here there was a path so I suspected I would be in Scourie in little more than an hour. That turned out to be somewhat optimistic!
Heading up from the beach I soon found the intended footpath to Scourie. It even had a sign “Footpath to Scourie” which was encouraging. What was less encouraging was another sign that said “The Tarbet to Scourie route is mountainous in character and requires a good level of fitness. Hill walking equipment and clothing is required. The route is poorly waymarked with no path surface, resulting in frequent boggy sections and the occasional steep slope”. That was very encourating but the noticed ended with “Please be well prepared and enjoy your walk”.
Hmm. It was clear 1 hour to cover that distance was likely to be optimistic. Still I had enough to drink with me and a KitKat left so I figured that counted as prepared.
So it was time to climb out of pretty Tarbet on the path. To start with it was easy enough going up a fairly steep grass slope. The views improved as I got higher, both on the coast and inland where I got a view back to Loch Dubh.
Soon I reached a wooden gate with a notice attached “Cows with calves and bull on hill, 10-6-16 to End August”. 2016? That was two years ago. The bull would be fully grown by now and the farmer must have used good sticky tape and pen for the notice to last that long!
The path from here was indeed much tougher. Can you even spot the path here? (It is there if you look closely near the bottom left of the picture).
It’s the sort of path where you can only see a few steps ahead but each time you think you might have lost the path more of it comes into view.
The views were stunning. Out to sea I could see numerous tiny little rocky islands and of course the much bigger Handa island.
I continued until I reached a loch. That was odd. The path shouldn’t have a loch for a while yet.
Then I doubled checked the map and realised that there were in fact two paths. One was a dead-end path which headed inland to this (un-named) loch and ended here and the other went to Scourie. I must have missed a junction somehow and taken this path but I hadn’t noticed the path splitting.
Frustrated I headed back and now spotted there was a junction, I just hadn’t noticed it. Already I had been on the path have an hour and I had covered about 200 metres!
This time I paid more attention and checked the GPS to make sure I stuck to the correct path. It climbed and climbed up and down over the un-even ground but passed numerous little lochans and lochs. It is a stunning, wild and remote landscape.
The path is difficult with many rocks and boulders to step over and some boggy bits but being the middle of summer and it having been quite a dry summer I suspect not nearly as many boggy bits as usual.
Soon after a long climb I came over the brow of the hill and could see Scourie below me. It’s a beautiful village.
The path seemed to improve too and eventually as it descended, became a farm track.
Actually the sign told me it was a “Cattle Ranch” rather than a farm. That seemed to be over-stating things somewhat. I couldn’t even see any cattle!
I followed this farm track down to the road at the north end of the beach at Scourie and then follow this road south to the main centre of Scourie.
It’s a pretty place. Having already been in Durness for several nights I was a bit bored of the eating options. Having travelled to Scotland by air I didn’t have room to take any cooking equipment with me so my options were limited to the two shops or the only pub, Sango Sands Oasis.
Here however there was the Scourie Hotel. It looked quite nice and although quite early for dinner it was serving food and had a table free so I ate here. It was a little bit pricey but the food was very nice and it looked a lovely hotel. It was a bit of a come down to have to head back to my tent on the noisy crowded campsite! In fact Scourie had a lovely looking campsite and I did briefly consider trying to move here, but the effort of driving up to Durness packing everything up and re-pitching the tent put me off (and the fact I had already pre-paid for all my nights stays at Durness was a factor too).
After dinner I drove back to Durness. The sky there was really odd. I’ve rarely seen cloud formations like it.
I suspected if nothing else it meant the weather was changing which, unfortunately, it was. It looked like someone had put a blanket of cloud over the place, a blanket that was in need of a jolly good iron!
This had been a really lovely walk. The scenery was absolutely stunning the whole way and this landscape was really like nothing else I had experienced on my coastal walk yet. (The closest was perhaps around Holyhead mountain on Angelsey, but this was more spectacular and I’ve not written that walk up here yet). A mixture of large rocky areas, tiny lochans and lochs and lots of hills, mixed with some pretty villages and bays. It was wonderful and it was nice that I had been able to mostly walk on fairly minor roads and a path (which had not been as bad as the sign had suggested, once I took the right path) rather than a main road today.
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-
Far North Bus / Durness 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 10 minutes to travel between Laxford Bridge and Scourie.
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. Please note that this bus only serves Scourie on request. You need to call 01971 511223 or 07782 110007 by 6pm the previous day to request the bus serves Scourie. It takes around 10 minutes to travel between Laxford Bridge and Scourie.
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 each way, Monday – Saturday during the local school summer holidays only (typically early July to mid August). It takes around 10 minutes to travel between Laxford Bridge and Scourie.
Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link.