This was my last day of a 9 day long trip based in Durness. My plan for today was to continue from the most southerly point I’d previously reached, namely the viewpoint south of Unapool and then follow the A894 and then along the B869 towards Nedd. Today is Sunday so there isn’t any public transport in the area and in any case there isn’t any public transport at all along this part of the B869 at all. So this was going to be a there-and-back walk. Later in the day I had to get to Inverness airport in order to catch a flight back to London Luton airport where I could retrieve my car and drive the rest of the way home.
However the night before the weather had began to change. It became wet and windy. I was camping at the Sango Sands campsite in Durness. As the evening turned into night the weather got worse and it was wet and windy and becoming increasingly stormy. The weather got worse and worse. Now the problem with camping is in a tent rain is quite noisy but it’s nothing compared to the wind. In gale force winds – as it was, every side of the tent will flap about and move. I always work on the basis that the actual size of a tent can be derived by subtracting one from the quoted “man size” of the tent. So mine was a 2 man tent. This means there is in fact room for one person. (OK perhaps technically 2 if they have no luggage and are very good friends)!
With the tent under strain in the strong winds it was impossible to find a position where the sides of the tents weren’t flapping in to me in the wind, with the poles bending under the force. It was impossible to get out of the noise. The net result was that I got literally no sleep at all during the night. Now the fact I was lying down and not moving much meant my tired muscles from the previous days walking had recovered so my legs at least didn’t feel too tired. The problem was more that I was mentally very tired. With no sleep at all I wasn’t sure I was up to doing a walk but I hate changing my plans so I was certainly going to give it a go in the hope that some exercise would soon wake me up.
I had a shower which perked me up a bit and packed away the tent, sleeping bag and so on. I had travelled up here by air which meant I’d managed to fit my tent, camping equipment and a weeks worth of clothes into a single suitcase and hand luggage rucksack. It had been a tight squeeze to get it all in on the way here. It was an even tighter squeeze to get it back in (perhaps because the tent was wet). I literally had to sit on my suitcase to get the zip to close! Eventually I managed to get it fully zipped up and was ready to make a move.
So now ready to leave I began the drive down to Unapool. However with no sleep and a comfortable seat I soon began to feel tired. Driving when tired is very dangerous (both for me and others) so I stopped at Scourie. I hadn’t gone very far but I stopped here and went to the shop for an energy drink and to buy lunch. Now feeling better I continued on to Unapool and parked at the same place I had finished my last walk.
Unfortunately the weather hadn’t improved. It was still wet and windy. The rain was pouring down and I could see it streaming across the hills, coming down at 45-degree angle in the wind. The wind was strong enough I could feel the car bouncing around in the wind. I turned my phone on to check the weather radar (this was my 9th day in Scotland and had no recharging facilities other than the USB port on the car so kept my phone off most of the time to preserve the battery). There was a lot of rain about and it looked like it would be several hours at least before it cleared. I sat in the car for perhaps 15 minutes hoping the weather forecast was wrong. The weather showed no signs of improving so I decided it was better to get walking than sit here all day.
I set off but the wind was very strong and with the rain blowing into my face it was very unpleasant. I could continue like this but it wasn’t especially enjoyable. I couldn’t enjoy the view. In fact I often couldn’t see it at all! I couldn’t take photos due to the heavy rain and I would get splashed each time a car went past. I decided to retreat back to the car and consider the options. In the end it didn’t take me very long to consider. I could do a walk today but the weather was so unpleasant it wouldn’t be enjoyable. I would get soaked doing it. I would also likely get the car (and perhaps the driving seat) soaked in doing so too which might cause problems when I returned it (it is a hire car). I had had no sleep and I had to get myself and the car back to Inverness. That wasn’t great considering how tired I was now. It would surely be worse after walking 10 miles or more! The point is I want to enjoy it and I felt I wasn’t going to enjoy a walk in these conditions and in my state of tiredness.
So instead I decided to abandon my plans for the day and head to back to Inverness and do something else when I got there. A bit of searching and I settled on a plan to take a boat trip on Loch Ness. I had never been there before, the weather forecast for Inverness was far better and a nice relaxing sit down on a boat sounded rather attractive, where I could enjoy the scenery without expending much energy! I was also conscious that I needed to allow plenty of time for the drive considering how tired I was feeling as I was likely going to need and want to stop.
I ended up stopping every 30 minutes or so on the drive back to Inverness for a leg-stretch. I found that after that amount of time my concentration was beginning to wane and I was feeling very tired so I needed to get out and exercise to keep alert, I didn’t want to have or cause an accident so I stopped as soon as I began to feel too tired.
From what I had found the boat trips went from somewhere called Dochgarroch just west of Inverness on the A82. So I followed the A82 through the Inverness and found the boat trips signed and bought a ticket. I was a bit surprised the boat was not already here but I was told when it would arrive and when to be ready to board, at the lock.
I was a bit surprised as I thought the boat started from here but the lady in the ticket office told me it had actually started in Inverness! So I could have got on in Inverness rather than drive here which would have been better all around but I had made a mistake in reading the information so would settle for here.
Anyway the boat soon arrived and sitting in the fresh air on deck in sunshine, as it was in Inverness, soon perked me up no end.
The scenery here is lovely and there was a commentary throughout (and a proper one too, not recorded).
I was surprised how quickly the river had widened to this vast and deep loch. It soon felt far more like being at sea, even though I was inland.
There was a number of stately homes visible from the boat alongside the loch. I’m afraid I don’t remember the names of them, even though I was told.
It was nice to be able to enjoy an ever-changing view without having to expend any effort in achieving it.
Soon the boat had reached Urquhart Bay and the beautiful ruins of Urquhart Castle.
It locked stunning and the boat stopped here before beginning the journey back. It was possible to get off here and visit the castle and return on a later boat. Unfortunately the later boat was too late for me to get back to Inverness Airport so I had booked to stay on the same boat and return back to Dochgarroch.
I would love to visit the castle (I love castles) – but it will have to wait for another time.
That said it looked pretty busy, it being the middle of summer. I hadn’t been used to seeing so many people having spent a week in the northern highlands.
On the way back the captain warned us the water would be rough as were heading against the tide and if you stayed out on the lower deck at the front of the boat you would get wet. I did stay out at the front. He was quite right. I did get wet! Still I didn’t mind, it was quite refreshing.
The loch was reminded me a little of some of the Fjords in Norway with the high sides to the loch, but of course it is formed by the same process (glaciers) so perhaps not too surprising. Though not as spectacular as Norway it was still beautiful.
As we headed back into the narrower Caledonian Canal (or is it the River Ness?) the water became calmer again.
Soon I was back at Dochgarroch.
It had been a most enjoyable trip and just what I needed after a week of walking and a sleepless night. I was soon back at the car for the trip back to Inverness. I stopped at the retail park just west of Inverness Airport for fuel and an early dinner before heading on to the airport to return the car (which fortunately, all went smoothly with no problems found).
I was glad to get through security at the airport for a sit down at the airport. Of course it was a longer sit down than planned, since the flight was an hour or so late, though this was only actually announced a few minutes before the scheduled departure. I don’t think I’ve ever caught this particular flight when it has been on time! The flight was run by Easyjet and the problem is budget airlines like this seem to write their schedule on the assumption that a plane can leave again 30 minutes after it arrives. They very rarely achieve a 30 minute turn-around, which means the plane gets later and later during the day so the later in the day the scheduled time of a flight is the more likely it is to be delayed.
It did not help that the staff at Inverness had decided to be very strict with the hand luggage insisting everyone had to put their bags in the sizer and pay extra if it did not fit. So I had to take my coat and jumper out of my bag and wear them in case they made my bag too big, which was a pain. At last we were on board and heading back to Luton and I did manage to get to sleep on the flight for a little while. Unfortunately I had to wait for my suitcase on arrival this time (normally I travel hand-luggage only) but it did eventually arrived undamaged so I could head back to the long-stay car park in order to get my car and drive home.
It was around 1am when I did get home. However it had been a lovely trip. I was pleased with what I had achieved on this trip – today was the only day I hadn’t walked and I had managed to get further than expected on this trip due to my successful walk around Cape Wrath in a single day. Ending with a lovely day out on Loch Ness had been a nice way to end the trip. I was however certainly glad of a soft bed that wasn’t flapping about in the wind when I got home!
I would be back up to Scotland to continue my coastal walk later that year.