I had hoped to make this a linear walk as I had initially thought there wasn’t a bus along the B869 but had since discovered the presence of the Assynt Dial a Bus. According to the website this operated along this road and you can call it to request transport along the road. Sort of like a taxi, but charged at bus prices. The website suggested it was open to anyone, for any purpose so that was good. However I had spent much of the previous day trying to call the number. Either I got no response at all, a message that the mobile I had called was switched off (but I had called a landline) or that there was a fault (I had even tried using two different mobile networks). So having been unable to get hold of this alleged service I had had to abandon that plan and make this a there and back walk. I actually did this walk before the previous one I posted about (Nedd to Unapool), so my plan was to begin in Clashnessie and work eastwards along the road as a there-and-back walk. Then I would continue from where I got to at the end of today tomorrow to complete the walk to the viewpoint on the A894 near Unapool.
I was staying in Ullapool and so drove around to Clashnessie. This is around half way around the remote B869 but I’d learnt from my previous drive here that the B869 is a much easier (and therefore quicker drive) from Lochinver (the section east of Clashnessie seems to have more hills, tight bends, blind summits and narrow sections). So that’s the way I had come and it took me around 1 hour 20 minutes, longer I had hoped. I parked in the car park marked on the map (more a lay-by really) where I’d ended another walk earlier that week. There was a motorhome parked here (probably having spent the night) and another car. But before I’d finished sorting myself out another two cars arrived – clearly it was going to busy! The reason being presumably that it was Saturday and the weather was quite nice.
Clashnessie has a beautiful beach and is in a beautiful location. At the landward end of a small inlet, there are quite a few small islands and headlands to be seen. The beach itself is unusually for this part of Scotland backed by dunes. I can see why this place is popular despite it’s extremely remote location.
Sometimes when I do these out and back walks I do the route there all at once, then walk back. At other times, I walk a mile or two, then double back to the car, move it onwards and so on. By doing the latter it means I can decided when to turn back when I’m tired (or the weather turns) and I’m never too far from the car. The downside is more time spent driving, but at least it gives me somewhere comfortable and warm to sit down for a few minutes for a rest!
I hadn’t quite decided if I was going to follow the latter approach for this walk and I was un-decided whether to head for Drumbeg or go further.
To start with, it looked to me that I could walk a short distance along the beach and climb up rocks and grass to the road above, so that is what I did. Ahead it is absolutely beautiful, with an isolated cottage that overlooks this wonderful beach.
Climbing up to the road I can look back over the sandy beach (which looks slightly red) and the hills beyond where I walked in the dark the other evening (but I will cover that in the next post).
I continue briefly along the grass beside the road, but it is uneven and full of rocks so I soon head back for the road, which is at least smooth underfoot and traffic is light.
I soon pass that isolated cottage, which is almost on an island.
From the map the house is called Imirfada (there are so few people and homes around here I think each one gets named on the map!).
Though I am surprised how close the front door looks to the beach and the tide line, it looks quite vulnerable and I can see a stone wall has been built in front of it. I wondered why it was not built just slightly higher up part way on the hill behind.
The bay is now heading out of view and behind the house is another rocky beach.
I continue onwards, the road having dropped a little again and now hugging the coast, not much above the waves.
Sadly the road does not continue for long beside the coast and soon I reach the mouth of a Loch na Bruthaich, where the road turns inland.
The road runs alongside the fast flowing waters of the stream from the loch.
Soon I reach the Loch itself, though it’s now looking grey and threatening.
At the west end of the loch is another parking area (unmarked on the map). I given in to temptation and decide to head back to the car. I’m not giving up yet of course, but decide with the uncertain weather I’m going to do this in a few short sections. I also enjoyed that coastal section again, so it will be nice to do it again in reverse.
Soon back at the beach, it is oddly still sunny here, despite the cloud at the loch and the sun has risen enough now to be shining on the sand.
I pick up the car and drive the mile or so onwards. I feel lazy driving such a short distance except that I’ve already walked twice as far! Now I’m back at the loch, the cloud has cleared here too and it’s sunny.
I continue on the road by the loch. Here it is busier and 3 or 4 cars pass me in the few hundred metres it takes to walk past the loch. At the end of the loch I stop for a nice view back.
Beyond the loch the road continues with heather and gorse beside the road. A little further along and I pass an old shed and decide there is room to park here just in front of it and so turn around to retrieve my car. Another reason for doing this is that I find drivers in Scotland will often stop to ask if you want a lift. Holding a camera, I find it easy to say it’s fine my car is just down the road and I’m taking photos than just say no when they have seen no car nearby. It does not take me long to reach the bottom of the loch and get back to my car, just as there is a brief shower, good timing!
Returning in the car in front of the shed I’m now not so happy about my parking place and worry I might be in the way of the shed so I park as far from it as possible without blocking the road. I continue anyway and am surprised to find just up the road is an art gallery! There is a what I take to be a parking place alongside (it’s not marked as a passing place) but I suspect it might be private land and it would be cheeky to park there (even though the gallery is closed) as I’m not a customer.
Continuing up the hill I soon pass the end of another loch and rounding the corner the drive to a house. Around here there is some building work going on at the house and cars and vans parked on the grass verge. One of the workers says hello as do I in return but suddenly I feel I don’t want to suddenly turn back just ahead in case they assume i’m lost!
On the right just past it I have lovely views over Loch Eilenach with several small islands and find a place to sit beside it for a quick snack.
Resuming my walk I continue uphill to soon reach the top of the hill and there is a wonderful view ahead of colourful trees, some deciduous (and now becoming autumnal) and pine trees.
Soon I can see a few houses ahead. There are marked as Oldany on the map.
Nearing the bottom of the valley and the river there is an area marked Assynt Hydro Scheme right at the bottom of the hill. I decided that the gravel next to the end of the road has space to park without blocking the access or churning up the grass, so I decided to turn back here to get the car, at least having done a good distance before turning back.
I head back past the house with all the building work, but this time the builders have gone so I needn’t have worried about them wondering what I was doing walking up and down the road. I continued back the way I had come to my car fortunately still where I’d left it, without any angry note attached!
I drive around to the Assynt Hydro scheme drive and park beside the end of it and sit in the car for lunch, grateful to have somewhere warm and comfortable to eat. Now I’m ready to leave I’m not entirely comfortable with parking the car here (again), but decide there is little alternative and hoping with houses ahead, there will be some more parking.
Soon I cross the beautiful river, with rushing water and am now in a valley with some flat marshy land around beside the river.
It is more lush now and it feels like the landscape is less hostile.
Perhaps these buildings were once farms, but they look like houses now.
In front of the houses the road soon crosses the river again. I’ve mentioned before the Scottish farmers seeming love of fences and here it is still present – they even fenced off the river!
My hoped for parking doesn’t materialise so I continue along the road, briefly dead straight and heading for the coast again, which I can see ahead (this is meant to be a coastal walk, after all).
Here I can see the water rushing out of the river into Lochan na Leobaig.
Just ahead a minor road turns left to the hamlet of Culkein and ends at a jetty. I had considered trying to make my way along the shore here to this jetty, but I can see it’s too rocky, so I abandon that idea and continue on the road. Standing on the bridge with the water flowing out to the loch, it is beautiful.
The road rounds the rocky bay but soon turns away from the coast again. So I continue on the road soon reaching the very western edge of Loch Drumbeg.
Here I have a decision to make. I could walk up the road to Culkein, but it’s a dead-end. However if I don’t I’ll be missing out a stretch of coast. I ponder this for a while, but it is still only early afternoon and I’m not feeling that tired. I consider coming back for the car first but then decide no I will follow the road out to Culkein. The road climbs steeply past the remains of some building on the right (I can see a concrete base) and then continues to climb. Soon there is a turning on the left to Polchaple. This is marked as “Craft on the Croft” and I’m not sure if it is open. (Oddly my map also shows cycle hire, which is not listed on the sign). I doubt there is anyone but the proprietor there and I don’t want to feel guilty going there and so ending buying something I don’t want (which I’d also have to carry), so I continue on.
The road drops down into a valley and climbs again to a large house on the right. I continue now and reach the highest point of the road, which descends steeply ahead. To my pleasant surprise someone has erected a bench here! So I sit on it for a few minutes to take in the view. It is quite a view!
A remote white cottage just to my right has the most remarkable view of the loch and numerous small rocky islets and inlets. I can also see right along the bay to Scourie where I walked earlier in the year and possibly Cape Wrath.
Closer, the loch has many islands in it, it’s beautiful. This area, Assynt is a National Scenic Area and I can certainly see why – the walk along this dead-end road was worth it just for this view. The road now descends into more of the village, where there are more buildings.
I pass several houses and then the road continues to descend to the end and a jetty.
Just before this there is a cattle grid and the road is lined with two stone pillars giving the name of the house ahead. It looks like the road ahead has essentially become a private drive and I feel uncomfortable continuing worried this is technically a garden and so even under the Scottish access laws I might be trespassing. I decide to continue until I am in sight of the house and jetty, where I stop just out of sight of the house to enjoy the view. And now it’s back the way I came again!
I retrace my steps back to the top of the hill and continue ahead to a track to the left. Here it looks like there is a track that meets up with the road a little further along towards Drumbeg, saving me about 400 metres of walking. So I decide to follow this and so begin to walk on it. I soon approach a house and realise the onward track seems to go briefly right in front of, or possibly over, their garden. I don’t feel comfortable here and chicken out and decide to return to the road. I’m irritated as I do so to see a van heading up the road (I didn’t want to be seend), but this is only the second house on the road, they won’t be coming down here surely? But then the van indicates down the track I’m wandering along, that leads to only that one house. I’m now worried the driver is going to stop and ask me what I’m doing on “their drive” but instead he gives me a cheery wave and continues (I now feel like I could have walked down the other track past the house and they wouldn’t have minded), but it would look even more odd to turn back again, so I continue. I did wonder what are the chances of me timing it just that the owner came back then?!
I continue back to the road where a car pulls up at the end of the road to Culkein. Are they going to offer me a lift? This is a nice gesture, but I’m meant to be on a walk not a drive so I always decline, which sometimes makes the drivers looks a little hurt you declined! However a post office van soon comes the other way and they stop to chat. The postman hands the ladies post through the window of her car, and they both drive on. I guess the postman must know everyone in this remote area and so this saves the effort of going to their house if he sees them on the way!
I’m not far from Drumbeg now and can see it ahead and it is beautifully located, with the loch on one side and the sea on the other. So I continue along the road, here very scenic with the loch on my right.
It does not take me long to reach the car park (this time, a proper one) at the viewpoint overlooking the numerous islands.
I’m glad to make it here. I even find there is an (open) public toilet just beyond the car park so I stop to use this and then begin the walk back to the car.
It does not take so long this time as I don’t divert down to Culkein and it takes me a little over half an hour to get back to the car, still where I left it with no problem. I drive on to the viewpoint at Drumbeg, but it’s quite windy here and I can feel the car “bouncing” in the wind. I stop for a snack and drink and use the opportunity to clear some of the days debris and old drinks bottles from my rucksack.
I could end here now, but I decide it’s only around 3pm and I have some time left to walk a bit further, which means I can shorten the next days walk instead. So I leave the car at this car park and head on to Drumbeg, the weather now having brightened up.
I’m amazed that the road soon gains a pavement, something I’ve not seen in a long while. Even more surprising there is a shop (and it’s open) and also a hotel (which isn’t), though the sign in the hotel window informs me it has now closed for the season as of the previous weekend, though the bar will open for one last time the following evening. It must be a shame to live in somewhere like this when the pub only opens in summer, but I suppose at least there is one. I also passed other people walking on the pavement, I hadn’t seen anyone outside of a car for several hours!
Soon I reached the end of Drumbeg and enjoyed a look back over the loch on which the village is built.
The road soon turned left over more moorland and reached another smaller loch, Loch Ruighean an Aitinn.
Soon I’d passed the end of this pretty loch and continued on the road, surrounded by sheep.
The road soon turned to the right and I could see Loch Nedd ahead of me. This is open to the sea, unlike the Loch in Drumbeg.
I have no reached small village of Nedd and I was amused to pass this Bothy (at least I think that is what it is) showing a sign “Hippies use back door”!
I continued through this small village. Unlike Drumbeg it has no facilities, unless you count the telephone box! I wondered if there might be somewhere to park here, but the road seemed a bit to narrow. On the left near the last of the houses I passed some sort of stone circle, but I’m not sure if this original or the owners of the house had created it (sorry it’s not very obvious it’s a stone circle from the photo below).
Just past this there was a cattle grid and a little parking area to the right of it by a gate. I decided, for the last time, to walk back to the viewpoint in Drumbeg to retrieve my car and move it here. So I retraced my steps through Drumbeg to the viewpoint and drove on to Nedd. I had noticed the road between Nedd and Drumbeg seemed busier when walking and suspect the locals might drive into Drumbeg as it has the shop.
I parked the car and headed down the road to the river that flows out to Loch Nedd. As I headed down the road to the waters edge I came across a small track to the left, which headed down to a small stone jetty where there was a boat moored and some fishing equipment.
Continuing on the road there was soon a small grassy area on the left with all sorts of old boats around it, in various states of repair (or disrepair). Clearly a little bit of a fishing community exists here (I have wondered what the locals do for a living around here). I continued on the grass beside the road for a bit and then rejoined the road further along. Soon I reached the marshes around the stream, the land suddenly flat after all the hills of the day!
I continued to the bridge over the loch river and decided to call it a day here. It had cut the next days walk shorter which was nice and it was a beautiful place to which I could return.
I now turned back and headed back up the hill towards Nedd and my car, for the final time today.
I stopped for a rest in the car before deciding which way to drive back. I opted to continue east along the road instead of returning the way I had come. It is a more challenging drive to the east, but shorter too, though I did end up reversing once because of oncoming traffic (the road is single-track with passing places). I was glad to meet the main road where I could then turn right and make quicker progress back to Ullapool and my hotel.
I don’t like walking there and back, however the scenery along this road was just stunning so for once I didn’t mind, as I got to enjoy the view twice and there was very little traffic to bother me. I was also pleased that the weather had been on my side, and far better than had been forecast. I just had to hope the weather was not too bad the next day (the forecast was not promising) as I didn’t want to leave any gaps in my walking that I would have to fill in on a later trip.
(Having had such lovely weather and scenery for this walk and taken what I hoped would be some lovely photos I was rather annoyed when I got home at the end of this trip to find that I was completely unable to read any of the photos at all on the memory card I had used on this day (and the previous ones) no matter what I tried it in. I tried various bits of software to no avail. I feared the photos were lost for good but I found a company in Germany that were able to recover them all for me, so I managed to get them eventually, even if it was several weeks later!)
There is no public transport available for this walk. In theory, the Assynt Dial A Bus could be called if you arrange it in advance. However, I was not able to get hold of them.
Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link