Having now reached Ullapool I now had to get around Loch Broom. The west coast of Scotland is an indented coast full of many sea lochs. Some of the lochs have ferries across them but most don’t meaning a long walk around. Unfortunately Loch Broom does not have a ferry so I’ll be walking around it and this walk covers the north side of the loch.
It was, at one time, possible to cross the loch by boat. On the opposite side of the loch was the Altnaharrie Inn. One of the remotest pubs in Scotland, since there were no other buildings there and no public road it was primarily accessed by a boat across the loch. It had a good reputation, with a coveted 2 Michelin stars, but it closed in 2002 and is now a private house and hence no boat crosses the loch any more. This means I will be walking around it.
I must admit I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this walk. I would be mostly walking along the A835 being the only practical route. This is a trunk road and I knew from driving it that it was pretty busy and mostly lacked a pavement. This meant I’d have to spend much of the walk focusing on traffic not the views. On the other hand at least the terrain would be easy and it would make navigation easy.
Another advantage of walking a main road is there is usually a bus, as there was in this case meaning at least I only have to walk it one way. Most of the buses along this road are actually Citylink coaches to Inverness and I wasn’t quite clear if you can buy tickets for these from the driver on the day or if you have to book in advance and I also wasn’t clear if they would stop where I wanted – at the junction for Inverbroom bridge since it isn’t listed as a stopping point. To avoid these issues I had also noticed that there was an occasional ordinary bus service too. Oddly it only ran a few days a week and the only day there was a morning departure from Ullapool was on a Saturday so I decided to do this walk on a Saturday to make use of this bus (it doesn’t run any longer however). Oddly it terminated somewhere called Braemore Junction which I think is literally that, a road junction there is no settlement there. I later found these oddities were explained by the fact it was timed to connect with another bus that runs from Gairloch to Inverness, providing a connection from Ullapool to Inverness.
I was staying in Ullapool so I didn’t need to drive anywhere first and so I headed to the bus station (ferry terminal) in Ullapool at the allotted time and the bus duly arrived. I was surprised to find it was a full size coach in fact clearly a former Scottish Citylink coach since it still had their colours on and I could see where the lettering had been removed. There were only 3 passengers, myself included!
Fortunately the driver was happy to drop me at the junction for Inverbroom bridge and knew where it was. It only took about 10 minutes or so and the driver duly pulled up to let me off.
Inverbroom bridge is the lowest crossing point of Loch Broom so it’s where I’d cross to the other side of the loch, or rather river as it is at this point. Actually I decided to do that now since I spotted there was a handy bench beside the river I could use to faff about in my bag to get my camera and map out and have a drink.
Inverbroom bridge is definitely functional rather than attractive but it served the job of getting me across the loch.
The views from it were rather lovely with the mountains in the distance still with a dusting of snow at the top.
I also did a quick recce for my planned walk tomorrow, which would take me around the other side of the loch and I hoped to follow a path I had seen marked on the map. At the expected place I spotted the sign for it. It was marked Coffin Road.
That didn’t bode well and I hoped it would not be my coffin that would end up going along it! Still that was for tomorrow.
I couldn’t put it off any longer it was time to tackle that road. I initially followed the grass verge but it was uneven and the grass long and damp so I soon stuck to the edge of the road except when traffic was coming, which wasn’t quite as often as I feared.
Initially the road was beside the river broom though often I couldn’t actually make out the river across the marsh.
Soon the road crossed another river. This is the river Lael and here the road had obviously been improved since an old single carrigeway stone bridge was still in place beside the more modern road bridge obviously built to replace it. I opted to cross via the old bridge since it briefly got me away from the traffic.
However it was only a brief respite and soon I was back to the traffic. Well the road, anyway.
Still the views were lovely and traffic still fairly light.
Soon the river widened into the loch at a place called Lochend and here there was a pebbly beach and a lovely view across the loch.
The hills on the other side of the loch were dotted with houses, seemingly scattered around at random (this seems quite common in the Highlands).
The map showed this settlement went by the strange name of Letters. Maybe the first resident was a postmen!
The road passed some woodland and soon began to climb as I approached Ardcharnich.
Although still about 4 miles the extra height gained meant I could already make out my destination of Ullapool ahead, jutting out into the loch.
Between the road and the loch was lush looking pasture that seemed to be favoured for sheep grazing. Ardcharnich is a tiny place with just a couple of houses and another river flowing out into the loch. The loch really is beautiful and I was seeing it in lovely weather conditions too.
Beyond Ardcharnich the road soon entered woodland again where a parking area provided a safe place to stop for a drink.
Soon out of the woodland I was entering the scattered hamlet of Leckmelm, another farming settlement.
Beyond this the road soon entered woodland again at Leckmelm Wood. Here I had spotted a track up into the woodland beside the road marked on the map that looked to go all the way to Ullapool and ran parallel with the road. I hoped to follow that as it would mean I could get away from the traffic.
Oddly at the first place it was marked as joining the road on the map there was no track and no evidence at all of there ever being one. All I could see was a little stream enclosed by a wall either side. That can’t be a path and was far too overgrown to ever be passable and about a foot deep in water. I continued on the road, reluctantly, still looking for a track into the wood.
On the left I passed the entrance to Leckmelm Gardens. I couldn’t see any of the garden from the road however, it was hidden behind a wall. I hadn’t given up on the woodland route however as I could see 500 metres or so further along the road another track from the road that should join up with the one I wanted to follow.
I continued. This time the track I wanted to follow existed so I followed it, leading to the drive to a couple of houses but here I wanted to turn left. I followed the track left but it came into an area of woodland full of very old caravans, mostly painted green and surrounded by logs and wood. I wasn’t sure if they were lived in but they didn’t look like holiday caravans either. There seemed to be a track going round in a circle around a few caravans. None of this was marked on the map. I felt uneasy walking through there expecting someone to burst out of one of the caravans and want to know what I was doing, but no one did. At the far end of the circle I could see the track I wanted to follow but there was a gate and it appeared to be a private drive. I didn’t feel comfortable walking there as and in fact the whole area was giving me the creeps a bit. It wasn’t on the map and just felt odd and I wasn’t sure what went on here.
I decided to abandon that plan and head back to the road before I was spotted – even though there is a right to roam in Scotland it still felt a bit private here. I got back to the road without being spotted and just after I joined the road a black pick-up truck with blacked-out windows came round the corner ahead. It slowed and then turned up the track I had just emerged from. Fortunately, I had re-joined the road before I was in sight of the truck but it further added to my unease that whoever lived there felt the need to drive around in a truck with blacked out windows. In fact I did wonder if I had triggered a camera or motion sensor or something and they were coming to check what was going on! All in all it gave me the creeps and I felt safer on the road.
After a while the road emerged from the woodland and then climbed a fairly steep hill before the final descent into Ullapool, which I could see ahead again.
As I approached Ullpaool there was a pavement at last so at least I could concentrate more on the scenery and less on looking out for the traffic! I followed the road to the junction in Ullapool. Here the A835 turns right and the road ahead is now the A893. This must be one of the shortest A-road in Britain, since it runs for about 300 metres before ending!
I followed this road alongside the pretty harbour to the ferry terminal and then back to the hotel. This walk hadn’t taken that long as it was only early afternoon so I headed on to do the the walk to Rhue (but the previous one I wrote up) so as not to waste the rest of the day.
Having worried about this walk it was more pleasant than I imagined. The scenery throughout was wonderful as I expected and fortunately the traffic not as heavy as I had feared, other than a brief burst of traffic that I suspected corresponded with the ferry arriving at Ullapool and for most of the way there was a grass verge. I was glad however that I had now covered the section on the busy main road.
Here are details of the public transport for this walk:-
Stagecoach Highlands route 61 : Ullapool – Leckmelm – Braemore Junction – Aultguish Inn – Contin – Strathpeffer – Dingwall – Conon Bridge – Tore – Inverness. 1 – 2 buses per day each way (depending on whether it’s a school day or not), Monday – Friday. No service on Saturday or Sunday. This bus should stop if requested at the junction by Inverbroom Bridge.
Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link.