336. Dundonnell River to Inverbroom Bridge

May 2019

This was my last day of this trip and also a Sunday. This meant I had a deadline to meet (I needed to get to Inverness Airport in time for my flight home) and also no public transport available on a Sunday. So I had planned a circular route to walk much of the west side of Loch Broom and then continue inland to the head of the next loch along the coast, Little Loch Broom.

My plan was to drive around from Ullapool, where I was staying, to a parking area marked on the map beside the A832 just south of the head of Little Loch Broom and Dundonnell House. From here I planned to follow a path that was marked on the map over the hills and back to the shores of Loch Broom. This was the path I had spotted the other end of yesterday, ominously signed as the Coffin Road. Once back on the shores of Loch Broom I’d then walk north along the road along the west side of the loch to Loggie, at the end of the road and pick up a path the map showed running from the end of the road to the former Altnaharrie Inn opposite Ullapool (now closed). From here I’d follow the track up from here to the minor road which I could then follow back down to my parking spot. It was an ambitious plan but I hoped that by tacking, or trying to tackle what I suspected to be the most demanding part first I could then make an assessment as to whether I would have enough time to complete my walk or abandon it and do a simple there and back walk to Loggie and tackle the rest on my next visit.

I set off from Ullapool driving around the loch and joining the A832. Although the roads were pretty good I was surprised how long it took as they don’t go a very direct route. As I approached my planned parking area I was dismayed to see that even at 9am on a Sunday morning it was full up and not only that people were already parking on the grass verge around it (something I didn’t particularly want to do). I wondered where on earth all the people were going. All I could see on the map was an art gallery but I doubted it was a famous artist in such a remote place or a couple of footpaths. I presume one or both of these paths must be very popular as I hadn’t expected to find it full especially as it wasn’t even high season yet. I couldn’t look too much as the parking area was on the other side of the road from me. Dismayed I continued up to the minor road to Badrallach (the road I intended to walk part of on the way back to the car) in order to turn round with the intention of taking a better look on the way back (now it would be on my side of the road) to see if I could find somewhere I could park without causing an obstruction albeit probably on the grass verge (which I hate doing as it turns them to mud). However I was delighted to find at the end of this road there was a little gravel and earth area beside the road by the junction where I could park.

Near Dundonnell House

There was room for perhaps 2 or 3 cars and no one else was parked here. There was a notice warning there was no ferry at Altnaharrie (which I already knew, as I’d have used it if there was) but nothing to say no parking and since I wasn’t on the tarmac of the road itself and was far enough back from the junction to not effect sight-lines I figured this was probably the best place to park. In fact it would shorten the days mileage slightly, which would be a bonus.

Sign on the road to Loggie

I headed along the road to the lovely old stone bridge over the Dundonnell River. Here a man was sat on rocks beside the river (you can see him near the right end of the bridge).

Dundonnell River

I wondered if he had parked where I had planned to and was obviously about to set off on a walk since he had a walking pole on the grass next to him and a large rucksack. I wondered where he was going but he only commented on the weather as I passed so I didn’t like to ask where he was off too. I think he may have been wild camping nearby and drying his stuff out in the sun before setting off. It looked a lovely place to camp right beside the pretty river.

From the bridge, I enjoyed views of the pretty and tranquil river flowing over the rocks through the woodland, it was an idyllic spot.

Dundonnell River

Dundonnell River

Once away from the river the view opened out to the snow covered hills around.

The old Coffin Road between Dundonnell and Inverbroom

This bothered me a little since I would be climbing over hills too and hoped I wasn’t going to find a lot of snow at the top since I wasn’t really equipped for it. However I first had a more pressing problem. I couldn’t find the path! I had hoped given the path was well signed at the other end it would be here too. Sadly it wasn’t. I went up and down the road looking for the point where it should branch off, or I assumed it would (the map wasn’t all that clear) but couldn’t find it at all. In the end I opted to just climb up the grass and heather heading in roughly the right direction in the hope I would intercept the path before it entered the woodland. As much by luck than anything else that was what I managed to do and found a reasonably clear, albeit narrow path. It was odd since I hadn’t been able to find it from the road.

Checking the map carefully as I began along it I was pleased to note that comparing the grid reference of where I was to the map confirmed I was where I should be. This must be the path.

It soon began to climb and the views just got better and better. I was lucky with the weather, almost completely clear blue sky and a light dusting of snow on top of the hills around, it was very beautiful.

The old Coffin Road between Dundonnell and Inverbroom

The old Coffin Road between Dundonnell and Inverbroom

The old Coffin Road between Dundonnell and Inverbroom

The path continued to climb out of the valley where the green pasture and fields soon gave way to open moorland, heather and rocks, as well of course lots of boggy areas (what footpath in the highlands doesn’t have boggy areas!).

The old Coffin Road between Dundonnell and Inverbroom

As I got higher the path actually became much clearer and I could see it stretching off clearly ahead of me for a long distance over the hills.

The old Coffin Road between Dundonnell and Inverbroom

That was excellent as I couldn’t afford the time to keep having to back track or try and forge my own route. I guess being an old coffin road that for people to be able to carry a coffin along this path it couldn’t be too steep.

The old Coffin Road between Dundonnell and Inverbroom

After a while the path levelled out as I reached the top and passed a couple of small lochs, fortunately the path was still fairly easy to follow.

The old Coffin Road between Dundonnell and Inverbroom

The old Coffin Road between Dundonnell and Inverbroom

Loch an Tiompain

Loch an Tiompain

Loch an Fhiona

I continued ahead soon going over the brow of the hill and with a view back to Loch Broom below. The hardest part of the walk was nearly over and I had made good time.

Loch Broom from the old Coffin Road

Loch Broom from the old Coffin Road

The path zig-zagged down as it descended, widening to more of a track, perhaps still used by farm vehicles.

The Coffin Road at Inverbroom

At the valley floor the path then went over a rather boggy field and finally down to the road, here a pretty tree-lined road.

The old Coffin Road to Inverbroom bridge

Near Inverbroom Bridge

The road to Loggie

The road to Loggie

I followed the road back to Inverbroom bridge to ensure I joined up with the previous days walk.

Inverbroom bridge

Now I turned back to follow this road north through various scattered villages to Loggie. A sign welcomed me to Loch Broom and gave the mileage to the various B&Bs and self-catering properties along the road, the furthest being 4 1/2 miles so that was probably the distance to the end of the road.

Clachan

The first village along the road is Clachan. The only buildings here were a couple of houses, a farm and this large church which I imagine serves all the villages along the road.

Clachan

Soon the road ran right beside the river Broom, here quite a narrow river.

Loch Broom near Clachan

It didn’t take long however to reach the loch where suddenly there was a much wider expanse of water beside me.

Loch Broom near Letters

The road began to climb and soon I reached the oddly named scattered village of Letters where some animals roamed on the road.

Loch Broom near Loggie

The loch itself was beautiful, with lovely blue water in the bright sunshine and the patches of woodland and moorland were very visible on the opposite banks of the loch.

Loch Broom near Loggie

A few small but fast-flowing streams flowed off the moor to my left. I was making quicker progress now along the road and soon passed through Arindrean and then reached Rhiroy. Here signs pointed to a side road where rather than give house names or numbers they simply listed the name of the people living there, presumably the houses aren’t named or numbered.

Loggie

I continued along the road to reach Loggie and the end of the public road but could continue on what was still a car-wide track to the edge of somewhere called Newton Loggie.

Newton Loggie

Here the track continued to the shore to a house but the map showed the path as heading just behind the dry stone wall so I left the track and headed for the back of the dry-stone wall.

Newton Loggie

There wasn’t much of a path but at least I could see the wall on the map so knew I was in the right place although in places parts of it had fallen onto the path. At the end I passed a ruined settlement (Newton Loggie, I presume), now all in ruins and found a bit more of a path that headed down to the shore.

Newton Loggie

I could see Ullapool ahead on the other side of the loch, but this side was wild and remote. (You can just see it in the distance on the right hand side below).

Path to Altnaharrie

Path to Altnaharrie

The path soon headed a bit inland again, climbing away from the loch shore. Mostly it was visible albeit at times only a few metres ahead. The fords on the map were quite tricky to cross, at least one of them was as there wasn’t many dry places to stand.

Path to Altnaharrie

Another had a steep drop down over the heather which was also tricky but soon the path opened out again and became more obvious.

Ullapool from Altnaharrie

The shore at Altnaharrie

It soon began to descend again back to the loch shore at Altnaharrie and I could see a few bits of equipment in the loch here. Over the loch I now had a clear view of Ullapool. It was only about half a mile as the crow flies but it had taken me almost two days to walk around the loch!

Dropping down onto the beach there were a few ruined boats.

The shore at Altnaharrie

The shore at Altnaharrie

I wondered if these were once the ferry used to take drinkers and diners across the loch when this building was a pub, but they looked too far gone to have been used as little as 10 years ago. From here a track headed up from the loch shore, the private access road to this house (and former inn).

The shore at Altnaharrie

I kept as far from the building as I could and then picked up the track and followed it. It was car-wide but climbed pretty steeply, but it was easy to follow.

View to Ullapool from Altnaharrie

Ullapool ahead

Near the top I could here an engine and soon a Range Rover appeared over the brow of the hill heading towards me. The owner of the house I expect. This always makes me a little apprehensive – are they going to stop and ask what I’m doing walking along what is essentially their drive (albeit a mile long one)? Fortunately they just give me a wave as I step aside and carry on.

The track passes Loch na h-Airbhe and near the top as I approach the public road I noticed it’s now signed as Castaway Cottage.

Loch na h-Airbhe

I wonder if there is a holiday house down here or if this is now the name of the old inn? Anyway I’m soon back on the public road.

I reckon it will take me about 90 minutes for the rest of the walk so I have made it with enough time to not have to worry about missing my flight from Inverness. The road is almost entirely downhill too, which is nice.

Badrallach Road

Badrallach Road

After about half a mile I come to a couple sitting in their car presumably enjoying the view who also give me a wave as I pass.

Badrallach Road

The walk is easy now just follow the road gently downhill and there is almost no traffic since there is only the small village of Badrallach further along the road, which is at the end of the road. The countryside to my right is wild and open and deserted and in poor weather I imagine it would feel bleak up here but it’s lovely today in the warm sunshine.

Badrallach Road

Sadly signs warn that sheep rustling has taken place here, a surprise in such a remote place (but maybe that’s why, less chance of being seen?). As the road continues to descend it becomes lightly wooded.

Badrallach Road

Road near Dundonnell House

This makes a nice change the trees providing some welcome shade as it’s now quite warm. Although I do find these wooded sections of these narrow single-track roads harder to drive because the trees limit visibility ahead meaning you can’t see any oncoming traffic far ahead, but I don’t need to drive this road today.

Road near Dundonnell House

It continues through some lovely woodland (beech I think?) soon passing the grand house, Dundonnell House, and from here it’s just a short distance onwards to the bridge over the river and back to my car.

Road near Dundonnell House

Road near Dundonnell House

Dundonnell House

The man that was here earlier has gone now and I wonder where he was walking too (I didn’t see him on my route). I continue along the road back to my car.

Dundonnell River

I am really pleased, this was quite an ambitious plan and yet it had worked out well and been a wonderful walk. The scenery was stunning especially the snow-covered hills and mountains near the start and the views over the two Lochs. It had been very varied too with sections right beside the loch and the beautiful woodland near the end of the walk too. Sadly now it was time to head home.

Back at the car I drove back to Inverness Airport via the shops nearby to re-fuel the hire car before returning it to the airport. Fortunately no issues were found when returning the car and I headed into the terminal. Naturally the flight was late and this delay was only announced a few minutes before we should have been taking off though it was obvious given no plane was visible we were going to be late. Frustrating but only a minor frustration on what had been a lovely and successful trip and I was pleased with the progress I had been made and the lovely weather conditions I had had for most days on this trip.

Here are details of public transport needed for this walk:-

Westerbus route 707 : Gairloch – Poolewe – Aultbea – Laide – Badcul – Dundonnell – Braemore Junction – Inverbroom – Ullapool.  One bus per day on Monday, Wednesday and Friday only. It takes around 25 minutes between Dundonnell and the junction for Inverbroom.

D and E Coaches route 813A. Ullapool – Inverbroom Bridge – Clachan – Letters – Loggie. 2 services per day each way, school days only. No service at weekends.

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

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3 Responses to 336. Dundonnell River to Inverbroom Bridge

  1. owdjockey says:

    Hi Jon, a great days walk and some lovely weather as well! The first bit of your walk, the Coffn road is part of the Cape Wrath Trail. Where you parked your car is the bus stop and where drivers wait to pick up people from the bus.

    • jcombe says:

      Oh well I didn’t see anything to say it was a bus stop or that you shouldn’t park there. Hopefully it being a Sunday it didn’t cause any problem!

  2. Pingback: 337. Grid reference NH100919 to Badrallach and Scoraig (and back) | Round the Island

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