This walk didn’t go as planned which is why the end point is where it is! Today was a Sunday and the last day of this trip. I hadn’t walked the coast in order on this trip (as a result of the limited public transport) so I’d left a gap between Aultbea and Poolewe that I intended to fill today. I planned to do this as a there and back walk due to the lack of bus.
I checked out of the hotel I was staying at in Ullapool and drove south. Rather than park in Aultbea itself I decided to park in the first view point along the road south from Aultbea (about a mile from the village) and walk back to Aultbea and then continue south.
The car park overlooked some sort of military base. I wasn’t sure what it was there was a jetty but also 5 separate platforms in Loch Ewe around it. These were marked as “dolphins” on the map. All very mysterious. Beyond it, I could see the Isle of Ewe.
The public road descended past woodland and in a loop around a stream down more or less to sea level and soon there was a private road off to the left that headed down to this pier, but marked “MOD Propery Keep Out”.
So I did keep out and instead continued ahead to Drumchork. Here I could turn left and leave the A-road to follow a more minor road back to the shore.
The beach at Aultbea is pleasant but pebbles rather than sand.
I continued along the road until I reached the point I had got off the bus the previous day, to join up my walk.
Now I re-traced my steps the same way back up to the car park, but I had to do more traffic dodging on the way back as the traffic had picked up.
Now back at the car I drove about a mile and a half south on the road to the next parking area marked on the map, which is the Inverewe viewpoint. This overlooked both Loch Ewe and the smaller Loch Thurnaig and an information board that showed me what all the hills are and also advertised the nearby Inverewe gardens.
The land at the mouth of Loch Thurnaig, on the opposite side almost looked like an island, because it was higher than the ground behind it.
I also had fine views back to the Isle of Ewe ahead again. The road gradually descended to end up beside woodland at Gleann Crom. There was only a very narrow verge beside the road here and I noticed a football shirt hanging from the trees and the remains of some flowers nearby. I presume a monument to someone that died here, though I didn’t want to think about how they had died here (presumably it involved a vehicle on the road).
Another half a mile on from here and I was back at the first viewpoint, where I had parked earlier so it was time to re-trace my steps. Despite being nearly midday it was still quite chilly with a cold and strong wind blowing.
I was pleased to get back to the car so I could get inside, out of the wind. I checked the map and the next parking area on the road was a bit further south, about 2 miles south at Inverewe Gardens, so that is where I’d drive to next. However first I decided as this stop was likely to be quieter and have a better view I’d have lunch here, in the car, before setting off.
Whilst eating lunch I was checking my phone, lucky to have a signal (another reason to stop here). As I have mentioned previously, the Easyjet flight I book home is pretty much guaranteed to be late. As this already gets back later than I’d like if on schedule this always causes me a bit of stress on the last day, wondering how much sleep I’m going to get before I got to work the next morning. So I thought I’d check if it was already showing a delay. When I checked the Easyjet website I was horrified to see that my flight wasn’t shown as late, but as cancelled! That was going to be a big problem and it sent me into a bit of a panic. Scrolling some more I saw there was an earlier flight from Inverness to Luton and that had also been cancelled, yet everything else seemed to be running from Luton airport. So why had both the Inverness flights been cancelled? I searched for Inverness Airport in Google and found a news article stating that the air traffic controllers at Inverness were on strike today, causing all flights to and from Inverness to be cancelled.
It was therefore clear I wasn’t going to be taking a flight from Inverness today. However I was meant to be back at work tomorrow! I wasn’t sure what would happen if I couldn’t make it (presumably forced to take another days leave, whether paid or unpaid). I briefly considered the “head in the sand” approach of ignoring the situation and carrying on with my walk as planned but I quickly abandoned that idea. It seemed that my only options to get home were to get to Inverness and get the sleeper train to London (I knew this was extremely expensive however and I wasn’t sure how much sleep I’d actually get, being a light sleeper), take a train to Edinburgh or Glasgow and hope I can get a flight from there (I suspected I’d get there too late to get anything but the sleeper train) or see if the car hire company will let me drive the car I had hired home and drop it off at the nearest location to there instead (and if so, at what cost). In any case the hire car was meant to be dropped at Inverness Airport later that day so I needed to get there.
So sadly, I had to abandon my walk and head to Inverness. It took a little longer than expected as the roads in the Highlands are clogged with slow-moving motor homes at this time of the day. At Inverness Airport I asked the hire company if I could delay returning (I was several hours early anyway) whilst I found out what options were available.
I headed into the largely deserted terminal and headed to the Easyjet check in desk. There was no one there but someone spotted me and came over. They explained that all flights were cancelled today but they could deal with re-booking me. Fortunately if a flight within the UK or EU is cancelled the airline is obliged to get you to your destination and cover your costs until they can do so. They initially offered me a flight at “8:55” the next day which I initially assumed was the morning but the soon clarified that was the evening! I explained I needed to get back for work. They then told me they were authorised to rebook me on an early morning flight from Glasgow or Edinburgh and would provide a taxi there and an overnight hotel (at now cost to myself). That was a great result! I opted for Edinburgh since the flight got in a little earlier giving me a better chance of getting to work in the morning, which I’d do by train. The downside was it was to Gatwick so after work I’d have to make my way back to Luton Airport to retrieve my own car (a day late) to drive back home. They didn’t have any early morning flights to Luton.
That was all sorted out quite quickly, I was booked on the 1st flight from Edinburgh (at 6:05am) a new boarding pass was printed. I was offered a choice of hotels a nicer one in the city centre (and a taxi to the airport) or the Travelodge at the airport. I opted for the latter on the basis I would not need to travel anywhere in the morning, having to make a very early start as it was. (Unfortunately I later found it wasn’t at the airport, despite being told it was, but a mile and a half away, so that was probably a mistake). A taxi was arranged to take me to Edinburgh and I was told to wait outside and it would be here in 20 minutes. I then dropped back the hire car, now I was sure I didn’t need it any more and waited for the taxi.
10 minutes later a taxi pulled up. I was impressed. The taxi driver then drove me the several hours down to Edinburgh. He mentioned they had been getting quite a bit of business due to the strike! He noted that the air traffic controllers at Inverness were paid less than those working at Edinburgh or Glasgow and wanted the same pay hence the strike. However he also pointed out he thought that was unlikely because the controllers at Inverness have to handle a similar number of flights in a day as Edinburgh or Glasgow do in an hour! I don’t know how the dispute was settled but I was annoyed it had impacted on my trip and that Easyjet hadn’t even notified me of the cancellation (I was told that “if I had the app” I would have been).
He dropped me off at the Edinburgh Airport Travelodge and after initially refusing a tip did accept one (though I believe had been well paid for the trip!). I had dinner at the hotel. I also checked on transport to the airport and found a bus stop on the main road nearby where I could catch a bus to the airport in time. I preferred this because I find buses are more reliable than taxis.
After a brief sleep I made the very early start and caught the bus to the airport (which was on time!). The flight left a little late but despite this on arrival at Gatwick I was able to get out the airport, transfer to the other terminal and take the trains needed to get me to work. I walked in the door of the office at 9:02am. I didn’t think that was too bad – only 2 minutes late, and still before my manager arrived! (In any case the company I work for is fairly flexible in that you can typically arrive up to an hour earlier or later and simply leave correspondingly early or late). So I did find out it really is possible to wake up in Scotland and get to work on time, though it’s not a commute I’d want to do again!
In theory I could also claim for expenses Easyjet hadn’t paid for at the time such as food, extra parking costs and the costs of getting the train back up to Luton to get my own car after I finished work. However all they were legally required to do was put me on a flight from Inverness (which they had already offered to do). Since they had agreed to pay for me to go in a taxi to Edinburgh instead I thought it fair enough not to claim for any extra expenses as I felt they had already gone well over and above what I expected (especially given the strike was not their fault). At least I was well looked after following the cancellation.
Unfortunately that meant I had left a gap on my coast walk I would need to fill on my next trip (which was already booked for a couple of months time) and had had to cut this days walk short. However I only had a fairly small amount of coast left to cover that I planned to cover on this walk so hoped it wouldn’t impact on my plans for my next trip too much.
In short this day had been a fairly pleasant walk in the morning and a somewhat more stressful afternoon, evening and next morning! I hoped that my next walk would go more smoothly.
Here are details of the public transport for this walk. There are two bus routes (neither daily) but between them, they provide one bus per day each way between Aultbea and Poolewe most days except for Thursday and Sunday.
Westerbus 707 : Gairloch – Poolewe– Aultbea – Laide – Badcaul – Dundonnell – Braemore Junction – Ullapool. 1 bus per day each way, Monday, Wednesday and Friday only. (Connection is available at Braemore Junction to/from Inverness).
Westerbus 700A : Laide – Aultbea – Poolewe – Gairloch – Kerrysdale Junction – Loch Maree Hotel – Kinlochewe – Achnasheen – Lochluichart – Garve – Strathpeffer – Dingwall – Inverness. 1 bus per day each way on Tuesday and Saturday only.
Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link.