345. Shieldaig to Gairloch

September 2019

This was my last day of a 5 day trip to the north of Scotland and I was staying in Ullapool, which was not the most convenient as it was now really too far north. (I did not do the walks on this trip in the same order I am writing them up). I checked out of the dreadful  Caledonian Hotel (this time, finally, for the last time) and then began the long drive south to Shieldaig. It took a while, but there were no real hold ups. I parked in the small parking area just beyond the Shieldaig Lodge Hotel on the B8056.

As this was a Sunday there wasn’t a bus service running, so this was going to have to be another “there and back” walk, not something I enjoy as much (though this walk turned out to be far better than I had expected).

I planned to start from the south end knowing that this part was going to be the least pleasant, with no pavements and hence did this bit first, earlier in the day, when I hoped the traffic would be lighter.

I followed the road for the short distance from the car park to the hotel where unfortunately the road then immediately turns inland and heads uphill past the hotel and a farm and then turns left.

The B8056 near Shieldaig

Although a B-road it is mostly single-track with passing places. However traffic was fairly light on the way down with only about half a dozen vehicles passing me. The road soon turns left and then has open moorland to the right and woodland to the left, with the tops of a few mountains visible further in the distance.

Moorland near Shieldaig

Moorland near Shieldaig

At the brow of one hill I glimpsed the turning at the start of the road, but it was another brief up and down before I was heading down to the river. The start of this road, the B8056 crosses the river Kerry on a lovely old (but very narrow) stone bridge. As I approached this, the first flowing river was parallel to the road on the right so I could hear, and sometimes see, the rushing water.

The River Kerry near Kerrysdale

Soon I was down at the bridge, crossed the river and was now at the junction with the A832. I was not looking forward to this bit. This road to the right also reduces to a single track road with passing places, but to the left it is a normal A-road with a lane in each direction, and no pavement. The first part of the road had the river Kerry parallel again, now on the left side of the road.

The River Kerry near Kerrysdale

The first part was over flat meadows on either side, probably flood plain. Then I passed through the village of Kerrysdale, a hamlet really, the main building seemingly a bed and breakfast. After that the road crossed a stream and began to climb through the woods of Glen Kerry.

The A832 near Kerrysdale

There was a verge, of sorts, beside the road most of the way but is was uneven and overgrown so not nice to walk on, but at least it gave me somewhere to step aside from the traffic when there were vehicles coming both ways at the same time, or on corners.

The River Kerry near Kerrysdale

The River Kerry, Kerrysdale

The main thing I hate with walking on roads is you really do have to concentrate all the time, keeping your ears and eyes open for cars coming, as they are often coming very quickly and not expecting to find someone walking. As I began to approach Charlestown there was at least some gravelly areas beside the road which were easy to walk on.

Soon the road descended down into Charlestown which I could now see ahead. This is a small village that almost joins Gairloch and it bought with it, joy of joys, a pavement. I knew from my drive down here earlier this continues all the way to Gairloch. The second I had stepped onto the pavement I opted to turn around and walk straight back where I had just come from! I was keen to get off the pavement-less part of the road as early in the day as possible. My plan was to go back to the car, then drive back to Gairloch and complete the 2nd part of the walk.

The walk on the way back took a little less time, but there was noticeably more traffic meaning I had to take more care and I was relieved to turn off onto the quieter B8056.

I returned to my car for a drink but found it surrounded by dogs and people who all seemed to have unloaded from the 4×4 now parked next to me. I got in the car for some peace and quiet and a quick rest and drink but with all the barking dogs around the car I decided to abandon that and drive onto Gairloch. They were quite reluctant to move even from in front of the car!

I drove the 10 minutes or so up to Giarloch and parked in the main car park at Strath Bay on the B8021, where I had caught the bus at the end of my previous walk. There was a fair bit of life here with a cafe and book shop open by the car park and quite a few people around, perhaps having come from the local hotels.

The coast at Gairloch

The coast at Gairloch

Gairloch is a very pretty village and I also found a very cute tabby kitten around the shop that stopped for a stroke between chasing leaves and flies.

The road soon climbed up and then descended down to the little bay beyond, Strathy Bay. This is mostly rocks and pebbles, but there was a bit of sand near the shoreline.

I soon passed the small studio of Two Lochs Radio, which claims to be the smallest radio station in the UK. (Though this claim is also made by Islands FM (formerly Radio Scilly) on the Isles of Scilly).

Two Lochs Radio, Gairloch

I now followed the road behind the bay, though I did head down briefly onto the beach for a snack and drink, now I had found somewhere more peaceful (the break I had intended to have on leaving Shieldaig).

The beach at Gairloch

The road soon crossed a small stream via a bridge and when the “main” road, such as it was turned away from the coast I could continue along on a residential road. I was pleased to spot here one of the “Path” signs informing me there was a footpath along the shore, so I didn’t need to follow the road. That was good news!

The beach at Gairloch

The beach at Gairloch

I followed this to the end of the road where a path then headed up the low cliffs and to the road behind.

The beach at Gairloch

The beach at Gairloch

Here I could follow the pavement passing the large Gairloch Hotel to my left.

The Gairloch Hotel

The Gairloch Hotel

That hotel would have been far more convenient but it was fully booked, though I noted it was also owned by the same chain of hotels as the dreadful Caledonian Hotel I had been staying at in Ullapool (Bespoke Hotels), so I am not sure if it would have been that nice inside if the hotel I had stayed at was anything to judge it by.

I continued on the pavement beside the road, passing a church and then a view point and war memorial just beyond. Here I was able to find a path down to the wonderful beach just beyond it.

The beach at Gairloch

Church in Gairloch

This was a lovely sandy beach, backed by low wooded cliffs.

Gaineamh Moir, Gairloch

The storms of the previous day had left the sands rather covered in foam from the sea. (Due to the poor weather the previous day I had abandoned plans to walk and instead made a visit to Dunrobin Castle on the east coast, where the weather was better). I made my way down to the beach via a bit of rock climbing and walked along the sands, which was much nicer than the road.

Gaineamh Moir, Gairloch

Gaineamh Moir, Gairloch

Gaineamh Moir, Gairloch

A small stream flowed over the beach but it was only a few millimetres deep on the beach so no problem to get over. At the far end I was pleased to find a proper path off the beach.
As I begun to climb the steps from the beach two serious looking walkers came the other way with giant backpacks. I was tempted to ask them where they had been and were going but although they said hello they didn’t look like they wanted to stop, so I left them to it (you can see them stopped on the beach in the photo below).

Gaineamh Moir, Gairloch

Gaineamh Moir, Gairloch

The location of this beach is stunning with the wild open countryside right behind the beach and the white houses of Gairloch visible in the distance.

The path made it’s way around low cliffs to a rocky little bay behind and then up through woodland behind the beach.

The coast near Gairloch Harbour

The coast near Gairloch Harbour

Gaineamh Moir, Gairloch

It was a good path, even with board walks over the boggy parts (though with missing planks) and later it was a properly surfaced path.

Coast path near Gairloch

It was nice to find a proper well made and easy to use footpath, they are rare in this part of Scotland! It was even well signed with these pleasant wooden signs at regular intervals.

Coast path near Gairloch

The pier referred to is not a pleasure pier as such but one from which boat trips operate and is more the jetty at the end of the harbour, a bit further along the coast.

The path headed through trees and heather and I saw a few people walking dogs on it too, it was quite a popular path.

View back to Gairloch

View back to Gairloch

Soon rounding the corner I came to a view over Charlestown. What a view it was too with the wooded mountains in the distance and the narrow bay in front of me, just a shame about the bits of rubble and containers around the harbour.

Charlestown, Gairloch

Charlestown, Gairloch

Charlestown, Gairloch

The path took me down steps to emerge on the road beside a coffee shop (closed) and with a little jetty ahead. To the right was a dead-end, but I wondered down there anyway to explore the harbour.

I was quite surprised because I thought this was more a working harbour but there was 3 or 4 different companies offering various boat trips to see wildlife and one even had a glass-bottomed boat and claimed to operate trips every day. It was closed. Every day, but today, it would seem! Though I think it was not operating because the sea was still very rough from the previous days storm.

I headed to the end of the pier to enjoy the view. Charlestown is in a beautiful sheltered wooded bay and it was a lovely location. I took a few photos too because it is so pretty.

I headed along the minor road that serves Charlestown back towards the main road and was pleased to find that not only was there a shop, but it was open. So I could stop to buy a sandwich for lunch (I left Ullapool too early for anything to be open, it being a Sunday).

So I bought a sandwich and ate it on some seats nearby.

Charlestown, Gairloch

Charlestown, Gairloch4

Charlestown, Gairloch

Charlestown, Gairloch

Then I headed back to the main road and the little bridge that crosses the stream that flows into the bay.

Charlestown, Gairloch

I only had to head a little distance along the road and I had reached the point where I got to earlier, where the pavement ends. I walked up to the exact same spot before making a U-turn and heading back the way I came, therefore closing the gap.

This time, keen to make a more speedy return walk, and for variety, I stuck to the pavement beside the main road instead as it was faster and more direct and with the pavement I was not having to traffic dodge.

Gaineamh Mhor, Gairloch

Gairloch

I passed the Two Lochs Radio once again and headed up the hill back to the small car park, which was now almost full.

Two Lochs Radio, Gairloch

Gairloch

I stopped for another snack and drink and then drove onto Torridon for a short walk before heading to Inverness airport and home, but more about that in a later post.

If you are organised, it is possible to get public transport for part of this walk, as buses do run between Kerrysdale and Gairloch, so you only need to walk there and back along the B8056, but there is only a limited service.

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

Westerbus route 700A : Laide – Aultbea – Poolewe – Gairloch – Kerrysdale – Talladale – Kinlochewe – Achnasheen – Strathpeffer – Dingwall – Inverness. Once per day each way, Tuesday and Saturdays only, this bus also stops at Strath Bay in Gairloch.

Westerbus route 711 : Poolewe – Gairloch – Kerrysdale – Talladale – Kinlochewe – Achnasheen – Garve – Contin – Strathpeffer – Dingwall. This bus runs once per day on Thursday only (also serving Strath Bay in Gairloch).

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

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5 Responses to 345. Shieldaig to Gairloch

  1. This is a delightful area isn’t it. I was pleased to find somewhere large enough to have shops, a bank, etc, after several days of walking through tiny hamlets. A real sense of community here.

  2. tonyurwin says:

    Charlestown looks nice. It is a shame you have to walk on some many roads. I am not a big fan of “there and back” walks. Hopefully, camping will remove that element, although there are pros and cons with both options.

  3. 5000milewalk says:

    I got confused there – searched for Shieldaig on the map, and it looked like you were planning a 36 mile walk – 72 miles for a there-and-back 😲.
    Then realised that of course Scotland is very economical with its place names!!!

    • jcombe says:

      Ah yes. If you have seen “Helpful Mammal” coast walk blog (http://helpful-mammal.co.uk/) he actually walked between the two Shieldaig’s in a single walk (though I think sticking to the main roads). A long distance to cover in a single day! It is confusing there are quite a few duplicated place names in Scotland but these two are particularly close together!

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