346. Shieldaig to Red Point

September 2019

Looking at the map I realised that tackling the stretch of coast between Shieldaig and Lower Diabaig was going to prove tricky because Shieldaig is on the B8056, which is a dead-end road that ends at Red Point. From there there is a footpath along the coast that leads to Lower Diabaig, at the end of a different dead-end road. If I try and do that all in one day there isn’t any transport back. Even to drive between them takes well over an hour on single-track roads and is over 35 miles. Though there is a bothy at Craig, roughly mid-way along the path it would still mean carrying enough equipment and food for an overnight stay and getting back from Torridon or somewhere further south to Shieldaig after the overnight stay.

It all looked a bit challenging. So I decided on an alternative plan. Two there and back walks. The first from Shieldaig to Red Point and the second from Red Point to Lower Diabaig. This would be the first of those walks. However from looking at the map I decided I could make this a circular walk by following the roads to Red Point and walking back on a path that took a more direct inland route on the way back.

(As an aside I later found out there actually is a bus part way along this road, but it’s a school service and I’m unclear if the general public are permitted to use it, see the bottom for details).

I was staying at the Caledonian Hotel in Ullapool so faced a long drive to reach Shieldaig, it took a little over 90 minutes (it would have made more sense to stay in Gairloch for this trip but there was nowhere available).

I parked in the small car park opposite the hotel I had used before. Today this was already almost full of assorted vehicles, trailers and other equipment so there wasn’t much space, though there was enough space for my car and I hoped I would not find it blocked in on my return! This was just a few metres beyond the entrance to the Shieldaig Lodge Hotel (which I must say looked rather nice!).

This was a simple walk along the road to Badachro initially. There are several settlements on this road, none of them very large, so I was hoping there would be little traffic. Although the road is a B-road that still means it is mostly single track with passing places.

The views over Loch Shieldaig were wonderful even on a grey day like today.

Shieldaig

Loch Shieldaig

The loch includes a tidal island, Eilean Shieldaig, though the tide was far enough in I could not get over there with dry feet, though some kayakers looked to be preparing to do just that from the hotel gardens.

Initially the road was at a low level right along the western edge of the loch, with a low wall on the right, presumably to try to prevent vehicles ending up in the loch. Almost immediately, I encountered the first few cars and had to step onto the grass verge to let them past.

Loch Shieldaig

Loch Shieldaig

I had only been going a few hundred metres when the rain that had been threatening began, but at least the trees beside the loch provided some protection. It was quite heavy rain but had stopped after a little over 5 minutes. A little view point on the corner of the road was proving popular with motorists.

Sadly not long after this the road turns a bit inland and climbs away from the waters edge. Various drive ways turned off the road to the right so I decided against trying to find my own way closer to the coast as I suspected I’d keep ending up in peoples gardens!

The traffic on the road now seemed lighter which was good and after about a mile of road walking I was now alongside Loch Bad a Chrotha (don’t ask me to say that).

Loch Shieldaig

This is quite a sizeable loch, fed by the Badachro river, and the road soon passed over the other end of this, flowing out to the sea.

Weirs had been constructed here at some point but the one nearest me looked to be in poor repair with the water all flowing to the left side, where it looked like part of it had given way (or perhaps that is intentional, I don’t know).

Near Badachro

Near Badachro

In land a footpath headed off with the welcoming sign that “you are most welcome to The Torr” and whilst warning of cows on the path ended with “enjoy your wanderings”. Despite this I wasn’t wandering that way because it would take me inland, my route was to continue along the road.

It did look rather nice though, right alongside the river. The road then turned and climbed away again from the river and then descended into the small village of Badachro.

Near Badachro

This is something of the “hub” of this peninsula, it even has the great luxury of a pub (and one in a lovely location, too).

Badachro, Loch Gairloch

I wandered down the road towards the pub, but it wasn’t yet open, but I wondered about stopping here on my way back. Instead I continued along the road to the western edge of the village and was surprised to see a sign informing me there was also a Gin distillery here.

Badachro, Loch Gairloch

Badachro, Loch Gairloch

At the far end of the bay the road crossed another river this time the one flowing from Loch Bad na h-Achlaise ahead. To my right was a tempting little footbridge over it. I decided to leave the road for a short distance, cross this stream and follow the marked path alongside the beach, this was the more coastal route, after all.

Badachro, Loch Gairloch

This was initially good but I soon decided to drop down onto the foreshore. The path was water logged, a mixture of rain and the tide I think, as it looked to be flooded at high tide. The view was stunning and I stopped to sit on a wall here and have a snack and drink.

Badachro, Loch Gairloch

Badachro, Loch Gairloch

Badachro, Loch Gairloch

Whilst I was doing that the weather brightened up and there was some sunshine which was lovely and really improved the view.

Badachro, Loch Gairloch

Badachro, Loch Gairloch

I walked to the end of the track which lead to a fence which blocked access over to the little island. Whilst it might be possible to walk to the end of the minor road out to the house at the end and find my way along the coast it looked pretty tough so I decided to return to the road. So I followed the minor road back from this part of the village to the “main” road (the B8056) and continued west along this.

Badachro, Loch Gairloch

Only a few metres after it joined the main road I was alongside the loch of Bad na h-Achlaise another sizeable loch and now I was also exposed to the quite strong wind.

Loch bad na h-Achlaise

The road hugged the banks of this loch until it ended.

Loch bad na h-Achlaise

As it did so I entered the scattered village of Port Henderson. Though there is a rocky looking beach here there didn’t seem to be any easy access down to it because the gardens of the houses all went down to it.

Port Henderson

I ignored the dead-end road out to Sron a Mhuilt and stuck to the “main” road through the village because it looked like access along the coast from there would be impossible.

Port Henderson

However there was a second dead-end road out to Uamh ah Fhreiceadain at the western end of the village and I decided to follow this and see if it would be possible to make my own way from there to the beach at Opinan rather than following the road. The last house was a bit before the end of the road and at the end of the road was a turning circle. In the turning circle there was a parked car and just as I passed it I could see the owner walking towards me on a path with a dog.

This was good because it looked like there was indeed a good path and as I got closer I asked the man who confirmed that yes it was a lovely walk and whilst a bit rough in places I should have no problem getting through. Good news!

Indeed there was a path over the heather most of the way and it was mostly fairly obvious. I could follow this right along the coast passing a few rocky beaches and then finally the beautiful sandy beach of Opinan.

The coast near Port Henderson

The coast near Port Henderson

The coast near Port Henderson

I made my way down over the rocks onto the beach and walked along this lovely sandy beach. After all the road walking, it was nice to come across a lovely sandy beach.

Opinan

Opinan

Near the end of the beach I then left the sands and followed a path up through the dunes to the road beyond.

Port Henderson

I continued south along the road to South Erradale, half a mile to the south, another spread out little village. The road soon drops down to cross the river Erradale on a bridge. The river is surprisingly fast flowing.

Near South Erradale

Once over the river the road climbs up again and soon turns back to the coast, now hugging the coast. Sadly I timed this stretch just as another heavy shower blows in, a shame because it’s about the most exposed part of the whole walk.

Again it was quite a heavy shower but quite a short one and soon I’m over the crest of the hill and looking at the fine beach at Red Point below.

Red Point

The road continues to a view point, which offers a wonderful view over the beach.

Red Point

The road now descends and a short distance beyond ends at a parking area. I’m pleased to see this is fairly big as I am planning on using this car park tomorrow, but at least the view point car park provides an alternative if it is full. Before heading back I can’t resist taking the path down to this wonderful beach (I was planning to do that tomorrow instead). The beach is wonderful and from the footprints on the beach (or rather the lack of them) it appears few people have been down here today.

Red Point

Red Point

The sand is indeed quite red, presumably why this is known as Red Point.

Red Point

I stopped in the dunes at the back of the beach for a rest and lunch, the dunes provided some shelter from the wind, which is quite strong (and cold).

After lunch it’s time to re-trace my route back to Shieldaig. I followed the track back up to the car park and also found where the path to Lower Diabaig begins and was pleased to see it was signed, re-assuring.

Red Point

Now I had spotted a path on the map heading back from here to South Erradale which I had planned to follow to avoid returning via the same route. There seemed to be two possible start points at Red Point but the first started from behind a house. I could not see it and trying to climb up the bank there was no sign of the path. I decided instead to continue and take the second start point. This came right down to the road just before it turns to the right. Once again there was no sign of it and despite climbing up onto the grassy bank I couldn’t find any sort of path, any rough sort of possible path soon disappeared into bog and there were no signs for a path either.

I gave up with it and reluctantly returned to the road back to South Erradale.

Red Point

I wasn’t that bothered about this because it wasn’t much of a shortcut along the path anyway looking at the map it was about the same distance.

However once in South Erradale there is another path marked on the map as going over the moors to Badachro. That cuts quite a corner on the return route so I was keen to follow it (I should learn that in Scotland with the state of many of the paths, shorter distance certainly does not equal shorter time taken to walk!). Following the path means taking a right turn along a dead-end minor road just after crossing the river, which is what I did. On reaching the right house I was encouraged to see a sign indeed indicating a footpath to Badachro, 5km so I took it.

After passing over fields the path then climbed over the moorland. It quickly turned into not much of a path, a narrow rocky path over heather covered moorland, often through boggy areas. However there was a post indicating a path. Trouble was little sign of a path!

South Erradale

It turned out to be quite hard work since it was near constant “boulder hopping” and to make matters worse between the boulders was often several inches of water!

Footpath near South Erradale

Still eventually I reached the top and could look ahead over the lochs ahead the large one being Loch Clair and the smaller Lochan nam Breac Odhar.

Footpath near South Erradale

The path soon descended but then came to a flat area with thick grass which was boggy underneath.

A feint path was visible but fortunately a few footpath posts also signed the way so it was a case of just following the signs albeit the path mostly disappeared and the grass was soon long enough it wasn’t possible to see where I was standing so it was inevitable I’d soon stand in enough water to get into my shoes, as indeed I did! (If you look closely below you can just see the 2nd post in the distance, though not much in the way of path between them).

Footpath near South Erradale

The worst section was alongside the loch itself because the path was more a bog here with the water from the loch seeping into the ground. It was a tough section and once past the lochs the path was again not very visible for a while. At one point I lost it entirely and spent quite a while wandering around trying to get back on track, which I did eventually manage to do. After a while there was a small hill and the path became more obvious.

Footpath near South Erradale

Loch Clair

Loch Clair

It was quite a relief when I picked up the track at the end of the path and could follow this back down to the road. I was glad to make it back to the road but my “shortcut” certainly hasn’t saved any time.

It was now a case of turn right and walk along the road for 2 miles or so back to my car. I walked quickly here after all the time lost going over the moors.

It was around 5pm by the time I got back to the car, which was quite a bit later than I expected. Now back by the loch it was really beautiful with the low late afternoon sunshine and the loch now full of water, such a peaceful place and I rather regretted (again) that I wasn’t staying here. It would be a lovely view to wake up to!

Loch Shieldaig

Loch Shieldaig

Loch Shieldaig

Loch Shieldaig

Loch Shieldaig

It shows what a difference the tide being in and the sun makes to a view when you compare these photos with the ones at the start of the walk!

I had a plan to do another short walk after finishing this one (part of the “gap filling” I had to do between Poolewe and Aultbea after I had to cut a previous walks hort). However the longer than expected time taken to walk my “shortcut” path meant time was getting on. In the end I cut that a bit short since I knew it was a good 90 minutes drive back to Ullapool and I also wanted to get dinner when I got there. Well actually, because of the timing and the fact I didn’t fancy a plate of slop from the Caledonian Hotel for dinner I thought I’d head back to Badachro in the hope I might eat in the pub there before heading back. However despite being only just after 5pm it was packed, so much so I could barely even get through the door. With no tables free I gave up that idea (it was too cold to sit outside) and headed back to Ullapool.

This was a lovely walk. Despite being mostly on road the traffic was light and the scenery was good with some lovely sandy beaches, a rarity in this part of Scotland. The path back was however rather tougher than I had expected!

Here are details of the possible public transport for this walk, to avoid some of the doubling back, however I am unclear if this bus is available for the public to use or limited to school children. If planning to use it I suggest ring the company first to check.

Westerbus (no route number) : South Erradale – Port Henderson – Badachro – Shieldaig – Kerrysdale – Gairloch (High School). One bus per day each way on school days only.

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

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