347. Red Point to Lower Diabaig

September 2019

This was actually the second walk I was doing on this day which in hindsight was probably a mistake. Logistically it was a tricky walk too. The B8056 ends at a car park at a place called Red Point and around 7 miles further along the coast is a tiny hamlet called Lower Diabaig, at the other end of a different dead-end road. The two are linked by a remote path over wild countryside with no (easy) access off the path. There are no buses to either Red Point or Lower Diabaig and nowhere to stay nearby. To drive between them is (according to the AA) a journey of around 45 miles with an estimated driving time of 90 minutes. In short the logistics for this walk are not easy!

In the end I decided to tackle this as an out and back walk, making a total distance of around 13 miles but over quite demanding terrain. An out and back walk is not ideal because it effectively halves the distance I can cover in a day, because I walk it twice! However it turned out to be a fantastic walk and this part of the coast is very much worth making the effort to visit, so I quite enjoyed doing it twice.

I drove from the end point of my previous walk and arrived at the car park at Red Point at a little after 12:30pm. In hindsight starting a bit earlier might have been a better idea, but I had a lot of miles I wanted to cover on this trip (mostly as I was trying to claw back the distance from a walk I’d had to abandon on my previous trip).

I knew I’d be against the clock to get there and back before it got dark and this is not the sort of place I wanted to be trying to walk at night (especially as I’d not got a torch). So a backup plan was to walk as far as a place called Craig and then return from there if time was short. I could then on a later date drive to Lower Diabaig and walk from there to Craig to close the gap I’d leave if I had to do this.

Craig is a tiny place, which has no road access. Today it consists of just a single building! It was formerly a Youth Hostel and I believe was at the time considered the remotest Youth Hostel in Scotland. It is around 2.5 miles from the nearest road and so only accessible on foot and over difficult terrain too. It closed as a youth hostel in 2003. However it has since been taken over by the Mountain Bothies Association as a bothy. So you can also stay here the night if you choose.

I parked in the car park at Red Point. To my irritation one driver had felt the need to park sideways instead and was therefore occupying 4 spaces rather than 1, which was very selfish, but thankfully for me there was still enough other spaces for me to park here.

I stopped in the car to have part of my lunch, but leaving a good few snacks to take with me for the walk  because I knew it was going to be a late finish and I had to drive back to Ullapool at the end, too.

From the car park the path was well signed, showing Craig as 7.5km and Diabaig as 12km.

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I planned to walk to Diabaig and back, so that would be 24km, or about 15 miles (further than I had calculated from the map)!

From the car park there is a choice of routes. To the right a short path leads to the beautiful beach, which is oddly un-named on the map (but that I had visited on my previous walk). However I was following the longer one to Diabaig and this began by heading along the farm track that servers Redpoint Farm.

This was initially a track, almost a road really, though with quite a few potholes and puddles which took me directly into the farm yard. Farm yards are not always the most welcoming places to walkers and I wondered if the onward route would be easy to find.

Thankfully this was one of the more welcoming farms, as a long and rambling sign explained that the footpath went through the farm, what sort of things the farm did and it’s nature value, a few do’s and don’ts and finally wished me an enjoyable walk.

So at least walkers were not being discouraged. The path went directly through the farm yard and then through a gate where it became a rather muddy and water logged track. It had been wet weather recently so the track had been churned up a bit. Either side the area was being grazed by sheep. Lots of sheep! The path then headed back towards the coast and came into a more open area where there seemed to be lots of tracks. There is another good sandy beach to the south here again oddly un-named. The path doesn’t go down to the beach but I wanted to, so I turned off over the open grassy area.

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The land sloped away steeply to the coast and much of this slope was covered with gorse.

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I had to walk back and forth a bit to find a suitable place to descend safely and without having to go through the gorse. I then headed down to this lovely beach.

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To my surprise I didn’t actually have it to myself. There was another couple here walking along the beach near the shore. It was hardly crowded, however!

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Still it was a gorgeous beach and judging by the lack of footprints I suspected me and this couple were the only people to have come to this beach since the last high tide. I walked a bit along the beach and stopped at the back of the dunes for another quick bite to eat.

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Then I headed down to the shore to follow the firm sands near the waves. Beach walks like this are lest common on the west coast of Scotland so I wanted to make the most of the fairly rare opportunity of such a walk!

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The beach here is astonishingly beautiful. In the distance I could see the Torridon mountains and also what I presume to be the Isle of Skye.

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Around 2/3 of the way along the beach is a small tidal island Eilean Tioram that splits the two parts of the beach, but it was low enough tide it was possible to walk to it, not that there is anything much to see, it is only about 50 metres tall and about 25 metres wide.

Further out there were more rocks visible. A fishing station is marked at the back of the beach. In reality this has clearly not been used for a very long time. All the buildings are derelict and roofless except for one that although open at the front has a (very rusty) metal roof which someone (probably the farmer from Redpoint farm) uses to store a few bits of equipment that looked to be fishing related.

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Beyond the roofless building was the footpath sign direction me straight ahead. I had seen lots of these footpath signs so far, which is encouraging, though this was to be the last one until Craig.

The path began as a good path over short grass, nice easy walking.

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This did not last for long. Soon the grass was surrounded by rocks and boulders making for a more difficult walk and parts of the grass were boggy. I reached the first Ford marked on the map. This turned out to be a quite fast flowing burn, that also looked quite deep but it was narrow and the water full of rocks so it was easy enough to simply step across.

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Beyond it the path continued to be very rocky. It was more boulder hopping than walking really, as the area in between the boulders was often wet and boggy which meant I had to watch every step and navigate around the deeper puddles. It requires quite a bit of concentration as you must constantly watch where you are putting your feet as it is all so uneven. All the signs had disappeared too though they were not really as for the most part there was only really one obvious route to take. Occasionally if the path split they seemed to run parallel and re-join, probably just people trying to avoid boggy parts.

Looking back the sandy beach near Red Point was now becoming more distant.

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The path continued to be tough, never flat and never free enough of boulders or bogs you could walk without watching your step for more than a few metres at a time.

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I kept assuming (or perhaps hoping) that at some point the path would become easier and I could actually walk rather than keep stepping and jumping, but it never did. This sounds like it was not enjoyable but it was simply because the scenery was so good.

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The weather too was somewhat changable, but I never had more than a few brief showers, despite a lot of heavy showers being visible nearby. Soon I reached the second ford. This was quite similar to the first, requiring a bit of stepping over lose boulders.

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Still I found a way across that kept me with dry feet. The path had now climbed up a bit with the cliffs and I was quite a way above the sea, but still close by.

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It was wild and remote with rocks, heather, gorse and bracken beside the path. Ahead I could see more mountains, these ones part of Torridon. I had several more small burns to cross. None had a bridge but in all cases there were rocks where, with care, I could find a route through keeping dry feet.

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I stopped for a 15 rest nearby to finish the rest of my lunch and have something to drink and the rest did me good, as my legs did not feel that tired once I set off again.

I now had several more fords to cross now in quick succession and my dry feet luck soon ran out.

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(It seems at around this point I seem to have managed to get something, sun lotion I think, on my camera lens and took a while to notice, so apologies the next few photos are a bit blurry).

At one of them I looked at a route across but realised it wasn’t quite so easy as it looked. I decided to step back to try a different way across but somehow missed stepping back onto the rock and stepped straight into the water! Now I had one dry foot and one very wet one!

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It was now around  2:45pm. I had decided earlier if I did not reach Craig Bothy by 3:30pm, I was going to turn back when I did reach the bothy, and abandon plans to continue to Lower Diabaig today. If I made it to the Bothy by 3:30pm I’d have taken just under 3 hours. I estimated another hour from there onto Lower Diabaig, as I’d read the path on to there was a bit easier, so I’d get there by 4:30pm I hoped. If I could make that time, it would mean getting to Lower Diabaig had taken me around 3 hours, 45 minutes. Assuming a similar time back it would get me back for around 8:15pm – after sunset (which was around 7:50pm), but I knew it would not suddenly get pitch black and it takes a while to get dark once the sunsets. I also knew that the last part of the path was on a fairly easy farm track, so I was not likely to get lost. I could also save time by not going to the beach again but sticking to the track and I’d also stopped for a 15 minutes break or so. So I hoped I’d still make it back by sunset.

I was buoyed because ahead the path soon descended close to the shore again and I could see what I suspected was the point that the Craig river flowed out to the sea and I knew if so, the Bothy was a short distance inland from there.

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The path climbed again as I approached the river and soon I rounded the corner, to see the fast flowing river in a lovely valley below me.

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As I looked inland it soon became wooded and I was surprised that I could not see the Bothy. According to the map it was around 500 metres away so I was hoping to see it, but it must have been hidden by the trees. I also knew there was a footbridge marked on the map, which I also could not see, so I was getting a bit worried that it might no longer exist.

The path was now close by the river to my right. The waters were rushing but it did look possible to ford it without too much difficulty if I had to, but I’d really rather not, so was hoping the bridge would soon come into view.

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Strangely this part of the walk I had expected to be fairly easy actually turned out to be about the hardest part of the whole walk. As the path continue east, inland, the surroundings became increasingly wooded and the path had become, quite literally, a boulder field. I had to keep climbing over boulders to get to the next bit of path ahead and repeat almost every step. There was barely any path visible on the ground and it also became a bit overgrown with bracken. In fact I had read the path if walking in the other way was very hard to find and I could see why. I would have to be careful on the way back but at least having walked one way I knew where the path went. As a result of the terrain, I made slow progress here but eventually the bridge did come into view. I was very glad to see it!

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It had clearly seen better days as a couple of the planks were missing, but I quickly tested that the others felt firm (they did) and so I made my way across. I was glad I had not had to ford the river as now close to it was deeper and wider than it had looked further up the path.

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Now I could see the bothy ahead, with various old buoys tied up in the trees nearby, for some reason. I headed to the door of the bothy which looked well maintained.

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I didn’t need to stop and it was dry, but I decided to have a closer look anyway so I headed to the door. I could see it was bolted so I suspected no one was inside (because if they were – how would they get out?).

I un-bolted it and went inside, the door took you into a small area where a hard-hat was hanging up amongst various other things.

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To the left was the living room which smelt strongly of wood smoke, not surprising as there was a wood burning stove present. Inside was a table a sort of built in cupboard and a washing line, still with some cloths hanging up. There was also a visitor book which I had a quick peek inside and found that people had slept here at least the last 3 nights and it was clearly quite a popular and much loved place.

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One night a group from HF Holidays had stayed here! It looked like for water you took water from the river and (presumably) boiled it. Some had been left behind in plastic bottles but of course I would not risk drinking any because I didn’t know if it had been boiled or how long it had been there! Still it looked comfortable enough with a few chairs and candles and matches left as well as a kettle. Not sure where you get the wood to burn though? Perhaps it’s expected you bring it with you as after all the wood outside is likely to be damp (that might explain where a couple of planks from the footbridge had gone!).

Various ktichen utensils were hanging up too, in fact there seemed to be an over-supply of frying pans! I wondered if these were left from when it used to be a youth hostel or if it was the case walkers bought them here and decided they were too heavy to want to carry back, so left them behind.

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I had a quick look in the bedrooms too. The room the other side on the ground floor looked to have been recently refurbished, possibly not complete as there was fresh wooden planks on the ceiling in places but not all of it. Upstairs there were I think three bedrooms, some had beds others were just sleep on the floor in sleeping bags. One was marked “Private Warden”. I was unclear if that was still the case or if that was a remnant from when this was a youth hostel and no longer applied. The doors to the rooms were very thin, not normal doors presumably because they had to be carried here. Indeed I imagine it must be hard to keep this place in good condition given that everything (even roof tiles, presumably) have to be carried here several miles on foot!

Anyway by now it was around 3:15pm. I had beaten my self-imposed deadline of 3:30pm so I decided to continue onto Lower Diabaig.

I had read from Rosemary and Colins’ account of this walk that the path onwards from here had been recently improved and so was much easier to use. I hoped they were right as if it was as hard as the route I had come on, I’d not get back before dark.

The path climbed away from the bothy over moorland and soon up rocky steps cut into the rocks. This must be the improvements and made things easier. Soon I had climbed out of the valley and had a last look at the bothy (at least for a while, I’d be coming back again on my way back!).

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Once I’d climbed out of the valley the path was indeed easier. In fact it was mostly a proper path you could easily walk rather than hop from rock-to-rock as I had done before.

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Stunning views were opening out ahead as I approached the area known as Torridon, which I had heard was very beautiful, and so it was proving.

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The path went over some rocky open moorland but it was not too hilly. There were again several streams to cross. One had large flat stepping stones (obviously man made) which made things easier. The others had bridges – what luxury!

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I passed the only other people I had seen since leaving Red Point here another couple of walkers going the same way, but they had binoculars and were walking more slowly, sometimes stopping. I was tempted to ask if they had seen anything interesting but I just didn’t have the time to spare so could just issue hello before passing them, I was walking very quickly now.

Soon I began to see signs of civilisations, the round circles of a fish farm visible in the water to my right.

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It was not long before I reached the last hill and ahead I could see buildings again. Beyond them, was Loch Diabaig which was absolutely stunning. The rocky craggy slopes mixed in with trees and gorse and in the distance the hills and Isle of Skye.

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It really was a beautiful place. Soon the path descended towards a house I could see over heather and bracken to a gate in the fence and then down the slope to the road.

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To my right a new house was being built and to the left the road headed gently downhill passing a large green metal barn on the left. All this would have to wait to be explored for next time. Having put foot on tarmac I turned straight back around to head back where I had come! Next time I would walk back to the very end of this road, where I had just stood. I had made it in 1 hour and 5 minutes from the Bothy which was not bad at all. However I knew it would be over 3 hours to get back so I didn’t have time to hang about.

So I turned back retracing my steps. Of course I fairly soon passed the couple I had overtaken earlier. They gave me a cheery hello but didn’t seem surprised to see me turning back. They were the last people I saw until I got back to Ullapool!

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I returned the same way of course, still keeping up a rapid pace, at least as much as the terrain allowed.

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I had a few short showers to contend with but made reasonable progress and in around 1 hour I reached the top of the valley with the Bothy now below me.

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Here a much heavier shower rolled in so I descended the steps as quickly as I could and rushed for the bothy. I made it in before the worst of the rain and sheltered in the living room there for about 10 minutes.

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I had timed it well to get to the only point of cover at the heaviest rain there had been all day. I left a quick note in the visitors book and then once the rain had eased to a bit of drizzle (which soon stopped entirely) I continued back the way I had come.

I soon crossed the river and again found the path back to the coast hard going.

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However as is often the way I found the walk back easier than it had been coming, despite being more tired now. It was not as hard as I had remembered it being, or as boggy. I had bought plenty of sugary snacks and nuts (as well as some Lucozade) which I dipped into from time to time to keep my energy up, which was working well.

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I made better than expected progress and so made it out onto the easier grass just at the end of the beach by the old fishing station at around 7:30pm, still before it got dark.

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There was no one about. This time rather than go down to the beach I intended to continue following the track marked on the map, but when it entered the area of short grass with the sheep there was no real track visible and several possible routes.

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I headed in broadly the right direction and soon made it back towards the farm where I found the more visible track again, passing a clearing full of old bath tubs on the left, which was a little unexpected!

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I continued back along past the farm house and along the farm track with a sense of elation I had successfully tackled one of the harder walks along the coast and I had really really enjoyed it. It had been a wonderful walk despite getting back later than I had originally hoped. On these tough walks there is also a real sense of achievement at the end, which I certainly felt today.

It was now about sunset and so the light was beginning to fade. I took off my rucksack and had a drink that I’d left in the car and then set off back for the long drive to Ullapool. Ullapool was really too far away to have stayed on this trip but it was all I could find, my intended hotel in Gairloch already being full when I booked this trip in February!

So I now had a 1 3/4 hour drive back to Ullapool, though at least mostly on main roads. I was glad to get the mostly single-track B8056 done before it got properly dark and back onto A-roads. At least now all the way back to Ullapool I had a good road (with a lane in each direction) the whole way back and I had driven it many times before. However one hazard I’d encountered on my trip to the highlands in Autumn last year was deer close by the road.

This time I had another encounter, but a little more scary! Near Dundonnell when travelling on a straight stretch of road at around 60mph, and with the headlights on full beam (there was no other traffic around) a large deer ran out into the road a short distance ahead and then, presumably seeing my bright headlights froze in the middle of the road. At that point I wondered if I would be able to stop in time, and jammed on the brakes. Fortunately the brakes in the hire car (which until now hadn’t felt that strong) did work very well when the peddle was pressed to the floor and with a screech of tires I stopped about 5 metres in front of the deer – that was close! The deer still stood staring at me for a minute before running off (I wondered if it was dazzled and confused by the headlights and was about to switch them off to see if that would help when it ran off).

A little shaken I continued on my way back to Ullapool with no further incident. It had been a good day and I didn’t want to end it crashing the car into an unfortunate deer. I’m not sure what is best to do here really. If you cruise along at 30 or 40mph you will soon having someone driving close behind you and trying to overtake (I had no one behind me most at all on the way back until I joined the A835 near Ullapool). This then of course means you are more likely to have a collision if you have to make an emergency stop as most drivers seem to drive at 60mph (or more) on these roads whether night or day and get frustrated at those going slower. (I have only been involved in one car accident in my life and that was when I was being tail-gated for driving at the recently reduced speed limit of 30mph, then had to make an emergency stop to avoid a dog that ran out in front of me and the car behind crashed into mine because they were too close). But if you do travel at that speed you can’t see deer close by the road that might run in front of you because the lights only light the road in front and not much to the sides. It’s tricky to know what to do apart from try to avoid driving at night in the highlands as much as possible!

Irritatingly of course getting back so late there was nowhere to park in the hotel “car park” (in reality, some waste ground round the back, a mixture of tarmac, gravel, foundations of old buildings and grass) so I parked in the public car park near to the Tesco (which is free). I was too late back for dinner at my hotel and probably anywhere else so instead decided to have a cold dinner of food bought from Tesco (fortunately open until 10pm) back in my room.

This had been a wonderful walk and one of my best on the Scottish coast despite being a “there and back” walk. It had been a memorable day along a very varied, wild and remote stretch of the coast and I felt a great sense of accomplishment at having made it there and back in the time I had available without any problems.

There is no public transport available anywhere on this walk. The nearest place with any service is at Kerrysdale near the junction of the A832 and B8056 to the north and to the south at Shieldaig on the A896.

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

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2 Responses to 347. Red Point to Lower Diabaig

  1. 5000milewalk says:

    Ah, I’d planned to use my electric bike to get to the start of this section….. replan necessary! I think I’ll probably do the same as you, a there-and-back walk. Lovely pictures Jon.

  2. tonyurwin says:

    A dramatic day! Looks like a wonderful stretch of scenery and well done on covering so much ground. I never go anywhere without my head torch, as I have had too many races against the sun setting.

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