It had been a horrible year and nearly a year has passed since I was last on the coast, due to lockdowns and Covid restrictions. By the time I can make it back to the coast it feels like the best of the summer weather has already passed (which turned out to be the case). Still the weather is fine today.
I was a bit worried about breakfast at the hotel due to the limited capacity due to the dreaded “social distancing”. However arriving for breakfast I’m taken straight to a table. Half the tables are out of use and it’s table service for all the breakfast. Never having stayed at this hotel before I’m not clear if it used to be a buffet breakfast (I suspect so for cold food at least, judging by the table at the far end). Table service can be slow (I prefer a buffet), but the service here is pretty quick, which is nice. The only odd thing is all the food and plates are placed in front of me on a try and I then have to remove them all from the tray as the staff aren’t allowed to touch the plates or cutlery!
After breakfast I get lunch at the Co-Op in Kyle of Lochalsh and then set off for Torridon. It’s quite a long drive round to Torridon, taking around an hour and 20 minutes. However this is the longest I’ll have to drive on this trip, as each day for the next few days I will be getting closer to Kyle of Lochalsh. I had actually walked the coast from Torridon village to the boat house just south east of Torridon House, a couple of miles west of the village last year so I am filling the gap between there and Lower Diabaig today. A car park is marked just north of Torridon House which I’m hoping does exist. The road through Torridon is narrow and runs right along the coast after the village and then climbs steeply. Fortunately the car park does exist, is quite large and there is only one other person here.
As I knew I’d be coming on this trip by car and many of the walks have no public transport I managed to get hold of a folding bike during lockdown that I could fit in the car boot. Being fairly cheap it weighs a ton and is difficult to fold and unfold but I figured that this would cut down on the number of there and back walks I’m going to end up doing, as I can cycle one way and walk back. So my plan now is to cycle to Lower Diabaig. Then I’ll walk back and then drive down to Lower Diabaig again to get retrieve my bike.
I was hoping not to have an audience to fold and unfold my bike, since I’ve only done it once before, but sadly I do as the other people in the car park are also preparing their bicycles, though they have proper bikes, not folding ones. They ask me where I’m going and, looking at my small folding bike, tell me it’s quite a tough road to cycle to Lower Diabaig (and probably thinking “you’ll never make it on that”). Not really what I wanted to hear. I sometimes cycle to work on a canal towpath but I don’t do much road cycling, but I expected it to be easier, being smoother, so was expecting to be there in about 40 minutes . I quickly found it isn’t easier!
If you look at the road to Lower Diabaig on a map you will see lots of “chevron” symbols, which indicate steep hills. There are also a couple of double chevrons that indicate really steep hills. Oh goody! I set off and the first 50 metres or so seem very easy, but soon I begin to climb and it becomes hard work. I make it to the junction to Inveralligin in reasonable time but from there it’s very tough and I end up walking most of the way to a view point. Walking trying to push a bike is much harder than just walking and the bike pedals keep catching on my legs. Finally at the top I can prop the bike up and stop on a seat for a quick rest. The view is stunning, but I need to get on.
I manage to cycle some of the route onwards but even some of the downhills prove steep enough I opt to get off, worried I’m going to burn out the brakes or lose control as the bike with it’s small wheels feels quite unstable if you go too fast.
Finally I reach the junction for Corrie Craggie. Nearly there. The last bit is uphill and just before the end of the road I’m surprised to see someone has somehow managed to get a full-size HGV along this road and “parked” it in one of the passing places. It’s a very tight fit. There doesn’t seem to be anyone in it or nearby and it looks to have been here for some time, which seems odd.
At the end of the road I lock the bike to a small tree, half hidden in the grass. I doubt anyone is going to steal it but if nothing else I’d carried the lock with me, so I might as well use it and take some weight out of my rucksack.
I also leave my cycle helmet here because although light it’s bulky. I’m knackered too and I haven’t even started walking. Cycling is harder than I expected and I stop for a drink, snack and a bit of a rest.
It’s so good to be finally back at Lower Diabaig. I walk up to the gate I walked through back in September last year, having come from Red Point. Now there is a notice and a bottle of hand sanitiser attached, but fortunately nothing else has changed.
My plan now is to follow the road down to Corrie Craggie and then follow a path right around the coast I can see on the map round to the end of the road at Alligin Shuas and then the road and path onwards to Torridon Boat house.
The view from the road is stunning. Here Loch Diabaig ends at a bay enclosed on 3 sides, with the ground around high, rocky and partly tree-covered.
The road heads downhill to the junction for Corrie Craggie and I can already see the pier marked on the map as well as a car park, which looks quite busy.
At the bottom the last part of the road descends through woodland and I’m soon just above the beach.
There are a few people here and a rocky and pebble beach which to my surprise has the wreckage of a quite sizeable boat on it and I wonder what happened to it for it to end up here in pieces. Given how little of it remains it obviously was wrecked many years ago.
To my surprise there is a restaurant down here, I hadn’t expected to find anywhere to eat in such a remote place. I’m not sure if it’s open at the moment but it looks like the owners are constructing a roof over the outdoor area in the front presumably to provide outdoor dining even if it’s raining – many diners prefer to sit outside with Covid around and with social distancing fewer people can be seated inside so I guess it makes business sense for them to add extra capacity outside.
The path onwards proves easy to find, it starts at the end of public road and is in fact accessed from front garden of last house after crossing a little bridge.
A rustic sign shows me the way. I make a mental note to turn right at a junction.
The path is quite tough and climbs very steeply but I soon emerge from the trees and bushes to a fine view back to the beach.
I continue, the path now fainter heading steeply up until I come to a rock ahead and a sheer drop beyond it. Where on earth is the path?
I stop and check the map against my GPS. I’ve gone of course. There is another dead-end path to Araid and it seems I had taken that by mistake and somehow gone off course on that one as well. I have to backtrack and this time spot the junction I missed before. I hadn’t noticed there were actually two paths.
This path is even steeper and I soon come across a gate, a deer gate I think. The ground is so steep I can only just reach the bottom of the gate and there is a rope to help you haul yourself up and open the gate. Quite tricky!
In fact this isn’t really a walk more some scrambling and rock climbing, with a bit of walking in between and there is another section so steep I have to haul myself up by a rope someone has attached for the purpose.
It is hard work but I’m rewarded for my efforts with some stunning views. Now the worst of the climb seems to be over as the path turns a little inland and becomes easier and it’s more walking than scrambling. The path passes two small but pretty lochans.
First Loch a Bhealaich Mhoir and then Lochan Dubh and here I am high up and can see the the waters of the sea loch of Loch Shieldaig ahead and land the other side.
Although less than a mile away it will take me a couple of days to get to the coast on the other side!
Rounding the corner I soon reach a house that is marked on the map at Port Laire (you can just see it to the left of the left-most tree below).
I had suspected this would be a ruin but it isn’t and looks to be still inhabited and a recent looking out-building beside it. I wonder who lives here or uses it because there is no road access so access is only on this tough path or by boat. The path is supposed to go behind the house according to the map but I couldn’t see any sort of path there so went in front.
The path beyond is a bit easier and very pretty. I’ve seen no one so I stop on a rocky section just above the path for a late lunch. In only a couple of minutes I see someone. She is walking the other way and is as surprised as me to see anyone else here. We have a brief conversation and she is interested to hear I am walking the coast and tells me the path is quite difficult ahead. Well hopefully not as bad as what I’ve passed!
Actually the path isn’t too bad though I have a couple of fords to cross (no bridge) but both are narrow enough I can step over.
A dead end path in theory goes off to the right down to Rubha na h-Airde Glaise. I never see the junction so I decide not to try and make it down there but continue on. This section has taken me quite a bit longer than expected anyway so at least once I reach the road I should make faster progress.
Again the path splits and somehow I have missed the split again. I can see the houses a bit below me and I should be down on that road. I make my own way down to it, having to climb a couple of fences but soon has me back on route and down to the end of the road above the beach at Ob a Bhraighe. It is marked as part sandy on the map and I’m tired after that walk so decide to head down here for a brief rest and snack.
As I’m heading down to the beach a women at the back of the beach standing looking out to sea then turns and sees me and and asks “Can I help you?” in the tone of voice that really means “why the are you here?”. However this is not a garden so I’m not trespassing and on a feint path. I am heading down and only a few metres above the back of the beach. She then demands to know where I’m going (isn’t it obvious – the path only goes to the beach) and I explain I want to get down to the beach but she tells me she wants to head back on the path I am on and tells me to move off the path to keep 2 metres away so she can get off the beach safely. Would waiting 30 seconds have caused her such a problem? (I think this is more about making me feel unwelcome as much as anything else). She passes staring at me as she goes past without a saying anything (even thank you). What an odd women. I suspect she regards this as her private beach and resents anyone else coming here. Perhaps in lockdown she has been used to there being no one else here and clearly resents me being here.
Anyway now down on the beach I was hoping to stop for a drink but everywhere I stand is full of midges. (2020 seemed to be a particularly bad year for them) so I don’t particularly want to stop here and get bitten so I take a few photos and I give it enough time the odd women is out of my way before heading back.
Anyway up from the beach I rejoin the road and when the main route of the road goes left but the track marked on the map is indeed marked as a path through to Inveralligin, as I hoped.
It is in fact a road not a path here, with sheep the main traffic, but it soon ends at Balcenbea but continues as a fairly good track down to the field centre marked on the map.
A post office is marked here on the map but as I suspected this is long gone (the Ordnance Survey do not seem to update the maps of Scotland very often).
Beyond the field centre I cross the bridge and follow a path over a meadow to the road beyond. This is the village of Inveralligin and is spread out for nearly a mile along this road.
It is an easy walk along the road and at the end I reach somewhere called Rechullin where a sign confirms what I hoped, a path through to Torridon.
This runs fairly close to the shore until in about half a mile I reach an a converted church.
Here there is a junction of paths and the map shows another path runs closer to the shore so I head on this beside the church to the shore. I head west on the shore and end up on the beach. It is rocky and quite hard going and at the end I reach a stream.
Well more a river really. It is too wide and deep to cross without very wet feet. I have diverted off the path so make my own way inland towards the path. It is only about 100 metres back to the path over an area marked as Coire on the map. This turns out to be very hard going as it’s a bog, with long grass, knee high, with deep areas of water between. I make my way slowly bog-hopping back towards the path which is by now a track. I can see it. The problem is it’s the other side of a wire fence, topped by barbed wire. The ground immediately around the fence is bog on both sides. I try to climb the fence but inevitably I end up putting a foot in the deep bog then the other trying to get out. So now I have wet feet! I then had to climb through gorse and another fence to get back onto the proper path. I should have gone back, but it’s easier to say that in hindsight. This is a private road and a public path through the Torridon estate and I can follow it to a bridge over the river I had met at the shore.
Once over it’s only a few hundred metres along the lovely wooded road back to the boat house below Torridon House where I had ended way back in September 2019.
I have closed the gap, 11 months after I last got here. It feels good that finally I have made progress along the coast after so long away.
Of course I’m not done yet! I have covered all the new areas of coast (closing the small gap I left at the end of 2019) but I still need to get back to my car and I’m now very tired after a tough walk and a tough cycle ride. I was hoping there might be an “inland” path back up to the car park (the map suggested there might be) but I can’t see it so I continue east along the private track (but public path) back to the public road. This is a lovely road right along the shore.
Back on the road I almost double back on myself climbing up through the trees and back to the car park. I stop for a quick look at the waterfall marked on the map too. It looks quite impressive but I haven’t the energy or the time to get closer (as I want to get back to Kyle of Lochalsh by 8pm and it is already nearly 5:45pm).
Now I need to drive back to Lower Diabaig to get my bike. It is quite a tough drive too and the road is very rough in places practically shaking my old car to pieces! It feels like a mountain pass in places. I stop at the top of the steep hill at the little view point to take a photo now the weather is better than when I was here earlier, a heavy rain shower having just passed.
Onwards, back to Lower Diabaig. The drive takes a while as the road is steep, twisty and all single track. I stop my car at the end of the road in the “turning place only” with the hazard lights on whilst I load up the bike. Now time to drive back to Kyle of Lochalsh.
Getting back also proves a challenge. Walking the coast of Britain is a test of many skills but, at least the way I’m doing it, another skill you might not initially expect to test is your driving skills. Many (most) of the roads in the Highlands are single track with passing places, many hills and steep bends. This road is one of the worst. At one point there is a very steep hill with a white-painted house near the top just before a sharp left hand bend. I slow down approaching the bend since I can’t see what’s around it, but then attempting to accelerate away again the front (driven) wheels lose grip and start to spin because it’s so steep and the road is wet. My car quickly comes to a halt. I try to get going now stopped half way up the hill but having lost grip doing a hill start on here is impossible. I have to reverse back down (fortunately, no one was behind) and take it again. This time I don’t slow as much and beep the horn to warn oncoming traffic. This time I make it to the top (I think that when damp this road must be close to the limit of what is possible to drive without 4-wheel drive). Thankfully I have no further incidents on the drive back!
On reaching the hotel I’m not much before 8pm, the last time for an evening meal. I haven’t booked because I don’t know how long the walk is going to take and what time I’m going to back. The lady behind reception (who I suspect is the manager) asks me if I have booked. When I say I haven’t she looks forlon at the book and tells me “it looks pretty busy” and she is not sure they can fit me in. She says she’ll go and ask the staff in the restaurant. Fortunately it’s good news and they can fit me in, so I can have a proper meal and desert to end my day. (The alternative being a takeway, that I went to yesterday or food from the co-op).
It was wonderful to be back on the coast and have such a lovely walk as my first walk in 11 months. I had funnily enough planned that this might be quite an “easy” walk for my first day not being that long in terms of miles and much of it on quiet roads. It had turned out to be anything but (partly due to my mistakes in route finding or trying to stick closer to the coast) but it had certainly been worth it and I had been rewarded with so much beautiful scenery, remote beaches and isolated villages. It was good to be back!
There is no public transport to either end of this walk. The nearest public transport is at Torridon visitor centre (beside the A896) at the junction with the road to Torridon and Lower Diabaig. This is Westerbus route 705. This is a school bus and so only runs on school days and runs between Shieldaig and Gairloch with a departure in the morning to Gairloch and a bus back in mid to late afternoon.
Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link.