353a. Cuaig Viewpoint to Sand

August 2020

I wasn’t doing the walks in order on this trip, so it’s actually 3 days after I did my previous walk, ending at Cuaig that I headed back to Cuaig to continue south. I had also made a planning error for this trip. I had been staying in Kyle of Lochalsh, but I had to book this trip last minute after hotels re-opened in Scotland after lockdown had cancelled my previous two trips and didn’t have much time to plan. With overseas holidays largely off the agenda for many too due to lockdowns and other restrictions many other people had opted to come to Scotland and so finding accommodation that had vacancies had proven difficult. The hotel I had booked in Kyle of Lochalsh only had availability as far as Wednesday night and after that was full. I wasn’t going home until Sunday and the only other hotel in Kyle of Lochalsh was still closed after lockdown. This meant I’d had to re-locate.

Now when I planned my trips to Scotland for 2020, back in 2019 I had worked out all my planned walks and so worked out exactly when I’d relocate from Kyle of Lochalsh to Mallaig. This doesn’t sound like a big decision. As the crow flies, Kyle of Lochalsh and Mallaig are less than 20 miles apart. Unfortunately you cannot drive as the crow flies. Between them is the remote Knoydart peninsula which doesn’t have any roads. This means to drive between them is a 117 mile trip via Fort William. There is a much shorter option, which is to travel via the Isle of Skye and then a ferry from Armadale on the Isle of Skye to Mallaig but that obviously depends on the ferry schedule. However when planning this trip I hadn’t payed quite as much attention to the map as I should have.

I had spotted on my road atlas the indirect route you have to drive between Kyle of Lochalsh and Mallaig. What I hadn’t properly realised is how far it is. It turns out that in my road atlas the scale used on the pages in the Highlands of Scotland is different from that used for the rest of the country. With places much further apart an inch on the map is twice the distance for this part of Scotland than it is on the rest of the map (presumably because it is sparsely populated so less need for detail). I hadn’t properly realised this and spotted that Fort William was roughly half way between the two places. Due to the difference in scale I had hugely underestimated the distance to drive there and having been unable to find hotels closer had booked to stay for the rest of the trip in the Travelodge in Fort William, as it was all I could find. It was a mistake I now realised (I realised this the first evening I drove there).

The other problem with the Travelodge is it doesn’t have a restaurant which means the only breakfast they offer is an expensive “breakfast in a box”. It is however above a Whetherspoon pub, which opens for breakfast. I had hoped to use that for breakfast but on the first morning I was in Fort William when I tried to do this I’d been told that I had to fill in a form for the Scottish “track and protect”, which naturally is different from the similar setup in England and uses a different app. I didn’t have the “app” on my phone, nor did I have space to install it, so instead I’d have to fill in a form before I was allowed in. Then having done that, I’d have to download the Whetherspoon App (and then register with it) in order to actually order breakfast to avoid “contact”. What a pain in the arse, I only wanted breakfast and don’t want to have to spend half the morning downloading apps and filling in forms. So I quickly gave up with that idea and opted instead to make breakfast a sandwich from a petrol station on the A82 which may not have been as nice as a Full English but did not require the downloading of apps or form filling.

It was a long drive back up to Cuaig. It was over 100 miles in fact (I had thought it was half that when planning) and with the roads as they are (much of it single-track) this would take around 3 hours (which it did), a journey I’d have to repeat to get back again at the end of the day! In fact today was my last full day and I had left a gap to fill between Cuaig and Toscaig which I wanted to fill today before I went home (though I’d be back again in a months time, I still preferred not to leave a gap).

After all this driving, it was later than I’d like by the time I arrived back at Cuaig Viewpoint. Fortunately for me, though much busier than when I was here before there was still room in the small parking area for me to park. Fortunately too today the weather was absolutely glorious. Clear blue skies and sunshine, a rare treat in this part of Scotland in my experience. I enjoyed the view from this viewpoint.

My first destination of the day was the beach at Sand about 3 miles to the south, the next car park marked on the peninsula. Since the only bus on the peninsula wasn’t running “due to Covid” I’d have to walk one way and cycle back and so had a folding bike in the boot of my car. This was another reason for starting here. The view point was high up. My destination, a beach, was obviously going to be at sea level so lower down. So cycling this way I hoped would be much easier. Down hill all the way? Well not as it turned out, but at least downhill for more of the time than it was up!

I think however I only had to get off and push once, though I did also stop for a couple of rests. It seemed to take longer than expected so I was glad when at last the car park came into sight. It was an odd sort of place a turning off the “main” coast road. The road continued on beyond the car park but was, immediately beyond the car park marked, as a private road, part of a military base and for authorised users only and subject to military by-laws. I locked my bike to the base of the notice informing people of this.

I had actually been to this beach before (earlier on this trip, but not yet written up) so rather than head down to the beach I begun my walk by heading back up the access road to the beach (and military base) to the “main” coast road. On reaching this I turned left and this part of the road was a bit of a valley rocks on either side, covered with bracken and heather.

Soon things opened out a bit and I now had a nice view to my left over the Isle of Raasay and Skye behind it.

Near Lonbain

Its funny how when I cycled the other way it felt like I was mostly going uphill. Now I’m walking back it felt like I was going mostly uphill. I passed a couple of tiny areas of woodland and a couple of small waterfalls down the cliffs beside the road. Here is one, though it hasn’t come out very well.

Near Lonbain

Up to the right there was what looked like an area of former quarrying, though none was marked on the map.

Near Sand, Applecross

The road soon began to climb again and I was soon entering the village of Lonbain. Or was it Londain? You see I nearly always buy the paper Ordnance Survey map (1:25000 scale) to plan these walk and take it with me on the day. This is especially important on the Applecross peninsula where there isn’t a mobile signal. These maps are normally excellent. Unfortunately an exception should be made for the one covering Applecross! You see the printed map called it Londain. The street sign said Lonbain. So I’m not quite sure which is right (since writing this the online OS map now also shows Lonbain however, so I guess it was yet another error on this particular map).

Lonbain is a hamlet really with a few houses dotted about over to the left.

Lonbain

I soon reached the small dead-end road heading down to these houses but didn’t go and explore. It must have been bin day on the Applecross peninsula since bins were lined up at the end of this road (presumably the lorry doesn’t want to go down the dead end road). Unfortunately for one of these residents the driver of a German motorhome had clearly assumed these were public bins and was busy emptying the contents of his motorhome bin into one of them. I imagine the owner of that bin was none too thrilled when they found their recently emptied bin had already been re-filled! I am not sure if the driver of the motorhome realised these were private bins or whether they just didn’t care, but he’d gone by the time I got there.

I soon passed another sign announcing I had reached Kalnakill. Oh no wait. Callakille. You see this is another village where my OS map has the wrong spelling! (Since corrected, at least online).

Callakille

Near Callakille

The road soon descended down to a small river.

Near Callakille

Beyond this more of the houses of the village were off to the left on flat land, whilst the road began to climb again. Callakille was a small place but judging by the several abandoned buildings it had once been a little larger.

Callakille

Callakille

Near Callakille

Further up the road I reached some Highland traffic along with some “deposits” they had left.

Highland cattle at Callakille

As I began to climb the views of the Cullen mountains on Skye became ever better.

Callakille

Highland cattle at Callakille

Highland cattle at Callakille

I had one last river to cross and now I was back at the spectacular view point from where I had begun, where my car was parked. It really is a stunning view and is certainly a good view point.

Callakille

Callakille

Over the Inner Sound I could clearly make out several islands. Nearest me was the Isle of Rona, which is a small island off the north coast of the Isle of Raasay that I could also see whilst behind was the Isle of Skye.

Near Cuaig

At the north tip of the Isle of Rona I could make out the lighthouse clearly. This island is inhabited, but only just. The population at the last survey, in 2013, was 3. Though that’s an increase of 3 from the total in 1991! This is because in 1943 the last crofting family left and the only inhabitants were the lighthouse keepers. This was automated in 1975 so all the inhabitants left but since them the island by a couple who now live in the only permanently inhabited house, though there are also a couple of holidays lets. The area around the lighthouse is still under military control, which probably explains why I could see no roads or paths leading to it, just a heli-port.

Near Cuaig

Near Cuaig

Near Cuaig

The Isle of Rona and Isle of Skye from Cuaig

Now having finished the walk I had to drive back to the car park to pick up my bike.

The Isle of Rona and Isle of Raasay from Cuaig viewpoint

I drove back the way I had just come, to the car park at the beach at Sand and went to unlock my folding bike, which was still where I left it, locked to the back of the warning notice.

Here I hit a bit of a snag. I went to my pocket to get out the key to my bike lock, but it wasn’t there. I checked both pockets, but there was no sign of it. I knew I hadn’t, but I had to go and check if I’d put it in my rucksack with my house keys. No. So where on earth was it? That would rather ruin my plans if I’d now got my bike locked to the sign post with no way of removing it. I feared it must have fallen out of my pocket at some point. What do you even do in this situation? Go and buy some bolt cutters from somewhere (there wasn’t going to be anywhere near) and hope no one saw me (as if they did I doubt they’d believe it was actually my bike rather than me stealing someone else’s). As I was lookin around at my locked bike wondering what I was going to now, I spotted something. They key to my bike lock! It turns out where I’d left the key was … still in the barrel of the lock. Yes it seems that after locking it earlier, in my hurry to get going I forgot to actually remove the key from the lock! Fortunately the people in this part of Scotland are honest and no one had stolen it (to be honest I expect there was no need to have locked it at all).

Well that was good news, my plans for the rest of the day were intact. However now it’s time to switch days! You see 3 days earlier when I walked Arrina Woodlands to Cuaig view point I hadn’t actually gone immediately back to the hotel I was staying in, in Kyle of Lochalsh, but instead I’d decided to also walk the small stretch of coast between the car park I started this walk from (at Sand beach) to the next one, half a mile or so south and then head back, as well as spend some time going down onto the beach. So in the interest of writing up my walks as if they were done in order (even though they weren’t), we’re now going back in time 3 days! I feel I need to explain this for the fact that otherwise it appears suddenly the weather had changed.

So now I’m back at the same car park I just finished at. Here are the warning notices (the second one being the one I’d locked my bike to when I left the key in the lock).

Applecross Sand

Applecross Sand

Well as the sign said I could continue down to the beach as pedestrians were still permitted. I could certainly see why the map called this place Sand, it was an apt name since there was indeed a lot of sand. This is a really nice beach (perhaps the nicest on the peninsula).

After so much walking on tarmac around the peninsula it was nice to get down to the softer sands of this lovely beach and look over to the Isle of Raasay and Isle of Skye beyond.

Applecross Sand

Applecross Sand

Applecross Sand

Now on a different day on the peninsula (earlier this same week) I’d walked the short section of coast between Sand beach (and gone down to the beach itself) and the next car park south (only about half a mile away). So now I had to fill the second gap from there to Applecross.

Now having reached the beach the obvious thing to do was head back to the road to head south. But where is the fun in that? No I decided I’d see if I could get along the beach. Soon I ran out of sand, as the tide was coming in. No bother, I’ll head up onto the rocks above the beach.

Near Sand, Applecross

It was a bit tricky to get over the boulders near the shore but once over there was indeed some smooth rock. The trouble is this smooth rock did not last all that long and it soon became very difficult. The rocks were slippery, sloped steeply and there were sea-weed covered rocks below. I soon realised this was a bad idea. Progress became slow and I decided the best bet was to head back to the road. Heading up the rocks the ground was thick with bracken so I had to make my way through that which was hard going but fortunately it was not far back to the road and then a short distance on to the car park.

Near Sand, Applecross

From here I returned along the road. The road goes quite high above the bay and it was noticeable how the beach or at least it’s dunes, seemed to be expanding towards the road.

Sand beach, Applecross

The tree growing up through the sand had most of it’s trunk buried, suggesting the sand has increased around it over the years.

Sand beach, Applecross

It was also possible to get up to the road from that part of the beach and given the people there and the number of footprints it was clearly quite a well used path. A short distance further up the road I was back at the turning to the car park and my waiting car. On this day I drove back to Kyle of Lochalsh.

So now having written up the section of coast from Cuaig view point to the 2nd car park south of Sand beach it was time to continue my walk. However what I opted to do is drive a short distance from the north car park above Sand beach to the one further south. From there I’d cycle into Applecross village (Shore Street) and walk back to this car park. As that would mean I’d then be walking that part of the coast in the other direction to the first part and that might get a bit confusing I thought I’d end this write up here. So I’ve split the write-ups for this days walks into 3 separate parts (of which this is the first, part 2 will be from Applecross (Shore Street) back to this car park and part 3 from Toscaig to Applecross (Shore Street)).

This was only a short walk but a pleasant one. I had enjoyed the lovely beach at Sand (on a previous day) and the wonderful views from the coast over to the Isle of Raasay and the Isle of Skye. Whilst I’m currently focusing on walking the coast of the mainland I do hope and plan to come back and walk the coast of at least some of the Scottish Islands.

Here are details of the public transport for this walk, though it wasn’t running when I did the walk:-

Lochacarron Garage bus route 704: Toscaig (request only) – Applecross (request only) – Lonbain (request only) – Callakille (request only) – Cuaig (request only) – Fearnmore (request only) – Fearnbeg (request only) – Arrina  (request only)– Kenmore (request only) – Shieldaig (request only) – Kishorn (request only) – Lochacarron – Achnasheen – Garve – Dingwall – Inverness. One bus per day each way on Monday and Saturday only. If you want to use the bus anywhere between Toscaig and Lochcarron you must book this the day before, by 6pm, by calling 01520 722997 as this part of the route only runs on request. The bus will stop anywhere it’s safe to do so on request, so you can use it stop at the junction for the beach car park at Sand too.

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

This entry was posted in Wester Ross and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to 353a. Cuaig Viewpoint to Sand

  1. Beautiful blue skies in the first bit of that. I confess to being very confused by your route being spread over different days, but it doesn’t matter – I’ll go with the flow!

  2. Pingback: 353b. Applecross (Shore Street) to Sand | Round the Island

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