This was part 3 of this day of walking around part of the Applecross peninsula. This morning I’d done two walks that between them linked me from Cuaig to the main village on the peninsula Applecross or Shore Street as it’s known locally. Now it was time to reach the end of the road, literally, at Toscaig.
Applecross (Shore Street) is a junction. One way you can take the Applecross Pass (Bealach na Bà), a mountain pass and a tough road (for both drivers and vehicles) or you can continue ahead to Toscaig, a dead-end. It is the latter I’m heading for now.
The last section of walking that I’d done earlier today had me walking from Applecross (Shore Street) to the southern most car park at the beach at Sand, where I’d parked. Now I drove on down to Applecross (Shore Street). My plan was to park here, retrieve my folding bike (that I’d left here earlier) and then cycle south to Toscaig, where I’d walk back to Applecross (Shore Street). However my plan was thwarted because the only public car parking in Applecross (Shore Street) is a small car park with about 10 spaces. They were all taken (though at least I could see my folding bike was still there). There was plentiful parking a little further along the road by the Applecross Inn but all of this was all marked as private parking for the use of patrons of the Applecross Inn. I had tried and failed to be a patron earlier in the day so I wasn’t going to risk leaving my car in their car park though I suspected most parked here weren’t actually using the pub given the numbers parked.
It didn’t really matter however. I’d still end up having to drive to Toscaig at the end of my planned walk to retrieve my folding bike. So instead I decided to reverse the walk. I’d drive on to Toscaig, park there (and hope there was room), walk back to Applecross (Shore Street) and retrieve my bike, then cycle from there back to my car at Toscaig.
Although not a long distance the drive took around 15-20 minutes due to the number of times you have to stop in passing places to let vehicles coming the other way pass. Although only a few miles this dead-end road serves a few settlements, the fire station, community hall, shop and post office, telephone exchange and school, according to the map so this would explain the amount of traffic.
Fortunately when I arrived at Toscaig Pier there was plenty of car parking with just one other car there and quite a lot of space. There was a beautiful view looking right, too.
Whilst in the other direction I had a view of Loch Toscaig.
The pier isn’t generally used by boats and more, but before the opening of the road around the coast of the Applecross peninsula in 1976 the only road to the village of Applecross was the Applecross pass (Bealach na Ba or “pass of the cattle” in Gaelic). This road heads from sea level to over 2000 ft and back down to sea level in a distance of 11 miles, with a number of hairpin bends and steep hills. The height of this road means it is impassible during winter conditions which would therefore leave the peninsula cut off from the rest of Scotland for much of the winter. As a result a ferry used to run from Toscaig pier to Kyle of Lochalsh. Now the ferry no longer runs the large pier (really a wide area of tarmac beside the head of Loch Toscaig) is now a car park. You can see a photo of the old ferry here. The journey by boat to Kyle of Lochalsh is 8 miles. By road it’s 50 (and takes about 90 minutes)! It would be quite useful to me if it was still running, but it isn’t but at least this means there is now plenty of parking!
Having parked up I set off north along the road. To my right is the head of the loch, an area of marsh now mostly used for grazing sheep (and with a few abandoned boats).
Despite the map just showing a single name I believe Toscaig is split into Lower Toscaig and Upper Toscaig and I was now passing through the latter, really a few houses beside the road.
I soon passed the bright red telephone box.
I imagine this phone box is still useful because mobile signal is patchy to non-existent on this remote peninsula. However despite this the telephone box had a notice from July 2019 titled “Payphone Kiosk Removal” stating that due to very low usage, BT were proposing to remove the box. Clearly they didn’t remove it because it’s still here (and the phone still showed “BT Payhones” when I lifted the receiver so seemed to be working) but above the old notice was another, dated July 2020 with similar wording (but new logos). So whether it does get removed I don’t know but it would be a shame to see this iconic old red telephone box go.
Onwards I soon reached the turning for Upper Toscaig. Whilst Toscaig is the end of the public road a path continues along the coast from Upper Toscaig to Uags and Airgh-Drishaig, which will be my route onwards on a different day.
From this junction the road then climbed more steeply as the terrain became rocky and then descended back down again to run alongside a stream flowing into the bay of Poll Credha that I could now see ahead.
The road soon reached the head of this bay where there was another dead-end road to Aird Dhubh on the western edge of this bay however I decided not to follow this because it was a dead-end and I’d be able to see it from the other road anyway. Though there was also a path off this road to Ardban off this road which in hindsight I’d quite like to have followed.
Although the tide was out, revealing lots of rocks and sea weed, this was still an exceptionally pretty bay with low hills surrounding it on 3 sides.
The road initially continued beside the bay but then headed a bit inland through the small village of Culduie most of which was located on a dead-end road off to the right. The road soon rejoined the coast and climbed up where there were some benches just off to the left from which you could enjoy the stunning view over this bay.
It was a wonderful view with the island of Raasay and Skye visible on the horizon.
I’d have liked to linger to take in the view but it was a sunny calm day and this meant every time you stood still for a moment you’d get surrounded by midges. So I had to keep moving to avoid getting too many bites.
I returned to the road which now continued beside this beautiful bay, soon dropping to a lower level to reach Camusterrach.
Again parts of this village were off down a short dead-end road to the left which I didn’t explore, instead sticking to the main road because I could see all the village from here anyway.
This road climbed again soon passing the school (I think the only one that serves the peninsula) though it was closed partly because it was the school holidays but it had been closed before that for this Covid 19 lockdown nonsense. It did look a lovely school though, more like a house.
Just past this the road split with the “main” route directly ahead but I forked left on the more coastal part of the road into Camustiel or was it Camusteel? I don’t know because the road sign calls it the latter but the map the former! (The map has since been corrected to show the former name).
This small village was located above a pretty sand and rocky beach with again quite wonderful views over the bay. What a lovely outlook they have, to get this view each day. Sadly I had to drag myself away!
Further up this road, in a building not even marked on the map, is the Applecross Village shop.
That explained something that had puzzled me when in the main village (Shore Street) I had seen a sign pointing down the road to Toscaig for a shop but yet driving down the road I had not passed a shop – because it’s on this other part of the road, which is not the signed through route (the road network is shaped like a letter O around here and I had driven the other side of the O). The shop was busy with a queue outside due to this social distancing nonsense so I didn’t go in. I was a bit surprised to see it was not even marked on the map. Several long-closed post offices are still marked on the Ordnance Survey map covering the Applecross peninsula, but the one surviving one is not marked at all (not only is not marked as a post office, the building itself is also not shown). I did email the Ordnance Survey who verified it and promised to add it to future editions of the map (I hope they do). I was a bit frustrated about the number of errors on this map. Anyway, on with the walk.
The road now climbed a bit more before descending back to almost sea level where the road is almost a causeway with Inner Sound, the water between the mainland and Isle of Skye to my left and soon the reed-filled waters of Loch a Mhuilinn on my right. It was a really beautiful view that I was seeing in near perfect conditions under clear blue skies. I passed a sign to a bird hide off on the other side of this Loch but decided to keep to the coastal side.
I enjoyed the wonderful views to the left over the sea, too.
Continuing ahead I soon entered the small village (hamlet, really) of Milltown, which was just residential. Beyond this, the road continued at a low level and now became wooded a lovely stretch under the shade of the trees beside the loch.
Soon I emerged from the tree canopy into the village of Applecross (or technically, Shore Street).
I passed the lovely row of cottages that have the road in front and then directly the sea, which must be lovely, well on days like this, anyway. Soon I passed the unfriendly Applecross Inn, where I’d been refused service for lunch, so I wasn’t inclined to stop again.
I continued along the road to the car park and down the shore again, to enjoy the wonderful views over Applecross Bay.
It was lovely and I could have lingered except I didn’t really have the time. It was gone 5pm and I had to now cycle back to Toscaig to retrieve my car and then make the long drive around to Fort William where I was staying.
So I unlocked my bike and cycled back along the road I had just walked. I had to get off an push on a number of the hills but managed to cycle about 2/3 of the distance and push the bike for the rest though it was still hard work as the folding bike I have only has 7 gears (not enough) and is quite heavy, so it makes for hard work. Fortunately, I did not have to give way to traffic very much but I was relieved to make it back to the car at Toscaig Pier. I stopped to enjoy the view again in the lovely evening light.
Here I folded the bike put it in the boot and drove along the road. This meant I had passed along this road 4 times now in the space of a few hours (twice by car, once on foot and once by bike!). So I was quite familiar with it by now!
I headed back to Applecross and stopped in the car park where this time there was a space. I had a long drive back to Fort William now and I knew there was no chance of getting something to eat at the Applecross Inn itself. However there was also a takeaway van outside the pub so I decided to get something from here. Sadly the menu was entirely cake and fish and chips. I don’t really like sea food so I was hoping there might be the option of pie and chips or sausage and chips perhaps but sadly, no. So I just had a portion of chips instead. I hoped I’d fine somewhere else to eat on the way back.
Before leaving Applecross I’d have quite liked to top up the car with petrol I had just under half a tank which should be enough but tomorrow was Sunday and I know some petrol stations are closed then and I had the long drive home (over 500 miles) to tackle, which I didn’t want to have to start by looking for petrol. There is a self-service petrol pump beside the car park in Applecross I planned to use but as I got there a caravaner was just unhooking their caravan (no idea why) in front of the pump and blocking access to it, which was rather selfish. It looked like they were going to be a while and I couldn’t be bothered to wait, so I decided to press on and hope to find somewhere else for petrol (and food).
I opted to take the Applecross pass, I am familiar with this road now and being after the busy time I’d hoped it would not be too bad a drive. I and my ageing car made it to the top with no problems and for the first time of several I have driven this road the top was actually clear of clouds. So I stopped to take in the amazing views, it really is very beautiful as this road climbs from sea level to over 2000ft in the space of about 5 miles.
Having stopped to take in the view it was time to continue the drive. I stopped a couple of times, where there was space to pull off the road (and not block a passing place) to take photos of the amazing views.
However at the lower one of these within a few seconds of getting out of the car I was surrounded by what I can best describe as a cloud of midges. Absolutely horrible! So I grabbed these photos and then ran back to the car.
Unfortunately they were also swarming all over my car (why?) and I’d left the window open, so they were all inside it too! It was horrible and I regretted stopping here despite the view. Now I had a car full of midges! I opened the windows on both sides, knowing midges don’t like moving air, in the hope it would blow them all out but it is not possible to get much speed up on the Applecross pass and I was now stuck behind a couple of fairly slow cars and had to keep stopping for traffic coming the other way too. So I still had some midges in the car when I got to the bottom. Fortunately there is then a section of road alongside the loch with a lane in each direction (such luxury) and a 60mph speed limit, so I was able to pick up some speed and blow most of the midges out of my car!
On the way back I stopped in Lochcarron in the forlon hope of some food, but the shop was closed and the pub required pre-booking, which I hadn’t done. I didn’t pass anywhere really until I was on the A82 but again with the requirement to book at most places I decided to press on to Fort William. Dinner would have to be the chips I had at Applecross and some food I grabbed at the petrol station at the edge of Fort William when I reached there, eaten in my room at the Travelodge. Not very glamorous but this hotel has no restaurant and with all this Covid 19 nonsense the Scottish Government had mandated all restaurants and pubs must take contact details before you can be served for “Track and Protect” which means if someone else in the pub/restaurant at the same time has Covid you can be forced to “self isolate” (aka house-arrest) for 14 days. I therefore wanted to minimise the number of different places I went in to reduce the risk of having to “self isolate” so preferred to get food from shops or takeaways to eat in my room instead (shops not having to take contact details) to avoid that risk.
Overall this had been a really lovely walk despite being all on road. The scenery was absolutely stunning, the weather about as good as it gets and the villages I passed through interesting and varied. I had very much enjoyed this walk, but I knew the next walk would be more challenging now that I had reached the end of the road.
In theory it’s possible to use public transport for this walk, but it wasn’t running when I did the walk “due to Covid”, but has since resumed. Here are the details:-
Lochacarron Garage bus route 704: Toscaig (request only) – Applecross/Shore Street (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.
Here are the complete photos for this walk: Main Link.