Yesterday I’d planned to walk from Toscaig to a point meeting the Applecross pass at approximate grid reference NG808403 and then back again. This had proven too ambitious and I hadn’t made it as far as hoped.
That said I don’t think I’d have even made it as far as I did if I had started out on the coastal route via Uags as I only found out on the return part that the path marked on the map didn’t actually exist on the ground and so it turned out to be a tough walk back. However I hoped the toughest part was now behind me and today’s walk would be a bit easier. It would also be my last walk on the Applecross peninsula, an area I really loved. Sometimes I can fall into the trap of trying to walk too many miles in a day. This isn’t meant to be a race, I’m doing it for enjoyment, so it doesn’t really matter if it takes me longer to walk around the peninsula than I had expected!
Unfortunately the glorious weather I had enjoyed yesterday hadn’t lasted. The forecast today was for rain all day. A second problem was that I had had to relocate to the Travelodge in Fort William as the hotel I was staying at in Kyle of Lochalsh was now full and so I couldn’t stay there any longer and Fort William was as close as I could find. The other problem with the Travelodge is that it does not have a restaurant. Underneath however is a Whetherspoon where I hoped to have breakfast. Unfortunately they required you to fill in a form or download the Scotland “Track and Protect” app before you were allowed inside and then you also had to download their own app so you could order “contact free”. So I gave up with that and settled for an egg and bacon sandwich and a pain-au-chocolate purchased from Morrisons and eaten in my car in the car park for breakfast instead.
I then had over a 2 hour drive to get back to my start point for this walk! Yesterday I had reached a telegraph cable at grid reference NG796386 which I had reached coming from Toscaig to the north west. Today I’d come it from the other end (east) to join up with my previous days walk, and then walk back again. I joined the Applecross Pass from the A896 at a tiny place called Tornapress. It seems to consist of a single building, a cafe, which like seemingly almost everything else in Scotland in August 2020, was “closed due to Covid”. Parking on these roads can be difficult but fortunately yesterday I had noticed an area of worn tarmac beside the road by the river Kishorn (just to the east of the bridge) at the base of the Applecross Pass that had a blue “P” (parking) sign rather than marked as a passing place. I was pleased to have spotted this and arriving here, there was only one other car, so plenty of space.
The forecast rain had so far held off, I was pleased to note and the view here is quite beautiful.
This is the head of Loch Kishorn and I can see the marshy land in front that soon opens out into the wide waters of Loch Kishorn with steep hills on either side. The road crosses the pretty little stone bridge over the river Kishorn and then turns left.
From here I followed the road up the valley. This road is notorious, a mountain pass it climbs from here at sea level to over 600 metres and back down to sea level in just a few miles. So the road is very steep, narrow, single track (with passing places) and twisty. This makes it a challenging drive both for driver and vehicle. It’s not brilliant as a pedestrian, either!
After about ¾ of a mile there is a road off to the left. This sticks nearer the shore so in theory I should be following but it’s a dead-end road leading to a salmon farm and then a dock (Kishorn Dock), which was quite large and industrial. I’m not clear if it’s possible to get onto the open ground at the end of the dock but generally wandering through docks is not a good idea, so I stick to the “main” road.
Road signs warn that the road is normally impassible in wintry conditions, that the road is weak with an 18-tonne weight limit and that you should use passing places to allow overtaking. I don’t expect I’ll be doing much overtaking, today!
As I climb with the road the views of Loch Kishorn improve and soon I can see for several miles. Further up that also includes the fish farm. It is large and very industrial looking and I’m glad I didn’t try and walk through it.
As I climb it is clear improvements are being made to the road. It looks like new passing places are being created, probably to help cope with the increase in traffic the NC500 has bought to this road. For now it is gravel and earth compacted and piled up to the level of the road with presumably the tarmac soon to be laid. Some have shiny new crash barriers too. They do at least provide a place for me to admire the view out of the way of the traffic since they are still coned off from the road.
I turn with the road to the right and it gives the most wonderful view. Ahead huge mountains loom over the road. They make the cars on the road, when they come, look tiny. Which I guess they are, in comparison with the mountains.
A short distance along this stretch and the road crosses the Russel Burn on a bridge. Here I take the opportunity to take a break and leave the road and find some rocks beside the burn to sit on for a minute. It is clear of the road and there are some rocks to sit on and a small waterfall, it is quite pretty. I don’t think I’ll be seen from here but the passenger in a passing motorhome gives me a wave as they pass!
After a quick rest it’s back onto the road, still climbing. After the burn the road turns sharply left and continues to climb to a hairpin bend, marked with an altitude of 178 metres, at approximately grid reference NG808403.
Here is the point I will leave the road, but first I have to climb over a crash barrier, as there is also a passing place on this corner. Now I turn south west over the trackless moor. The ground is boggy and uneven and there are rocky areas ahead.
I am trying to work out the best line to take. Ahead there are rocky mountainous areas, more or less sheer cliffs. That’s not going to be practical. Go too low and I might get stuck due to sheer cliffs or it being too steep and have to climb all the way back up. The other problem with going too low is it restricts my view of the terrain ahead and makes it hard to work out the best route to take.
So I try to find a route that contours over the land, avoiding going too low or high or reaching steep cliffs.
The other problem is that the cloud is low and so I can see if I get much higher I’ll be in the mist and then I’ll hardly be able to see anything at all! I make it about right at the river Allt a Chumhaing ahead where it’s not too wide here so I can climb down and get over on rocks. I was stressing a bit about whether this would be too wide to cross yesterday so I’m glad to find that it isn’t.
Now I’m aiming for a point roughly 300-400 metres from the shore. The map suggests this to be reasonably flat and avoid and steep areas of cliffs. Fellow coastal walker Alan Palin gave me a tip when I mused over this route which is that there is a line of pylons or telephone lines held up by regular wooden poles and to simply follow those. It’s good advice because I think about it and conclude that someone must have been out here to put them here and must have to come back from time to time maintain them. So it’s unlikely the posts are going to follow terrain that is too steep because someone needs to get here from time to time and I presume must do so on foot.
When there is an area of trees ahead things get tricky. I can see nearer the shore the land drops away very quickly, but I don’t want to go too high either. I head over the fairly flat-ish land to approach them. Here as I get nearer there seems to be a feint path worn along the back of the trees. It is narrow and the land drops away steeply to my left but it looks like people or animals have walked here often enough to wear a path so I follow that. In places I have to grab onto the trees but soon I make it through the woodland. Beyond the trees I can see the trail of lamposts I followed before. I could see these trees from the other end so I knew it wasn’t far. Time to get the GPS out.
Now I follow it’s grid reference until I end up exactly back at the same post I reached yesterday. I had lunch here before, so I decide to do the same now, but it’s quite a bit colder today so it will have to be a quick lunch! I can see over to Loch Kishorn below and I know that I have now made it around the south coast of the Applecross peninsula. I am very happy about that as this was a bit of a risk and I knew it would be tough, so I am glad to have completed it successfully. Sadly during my lunch drizzle begins which soon turns to light rain. Rain had been forecast but I was hoping that either the forecast was wrong or it might hold off.
I rush the rest of my lunch and get back up, keen to get back to my car before I get too wet. I head back the same way to the woodland but somehow end up on a slightly higher path than before. I can see the path I want to be on below but it takes me a while to find a safe route back down to it. The floor of the woodland is surrounded by bracken so this turns out to be a mistake as the bracken is now all wet from the rain and so I soon get my trousers and feet wet from this. Emerging from the woodland I continue broadly ahead to reach the river again.
The crossing back seems harder and I realise I’ve gone down a bit lower. I can see the fence of the dock to my right and debate following that back to the road lower down. It makes me realise I made the right decision not following the roads through the docks because then I’d have to try and get over this fence. In the end I decide against following the fence. The rain is getting harder and I’d rather something firm under foot than the increasingly boggy (and wet) moorland. Going back is easier as soon I can see the road and can then make for it. It’s much easier going this way, when I had a landmark to aim for.
As I reach the road I stopped just below it to put my camera away, other than the small waterproof one in my pocket and the map somewhere dry (ish), now I won’t need it for the rest of the way back, which is just to follow the road. Now I’m ready to step onto the road to follow the road back down, without carrying a map or camera. A car is approaching the bend I am standing beside, so I stop to wait for it to pass before I set off and as soon as it reaches me the driver stops and offers me a lift! This is nice gesture and surprising (given how much paranoia there is about this Covid 19 and sharing a car with strangers) but they are going up and I want to go down so I decline their kind offer. To be honest I’m wet enough by now I’m not sure they would want me in their car anyway!
Now back on the road I make brisk progress. I can also see the clouds are really dropping and I’d only have to get slightly higher and I’d be in the mist. I feel like I’ve completed the open area, where I had to navigate myself just in time as finding a route when you can only see a few metres ahead is so much harder.
No one else stops to offer me a lift, perhaps because I’m keeping moving rather than stopping or looking list. The rain however gets heavier and the wind picks up so I’m soon soaked. I am pleased when my car comes into view. Somewhere dry at last! I head back down to the parking area. I had seen the forecast today so bought a change of clothes which I left in my car. I can get changed into something dry before getting in and dump my wet clothes in the car.
The rain pours down. It is not that late and my plan on getting back to the car was to get my folding bike out the boot and then cycle to Ardarroch by heading ahead to the A896 and turning right through Kishogn and stop at the junction with the unclassified road to Ardarroch, which is where I plan to walk to tomorrow. This is only about a mile and a half so with the time taken to walk back I can probably do it in little more than an hour and then pick up the bike on the way back as I’ll then follow the same road to drive back to Fort William where I’m staying. But I can see that the rain is set in and walking in the wind and rain is not much fun. I don’t like cycling at the best of times and certainly not in the rain, where I struggle to even see with the rain getting in my eyes when cycling. So instead I decide to call it a day and head back to Fort William where I’m staying, which is a long drive!
Despite not getting quite as far as hoped today I am proud that I had now managed to walk all the coast of the Applecross peninsula and find my own way around it’s south side. It is a remote area and has been a tough area to walk (especially since the bus isn’t running) but a very rewarding and beautiful one, which I very much enjoyed. This walk was quite hard in terms of terrain but at leas the distance was far more manageable today so I don’t feel too worn out.
There is no public transport on this walk however a bus does serve Tornapress twice per week on a route between Applecross and Inverness, however only by request. 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) – Tornapress (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 set of photos for this walk : Main Link.