356. Lochcarron to Tornapress (and back)

September 2020

A month has passed since I was last in Scotland and I travelled back up to Scotland a couple of days ago (I didn’t do the walks quite in order). This time I’m back staying in Kyle of Lochalsh for the first part of the trip.

This was a long and quite demanding walk around the peninsula that contains Ardaneaskan and is between Loch Kishorn and Loch Carron. Oddly this peninsula doesn’t seem to have a specific name (at least, not one marked on my map). Although the circular walk I had planned was quite a long one (and I made it longer by accidentally getting lost), I was also going to walk the small section of there and back walking to cover the coast between Kishorn and where I started the previous walk at the end of the Applecross pass, so as to save coming back for the sake of a 1 mile gap.

I drove from the hotel I was staying at around to Lochcarron along the pot-holed A-roads that make up this part of the Scottish road network and parked on the loch side in Lochcarron. Lochcarron, although a village, feels like quite a metropolis by comparison with most settlements in this part of Scotland as it stretches over a mile along the A896. Fortunately parking is easy, there is a lot of parking beside the loch in the village.

Loch Carron

My plan for the day is to head west and turn off the main road to take the minor road down to Ardaneaskan, the end of the road on the south side of the peninsula. From here I hope to find a route over the open ground to the end of the road at Achintraid on the north side of the peninsula and follow this minor road to the main road at Kishorn. Here I’m going to head north to the start of the Applecross pass (to the point I ended on my last trip and close a gap I’d otherwise leave) and then walk back along the A896 to Lochcarron to make a circular walk. The problem is there is about a 1 mile gap between the end of the tracks over Cnoc Mor where no path is shown, but I am hoping it won’t be too hard to link these up.

Loch Carron

Loch Carron

Lochcarron

The walk starts off easy enough, I follow the A896 beside Loch Carron and then turned off onto the road to Ardaneaskan.

The sign instantly warns of no ferry at North Strome, something I’m well aware of (there was once a ferry between North Strome and Strome Ferry, across Loch Carron, but it doesn’t run anymore for reasons I’ll explain later).

No Ferry at Strome

Initially the road is raised up a bit above the coast and I have fine views over Loch Carron and Slumbay Harbour below.

Loch Carron

I could also see the tidal island of Slumbay Island down to my left.

Loch Carron

I soon reached the dead-end road that leads down to Slumbay Island so I decided to follow it and followed the shingle out to the island.

Loch Carron

Loch Carron

I didn’t bother to go around the island, as I could largely see it from here already but it did give me a nice view back to Lochcarron.

I tried to make my way along the shore but it was a pebble beach with sea-weed covered rocks which was hard going so I headed back to the road and continued along this heading south west. I thought Lochcarron was already a large village, but it spreads a fair bit further along this road, including another car repair garage (I gather the demanding Applecross pass keeps garages in this area in busy!). The walking was easy, if not especially exciting, as my view of the coast was only intermittent through the trees.

The road soon entered an area of woodland that stretched for about half a mile and emerged by the Lochcarron Weavers shop (I didn’t stop).

Lochcarron Weavers

The road opened up again here and I had good views back down to Loch Carron again.

Loch Carron

I passed through Mid Strome and North Strome after which there was then a dead-end road down to the jetty at North Strome. This is where the ferry once used to cross to Stromeferry on the opposite side of the loch and the now unclassified road I had been following so far was once the A890. The main road didn’t used to go around the loch as it does now, because the section of the A890 between Stromeferry and Strathcarron didn’t exist until 1970 so you had to cross the loch via a ferry. The ferry stopped in 1970 when the road between Stromeferry and Strathcarron was opened.

I headed down this road passing Castle Bay on the right with what looks like an abandoned boat at the back of the beach.

Castle Bay, North Strome

Castle Bay, North Strome

Castle Bay, North Strome

I headed down to the very end of the road at the slipway and sat on the rocks beside the slipway for a quick rest and snack.

Loch Carron at North Strome

Loch Carron at North Strome

As I was eating a chocolate bar I began to hear voices. No, not that kind, real voices, but looking back up the road there was no one about, which was puzzling, nor had I passed anyone. Then I saw heads in the water and realised it was a diving group who had surfaced here that I had no idea were there. They set off up the road and once I had finished I headed back up and stopped to look at the remains of Strome Castle, which is owned by the National Trust for Scotland, but freely accessible.

North Strome

Strome Castle remains

There isn’t a lot of it standing in truth, but it once had a commanding position on a rocky outcrop overlooking both the sheltered Castle Bay and the wider Loch Carron.

Castle Bay, North Strome

Castle Bay, North Strome

I was followed back up the road by some sheep that had been standing in the road but as I left the castle they actually went down the steps that provided access to the castle! I presume they were waiting for me to leave before heading into the castle to graze. I never knew sheep could use steps!

Traffic at North Strome

North Strome and the ruins of Strome Castle

Traffic at North Strome

Returning to the “main” road I then turned left and soon came across another pebble beach.

North Strome

This one is Port a Mheirlich and I headed down onto it.

North Strome

The loch was narrow here and I had a fine view across the loch.

Port a Mheirlich near North Strome

Port a Mheirlich near North Strome

Returning to the road, a short distance along the road was a car park and a footpath signed to Achintraid. That wasn’t however the path I wanted (but might come in useful anyway) so I continued along the road. Down below the road was the hamlet of Leacanashie which looked very pretty right on the shore of the loch.

Loch Carron at Ardaneskan

The road now entered woodland again though soon there was only a single line of trees to my left, so I had fine views of the loch between the trees trunks. There was not much traffic now, though the post van did pass me.

Loch Reraig

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The woodland soon ended and I was now in the last village along this road, Ardaneaskan.

IMG_9147

IMG_9152

The houses were below the road and enjoyed wonderful views over the loch. I was puzzled as to why I hadn’t seen the post van come back and the answer was soon to be found at the end of the road, since he was here having a chat to who I presume was a local resident. At the car park at the end of the road, a sign was pointing right, to Achintraid, which was encouraging as that is where I want to go. This continued as a car-wide track just now an unsurfaced one.

Loch Reraig

It crossed a small area of moorland and then descends down to the shore of Loch Reraig.

Loch Reraig

When I got level with the beach I made the mistake of trying to walk across the beach but soon reach a stream that is too deep to cross without getting wet feet, or at least taking my shoes off to avoid that.

Loch Reraig

So I headed back to the track again and followed this to cross the Rereaig Burn via the bridge. I now followed the track heading inland alongside the river. After about half a mile a path turns off this to the left and goes to Achintraid. However another turns sharp left and comes to an end. I am hoping to be able to follow this as according to the map when it ends it’s just over a mile to the end of another track which I can then follow around the coast to Achintraid.

So I follow this track, which climbs steeply away from the loch.

Loch Reraig

Loch Reraig

This soon comes to a dead-end at some trees, which is frustrating. I find a fainter muddy track, with tyre tracks, off to the right so I follow this. It is extremely muddy and slippery.

Moorland between Achintraid and Ardaneskan

The track takes me towards Loch an Eich Uisge. Here the path is very wet and I make my way across but now the track turns to the left. I make my way around but realise I’ve come around in a complete circle. Returning, I find a rocky area where I can stand and see ahead.

Moorland between Achintraid and Ardaneskan

Moorland between Achintraid and Ardaneskan

I can’t see a way to get to my intended track so instead I decide to head towards Loch Dubha (which I can see) and go around the left hand side of this. It is hard going and I come across several deer, probably wondering what on earth someone is doing here. (You have to look very carefully to spot them below!)

Moorland between Achintraid and Ardaneskan

I am wondering the same! For ease of navigation I decided to turn half right and try and follow a fence that soon heads down into the woodland.

Moorland between Achintraid and Ardaneskan

For a while there is a sort of track alongside the fence through the woodland, but soon this is following a stream. Whichever way I try and go it becomes blocked by impenetrable undergrowth ahead. If I go left it’s just too thick to get through. If I go right I reach the fence. I try several routes and there is no obvious route onwards. So I decided the only thing for it is to climb the fence, I can see that it’s much less overgrown the other side. So that’s what I do. It’s rather awkward but I am then able to make it down to the track by a house. At last. It has taken me nearly 2 hours to do a mile and a half! I have lost a lot of time trying to take this “short” cut. However at least with the rest of the walk on roads it should be easier and I shouldn’t get lost.

The road now descends down into the village itself, passing some red sheds and caravans on the left.

Achintraid

It is a pretty spot with a shingle beach backed by houses and views of the distant mountains. I sit on one of the rocks at the back of the beach for a quick rest.

Achintraid

Part way along the beach a river flows out so I head back to the road and it’s bridge to cross this.

Achintraid

Achintraid

I continued along the road to Ardarroch on the left, passing a shinty pitch and then reaching the A896.

Loch Kishorn at Ardarroch

Loch Kishorn at Ardarroch

Loch Kishorn at Ardarroch

Here it was decision time. I was tired, the walk had taken me longer than expected so the obvious thing was to turn right and head back to Lochcarron. However if I did that, I’d leave a gap from here to the bottom of the Applecross pass I’d have to come back to fill. So I pushed myself to continue. The roads passes through Kishorn and passes Courthill house behind a wall in the left, which has some sort of disused gatehouse. Soon the road emerges on the banks of loch Kishorn and I’m at the head of the loch now. The road now widens to two lanes and I can see the cars snaking up the Applecross pass across the loch. To my left is a lovely view of Coire Each reflected in the calm waters of the upper loch.

Loch Kishorn

Loch Kishorn

As I continue up the loch I now have a fast flowing stream to my left and soon reach the sign for the Applecross pass.

The River Kishorn

Left for the Applecross Pass

This is a tough ride to walk or indeed to drive, with a narrow steep climb up hairpin bends and then a steep descent the other side into Applecross, all on a single track road with passing places. I gather the road is so tough on vehicles that the garage in Lochcarron does a good trade in repairing them. The bottom of the road has some warning signs, but it is impossible to read them since the North Coast 500 brigade insist on covering them with stickers, presumably to record the fact they drove over this road. Well I’ve driven the road and walked around the peninsula and I didn’t feel the need to leave a sticker to commemorate this fact so I don’t understand why some feel the need to do that.

The Applecross Pass (Bealach na Ba)

It is very selfish and it is an odd problem. The point of road signs is to be able to read them whilst driving but this sign is almost totally obscured and takes me some time to decipher from the mass of stickers even when standing still.

On the other side of the road, the sign has not been obliterated by stickers but I think can be “flipped” to “road closed” when the road becomes impassible with snow. This white area where it can be flipped has hand-written amendments warning “Beware of Locals” and “Beware of Midges”. Well I certainly had problems with the midges in Applecross and after my experience at the only pub on the peninsula did not get the impressions the locals were too friendly either. I can see why someone added the warning!

The Applecross Pass (Bealach na Ba)

There is also an advert for the Applecross Inn which I shall nominate as the least friendly pub encountered on my coastal walk. Anyway I continue along the road to the point I parked last time, then drop down to the river for a rest and a drink.

The River Kishorn

The River Kishorn

The River Kishorn

It has been a long walk and I’m not done yet, I’ve now got to return on the A896 to get back to Lochcarron and my car. Suitably refreshed, I re-trace my steps to the road for Achintraid but this time I don’t take that road but continue on the A896 to Kishorn.

Loch Kishorn from the Applecross pass

This seems to consist of a (closed) seafood restaurant and a telephone box that tells me it’s actually the “Kishorn Selfie Box”. I’m afraid I don’t oblige!

Kishorn selfie box

The road now follows the valley of the river for a while before climbing up into the hills.

The A896 west of Lochcarron

It is remote and traffic is not that heavy at this time of day.

The A896 west of Lochcarron

The road is single track with passing places and like most of the roads around here, lined with pot holes.

The A896 west of Lochcarron

Soon the road is beside the river again which flows fast and with a waterfall nearby.

Abhainn Cumhang a Ghlinne

More waterfalls can be seen up the cliffs, it is very beautiful. At last the long climb is over and now the road begins to descend to Lochcarron.

Abhainn Cumhang a Ghlinne

It winds through open moorland and, at last, descends back to the village.

View from the A896 west of Lochcarron

View from the A896 west of Lochcarron

The A896 west of Lochcarron

The A896 west of Lochcarron

The A896 west of Lochcarron

It is now 6pm but the cafe is closed. So I head back to my car, rather cursing that I parked further east in the village! At last I reach my car for a drink and a rest before the drive back to Kyle of Lochalsh.

Lochcarron

Loch Carron, Lochcarron

It has been a tough walk today, but with some lovely scenery. My mistake was to try and find my own way between the two roads to link Ardaneskan and Achintaird. If I had stuck to one of the two proper footpaths I suspect I would have found things easier. Both were very pretty villages however. The last part of the walk beside the head of Loch Kishorn was also quite beautiful and even the walk back along the A896 took me through some spectacular scenery and turned out to be more enjoyable than I expected. So overall an enjoyable walk, but next time I’d try and cover a shorter distance in the day!

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk, though it must be booked in advance.

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.

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