247. Lower Diabaig to Inveralligin

After completing the walk to Red Point the previous day, I was then left with a small gap between Lower Diabaig and Inveralligin which I would now close.

On OS maps there is path indicated which links Diabaig with Inveralligin via extremely rocky and rough ground. I knew from reading previous walking reports that the path was notoriously difficult to follow, especially at the start. While I was in Diabaig yesterday I spoke to two locals who advised not to use the path. One of the locals went up the previous week but could not find its continuation after climbing onto a ledge. I had a quick look myself but could also see no continuation, I decided then to simply take the longer and higher road option via the Bealach na Gaoithe. Looking back this was a bit lazy of me, I should have explored more to try to get onto the track.

Anyway, I drove in the dark to Alligin car park and set off on my bike in the pitch dark. I was rewarded with a great stellar display as well as a number of shooting stars. By the time I reached the top of the Bealach na Gaoithe I could switch my head torch off. As I would be shortly walking back up to the bealach I was able to cycle down to Diabaig scattering a small group of young stags in the process.

Not much to say about the 7 mile walk back to the car, other than I got amazing views, only 1 car passed me, it was very  quiet and still and very enjoyable.

After arriving back at car I drove back to the campsite to pack up my tent. I spoke to a couple of other campers, who were to do a bit of climbing in Diabaig. Apparently, it’s a very popular climbing area, which was news to me. They confirmed the walkers path, but mentioned about the difficulty at the start. Anyway, it was good get away early, as the 500 mile drive home beckoned. Hopefully, I will  be able to get a few more days in Scotland before Christmas.

Setting off from Lower Diabaig
Heading up to the Bealach na Gaoithe with Tom na Gruagaich in the distance
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Looking down on the double lochs of Loch Diabagas Airde and Loch a’ Mhullaich from the Bealach na Gaoithe
Where I should have emerged if I had taken the elusive footpath to Inveralligin Shuas

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24408

Distance today = 7 miles
Total distance = 4,459 mile

 

 

 

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246. Lower Diabaig to Red Point

I decided to skip ahead for the next section as it was to be a longer walk and would enable me to finish my walk sooner on my final day. This section also provided a significant challenge in terms of getting back to my starting point. Basically I would be walking between the ends of two public roads with neither linked by any public transport over an open moorland footpath unsuitable for bicycles. I was left with only two viable options either I could do an out-and-back to Craig Bothy (some 4km away) from Lower Diabaig and then do the same from Red Point on my next trip to the area OR I could simply do an out-and-back between Lower Diabaig and Red Point. I chose the latter preferring to get the section done and out of the way. Fortunately, there have been very few places over the years where I have had to double back in order to complete a section.

The first night at the Torridon campsite was extraordinary windy, with the tent threatening to take off with the onset of  sudden and violent gusts. It made for a troublesome and disturbed nights sleep. The wind was still there when I returned from my walk, even though 300m away there was little or no wind.

I set off from Lower Diabaig just as it was getting light. Lower Diabaig is a very tucked away hamlet at the end of a tight, steep  and winding road from Torridon. The final descent into Diabaig was very steep and I would not fancy travelling down it in icy conditions. I parked up at the small sea front. This walk would be virtually all over moorland footpaths, but I still had about 1 km to walk up a very steep access road to get to the start of the path. I decided to push my bike up the hill to the start of the path and then chain it to a post. The bike would make the return journey down the hill back to the car very quick.

With the sun up and a beautiful cloud-free morning I set off on the first leg of the walk which would see me head for Craig’s bothy. The footpath out to the bothy was excellent and a pleasure to walk along. It was well-drained and often used bedrock, where it was close to the surface. I made good time to the bothy and decided to have a look inside. Surprisingly, checking the bothy book it had not been used for over a week.The most recent occupants had been a bothy work party who had completed some structural work to the floor on one of the lower rooms. This ex-YHA was in excellent condition and was spacious too, with 2 large and 1 small bedroom upstairs, together with the downstairs lounge (with offset kitchen) and a recently renovated room (temporarily closed).

Setting off from Lower Diabaig
Looking across Loch Torridon to Rubha na Fearna (tip of Applecross), North tip of Rona and Trotternish on Skye in the distance
Looking north towards Red Point
Descending to Craig’s bothy
Craig’s bothy
Bothy lounge
Recently renovated room

The second leg of the walk from the bothy on to Red Point was along a path that was not 20 good. After crossing the nearby Craig River via a wooden footbridge, the path followed the river bank until the coast before heading north along the coast. Although the path was easy to follow, it was poorly drained and meandered quite a bit. About half way along the path I met a couple who were heading to the bothy. I thought they meant to stay the night, but I met them again on the trail later on my return from Red Point.

Eventually I arrived at the old fishing station. Here the ground became very grassy,helped by sheep and cattle grazing, a small sandy beach was close by with people walking along the shore. I walked through Red Point Farm and onto the car park at the end of the public road………………and turned around. Although it was still only 13:30, it was along way back, but with a cloudless sky I knew I would make it back to Diabaig before 16:00 and the sun going down.

I popped into the bothy again on my return to enter some details of my visit into the bothy book. I made good progress along the good footpath and arrived back at Diabaig just as the sun was dipping below the horizon.

Approaching the old fishing station near Red Point
At Red Point car park
Heading south towards the old fishing station on the return leg
Looking north back towards Red Point from above Craig’s bothy
Late afternoon sun back at Lower Diabaig

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24406

Distance today =  17 miles
Total distance = 4,452 miles

 

 

 

245. Inveralligin to Ardheslaig

This was to be a three-day trip in which I hoped to get to Red Point and to take advantage of some unseasonably warm and mild weather. I tried in vain to locate some reasonable and affordable accommodation in the Torridon area but had no joy. I decided therefore to make use of the free campsite situated next to SYHA in Torridon. Although the campsite has public toilets next to it, it is prone to water logging and some ferocious winds – as I found out over the next two nights. It was also very difficult to drive my tent pegs into the very stony ground.

I checked on the availability of public transport, but nothing was available in the direction I was travelling. So I needed to take my bike along which I would need on at least a couple of days of this trip.

I drove up the day before and called in at Aldi in Inverness to get some last-minute provisions. I made it to Kinlochewe and decided to sleep in the back of the car for the night, at the Incheril car park. It was a very quiet location and I was not disturbed at all in the night. I set my alarm for 06:00 the following morning. The next day I was in no rush as I still had  1.5 hours before it got light and I could do any walking. The drive down Glen Torridon was especially beautiful with the Alpenglow falling on Beinn Eighe and Liathach. I parked in the campsite, which was empty, and found a reasonably dry spot to put my tent up. By this time it was light enough to start walking and I set off down the A896 pushing my bicycle. As usual a couple of people kindly stopped and enquired if I had a puncture. Unfortunately, for me, they were not heading in my direction, so I could not cadge a lift. There was little or no traffic on the road and I made excellent progress. I bypassed the village centre of Shieldaig as I would walk through the centre on my return.

Looking back to Torridon from Annat with Liathach in the background
Looking across Upper Loch Torridon to Beinn Alligin(l), Beinn Dearg (c) and Liathach(r)
Looking down Upper Loch Torridon towards Applecross

A mile out of Shieldaig I turned off the A896 down the Applecross road which was opened as recently as 1970. After numerous up and downs while also enjoying the views across Loch Torridon to Diabaig and Inveralligin. I arrived at the small hamlet of Ardheslaig, here I turned around and began the cycle back to Torridon. When I reached the turn-off for Shieldaig I got off my bike and walked along the small loop road through the village with its impeccably neat and tidy white-washed cottages. I noticed the vivid autumnal colours reflecting off Loch Shieldaig. I passed a small Carronade gun which had an interesting story attached to it.  Apparently, back in the early 1800’s a local man fell out with the Minister for failing to observe the sabbath. One Sunday while sailing past Shieldaig island, the local man gun set off the gun to annoy the Minister, unfortunately the gun misfired and blew off the  man’s arm – divine intervention or just something somebody had made up?

Looking back across Loch Shieldaig to Shieldaig with the Torridon hills of Beinn Alligin(l), Beinn Dearg(c) and Liathach(r)
Looking across Loch Torridon to the rocky peninsula between Lower Diabaig and Inveralligin Shuas
Looking down Loch Beag out towards The Minch at Ardheslaig
Walking through the village of Shieldaig on my return journey
The Carronade Gun at Shieldaig
The view down Loch Shieldaig and Loch Torridon towards Applecross from Shieldaig

I rejoined the main road and continued cycling. The late afternoon sunshine with the views across Upper Loch Torridon of Beinn Alligin and Liathach were outstanding. I arrived back at the campsite in Torridon village and decided to continue on up the road towards Inveralligin. I still had a few hours of daylight left and I decided to make best use of it. I continued along the road pushing my bike, the road climbed quite steeply and I soon arrived at the walkers car park near to Inveralligin. The car park is used by many as a base for  most ascents of the Munro Beinn Alligin. At this point I decided to head back to Torridon on my bike. It was already beginning to get dark.

On the road to Inveralligin looking back to Torridon with Beinn Damph in the distance

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24401

Distance today = 16 miles
Total distance = 4,435 mile

 

 

244. Hunstanton to Dersingham

Well this trip turned out to be a disaster in more ways than one! I had awoke about 04:00 and had planned to drive to Kings Lynn and catch the bus to Hunstanton and then walk back to Kings Lynn. Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling very well, my stomach felt upset and I was also feeling quite tired. I should have just gone back to bed there and then. Instead I drove on, knowing that I was not feeling 100%, hoping that I could just “walk it off”.

I caught the 07:23 bus to Hunstanton, which dropped me off at the bus station. At that time of a Sunday morning the town was almost deserted. I made by way down to the promenade and headed south, still not feeling that good. It was a very grey overcast morning, but with reasonable visibility and I could may out part of the shoreline down to the head of The Wash. I walked past the small town of Heacham and continued onto Shepherds Port. I passed a dead seal on the beach before Shepherds Port, but I did not investigate, as it had turned black afer being exposed to the sun.

The section south of Shepard’s Port I knew from previous reports was difficult. Previous walkers had faced confrontation from beach hut owners and some ‘officials[?]’. I had planned a route which I thought would be able to get me inland to bypass this area of no public access. I had read a sign back in Shepherds Port with  a map indicating public rights way in the immediate area. The map was probably the worst map I had ever seen, upside down and with a multi-coloured sections cross-hatched (God help you if you were colour-blind) denoting variety of restrictions. I did see a sign for Dersingham, which I was planning to head for. However, on getting the end of the first lagoon, signs disappeared and there appeared to be an additional lake not on my map. I headed for the sea bank, but was confronted with signs telling me that this was not a public Right of way. I spoke to a local who advised that getting to Decoy Wood (where I knew a public footpath was) would not be easy and would involve some trespassing. I pondered what to do, I could see a lagoon disappearing to the south with no visible means to cross over. It gradually dawned on me that I would have to get to the road that ran to Shepherds Port from A149. This new route would involve quite an additional mileage to my journey, plus I would need to walk along the A149. Most of the land around Shepherds Port is owned by the King Lynn Angling Association who look to be constructing more lakes for fishing close by.

I reached the A149 and donned my hi-vis vest. There was a reasonable verge to walk along, as the constant procession of cars in either direction passed me at break-neck speed. After an additional two hours I arrived at the point on the A149 where I would have emerged from, if my original route was available to me. I’d had enough of the A149 by this point and headed into Dersingham, passing the long closed Dersingham railway station. As I walked through the small housing estate; fatigue, not feeling so good and the effects of the large detour began to have their toll and  I doubted I would be able to complete the walk. I found a seat by a bus stop close to the co-op and decided to call it a day. Fortunately, there is a regular bus service, even on a sunday and I had only had a 10 minute wait until the next bus.

These things happen and although disappointed I live to fight another day!

The Green at Hunstanton
There’s certainly a message here!
Looking back to the North Cliff and the banded Red Chalk and Ferriby Chalk formations
Heading south along the sea wall at Hunstanton
Heading along the beach south of Heacham
New fishing lakes at Sheperds point

 

The old railways station at Dersingham

Distance today = 12 miles
Total distance = 4,419 mile

 

 

243. Sutton Bridge to Kings Lynn

I checked out the forecast and could  see that the East coast of England would be in for a couple of days of sunny dry weather, so I opted to do a day’s trip to Lincolnshire.

This section would see the back of Lincolnshire and entry into Norfolk. No problems with public transport were envisaged, so I drove to and parked in Kings Lynn. I used one of the council car parks at a charge of £2.70 for the day. I don’t mind paying for parking, as long as the charges are not excessive. I walked along the small quay in Kings Lynn which is a charming and very interesting small market town. I headed to the bus station and caught the #505 bus service to Sutton Bridge.

I got off the bus close to the swing bridge. The morning traffic had started to get busy, however, I immediately turned up a minor road and walked alongside The River Nene, the road was quiet with only the occasional vehicle. Todays walk would be mainly on Sea dykes and minor roads. I walked along what is known as the Peter Scott Way, a trail from Sutton Bridge around to the Ferry to King Lynn, although part of the walk was also known as The Nene Way. Sir Peter Scott had a strong connection with the area and bought the East Lynn lighthouse in 1933, which I soon passed. At the time The East and West lighthouses marked the entrance to the sea, however, subsequent reclamation from the sea has since pushed the sea wall much further out into The Wash.

It was a lovely morning with bright sunshine and a gentle breeze. The grass on top of the Sea Dyke was cropped very short, but heavy with dew. I passed a couple of dog walkers and later on some ‘twitchers’ with large lenses. I passed within  500m of the Inner Trial Bank and could still make out the Outer Trial Bank out to the west. The Norfolk Coast was becoming much clearer now and somewhere around this point I crossed over into Norfolk. The walk was very peaceful, with the occasional sound of a Curlew and the hum of tractors working the huge fields.

Cross Keys swing bridge across The Nene at Sutton Bridge
Walking north along The Nene
Three Barnacle Geese in the foreground and four Brent Geese in the background on the banks of The Nene
East Lynn lighthouse (Peter Scott lighthouse)
The Great Ouse entering The Wash

The path began to bear around to the south-east and a couple of wind turbines just north of Kings Lynn come into view. I was now walking along The River Great Ouse, one of England’s longest rivers with its source back in Northamptonshire. After passing a large sewage works, with some real ‘heavy’ odours I  joined a long straight Hawthorn edge that accompanied the path until I arrived at West Lynn, just across the river from Kings Lynn. The small port and quay of Kings Lynn, presented some of it most attractive features and buildings from the opposite side of the river. I carried on heading for one of two bridges that cross the Great Ouse about a half-mile from Kings Lynn. I was surprised to learn that Kings Lynn, prior to 1537 was known as Bishops Lynn.

After crossing the bridge over the Great Ouse I headed along a cycleway back into the town. An attractive feature of Kings Lynn is the absence of tall large buildings. The most notable building include the double-towered Kings Lynn Minster – St Margarets and the quirky Greyfriars Tower, a remnant from a Franciscan Friary with quite a large lean.

General cargo vessel “Ernst Hagedon”, built in 1989 flying the Antigua & Barbuda flag berthed at Kings Lynn dock
Looking across the Great Ouse to Kings Lynn
Crossing the Great Ouse upstream from Kings Lynn
The quay at Kings Lynn (taken earlier that morning)
The Custom House Kings Lynn (taken earlier that morning)

Distance today = 17 miles
Total distance = 4,407 miles

 

 

242. Strathcarron to Tornapress

Not  the most inspiring of walks with the weather was forecast to be overcast with heavy rain, coupled with doing some of the walk in the dark!

This was to be my last section in “filling the gap” caused by an injury six weeks before and   the shortest walk of my three-day trip. The problem really was the public transport situation. The earliest time for a bus to/from my end point was about 11:00, which meant I would not be walking until 11:30. Although I could have completed the walk in the hours of daylight available, I did not want to be kicking my heels for 5 or 6 hours while I waited for a bus. So this is what I did.

I had slept in the back of the car at a small pull-in on the Bealach na Ba mountain road the night before and set my alarm for 05:00. It was pitch black when I set off down the road to Tornapress. I had brought my bike up on this trip in the event of public transport not being available. I chained the bike to snow gates and drove into Lochcarron. I set off from Lochcarron down the quiet cul-de-sac road to Ardaneaskan a 06:00. I expected the road to be very quiet at that time of the morning. For the first couple of miles there was street lighting although no pavement. I would not have been happy about walking along the main road in the dark, but I felt ok about walking along this road.

I was wearing my hi vis vest and a strobing head torch. I also carried a hand torch, with bright LED lighting if any traffic approached. I met only 3 cars throughout the entire length of the road and two of them were where there was street lighting. The rain started after about a mile down the road and would continue off and on for the rest of the day. At Port na Fearna, the street lighting ceased and I was in the dark. It would be another hour and a half before any reasonable daylight was available. I turned my strobe light to the energy-saving red light and continued on in the dark. I have always liked walking in the dark, at least along pavements or roads.

I passed through the hamlet of North Strome, nearby to where the ferry used to go to Stromeferry across the loch. As I walked along the road through the Old Scots pine plantation near Leacanashiel, I was able to switch my torch off. The public road ended at Ardaneaskan, by which time the greyness of the morning was apparent.

Early hours of the morning on the Ardaneaskan road
Dawn at Leacanashiel looking across Loch Carron

I headed up an Estate track and dropped down to Loch Reraig. I was heading North East now and followed the Reraig Burn. I was looking for a footpath sign that branched off from the Estate track after 1 km. I got to a point where I knew I had missed the sign for the footpath. I retraced my steps and found the sign albeit surrounded by high dying bracken. The footpath climbed gently over open moorland and down into Loch Kishorn to the village of Achintraid. I was back on a metal road and continued through the hamlet of Ardarroch which soon joined the A896 Kishorn road. I plodded along the main road for a couple of miles until I came to my chained up bike at Tornapress. I was rather relieved that the bike was still there, having been on show since 5:30 that morning.

I began the 6 mile cycle ride back to Lochcarron and to my surprise I only had to get off and push three times. As I arrived back in Lochcarron the bus which I originally had planned to take was departing for Tornapress,  which made me feel pretty good. However, I still had the small section to walk from Strathcarron to Lochcarron, a few miles. This I did by cycling out and walking back…pushing my bike.

Not a great walk with few photo opportunities and poor light and heavy rain, but satisfying that I got the walk done in good time and had finally plugged a gap that had been bugging me.

At Ardaneaskan looking across to Plockton
Looking back to Loch Reraig
Hidden sign for Achintraid path (poor quality photo)
Heading over open moor to Achintraid
Looking down to Achintraid and Loch Kishorn
Approaching Tornapress

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24377

Distance today = 16 miles
Total distance = 4,390 miles

 

241. Strathcarron to Kyle of Lochalsh

This was going to be a tough day in more ways than one. Firstly, it was something like 22 miles to Kyle of Lochalsh and secondly, there was still construction work going on along the A890.

There have been issues with rock stability between Attadale and Ardnarff for many years, especially where the road and rail routes come together and are pinched between the loch shore and the steep mountainside. The underlying problem is the presence of the Strathcarron Fault and nearby Kishorn Thrust, forming components of the Moine Thrust. The latest attempt to stabilise the rock slope is currently being undertaken with the road closed overnight and for long periods during the day. The opening times for the road was based around the train timetable and subject to a convoy system. To make matters worse pedestrians were not allowed to walk through the works, instead being carried inside one of the convoy vehicles – this was not an option for me.

I considered a number of solutions to get past the works on foot and walking around the site was the only option. I found it was not possible to walk on the shore side, between the rail track and the loch, as  in many places there was a sheer drop from the track into the water. I decided that I  needed to climb high up above the works to a height of about 350m just after Attadale. This height was important because it was above the very steep slope, above the forestry which spans the steep slope and importantly above a number of very steep ravines which cut into the slope.

I drove to and parked next to the rail station at Strathcarron. It was still slightly dark when I set off down the A890. I was wearing my hi-vis vest and strobe light head torch. The road was open at 07:00 so I knew I would see some traffic long along it.

When I reached Attadale climbed a deer fence and set off up the hill. There was no path, but the terrain was not that bad, just steep. The steepness of the slope finally relented and the going became much easier. The 3 or 4 miles trek along the top was simply a case of keeping high on the undulating ridge, and maintaining a bearing between the hummocky knolls and boggy ground. Although I had extensive views over Loch Carron, I could not see down to the road works below me or even the forest. The route finding was quite simple as I navigated between a succession of small lochs. The key loch was Loch na Stroine, which I knew was close to  the end of the road works below.

Getting off the hill and back down to the main road was the biggest challenge. I knew that there were forest roads running parallel with the hillside, but no paths or firebreaks linking them to the higher ground. I aimed for an old forest track, that I knew would be overgrown, but have a small distance to bash through to get to. I descended down very steep ground and had a few goes at getting through the forest. I finally emerged at what looked like an old road, very overgrown. I was very pleased with my navigation as I knew that this road would lead to a much more open forest road, and it did.

Looking towards the hill I would climb to bypass the roadworks
Looking down at Attadale
Looking down Loch Carron
Heading down to the forest
Looking back at the overgrown forest track emerging onto a better track
On the A890 and looking back

I finally arrived back on the A890 some 4 hours after setting off from Strathcarron, but I still had a long way to go. I continued along a very quiet A890 to the panoramic viewpoint above Loch Carron. I chatted to a couple who were selling coffee and snacks in the lay-by there. The coffee was a real tonic and tasted really nice. They offered me a free cup of coffee after they heard what I was doing, I politely declined as I had to get a move on, I had a train to catch.

I set off down the A890 and soon turned off the main road through Achmore. For the next 4  miles I continued along a quiet lane with the dramatic cliffs of Creag an Duilisg rising high above me. As I approached Duncraig Castle I was able to follow a footpath down to the railway line and pass underneath it and continue along a lochside path all the way to the outskirts of Plockton. I did not have time to walk into Plockton itself and continued along the road heading towards Duirinish. Duirinish was a unique little hamlet, with a row of cottages either side of a burn that ran through the settlement. Sheep grazed on common grazing land in the middle of the hamlet.

Below the cliffs at Creag an Duilisg
Loch side path heading towards Plockton

I continued on to the nearby settlement of Drumbuie and then onto Erbusaig with the road getting wider and containing more traffic. By the time I reached Badicaul I could see the Skye Bridge, albeit from a different angle. I passed into Kyle of Lochalsh and immediately looked for somewhere to eat.  I did not fancy the cafe/bistro there so I popped into the Co-Op and bought some food. I had about 30 minutes before my train departed back up the line to Strathcarron. The rail journey was taken in the late afternoon light and I could still make out the landmarks I had previously walked along. It would be a superb journey to take the train all the way back to Inverness. As I passed by the road works on the train, my suspicions about being unable to pass between the railway and the shore were confirmed.

I would spend a third night in the car due to The Wee Campsite in Lochcarron being closed for the Winter.

The hamlet of Duirinish
At Badicaul looking towards the Skye Bridge
At Kyle of Lochalsh and the train back to Strathcarron

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24371

Distance today = 22 miles
Total distance = 4,374 miles