205. Morar to Inverie

I finally got two reasonable days in which I could continue my progress north up the West coast of Scotland. Mallaig marked the start of the more challenging part of my walk, with a series of lochs and high rough terrain taking you into remote parts with no B&B’s or buses. My destination would be Inverie on the Knoydart peninsular, which could be reached by ferry or the long walk-in. Although some “Coasters” opt for the ferry ride into Knoydart I had long since decided that I would walk in. In the past I had walked to the “fringes” of Knoydart in my Munro/Corbett Bagging days, but never all the way to Inverie. This meant I would have to back pack, carrying all that would be needed for an overnight stay. My plan was quite simple – Walk from Morar to Sourlies Bothy, cross the River Carnach, climb to the Mam Meadail, then down Glen Meadail to Inverie and a ferry back to Mallaig.

As I had already walked the 3 miles from Morar to Mallaig I parked in Mallaig and caught the 6:03 train to Morar. It was still dark when I got off the train and began the 3 mile walk to the end of the public road at Bracorina. I must confess I did not enjoy carrying the large rucksack with all that additional weight. I had used my large rucksack in the past and had never got on with it. I hoped to reach Sourlies bothy later that day and maybe sleep in the bothy. At this point I just did not know how far I would get or how I would feel. I soon reached the end of the public road and set off down a well made path along the north shore of Loch Morar. I passed the remains of the chapel at Inbhir Beag, once the main congregation place for people living around the loch. I pressed on in the early morning sunshine, passing by the ruins of the old settlement at Brinacory. It had turned out to be a glorious day with hardly a cloud in the sky and the snow-capped peaks reflected in a still Loch Morar.

I eventually reached  Swordland and its isolated holiday lets and shortly after South Tarbert Bay where there is a dramatic break in the high ground, enabling the portage of boats between Loch Morar and Loch Nevis through the narrow Glen Tarbet. I had considered following the southern shore of Loch Nevis, but from what I had read it sounded very rough going. I opted therefore to take the high route onto Sourlies. However, to do this required me to scale the steep-looking crags of Cnoc a’Bhac Fhalaicthe. I crossed over a fence stile and a short distance later a 8ft deer fence. It was very tough going and there were many moves up the steep rock which I could normally do,  however, the large pack  meant I was always top-heavy and really bulky. I was glad to top out and get a good view what was ahead of me. I did not bother using the map as the clear weather meant route finding was not a problem. My next destination was Sgurr Mor at 612m, although it was a case of picking the best route through the numerous bogs and knolls. The view from Sgurr Mor was excellent with Eigg, Rum and Skye all on show as well as the rough ground all the way back to Morar. I could also look ahead to Sgurr nan Ciche as well Beinn Bhuidhe across Loch Nevis.

Early morning at Bracorina looking east up Loch Morar
On the path on the north shore of Loch Morar
Approaching Glen Tarbet with the crags of Cnoc a’Bhac Fhalaicthe on the right
Looking down Loch Nevis to Skye
Looking towards Sgurr Mor with Sgurr na Ciche left
Looking back over North Morar with Eigg, Rum and Skye in the far distance
Looking east towards Sgurr Breac with from left Ben Aden, Sgurr na Ciche and Garbh Chioch Mhor
Looking down to the head of Loch Morar
Descending off Sgurr Mor
Looking down to the head of Loch Nevis, River Carnach and houses at Camusrory

I had planned to stay high until Sgurr Breac, but decided to gradually lose height on its northern corrie. There were still large patches of snow which provided easy walking on the less steep bits. I walked around the rim of Coire na Murrach and across Coire na Caithris. I was able to see the houses at Camusrory in the distance and knew that I was close to the head of Loch Nevis. After spotting a ruin on the map below me I descended down steep slopes to the lochside. There was little or no path and the going was tough. Although the tide was out, walking along the shoreline was difficult because of the amount of kelp masking the rocks underneath. I rounded a headland and spotted Sourlies bothy. With the tide out I was able to almost take a direct line across the bay towards the bothy. The Finiskaig River at this point had diverted into multiple streams which made the crossing very easy. It was 14:30 when I arrived at Sourlies Bothy. The bothy was empty and I could see that a number of previous entrants were a group of Germans on an adventure holiday. I parked a chair outside and made myself a brew. I spent the next hour resting, taking in the views and …….thinking.

Heading across the River Finiskaig to Sourlies Bothy
Sourlies Bothy

The crossing of the River Carnach was at the back of my mind. I knew that the bridge had been dismantled because of safety concerns and that I would have to cross the river somehow. I could have stayed in the bothy overnight or I could tackle crossing the river now. I felt good, my legs were good, the tide was out. I decided to cross the river, climb to the Mam Meadail and maybe camp further down in the Glen. I set off.

With the tide on the turn I just about squeezed the small headland at Strone Sourlies and made a b-line towards the ruins at Carnoch. I walked along the banks of the River Carnach and passed at least two easy crossing places which were quite shallow and an easy paddle. I arrived at the bridge and found the remnants strewn on the bank. I decided to cross the river about 50 metres upstream, but first I needed to change into my plastic “crocs” which I had brought with me. The walk across took 20 seconds, the water was freezing cold but below my knees. I was aware that people had lost their lives in this river while attempting to cross in far less favourable conditions.

I got changed and set off past the ruins to begin the slow slog up the Mam Meadail. It took over 1.5 hours to finally reach the bealach and I was quite exhausted when I reached the top. I was back at the snow-line and a brief hail shower appeared before the sun came out again. I could see the excellent path gently dropping down Glen Meadail towards Inverie. At this point it dawned on me that I could now make it all the way to Inverie! The prospect of a bed in the Foundation Bunkhouse at Inverie, not having to put my tent up, an early ferry the following day, maybe even a pint in The Old Forge? Spurred me on. I did not know if there were rules out about checking into the bunk house so I set off down Glen Meadail at a fair pace.

Squeezing around Strone Sourlies
The magnificent Ben Aden
Where the bridge once stood
Remants of the Bridge
Change of footwear for the crossing
The ruins at Carnoch overlooked by Sgurr na Ciche
Looking down towards the River Carnach from the Mam Meadail

The early evening sun was falling on the snow and ice of Meall Bhasiter which made for a beautiful sight. By the time I reached the bridge across the River Meadail, the exertions of the day were starting to catch up with me. Although I had walked over this tracks 15 and 6 years ago, the final couple of miles into Inverie were exhausting. I arrived at the bunk house after 12.5 hours of continuous walking and I was really relieved to have a bed for the night. I could not make the half mile to the Old Forge, but I managed to “cadge” a tin of McEwans from Becky, one of the visiting students. I also managed to book myself onto the first boat the following morning.

A terrific and challenging days walk amid some of the best scenery in the UK. The next couple of sections northwards will also be difficult and I doubt I will carry a large pack again. I can just move much quicker and longer with the lighter pack.

Looking west towards Inverie down Gleann Meadail
Early evening sun on Meall Bhasiter

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=24046

Distance today = 26 miles
Total distance = 3,675 miles

 

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204. Flamborough to Hornsea

I was checking my walking stats for the first 3 months of 2017 with 2018. In 2017 I did 5 walking days compared to 10 in 2018 (and still with a week to go till month end). This is not bad given the appalling weather we have had this Winter. Certainly, having the option of walking down the East coast has meant my overall progress around the coast has not stalled.

My present position on the east coast has now brought me into range for a single day’s walking (albeit a long day). I therefore took the opportunity of a fine forecast for the East Riding of Yorkshire. However, the travel logistics of getting from Hornsea (where I had parked for free) to Flamborough North Landing meant a number of bus and train journeys. I could have got a direct bus to Bridlington, but this meant starting the walk at 11:18, some 2 hours later than catching the bus to Beverley, then train to Bridlington then bus to North Landing. At a whopping £16.10 it was not a cheap option or even a speedy one with travel time + waiting time almost 3 hours!

I get off the bus near North Landing and make my way back onto the Headland Way. It was quite muddy close to the car park, but as I moved further away the going got dryer and far less muddy. It was a lovely spring like morning with the sun out and stiff breeze making sure I don’t get too warm. I headed out towards Flamborough Head, with its famous lighthouses. The old lighthouse was completed in 1674 and is one of the oldest surviving complete lighthouse in England. Built from chalk, it was never lit. I passed the souvenir shops at Flamborough Head and there were a few people out enjoying the morning sun. As I rounded the Head,  Bridlington came into view  and the flat coastline beyond which runs south well into the distance. A footpath runs along the Chalk cliff top which gently dips down to the west such that by Bridlington it is no more.

Flamborough North Landing
Selwick Cove, the sea stack has a tyre placed on its top with a bird nesting in it!!
The Old Lighthouse Flamborough Head
Flamborough Head, can you spot a pair of bird watchers?

By the time I reached Danes Dyke I decided to continue along the beach, walking along the Chalk bedrock. I made good progress along the beach and by the time I reached the outskirts of Bridlington I could see the sea front was quite busy. I passed by a number of the familiar seaside businesses and popped into a nearby Greggs for  a coffee and a sandwich.

I continued along the promenade above South Beach. The next 12 -14 miles was spent on the beach, probably the longest section of beach walking I had done to date. The tide was quite a fair bit out, but I could sense that it was beginning to flow. The underfoot walking conditions was quite good, but I had to seek the firm damp sand every so often. The downside of walking along the beach, is the lack of things to see; you are just basically walking in a very straight line. The upside is given the right underfoot conditions you can make good progress. By the time I was approaching Hornsea, the tide was definitely coming in, but this was not an issue and there were many places to scramble up the slumped cliffs if I needed to. I looked back at my route and could just about make out Bridlington and the chalk cliffs in the sunny afternoon haze.

Flamborough South Landing
Heading towards Bridlington along the beach
Chalk cliffs gently dipping to the west
Bridlington Harbour
There was an awful lot of this type of walking
Entering the sedate resort of Hornsea

Distance today = 23 miles
Total distance = 3,649 miles

 

203. Scarborough to Flamborough

I was a bit sore after yesterdays exertions, but my knees and legs felt good. I knew that todays distance may or may not be achievable, as it was quite a distance to get back to Bridlington station where I had parked my car rom Scarborough.

I caught the 7:41 train to Scarborough which  was a delight in the early morning spring sunshine. First port of call in Scarborough was a coffee and bacon butty from Greggs. I strolled out from Scarborough along the promenade, munching my butty and enjoying my coffee. It was indeed a beautiful sunny morning with blue skies and not a breath of wind. As I approached Wheatcroft Cliffs the path left the promenade, it was time to scale the steep rise to the top of the cliffs. I was afforded a brilliant view looking back at Scarborough and  was hoping that today would be better underfoot. In fact it was not much better, but I did not mind so much because in 7 more miles the Cleveland Way will have ended. At Cayton Bay, the trail was signposted for a very steep and slippy descent down Tenants Cliff and an equally boggy and slippy meander through some woods, then a steep and slippy climb back up the slope to rejoin a public footpath that I had only just left. The route planning of some of the people who plan these trails defy logic.

Looking towards Scarborough Castle
Looking back at Scarborough from Wheatcroft Cliffs
Approaching Filey Brigg

I saw that the route ahead looked very grassy and even, which was a relief. The final two miles along the cliff top to Filey Brigg was enjoyable and relatively dry. The town of Filey cames into view, as I finally reached the end of the Cleveland Way and Wolds Way. I headed the short distance into Filey itself. As I passed the RNLI station I enquired about the tides. I told one of the crew that I wanted to get all the way along the beach to Speeton Cliffs and asked about access off the beach there. The crew member advised that I could not get off the beach there as the tide did not go out far enough. I checked my map for the various options and it seemed that the best route was an inland detour. I should have checked beforehand, because when I did arrive at Speeton Cliffs, the tide was well out and I could have scrambled up a path from the beach.

The detour inland involved a number of additional extra miles and initially following a muddy track, where I finally slipped over on a steep bank. I arrived at a main road, with a footpath alongside  and continued walking south. I soon left the main road and continued on minor roads through the villages of Reighton and Speeton.  As I passed by the small church of Speeton, I joined what was called The Headland Way. Immediately,  I saw an improvement in the underfoot conditions and  I knew the geology had  changed. A quick glance at the cliff faces confirmed this as I could see I was walking on Chalk now. These cliffs were quite marvelous and would be with me all the way to Flamborough Head. The footpath gently dropped and fell and I could see a considerable distance ahead. Speeton Cliffs passed into Bempton Cliffs, at 400ft they are some of the highest sea cliffs in England. I left North Yorkshire behind me and passed into the East Riding of Yorkshire. I also passed onto the RSPB site at Bempton. It had many visitors today and some were making use of the wooden viewing platforms that overhung the cliff face to give excellent views of the birds (particularly Gannets) and the cliff face itself. The whole reserve stretched for something like 6 miles and it was certainly an impressive sight.  I pass a couple of bird watchers near Dane’s Dyke, they are seeking a small flock of Lapland Buntings who have been spotted close-by.

Start / End of Cleveland & Wolds Way at Filey Brigg

It began to dawn on me that I probably would not make Bridlington today on foot; so I remembered checking that there was a bus service that ran to Flamborough North Landing. I did not have bus timetables, so I did not know how long I would have to wait. I found a bus stop close to North Landing with a bench, but no timetable. I sat down and waited. After 20 minutes a bus came into view. The bus whisked me back into nearby Bridlington. It had been a much better day weather wise, although with the slip I was even more muddier than yesterday.

Looking towards Filey from Filey Brigg
Filey Brigg
Looking back towards Filey from Speeton Cliffs
Easy walking along the top of Speeton Cliffs
Bempton Cliffs
RSPB Bempton Cliffs
Heading towards Flamborough North Landing

Distance today = 23 miles
Total distance = 3,626 miles

 

202. Whitby to Scarborough

This year the weather has played an enormous part in influencing where and when I can continue my walk around the coast of Great Britain. Until last week I had firm plans to begin my walk into Knoydart from Mallaig. There had been little rain and the BBC forecast looked good. However, I also had to check out the Scottish Mountain weather forecast, because I had to climb over 300m, 500m and 700m peaks and the forecast of heavy snow with possible whiteout conditions on the high summits made me think again.

Yet again I had to turn my attention to the North East of England. The forecast for two reasonable days looked promising, however, the day before I travelled a weather warning was issued for North Yorkshire, which warned of snow showers and possible travel disruptions. Too late to change my plans, so I decided to go anyway.

I left Shropshire early to drive to and park at the Scarborough Park & Ride, located a few miles to the south of the town. A week before I would have been able to park for free in some of the car parks in the town. Now it would have cost me £7 to park for the day! I therefore opted for the P&R, at £1.20 it was great value for money as well as being close to the Cleveland Way.

I caught the first bus of the day at 7:05 into the town centre and made my way to the railways station where I would catch the X93 bus to Whitby. At £6.10, the bus is not cheap, but the Middlesbrough bound bus does offer a regular service. As we drove over the North York Moors the snow began falling heavily. It was still snowing and sleeting as I arrived in Whitby. The sleet and rain would be with me for virtually the rest of the day, ensuring I got quite a soaking and affecting the quality of some of my photographs, with misting on the lens.

I set off through the wet streets of Whitby and made my way up the 199 steps to the ruined Abbey. As I left Whitby behind, I could see that progress along the Cleveland Way was going to be tough with the amount of mud that was underfoot. I had walked other National Trails in mid-Winter and had expected there to be some difficult walking. However, this section of  Cleveland way was particularly bad, my progress was very slow and I dropped down to just over 2 mph by the time I reached Robin Hood’s Bay. The terrain was not making it easy with numerous steep descents and ascents across various water courses. After leaving the charming village of Robin Hood’s Bay the path became even more boggy and I read a number of signs advising of the state of the path and an intention to do something about it. After climbing out of another steep valley, The Boggle Hole (great name and site of a YHA), I realised that I would struggle to make Scarborough before nightfall. Even worse, I may not be able to get back to the P&R and my car would be locked-in for the night! I had to re-evaluate my route. After reaching a small section of tarmac road I noticed on my map a potential alternative route. This looked like an old railway course and seemed to be National Cycle route #1.  I followed the road for about half a mile, climbing steeply up the hillside until I came to the disused rail track. This was The Cinder Track a 21 mile walking /cycling route between Whitby and Scarborough, formerly a rail route, the last rail service ran in 1965. The Cinder Track broadly followed the direction of the Cleveland Way but along much higher ground, thus avoiding the water course descents. This indeed was a godsend and I began to make swift progress.

A wet and dank Whitby ahead
Looking across the harbour to the ruins of Whitby Abbey
South Whitby lighthouse
One of the drier bits of the Cleveland Way!
The tight streets of Robin Hood’s Bay
Boggle Hole YHA
As if you did’nt notice!
The Cinder Track
Looking down on the Cleveland way from the Cinder Track

As I entered the small hamlet of Ravenscar I could look down on the Cleveland Way and see other walkers struggling through the mud. The views from the Track were quite extensive and the Cleveland Way briefly joined up with the Cinder Track before descending back down to the cliff-tops. I passed through a number of overgrown platforms and station houses, now converted in private dwellings.

By late afternoon I could finally pick out the ruins of Scarborough Castle six miles away. I passed close-by the small villages of Cloughton, Burniston and Scalby before  entering the suburbs of Scarborough. I left the Cinder Track and dropped down towards the shore at North Bay. I continued into the town centre by first walking along Marine Drive which encircled the rocky promontory of the castle. I emerged by the harbour and walked along the promenade with its usual collection of seaside attractions. I knew I could not make it back the 3 miles to the P&R before it shut, so I needed to catch a bus, fortunately this Service runs every 15 minutes.

The platform and station house at Cloughton
A Fairy House tree with it’s own postbox at Cloughton!
Two Scottish Deerhounds I befriended near Burniston
On Marine Drive in Scarborough
Seafront scene near Scarborough Harbour

I had been walking for over 8 hours and without the Cinder Track I would not have been able to complete my walk, which would have been annoying. I set off from the P&R for the short drive to Bridlington where my B&B was for the night.

The Cleveland Way is a superb walking long distance footpath, however its popularity has caused serious underfoot problems during the winter season. Poor drainage, particularly near water crossing points and the absence of simple channel cutting means that path deterioration will continue unless some measures are taken.

Distance today = 26 miles
Total distance = 3,603 miles