217. Skye: Armadale to Skye: Drumfearn via Point of Sleat

I would be covering a fair distance  for this days walk, which would involve some track, road and off-road walking, plus some duplication and an out and back.

I set off from Armadale pushing my bike down the minor road through the small village of Ardvasar, which is very close to Armadale. The minor road had many ups and downs, as it wound its way  for 3.5 miles down to the dispersed settlement of Aird.  The road remained quite high on the coastline which gave good views down the Sound of Sleat towards Ardnamurchan. At the end of the public road I went through a farm gate and onto a very rough track which continued for a further 2.5 miles down to the Point of Sleat. The track also had a number of steep up and downs. I was passed by a couple of land rovers, probably from the 4 or 5 houses that are located at the end of the track. To get to the Point I had to dump the bike and proceed along a rocky footpath, which then split off from a path to Camas Daraich and proceeded to the Point. I looked down onto the Point of Sleat but did not continue onto the small lighthouse as I was conscious I had to retrace my steps, with the aid of the bike back to Armadale and then continue with the walk proper.

On the track to Point of Sleat with Eigg in the background
The beach at Camas Daraich
The Point of Sleat

I cycled back, where I could, to Armadale and secured the bike to a post. I then proceeded on foot back up the A851 as far as the minor road to Achnacloich. I followed the road which rose steeply to about 190m, which afforded a brilliant views towards the Cuillin range. Shortly after the bealach the road began to descend past the lovely Loch Dhughaill down to the small settlement at Achnacloich. There is a nice  small beach here and I could see a number of sea kayakers on the water. Half a mile up the road I passed through the much larger village of Tarskavaig and continued on past Loch Ghabhsgabhaig down to the beach at Torkavaig. The beach here was much larger with , what appeared to be dwarf Silver Birch trees facing onto the beach. A nice touch was  a gazebo with food and drink set out  with  a honesty box. The road rose again quite steeply before descending steeply into another small settlement called Ord. Here the road headed inland back towards the A851, however, I headed off north towards a small hill called Sgiath-bheinn an Uird.

Looking back towards the Sound of Sleat from the minor road to Achnacloich
Looking towards the Cuillins at Achnacloich
Looking towards The Cuillins from Tarskavaig
Looking towards the Cuillins from the beach at Ord

At 294m, Sgiath-bheinn an Uird is not a very high hill, but what makes it unique is that it entirely composed of a pure white Quartzite. I don’t think I have ever walked on such a ‘Whiter’ hill, even chalk. In fact the blazing sun made the colour even stronger. NB: On my photos the rock only appears as a dirty grey, but it was white! The area is quite complicated geologically, especially as it sits very close to the Southern part of the Moine Thrust and within a geologic inlier. The brilliant white rocks that make up Sgiath-bheinn an Uird are the basal quartzites from the Lower Cambrian. The walking on the hill is very good with a lot of rock outcrops making for very easy walking. Just a few kilometres to the east is the slightly higher Marilyn of Sgorach Breac, a much older  hill composed of reddish pink sandstone from the Torridonian Applecross formation. From the summit I could see my next target, the small settlement of Drumfearna. I set off keeping to the higher ground and avoiding any bracken. In Drumfearna I joined a public road and continued along it until I was back on the A851.  Almost  certainly the highlight of this walk was the small but distinctive hill of Sgiath-bheinn an Uird

On Sgiath-bheinn an Uird looking south to Rum
Looking east towards the Marilyn of Sgorach Breac from Sgiath-bheinn an Uird
Looking towards Drumfearn from Sgiath-bheinn an Uird with Ben Aslak 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=24166

Distance today = 20 miles
Total distance = 3,867 miles

 

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216. Skye: Leitir Fura to Skye: Kyleakin

In the morning I had to get dressed and fully prepared for the off inside of my small one-man tent. I knew heating any water for an early brew would be impossible, unless I wanted a fine concoction of Midge Soup for breakfast. As soon as I left the tent they descended. I was prepared though, with my midge net hat and hands covered in repellent cream ( I’m unsure if it repels them or they just ‘drown’ on the skin surface’! Within 10 minutes I had packed the tent away and I was moving. It was 05:00 and not a breath of wind.

I climbed up to the old drover’s “road” and continued  along it. Within 30 metres I had lost the track through overgrown bracken. I lost and found the path another 5 times before I realised the 5 miles to Kylerhea was going to take a very long time!To make matters worse the sun was now up and it was already becoming unbearably hot.

I knew I had to get onto much higher ground, to break free of the bracken. I headed up through the steep de-afforested hillside, crossing through bracken, heather, fallen trees and bog. My progress was painfully slow and with the sun burning down it was tough going. Eventually I reached the higher ground of the Marilyn – Beinn na Seamraig (561m).  I had no intention of making a tiny detour to claim the summit top, but chose to stay on its northern slopes, in the shade. The ground had become easier now, with rock and short grass making the early morning struggle a thing of the past. I emerged onto the summit area and continued to the top of Beinn Dubh a’ Bhealaich (546m).

Heading towards the higher ground of Beinn na Seamraig
Looking across to Loch Hourn with Beinn Sgritheall (left) and Knoydart(right)
Looking down to Drumfearna and Loch Eishort – tomorrows walk
Much better going on Beinn Dubh a’ Bhealaich
Looking across the bealach to Ben Aslak – Sgurr na Coinnich can be seen in the distance

I decided that I would ditch the idea of getting to Kylerhea and continue onto Ben Aslak (610m). But first I had to lose some height by dropping down to the bealach and cross a boggy area. On the summit of Ben Aslak I had wonderful views towards the Cuillins and Broadford, west to Loch Hourn, south to the Sound of Sleat. There was a gentle breeze blowing on the summit and I decided to make a brew and get some porridge going. I considered what to do next. I had read about and also had a good look at  the western end of the Sleat peninsular and decided that the pathless and deafforested 4 mile section back to Kyleakin would be too much in this heat and with a full pack. I opted to drop down to the Bealach Udal and continue back down Glen Arroch along the road to the main A87 some 7 miles away.

The minor road down to the A87 was all downhill and very quiet, apart from the odd car coming and going to the Glenelg Ferry. Unfortunately a few miles down the road I came across a young Adder that appeared to have been run over by a car.

The less said the better, about the 4 miles along the very busy A87 back to Kyleakin. On arriving back at the car I vowed, not for the first time,  never to use that heavy pack again!!

Looking back towards Beinn Dubh a’ Bhealaich
Looking towards Broadford and The Red Cuillin
The summit of Ben Aslak looking towards Sgurr na Coinnich
Looking down Glen Kylerhea to Kylerhea
Looking back at Ben Aslak from the Bealach Udal
Heading down Glen Arroch
A young Adder – an unfortunate road-kill victim
Looking towards Broadford and The Red Cuillin
The Skye Bridge at Kyleakin

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=24159

Distance today = 15 miles
Total distance = 3,847 miles

 

 

 

215. Skye: Armadale to Skye: Leitir Fura

I’d finally reached  Skye and begun my clockwise direction around the Island’s coastline. I estimated it will take me about 15 to 20 days (that’s about 4 to 6 trips) before I am back at Kyle of Lochalsh. Skye is composed of a number of radiating peninsular’s, which will hopefully make progress easier. My first goal was to complete the Sleat Peninsular. There are a number of bus services around the Island, centred on Portree and Broadford, which I would be making use of, plus I would be taking my bicycle along.

I set off from Shropshire in the early hours to begin the long drive north. I had planned  to catch the 11:50 #51 from Kyleakin to Armadale and then walk back along the road as far as Kinloch and then go off-road. I knew I could not do this in a single day, so I packed my tent etc.. Preparing for a wild camp somewhere mid-way.

because of bus times I had decided to start my walk at Armadale. It was a scorching hot day and I began to have serious reservations about whether I could manage carrying my pack the distance, especially in that heat. At Armadale Pier I stocked up on more water, adding to the weight of the pack.

I set off back up the A851, which would be the majority of the days walk. The road was quiet, punctuated only by a sudden rush of traffic from the Mallaig ferry discharging its vehicles. After only a mile my pack was digging into my shoulders, even though I had additional padded shoulder straps. I rested awhile and sought some shade at the entrance to the Sabhal Mor Ostaig (Great Barn of Ostaig)  higher education college. The college delivers all its education programmes in the Gaelic tongue. I am rewarded with beautiful views across the Sound of Sleat to Knoydart and its west coast. I passed the small hamlets of Kilbeg, Kilmore, Ferindonald, Sassaig, Teangue and Isleornsay. I  made frequent stops to re-adjust my pack and straps to get the balance right and stop the digging in. The main road passed above the ruins of Knock Castle (Caisteal Chamuis), the stronghold of the Clans Macleod/ Macdonald – but abandoned for centuries now.

Armadale Pier
Looking back at Armadale
Taking a rest at Sabhal Mor Ostaig
Looking across to Loch Hourn and the twin peaks of Beinn Sgritheall
Knock Castle with Beinn na Caillich on Knoydart in the distance
Skye’s second distillery – Torabhaig opened in 2017. The small pond on the left is the Cooling Pond for the condensers
Beinn Sgritheall with The Isle of Ornsay in the middle distance

At Loch na Dal the road began to move inland towards Broadford. I took a small private road towards Kinloch Lodge Hotel, but turned off on a forest track before I reached the hotel. I began looking for a suitable spot to pitch my tent. A small car park already had camper vans in so I continued on along a forest track. I got as far as the ancient and historic ruined township of Leitir Fura ( pronounced Lee-cheer  foo-ra). The forest had been cleared from around the township and short grass allowed to grow. The last occupants of the village was back in the early 19th century and surprisingly it was not the Clearances that led to its demise, but the hard toil and struggle to survive on a rocky remote hillside. I pitched my tent alongside a ruined house and admired the breathtaking view across the Sound of Sleat to Beinn Sgritheall and Loch Hourn.

The sun was still high in the sky and it remained very hot, although a slight breeze made it comfortable. I cooked some food and had just finished eating it when the wind dropped. Almost immediately the midge rose and descended on me! I threw myself and all my stuff into the tent and spent the next hour busily killing all those that came in with me! Unfortunately I had only erected the tent once in my back garden and subsequently made a cock-up with two of the small upright poles. I scrambled outside and fixed the problem, before climbing back in and spending another hour killing more of the horde that came back in with me. It became very still and quiet outside, with the swarm of the midge on the outside tent canvas imitating the sound of gentle rain falling on the tent. I slept fitfully.

Looking back down the Sound of Sleat
Looking across to Loch Hourn with Beinn Sgritheall left from Leitir Furar
The ruins of Leitir Fura
Room with a view

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=24157

Distance today = 14 miles
Total distance = 3,832 miles

 

 

214. Welwick Salt Marsh to Thorngumbald

I had become very complacent with all the fine weather we had been having recently, so much so, that I had decided to make an opportune one day visit to the East Riding of Yorkshire without checking the weather.  I left Shropshire at 04:00 and it was raining. As I set off the forecast was not good – heavy rain for most of the day. I was sorely tempted to turn around and go back to bed. However, I do not mind getting wet, especially if I am only doing a day’s walk and can return to the car, where a change of clothes would wait. What I didn’t consider was the days walk would be predominantly on the grassy sea wall and this was a Friday with all of the traffic problems that an impending Bank Holiday brings.

I needed to bridge a small gap in the local public transport so I took my bike along. I drove to and parked in the small village of Patrington, from there I got booted up and cycled the small distance to the neighbouring village of Welwick and then down a cul-de-sac lane towards the Humber. On the cycle down I passed a sculpture of a group of metal figures depicting the 4 main conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot. Two of the plotters were John and Christopher Wright who hailed from nearby Plowlands Farm.

Sculpture of Gunpowder Plotters alongside the B1445

I chained up my bike to a post on Welwick Salt Marsh and set off down the sea wall. Within 10 minutes my boots and trousers were soaking wet. The lush grass on the sea wall was above my knees and in places up to my waist! It was also soaking wet. The rain had not abated and would be with me for the rest of the day. One of my first obstacles was to get over the Patrington Channel, one of the many drainage channels in this flat-lying, rich agricultural land. I had seen a short-cut on the map in the form of a building with a sluice gate spanning the channel. Normally these bridges/buildings do not allow people to cross and have measures to block any climbing around the barriers. Stupidly I decided to take a look which involved almost a mile of extra walking, which revealed as I expected, no way across at that point. I continued along the side of fields and emerged at a track which spanned the Channel and continued past Outstay Farm. I regained the grassy sea wall and continued west. I passed a marker indicating I was on the Greenwich Meridian, I continued along the sea bank into the Western Hemisphere.

I had little in the way of views, as the clag was down and I could not even see across the Humber to Lincolnshire. I could hear the dull thud of ships engines out in the estuary. One ship came into view, it was the Yasmine a roll-on/roll-off cargo ship arriving from Rotterdam. I was well and truly soaked to the skin on my lower half as I rounded Hawkins Point. My spirits were up though and I was keen to keep my phone, wallet and car keys dry – as I had stupidly left my rucksack dry sack at home! Doh! As I approached  Stone Creek I was surrounded by a magnificent display of Hawthorn blossom. I crossed over the Ottringham Drain and intended to continue along the grassy sea wall with a  public path towards the village of Paull. Unfortunately there was a footpath closure notice  pinned to the gate for a large section further up the path. There were no alternate  diversions and the notice advised using local roads.

I planned a route that would take me inland towards the village of Thorngumbald. I set off down the depressingly long straight roads in the pouring rain. I decided after about two miles to end my walk at Thorngumbald. The rain and my squelching boots did not help and I was getting to feel a bit pee’d off with my situation. I knew Thorngumbald sat on the A1033 and had regular buses between Hull and Withernsea, I did not have to wait long and caught the#77 bus service back to Patrington and my car. I felt sorry for the next person who sat on my vacated bus seat, as I left a large pool of rainwater on my seat.

Building across the Patrington Channel
Crossing the Greenwich Meridian
The grassy Sea Wall
The RO/RO cargo ship Yasmine arriving from Rotterdam
Crossing The Spragger – a drainage channel
Crossing the Ottringham Channel at Stone Creek
My route along the sea wall blocked
The long and unwinding road!

Distance today = 16 miles
Total distance = 3,818 miles

 

213. Withernsea to Welwick Salt Marsh

I thought I would make good use of the fine weather to get a single days walk in on the east coast. Not being an ardent fan of Royal Weddings and again not receiving an invite, I left the happy couple to it!

I set off at 05:00 to drive to the East Riding of Yorkshire. I had two chores to do before I started walking, the first was to drop my bicycle off at Kilnsea and the second was to visit my auntie and uncle who live in a small village close to Withernsea.

It was a gloriously hot day when I arrived in Withernsea, I parked in the free car park close to Aldi and then set off down the promenade. High tide had occurred two hours before so I was soon able to get down on the beach and continue walking south. Again not much in the way of things to see when walking along the beach. I kept an eye out for the natural gas terminal at Easington, which is the processing point for the gas shipped from the Easington gas field some 47 miles offshore. I soon arrived at Kilnsea and bought an ice cream at a cafe. I transferred  back onto the road and picked up the bicycle I had left some hours before. My intention was to walk to the end of Spurn Head and then ride the bicycle back to Kilnsea.

Vintage photographs of yesteryear adorn boardings in Withernsea
The route ahead
Large net bags of shells acting as groynes
Arriving at Kilnsea, with WW2 ruins strewn across the beach

I set off down Spurn Head which was very busy. I passed over the “wash over” section which makes the lower section into a Tidal Island. The land  was quite narrow and you could see large areas, particularly at the southern tip, given over to military installations largely overgrown, some from the First World War. I walked to the tip of Spurn Head and joined a small group of people who had gathered there to gaze across the Humber estuary to Lincolnshire on the far side. For those that did not fancy the long walk there was a lorry people carrier that ferried people down the Spurn, at a price. I cycled back to Kilnsea, but there were a number of sections where the road had washed away and I was forced to push the bike again through the soft sand.

I arrived back in  Kilnsea and continued on foot pushing the bike. In retrospect I should have just left my bike there and caught a bus back to Withernsea and returned to pick the bike up. However, I continued along the grassy sea wall, pushing my bike. The grass was fairly long in places, which impeded progress to a small degree. I was aiming for Welwick Salt Marsh, where an access road from the village comes down to the estuary. I was certainly glad to see the Salt Marsh end point as I had underestimated the time taken and I still had the cycle ride back to the car at Withernsea. Still, walking down the length of The Spurn was the highlight of the days walk.

The “Wash Over” section on The Spurn
Remnants of the old military railway
A bulk carrier vessel passes Spurn Point
Looking across the Humber towards Lincolnshire at Spurn Point
Improvised people wagon operated by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
Heading up the Humber Estuary along the grassy sea wall

Distance today = 21 miles
Total distance = 3,802 miles

 

Progress to Date

I thought it would be a good idea to have a visual representation of my progress to date in walking the coast of Great Britain. This is basically just a Google map of Great Britain with a red line indicating my progress, its rather crude, but does the job.

Just a few pieces of information:-

  1. Besides my main line of progress, which is currently in Ardnumurchan on the West coast of Scotland, there are two outliers,the first is my “second front” on the east coast and second, the Norfolk Coastal Path which I walked some years ago.
  2. For scaling reasons I cannot show the “Use of Ferries” sections in Devon/Cornwall/Dorset which I am currently walking when weather further north is not so good.
  3. I’ll up date the map every once in a while

 

212. Shiel Bridge to Skye: Kyleakin

Today I would reach Skye, which would be another milestone for me.  I drove to Kyleakin on Skye, which was the old ferry crossing point before the Skye Bridge was built. I then caught the #917 Inter-city bus service back down the road to Shiel Bridge. I had not pre-booked a seat on the bus, as is normally advised, because of the short journey. I originally intended to cycle back down the road, but because the road was so busy I decided against it.

I would be walking on  road all day along the very busy A87, with a multitude of cars, lorries and motorbikes coming and going in both directions. I got off the bus at Shiel Bridge and set off down the A87 walking on a footpath that ran alongside the road for much of the way. There were some sections where I had to verge-hop, but generally it was ok. As I passed the Kintail Lodge Hotel, I walked through a small herd of feral goats. There were warning signs to motorists and this apparently  has become a local hazard, I counted about 20 of them. I crossed over the River Croe and passed through Inverinate, shortly afterwards the footpath stopped. Fortunately, the verges were reasonably wide. Often when I have drive down this road alongside Loch Duich I have been slightly confused which direction Skye is, however, since identifying the hill Beinn na Caillich on Skye, this has ceased to be a problem.

I noticed on the map a minor road which ran parallel parallel with the A87,  however, the road  climbed quite high with twists and turns, so I stayed on the main road, traffic and all! Just before the small village of Dornie I passed the restored and iconic castle of Eilean Donan, the car park was packed. I wondered if this castle was the most photographed in Scotland?  I decided that this honour probably went to Edinburgh Castle. I crossed the bridge over Loch Long and turned left down a minor road through the hamlet of Ardelve, that gave some respite from the almost incessant traffic of the main road. Unfortunately it did not last too long and I was soon back on the A87. At Balmacara I popped into the Spar shop to get myself a coffee and some cool drinks. As I sat drinking my coffee on the lochside I could look down Loch Alsh to the Skye Bridge. I could also see where the Sound of Sleat (actually Kyle Rhea) emerged into Loch Alsh.

Shiel Bridge with the #917 bus heading for Inverness
Feral goats alongside the A87
Eilean Donan Castle
The village of Dornie
A small group of Garrons
You don’t often see pigs in the Highlands, this British Saddleback looked right at home!
Looking down Loch Alsh towards the Cuillins

I passed the Donald Murchison monument and was totally underwhelmed that a monument could be erected for someone who collected rents for an absent landlord. I could now see Kyle of Lochalsh and I picked my pace up. I crossed the railway bridge and looked down on the station, a train was waiting to depart back up the twisty ‘turney’ route across to Inverness. I continued along the approach road to the bridge and passed by where I remember the toll booth was originally sited. The views from the Skye Bridge were amazing especially down Loch Alsh and out west  across to Raassy and Northern Skye.

At the first roundabout I turned left and headed into Kyleakin.

Entering Kyle of Lochalsh
Kyle of Lochalsh railway station with Beinn na Caillich in the distance
Looking up Loch Alsh from the Skye Bridge
Looking North West to the Cuillins from the Skye Bridge

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=24126

Distance today = 18 miles
Total distance = 3,781 miles