253. Aultbea to Laide

This was probably going to be the toughest days walk of the trip, with a fair amount of trackless open moorland walking. I was able to leave my car at the AirBnB place in Laide and catch the early morning school bus the short distance down the road to Aultbea. It was raining as I waited for the bus in the dark and  I had picked up a head cold in the last 24 hours, to make matters worse my leg muscles had strained, which I suppose was to be expected after 3 weeks of inactivity.

It was still very dark when I arrived in Aultbea and I needed to wear my hi-vis vest and flashing head torch. The first three miles were along small roads spanning the scattered hamlet of Mellon Charles. By the time I reached the end of the public road it was light enough to turn my head torch off. I continued along a rocky track which climbed up to Meall Camal an Fheidh, this marked the end of the WW2 buildings which surround Loch Ewe. From this point on, I was on my own  picking my own route. I continued another kilometre sticking to the higher ground, before the ground dropped away from me steeply and I was left looking down on the ruined settlement of Slaggan. Slaggan was a small crofting community with its own school once. The last family left in 1942.

Early morning in Mellon Charles
The end of the public road
Looking back at Mellon Charles
The route ahead
Looking down at the ruins of Slaggan
The ruins of Slaggan

I set a bearing for one of the many lochs that cover the area. The going underfoot was very  wet, which meant my progress was slow. In fact I could not walk 10m in a straight line without having to divert around a pool or bog. I finally caught sight of the derrick of the Oil Rig which was moored off Greenstone Point.  I got close enough to see that it was called Ocean Greatwhite, the world’s largest semi-submersible exploration rig. The rig was built in 2016 in South Korea and was waiting to call in to Loch Kishorn for some work before travelling on into the North Sea. The 68,000 tonnes rig is currently registered in Majuro in the Marshall Islands. I passed along high ground to the north of Rubha Mor, before swinging  around towards the hamlet of Opinan.

My boots by this time were completely soaked through. I was therefore glad to reach the road and begin the walk down the east side of this peninsula. I passed by the popular beach at Mellon Udrigle, although there were no cars there today, just a tugboat offshore guarding the oil rig a couple of miles away. The road climbed steadily out of Mellon Udrigle for 1.5 miles before dropping down to the small hamlet of Achgarve.

I was now walking back along the shoreline of Gruinard Bay, which offered limited views due to the low cloud and frequent squally showers. The final mile walk into Laide came as a great relief to get out of the soaking footwear.

So that was it for this trip; not a great deal of distance covered, but at least I got around a set of tricky logistical walks that had to be approached separately.

 

Heading north over wet ground
Heading north
The Ocean Greatwhite
The beach at Mellon Udrigle
Approaching Achgarve
Looking back at Achgarve

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=24459

Distance today =  14 miles
Total distance = 4,535 miles

 

 

 

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252. Badcaul to Laide

Todays walk was out of sync due to transport constraints. The weekly bus service from Gairloch to Ullapool run by Graham Nash coaches, only runs each thursday, so to avoid having to cycle to the start/end point I opted to walk this section out of turn.

The cottage I was staying at was only a stone’s throw away from the Post Office/Stores/Petrol station in Laide and also where the bus normally stops. As I was waiting for the 9:40 #707 bus to take me down the road to Badcaul, a farmer was driving his large flock of sheep up the road. They passed onto the main road, which fortunately was quite quiet. When the flock was about 100m away I noticed one of the sheep had snook away and was hiding behind a car by the general stores. I shouted up to the farmer that he had left one behind, he shouted back that he would come back for it. After 5 mins he reappeared with another chap and I assisted these two in trying to round the stray sheep up. Well three blocks trying to catch a sheep was never going to work! The sheep dog that had passed me by earlier had disappeared. As I was keeping half-an-eye out for the bus, that was due imminently,  I noticed the whole flock coming back down the main road unattended! As the bus passed through the flock I was quite glad to be away from the this, but it was quite funny. The talk on the small mini-bus was about the oil Rig which was moored off Greenstone Point and a number of conflicting theories as to why it was there.

I got off the bus at the Badcaul road end. Although it was quite grey and overcast the view down Little Loch Broom from the elevated road was impressive. The first few miles of the walk were along a quiet road that ran out to the remote hamlet of Badlaurach, where the public road ended. I had excellent views across Little Loch Broom to Scoraig and it’s almost hidden lighthouse set amongst some trees. I could also see the impressive Summer Isles at the mouth of Loch Broom.

After leaving the public road I followed an ATV track that soon disappeared. The going was not that bad, if a little wet, but the slope was gentle and I made good time out to Stattic Point. I rounded the small hill of Carn Dearg Ailein and had good views across Gruinard Bay towards the Oil Rig moored off Greenstone Point. I could hear the dull thud of the engines of the accompanying tugs.

As I passed below the crags of Carn Dearg an Droma I spotted two large Sea Eagles above me circling the crags. I was unable to get a decent photograph of the birds for a number of reasons. I headed for Bagh Mhungasdail and then the A832 at Mungasdale. The A832 was very quiet and it was actually quite pleasant to walk along it, as I made the long walk around Gruinard Bay. Most of the topography around Gruinard Bay is very ‘gnarly’ with lots of steep rocky summits. I crossed over a bridge which spanned the River Gruinard and I remembered  parking there back in 2012 when I did a tough walking day into The Fisherfield Forest.

The view down Little Loch Broom from Badcaul
The route ahead at the end of the public road at Badlaurach
Looking across to the Summer Isles
Looking across Gruinard Bay over Gruinard Island towards Laide
Approaching Mungasdale

I passed close to the sandy beach at Little Gruinard Bay before the steep climb up to Creag Mhor. The view back down to Gruinard Bay was quite amazing, although as I passed over the top a squally shower blew in and obscured the view somewhat. I then passed through the strangely named Second Coast and First Coast hamlets, the meaning and derivation of which is difficult to find. The rain finally disappeared on the last two miles into Laide.

Crossing over the River Gruinard
Looking down The River Gruinard into Fisherfield
Little Gruinard Bay
Looking down to Little Gruinard Bay from Creag Mhor
Looking back to First and Second Coast along Gruinard Bay
Approaching Laide
Laide

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=24457

Distance today =  14 miles
Total distance = 4,521 miles

 

251. Aultbea to Poolewe

My first walking trip of 2019! I spotted some reasonably decent weather of about three days and set off for the North West of Scotland. However, before I set off I had to sort my accommodation out and plan my walking sections within the constraints of diminished daylight hours and public transport availability. I used AirBnB again and manged to find a single room in a cottage in Laide, with Tania as my host. At circa £20 a night, you can’t get a bunkhouse for that in some places. I should say that Tania was a terrific and welcoming host.

The daylight and transport situation meant that any long walking sections was out. These three days would be short walks, within the logistics of getting the sections done safely and without  busting a gut. The good news was that although I had brought my bicycle along I would not be needing it on this trip.Hooray for public transport.

I drove up on a Tuesday afternoon and headed for Inverness. By the time I refueled at Tesco it was already 20:00. Because I was catching a bus from Poolewe the following morning, I went via the Incheril car park in Kinlochewe where I stayed the night in the back of the car. Although it was cold overnight there had not been a hard frost.  The following morning I drove onto Poolewe and parked up. I caught the 08:00 #700 Westerbus, which took me the short distance up the A832 to Aultbea.

Aultbea is situated at the nape of another peninsular that juts out into The Minch. I could have added a few extra miles to the days walk, but this would have meant re-doing part of the walk on subsequent days.I got off the bus at the pier in Aultbea and started walking back down the road. It was just beginning to get light, but I still needed my hi-vis vest and flashing strobe head torch.

The whole area around Loch Ewe has many reminders of the role it played during the Second World War as the congregation point for the Russian Arctic Convoys. Not all naval activity has disappeared though from the Loch, as there still remains a Nato re-fuelling depot at Aultbea, which is linked to the nearby Oil Pipeline Agency oil storage tanks.

The road down to Poolewe was very quiet, with only the occasional vehicle passing. I was rewarded with excellent views into the Fisherfield, with the  hills of  a’Beinn Airigh Charr, Beinn Lair, Beinn a’Chaisgein Mor and A’Mhaighdean each showing a light dusting of snow. I dropped down to Loch Thurnaig and soon arrived at the National Trust gardens of Inverewe. With this being a quite shortish walking day I should have maybe visited the gardens as I am a Scottish NT member. After Inverewe a pavement soon appeared and I was soon back at the car in Poolewe. I then drove the short distance to Laide where my Airbnb room awaited.

Early morning light in Aultbea
Looking back down to Aultbea
Looking down on the Nato re-fuelling depot with the Isle of Ewe in the background
Looking south the murky Torridonian hills
The hills of Beinn Lair, Meall Mheinnidh and a’Beinn Airigh Charr
A few of the many WW2 buildings which surround Loch Ewe
Approaching Poolewe
Crossing over The River Ewe which drains Loch Maree

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=24453

Distance today =  8 miles
Total distance = 4,507 miles