269. Lowestoft to Southwold

I was determined to get at least another walking day within the month of May and so decided to do a one day trip in Suffolk. At 210 miles each way, it was not a short trip although the walk was. Public transport in Suffolk is not ideal and while certain areas have excellent links, others not so much. No such problems between Lowestoft and Southwold though. So I drove to and parked in the large free car park in Southwold.

I caught the #99 bus to Lowestoft and started walking from the bus station down the High Street towards the bridge over Lake Lothing. The sun for most part was hidden behind scattered clouds, although it remained quite warm. Near the East Point Pavilion I picked up the start/end of the Suffolk Coastal Path, a 57 mile trail between Lowestoft and Felixstowe. I also noticed a large group of runners gathering at the South Pier. This was indeed the start point of the Lowestoft Parkrun, a weekly race/run/jog over a 5km course along the promenade. It appeared to be a popular event, as checking previous entrant numbers, there are usually 350 – 500 runners taking part. As the start time was 09:00 I would be well beyond their finish line.

Crossing over Lake Lothing in Lowestoft
Runners gathering for the Lowestoft Parkrun

I continued on past the end of the promenade along a well-constructed path. There was still an excellent beach with inviting sands, but I knew it would be torture walking through/along that. The cliff top path ended close to a holiday park and I was forced to descend to the beach. The Suffolk Coastal Path had taken one of its many excursions inland, which I ignored.
I had checked on the tides in the area and knew I had about 4 – 5 hours before high tide. I got down right to the water’s edge and it was here I found the ‘sweet spot’ – a narrow corridor of firm level sand between the lapping waves and the soft sand and shingle to my right. This ‘sweet spot’ would continue virtually the whole way to Southwold. I had read conflicting accounts on various sites about paths being washed away and I had initially resigned myself to walking slightly inland using footpaths and some roads. However, 2km after passing the large village of Kessingland I decided I would see how far I got along the coast. Although, devoid of public footpaths, a path was marked on an Info Board at the Benacre National Nature Reserve and a fellow coastal walker, Jon Combe, had walked this way before, albeit 10 years ago.

On the beach heading towards Kessingland
On the cliffs heading towards Benacre Nature Reserve

I transferred onto the top of the small clifftops, where I found a footpath between a field of crops and a crumbling cliff edge. I wanted to see what lay ahead and could now see Southwold Pier far in the distance. I could also see a safe gap between the sea and cliff base, which meant I could complete well before High Tide.

I descended to the beach separating Benacre Broad from the sea and met a lady bird watcher. I regained the cliff top and found a well-trodden path along the top. My eye was drawn to the remains of a crumbling ruined church, St Andrews at Covehithe, which dominated the view west. I could and should perhaps have made the short journey inland to take a closer look at the church. But I was aware that “time and tide wait for no man” and I wanted to make sure I could get to Southwold along the coast.

I continued south from Covehithe, along the cliff top and another well-trodden path through crops. The cliff top slowly dropped down to beach level at Easton Marshes and I again picked up a good walking line along the shoreline, where I stayed all the way to Southwold. I could also make out the Lighthouse at Southwold, with its light on and the lens rotation every 8 seconds…well I had nothing else better to do! Interestingly, the light was not visible when I reached Southwold, probably because I was below its beam and it was still day time.

On the beach at Benacre Broad
Looking back at Benacre Nature Reserve
Walking on the cliff tops near Covehithe with Southwold in the far distance
The old public road road – overgrown and terminated by cliff erosion
The ruins of St Andrews at Covehithe

I had become aware of Southwold when I first started drinking Adnams Beer and had always wanted to visit this small coastal town in Suffolk. I was not disappointed. Southwold is a lovely little charming town, with very close links with Adnams, in fact the brewery has multiple buildings in and around the town. In fact the font used in the Adnams signage is prevalent everywhere, but not in bad or commercial way. The whole place had a nice feeling about it. It is somewhere I would like to re-visit. The inevitable call-in to the Adnams shop meant a lightening of my wallet and I came away £56 the poorer.

 

Looking north back up the coast from Southwold
Adnams Sole Bay Pub in Southwold
Adnams Brewery Southwold

Distance today =  14 miles
Total distance = 4,874 miles

 

 

 

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268. Daill to Durness

I must admit I never really like sleeping in a tent, I’ve done it hundreds of times over the years but prefer sleeping in the back of the car or in a bothy. I had quite a fitful night’s sleep, trying to find a comfortable position that did not aggravate aching feet/legs/hips/shoulders. The aches subsided but it was quite a noisy spot with the surf from the nearby Daill beach and some bird that was creating quite a racket all night, the cuckoo started at 03:00!

I set my alarm for 03:30 and had everything packed away by 04:00. The legs seemed good and the spirit high. The sun had yet to rise, but it looked like it was going to be another lovely day. I set off along the road towards the ferry house with great views across the Kyle of Durness to Durness and The Orkneys beyond. Of course it was no ferry for me as I had to walk around to the first bridging point on the River Dionard. Just before the ferry house I took a rocky track that climbed steeply up the hillside, leading to a disused quarried area. The track stopped suddenly, which I knew from my map beforehand. I then set a bearing on my compass to the bridge over the River Grudie 2 to 3 miles away. I intended to follow the bearing and stay high over the rough ground. This was quite easy to do and the underfoot conditions were good. It was quite light when I reached a point above the Grudie River where I found the footbridge to cross. To be fair, there where multiple places to cross over the river if the river was not in spate.

I crossed over the slopes of a small hillock and walked along the Dionard River through the farm and across the footbridge to the A838. The road at this time of the morning was empty and I set off towards Durness, very pleased that I walked for 5 days and reached a major milestone in my walk around the coastline of Great Britain.

 

Looking towards Faraid Head across Diall Beach
Looking back towards Diall on the quarry track
Looking across the Kyle of Durness above the ferry house
The route ahead towards the Grudie river bridge
Looking across to Durness with the Orkneys in the distance
Looking down on the River Dionard and River Grudie
The bridge over the River Grudie
The bridge of the River Dionard
Looking back down the Kyle of Durness

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=24551

Distance today =  10 miles
Total distance = 4,860 miles

 

 

267. Kinlochbervie to Daill via Cape Wrath

I’d been waiting to do this walk for a while, just over 3 years in fact, ever since I did my first Scottish coastal walk back in 2016. I was a bit apprehensive though, wondering whether my legs would hold up, whether the range would be closed (even though it was planned to be open) or would fatigue set in? I usually only walk for 3 days then go home, this trip could potentially see me walking for 5 consecutive days.
The plan was quite simple, leave the car in Durness, get the #806 Far North Bus to Kinlochbervie, walk to Cape Wrath, round the lighthouse, walk out towards Durness and see how far I could get before pitching my tent. I was carrying a very light pack with my sleeping bag, Terra Nova Zephyr 1 tent, some cold snacks, no cooking equipment and 1 litre of water.

I waited at the Spar shop in Durness for the bus. The shop was not open until 9 on a Saturday morning, which was a shame as a cup of coffee would have gone down well. I was joined by three other walkers who had finished the Cape Wrath Trail the day before and were now heading home. The #806 service is basically a minibus and you are required to book a seat. The bus was late arriving, but soon made the time up by going at break-neck speed southwards. I was the only passenger getting off in Kinlochbervie, but there were a large number of other people getting on. The bus departed and I was left on my own.
I now had 3 or 4 miles of road-walking as there is no public transport out to Blairmore – where the track out to Sandwood Bay begins. Most of this land is owned by the John Muir Trust, who also own a number of other estates including Knoydart, Quinag, Ben Nevis and parts of Skye. Here the Trust works in close partnership with Crofters who actually manage the land. After a couple of miles I kept a look out for the Lighthouse at Cape Wrath. When I do get a glimpse its almost 10 miles away and will be out sight until I am virtually upon it. I arrive at Sandwood Bay and immediately head through the dunes and onto the beach. It’s hard going on the soft sand, but thankfully the beach is not that long as the tide is in. I get an excellent view back to the Am Buachaille sea stack and pass the remains of a large whalebone, apparently it was a Killer whale that beached back in 2008. It looks amazingly like a large birds head with beak! I pass a tent and speak to a lady that is doing the Cape Wrath Trail and will walk to the lighthouse tomorrow.

Heading along the wide footpath to Sandwood Bay
Almost 10 miles as the crow flies to Cape Wrath
Arriving at Sandwood Bay
Sandwood Bay
Looking back to the sea stack of Am Buachaille
The remains of an Orca Whale beached in 2008
Looking back at Sandwood Bay

After crossing the outflow from Sandwood Loch I climb up off the beach. As there a few, if any paths on towards the Lighthouse I follow my own route of least resistance between the low-lying hills. I cross over the Amhainn Strath Chailleach River and over gentle slopes. The going is tough though, even with ground very dry  my feet sink into the soft grasses and moss. I can see about half a mile away to the east,  Strathchailleach bothy which I did at one stage think about staying in. It was sapping work and after making a slight route adjustment, because I had strayed too far east I could now see the boundary fence and markers of the MOD land. I crossed the Keasgaig River and climbed slowly to the shallow bealach between Sithean na h-lolaireach and Cnoc a’Ghuibhais. Here the grass and moss gave way to a Tundra-like landscape. From the bealach I thought I would be able to look down on the Lighthouse, but no was hidden by a small hill – Dunan Mor.
I set off from the bealach and shortly after wards could see two of the white mini-buses making their way from the Lighthouse to the ferry. I stayed to east to avoid a deep gulley and almost out of nowhere I was joined by another walker! It was quite a shock to have somebody appear about 20 meters away. Anyway, we both continued on towards the Lighthouse, he was into his 17th day of walking the Cape Wrath Trail, so it was really nice to share the experience together. I was getting very fatigued by this point, but it did  help having someone to talk to. We dumped our bags outside the Ozone cafe and walked out past the lighthouse. It was a fantstic setting on a gloriously sunny day with the sea a beautiful deepblue.

Crossing the Amhainn Strath Chailleach River
Crossing into MOD land
Looking towards the Lighthouse hidden behind Dunan Mor, the minibus can be seen winding its way slowly along the road
Cape Wrath Lighthouse
The foghorn

Back at the cafe we were joined by a Dutch guy who had also walked part of the CWT. They were both staying in the bunkhouse that night and would get the minibus out the following day. After consuming multiple soft drinks, coffee and a large piece of gateau I was ready to depart. I spoke to the guy who manages the Lighthouse who was cleaning out the rainwater storage tanks, a job that had not been done in many a year. I also spoke to his daughter, who was very helpful in advising where I could pitch my tent towards Durness.

After a 90 minute rest, I felt like I had a new set of legs and headed off down the road. I made excellent time and had a notion that given enough daylight I could get back to the car that night! However, as the miles wore on and so fatigue began to rear its head. Because I do not use ferries I would have to walk around the Kyle of Durness along trackless terrain and this meant I would have to pitch my tent somewhere. The miles of the road wore on and I finally dropped down to The Daill River and camped next to the bridge there. I was very tired and every bone and muscle ached.

 

Heading back to Durness looking towards Sandwood Bay in the far distance
Camping spot at Daill

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=24548

Distance today =  28 miles
Total distance = 4,850 miles

 

266. Scourie to Kinlochbervie

It froze in the night causing a thin layer of ice to form on the outside of my tent and car windscreen. I did not sleep in my tent at Scourie campsite I just stored stuff from the car in it. I actually slept in the car, which was warmer, more comfortable and quieter than the tent. I woke up to a gloriously sunny and still morning.

After clearing the ice off the windscreen I set off to drive to Kinlochbervie and parked in the memorial car park. The car park forms part of a War Memorial to both World Wars and has a separate area dedicated to a local man – Robert McBeath who was awarded the VC for his actions in 1917. He was only 24 when he died, but he did not die in France. He survived the war, married and emigrated to Vancouver, Canada where he joined the Police Force. He was shot by a drunk American in 1922. His story is quite fascinating as it is tragic.

The Memorial Car Park Kinlochbervie
The story of Robert McBeath

I walked to a bus stop and waited for the #806 bus, run by “The Far North Bus” or simply The Durness Bus, which would take me back to Scourie.

Back in Scourie I immediately set off down past the campsite heading for a path that would take me up and over moorland to the isolated settlement of Tarbet. The footpath was reasonably easy to follow, snaking its way between small lochans. Apart from the start of the path, which had a section of gorse to negotiate, the path was easy to follow and had small regular cairn piles. I had great views across the Sound of Handa to Handa Island which is run by the Scottish Wildlife Trust. Handa is a very important reserve as a breeding area for seabirds with up to 100,000 birds, made up of Guillemots, Razorbills, Great Skuas, Terns and Puffins.

I descended steeply into the small settlement of Tarbet, which provided a small foot passenger ferry service across to Handa. A number of people were waiting for the next boat. I followed a steep road out of Tarbet and went along the shore of Loch Gobhloch. The road continued to other isolated settlements of Fangamore and eventually Foindle. Only a single car passed me on this road and it was a delight to walk along.

Shortly after leaving Foindle I left the road to cut across pathless terrain to meet up with the A894 saving me about 1.5 miles of road walking. However, the rough underfoot conditions meant I got little advantage form this shortcut. Back on the A894 the traffic was not that bad. I had a good verge to walk on and the views across to a snow-capped Arkle and Foinavon were amazing.

The route ahead from Scourie
On the footpath to Tarbet
Looking across to Handa Island
Looking down on Tarbet
Looking back to Tarbet
Loch Laxford in the distance near Fangamore

The A894 road has long straights or sweeping curves and you can see the road miles ahead, which can be a bit dispiriting for how far you will have to walk. I knew I had some 9 miles to go once I had got to Laxford Bridge, so I was quite happy when I finally reached this quite inconspicuous but important little bridge. I sat down beneath the bridge, making use of the shade available, listening to the occasional traffic above me.

After restocking my water supply from the River Laxford, and adding a purification tablet, I set off down the main road. I passed through some road cuttings which showed some remarkable dykes cutting through the 3 billion year old Lewisian Gneiss. The dykes were predominantly pegmatites with large crystals of feldspar, quartz and mica, I collected a few samples.

Arkle
Foinavon
Below Laxford Bridge
Pegmatite dykes running through Lewisian Gneiss with bore holes for blasting on this road cutting

I arrived at Rhiconich and hoped to get a cold drink at the Public bar in the hotel, unfortunately it was closed. I turned onto the B801 and continued on through the small hamlets of Achriesgill and Inshegra, both were littered with a collection of used industrial plant and cars – in fact a scrapyard. Close to the end of my walk I passed through Badcall and noticed a small shop The London Stores, mentioned in other people’s reports as a place to get anything! I bought some cold squash and a diet coke which went down very nice in the heat of the late afternoon.

By 5 o’clock I was back at the car and soon heading north to Durness where I would park for the night.

Looking down Loch Inchard
Looking back at the less flattering views of Foinavon(l) Arkle (c) and Ben Stack (r) from near Achriesgill

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=24545

Distance today =  19 miles
Total distance = 4,822 miles

 

 

265. Gleann Ardbhair to Scourie

No public transport ran east of Drumbeg towards the A894 at Kylesku and only a seasonal bus further on from there. So it was looking like I was going to have to do and out and back with my bike, something I was not looking forward to. Kenny, the bus driver from the previous day had given me a name, Harvey, who apparently drove a school bus from Scourie to Drumbeg each day to collect children and ferry them back to the main road where they would get the main bus to Ullapool. I made some enquiries at The Anchorage, the cafe/bar attached to Scourie campsite, and got a phone number. I called and spoke to Harvey’s wife, who said a lift would be no bother and to be outside the campsite at 06:45 the following morning. Harvey duly arrived and we sped off along virtually deserted roads towards Drumbeg. I got off the bus above Gleann Ardbhair and bid Harvey goodbye, after he refused any offer of money, what a guy!

As I set off the morning was very sunny and still. I could see the mountains had had a fresh dusting of snow overnight. I followed the twisty/turney road towards the A894 at Kylesku. Mercifully the NC500 brigade had not risen yet which made the walk very enjoyable. I soon realised that I had not packed any water in my rucksack, which was a pain, as there would be no opportunities to buy water further ahead. The walk was only 17 miles which I thought I could manage ok?

As the twisty/turney road joined the main road I was afforded spectacular views up to gullies of Quinag, a mountain with superb views which I can vouch for having climbed the hill some 10 years ago. The main road was  quiet and had a flat and generous verge for most its way. I walked into the small hamlet of Kylesku, just off the main road, in the hope of buying some water, but no joy. I remember crossing over on the ferry from Kylestrome to Kylesku back in 1974; but today Kylesku has a superb bridge, which was built in 1984.

I continued up the A894 where the traffic began to slowly increase, with large groups of bikers completing the NC500. A few miles on from Kylesku a walker passed me on the opposite side of the road at speed. I was quite surprised and decided to hang onto his coat-tails which I barely managed to do! I was hoping he would going a good distance as he was a great ‘pacer’, so we continued on for a few miles withme  a couple of hundred meters back. Then he disappeared without trace….probably hiding from me. LOL. My pace slackened and my thoughts returned to getting hold of some water.
I had intended to make a couple of small diversions off the road, although there were few if any paths towards the coast and all stopped at dead ends. I was glad to reach Scourie. With a water supply now available I could have gone on, but with tomorrows walk starting off on a remote footpath, it would have been difficult and impractical to continue. I simply rested.

The twisty-turney road in Gleann Ardbhair
Looking east towards Quinag
The double buttresses of Quinag, Sail Gharbh (left) and Sail Ghorm (right)
Looking down Loch Glencoul with the Stack of Glencoul (centre)
Quinag from a tranquil Kylesku
Crossing the Kylesku Bridge
Looking towards Quinag over Loch a’Chairn Bhain
Looking back at the Kylesku Bridge
Some of the impressive road cuttings through Lewisian Gneiss
At Scourie looking across to a snow-capped Arkle

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=24544

Distance today =  17 miles
Total distance = 4,803miles

 

 

264. Stoer to Gleann Ardbhair

 

I saw a potential weather-window opening up for 7 days which I decided to go for. Its getting a real long way up north to drive, so I decided now was the time to try and get the west coast of Scotland completed. With some rough planning I could see that I could maybe make Cape Wrath and even walk out to Durness. But before that I had three tough days of walking before I could begin my final onslaught.

Again I drove up during the preceding day and reached near Inchnadamph where I pulled over and slept in the back of the car. Since leaving Inverness I had been listening to the Liverpool v Barcelona game on the radio. A pulsating game and by the time I had reached Inchnadamph, Liverpool had won the game!

In preparation for the first days walk I had to call Rapson’s motors and arrange to be picked up at the Viewpoint in Drumbeg at 06:50 . I was quite surprised to Kenny from Lochinver driving the bus. Kenny was the accordion playing “star” in the film Edie and had driven me a few times on my previous trip. We did not have long to chat as the distance to Stoer village hall was only about 7 miles. I bid Kenny goodbye and continued down a narrow road heading through the small settlement of Balchladich. I turned off down a farm rack and re-joined the minor road a few miles further on and continued on towards the lighthouse at Stoer.

The early morning sunshine was very nice with superb views across The Minch to Lewis and south down to Applecross and Trotternish on Skye. The lighthouse car park was quite busy with about 8 motorhomes. I set off along a good track above the cliffs towards the Old Man of Stoer (A columnar sea stack). The path was very dry underfoot and although I had my walking boots in my rucksack I continued to use my NF Hedgehog trail shoes for the rest of the day.

After a few miles of walking the Old Man of Stoer made an appearance. I headed towards The Point of Stoer and then veered east and south towards the gentle slopes of Sithean Mor. The summit trg point provided a great 360 degree panorama. Unfortunately most the Assynt hills were still in cloud. I then headed  SE towards a track running alongside Loch Ciul Fraioch. I continued onto a road through the settlement of Culkein. I soon left the road and proceeded around the small hill of  Meall an Tulaich and then a small bay called Port Achnancarnan. I passed around a few more small headlands before arriving at the settlement of Clashnessie. Here I re-joined the B869 and the NC500. I knew this because I could see, either direction, a motorhome followed by four cars in tow. The less said about the five miles into Drumbeg the better, although the scenery was stunning.The road was very busy with a regular flow of motor homes, vans, cars and motor bikes….lots of them!

At Balchladich
Looking back with Suilven out of cloud
The lighthouse at Stoer
Heading along the Stoer peninsular
The Old Man of Stoer
Looking towards Suilven and Cul Mor from Sithean Mor
Near Port Achnancarnan
Old ruins near Achnacarnin
Clashnessie beach

No public transport runs east of Drumbeg, so I decided to do an out and back to Gleann Ardbhair, using my bike and walking. The road was very ‘twisty and turney’, with large drops and steep rises. Having the bike on this section was difficult because of the narrowness of the road and the difficulty of traffic to pass me when I was cycling.. I was accompanied along this section of road by my first cuckoo’s of the year. The late afternoon saw the arrival of wet and windy weather which was in for the rest of the evening. After returning to Drumbeg and my car I set off towards Scourie where I was booked into the campsite for two nights.

On the road to Drumbeg
“Sky Hook” lifting deer fence posts to difficult terrain
Looking down into Gleann Ardbhair

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=24540

 

Distance today =  22 miles
Total distance = 4,786 miles