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

 

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3 thoughts on “267. Kinlochbervie to Daill via Cape Wrath”

  1. Hi Ruth, thanks yes it was something that has been at the back of my mind since Gretna, 3 years ago. When you come to do it, you may wish to consider a different approach. Travel lighter and stay in the lighthouse bunkhouse then walk out to the ferry the following day. Its a pivotal moment for most walkers and I think it is worth the effort.

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  2. Well done on getting around Cape Wrath, it is a tough walk. I had forgotten your now ferries rule which makes it an even longer walk. Glad the cafe was open at the lighthouse though, it is very useful (i also stopped for a “refuel” there).

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