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

 

250. Ruabha Reidh to Poolewe

I was pleased that today I would finally have some off-road walking to do and that I would not be cycling or pushing my bike! To enable to happen I had to first drive and park my car  at Poolewe and then catch the o8:05 Westerbus back to Gairloch. Bob (the guy running the AirBnB) had offered to assist me in completing the section to Poolewe by waiting for the bus to arrive and then giving me a lift out to Rubha Reidh. I had already ruled out doing the whole of this peninsula in one go because of the available daylight hours.  I set off from the visitor car park at Rubha Reidh, walking eastwards, not wishing to lose too much height as I headed for a footpath that ran along the cliff-tops.

After meeting up with the footpath, I could to see the amazing coastline features this part of the peninsula had to offer. What was also amazing was the early morning views north into Assynt. Although I had views of Assynt from northern Skye, I was now able to easily identify the iconic mountains of Sutherland and the Fisherfield Forest. The early morning light gave them all an amber glow that defined their colour and relief. The footpath hugged the cliff top and required care in certain places. The northern part of the peninsula I was on had high moorland to the west and a low-lying  side to the east, full of small lochs. I began to lose height above Camas Mor, an isolated sandy beach that is quite popular and a major reason walkers make the trek out here.

As I arrived at the old ruins of Camustrolvaig, I found Ivor’s bothy, set into the hillside and not easy to see from the approach I made.  I don’t think the bothy is part of the MBA and you can probably see why. To be honest it looks like it might fall down at any minute. The bothy has just a single room and seems to have a tarp for a roof. Although very dark inside, it looked very cosy and dry.

Early morning at Rubha Reidh looking north to Assynt
The coastline of Creag Camas an Fhraoich
Looking eastwards from above Camas Mor
Ivors Bothy

I  now headed for the settlement of Cove on the far side of the peninsula on the shores of Loch Ewe. I knew once I got down onto the low-lying area it would be much more difficult navigate, so I headed for a Loch I identified on the map and would continue from there. For such a low-lying and boggy area the underfoot conditions were not bad and I was able to hop between outcrops of  slightly firmer higher ground. I navigated between the small lochans and crossed over the Allt Glac nan Cuille. Shortly after, while walking over boggy terrain, I went ar$e over tip as my left boot went into a pothole. I was ok, just landing in grass and getting a muddy knee! Soon afterwards I arrived at the strung-out settlement of Cove above Loch Ewe.

Heading eastwards

Loch Ewe has some fantastic history, particularly what happened there during the Second World War. Arctic Naval convoys gathered in Loch Ewe before setting off on the treacherous journey to Russia. Reminders of this piece of history are still present around the Loch . The road walk down to Poolewe was quite uneventful but offered some beautiful views into the Fisherfield Forest with dramatic views of Beinn Airigh Charr, Beinn Lair, Beinn a’Chaisgein Mor and A’Mhaighdean. After passing through the hamlets of Cove, Inverasdale, Midtown and Naast I arrived back at the village of Poolewe.

Looking back at the settlement of Cove
Looking north up Loch Ewe with the morning Cal Mac ferry off from Ullapool to Stornoway
Looking towards Poolewe over Loch Ewe with A’Mhaighdean(l) and Beinn Airigh Char(r)
Zoomed shot looking towards Poolewe with Beinn Airigh Charr in the background
Beautiful bark on a Eucalyptus tree near Naast
Looking back up Loch Ewe from Poolewe

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=24435

Distance today =  14 miles
Total distance = 4,499 miles

 

 

 

249. Rubha Reidh to Gairloch

This was to be a very straightforward day; simply get out to the Lighthouse at Rubha Reidh and then get back to Gairloch. As there is no public transport out to Rubha Reidh, I needed to make use of my bicycle again. The forecast for the wind direction had not changed, except that it had become increasingly stronger and colder. As the wind was coming from the south-east I decided to cycle out to the Lighthouse.

I started out from the B&B at 8:50, just as it was getting light. The wind had increased overnight and it was bitterly cold. The strong tail wind certainly helped with the speed of my progress and enabled me to cycle up slopes that I would normally have to push the bike up! After passing through Melvaig I joined the private road out to the lighthouse. Recently the owners of the lighthouse had taken active measures to prevent people driving along the road. When I travelled along the road I could see no evidence of obstructions or unwelcoming signage. In fact there was a visitor car park 300m from the lighthouse signed and erected by Inverasdale Estate, Melvaig Crofters and Gairloch Community Council. The road was very well maintained with an excellent surface and recently installed culverts and bridges. I spoke to some locals about the road and the main issue seems to have been the number of camper vans using the road and causing problems.

I reached the lighthouse and immediately turned around and headed back to Gairloch pushing my bicycle. I had excellent views out towards the Western Isles which seemed very close. The tip of the peninsula out at Rubha Reidh sits well out into The Minch, with northern  Skye now to the South. The wind was biting as I headed back into the strong head-wind. After 3 miles I was back at Melvaig and on the public road. I quickly passed into the adjacent settlement of Aultgrishan. The road passed over open moor before coming to the scattered settlement of North Erradale.

The lighthouse at Rubha Reidh
Looking over to Trotternish on Northern Skye
Looking south towards Rona, Raasay and the south of Skye
One of the recently built bridges on the private road
Looking south over Melvaig
The Allt Grisionn at Aultgrishan
A beautiful Scottish Blackface at Aultgrishan
Looking back north from Big Sand
Approaching Gairloch
Two Lochs Radio – Gairloch

By the time I reached Big Sand, time was moving on and I was already beginning to lose the light. I arrived back in Gairloch and went into the McColls shop to buy something for me and Bob’s supper. On my way back to the B&B I noticed a small shack housing the Two Lochs Radio studio. Anyway, I immediately had visions of Gregor Fisher inside transmitting his OHBC (Outer Hebrides Broadcasting Corporation show):-

oidhche mhath

Not a big day, but progressing long distances at this time of the year is difficult.

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=24434

Distance today = 13 miles
Total distance = 4,485 miles

 

 

 

 

248. Gairloch to Red Point

I had spotted a weather window which offered a three-day dry spell with light winds and looking reasonably warm for the Gairloch area. I then decided to try my luck with local accommodation in and around Gairloch, as being stuck in the back of a car or in a tent  for three nights was not very appealing. I searched on the AirBnB site and was surprised to find a number of reasonably priced accommodation. I selected “Bob’s Place” which was newly listed on AirBnB and based in the centre of Gairloch. Bob is a keen and  avid walker, and enjoys both high and low-level walks; so much so that he recently relocated to Gairloch from his Bristol home. Bob has accumulated an amazing volume of walking kit and equipment which is well on a par with any reasonably stocked Tiso Store! I had my own room at Bob’s Place for two nights at a fantastic rate.

The Gairloch area unfortunately does not have the best transport links, but with my bicycle, a school bus and a lift from Bob I could make a serious stab at getting to Poolewe after three days of walking.

I drove up  the day before and reached the car park at Incheril, Kinlochewe , where I slept in the car for the night. The place was empty again and I had a quiet night. I set my alarm for 08:00, but it was still quite dark when I looked out of the window, so I drove very slowly down Loch Maree waiting for it to get lighter. I arrived in Gairloch and parked at the Community Hall.

As soon as it was just about light to begin walking safely, I set off. I popped into the local McColls shop to get a coffee and continued along the A832 pushing my bike. Because no public transport runs out to Red Point I was going to have to do an out-and-back, using my bicycle for the return leg.

Gairloch is quite a strung-out community and merges into another local settlement of Charlestown. I enjoyed walking on a good footpath alongside  the main road to the far edge of Charlestown, although the road was not particularly busy at 8:45 in the morning. After Charlestown I was walking along the verge for a few miles until the turn off for the B8056 which pointed me across a bridge over the River Kerry and on to Red Point.

Looking back towards Gairloch
The beach at Gaineamh Mhor
Gairloch Harbour

I soon arrived at the small hamlet of Shieldaig, confusingly spelt the same as the Torridon Sheildaig and with its own Loch. I got superb views over Loch Shieldaig back towards Gairloch. I climbed out of Shieldaig and followed Loch Bad a’Chrotha, which had originally been dammed, but was now breached at its western end to allow outfall from the Loch. I descended into another village, Badachro with its own popular Inn and jetties offering shelter to yachts and boats. I climbed out of Badachro and followed the shoreline of the freshwater loch of Loch Bad na h-Achlaise. I then passed through a series of widespread settlements with  a range of white houses scattered either side of the small single tracked road. I passed through Port Henderson, Opinan and South Erradale.

The road rose again for the final time before dropping down to Red Point. I had excellent views looking east towards the Flowerdale mountains, south-west across to Rona and Skye. Although I had occasional patches of blue sky, the sun did not make an appearance all day. At Red Point I simply turned around and began cycling back to Gairloch, where I arrived back at 14:45 with the light disappearing fast.

The bridge across the River Kerry
At Shieldaig looking across Loch Shieldaig across to Gairloch
The breached dam on Loch Bad a’Chrotha
At Badachro looking across to Charlestown
Looking back to Port Henderson
Victorian post box at Red Point embedded in rock
Looking south towards Rona, Raasay and Skye
Looking down on Red Point Beach with the lighthouse on Rona 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=24432

Distance today = 13 miles
Total distance = 4,472 miles

 

 

247. Lower Diabaig to Inveralligin

After completing the walk to Red Point the previous day, I was then left with a small gap between Lower Diabaig and Inveralligin which I would now close.

On OS maps there is path indicated which links Diabaig with Inveralligin via extremely rocky and rough ground. I knew from reading previous walking reports that the path was notoriously difficult to follow, especially at the start. While I was in Diabaig yesterday I spoke to two locals who advised not to use the path. One of the locals went up the previous week but could not find its continuation after climbing onto a ledge. I had a quick look myself but could also see no continuation, I decided then to simply take the longer and higher road option via the Bealach na Gaoithe. Looking back this was a bit lazy of me, I should have explored more to try to get onto the track.

Anyway, I drove in the dark to Alligin car park and set off on my bike in the pitch dark. I was rewarded with a great stellar display as well as a number of shooting stars. By the time I reached the top of the Bealach na Gaoithe I could switch my head torch off. As I would be shortly walking back up to the bealach I was able to cycle down to Diabaig scattering a small group of young stags in the process.

Not much to say about the 7 mile walk back to the car, other than I got amazing views, only 1 car passed me, it was very  quiet and still and very enjoyable.

After arriving back at car I drove back to the campsite to pack up my tent. I spoke to a couple of other campers, who were to do a bit of climbing in Diabaig. Apparently, it’s a very popular climbing area, which was news to me. They confirmed the walkers path, but mentioned about the difficulty at the start. Anyway, it was good get away early, as the 500 mile drive home beckoned. Hopefully, I will  be able to get a few more days in Scotland before Christmas.

Setting off from Lower Diabaig
Heading up to the Bealach na Gaoithe with Tom na Gruagaich in the distance
i
Looking down on the double lochs of Loch Diabagas Airde and Loch a’ Mhullaich from the Bealach na Gaoithe
Where I should have emerged if I had taken the elusive footpath to Inveralligin Shuas

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=24408

Distance today = 7 miles
Total distance = 4,459 mile