221. Skye: Elgol to Skye: Glen Brittle

Today would be a special day and unique day. Not only would I be re-doing a walk that I did 42 years ago in the summer of 1976, but I would also be accompanied by Malky, a friend and fellow contributor on Scottishhills.com. Malky has a great depth of knowledge of walking in the UK, particularly Scotland and is famed for his inventive routes using bike and boot over great distances. However, it almost did not happen. We both  agreed to meet in Glen Brittle. I positioned my car outside the campsite close to the public car park and waited for Malky to appear. Unfortunately, by 9:30 the effects of a really hard day and a bottle of beer had me ‘zonked’ out. Little did I know that Malky had gone all ‘hippy’ on me and was off climbing a nearby Marilyn – Arnaval to see the Solstice sun setting. Malky therefore did  not appear in Glen Brittle until after 10 in the evening. The following morning meant with the absence of a phone signal I had to think about a different route. I drove to Broadford and prepared to get a bus to complete another route. Just then Malky called  and the walk was back on! Turns out Malky was parked only 20m from me, but neither of us bothered to ask what vehicle the other was driving!! Dohhh! Anyway, we left Malky’s car in Glen Brittle and set off in mine for the long drive around to Elgol.

A quick brew in Elgol and we were off. We would be following a cliff-top path towards Camasunary which offered great views of the Cuillin across Loch Scavaig. The narrow path is exposed and a simple trip could be fatal; only 3 weeks before a man had fallen to his death from this path. Most of the Cuillin ridge was still in cloud, but we thought that may lift by the time we got around to it. At Glen Scaladal we dropped down to the beach and were able to continue on the rocky foreshore around a headland. We arrived at the new bothy in Camasunary and went inside. A young American couple had spent the previous night there.

I remember very little of my walk from August 1976. I do remember the long walk in from Broadford, in the rain and then arriving and camping close to Camasunary house and drying my clothes with a large fire while sitting on a Walkers of Mallaig fish box!

Looking back to Elgol
Looking across Loch Scavaig towards the Cuillins
The bothy at Camasunary
Towards Sgurr na Stri at Camasunary 2018
Me enjoying a cuppa at Camasunary – 1976

We headed for the stepping-stones across the Abhainn Camas Fhionnairgh and continued along the rough path around the southern nose of Sgurr na Stri. A couple of girl runners caught and passed us, they were getting the boat back into Elgol. As we  arrived at The Bad Step, we heard a right “kerfuffle”  from the cliffs above us. It looked like a couple of Common Buzzards either defending or attacking a nest/young from crows. I tried to get a telephoto shot but it was too difficult. The Bad Step is not bad at all, and I remember nothing about it from when I originally crossed over it. We passed onto the head of Loch Coruisk and met about 20 people who had been brought in by the boat from Elgol – The Bella Jane.  Personally, I think it is such a good thing that  people who perhaps are unable to walk into Loch Coruisk, can experience this magical setting, to be delivered right into the heart of the Cuillins, to be surrounded by mountains.

We headed up into An Garbh choire and were heading for the bealach just to the left of Caisteal a’ Garbh-choire, a large tower of rock. As we got higher into the Coirie, the wind picked up and it became much colder. I put my jacket on, while Malky stayed just with his tee-shirt, iron-man! We could see evidence of a number of recent large rock falls. Some of the boulders within the rock falls were huge, almost the size of a house! Lets hope nothing gets dislodged today! The route up the coirie was in a series of stages and levels which seemed to drag on forever. By the time we reached the final stage of the boulders below the bealach, I was flagging. Yesterdays efforts had drained me somewhat. We topped out on the bealach amidst the clag. The wind was very fierce and we did not linger.

Rounding Sgurr na Stri and heading towards Loch Coruisk
Buzzard defending nest on Sgurr na Stri
Approaching The Bad Step
Looking up the An Garbh choire
Looking across Loch Coruisk
Looking back down An Garbh choire towards Sgurr na Stri
Large landslide boulder in An Garbh choire
At the Bealach a’Garbh-coire

We dropped down the short distance into Coirie Ghrunnda and walked around the small lochs. The next section of the walk was quite tricky and meant keeping to the right of the coirie wall to pick up a path. However, we went down a number of false trails where people before had climbed down small sections only to have to back-track. We descended a couple of sections where we also had to back track before we picked up the proper path. The clag had now cleared and we could now look out towards the coast and the Isle of Soay. The geomorphology of this section was created by large glaciers scoring the underlying rocks into smooth curvaceous slabs, which dropped down in a series of stages. Care was still required, as a trip here could be fatal. Eventually we lost height and dropped down to a more recognisable path. Parts of the Cuillin Ridge had now begun to clear. The walk back to Glen Brittle was covered quite quickly.

We then had to do the long drive around back to Elgol and collect my car. However, all great walks should end with a fish supper, so we stopped off in Broadford and called in at the Chippy. In typical Malky fashion, after dropping me off in Elgol, he headed up Ben Meabost, a small Marilyn close to Elgol.

Heading down into Coire a’Ghrunnda with Isle of Soay in background
Heading above slabs in Coire a’Ghrunnda
Slabs in Coire a’Ghrunnda
Looking back up the slabs in Coire a’Ghrunnda
Approaching Glen Brittle

A great and memorable days walk. Once again cheers Malky for the company.

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=24194

Distance today = 14 miles
Total distance = 3,946 miles

 

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220. Skye: Drumfearn to Skye: Elgol

After finally sorting my garage roof out, it was time to do some more Scottish coast walking. I had planned to do three days of walking, but in the end managed to combine my first days walk with the planned second into one long walk. I was also looking forward to trying out my new, much better camera, on the Scottish landscapes.

I set off from Shropshire in the early evening hoping to reach  Fort William before pulling over and getting some sleep. I have found driving during the daylight hours and early evening until about midnight, then sleeping for 5 hours, gives me much better sleep. I still had 104 miles to go which I would quite easily do if I set off about 5:30 the following morning.

I drove and parked in  Elgol and then set off on the 18 mile bike ride around to the A851 near Drumfearn. I hid the bike behind a mossy knoll and set off across a trackless boggy moor. I had opted to wear my ‘leaky’ boots, as I wanted to keep my good boots dry for tomorrows walk. Within 10 minutes  my feet were wet! The good thing about wet feet is that your feet cannot get wetter! So when I came to Abhainn Ceann Loch Eiseoirt, which feeds into Loch Eishort, I simply walked across. The tide was well out so I was able to keep close to the shoreline and I made good progress over the kelp-covered rocks.

In less than an hour I reached the small hamlet of Heasta, situated at the end of a 5 mile road from Broadford. I continued past the few houses just as it started to rain. I managed to pick up an old ATV track, which I followed for a while, until it disappeared in a different direction to one I was going. I continued over the trackless open moor until I could look down on the ancient township of Boreraig. Boreraig was forcibly cleared by the agents of Lord MacDonald to make way for sheep in 1853. There were 22 households here, scattered about the low-lying land and but now covered in bracken.

I managed to pick up the good footpath that draws many walkers to do a large circular walk linking Kilbride, Suisnish and Boreraig. The path runs  blow the  length of the impressive cliffs and crags of Creag an Daraich. As I walked along the path I noticed some movement on the shoreline rocks. It was an Otter. I quickly got my camera out and used the telephoto lens to get a remarkable close-up of the Otter. I tried getting closer, but it retired into the water and it was difficult to get any other shots. With my old camera it would have been impossible to get a decent photo.

I soon arrived at Suisnish, another village that suffered the same fate, at the same time as Boreraig. I picked up a good track which led me towards Torrin. As I admired the amazing views across to Bla Bheinn I noticed the underlying geology had changed and I was now walking over grey and white Limestone, or to be more precise the metamorphosed version of it – Marble. I had now left Loch Eishort and was heading towards the head of Loch Slapin, passing through the small scattered village of Torrin where I noted a small quarry, famous for its Torrin Marble.

Heading over trackless boggy terrain towards Loch Eishort
Heading along the shore of Loch Eishort
Aproaching the hamlet of Heasta
Looking down on the ancient township of Boreraig
Ruins at Boreraig
Looking back at Boreraig
Sea Otter below Creag an Daraich
Looking back at the cliffs at Creag an Daraich
Looking back up Loch Eishort
Looking down on Suisnish with the Cuillins and Bla Bheinn in the background
Looking across Loch Scavaig towards the Black Cuillin

I continued around Loch Slapin along the B8083, until I came to a turning for Drinan, which had a minor road running towards it. The road ran out and I continued along a good track, which eventually merged into another road which ran towards the small hamlet of Glasnakille. Another minor road led up the hill and continued for 2.5 miles towards my end point at Elgol. Elgol is the main village of the area and sits at the end of the Strathaird Peninsula. There were wonderful views to be had from its top car park out to the Small Isles and across Loch Scavaig towards The Black Cuillin.

The Black Cuillin from Elgol
Looking down on Elgol harbour

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=24192

Distance today = 24 miles
Total distance = 3,932 miles

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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