242. Strathcarron to Tornapress

Not  the most inspiring of walks with the weather was forecast to be overcast with heavy rain, coupled with doing some of the walk in the dark!

This was to be my last section in “filling the gap” caused by an injury six weeks before and   the shortest walk of my three-day trip. The problem really was the public transport situation. The earliest time for a bus to/from my end point was about 11:00, which meant I would not be walking until 11:30. Although I could have completed the walk in the hours of daylight available, I did not want to be kicking my heels for 5 or 6 hours while I waited for a bus. So this is what I did.

I had slept in the back of the car at a small pull-in on the Bealach na Ba mountain road the night before and set my alarm for 05:00. It was pitch black when I set off down the road to Tornapress. I had brought my bike up on this trip in the event of public transport not being available. I chained the bike to snow gates and drove into Lochcarron. I set off from Lochcarron down the quiet cul-de-sac road to Ardaneaskan a 06:00. I expected the road to be very quiet at that time of the morning. For the first couple of miles there was street lighting although no pavement. I would not have been happy about walking along the main road in the dark, but I felt ok about walking along this road.

I was wearing my hi vis vest and a strobing head torch. I also carried a hand torch, with bright LED lighting if any traffic approached. I met only 3 cars throughout the entire length of the road and two of them were where there was street lighting. The rain started after about a mile down the road and would continue off and on for the rest of the day. At Port na Fearna, the street lighting ceased and I was in the dark. It would be another hour and a half before any reasonable daylight was available. I turned my strobe light to the energy-saving red light and continued on in the dark. I have always liked walking in the dark, at least along pavements or roads.

I passed through the hamlet of North Strome, nearby to where the ferry used to go to Stromeferry across the loch. As I walked along the road through the Old Scots pine plantation near Leacanashiel, I was able to switch my torch off. The public road ended at Ardaneaskan, by which time the greyness of the morning was apparent.

Early hours of the morning on the Ardaneaskan road
Dawn at Leacanashiel looking across Loch Carron

I headed up an Estate track and dropped down to Loch Reraig. I was heading North East now and followed the Reraig Burn. I was looking for a footpath sign that branched off from the Estate track after 1 km. I got to a point where I knew I had missed the sign for the footpath. I retraced my steps and found the sign albeit surrounded by high dying bracken. The footpath climbed gently over open moorland and down into Loch Kishorn to the village of Achintraid. I was back on a metal road and continued through the hamlet of Ardarroch which soon joined the A896 Kishorn road. I plodded along the main road for a couple of miles until I came to my chained up bike at Tornapress. I was rather relieved that the bike was still there, having been on show since 5:30 that morning.

I began the 6 mile cycle ride back to Lochcarron and to my surprise I only had to get off and push three times. As I arrived back in Lochcarron the bus which I originally had planned to take was departing for Tornapress,  which made me feel pretty good. However, I still had the small section to walk from Strathcarron to Lochcarron, a few miles. This I did by cycling out and walking back…pushing my bike.

Not a great walk with few photo opportunities and poor light and heavy rain, but satisfying that I got the walk done in good time and had finally plugged a gap that had been bugging me.

At Ardaneaskan looking across to Plockton
Looking back to Loch Reraig
Hidden sign for Achintraid path (poor quality photo)
Heading over open moor to Achintraid
Looking down to Achintraid and Loch Kishorn
Approaching Tornapress

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=24377

Distance today = 16 miles
Total distance = 4,390 miles

 

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241. Strathcarron to Kyle of Lochalsh

This was going to be a tough day in more ways than one. Firstly, it was something like 22 miles to Kyle of Lochalsh and secondly, there was still construction work going on along the A890.

There have been issues with rock stability between Attadale and Ardnarff for many years, especially where the road and rail routes come together and are pinched between the loch shore and the steep mountainside. The underlying problem is the presence of the Strathcarron Fault and nearby Kishorn Thrust, forming components of the Moine Thrust. The latest attempt to stabilise the rock slope is currently being undertaken with the road closed overnight and for long periods during the day. The opening times for the road was based around the train timetable and subject to a convoy system. To make matters worse pedestrians were not allowed to walk through the works, instead being carried inside one of the convoy vehicles – this was not an option for me.

I considered a number of solutions to get past the works on foot and walking around the site was the only option. I found it was not possible to walk on the shore side, between the rail track and the loch, as  in many places there was a sheer drop from the track into the water. I decided that I  needed to climb high up above the works to a height of about 350m just after Attadale. This height was important because it was above the very steep slope, above the forestry which spans the steep slope and importantly above a number of very steep ravines which cut into the slope.

I drove to and parked next to the rail station at Strathcarron. It was still slightly dark when I set off down the A890. I was wearing my hi-vis vest and strobe light head torch. The road was open at 07:00 so I knew I would see some traffic long along it.

When I reached Attadale climbed a deer fence and set off up the hill. There was no path, but the terrain was not that bad, just steep. The steepness of the slope finally relented and the going became much easier. The 3 or 4 miles trek along the top was simply a case of keeping high on the undulating ridge, and maintaining a bearing between the hummocky knolls and boggy ground. Although I had extensive views over Loch Carron, I could not see down to the road works below me or even the forest. The route finding was quite simple as I navigated between a succession of small lochs. The key loch was Loch na Stroine, which I knew was close to  the end of the road works below.

Getting off the hill and back down to the main road was the biggest challenge. I knew that there were forest roads running parallel with the hillside, but no paths or firebreaks linking them to the higher ground. I aimed for an old forest track, that I knew would be overgrown, but have a small distance to bash through to get to. I descended down very steep ground and had a few goes at getting through the forest. I finally emerged at what looked like an old road, very overgrown. I was very pleased with my navigation as I knew that this road would lead to a much more open forest road, and it did.

Looking towards the hill I would climb to bypass the roadworks
Looking down at Attadale
Looking down Loch Carron
Heading down to the forest
Looking back at the overgrown forest track emerging onto a better track
On the A890 and looking back

I finally arrived back on the A890 some 4 hours after setting off from Strathcarron, but I still had a long way to go. I continued along a very quiet A890 to the panoramic viewpoint above Loch Carron. I chatted to a couple who were selling coffee and snacks in the lay-by there. The coffee was a real tonic and tasted really nice. They offered me a free cup of coffee after they heard what I was doing, I politely declined as I had to get a move on, I had a train to catch.

I set off down the A890 and soon turned off the main road through Achmore. For the next 4  miles I continued along a quiet lane with the dramatic cliffs of Creag an Duilisg rising high above me. As I approached Duncraig Castle I was able to follow a footpath down to the railway line and pass underneath it and continue along a lochside path all the way to the outskirts of Plockton. I did not have time to walk into Plockton itself and continued along the road heading towards Duirinish. Duirinish was a unique little hamlet, with a row of cottages either side of a burn that ran through the settlement. Sheep grazed on common grazing land in the middle of the hamlet.

Below the cliffs at Creag an Duilisg
Loch side path heading towards Plockton

I continued on to the nearby settlement of Drumbuie and then onto Erbusaig with the road getting wider and containing more traffic. By the time I reached Badicaul I could see the Skye Bridge, albeit from a different angle. I passed into Kyle of Lochalsh and immediately looked for somewhere to eat.  I did not fancy the cafe/bistro there so I popped into the Co-Op and bought some food. I had about 30 minutes before my train departed back up the line to Strathcarron. The rail journey was taken in the late afternoon light and I could still make out the landmarks I had previously walked along. It would be a superb journey to take the train all the way back to Inverness. As I passed by the road works on the train, my suspicions about being unable to pass between the railway and the shore were confirmed.

I would spend a third night in the car due to The Wee Campsite in Lochcarron being closed for the Winter.

The hamlet of Duirinish
At Badicaul looking towards the Skye Bridge
At Kyle of Lochalsh and the train back to Strathcarron

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=24371

Distance today = 22 miles
Total distance = 4,374 miles

 

240. Ardheslaig to Applecross

Finally back to Applecross after my slight mishap some 6 weeks ago. On this trip I was hoping to ‘plug the gap’ left by my previous trip being cut short by an injury and also to further advance my progress around the Applecross Peninsular.

I drove up the day before and reached Inverness by 20:00. I popped into Aldi to get some provisions and continued onto Applecross. I had been hoping to park the car  at Coulags again, but I could see most of the parking space was occupied by a camper van. I continued on the road towards the Bealach na Ba as I knew the location of a number of parking spots lower down. I found a great parking spot by a burn. Only a single car passed by all night. I was in for a bit of a surprise at about 1 in the morning, as a stag very, close to the car, let out a roaring sound akin something that Zombies would make! Scared the living daylights out of me!

At 06:00 I continued onto Applecross. Because it was a Wednesday I had opted to use the weekly bus service around the northern tip of Applecross. I had booked a seat on the minibus a few day before and arranged to be picked up at the Applecross Inn at 08:00. I was the only passenger on the bus which meant I could have a good chat to the driver, who was also a mechanic at Lochcarron Garage, who run the service.

I got dropped off at the road-end to Ardheslaig and began walking back to Applecross along the old road which was well-preserved in this area. The road around the northern part of Applecross is quite new, well 1976, which is quite new in road terms.  I could see why the new road was needed, with the only other way into Applecross over the Bealach na Ba, which could be impassable sometimes in Winter. I stayed on the old road for a couple of miles, climbing steadily and giving a great view back towards Loch Torridon. Most of the Torridon ‘giants’ were still in cloud, but I had great views across the loch out towards Red Point, which will feature on my next visit to the area.

After a couple of miles the old road joined the new road, which I would remain on all the way back to Applecross. The road was very quiet to start with, but as the morning wore on the traffic picked-up. However, the road was still pleasant to walk along and after passing through the small hamlets of Arrina, Fearnbeg and Fearnmore outstanding views emerged over  The Inner Sound across to Rona, Raasay and Skye beyond. Although the sun was out, the odd rain shower appeared, but not for long. With the road being very straight  it was possible to make rapid progress.  I continued on and passed through the small hamlets of Cuaig, Callakillie, Lonbain and Salacher.

At Ardheslaig with the minibus just setting off back to Lochcarron
Looking north to Red Point across Loch Torridon from the old road.
Near Kenmore and the road ahead
Not sure about this, as I can find no reference to it – local knowledge or local grafitti?
Looking back up Loch Torridon
Entering Cuaig with Rona and The Storr on Skye in the distance
Looking south down the Inner Sound towards the Red Cuillin and the Isle of Raasay on the right

Near Meallabhan I could see a  road veering to the right down to a MOD submarine testing station. Close by was a small car park and a sandy beach, with a number of people enjoying the autumn sunshine strolling along the sand. Sitting below the small crags high above the beach was a huge sand dune which appeared to have been created by unique aeolian processes in this small bay.

The road eventually turned east into Applecross Bay and I could pick out the village of Applecross across the bay, which was still three miles away. As I entered the village I passed the site of the Four Trees of Applecross. Although the original trees had disappeared just after the Second World War, four Sweet Chesnuts were recently planted to commemorate the original trees planted in a square formation. Various stories, myths and superstition surround the trees, one of which was  do with a race to claim Applecross with one of the claimants cutting off his hand to throw ahead to claim the prize and the trees planted to commemorate the event. Hmmm yes….After 6 hours of continuous walking I arrived back in Applecross.

Large sand dune above Meallabhan beach
Looking across Applecross Bay to Applecross village
One of the four recently planted Four Trees of Applecross

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=24367

 

Distance today = 20 miles
Total distance = 4,352 miles

 

235. Tornapress to Applecross

I was looking forward to continuing my journey around the coastline of the Scottish mainland now that Skye was out of the way and I had planned a 3 day trip. Sadly that did not happen, due to an injury that I will elaborate on later.

Because of the lack of available public transport I needed to bring forward my originally planned last day to be my first! Applecross does not have a great deal of public transport options, so few, that the only bus out of Applecross runs on a Wednesday ( I later found out that a bus also runs on a Saturday). You also have to call Lochcarron Garage, who run the service, to book a seat. I just had to be in Applecross on a Wednesday morning  for 8:00 am. I drove up via Inverness the day before and stopped overnight in the car at one of my old Munro and Corbett parking haunts at Coulags.

I drove from Coulags to Applecross the following day via the Bealach na Ba and parked in the free car park at Applecross. I came across a stag in an enclosed garden close to the public toilets making a meal of some tasty looking shrubs. The mini-bus appeared with a few elderly ladies already on board on their way to Lochcarron. Because we were picking up other passengers in the north of the Applecross Peninsular we set off on the long drive around the coastal route towards Shieldaig. It was a really pleasant drive along the  narrow, twisting and scenic road. Tornapress, a small hamlet, sits on the A896, next to the Applecross road end – the road that goes over the Bealach na Ba – (Pass of the Cattle), would be the start of my walk. However, I would not be returning to Applecross via the road , instead I would be picking my way along the trackless and rough northern shore of Loch Kishorn as far as the bothy at Uags and then heading north via Toscaig back to Applecross.

From Tornapress, I set off along the Applecross road which climbed slowly. I was aware that a private road veered off towards the former dry-dock facility built initially for the Ninian Oil Field back in 1977. The following link is to a short film in the National Library of Scotland about the construction of the platform at Kishorn –

http://movingimage.nls.uk/film/5973

The last work carried out at the site was the building of caissons for the Skye Bridge back in 1992. The facility then lay idle for some 23 years. Today the site is being used for the Kishorn Wind Farm Project, as well as Salmon Fish farm and a depot for Ferguson’s. A small quarry has also sprung up on the west side of the dry dock, producing aggregate from the Torridonian Sandstone. The bad news for me is that all this industry didn’t want me walking through their front door!! So I continued up the minor road, gaining height slowly, until I could set off across the open moor and head down to the shore just west of the quarry.

I started along the rocky shore-line  of Loch Kishorn; high tide occurred about 90 minutes ago, so I had some beach to work with. However, it was difficult walking on the slippy rocks. I thought I was doing ok until I slipped and fell. My camera went in one direction, my walking stick in the other, I landed heavily on my left knee. I shouted expletives  out in pain and annoyance. I checked out my knee, nothing broken thank God! It bloody hurt though! After the initial pain subsided I found I could walk, the knee was beginning to swell and it was really tender. I left the beach and decided to keep to the higher ground. I continued through long grass, bog, heather and rough terrain. I managed to cross the Allt a’Chois ok and decided to try to follow the route of the wooden power lines. Eventually, I caught sight of some ruins and the house at Airigh-drishaig. The cottage is occupied sometimes by a chap called Martin (I think), he didn’t appear to be in today. The cottage is set right amongst a large patch of gorse. Airigh-drishaig is also the meeting point of the path from Toscaig and the other from Uags.

I did contemplate about taking the shorter route to Toscaig, but my left knee seemed ok and I did want to visit Uags Bothy. I was having second thoughts about the next two days walking though and It gradually dawned on me that I could continue on today, but not for two more 20 mile+ days. Bugger!

Cheeky Stag devouring shrubs in Applecross
The start of the Applecross road not sure why so many stickers!
Heading for the quarry
The route ahead
On the beach
Approaching Airigh-drishaig
Zoomed shot of the Skye Bridge

Although a footpath is marked on the OS map from Airigh-drishaig to Uags, on the ground there is little evidence of it. I did pick up the occasional footprint, but I generally picked out what I considered to be the best route.  The light rain which had began shortly after my fall now began to fall quite heavily. It seemed to take an age to finally locate Uags Bothy.

Uags Bothy has a superb location, right by its own little beach and very popular with Kayakers coming over from Plockton. From the outside bolt I could see that no-one was home. I checked out the Bothy and found stairs leading to two large bedrooms, with two metal bed frames and both rooms clad with wooden walls. Downstairs was another sleeping room with a carpet in and tables and another room with the fireplace, tables and a collection of home-made chairs. The bothy was in good condition and reading the Bothy Book’s comments is well liked by all that have stayed. The last entry was 4 days before. I rested awhile considered what to do about my knee.

I had originally planned to stay at Uags for an overnighter but the short distance from Tornapress, meant I could easily make Applecross in a day and was therefore not  carrying no food or a sleeping bag. I rested for almost an hour before setting off from the Bothy along a well trodden path. I had read reports that this path was indistinct in places, but I found an  easy to follow footpath.

By the time I reached Toscaig, the rain had finished and the sun came out. I now had about 4 miles of roadwork to get back to Applecross. The knee became slightly more stiff and I knew I could not do a 20 mile walk tomorrow. I was really disappointed. It also dawned on me that making Cape Wrath by Christmas was a bit of a tall order. So now I am looking at a more realistic target of Ullapool.

The Applecross Inn was doing a fair trade as I got back to the car after 8 hours of walking. The Inn had a small Airstream Caravan which had been converted to sell food. I bought a Fish supper for £8.50! Ok. Plenty of chips but expensive. The long drive home beckoned.

The route to Uags!
Arriving at Uags Bothy
Main living room at Uags
One of the upstairs bedrooms
Approaching Toscaig
Suddenly my sore knee was not as great as other people’s problems!
Arriving at Toscaig
Looking across the Inner Sound to the Isle of Scalpay with the Red Cuillin on Skye behind from Camusterrach
Looking down from the Bealach na Ba on my drive home.

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=24309

Distance today =  18 miles
Total distance =  4,265 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 just completed Skye and back on the mainland 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

 

233. Skye: Old Man of Storr Car Park to Skye: Sligachan

I awoke at 06:00 and immediately flexed my legs, they did not feel too bad after yesterdays exertions. Today was a Sunday and this would be my last walking section on Skye. I thought about how I should tackle this  section and decided that I would drive to Portree and park my car. I would then catch a bus up to the Old Man of Storr Car park and walk back to Portree. I would then get a bus down to Sligachan and walk back to Portree, thus closing the loop around Skye. I decided to take the tent down and pack everything away and wait for the campsite gate to open at 07:00.

I drove into Portree and parked in the free car park. I had about 90 minutes to wait for the bus and thought “bugger-it” I’ll start walking now. So off I went pushing my bike along out of Portree. It happens sometimes with me, I make plans and then throw them out the window in the spur of a moment!

The road for an early Sunday morning was very quiet. Most of the road up to the Old Man is uphill, so I should get the benefits of riding my bike on the return back down to Portree. I was amazed how well my legs had recovered, ok I wouldn’t be sprinting much. I eventually reached the lochs of Loch Leathan, which were very still. It was only just short of 7 miles up to the car park and for most of the way, the sharp precipitous cliff edge of The Storr was on full view. I had climbed The Storr back in 1976 and remember a few details about it. By the time I reached the Car Park cars and tourist coaches had begun to arrive. For me this would be the best bit. I always love free-wheeling downhill at speed. On the ride back I passed the bus that I had originally planned to catch, which meant I would be about 2 hours ahead of schedule. After 40 minutes I arrived back at the car.

Portree Harbour
Ben Tianavaig
Heading towards The Storr and Old Man
Looking back over a tranquil Loch Leathan towards The Cuillins
The Old Man of Storr Car Park

I changed into walking boots as the next section would involve over 3 miles of off-road walking. There appeared no immediate bus to get me down to Sligachan, other than the one I had originally planned to catch in about 2 hours. So I began cycling down the A87. It was not a very pleasant experience, as the traffic had suddenly increased and even though it was essentially downhill most of the way to Sligachan, it was tough cycling. I think I had a bit of a headwind. About half way down the road an Inter-city #915 bus passed me coming from Uig and going onto Glasgow. Grrrrrr!!! Forgot about checking for the 915. As I would be returning south later in the day I locked my bike to a fence at the Sligachan Hotel.

I set off from the hotel and crossed the main road into the Sligachan campsite. The site was very busy and most people seemed to be preparing to depart. I was looking to pick up a path which runs alongside Loch Sligachan around to the end of the public road at Peinachorrain.  I eventually picked up the path and continued on along the lochside. The path was quite rough in places and  had to walk along the beach at a couple of points. A few sections had bracken, which appeared finally to be dying back for this year. As I continued along the path I was accompanied by the incessant traffic noise coming across the loch from the A87.

I arrived at Peinachorrain and continued on along the B883, a very quiet road that would ultimately lead back onto the A87. I did not meet my first car until after 5 miles by which time the effects of yesterdays walk was beginning to take their toll. I passed through the small hamlets of Gedintailor, Ollach and Achnahanaid, where I met an elderly couple on bicycles and we spoke awhile. The views across the Sound of Raasay had been replaced by the looming mass of Ben Tianavaig (413m), a hill that dominates the view from Portree as well. I had thought, some time ago, about climbing this hill, but not today. As I approached the junction with the A87 I met a French lad who was backpacking around to Sligachan, I gave him a few tips and we departed. The last two miles into Portree along the verge of the A87 was no fun.

The campsite at Sligachan
Looking back to Sligachan with Sgurr nan Gillean and Am Bastier prominent
Heading down Loch Sligachan
Looking across Loch Sligachan to Glamaig
A bit of shore walking was required
Looking down Loch Sligachan
Looking down on Peinachorrain and the end of the public road
This K6 doubles up both as a library and an automated external defibrillator (AED) station
Looking across to Ben Tianavaig
Lovely sweet-smelling Meadowsweet
Portree in the distance

So that was it! My route around Skye was complete and I must now return to the mainland and continue my progress north. So what of Skye? Well the enduring memory is of how busy the place is and of the traffic. That aside I had two memorable walks. The first with Malkyc with the walk from Elgol over the Cuillin into Glen Brittle, stunning and dramatic scenery; the second being my overnight bothy stay at the isolated Ollisdal, a tranquil and beautiful part of Duirinish. To be fair it is not difficult on Skye to find peace, solitude and tranquility away from the masses and roads. I could have chosen better routes or taken more time to explore, but I have found that compromise while completing this challenge is a necessity sometimes. I did 15 days walking on Skye, racking up 299 miles. I hope to be back sometime.

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=24284

Distance today =  19 miles
Total distance =  4,190 miles

 

 

232: Skye: Hinnisdal Bridge to Skye: Old Man of Storr Car Park

This day was going to be the big one. I was aiming to get to Sligachan with just two more days of walking and to achieve that I needed to do a big mileage. In my planning I did not do an accurate mileage calculation, I was concentrating more on the logistics of the public transport. The good news was that Trotternish has two bus services, that run clockwise (#57C)  and anticlockwise (#57A); the other good news was that I would not have to use my bike. I also had to take into account this would be a Saturday service which was slightly more restrictive.

I drove around to and parked at the Old Man of Storr Car Park, the car park was already filling up with coaches, cars and camper vans. I caught the #57A bus, which was quite full for the time of the morning. I sat close to a small group of Italians who appeared to be heading out to Rubha Hunish to begin the Skye Trail. As the bus rounded the northern tip of Skye, I started to have serious doubts about completing this walk, the journey time would be 1hr and 20 minutes and we had not even reached Uig yet! My misgivings grew!

I finally got off the bus at Hinnisdal Bridge and started my trek back the way I come up the A87. Mercifully the skies were slightly overcast and a cool breeze was at my back. The road also was still quiet at this time of the morning. My legs felt good and I was soon looking down at Uig. I passed the ruin of Uig Tower or Captain Fraser’s Folly,( a nineteenth century folly) which was basically a show of wealth and a place were local tenants had to go to pay their rent to the Factor.

I had been to Uig twice previously, both times to catch the ferry to Tarbert on the Isle of Harris, in 1976 on my walk around Skye and in 2012 when I headed out to The Western Isles to climb the Corbett – An Clisham. There were various signs up for a Gala or Fete in the village this day and I could see preparations taking place on the sports field. I called in at the local store to buy some sweets and savouries. I was now faced with a steep climb  up and out of Uig along the A855, a road I would be on for the rest of the day.

As I climbed up the road, I met a marshall in a high vis jacket, he was directing runners who were emerging from the top of the hill. This was a road race that had begun at the bealach below The Quiraing and was finishing at the Gala sports field. I took a short cut missing out the various loops of the main road as it climbed up a steep bank out of Uig. As I headed north the road became single track, with passing places. I had excellent views out to the Western Isles. As the morning moved on the volume of traffic gradually increased. I thought I would do an impromptu count of the vehicles passing over a 30 minute period.  I found that a vehicle would pass me, on average,  in either direction every 20 to 30 seconds.

Looking across Uig Bay to Uig
Uig Tower or Captain Fraser’s Folly
Looking down on Uig from the A855
Looking across to North Harris from Kilvaxter

I entered a small settlement along the road called Kilvaxter, which had a recently discovered Souterrain in it. I vaguely remember reading about a Souterrain before, so I went to investigate. On the site of a small Iron Age farmstead some 2000 years ago, this Souterrain was a 17 metre long underground winding tunnel leading to a small chamber. It is believed the purpose of these underground chambers was to store diary foodstuffs over the winter period. The small iron grate was open, I stooped down and peered in. It’s entrance was very low, wet underfoot  and pitch black inside. I do not have a head torch or fancy crawling through groundwater on my knees so  I continued on.

I passed by the Museum of Island Life, close to the cemetery where Flora Macdonald and the fashion designer Alexander McQueen are buried. Shortly afterwards the road dropped down close to the sea at Score Bay. The tide was not quite out so I could not spot any dinosaur footprints, but I did get a good view of the ruins of Duntulm Castle. The castle was very busy and there were many people making their way out to the ruins of the former Macdonald stronghold. Close by was the Duntulm Castle Hotel, sold by auction 2014, but still sitting derelict and closed.

The entrance to the Souterrain
Inside the Souterrain – I did not go in far
The Skye Museum of Island Life at Kilmuir

I now turned east and this marked far north the road goes at the end of the Trotternish peninsula. If I had more energy I would walk out to the northern tip of Skye at Rubha Hunish, but I was  feeling a bit tired by then. At Kilmaluag I had a great view northeast up The Minch and could see the mainland stretching out into the distance. Using the Rubha Reidh Lighthouse as a reference point I could see the hills of Assynt including Quinag, Suilven and Canisp. Looking further to the north I can also pick out the hills of West Sutherland including Foinavon some 72 miles away, very faintly to the left of Foinavon I can pick up a lower hill which I suspect is Creag Riabhach (485m) and just 7 miles south of the Cape Wrath ( where I want to be by Christmas). But I was a long way north and must now head south to return to the Scottish mainland. I had a wee rest at Balmaqueen as a small herd of cattle was drove down the main road to transfer between fields.

Looking towards Duntulm
Duntulm Castle
At low tide it is possible to see Dinosaur footprints here – but not today
Looking across The Minch at North Harris and down on Duntulm Bay with the derelict Duntulm Hotel

The late afternoon was turning into early evening  as the dramatic cliffs of the Meall na Suiramach and the Quiriang come into view. I entered the strung out township of Staffin, composed of many settlements. It seemed to go on forever. The light had become very dull now but I still managed to get good views to the north. I recognise the unmistakable shape of the hill Beinn Ghobhlach and Ben Mor Coigach, both hills standing astride Loch Broom and the ferry port of Ullapool and a milestone for me.

The last of the cows being driven along the road
The cliffs of Meall na Suiramach
Local waiting for a bus?
Looking along the Trotternish Ridge at Staffin
Looking down on Staffin Beach

There were much fewer cars on the road as I dropped down into Lealt. I could see that the layby for the waterfalls were closed and a new wooden over-hanging structure had been built. The site was closed, but as no one was around I thought I would have a crafty peek. The next 3 or 4 miles were tough, but I kept a good pace up. My mind took to thinking about what to have for supper, there was no way I could cook that night. So I looked forward to a fish supper in Portree.

I arrived in a nearly deserted Car Park at Old Man of Storr. My legs and joints ached but I was more concerned with getting to the chippy before they closed. Getting out of the car in Portree was painful, as was the wait in the queue for my food. There were about 39 Chinese ahead of me all trying to order, asking questions etc…..40 minutes later I emerged with my fish supper. I got back to the tent and just lay on my mattress. I knew now that tomorrow was a much easier day and I could complete Skye. I rubbed my knees with some deep heat and tried to sleep.

Layby at Lealt Waterfalls
Wooden observation platform
View down into gorge
Zoomed shot north east to Gairloch with Beinn mhor Coigach (left) and Beinn Ghobhlach (right)
The Old Man of Storr

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=24283

Distance today =  31 miles
Total distance =  4,171 miles