258. Beinn nam Ban Bealach to Ullapool

I had committed a schoolboy error in preparing for the longest walk of my 3 day trip to Ullapool…. by not checking for bus services along the southern shore of Loch Broom. I only discovered there was a bus service when one passed me! It took a while to calm down at my own stupidity. Anyway, there was no getting away from the fact that I would have to do an out and back, involving an additional 3 miles and some stiff climbing, to get to the start of the walk.

I split todays walk into three sections – firstly, an out and back from Loggie up to the Bealach below Beinn nam Ban, Secondly, the minor road along the southern shore of Loch Broom and thirdly, the A835 along the northern shore of Loch Broom.

I drove to and parked in the walkers car park at Inverlael alongside the A835. I then cycled down the A835 a short distance before turning off along a road running along the southern shore of Loch Broom to the end of the public road at Loggie. Although a footpath is marked on the OS map, on the ground there was little evidence of it. I then had two miles of switching between a rocky and very slippy shoreline and climbing around small rock bluffs and vegetation. I emerged eventually at a small salmon farm which had a bulldozer track snaking up the steep hillside to the public road at the bealach below Beinn nam Ban. I was happy to turn around and descend back to the shoreline of Loch Broom. At this point Ullapool is only a very short distance across the loch and looks enticingly close.

I arrived back at the bike and started pushing it back along the minor through a series of small hamlets – Rhiroy, Ardindrean, Letters and Clachan. It was along this road I came across the 813A bus service from Ullapool….Grrrr! Still, the road walk was quite pleasant, with the sun now out of cloud. I made good time back to the car park at Inverlael. I was not looking forward to the next section which involved walking along the  busy A835. However, I had to first drive to Ullapool to chain my bike to a railing near the Harbour, I did not fancy pushing my bike along the busy road. I then drove back to the car park at Inverlael.

Passing Loch na h-Airbhe at the bealach below Beinn nam Ban
Looking down on Ullapool across Loch Broom
Old wreck on Loch Broom
Looking across Loch Broom up Gleann na Sguaib with Eididh nan Clach Geala(l), Meall nan Ceapraichean(c) and Beinn Dearg (r)
Direction overload at Clachan church
Looking down Loch Broom
Crossing the River Broom

I set off down the A835 with the sun disappearing behind an increasingly cloudy sky. The road section back to Ullapool was basically a series of long straights with some occasional bends. It was a high-speed road and I therefore had to be careful. Thankfully, the verges were quite wide and I was able to switch sides of the road depending on the traffic direction. It was not a particularly enjoyable walk compared to the early morning section. I was glad to see Ullapool again and located my bike. The cycle back to the car, was tough, even though the road was quite flat. A tough day, but glad to have reached Ullapool and probably the last of the ‘larger’ towns until I reach Thurso.

Approaching Ullapool
Ullapool

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=24484

Distance today =  21 miles
Total distance = 4,614 miles

 

 

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257. Scoraig Circular

The first problem I had with writing this TR was what to title it! Probably the correct format should have been “Beinn nam Ban Bealach Circular via Beinn Ghobhlach”, a bit of a mouthful and maybe not the most ‘catchiest’ of title captions! So I settled for “Scoraig Circular” which sounds much better.

The Scoraig peninsular is a thin finger-like piece of mainland that separates Little Loch Broom from Loch Broom. It extends some distance out into The Minch and is guarded on its eastern side by the Graham – Beinn Ghobhlach. Beinn Ghobhlach had been on my radar for some time and although only 635m, it sits close to the sea and therefore offers quite expansive views all around.

I drove up to a small pull-in close to the bealach below Beinn nam Ban. Because this was to be a circular walk, I would be returning to the car from here. Most people walking on to Scoraig or climbing Beinn Ghobhlach would park in the small hamlet of Badrallach, located at the end of the public road. However, I could see that I would be losing a considerable amount of height in descending down into Badrallach. Instead I opted to head due west across open and rising moorland towards Sail Chruaidh, which sits on a broad ridge. This would enable me to visit another Marilyn – Cnoc a’Bhaid-rallaich on my way to Beinn Ghobhlach.

It was a beautiful still and sunny morning when I set off across the open moorland. With the sun at my back I made good progress over the gently rising ground. The going underfoot was wet, but not too boggy. After a few miles I reached slightly steeper and drier ground. I arrived at the summit of the Marilyn – Cnoc a’Bhaid-rallaich some 1.5 hours after setting out. The views although extensive had a thin haze which reduced the visibility somewhat. However, I could easily make out my next objective Beinn Ghobhlach.

From the bealach below Beinn nam Ban looking across Little Loch Broom to Sail Mhor
Looking north across Loch Broom to Beinn Mor Coigach
Looking westwards along the ridge to Cnoc a’Bhaid-rallaich
Looking across to Beinn Ghobhlach from Cnoc a’Bhaid-rallaich

I descended down grassy/rocky slopes to the bealach between the two hills. The bealach was strewn with large “groughs” , bogs and peat hags which I had to pick my way through. I arrived at the summit Beinn Ghobhlach at about 11:30 in the morning. The wind had picked up to a stiff breeze and was bitterly cold, this necessitated me to don my walking jacket. Views were restricted again due to the haze. I looked down towards Ullapool, which was easily visible, and could see the Cal Mac ferry making its way down Loch Broom bound for Stornoway. I did not linger too long on the summit because of the cold, I retraced my steps and headed down into Coire Dearg. Once I was clear of the jumble of rocks in the Coire I set off down a long gentle ridge that formed the spine of the Scoraig peninsular for most of its length. The underfoot conditions were not too bad as I passed along Carn na Abrach. I could see in the far distance the small lighthouse in Scoraig which I was heading for.

Looking down the Scoraig peninsula from Beinn Ghobhlach
Cal Mac ferry making its way down Loch Broom bound for Stornoway
Emerging from Coire Dearg
The unnamed other top of Beinn Ghobhlach
On Carn na Abrach
Zoomed shot of the lighthouse at Scoraig

I crossed a deer fence and continued  over a small hill called Carn Achaidh Mhor where I picked up a rocky ATV track, this track connected Scoraig with the small hamlet of Archmore on the Loch Broom side. I followed the track into Scoraig and visited the lighthouse, which had long since outlived its usefulness as a lighthouse, since it was now surrounded by tall trees. However, the small lighthouse  now has an alternative use – as an exhibition centre, albeit quite tiny! I opened the small iron doors of the lighthouse to reveal a small room with a series of info boards on the wall  depicting life in the Scoraig community. I recently read a small piece on the BBC website about Scoraig, the link is below

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-45046023

As Scoraig and the rest of the peninsula has no public roads, provisions and other essential items are either brought over Little Loch Broom  by boat from Badlaurach or on foot along the 5 mile footpath from Badrallach

I sat on a curious seating area which had sayings, proverbs, idioms etc written into the fired bricks it was made of. It was very warm now and I was aware I had a long walk back to the car. I could see that a few vehicles had been brought over to the peninsula, but the ‘main road’ was merely a dirt track which I was now walking along eastwards to Badrallach. Living ‘off grid’ meant that the community had to generate their own power, mainly through a profusion of small wind turbines, which were now turning at speed in the stiff breeze.

I met a couple of other walkers who had walked in from Badrallach who were just visiting for the day. It was not long before the dirt road became a footpath, as I passed through a gate and onto to the footpath proper to Badrallach. The footpath was very well constructed and passed around the steep crags at Creag a’Chadha where there were big drops, guarded by a fence, to the loch below. I eventually emerged at the hamlet of Badrallach, which was basically a strung out community of holiday lets, a camp site and some crofts.The last 2 to 3 miles along the road back up to the bealach and my car was tough going especially after my earlier exertions in the day. By the time I had reached the car the sky had clouded over, with ominous dark clouds forming over An Teallach. Fortunately by the time I had driven back to Ullapool the sun was back out.

A great days walk, especially the climb over Beinn Ghobhlach and the “Postmans Path” out from Scoraig.

The Lighthouse at Scoraig
Seating area near the Lighthouse
The view eastwards from Scoraig
Fenced footpath at Creag a’Chadha
Approaching the start of the public road at Badrallach

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=24483

Distance today =  17 miles
Total distance = 4,593 miles

 

 

 

 

256. Beinn nam Ban Bealach to Badcaul

The fine weather over most of the UK meant I could get three good walking days in the NW of Scotland. My objective over the three days was to reach Ullapool, a destination I had originally intended to reach by Christmas of last year.

I set off from Shropshire the day before in glorious sunshine and a new hottest Winter temperature of 20 deg C (with an even higher temp 21.2 deg c the following day). I drove to and parked in the large observation point car park near the Corrieshalloch Gorge. With little or no public transport in the area I had to make use of my bicycle, with the cycling direction governed by the severity of the road inclines.

I parked at the road end at Badcaul and set off on my bike, making good time down the predominantly downhill section of the A832. At the turn off for Badrallach I jumped off my bike and started pushing it. Although I was on level ground at first the road climbed steeply to about 230m, at the bealach below Beinn nam Ban. This road is actually a cul-de-sac and ends 3 miles down the road at Badrallach, where a well constructed footpath continues on  along Little Loch Broom to the isolated community of Scoraig, where I would be heading the following day.

Looking across Little Loch Broom towards Badcaul on a misty morning
Looking up to An Teallach
The packhorse bridge over the Dundonnell River

Although it was quite grey and overcast, with cloud lingering on Sail Mhor and An Teallach, it was dry and remarkably warm for this time of year. At a small car pull near the highest point of the road I got on and my bike and enjoyed a virtually a free-wheel back down to the A832, where I chained my bike to a fence and continued walking onto Badcaul. I soon came across my first flock of feral goats. The goats have been in the area for some time and I first saw them on An Teallach back in 2002. They seem to be doing well, with a number of recently born kids joining the flock. It’s difficult to say what future lies in store for these animals, given that they are regarded as a ‘pest’ by some Estates. Hopefully they will retreat to the hills for the Summer and not be bothered. I passed the Dundonnell Hotel which was closed for another two weeks, I remember staying there some years back.

It was becoming very warm, as the lingering cloud began to lift. Although a busy road in the summer, today the A832 only had the occasional vehicle on it.The road climbed gently and I soon came upon the second flock of feral goats. This time they were sprawled out across the road causing the traffic to stop. I arrived back at the car, with the sun now showing itself. I then set off for Ullapool and my Airbnb room for the next two nights.

Feral goats at Dundonnell
A deserted looking Dundonnell Hotel
Looking down Little Loch Broom from Camasnagaul
Sail Mhor
More feral goats
Ardessie waterfalls
Looking across Little Loch Broom towards Beinn Ghobhlach from Badcaul
Looking down Little Loch Broom from Badcaul

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=24481

Distance today =  12 miles
Total distance = 4,576 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. 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.
  2. I’ll up date the map every once in a while

 

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

 

 

 

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