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

 

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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

 

 

211. Sandaig to Shiel Bridge

I had been looking forward to this walk, especially the section around the northern part of the peninsular. But first I needed to do some road walking, which meant dropping down to Glenelg. Glenelg is a nice quiet little village, with its own Inn. The village has also a twin……… on Mars! NASA named the area close to the Mars Science Laboratory (where the Curiosity rover) was based.

I had left my car in Glenelg and also dumped my bike 7 or 8 miles away on the top of the Mam Ratagan; well it would be a free and enjoyable ride back down! I headed across to the outflow of the Glenmore River, passing the ruined Bernera Barracks which were  built-in the early 18th century and deserted in 1797. I then came to the public road towards the Skye ferry at Kyle Rhea. At this point the Sound of Sleat narrows considerably and on this quiet morning I could have easy shouted to someone on the Skye shore and received a reply back. The public road ended at the ferry and a good footpath continued on. New footpath signs indicated that Totaig was some 10.6km away. The path was well constructed and very enjoyable to walk on. After a mile the path which  runs alongside Kyle Rhea emerged into Loch Alsh and also dropped down to the shoreline.

Looking down towards Glenelg
Glenelg village
A distant twin
Bernera Barracks
The Ferry to Skye at Kyle Rhea

I continued along the  shoreline path to Ardtintoul. Ardtintoul once housed buildings  used as a Royal Navy fuel store during the Second World War, now deserted and used by the local salmon fishing farm. This was also the place where the good footpath ended and poor signage began. My first obstacle was the Allt na Dalach burn, at the shoreline it would be above my knees deep, which meant going further upstream and fording it there. I did that quite easily, then I had to climb over a deer fence on steep bank. The fence was in bad shape and could not have taken my weight, plus it had a barbed wire top! Fortunately I came across a hole in the fence that deer had been using to pass through. I emerged on an ATV track which was going in the wrong direction, I was also faced with a large section of woodland which had been de-afforested about 10 years ago. I struggled across the cut down forest to where I thought the footpath might be.

I  entered Ardtintoul Wood, but could not pick up the old footpath. The good thing about mature plantations is that there is good spacing between the trees and the lower branches snap off easily. I used the land contours to continue in the direction I needed to go and after about 20 minutes picked up a track that had been marked out with red and white plastic tape. The path was very wet and boggy. Eventually I emerged onto open moorland and could look down Loch Alsh to the Skye Bridge and Kyle of Lochalsh. I descended slowly to Totaig, passing the ruined Broch of Casteal Grugaig.

Walking along Loch Alsh towards Ardtintoul
Looking back towards Beinn na Caillich on Skye
Ardtintoul
Looking down Loch Alsh to the Skye Bridge and Kyle of Lochalsh
Looking east down towards Dornie

Totaig was really just a small two roomed cottage, which appeared to be no longer habited. This was the north-eastern bit of the Glenelg peninsular where Loch Alsh passed into Loch Duich and just a short distance from Eilean Donan castle on the opposite shore. Totaig was also at the end of the public road, which I then had 5 or 6 miles of walking down to Shiel Bridge. To get back to Glenelg I then needed to climb up the twisty road to the top of the Mam Ratagan. Needless to say I was quite tired when I eventually reached the top. The bike ride back down to Glenelg was worth it though!

Casteal Grugaig Broch
Looking across Loch Duich to Eilean Donan Castle from Totaig

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=24124

Distance today = 20 miles
Total distance = 3,763 miles

 

210. Kinloch Hourn to Sandaig

Problems with my car and bike prevented me from making an earlier trip to Scotland, but once I got sorted saw me heading for the West Coast on a three-day trip that would eventually lead me onto Skye.

I set off from Shropshire at 04:30 with the hope I could get some walking in later that day. The long drive to Corran (about a mile down the road from Arnisdale) was on a lovely Saturday morning and I made good progress especially as I opted to try the slightly longer A9 approach through Dalwhinnie.

I arrived at Corran at 14:00 and got myself ready. My aim was to walk in through Glen Arnisdale and head towards Kinloch Hourn; I was looking for a marker I had left close to the trail that I had left two weeks ago. I would then retrace my steps back to Corran and continue up the public road through Arnisdale. I must admit I rarely have to retrace my steps, but on this occasion it was the only practical solution. I did contemplate a return walk back over Druim Fada, which would have been very scenic, but the long drive and the fact I would have further miles to do upon my return to Corran meant it would be too much. I had hoped to push my bike along and use it on the return leg, but unfortunately, the track looked a little rough for my “new” second-hand “urban” bike. So I was to walk in and out on foot.

I managed to locate my “marker” and headed back to Corran. I soon met my only other walker of the day, who was doing the TGO Challenge – a coast to coast trek over 13 days. The track to and from Corran  was almost a full vehicle track and gave easy walking underfoot. After fording the Abhainn Ghleann Dubh I beared left back down Gleann Dubh Lochain. Glen Arnisdale and Gleann Dubh Lochain are both quite short Glens and are really one of the same. This is because the glen walls of Druim Fhada  and Beinn Clachach  pinch together to form  a rock barrage about half way down. This creates a small gorge and the path climbs high to get around it. The upper Gleann Dubh Lochain also contains two lochs sharing the same name – Dubh Lochain, both were originally dammed and are now breached.

I followed the track above the gorge and then steeply down into Glen Arnisdale, where the path was  level and covered under the shade of Silver Birch. By the time I got back to Corran it was early evening and Sheena’s tea hut was closed. I now had a number of miles to go on the public road heading towards Glenelg. I decided to see how far I could get before calling it a day. The road had a series of steep up and downs which was very tough going in the evening sun. I made it as far as Sandaig before deciding to ride my bike back to the car at Corran. Sandaig is famous for being the location for Gavin Maxwell’s’ novel Ring of Bright Water, describing his life with his pet otter Mij. The house that he lived in he named Camusfearna which burnt down in 1968. I remember doing this book for English Literature O-Level at School. Little did I realise all these years later I would be visiting where it all took place. Most of the area has now been de-afforested.

My “marker” at the start/mid point of the walk, above Gleann Dubh Lochain
The upper lochain at Gleann Dubh Lochain
Looking towards Glen Arnisdale over the lower Gleann Dubh Lochain, the Druim Fada is to the left
Looking back uo Gleann Dubh Lochain with Sgurr na Sgine in the far distance
The breached dam at the lower loch
Waterfall below the dam
Crossing over the River Arnisdale
Looking down Glen Arnisdale towards the Cuillins in the far distance

I cycled back to the car and drove back towards Glenelg. I found a small pull-in high above the Sound of Sleat. The view was amazing, looking down on Glenelg and Skye just a short distance across the water.

Beinn Sgritheall above Corran
Looking back towards Arnisdale and Corran in the early evening

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=24122

Distance today = 19 miles
Total distance = 3,743 miles

 

 

208. Inverie to Inverie via Airor

Unfortunately, I knew as I went to bed the night before in the Bunkhouse, that I was not going to complete my objective in doing a circular walk out to the western shore of Knoydart and back to Inverie. I decided therefore to walk out to Airor and see how far I got after 2.5 hours of walking. I had been told by the locals that the river crossing at Inverguseran would probably not be on because of the amount of rain we had had.

In my planning I had looked at walking the northern shore of Knoydart. The only account of anyone doing so was from a young “Coaster” called Nat Severs who completed his walk around the UK coast back in 2010. Nat sustained a few injuries and falls while negotiating this section and I doubted my ability to complete such a section on much older legs. Surprisingly, on advice, Nat caught the ferry into Knoydart from Mallaig! I did think I could easily get as far as Croulin, but the river crossing put paid to that idea.

I set off from the bunkhouse at 6:20 in the morning along the tarmac road to Airor, a small hamlet on the western shore of Knoydart. I had decided not to simply try to get on the first ferry, but to go for the 11:00 one. The uncertainty on the ferry situation was still at the back of my mind. I pushed on at a fast pace, conscious that I would have to turn around at some point in time. I passed a section of the road where had been a large landslide, with work currently underway to stabilise the slope and nearby crags from rockfall. I noticed over my shoulder the 8:00 ferry returning to Mallaig, which spurred me on. I was much closer to Mallaig now and I could easily make out the buildings in the town. I had great views across and up the Sound of Sleat. However, as I dropped down into Airor I knew I needed to turn around.

I retraced my steps, back towards Inverie. About two miles from Inverie, a lovely lady called Sheila, (who owned the Post office), stopped and offered me a lift which I accepted. I held her little Jack Russell in lap as we drove back the short distance back to Inverie. Sheila was herself travelling to Mallaig for provisions and could not understand why the ferries would be cancelled. I popped into the Tea rooms and ordered a large mug of coffee and bacon/egg scone. I met the lady who first imported the information about the uncertainty re:the ferries, she was rather coy, but in all fairness she and others were just imparting what was written on the Western Isles website. I got on the 11:00 ferry.

Looking back it would have been nice to have completed a bit more of the west coast, but over the years I have done a fair amount of walking in Knoydart and doubt I go back again, there are many more challenges that still lie ahead.

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=24073

 

Heading out of Inverie
Landslide on the coastal road
Removing and securing loose rock
Looking back to Inverie
The impressive Roinne na Beinn
Looking across to Mallaig with the Armadale ferry just visible
Looking up the Sound of Sleat
The footpath down to the Doune Hotel

Distance today = 9 miles
Total distance = 3,708 miles

 

207. Kinloch Hourn to Inverie

It was a very windy and wet night which continued through to early morning. The original forecast had been for heavy rain throughout the day, but reading the Mountain Weather forecast, that Tony had printed out, it seemed that the rain and wind would ease later on. Both couples, also staying at the B&B,  intended to continue on along Loch Hourn, one couple heading to Inverie and  the other just to Barrisdale. We all had ate breakfast together and none  of us fancied venturing out into the pouring rain! I decided to make the first move and prepared myself for the off. As I stepped outdoors after bidding my farewells, the sun came out!!

I continued on  a short distance to the end of the public road with a footpath continuing on alongside Loch Hourn. Personally I had always thought the walk-in to Knoydart from Kinloch Hourn was a sort of Rite of Passage for all  serious hillwalkers, so I was really glad to be getting this particular monkey off my back! It was turning out to be a beautiful morning now with the sun out and great views up Loch Hourn to the snow-capped peak of Ladhar Bheinn. However, there was still an awful lot of surface water still about and all of the burns were in full and in spate. However,  I only encountered one particular crossing that required some thought, careful footwork and good balance. I also soon met the first people heading towards Kinloch Hourn, a young couple on the Cape Wrath Trail.

Car Park at Kinloch Hourn
End of the public road
Looking down Loch Horn with Ladhar Bheinn in the distance
A nice section of the path
Looking down Loch Hourn
Approaching Barrisdale Bay with fine views towards Ladhar Bheinn

It took me almost 3 hours to get to Barrisdale, although I was in no particular hurry. As I turned into Barrisdale Bay the full force of the wind hit me, which I had been sheltered from since leaving Kinloch Hourn. I passed the farm and bunkhouse in Barrisdale and stayed on the path that led to the Mam Barrisdale. Although this path climbed gradually it was still tough going up to the bealach at 450m. When I reached the top of the Mam Barrisdale I recalled when I last stood there, some 15 years ago when I climbed the Munro’s in this area. I dropped down the well constructed stalkers path which dropped down gently into Gleann Dubh Lochain. By the time I reached the loch the path had become a landrover track.

I followed the track towards the Brocket memorial, where Gleann Meadail joined the track from the left. As I approached Inverie the promised showers arrived. I got myself checked into the Foundation bunkhouse and then went in search of some beer to buy from the Community shop in Inverie. I wanted to get a couple of beers for ‘Becs’, the American student who had kindly given me  her last beer a few weeks back when I arrived late at the bunkhouse.

Back at the bunkhouse I spoke to some of the volunteers from the John Muir Trust who were currently clearing Rhododendron bushes and doing path maintenance. One of the ladies was trying to change her ferry to get on the first ferry the following day; it seems it had been reported on the Western Isles website that some of the later ferries would be cancelled due to high winds. This alarmed and confused me, as the weather forecast had winds subsiding the next day. This development threw me into turmoil and led to me not getting much sleep that night, trying to reorganise my plans for the following day.

Looking east down Glean Barrisdale towards Slat Bheinn
Looking back down to Barrisdale from the Mam Barrisdale path
At the Mam Barrisdale looking down to Gleann Dubh Lochain
Approaching the Brocket memorial near Inverie

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=24071

Distance today = 14 miles
Total distance = 3,699 miles

 

 

 

206. Glen Shiel to Kinloch Hourn

Knoydart was always going to be challenging and I had given a great deal of thought on how I would tackle the next three or four sections of my walk. On my previous walk I had already walked  into Inverie from Morar. As a mountain bagger I had already done a fair amount of walking in Knoydart, but as a coastal walker I now needed to try to do it some justice by including some of the its shoreline.

I could write many pages on the permutations I considered in attempting to complete  these sections, but I think it best just to give the general plan on the next three days of walking:-

1) Drive to Mallaig, park up and sleep in the car overnight

2) Following day walk from Glen Shiel to Kinloch Hourn

3) Following day walk from Kinloch Hourn to Inverie

4) Following day walk to West coast of Knoydart returning to Inverie to catch ferry back to Mallaig

I had planned not to carry a heavy sack this time, relying on B&B and bunk house accommodation. This meant I would just carrying a  spare change of clothes and a small amount of food provisions. I had also recently bought a pair of shoulder strap ‘wraps’ which fitted around my existing rucksack straps to give extra support and padding.

I caught the 6:03 train from Mallaig to Fort William which cost £8.60 with my Senior Railcard. It was quite light outside as now, so I was able to enjoy some of the scenery I had previously walked. I then had a couple of hours to wait in Fort William until  the 10:15 Inter-City Bus service  #916 bound for Uig, but I would be alighting in Glen Shiel. I headed to the nearby Morrison’s, whose cafe opened at 08:00 and where I could get a reasonable breakfast and pass the time.

I asked the bus driver if he could drop me off 3 miles up the road from Glen Shiel (my designated stop), on a long straight, with a large lay by. He  immediately became awkward by saying “which straight, there were many long straights”. He also added that he could not stop if there was Wind farm traffic. Quite what he meant I did not know, but it did not look good. Sure enough just as we left Fort William we got stuck behind a Stronelairg wind farm convoy. Fortunately the police escort allowed the queue to clear as we stopped at the Commando Memorial. As we approached the layby in Glen Shiel I alerted the driver to where I wanted off. He then mumbled something about getting done for blocking the road and that he could not stop if there was no space in the layby. There was one car behind us and the road was empty! I was really glad to be off the bus, what a miserable old git!!

It started to rain as I made my way up the stalkers path alongside the Allt Mhalagain. It was a route I had previously taken some 9 years before when climbing the Corbett ‘Twins’ of Sgurr a’Bhac Chaolais and Buidhe Bheinn. As I reached the upper Coirie I followed the Allt Coirie Toiteil to the Bealach an Toiteil. It was quite easy walking with a few snow slopes to negotiate around. By this time the sun had appeared and I had splendid views down Coire Reidh to Loch Hourn. To my right was the impressive and steep side of the Munro Sgurr na Sgine, which I climbed on a very wild and windy day with no views back in 2001.

Looking towards Faochag and the Allt Mhalagain from the A87 in Glen Shiel
Looking back down to Glen Shiel
The route ahead to the Bealach an Toiteil
The Bealach an Toiteil with Sgurr na Sgine now in sun
Looking back to Glen Shiel with the North Glen Shiel Ridge in the distance
The steep face of Sgurr na Sgine
Looking down into Coire Reidh towards Loch Hourn and heading to the small lochan in the distance

I began the descent into Coire Reidh and could see the ATV track I was heading for about a mile away. I had excellent views across to Knoydart and could see Ladhar Bhienn’s snow-covered peaks were cloud free. I left the ATV track after a short distance and then headed for the small lochan of Lochan Torr a’Choit where I crossed the Allt a’Choire Reidh by means of a well made bridge. I then decided that instead of simply following the well-made track directly to Kinloch Hourn I would continue some distance west towards Gleann Dubh Lochain. I did this because when I returned to the area on my next trip I would be able to do an out-and-back from Corran on the Arnisdale side. I walked on for about another mile, before marking and carefully noting the point on the track for future reference. I retraced my footsteps back to the bridge near Lochan Torr a’Choit. There was a plethora of tracks and paths here, all coming together to continue through a narrow pass, the Cadha Mor.

I descended very steeply down the other side of the pass into Kinloch Hourn.  The path entered a small plantation above Kinloch Hourn house. I was amazed to see that the majority of trees were Eucalyptus and big ones at that. As I passed a row of cottages a group of about 5 dogs came out barking. They were very friendly and just curious. I spoke to the Stalker about the trees, he said they were planted in 1890. Eucalyptus are lovely trees; I once planted two in my garden as tiny saplings; but they grew really fast and tall and I had to take them out after a couple of years.

I carried onto the public road and crossed the Lochourn River and then walked the short distance to Kinloch Hourn farm which was my B&B for the night.

The bridge across the Allt a’Choire Reidh looking back to the Bealach an Toiteil and Sgurr na Sgine
Looking down into Gleann Dubh Lochain and my turning point back to Kinloch Hourn
Heading towards the Cadha Mor, the hill in the distance is the Munro Sgurr Mhaoraich
Descending steeply into Kinloch Hourn
Large Eucalyptus trees at Kinloch Hourn
Kinloch Hourn farm B&B
View from my bedroom window

 

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=24067

Distance today = 10 miles
Total distance = 3,685 miles