263. Lochinver to Stoer

Two tough days of walking had made me rather apprehensive about completing a third day of even longer length, especially with high temperatures forecast. I had intended to walk all the way around the Stoer Peninsular but decided to leave this section of the walk to my next trip up north and so decided to terminate the walk at Stoer village.

There is a bus service that runs from Drumbeg, a small hamlet on a narrow road to Kylesku to Ullapool via Lochinver – the #809 service run by George Rapson. However, you must pay very close attention to the timetable, particularly around school holidays and where you want to be picked up. None of this vital information is mentioned on the Scotland Traveline site, which I actually got from the bus shelter in Lochinver the previous day. I had requested that I be picked up at Clashnessie, but as I was now cutting my walk short, this would mean an extra mile of road walking. Fortunately, as I drove very early through Stoer towards Clashnessie I saw the #809 bus parked up at the village hall, so I parked there and waited for the bis driver to appear. It would save him driving a few extra miles there and back to Clashnessie and save me a mile of road walking. The driver appeared at 7:00 and we set off towards Lochinver, picking a few passengers up on the way, including another backpacker who had a very compact bicycle folded up into the size of a briefcase!

At Lochinver I got off the bus and started walking out of the village, after half a mile I realised that I had left my walking stick at a park bench shortly after leaving the bus, I contemplated leaving the stick but decided to retrace my steps and pick it up…………..grrrrrrr!

Take two and I set off again  walking out of the village. I was heading for the small hamlet of Baddidarach on the opposite side of the loch. Here I would pick up a footpath which would take me to Ardroe and thence the road out to Achmelvich. The footpath was well trodden and of excellent construction. With the sun at my back and a gentle breeze, it was lovely to be out walking in the North West of Scotland. Looking at the terrain either side of the footpath, it was not difficult to imagine that without a path, this type of terrain would be extremely challenging to get around. I arrived at the few houses that make up Ardroe and continued along a rough road, which lead onto a narrow tarmac road.

The well-known pie shop at Lochinver, unfortunately it was closed
Looking back at Lochinver with Canisp and Suilven in the background
On the path to Ardroe
Approaching Ardroe
A lone Shag which I had disturbed heading towards Loch Roe

I soon arrived at the shoreline hamlet of Achmelvich, where a large-scale build of wooden chalets/pods/yurts was underway to add to the existing static caravans and youth hostel, it seemed a very popular place. I crossed over the small beautiful white sanded beach heading up a rough track and picked up the footpath that would take me back onto the road. The footpath was another well-trodden path and very enjoyable to walk along. I passed by a few isolated holiday homes at Alltan a’bradhan and up a small ravine where I emerged onto the B868. The road was busy with a steady stream of traffic, particularly motorbikes, completing I would imagine the NC 500. I stayed on the road through the village of Clachtoll and then onto Stoer village hall where I had parked my car.

Looking back at Achmelvich
On the footpath towards Clachtoll
This ravine would lead me onto the B868
Looking down on Clachtoll, Stoer is in the far distance
Looking back Clachtoll beach

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=24512

Distance today =  10 miles
Total distance = 4,764 miles

 

 

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262. Altandhu to Lochinver

Today would be more of the same as yesterday with both road and off-road walking.

As there is no direct bus service between Altandhu and Lochinver I had to catch two separate buses via Ullapool. I made an early start by first driving and parking in Lochinver and caught the 7:45 #809 Rapson bus service to Ullapool, where I had to wait about 90 minutes until my next bus. Fortunately, I did not have long to wait for The Tea Room to open where I could get a latte and scrambled egg on toast. At 10:00 I caught the same bus that I had caught yesterday, the #811 to Altandhu. I was the only passenger, so I managed to have another long conversation with Kenny, the accordion ‘star’ from the film Edie.

I got off the bus at Altandhu camp site and set off back up the road. I was going to walk across the whole of the Rubha Mor peninsula, but decided against it. Today the sun was out and the biting wind gone, so it was going to be a tough day walking in the heat. I continued walking across the Rubha Mor heading for Achnahaird. I came across a Rabbies minibus that had just disgorged its occupants to take a better look at the distinct and iconic Assynt mountains. I spoke to a Kiwi who was part of the group, who asked me how far I was walking today, I said Lochinver, but I don’t think he knew where that was.

Just before the turn-off at Badnagyle a car stopped with two ladies in it, they asked me If I knew where the car park for Stac Pollaidh was. I said they had passed the car park some 2 to 3 miles ago and pointed out Stac Pollaidh in the distance.

Isle Ristol, part of the Summer Isles
Hazy Assynt skyline
Cul Mor (l) and Stac Pollaidh (r)

After turning off the main Achiltibuie road, the amount of traffic diminished becoming a lot more quieter. The road climbed over the Aird na Coigich and dropped steeply down into Strath Polly. At Inverpolly just before I crossed over the River Polly I met a Dutch couple who were holidaying in the area. Just after the bridge I headed down an estate track that would take me towards Inverpolly Lodge and then a slow descent down to the shoreline and boathouse. Most of the Assynt coastline is riven with small inlets, coves and bays that make this coastline incredibly complex. I crossed over an old breached weir dam which emptied the small adjacent Lochan Sal. After crossing the dam I would be on a footpath for the next 2 to 3 km. I tried to stay on the footpath, but soon lost it. I tried using the contours of the small hummocks to follow or find the footpath, but it was not possible. Following my own route I finally picked up a track of sorts, but even that disappeared as I approached the stepping-stones across the Allt Gleann an-Strachain. The burn was very low and I easily crossed over and re-joined the narrow road. Over the next 3 km only a couple of cars passed me.

Approaching Inverpolly
Locals near Inverpolly Lodge
Dam and weir near Lochan Sal
Looking back towards Inverpolly
Stepping stones over the Allt Gleann an-Strachain

The road climbed again before dropping down again into Inverkirkaig, crossing over a bridge spanning the River Kirkaig, passing out of Ross & Cromarty and into the historical county of Sutherland. the car park at the bridge had a few cars in it, mainly for visitors to the nearby Falls of Kirkaig. There was also a coffee shop close-by where I topped up my water supply. I continued along the road into the late afternoon, catching the odd glimpse of Suilven, from the head-on position and managing to pick out 3 walkers on the summit!! After passing through the small settlement of Strathan I arrived back at my car that I had left 11 hours earlier. A tough days walk.

Crossing over the River Kirkaig
Goodbye (for now) Ross & Cromarty and hello Sutherland
The beach at Inverkirkaig
Suilven popping out from the Glencanisp Forest
Zoomed shot of Suilven with walkers on the summit

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=24510

Distance today =  19 miles
Total distance = 4,754 miles

 

 

261. Altandhu to Ullapool

I decided it was time to press on with my walk up the NW coast of Scotland. I could see at least three reasonable days, weatherwise, for the Ullapool area, so off I went.

For accommodation I managed to get 2 nights at the Caledonian hotel in Ullapool. Not one of the best hotels, but I got it cheap! The two times I had previously stayed at the hotel were not that pleasant, as the accommodation wing was ‘jerry-built’ with loud and persistent floor-board squeak from both adjacent rooms and above me; so much so that I could see my overhead light fitting shaking as the guest above me moved about!!

My first night was spent in the back of the car after my long drive up from Shropshire. I parked near Braemore Junction and had the large viewpoint car park to myself. The following morning I drove slowly into Ullapool and parked up. My bus was not until 10:00, so I had a few hors to kill. I had opted to take the bus to my starting point to avoid having to drive there and back to Ullapool.

I caught the 10:00 #811 bus run by KSM motors. The service destination is Achilitibuie, but the bus will divert to Rieff and Altandhu on request. I got chatting to the bus driver and I found out that he had been extra on a recent film called Edie, starring Sheila Hancock, on her quest to climb Suilven. Kenny, the bus driver, was featured as the accordion player in the film.

I got off the bus in Altandhu and started walking southwards along the narrow road. Most of the mornings walk would be on this road as it passed through the strung out settlements of Polbain, Achiltibuie, Polglass, Badenscralle, Achvraie and Achduart. Not much to say about the road walk other than it was into a strong and bitterly cold headwind, with hazy views out towards The Summer Isles.

Looking over The Summer Isles from near Altandhu
Old buoys on the beach at Achiltibuie
The old Piping College at Achiltibuie, now a popular cafe

At Achduart I transferred onto a path which would take me all the way to Strathcanaird, along one of the so-called “Posties Paths”, which skirted the western flank of the impressive Beinn Mhor Coigach. The footpath started very well with a heavy footfall and good signage both with stone and wooden posts. This meant the path would be easy to follow even when the bracken was quite high. I passed over the large boulder slopes of Garbh Choireachan, which would have been difficult in some places if not for the signs. However, after passing around the impressively large and deep ravine at Geodha Mor, the wooden signs disappeared. Fortunately, It was not that difficult to pick out a reasonable route. The stone signs did remain, but their infrequent placing meant they were on of little use.

Inevitably, around Creag Dearg I lost the path for good and so continued on my own route. With the mist and rain coming down I began to lose height and drop down to Strathcanaird. I could make out in the distance the bridge over the River Canaird that I needed to aim for – or so I thought. I checked my map a couple of times, as the tracks to and from the bridge looked a bit odd. Unfortunately, this bridge was ” a bridge too far!” as it was the wrong bridge! I had passed the closer bridge (which was out of sight) and this meant scaling a deer fence and walking an extra mile. My legs and feet were quite sore by now and the “Posties Path” had sapped a good deal of energy from me. However, the path was quite enjoyable and  I suppose it depends really on how many miles you walk before and after the path.

Looking back towards Achduart
Crossing a burn near Culnacraig
Looking back on the Posties Path
Looking back at the steep boulder field below Garbh Choireachan
Passing Geodha Mor on The Posties Path
Looking back
Heading east near Geodha Ruadh
Crossing over The River Canaird on the ‘wrong’ bridge

I crossed over the River Canaird and continued along an estate track which continued past Keanchulish House and then onto the A835. The road was quite busy, even at 18:30, but the light rain which had started over a few hours earlier continued to fall as I trudged along the road through Ardmair. I knew I had a few more up and downs along the A835 before the final drop down into Ullapool, so I got my head down and got on with it.

Not a bad walk, particularly along The Posties Path, but the murky conditions and cold fierce headwind did not help.

Looking back to Beinn Mhor Coigach at Ardmair
Crossing The River Ullapool at 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=24509

Distance today =  23 miles
Total distance = 4,735 miles

 

 

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

 

 

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