250. Ruabha Reidh to Poolewe

I was pleased that today I would finally have some off-road walking to do and that I would not be cycling or pushing my bike! To enable to happen I had to first drive and park my car  at Poolewe and then catch the o8:05 Westerbus back to Gairloch. Bob (the guy running the AirBnB) had offered to assist me in completing the section to Poolewe by waiting for the bus to arrive and then giving me a lift out to Rubha Reidh. I had already ruled out doing the whole of this peninsula in one go because of the available daylight hours.  I set off from the visitor car park at Rubha Reidh, walking eastwards, not wishing to lose too much height as I headed for a footpath that ran along the cliff-tops.

After meeting up with the footpath, I could to see the amazing coastline features this part of the peninsula had to offer. What was also amazing was the early morning views north into Assynt. Although I had views of Assynt from northern Skye, I was now able to easily identify the iconic mountains of Sutherland and the Fisherfield Forest. The early morning light gave them all an amber glow that defined their colour and relief. The footpath hugged the cliff top and required care in certain places. The northern part of the peninsula I was on had high moorland to the west and a low-lying  side to the east, full of small lochs. I began to lose height above Camas Mor, an isolated sandy beach that is quite popular and a major reason walkers make the trek out here.

As I arrived at the old ruins of Camustrolvaig, I found Ivor’s bothy, set into the hillside and not easy to see from the approach I made.  I don’t think the bothy is part of the MBA and you can probably see why. To be honest it looks like it might fall down at any minute. The bothy has just a single room and seems to have a tarp for a roof. Although very dark inside, it looked very cosy and dry.

Early morning at Rubha Reidh looking north to Assynt
The coastline of Creag Camas an Fhraoich
Looking eastwards from above Camas Mor
Ivors Bothy

I  now headed for the settlement of Cove on the far side of the peninsula on the shores of Loch Ewe. I knew once I got down onto the low-lying area it would be much more difficult navigate, so I headed for a Loch I identified on the map and would continue from there. For such a low-lying and boggy area the underfoot conditions were not bad and I was able to hop between outcrops of  slightly firmer higher ground. I navigated between the small lochans and crossed over the Allt Glac nan Cuille. Shortly after, while walking over boggy terrain, I went ar$e over tip as my left boot went into a pothole. I was ok, just landing in grass and getting a muddy knee! Soon afterwards I arrived at the strung-out settlement of Cove above Loch Ewe.

Heading eastwards

Loch Ewe has some fantastic history, particularly what happened there during the Second World War. Arctic Naval convoys gathered in Loch Ewe before setting off on the treacherous journey to Russia. Reminders of this piece of history are still present around the Loch . The road walk down to Poolewe was quite uneventful but offered some beautiful views into the Fisherfield Forest with dramatic views of Beinn Airigh Charr, Beinn Lair, Beinn a’Chaisgein Mor and A’Mhaighdean. After passing through the hamlets of Cove, Inverasdale, Midtown and Naast I arrived back at the village of Poolewe.

Looking back at the settlement of Cove
Looking north up Loch Ewe with the morning Cal Mac ferry off from Ullapool to Stornoway
Looking towards Poolewe over Loch Ewe with A’Mhaighdean(l) and Beinn Airigh Char(r)
Zoomed shot looking towards Poolewe with Beinn Airigh Charr in the background
Beautiful bark on a Eucalyptus tree near Naast
Looking back up Loch Ewe from Poolewe

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=24435

Distance today =  14 miles
Total distance = 4,499 miles

 

 

 

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249. Rubha Reidh to Gairloch

This was to be a very straightforward day; simply get out to the Lighthouse at Rubha Reidh and then get back to Gairloch. As there is no public transport out to Rubha Reidh, I needed to make use of my bicycle again. The forecast for the wind direction had not changed, except that it had become increasingly stronger and colder. As the wind was coming from the south-east I decided to cycle out to the Lighthouse.

I started out from the B&B at 8:50, just as it was getting light. The wind had increased overnight and it was bitterly cold. The strong tail wind certainly helped with the speed of my progress and enabled me to cycle up slopes that I would normally have to push the bike up! After passing through Melvaig I joined the private road out to the lighthouse. Recently the owners of the lighthouse had taken active measures to prevent people driving along the road. When I travelled along the road I could see no evidence of obstructions or unwelcoming signage. In fact there was a visitor car park 300m from the lighthouse signed and erected by Inverasdale Estate, Melvaig Crofters and Gairloch Community Council. The road was very well maintained with an excellent surface and recently installed culverts and bridges. I spoke to some locals about the road and the main issue seems to have been the number of camper vans using the road and causing problems.

I reached the lighthouse and immediately turned around and headed back to Gairloch pushing my bicycle. I had excellent views out towards the Western Isles which seemed very close. The tip of the peninsula out at Rubha Reidh sits well out into The Minch, with northern  Skye now to the South. The wind was biting as I headed back into the strong head-wind. After 3 miles I was back at Melvaig and on the public road. I quickly passed into the adjacent settlement of Aultgrishan. The road passed over open moor before coming to the scattered settlement of North Erradale.

The lighthouse at Rubha Reidh
Looking over to Trotternish on Northern Skye
Looking south towards Rona, Raasay and the south of Skye
One of the recently built bridges on the private road
Looking south over Melvaig
The Allt Grisionn at Aultgrishan
A beautiful Scottish Blackface at Aultgrishan
Looking back north from Big Sand
Approaching Gairloch
Two Lochs Radio – Gairloch

By the time I reached Big Sand, time was moving on and I was already beginning to lose the light. I arrived back in Gairloch and went into the McColls shop to buy something for me and Bob’s supper. On my way back to the B&B I noticed a small shack housing the Two Lochs Radio studio. Anyway, I immediately had visions of Gregor Fisher inside transmitting his OHBC (Outer Hebrides Broadcasting Corporation show):-

oidhche mhath

Not a big day, but progressing long distances at this time of the year is difficult.

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=24434

Distance today = 13 miles
Total distance = 4,485 miles

 

 

 

 

248. Gairloch to Red Point

I had spotted a weather window which offered a three-day dry spell with light winds and looking reasonably warm for the Gairloch area. I then decided to try my luck with local accommodation in and around Gairloch, as being stuck in the back of a car or in a tent  for three nights was not very appealing. I searched on the AirBnB site and was surprised to find a number of reasonably priced accommodation. I selected “Bob’s Place” which was newly listed on AirBnB and based in the centre of Gairloch. Bob is a keen and  avid walker, and enjoys both high and low-level walks; so much so that he recently relocated to Gairloch from his Bristol home. Bob has accumulated an amazing volume of walking kit and equipment which is well on a par with any reasonably stocked Tiso Store! I had my own room at Bob’s Place for two nights at a fantastic rate.

The Gairloch area unfortunately does not have the best transport links, but with my bicycle, a school bus and a lift from Bob I could make a serious stab at getting to Poolewe after three days of walking.

I drove up  the day before and reached the car park at Incheril, Kinlochewe , where I slept in the car for the night. The place was empty again and I had a quiet night. I set my alarm for 08:00, but it was still quite dark when I looked out of the window, so I drove very slowly down Loch Maree waiting for it to get lighter. I arrived in Gairloch and parked at the Community Hall.

As soon as it was just about light to begin walking safely, I set off. I popped into the local McColls shop to get a coffee and continued along the A832 pushing my bike. Because no public transport runs out to Red Point I was going to have to do an out-and-back, using my bicycle for the return leg.

Gairloch is quite a strung-out community and merges into another local settlement of Charlestown. I enjoyed walking on a good footpath alongside  the main road to the far edge of Charlestown, although the road was not particularly busy at 8:45 in the morning. After Charlestown I was walking along the verge for a few miles until the turn off for the B8056 which pointed me across a bridge over the River Kerry and on to Red Point.

Looking back towards Gairloch
The beach at Gaineamh Mhor
Gairloch Harbour

I soon arrived at the small hamlet of Shieldaig, confusingly spelt the same as the Torridon Sheildaig and with its own Loch. I got superb views over Loch Shieldaig back towards Gairloch. I climbed out of Shieldaig and followed Loch Bad a’Chrotha, which had originally been dammed, but was now breached at its western end to allow outfall from the Loch. I descended into another village, Badachro with its own popular Inn and jetties offering shelter to yachts and boats. I climbed out of Badachro and followed the shoreline of the freshwater loch of Loch Bad na h-Achlaise. I then passed through a series of widespread settlements with  a range of white houses scattered either side of the small single tracked road. I passed through Port Henderson, Opinan and South Erradale.

The road rose again for the final time before dropping down to Red Point. I had excellent views looking east towards the Flowerdale mountains, south-west across to Rona and Skye. Although I had occasional patches of blue sky, the sun did not make an appearance all day. At Red Point I simply turned around and began cycling back to Gairloch, where I arrived back at 14:45 with the light disappearing fast.

The bridge across the River Kerry
At Shieldaig looking across Loch Shieldaig across to Gairloch
The breached dam on Loch Bad a’Chrotha
At Badachro looking across to Charlestown
Looking back to Port Henderson
Victorian post box at Red Point embedded in rock
Looking south towards Rona, Raasay and Skye
Looking down on Red Point Beach with the lighthouse on Rona in the distance

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24432

Distance today = 13 miles
Total distance = 4,472 miles

 

 

247. Lower Diabaig to Inveralligin

After completing the walk to Red Point the previous day, I was then left with a small gap between Lower Diabaig and Inveralligin which I would now close.

On OS maps there is path indicated which links Diabaig with Inveralligin via extremely rocky and rough ground. I knew from reading previous walking reports that the path was notoriously difficult to follow, especially at the start. While I was in Diabaig yesterday I spoke to two locals who advised not to use the path. One of the locals went up the previous week but could not find its continuation after climbing onto a ledge. I had a quick look myself but could also see no continuation, I decided then to simply take the longer and higher road option via the Bealach na Gaoithe. Looking back this was a bit lazy of me, I should have explored more to try to get onto the track.

Anyway, I drove in the dark to Alligin car park and set off on my bike in the pitch dark. I was rewarded with a great stellar display as well as a number of shooting stars. By the time I reached the top of the Bealach na Gaoithe I could switch my head torch off. As I would be shortly walking back up to the bealach I was able to cycle down to Diabaig scattering a small group of young stags in the process.

Not much to say about the 7 mile walk back to the car, other than I got amazing views, only 1 car passed me, it was very  quiet and still and very enjoyable.

After arriving back at car I drove back to the campsite to pack up my tent. I spoke to a couple of other campers, who were to do a bit of climbing in Diabaig. Apparently, it’s a very popular climbing area, which was news to me. They confirmed the walkers path, but mentioned about the difficulty at the start. Anyway, it was good get away early, as the 500 mile drive home beckoned. Hopefully, I will  be able to get a few more days in Scotland before Christmas.

Setting off from Lower Diabaig
Heading up to the Bealach na Gaoithe with Tom na Gruagaich in the distance
i
Looking down on the double lochs of Loch Diabagas Airde and Loch a’ Mhullaich from the Bealach na Gaoithe
Where I should have emerged if I had taken the elusive footpath to Inveralligin Shuas

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=24408

Distance today = 7 miles
Total distance = 4,459 mile

 

 

 

246. Lower Diabaig to Red Point

I decided to skip ahead for the next section as it was to be a longer walk and would enable me to finish my walk sooner on my final day. This section also provided a significant challenge in terms of getting back to my starting point. Basically I would be walking between the ends of two public roads with neither linked by any public transport over an open moorland footpath unsuitable for bicycles. I was left with only two viable options either I could do an out-and-back to Craig Bothy (some 4km away) from Lower Diabaig and then do the same from Red Point on my next trip to the area OR I could simply do an out-and-back between Lower Diabaig and Red Point. I chose the latter preferring to get the section done and out of the way. Fortunately, there have been very few places over the years where I have had to double back in order to complete a section.

The first night at the Torridon campsite was extraordinary windy, with the tent threatening to take off with the onset of  sudden and violent gusts. It made for a troublesome and disturbed nights sleep. The wind was still there when I returned from my walk, even though 300m away there was little or no wind.

I set off from Lower Diabaig just as it was getting light. Lower Diabaig is a very tucked away hamlet at the end of a tight, steep  and winding road from Torridon. The final descent into Diabaig was very steep and I would not fancy travelling down it in icy conditions. I parked up at the small sea front. This walk would be virtually all over moorland footpaths, but I still had about 1 km to walk up a very steep access road to get to the start of the path. I decided to push my bike up the hill to the start of the path and then chain it to a post. The bike would make the return journey down the hill back to the car very quick.

With the sun up and a beautiful cloud-free morning I set off on the first leg of the walk which would see me head for Craig’s bothy. The footpath out to the bothy was excellent and a pleasure to walk along. It was well-drained and often used bedrock, where it was close to the surface. I made good time to the bothy and decided to have a look inside. Surprisingly, checking the bothy book it had not been used for over a week.The most recent occupants had been a bothy work party who had completed some structural work to the floor on one of the lower rooms. This ex-YHA was in excellent condition and was spacious too, with 2 large and 1 small bedroom upstairs, together with the downstairs lounge (with offset kitchen) and a recently renovated room (temporarily closed).

Setting off from Lower Diabaig
Looking across Loch Torridon to Rubha na Fearna (tip of Applecross), North tip of Rona and Trotternish on Skye in the distance
Looking north towards Red Point
Descending to Craig’s bothy
Craig’s bothy
Bothy lounge
Recently renovated room

The second leg of the walk from the bothy on to Red Point was along a path that was not 20 good. After crossing the nearby Craig River via a wooden footbridge, the path followed the river bank until the coast before heading north along the coast. Although the path was easy to follow, it was poorly drained and meandered quite a bit. About half way along the path I met a couple who were heading to the bothy. I thought they meant to stay the night, but I met them again on the trail later on my return from Red Point.

Eventually I arrived at the old fishing station. Here the ground became very grassy,helped by sheep and cattle grazing, a small sandy beach was close by with people walking along the shore. I walked through Red Point Farm and onto the car park at the end of the public road………………and turned around. Although it was still only 13:30, it was along way back, but with a cloudless sky I knew I would make it back to Diabaig before 16:00 and the sun going down.

I popped into the bothy again on my return to enter some details of my visit into the bothy book. I made good progress along the good footpath and arrived back at Diabaig just as the sun was dipping below the horizon.

Approaching the old fishing station near Red Point
At Red Point car park
Heading south towards the old fishing station on the return leg
Looking north back towards Red Point from above Craig’s bothy
Late afternoon sun back at Lower Diabaig

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=24406

Distance today =  17 miles
Total distance = 4,452 miles

 

 

 

245. Inveralligin to Ardheslaig

This was to be a three-day trip in which I hoped to get to Red Point and to take advantage of some unseasonably warm and mild weather. I tried in vain to locate some reasonable and affordable accommodation in the Torridon area but had no joy. I decided therefore to make use of the free campsite situated next to SYHA in Torridon. Although the campsite has public toilets next to it, it is prone to water logging and some ferocious winds – as I found out over the next two nights. It was also very difficult to drive my tent pegs into the very stony ground.

I checked on the availability of public transport, but nothing was available in the direction I was travelling. So I needed to take my bike along which I would need on at least a couple of days of this trip.

I drove up the day before and called in at Aldi in Inverness to get some last-minute provisions. I made it to Kinlochewe and decided to sleep in the back of the car for the night, at the Incheril car park. It was a very quiet location and I was not disturbed at all in the night. I set my alarm for 06:00 the following morning. The next day I was in no rush as I still had  1.5 hours before it got light and I could do any walking. The drive down Glen Torridon was especially beautiful with the Alpenglow falling on Beinn Eighe and Liathach. I parked in the campsite, which was empty, and found a reasonably dry spot to put my tent up. By this time it was light enough to start walking and I set off down the A896 pushing my bicycle. As usual a couple of people kindly stopped and enquired if I had a puncture. Unfortunately, for me, they were not heading in my direction, so I could not cadge a lift. There was little or no traffic on the road and I made excellent progress. I bypassed the village centre of Shieldaig as I would walk through the centre on my return.

Looking back to Torridon from Annat with Liathach in the background
Looking across Upper Loch Torridon to Beinn Alligin(l), Beinn Dearg (c) and Liathach(r)
Looking down Upper Loch Torridon towards Applecross

A mile out of Shieldaig I turned off the A896 down the Applecross road which was opened as recently as 1970. After numerous up and downs while also enjoying the views across Loch Torridon to Diabaig and Inveralligin. I arrived at the small hamlet of Ardheslaig, here I turned around and began the cycle back to Torridon. When I reached the turn-off for Shieldaig I got off my bike and walked along the small loop road through the village with its impeccably neat and tidy white-washed cottages. I noticed the vivid autumnal colours reflecting off Loch Shieldaig. I passed a small Carronade gun which had an interesting story attached to it.  Apparently, back in the early 1800’s a local man fell out with the Minister for failing to observe the sabbath. One Sunday while sailing past Shieldaig island, the local man gun set off the gun to annoy the Minister, unfortunately the gun misfired and blew off the  man’s arm – divine intervention or just something somebody had made up?

Looking back across Loch Shieldaig to Shieldaig with the Torridon hills of Beinn Alligin(l), Beinn Dearg(c) and Liathach(r)
Looking across Loch Torridon to the rocky peninsula between Lower Diabaig and Inveralligin Shuas
Looking down Loch Beag out towards The Minch at Ardheslaig
Walking through the village of Shieldaig on my return journey
The Carronade Gun at Shieldaig
The view down Loch Shieldaig and Loch Torridon towards Applecross from Shieldaig

I rejoined the main road and continued cycling. The late afternoon sunshine with the views across Upper Loch Torridon of Beinn Alligin and Liathach were outstanding. I arrived back at the campsite in Torridon village and decided to continue on up the road towards Inveralligin. I still had a few hours of daylight left and I decided to make best use of it. I continued along the road pushing my bike, the road climbed quite steeply and I soon arrived at the walkers car park near to Inveralligin. The car park is used by many as a base for  most ascents of the Munro Beinn Alligin. At this point I decided to head back to Torridon on my bike. It was already beginning to get dark.

On the road to Inveralligin looking back to Torridon with Beinn Damph in the distance

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24401

Distance today = 16 miles
Total distance = 4,435 mile

 

 

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