I had gone to bed at 9.30 am last night and slept well. This morning, after breakfast, I went to have a look at the River Broom which flows through the land owned by my hosts Eddie and Wendy Hughes. It looked lovely. Eddie encouraged me to borrow his fishing rod and try and catch a salmon, but I declined as I needed to walk, but assured him that I would return in a few weeks and have a try then. From there, I walked along the A835 towards Ullapool in rain and then latterly, intermittent sunshine, watching and side-stepping the oncoming traffic until I reached the ‘Royal Hotel’ in Ullapool. The end of this leg of the walk.
Slept well. After breakfast, the hotel owners’ son offered to drive my kit to my digs for the night, about 17 miles away. Very, very kind! It was at least a 34 mile round trip. I had a long chat with a gamekeeper called Alistair who worked on a local estate. He told me a little about the local wildlife and said that the salmon normally start running in early June. Alistair identified the bird I had spotted making that funny noise on Rubha Moor a couple of days previously as a Snipe. I spent the rest of the day walking along the A832 up to a height of around 1,500 ft. Plenty of waves from passing cars and a couple of people stopped to make donations. ‘An Teallach’ look impressive with its dusting of snow. Along the way I saw a red squirrel, a young mountain goat and a golden eagle! Before I reached the A835 I visited the Corrieshalloch Gorge. It has a viewing bridge suspended hundreds of feet above the river gorge through which the Abhainn Droma river flows in a succession of rapids and waterfalls towards Loch Broom. Spectacular. Eventually I reached the junction with the A835 which is the main road to Ullapool, just as it started to rain. The traffic travels in pulses along here in synch with the ferries arriving and departing at Ullapool. The traffic died down after the last ferry of the day and the road was virtually deserted. After a couple of miles and with 10 miles left ‘on the clock’ to Ullapool, I arrived at the lovely ‘Braemore Square Country House’ B&B, run by Eddie and Wendy Hughes.
Had a lovely breakfast and was given a donation by my hosts. The guests staying there very kindly transported my luggage to the ‘Dundonnell Hotel’ where I am staying this evening. Despite walking along the A832 all day, it passed through some wonderful scenery with “An Teallach” mountain range as a backdrop. Looking over the bridge crossing the ‘Gruinard River’ I could see a 13 lb. salmon resting in a pool before attempting the rapids upstream when more rain comes to swell the river. Today, there would be no chance of that as the sun beamed down for most of the day. Along the way a few cars honked a couple of them stopped for a chat and to make a donation. I watched a golden eagle hunting along the ridge of ‘Sail Mhor’, ‘Sail Chruaidh’ and ‘Sail Bheag’. I pulled into the ‘Dundonnell Hotel’ in the evening and enjoyed its comforts.
My kit was transferred by the chef of the Poolewe Hotel to the ‘Old Smiddy’ B&B where I was staying the night in Laide. Weather was mainly dry, but had to put on my waterproofs in the early afternoon. Walked along the A832 to Aultbea. Popped in to see a chap called Andrew McLuckie who I met last night. His family run the 'Isle View Nursing Home' and so I called in and met the staff there. Then along the road to Mellon Charles. Up onto Rubha Moor and across to Achgarve. Along the way I heard the most incredible and unusual sound. Have you ever seen and heard those toys which are a narrow plastic tube with a device inside; when you invert or shake it, it makes a funny sound, similar to the noise made by a 'Punch & Judy' puppeteer? Well that was the noise. Looking high into the sky, I spotted a bird which flew high and then fell to earth shimmering its wings. That was the source of the noise. It turned out to be a 'Snipe'. Weird and wonderful. Then I took the road south to Laide. ‘The Old Smiddy’ is a lovely B&B with welcoming hosts. That night I managed to get all of my accommodation sorted out for the rest of this leg of the walk.
Rest day at the 'Poolewe Hotel'! Slept well. Breakfast at 8.00 am. Then sorted out my kit. Posted my spare rucksack cover back home. Explored the village of Poolewe and visited the information centre. Lunch was soup and cake in a lovely busy café (because it was so small!). Then went up to the bird hide at the other end of the bay near Inverewe Garden. I didn’t see any eagles or otters, but on the way back I saw a Pine Marten run across the road and then make its way along the shore. I managed to get a glimpse of it on my little video camera. I also managed to sort out my accommodation for the next two nights!
Awoke to glorious blue sky, but chilly. Off over the moor and its vertiginous paths above vertical drops into the sea. At the cliff-end of Cama Mor beach I took the slightly more defined path to ‘Ivor’s Bothy’ before chilling on the Shangri-La that is ‘Loch Ceann A Charnaich’. It is simply paradise. Later that day I heard a flapping noise and looked up. A white-tailed eagle (sea eagle) swooped over my head less than 10 feet above me and veered off into a wood. Wow! Over the next hour I watched this incredible bird flying to and from its nest. It was huge, powerful - amazing! What an honour, and one of the highlights of my entire walk so far. What an incredible thing to witness. Finally, I tore myself away, but plan to return with my film equipment one day if the bird is still there.
I continued along the boggy, stony, sometimes hard-to-follow path south east to a farm just west of Midtown before reaching the road, and then headed south alongside Loch Ewe towards Poolewe where I was staying the night.
Just south of Naast I looked up to the ridgeline to see what I initially thought was a buzzard. Then I realised the bird was much further away than I thought and had slightly forward-swept wings. Then it soared north eastwards, its wings slightly hunched and folded, and I realised it was a golden eagle. So I have been spoilt today. Tonight I stayed at the ‘Poolewe Hotel’ and so I sorted out my kit, hung out my tent and sleeping bag in my hotel room to dry and air. Then a bath, shave and dinner, followed by a dram and bed! Rest day tomorrow!
First thing in the morning, I opened an email from Two Lochs Radio who invited me in for a chat at their studio in Gairloch. I arrived 45 minutes later than planned but they were pleased to see me and I recorded an interview with Carol which was engineered by John. Then onto Rua Reidh via a track and road and a path. On the way up to the lighthouse I passed a sign saying that the hostel was full. Also, a car laden with passengers stopped to offer me a lift and confirmed that the lighthouse was full - with them! When I arrived on foot, I spent an hour and a half “researching” the marshy camping options on the surrounding moorland. Eventually I arrived back to within a couple of hundred meters of the lighthouse and found a lovely spot to pitch my tent which I think was the site of an old building. After my rehydrated risotto, I settled down to sleep and woke in the morning to the sound of sleet and snow pattering on the fly sheet of my tent.
Listen to my interview with Two Lochs Radio...
My window faced the sea, and I slept surprisingly well, waking to the sound of a cuckoo in the tree in front of the bothy. Although I had my earplugs in overnight, I think I managed to wake myself up with my own snoring at one point. Goodness knows what Geoff and Wendy thought. The "wall" separating our rooms was literally one wooden plank thick, complete with knot holes! However, over breakfast they both declared that they had slept well and had not been disturbed by anything! After they had left, I swept out the bothy and then headed off. I followed a path that reminded me how easy road walking is! After a few miles I came to a farm near the southern tip of Redpoint and passed through a herd of cows and a bull. They were lost in their own world, and this was one of those rare occasions when I wasn’t surrounded by an inquisitive entourage of cattle determined to escort me across their field. For the rest of the day I was back to road walking. In a small hamlet called South Erradale near to Port Henderson I spotted a lovely looking tea and craft café called 'Croft 23' run by Jan and Mark Appleton who had moved there from Yorkshire 18 months before. They gave me a delicious lunch and a donation. I also received a further donation from another group of customers, so my thanks to all of them. At the next village a lady banged on the kitchen window as I passed by and more money was placed in my collecting tin through the open window. Jan and Mark had been kind enough to recommend and book me into the 'Shieldaig Lodge Hotel' where I settled in for the evening and cleaned my gear.
Stayed the night near Torridon at the Torridon Inn. They gave me a special rate so many thanks to them. As the morning progressed the clouds lifted to reveal another wonderful day. I walked around the edge of Loch Torridon, admiring the mountains, and in the late afternoon I plodded the last few miles to the bothy at Craig. It was once the most inaccessible Youth Hostel in Britain, in a remote location miles from anywhere and only accessible on foot (as far as I could tell). Now it is a bothy and dependent on the goodwill of people to keep it standing and fit for 'bothying'! It has an outside loo which you flush by pouring water from a bucket. I filled up my water container (an inside out stuff sack!) from the Craig River and cooked up my rehydrated meal. I had a tour of the bothy, selected the most comfortable looking mattress in one of the upstairs rooms and then settled in the snug downstairs to read by candlelight. A noise startled me and in through the door walked a lovely couple from Oxford called Geoff and Wendy. We chatted the rest of the evening away before we went to bed. They settled down in the room next to mine.
I pulled back the curtains in my room at the 'Tigh an Eilean Hotel, Shieldaig' on a glorious sunny day. After a huge and leisurely breakfast I sorted out my gear and set off under a cloudless sky.
Every corner I turned revealed the most beautiful and dramatic scenery. I found myself Tweeting along roads and tracks overlooked by mountains and a golden eagle soaring thousands of feet above me on the thermals.
Before long I was alongside Loch Torridon and watched a pair of RAF Tornadoes skim its surface. Gorse flowers highlighted the way with their signature aroma of coconut which reminds me of Malibu Rum and suntan lotion! There were large areas of rhododendrons which appeared to be in the process of being cut back.
Every mile of our British coastline has its own unique character and beauty. I think this stretch of coastline will take some beating.
As I followed the track road I kept being pulled up by the imposing beauty of the summits around Beinn Alligin across Loch Torridon. Lovely.
After what was a short day of walking I reached the 'Torridon Inn'. I offloaded my kit and wandered further along the loch-side road to continue admiring the views before a late afternoon snooze and then a lovely scallop risotto!