Tuesday 2nd October 2011 Walked from Isle Ornsay along the A851 in sunny and warm weather to Kyleakin which is the last village on Skye before you cross the bridge back onto the mainland.
Wednesday 3rd October 2011 A very windy and wet day. Got buffeted by gale-force winds as I crossed the Skye Bridge into Kyle of Lochalsh. Just on the far side, with permission, you can visit the Ring of Bright Water Centre on the island of Eilean B’an. This was Gavin Maxwell’s last home. My father was based in Kyle of Lochalsh for a time during the Second World War on a mine layer called HMS Agamemnon. When not on duty and with shore-leave, he would spend time in a dinghy fishing for mackerel, and shooting rabbits “for the ship’s cooking pot”. From here, I was blown and soaked towards Plockton. I had my lunch in a wooden shelter on the road at Drumbuie. Before long I was joined by a few sheep who were also keen to get out of the stormy weather. In the later afternoon I knocked on the door of a beautiful house in Plockton owned by Lilias Simpson. I had met her daughter and son-in-law a few months ago in Grange-over-Sands in Cumbria. Her daughter, Isabel, had offered to put me in contact with her mother when I reached Plockton so that I could get a bed for the night. Here I was. Later that day I had a look round this beautiful village and then enjoyed one of the walks that Lilias had created around her 40 acre estate with beautiful views over Loch Carron and the mountains beyond. Truly a special place. I later heard that Lilias had put up a poster about my walk at the start of the footpaths along with a collection box to raise money for the Charity. I was very touched. That night she cooked us a delicious dinner and enjoyed an evening with guests. Further visitors came to the house in the morning and I walked away with some generous donations. Thank you all!
Tuesday 4th October 2011 More rain today. Along the coast road to take me round and past the very attractive Duncraig Castle (a B&B) and on towards Loch Carron. The road ahead was closed for road works but I found a way through! I spent the afternoon walking miles inland to the inner-most point of the Loch. On the way, I passed through a huge concrete tunnel made of re-enforced concrete which protected both the road and railway line from avalanches. Something this stretch of the road is regularly affected by. Speaking to the locals, they tell me that if you have walked along the ridge above the avalanche site, you become wary of this stretch of road below as the condition of the slopes above is “treacherous” and an “accident waiting to happen”. Indeed, there is a local prophecy that in 2012 a major incident will take place at that spot and that “the only survivor will be a woman wearing a red jacket”. Please take care. Walking back out again along the shore of the loch I heard stag roaring in preparation for the “rut”. Having walked miles back out again along the edge of the Loch I checked in at Locharron Hotel which I had spotted hours earlier on the other side of the water.
Wednesday 5th October 2011 Rest day.
Thursday 6th October 2011 On the way out of the village I put word out that I was heading for Applecross and would be grateful if someone could drive the contents of my rucksack to the village if they were heading that way. At the bridge crossing over the beautiful River Kishorn I met Tim Williams. He was sheltering from the rain in his 4x4 with a trailer attached, loaded up with an ATV, ready to collect a stag from the hillside above should an American client manage to shoot one. Tim gladly offered to take my kit bag over the Applecross Inn that evening. So I was walking lightweight again, and started up the legendary Bealach na Ba, or “pass of the cattle” – at over 2,000 feet, Britain’s highest road. The sound of roaring stags wafted across the mountainside. I had a go at roaring myself at the top of my voice. Before I knew it, I had attracted my own small group of hinds. This was my glen then! What incredible scenery. Gales and stinging hail, then sleet. Invigorating! Back down to sea level on the far side and into the village of Applecross. Applecross was the subject of Monty Halls’s Great Escape for the BBC which has subsequently generated a lot of tourist interest. I checked in at the Applecross Campsite and B&B before going down to the Applecross Inn to collect my kit bag and have a drink, early dinner and bed. Or so I thought. Standing at the bar with a pint of local ale for me in one hand and my bag in the other, stood Tim. The banter started and before long I was joined by and chatting away with the locals. What a lovely, friendly pub. Indeed that day they had been awarded the title of “Best Scottish Pub” and I could understand why. In the early hours, I navigated, with difficulty, my way back to my bed.
Friday 7th October 2011 The campsite's owner, Clive Goldthorpe didn’t charge me for my night’s stay and cooked me a delicious breakfast. Thank you. It certainly helped to soak up some of the remaining alcohol in my system left over from the previous night! Along the coast I passed the bothy where Monty Halls had lived for a few months. In glorious weather, I decided to stop off and explore it and boiled up my delicious “Super Noodle” lunch inside before enjoying it overlooking the pristine beach and glorious views. In the early evening I arrived at Bruce’s house in the tiny hamlet of Fearnmore. Bruce had been one of my drinking hosts at the Applecross Inn the previous night, and had generously offered to transport me and my kit the remaining few miles to Shieldaig that evening where I had a room to stay at Tigh an Eilean Hotel, Shieldaig. Just opposite the hotel is Shieldaig Island, home to a pair of Sea Eagles.
Saturday 8th October 2011 Over breakfast I watched an otter cruise along the shore foraging for food amongst the seaweed. After breakfast, the hotel’s owner Cathryn drove me back to Fearnmore where I jumped out and walked the 13 miles back along the road to the hotel. In torrential rain, I enjoyed what I could see of the incredible scenery around me. I had already decided that this was to be my last walking day of the Charity Walk this year. The weather was closing in, as were the length of the days. Icy conditions were forecast soon and the next leg of the walk would take me through some of the remotest coastline in Scotland. It was time to prepare to head south for the winter.
Sunday 9th October 2011 I enjoyed a walk along the coastline to a point opposite Shieldaig Island. From my vantage point I could see a sea eagle in a tree on the island, not far from its nesting sight. A movement in the water distracted me and I turned my attention to a porpoise arcing its way along the shore. When I returned to look at the eagle, it had gone!
Monday 10th October 2011 At breakfast, I spotted the sea eagle flying over the water and the tip of the island. It was huge. How on earth could I ever think that a buzzard was possibly an eagle when I spot them over the mountains? There is no comparison! I was waiting in the local café for the community bus driver to collect me and the hotels’ laundry but apparently the driver on duty was a stand-in for the regular and drove off with neither consignment. Cathryn kindly took me over to the station at Strathcarron where my journey to London would start.
I will return to this beautiful place in the spring…