With 9 days booked off it was time for my trusty companion Louise my campervan & I go off exploring….first stop Shiel Bridge. The night I arrived it was a warm still night, the start of a good few days weather.
Day 1 a walk & wild camp up the Affric Kintail Way – was not sure how far I was going to get had no plan I had decided on two nights out. It was a glorious start to the day, the sun was shining beautiful blue skies & not a soul about, my companion was the sounds of the river keeping me company as I walked.
Once I got to the end, I came across an old wooden bridge which used to cross the river, after going on just a little bit, I came to a brand new bridge – phew did not fancy getting my feet wet on what is quite deep water. I started to walk up over the top – by this time the weather was hot, no wind at all, which from what I have heard is a miracle on this route. The views looking down were spectacular, but I was struggling in the heat.
Not long after getting to the top, I spied a spot & the first thing I did was sit myself down on my folding chair – I was tired – so tired in fact there are no pictures! That night & the following night though I had company, a Stag & his herd on the top of the mountains behind me. I find the grunt sound comforting & loved listening to it. During lockdown I kept the image of a wild camp at Barrisdale where the deer come down off the hills to take water & the stag there would grunt all night – that sound & image gave me great comfort at time when lockdown became a very isolated place to be.
Day 2. Will not go into details but suffice to say I was suffering from an upset stomach, I think I had a touch of heat stroke, so was not feeling 100%. I decided to stay where I was but walk out further on the trail with just my hip bag. So off I went to carry on down the trail to nearly the Youth Hostel, I have to say again the weather was hot, but this time there was a little breeze which certainly helped.
It is a lovely walk with gentle undulations, amazing scenery wherever you look. Met a few people on the way & said hello – with suitable social distancing of course!
Day 3 Time to get back to civilisation & to Louise so walk back down the valley on a much cooler but pleasant day. I was a little worried about the descent as in places the path was narrow & rocks were slippy, not a problem on a uphill, but I lack sometimes the confidence on a downhill. However, despite not feeling 100% I managed fine & as normal I was worrying about something, that was no need to worry about! However, I had to pass some Highland Cattle, which I was not too happy about & took a wide berth!
Day 4 – Woke to a wet Scotland morning, after a little bit of thought I was only an hour away from Skye & I love Skye – so decided Louise & I were off on a midi road trip. Did not do much but had a drive around, stopped & had lunch in Louise at Elgol – a place that holds a fond memories of previous visits, where I took a boat out to see the seals & wildlife, also the highland cattle roam & are surprisingly friendly as they mix with people on the beach, even I relaxed – just a bit – yes good memories.
On way back had to stop at Sligachan & take this photo of the water, it was so powerful the rain coming off the hills & onto the river & out onto the loch. Despite the rain, it was so worth a stop – I find the power of water fascinating, we have no control over it whatever we try, it will always find its own way.
Day 5 – well the plan was to go back to Barrisdale & wild camp for two nights, to park at Loch Hourn & walk out. As I have mentioned earlier, it is a place with memories that gave me great comfort on lockdown. However it was not meant to be, soon after leaving Shiel Bridge, I was caught in a road closure, due to car accident which was going to take several hours to clear. So with a look at a map & a text to a friend for advice & a phone call to a campsite – Louise & I were on our way to Cannich! Was not disappointed by the campsite, set in woodlands, very friendly & social distancing in place.
I decided to stretch my legs & took a woodland walk nearby as by this time it was afternoon. On my way back down, I sat at the bench & reflected on the disappointment of not getting to Barrisdale, but it will always be there & I was lucky, I was safe & well & so was Louise.
Day 6 As this was never planned after looking at the map, Louise & I took off up the road to Loch Affric. I decided to get back on the Affric Kintail Trail & approach the Youth Hostel from the opposite direction. I decided I would just keep walking & see how far I got. On reflection what I should have done is gone down one side & come back on the other – but that is the plan for my next visit. Again it was a lovely track I was surprised by how much ascent there is on these walks & as for the distance, well that was my fault, I kept on walking & kind of forgot I had to walk back!!
But I loved it & every now again my Stag would grunt & I knew I was okay.
I came across this fantastic Fisherman Hut – well I presume it was a Fisherman hut as it had a launch onto the loch. I thought what a lovely place to hide away….
By the time I finished my walk the sun was going down…
Day 7 Louise & I were on the road again to our planned stop at Fort Augustus, the weather had turned to be cloudy & rather cool. Before leaving Cannich I went up to Plodda Falls Forest, I had seen the sign the previous day & was intrigued enough to go & have an explore. The road up there was interesting & I don’t think Louise was impressed with the pot holes, nor the fact she had to drive on the wrong side of the road to avoid them! However, I was impressed by the falls & the walk that followed through the forest.
Day 8 okay I found a walk that took me out of Fort Augustus up through Glen Doe to Lochan a Choire Ghais. It was an ascent up in total over 778m but I felt good & was surprised how well I was feeling, despite the fact I had walked out each day. I realise my powerwalking is doing me good with my fitness & stamina. Anyway on my way up I came across an inquisitive Highland Cow…just on the other side of the path, not moving just looking at me. With my heart in my mouth as it was far too close for comfort, I had my escape route at the ready & gingerly walked as far as I could away from it, always knowing it may well be waiting for me on the return!
The views going up were beautiful – felt a world removed to the busy town of Fort Augustus.
After arriving at the Loch it was time for my final walk down back to Louise before travelling back home the following day.
And the Highland Cattle on the way back….bit like me worrying about a descent, when there is no need to. It was back with its herd, which I am glad to say was far removed from the track.
Day 9 – my journey home was a long one due to another road closure! But I managed to see Glencoe again & pay my respects at the Commando Memorial near Fort William.
I loved my trip, Louise worked well, plans changed but that was okay as long as Louise & I were alright & in one piece.
I have great affinity with Scotland, it is part of my ancestry, it is a place that I always feel like I am being drawn to & that it could be my home – maybe it will one day – who knows what the future holds.
In the meantime though, thank you Scotland you let me have a share of you for a wee while, the sounds of your rivers & waterfalls, your wildlife, with the stag & its herd, the birds singing & your mountains & tracks which you let me roam & I left leaving only footprints & very good memories.