Torridon revisited

On my Cape Wrath trail earlier this year it opened my eyes to parts of Scotland I had either never visited or, had never walked.  The area around Torridon was one of them.

I fell in love with the area around Kinlochlewe, I loved the remoteness, vast open spaces, the mountains so overpowering but looking so at home with the surrounding forests and lochs.  Even when I came down the 5km tarmac road into Kinlochlewe with a 14kg bag on my back, I promised myself I would return.

So here I find myself in September at Kinlochlewe in Louise my campervan.

I had all the intention of doing a wild camp at Loch Fada, another area that opened my eyes to the vastness of Scotland, the feeling of being a very small person, in a very large landscape.  However, fate was at hand as I arrived in Kinlochlewe, the weather had turned with Scottish mist, squalls of rain & wind and the cloud covering the tops. I will not go into it, but I have not been well since having Covid, it has not stopped me doing what I love to do, but I have been told to be sensible, so I changed plans and as it turned out, I did not regret my decision at all.

Walk 1
I smugly drove down the 5km road which had mentally played with my head earlier in May, parked up, waterproofs & boots on, smile on my face and walked to Loch Clair.

Today it looked so different from when I was there in May.  The weather had been sunny previously, but with an autumnal scent in the air, the clouds down and the drizzle of rain it looked very different, but was still as special as I remembered it.  I soon got to the bridge & stopped to take it in, after a long drive I took a deep breath and thought to myself, yes I am back.

Instead of carrying on to retrace my steps, I went over the bridge and towards an ancient pinewood forest.  On the way I met a rather lovely lady of certain age, wearing a midge hat, (I was to later realise why), with two rather gorgeous Labrador’s who were very keen to say hello.

I soon entered the forest and began to wind myself up through the trees, which were magnificent in their colour and shape.  Some a deep rich green, others on the turn going bronze ready for autumn, some barks were gnarled and bent, showing how much the Scottish weather throws at them but they are still resilient.  Soon I climbed up to the top where the views opened up and you could see Loch Clair & the surrounding mountains. It was a walk that made you glad to be alive.

Sadly the midges decided I would make a rather nice tea time feast, as the wind had dropped & the warm moist air encouraged them to wake up. But what a grand way to start the week.

Walk 2
My next walk took me down ‘said tarmac road’ to another car park. Here I had spotted on the map there was a route which took you past Ling Hut and up onto the col at Lochan Choire Dubh.
The weather forecast was accurate, it was windy, with squalls of rain and the winds were going to get stronger as the day went on. However I had the comfort of Louise to come back to, so a bit of rain was not going to stop me! When I arrived at the car park, there was a stag and his two ladies in the car park, a resident apparently, there was a sign saying please do not feed me and have to say most people were abiding by that sign.

The walk starts on an undulated path, weaves its way around the foothills before reaching Ling Hut, which has beautiful views of the mountains ahead. Sadly you have to be a member of the Bothy Association to gain access, so was not able to peak inside.  I soon followed a river and waterfall and started to climb up following a path which at times care was needed as the path was wet & slippy.

Eventually I reached towards the top and once again the views opened up, revealing beautiful lochs and the clouds dancing and playing peek a boo with the mountain tops.  The winds were intensifying as time went on, I realised that if I had stuck to my original plan I would never have done this walk, fate always plays a hand.
I soon reached where I intended to and I sat on a rock whilst there was a brief respite in the rain, with the wind buffering my back I had my lunch, just taking in everything around me. I had the views of a Loch in front of me which leads out to the sea, to the left of me a col, to the right the path I had climbed up with mountains acting as a back drop.

The rain spots  came again, the gusts of wind soon got stronger & I saw that as a sign the mountains were telling me it was time for me to come down. Soon I was at Louise to find she and the stag had come to an arrangement, if the stag stood next to her, she protected him & his girls against the wind, so I got myself in, had a brew and reflected on another good day on the hills.

Walk 3
Fisherfields – what can you say about Fisherfields – stunning, beautiful, magical, mystique – probably a few more words but that will do for now.  I was first introduced to Fisherfields, yes you may have guessed, when I walked up to Loch Fada, bit of a theme here I am afraid!  However because of the weather it was just not possible, but I am a lady not to be undeterred and after watching a YouTube video of ‘Scotland Mountains’ he approached Fisherfields from a place called Inchina and then he went on and did a Munro. That was not on the cards for this week, but as it was so windy, I thought a delightful glen walk may be in order.

If you have never been, shut your eyes and imagine a long winding river, with a path on the right of it which follows the river as it sweeps along the foothills of the mountains, it snakes up & down with bends in the path, which gives you wonderful surprises as you come around each of the corners.

The weather to start with was very wet & windy, flooded paths etc, but I did not care, I had a big smile on my face as I watched the clouds roll down the valley and the light played a fantastic show with the mountains, gosh it was good to be back there. I have looked at the map and earmarked a return to this spot, lots of opportunities to go on and up the mountains and one I will return to.

There was a fisherman fly fishing on my return, I thought he was pretty brave standing in a full force river, he seemed at one with himself and the task he was carrying out, it all seemed very natural that he was part of the landscape.

As I returned to Louise, the weather changed once again as I drove around the peninsula, I stopped again for a bite to eat and take in the dramatic coast line.

Walk 4
Another blustery day in the Highlands, so after mulling over what I was going to do for the day, whilst lying in bed sipping tea, I decided I would drive over to Ullapool.  Now there was a hidden agenda here, as on my previous visit I had some rather tasty, albeit expensive, fish and chips and it would be worth the trip just to test the taste buds again.

So after looking at my map, walk planned, off I went.  In order not to feel too guilty, I decided to do the walk first, burn off some calories and then have said lunch. I took the scenic drive and it was lovely the roads are not busy at this time of year and you can stop quite easily at view points and stretch the legs etc.

I had decided to take a walk to Loch Dubh, which involved a gentle climb up into the valley once again. I passed two shepherdess feeding their sheep, they warned me the paths towards the top were more like rivers, I thanked them but continued on my way.

Once again the weather was giving me fantastic light shows, with rainbows appearing at a frequent rate. One minute brilliant sunshine, the next a downpour, then sunshine again to dry me off.  The shepherdess were not wrong, as I made the final climb up to get a glimpse of Loch Dubh, the paths became rivers, it became impossible to keep dry feet.  I soon gave up!  I got my glimpse of Loch Dubh, again one to store for future walks, I did not linger long there was nowhere for me to put my feet in a dry spot, I might as well have stood in a river!

Path ..honest!

On final descent I turned a corner to find a tent and a bike and young man who was sorting himself out. It turned out he was getting the ferry that day to one of the Islands, but it had been cancelled, so he had come up to find a spot to pitch for the night.  We got chatting, and he was on a 6 week cycling/running/walking holiday, he did this every year, he told his company when applying for the job, that he worked all year, but at end of September, all of October he would take himself off for a 6 week detune from work.  I admired his stance for putting what is important to him first and being confident enough to tell any potential employees.  We had a good old chinwag, then I got underway as fish & chips were calling.

No photos of said fish & chips – they got eaten far too quick!

Walk 5
Ah now this walk was a ‘walk of rainbows’ through & up Torridon forest.
Again it was a murky, misty, kind of day but I have to say it was thoroughly enjoyable.  I followed the forest around the peninsula, it was what I would call a happy walk.  I did not notice the rain, I was too interested in the forest and all the rainbows that were presenting themselves to me – just magical.

I spoke to an estate man on my walk and he explained to me all the work they had done in removing the ferocious Rhododendron bushes which were literally sucking the life out of the forest. He explained how they cause plant disease and young trees are unable to survive. He also showed me how they were already starting to grow back and it was a battle they may not win, they wanted to reintroduce the native trees once again and it was proving an uphill battle.

I thought to myself even in this beautiful calm forest, there were unseen environmental/nature battles going on, it seems you cannot go far without conflict of some kind.

I soon moved on and dropped down to the waters edge and came across this house, it did not look in use, but it was well maintained, I thought I may be quite happy living there.

As I was making my way back to Louise there was a rustle of the ferns and there was a small herd of deer who had been well camouflaged until I disturbed them.  They moved so swiftly, so beautiful as their legs carried them effortlessly back into the denser forest…what a treat to end my walk.

Walk 6 – Final Walk
I had moved on to Poolewe, a small but delightful place, with views out to sea and a strong waterfall running into it.

On my drive in earlier, I had spotted a walk that looked interesting and may give me a different view of Loch Maree, so after looking at my map, I decided I would do this as my last walk.
After 5 days of Scottish mist, squalls of rain and wind, the Highlands decided to give me a day off as it was my last day and the sun came out, the wind dropped a notch or two and all was good.

The walk started through the bracken and a climb up, I soon came across my first river crossing, which may have fazed me a few years ago, but now after Cape Wrath, I do treat them with respect as you know one slip and you have taken a bath, but equally I tackle them with more confidence and assurance.

The only downside if you can call it downside is the wooden pylons which run up and down the contours of the hills, but we all need power, so I was not to grumble, anyway you soon got used to them and they seem to blend in the surroundings.

It was a glorious day, I was so grateful to finish my trip with the sun on my face, The path meandered it way up eventually to the top and the view of Loch Maree was not to disappoint.  The water was blue and all the small islands on it were full of shrubbery and trees, the whole lake felt very much alive.

I perched myself on a stone slab and had my lunch. I reflected on my week and was pleased with where I had walked despite the weather. 

I often find myself reflecting on ‘life’ whilst out on the hills and this trip was no exception. I was pleased that this time there was no plan with spreadsheets telling me distance, ascent & descent, I have a tendency to do this. This visit had been about hopefully a wild camp, then lets see what happens. Okay I did not do the wild camp, but instead I had walked in places I may not have done otherwise.

It was time to take myself off the hills return to Louise & my last night in the Highlands for a while. Always a sad moment, but I am grateful that I can do this.

I had a real fun time exploring, lots of reflection time as next year there are likely to be changes in my life, but I am not worried about these possible changes and what they may bring, I will embrace them when & if they come.


Cape Wrath The Final – Day 1 – 7 what an adventure!

Day 1 Strathcarron to Kinlochewe

I woke with nerves, no excitement, can I do this…all self doubts running around my head, my stomach was doing an fantastic gymnastics, something I have not done since School.

I then gave myself a good talking to, told myself that all the training I had done, I could not have done anymore. I was to give it my best shot, if I only last three days – so be it.

So after having breakfast off I went. Weather was looking great for my first day, sunny with a gentle breeze.
Walk started up a forest track with views opening up to Loch Dughaill down below. The river leading into it was dry as I believe Scotland has not had much rain. (How I was to regret those thoughts!)
As with all thru hikes it takes a few days to settle in, but my bag was feeling good & as I put the mileage in, my confidence grew.

As I climbed out of Coulin Pass the forest that had been by my side, disappeared & a new wide vista came into view & it did not disappoint.

Loch Coulin came into view, just an enticing speck to begin with, surrounded by majestic mountains to my left. Wow, I had done my climbing up for the day now & I was left with an undulating track through this wonderful Glen. Eventually came to a stone built bridge with a little shade, time for a well earned break.

The Scottish pines were dotted around me & as I sat on the bridge, I just drank in all the views & thought how lucky I was to have such fine weather on my first day.

On I continued until Loch Coulin came into view, this quickly followed by another, Loch Clair & I quickly spied my lunch spot, a wee grassy spot right next to water edge. Hurriedly the shoes came off, crocs on & in my feet went into the cold, but soothing water & my feet breathed with relief & thanked me for such a delightful treat.

Lunch was a leisurely affair no need to rush I was making good time. In hindsight I think I was putting off the inevitable tarmac 5km walk into Kinlochewe!

Anyway off I trotted continuing through this delightful Glen. I came across another wide wooden bridge, which gave such delightful views, on one side, water channelling through over rocks & boulders, the water glistening in the sunshine, on the other side the wide expanse of the Loch, with mountains protecting it from all sides, I gave myself a few moments to take in the view & be thankful.

Not much to say about the tarmac walk apart from the fact it was unpleasant! I did at times regret my decision on not going on the alternative walk which took you through the Glen, but I heard it was boggy & messy & I would not have been able to get a good pace on.

So all in all a grand first day.

Day 2 Kinlochewe to Loch Fada

What a difference a day can make, I am talking about the weather of course.

Went from balmy warm weather to a cold wind, with clouds looking heavy & foreboding.

Called into Kinlochewe garage/cafe, got myself a sausage roll for lunch & a sandwich for the following day. Lovely lady who owns it, asked where I was going, she immediately advised I get to Loch Fada & hunker down as both winds & rain were forecasted to be coming in.

So bag on, I have to be said with not the same spring in my step as yesterday, as there were 30mph winds blowing down the Glen right at me, giving me a good cheap facial!

Met a lovely ‘retired couple’ who were out on their own trail. Fascinating couple who had done all the Munros one summer holiday, like you do, note NOT next challenge. Later in life, they had brought a boat into Oban from Australia & now lived in Oban, but were out on the trail whilst they were having a house built! Incredible the people you meet on a walk.

So after saying goodbye, it was soon time to leave the Glen & climb up into Fisherfields. The scenery changed again, to much more rugged outlook, interspersed with clusters of trees with moss & bracken scattered around. My route which was boggy, muddy & slippy, went up sharply for a few kilometres & a bit more, however, before the final climb up, it was time for a break & I showed Dad the view & what we were doing.

So no delaying it, the final push up to the top had to be done, during my break the weather changed, the promised rain came in with the wind to accompany me, just to add to the thrill of the day. To be frank I could have done without either, but hey its Scotland & you have little choice here!

I got eventually to the top & once again it was worth the climb up as I looked down to Loch Fada. Even the strong winds, the slippy terrain & the driving rain could not dampen my delight at what lay ahead. Loch Fada is large with small lochs leading to it, but is surrounded by grand mountains all around, feeding the lochs with several waterfalls. On a sunny day it would be stunning walking into it, but it held its own magic with the low cloud & rather damp atmosphere.

Now for decisions, do I stick to my original plan have a shorter day & camp at Loch Fada or, go up the bealach & down the other side & try to find a sheltered spot. My wet clothes along with my damp bones pushed me to a rather lovely flat spot overlooking Loch Fada.

Decision made, home for the night. Water was soon collected from the many inlets, tent up, camp pjs on, dinner cooking & my day was complete.

Day 3 Loch Fada to Strath na Sealga

After closing the tent up with heavy rain outside yesterday, today I opened with expectation as the only sound outside was a cuckoo & I was not disappointed. Talking of cuckoo – this became my cuckoo and he followed me around, I am convinced it was the same one & will not be told otherwise 🙂

The inversion was all around me, every mountain top was kissed by clouds, with blue sky peaking out, just stunning.

After a brew & breakfast I eagerly packed up, excited for the day ahead & keen to get started whilst the weather held such promise. There was a strong breeze, but was currently dry at least.

So off I went singing ‘the wonderful wizard of oz’, I have no idea why but I was feeling happy.

Now after watching YouTube clips, I knew the turning on my right had a cairn & sure enough it was there. Off I went & followed in other people’s footsteps, it was once again boggy & muddy underfoot. Cairns had been strategically placed to guide you up to the top to Loch Meallan. The views from the top looking down the whole of Fisherfield was just breathtaking. If you ever doubt why you do this, just look back to an array of mountains & the valley beneath you & it gives you your answer as you catch your breath.

So next I had to walk down, no previous footprints I could see, so took a bearing of sorts & started to descend. It was hard going, peaty, boggy & big tufts of grasses just to add to the fun of it all.

What also added fun, was me having my first bog fest, foot went in & down I went! Not dignified for someone of my age lol. I was doing a grand impersonation of a drunk turtle, (not that I have ever seen a drunk turtle I may add), with my bag swaying here, there & everywhere & me trying to get up. Is it only me that has a hard job getting from a lying down position in a bog to a standing position?? I wonder if there are YouTube clips showing you how to do it in 3 easy moves…mmm.

Eventually I made it down to the river & sat down for elevenses. Dad had a break with me too, I thought he would like the river. The sun was still shining at this point & it was so tempting to stay for longer, but no time was moving on.

Once over a wee col, to my delight I found a grassy indent of a trodden wet grassy path so carefully followed that down until I took a stalkers path across the other side of a stream, to the bottom of the valley. It was messy & hard going, very slippy underfoot with the peaty waterfilled paths & bog. However, better than taking a non existent path at the bottom & heather bash all the way!

It took me longer than I envisaged getting to the bottom to Loch an Nid & decided it made a very good lunch spot before moving on alongside the Loch.

Loch an Nid

After a lovely lunch, I made my way across the river, which gratefully was low & picked up a path. I use the word loosely here ‘path’, it was rocky, grassy, peaty, boggy & slippy! Again slow going, nearly slipped a few times but my sticks saved me, I do love my sticks.

My original plan was to once I got in the valley to climb back out up to Loch Dubh, but to be honest the rain clouds were chasing me. I was tired from the walk which had thrown everything at me & more & decided the flat spot looked far more enticing than another 200 m climb up.

So tent up, water collected & sure enough the rain which had been threatening the last few hours came down with much stronger winds to go with it.

A good decision made, after freshening myself up, getting into my camp pjs, I had my macaroni cheese & Tunnock biscuit & settled down for the night, listening to the rain landing on the tent. I love that sound it’s so soothing until you need to go out for a comfort break!

So another day done, still feeling good, no real aches & pains.

Day 4 Strath na Sealga to Ullapool

The rain certainly came in, with biblical amounts. Through the night gale force winds battered the tent, which moved pegs & took out a guy line, but I slept through most of it as I had my trusty ear plugs.

So when I opened the tent the clag was down & squally showers were coming in like waves on a beach, regular & almost predictable. It is so hard to get out of tent when you are warm & dry & know within 10 seconds everything is going to be wet – but needs must.

I had a big day today as I fell short of my planned distance of yesterday & I had over 250m ascent & 3km to do just to catch up. Also it was straight up over the col to get to Loch Dubh to where I originally planned to camp.

So into the rain I started, soon joining a good track straight up. The wind was very strong about 40mph battering me & the squalls of rain came & went. However, half way up looking down to Shenavall bothy, not that you could see it, I was rewarded with one of nature’s beauty, a rainbow over the valley below, I just stood there watching as it came & went in awe & so very thankful that I could be there at that very moment in time.

On I went & I got to the top fairly quickly, however the winds on the top were ferocious in their intensity & I got battered all over the top, nearly falling over at one point. The wind kept changing direction, so I was not always sure how to ‘ground’ myself as I heard the wind roar down the bealach.

When I reached the point where I planned to camp, I realised I had made the right decision. The tent & me would never have survived the night with the gales I had through the night. The ground was boggy, not the best to pitch a tent, so I was pleased with my decision making & goes to show no matter how much planning you do, good old gut instinct should often be listened to!

I was glad to descend which gave some respite & halfway down I sat & had my first snack of the day.

After getting down to the bottom, I came across a lovely bridge before making my way up Corrie Hallie, now in the book it says a steep climb up, then 4.5 km across the top, what it should say is for next 7 km it is a hard slog through a muddy, peaty, boggy indent, which other walkers have made, which will test your patience & resolve!

Your one treat on this section, is looking back to where you had come up & down & up again & the mountains which gave you a breathtaking backdrop. You could almost have been in the Alps.

I am not exaggerating when I say it was one of the toughest I have done up to that point, the path was relentless going up, the terrain awkward to get any momentum of walking & it was blowing a very stiff breeze.

I also met a lady who nearly caught me having a ‘call of nature’, before I had the chance to say hello, she said in a very posh accent ‘I hope you have covered that up correctly’. There was so much I could have replied to that, but I bit my tongue quite hard, bade her good day and goodbye in one breath and went on as swiftly as my then tired legs could carry me!

I thought it would be a relief when I started to go down the other side towards the end of my walk. Oh no another sting in the tail, it was steep, grassy & boggy underfoot & much care was required but the views of the sea below gave me such a reward & knowing that I was soon finished for the day, gave me an extra spurt to get down.

I met a fellow walker on the way down, but he was much more confident & quicker than this dodgy lady of nearly 60 and was not in the mood for a chat, but more in the mood for a pint I suspect.

Also the book had led me to believe I had rather a miss match of paths to get to the Ullapool road, but in fact it was very easy, partly mainly due to the hiker in hurry for the pub, so I had no need to fret about that either!

Now after writing this, it sounds like I did not enjoy my day, but I did. It was 20km over 817m ascent, & 967m of descent, so yes for me a tough day. However, the views were superb, the weather improved greatly as the day went on & waterproofs came off. The remoteness & being out there in all elements is what this walk was about & I am very grateful at this time in my life I can do it.

Day 5 Rest Day – Day 6 Ullapool to Loch Daimh

After a very long day coming into Ullapool I was pleased I had always planned to have a rest day in Ullapool.

It was time to stock up, get washing done, eat fish & chips for lunch & a Chinese takeaway in the evening. The only time I could get away with eating two calorific meals in one day…oh yes did I mention the Indian meal the night I arrived in Ullapool?

So as I was doing the Cape Wrath my way, i.e. low mileage, taking lots of photos, occasional accommodation, leisurely lunch, I had planned to get to Oykel Bridge in 2 days & yes that only meant 18km & just under 400m ascent to Loch Daimh, but you know what, as I hang on to my 50’s with the very tip of my fingers, I don’t care.

The walk starts very uninspiring, past a working quarry, up a track lined with trees, you know the sort, hard on the foot, no views & wishing you were somewhere else! However after a few km, you drop down to a bridge & suddenly you are treated to a cascade of water going under the bridge & the whole landscape opens up, like a Christmas present being hurriedly unwrapped.

There are some stunning properties on this route, very strategically placed without being too ostentatious including a boat house, beautifully made. After speaking to a local fisherman on route, it turns out these are owned by the Laird & are holiday lets rented out at an extortionate rate! Oh how the other half live!

The other spectacular site was the yellow gorse, the smell & colour lightened up the bracken & moss land, giving it a colourful uplift. I had a proper 4×4 track this time a rare treat so far,  it was undulating & could be, dare I say boring, however Loch Achall was so pretty with all the yellow gorse & the sheep & the lambs & also inheriting a dog for a short while, made the walk interesting as I clocked along.

This dog belonged to the main house I found out & I was getting concerned that it would not turn back, however I met a older lady, with a large backpack coming the opposite way & was doing parts of the Cape Wrath Trail, we chatted for a while & she kindly offered to try & get the dog to go back with her as she told me up ahead was…my biggest fear for the whole of this trail….cows…oh yes & just to heighten my anxiety levels up a notch or two, calves as well.

Luckily I got through with no scary tale to tell, other than a Calf walked across my path to its Mum & in return I got a moo from Mum, but I was glad to reach safety & took a wee break whilst my legs stopped shaking & my heart got to a more reasonable rate.

Soon after I stopped for lunch & was very continental & had anti pasta ..very civilised Jenny style…

Soon after I came across this interesting bridge, it only went to the Lodge House. It is one of those that moves & bounces & does things I don’t think bridges should do, & I don’t do moving bridges, they should be solid, unmoving, so like a true wimp I put two feet forward & quickly retreated!

The end of the walk consisted of a 300m straight climb up, always a sting in the tail, but as I got to the top, praying for air to get into my lungs & my calves to stop burning, I was rewarded with the site of Loch Daimh.

I soon spotted a fairly flat place to pitch the tent, walked to the Loch to get my water & started to settle for the night.

I am rather settling into a routine when I pitch, after getting water, it’s time to change into ‘camp pjs’, get a brew on & take in my new surroundings for the night. Then I quite often read for a while, write my blog for the day, cook dinner, read some more & settle for the night.

I am a morning person, so I am happy to settle early for the night, knowing I will be up early with the larks, to take on the next adventure…

Day 7 Loch Daimh to Oykel Bridge

I woke up this morning not feeling like my normal lark self. I was tired despite the almost 9 hour sleep. It had rained heavily overnight, but now all I was getting was light showers.

Reluctantly I got up, had brew & breakfast, packed up & made my way. I followed Loch Achall to start with on an undulating rocky track. Every now & again the showers came & went but not enough to put the waterproofs on. I also has a good southerly wind which was helping pushing me along.

I came across Knochdamph bothy, looked rather spooky from outside, but went in & had a bit of a nose. I left a message in the book, read a few of the previous messages, which all told their own story of other walkers particular journeys.

Loch Daimh basking in sun

I was soon on my way following the undulating track until eventually brought me down to a ford which I had to cross. The river was low so no problems, but decided it was a good moment to have some sustance on the other side.

As I was eating my lunch a cyclist came down & we soon got chatting he was a Kiwi, living in Sweden, but cycling from Lands End to John O Groats. He had a very well travelled interesting life for someone so young & I was a wee jealous that it had taken me to get to my 50’s before I started doing the same!

After lunch, time to get on my way, more interesting hillocks on the way, just when you think it should be downhill all the way! Eventually got to School House, another bothy, always wanted to visit this place has so much history.

I went in & yes it was a lovely wee bothy, I find this inscription on a table & thought of my Dad, so he had a look too.

It was soon time to do the 7km into Oykel Bridge & I have to say the forest was lovely, but the track was relentless & mind numbing & I found it hard mentally to finish.

After a few breaks, I was eventually where I wanted to be. I had a bothy room at Oykel Bridge incredibly good value with your own room & shared facilities. The legs were aching, mainly due to powerwalking the last 7km, & I was certainly ready to pack up for the night. That was after partaking in a glass of vino & a rather nice southern fried chicken with sweet chilli, it tasted so good!

Oh & the weather, after a few light showers first thing, a fine dry day….you have to be grateful for that.

Cape Wrath Day 8 – Day 15 will I finish in time for my 60th!

Day 8 Oykel Bridge to Loch Ailsh

The problem with having a room for the night, it makes it too comfortable to make you want to move in the morning. After a rather enjoyable cooked breakfast & the weather forecast not looking promising, it was time to once again, to get the boots on & the bag on my back. I am still feeling good at this point, no real aches and pains like I did previously, all my strengthening exercises seem to have paid off – for now at least.

Again it followed a track following the Oykel River, in autumn you see the salmon leaping, but obviously not for me today. The track was undulating & not difficult allowing your mind to wander. Eventually came to a bridge with a wee bench & that was a good excuse for snack time!

I studied the map as I knew I had to kick off to the right, the book says to continue to a turning which takes you past an old building called Salachy, but my map & Topo GPS & some interrogation by myself, suggested otherwise & I decided to turn off earlier.

My wee ‘path’ I decided to take

I am glad I made this decision & again as proved previously on this trip, go with your gut instinct. I went off track for a short while before joining a new forest track, which I had to climb up to & joined the path I needed to be to gain even more height up in the valley. There is a lot of deforestation work going on & what is on the map is not necessarily what on the ground. Later on when I got to the point that I would have got to, if I climbed up from Salachy, there was no track through the forest, I would have had to climb up through cut down tree stumps, broken bracken etc, very messy & time consuming. I gave myself a congratulated pat on the back for all my hard work on route planning!

There was a German couple that had been ahead of me on the bottom valley they came up the way the book suggested & they had obviously found it tough going as they were now behind me with red faces & panting breath to prove it! They were a lovely couple, she was joining him for last 5 days & would finish Cape Wrath Trail with him.

Soon after it was time for lunch before the threatened rain came in, so I sat down, made myself comfy & guess what, yep five stars if you guessed correctly, the rain came in! Soggy rolls it was then! I had got a packed lunch from the hotel & oh the cost was worth it. Beef roll with onion & horseradish, followed by coronation chicken roll with salad to follow, yes I did have two in quick succession, don’t judge me! …I did save my cake for later to go with my brew in the tent.

On I went & soon reached Loch Ailsh, I planned to camp around there, but there were a few houses & then there was Benmore Lodge & I did not think the Laird would appreciate me spoiling his view & camping in front of his small pad!

So despite the heavy rain I moved on a km or two & pitched up with the River Oykel as my view. Well it would have been a grand view if the tent wasn’t zipped up as it was lashing it down & looked like it was in for the night.

Time to snuggle down & think another day well done, with no problems & still no real aches or pains, just a feeling of knowing you had walked hard & well.

Day 9 Loch Ailsh to Inchnadamph

Slugs that is all I will say…

I must have camped at the hotspot for slugs, they had a party in & around my tent, leaving their rather distasteful slimy mess behind, like naughty kids.

So it rained all night & still rained as I packed up, the little beasty midges decided to make a first appearance too.

So off I trotted following the Oykel River, it did not take long to get my feet wet! The narrow muddy paths were full of standing water & did not get any easier as I went on.

I soon took the left fork, continuing to follow the river, it was magnificent  the full power & force of the water cascading down from the mountains. The only thing that spoiled it a little was the fact I knew I had two river crossings which were difficult in spate. If only I knew what adventure lay ahead, I may have high tailed it back to Oykel!

Anyhow onwards & upwards, soon the stony track petered out as I climbed out of the glen, it was still raining & it was slippy underfoot with it now being a grassy & muddy as I climbed up the first bealach.

There were many ford’s to cross on this route, some easy, some difficult, one in particular was a waterfall crossing, the rocks were slippy, with the force of the water pushing you towards the edge. I got across it ok & was so thankful, that when I noticed someone had left a broken stick on the side, they were not so lucky. However they should have taken it with them.

Soon I descended to my first river crossing, there are no photos as it was raining hard & I was so daunted on what lay ahead of me. Basically, imagine a waterfall to your right in full flow & the water running off it was what you had to cross.

I walked up & down the side of the bank not knowing which way to cross. I deliberated for so long, it was deep & fast moving. In the end I just went for it, heart in my mouth, nervous as hell, in I stepped. It was everything I dreaded, the stones underneath loose & slippy, the force of the water pushing me & encouraging me to fall, my boots were full of cold water & I was scared. Slowly, I moved across, feeling my way, making sure I had good footing as I took my next steps. Then there was the river bank, as I climbed up, I shook with fear & adrenaline & was so glad I had made it.

After doing that I had nearly 2km slog up bushwacking to the top of a steep bealach. After the river crossing my legs were like jelly & it was tough going.

This section was taking everything out of me mentally & physically.

Not the best but you can see what I mean!

When I got to the top I looked down to the valley below & River Oykel snaking its way through the Glen, it was a wonderful sight.

Soon I came to a red stony path which led me upwards away from the river inlets & as I slowly climbed up, it became more exposed, it was narrow, very narrow, one slip & you would be gone. My poor nerves had just recovered from the river crossing & now this!

Eventually I got to the top, but with all ascents, there are descents & once again this pushed me mentally & physically to a point I wondered if I had any more to give.

The descent was steep, rocky, slates of sheer rock, with water cascading down. I am not sure how I got down, but I did. I admit it did involve a bum walk at one point as there was such a steep step, I was fearful with the weight on my back that I could literally tumble over.

I took five before continuing on, as once again my legs were like jelly, & my heart was pounding.

Looking back

So you think that would be enough excitement for the day…oh no you be wrong.

What lay ahead as a rough track petered out was peat, bog land. Trying to take a bearing was difficult, I went up & down bog peats it was too many to count, I never thought I get off the top.

Eventually I got to the point where my map said I was to descend. I thought it was having the last laugh on me & it certainly was.

Basically it was a vertical drop down a grassy, peaty, boggy terrain to the bottom & guess what was waiting for me if I didn’t kill myself on the descent. Yes you guessed right, it was another river crossing in spate!

As I had little energy left, I slowly & gingerly made my way down, any error or slip I would have just gone down crashing to the bottom.

I made it, in one piece, then I had another river crossing, all of it was deep & fast moving, I had no choice but to go for it. In I went again, I put my foot in & it kept going down so had to slowly find another footing. It was slow going, I was exhausted but I made it. On this side there was a rocky track which would lead me eventually to my destination Inchnadamph.

Descent down followed by a river crossing (may not look vertical but trust me it was)

I was lucky to have accommodation at Inchnadamph & the owners were amazing. They were basically waiting for me as I was late in my expected time. They took all my wet clothes & boots & promised me they would be dry by the following day & they were. I had posted a food package ahead & that was waiting for me in my room. The food was delicious & the company was excellent.

Today had thrown everything at me once again, similar to coming into Ullapool,  but different in its terrain, I was mentally & physically exhausted & right on the edge.

But I had done it & I was proud of my resilience, just my body needed to recover.

I was already thinking of what lay ahead of me in the next two days. Later on I got a signal to check the weather forecast, heavy rain & 40mph winds for next two days, a decision was forming in my head to rethink my route as my original route was to take me over mainly pathless rough bog land, open & remote & after today knowing what the terrain was like I was not sure if that was a wise option. Time to regroup & have a think.

Day 10 Inchnadamph to Loch Unapool

After a good night sleep, my body was still hurting from yesterday exertions & the previous 8 days were starting to catch up.

I looked at the weather forecast & heavy rain & strong winds were forecast for next few days. So I made the decision based on how I was feeling, the weather & the thought of heather bashing for 2/3 days & decided to change my route & go to Glendu via Kylesku. This would give me two easy days to get to the same point without having to go up & over the harsh remote, pathless terrain.

It was a hard decision, as I had planned my route & where I would camp, but I told myself I can come back & do that section another time.

So with that in mind I had a late start & trundled down the road, walking on a grass verge to get to Ardvrek Castle. It is ruin basically stuck out on a small peninsula on Loch Assynt. It apparently has several ghosts which they say haunt the castle, but luckily for me that day they had a day off.

Almost opposite this castle, there is a track called Marble track, which climbs you up away from the road. The track was good to begin with, but like I am finding out with Scotland, the track soon peters out. Soon it was back to grassy climb up, then it turned into the rocky, peaty, boggy, terrain which was becoming the norm for this journey.

On I climbed up, was enjoying the views I got of Loch Assynt beneath me & to my left the giant of Spidean Coinich which kept me company for the 6km climb up, that is until I became a bog victim. My feet went underneath me & before I knew it I was lying on my right side in bog.

Now luckily or unlucky in their case, a German couple appeared as I am lying there, checking I was not hurt apart from my pride & wondering how I was going to get up without covering myself in any more of the bog mess. Anyway suffice to say they gladly obliged & I was helped up without getting them too messy in the process. We shared the time of day & off I went, gingerly to begin with.

Three quarters way up I decided to stop for lunch, I had slipped but not fallen a few times since my bog fall & I realised I was more tired than I thought.

After lunch only a short ascent followed & as I came to the top I was given a magnificent view as a reward, Loch Gainmhich looking rather splendid in the sun.

It was soon time to descend & once again care was required on the slippy wet rocks interspersed with some peat, just to make the path interesting & make sure you don’t get too complacent.

I now had a 3km road walk but was lucky on 3 counts, one it was downhill, two it had a wide grass verge, 3 the views were amazing.

Soon I was at my turning for another 1km road walk to Loch Unapool. You have all these romantic images of grass banks, ready for tent pitching with amazing views of the Loch, well I got 1 out of 2, amazing views but as for grassy banks, think more of boggy ground interspersed with bracken. I soon pitched up & hunkered down for the night ready for the storm that was promised to come in during the night.

Camp pjs on, macaroni cheese & my kindle, oh yes & writing this blog as the clouds thicken & the sun disappears on another day.

Storm brewing

Day 11 Loch Unapool to Leathaid Buain

Oh what a night in terms of rain, it absolutely poured it down all night. Outside was just one boggy mess. I tried to delay getting out until I knew I had a window of opportunity to get the tent down in the dry. Dad was thinking of me as the rain stopped just enough to get the tent down & packed before it started again.

I had about 3km road walk before the turning off, but like yesterday I was not disappointed in terms of views & the ability to walk on the wide grass verge all the way.

The rain came & went in squalls, with wind blowing in equal measure. I had only being going a km & I saw a sign for a cafe a further km on. There was no hesitation in my mind, with an extra spurt of energy & enthusiasm, that km was done as fast as one of my powerwalks at home, did not even notice the rucksack on my back. I was like a ferret up a drainpipe!

Soon I was there & in, quickly followed by lentil soup with buttered bread & a mug of tea. It felt so good, I actually treated my self to another pot of tea, well you can never have too much tea.

Reluctantly it was time to head out into the elements again. The rain squalls came & went with different intensity. I soon approached Kylesku Bridge, great feat of engineering. I also nearly got blown off, there is a pavement but the winds were picking up & crossing there you were easy pickings for the gusts.

After a climb up it was time to turn off & leave civilisation & get into the hills once more towards Glendu.

Met a couple who told me they had seen seals basking on the rocks & heard a stag.

So off I trotted, feeling pretty good & strong, the seals were perched on rocks, I only did see them until I was looking at my photos later! Blame me being short sighted & not wearing my specs.

I wanted to gain a few km today as I had changed my route, so despite the weather & the increasing strong winds, I decided to take the path to the left & slowly climb the 200m up.

I was not disappointed by the majestic scenery all around me.  I had the backdrop of Loch Glendu, I had the more rugged scenery the further I climbed up & the waterfalls were just fantastic, even when they spilt over onto where I was walking, it did not bother me one bit to get feet wet as I crossed them.

It was soon time to camp, the winds were getting stronger & the rain coming & going. I camped near an unnamed Loch, it was boggy underfoot, but I was getting used to this by now.

Day 12 Leathad Bhuian to past Stack Lodge

My day started with a nightmare & finished with a meltdown. All my talk yesterday of resilience seemed to have back fired. My nightmare was of a previous place I worked, all mixed up but woke with a start. My melt down well explain that later.

So today the rain was hammering it down & the gusts came & went. Eventually I got a break in the weather, so quickly packed up in the dry, thank you Dad, & on I went.

I had a 200 m climb straight up to start my day & the weather thought it would add in extra excitement by adding in some strong gusts & squalls of rain that just soaked you.

Undaunted I carried on, at this stage still feeling good. The beauty of the bad weather, is sometimes you get a break & you get a glimpse of light or even sun which lights up the mountains around you.

Once I had done my climb up, it was time for a 500m descent which my knees did not appreciate. However, the views coming down to Achfary were beautiful. I had a break in the weather by now & was enjoying the dry sunny weather.

I then had a 6km road walk which was not busy & had Loch Stack on my right all the way & that is what caused my melt down later. The road was not busy, but the rain had come back in earnest & so had the winds head first. Its hard enough walking on tarmac without the bad weather. I felt like I was having a very bad argument & losing terribly & they were having the last laugh.

Eventually I got off the torture road & started to climb back up into the hills. By this time I had enough & within a km the tent went down, despite the winds best efforts to stop me!

The rain had stopped at this point, I threw my bag in just in time for the rain to start again & I promptly sat there & had a good cry. For no reason in particular, I had a good day until the torment road, but I think the weather had got to me & I could have just done with a big double bed & duvet with soft pillows.

Instead I had my first blister on my foot, the wind wanted to batter the tent & I still had water to get & oh yes use the outdoor facilities!

Tomorrow another day, that what I told myself as I settled for the night.

Day 13 Past Stack Lodge to Kinlochbervie

After finding it hard to get off to sleep, due to the looming river crossing I knew I had today, I ended up not having a bad sleep. The rain continued to come in overnight in waves, but the wind was lessening thankfully.

So after a quick pack up in a moment of dry it was time to start my day.

I have to admit I knew the day was going to be tough not just because of the river crossing but because of Loch Garbh-bhad Mor and the walk you had to take alongside it.

So off I trotted full of trepidation tbh, path started good but after 3km I had to leave my wet soggy track & go off piste in the general direction of the Loch, eventually after trespassing through wet soggy, boggy ground, I came down to the Loch edge, what lay in front of me did not help my nerves.

Soon after starting I met a gentleman coming my way & he was walking Cape Wrath to Hastings! We had a good chat, I asked about the path that lay ahead & the river crossing, he did not allay my fears.

He said it was a hard slog, you had to take care, he had fallen several times & the river crossing was not easy being in full spate. However, he gave me a good tip where to cross, up the bank, past the tree & it was a bit easier, I was so grateful of that tip later.

So on I went & what can I say, it was incredibly slippy, right by the Loch, one error & you would fall in. The concentration required was full on. You followed in other people’s footsteps, which had left, yes you have guessed it, a muddy, wet, slippy narrow path. There was no room on the Loch side to step off as there was only water & on the right just gorse bushes & bracken.

Now I know some people may feel they could skip along have amazing balance & not worry about the sheer drop into the Loch if you got one foot wrong & went plop. But I have learnt to accept on this walk we are all different, I am not that person, I go at my own safe pace, I get there in the end.

So after a couple of hours I came to the end of the Loch & sat for a while & had some lunch as my adventures were far from over.

I reflected on what I had done so far & I was pleased what I had achieved. This whole walk has pushed me into another level, both physically & mentally.

This walk is not to be underestimated, it is tough & brutal & gives you surprises constantly during each day. It plays with your head, when you think you can’t take much more you go around the corner & the landscape takes your heart & you quickly forget anything else.

So with some reluctance, I moved on from my lunch spot, nearing to this particular dreaded river crossing in full spate.

Soon it was there & it did not disappoint in its intensity & the depth of the water. It roared like a lion, the water gushed over the rocks, it was fierce & unrelenting. I moved up the river bank as described by the walker I met earlier. He told me to look for the tree & move east up from it. Duly I did what I was told & sure enough as I turned the corner I saw my opportunity.

Now when I say opportunity do not think it looked like stream, far from it, the current was fast, however I could see the bottom & I have learned on this walk that is a bonus.
So very gingerly I started to make my way across, it was soon up to my knees, the current pushing against my legs, willing to push me over. I took it slowly only moving one leg when the other was secure. It felt like hours before I got sight of the opposite bank but of course it was not, I breathed a sigh of relief as I was on the bank. I stood & cried with relief that I had done it & that I had achieved something else that had pushed me in so many ways.

I stopped, poured the water out of my boots before moving on.

I thought that was it & I would soon find a wide stony track but sadly not, the path did not hug the Loch bank, however it was once again a peaty, boggy single faint path, which previous walkers had made & which followed the Rhiconich River. Concentration was required once again, no letting up. However the weather was continuing to improve & the views which lay ahead were spectacular.

I soon came to the end of the track & then eventually onto Kinlochbervie where I had a hotel for the night. After some housekeeping & leaving the room look like a  laundry room, I made my way to the restaurant & feasted on a fine dinner with a few well earned vinos.

I reflected on my last few days & wondered how I am going to go back to normal life. But that is for another day….instead I relaxed in the glory of surviving a narrow peaty, boggy faint Loch side path & deep river crossing & be grateful for that…

Day 14 Kinlochbervie to Sandwood Bay

Well I can highly recommend Kinlochbervie Hotel, the bed was so comfy, food was delicious. So after a very hearty breakfast, it was time to put my trusty backpack on & head out once again.

I had a 5km walk on a narrow road which putting kindly was undulated! I used the passing passes as time to catch my breath. I did not mind the road walk today, views of the sea, several lochs & baby Calf, took my attention away from the tarmac.

I met a young couple who were going all the way to Cape Wrath in one go, for me getting to & camping at Sandwood Bay was just as important as reaching Cape Wrath. They also told me Cape Wrath ultra run race was finishing at Cape Wrath tomorrow. I thought this may be in my favour in many ways, if there were a lot of athletes running across my final leg where there are no paths & it is boggy & messy, it may just help guide me to where I need to go, but that is a consideration for tomorrow.

So I soon came to the car park to turn off for Sandwood Bay. There was also facilities which I took advantage of!

Also there was a farmer who was training a young sheepdog. I thought the dog was well trained by the way it was listening to commands & herding the sheep as it should. But I had a chat with the farmer & he said it was only 2nd time out, but the dog held a lot of promise. It was fascinating listening to man & dog communicate with one another by only a few verbal commands.

I was not sure what to expect of the 7km walk into Sandwood Bay, but there was a good track & once again the scenery had changed to more rolling hills with mountains in the far distance. The weather was behaving for once & only had one or two light showers.

My left foot soon started complaining, so I had to stop & give it some TLC. Also my right knee wanted to get into the action & was also starting to complain but I could do nothing with that.

I was soon on the final leg, with a gentle climb up I turned a corner & wow.

All my expectations of Sandwood Bay was there in front of my eyes. White sandy beach, adorned by large grassy sand dunes as a back drop. The roar of the waves crashing as they land, it is a sight that will stay with me for ever.

On the far left there is a pinnacle of a rock that comes out of the sea, dark & imposing, daring the waves to knock it down, knowing they never will.

I hear the tradition is to skinny dip, however even though the weather had behaved itself, it was cold with strong winds, the sea was rough, I did not fancy taking a chance & being so close to finishing, only to drown in the sea!

So instead, me & my well worn boots took a dip together.

I then went to the farthest end of the beach & guess what, had to cross an inlet, yep that meant my nice dry socks & boots were no more!

I quickly pitched in the sand dunes, did my normal housekeeping duties & lay in the tent listening to the crashing waves & reflecting on the last 14 days.

As I was starting to snuggle down, I realised the sun was setting behind me, so I quickly popped out & I got an amazing sunset on Sandwood Bay. All my dreams of this magical place came together in that one moment.

I could not believe it was to be my last wild camp on this epic adventure & tomorrow brings an end to a dream I had for nearly two years to walk the Cape Wrath Trail.

Day 15 Sandwood Bay to Cape Wrath

So after a couple of years in the thought process & planning, the final day had come.
Here I was lying in my tent, listening to the rhythmic sounds of the waves which had lulled me to sleep all night. I realised after completing this, there can be no excuses from myself for any lack of confidence & feelings of inadequacy.

Anyway as the rain once again came in squalls, I made my final brew & breakfast on the Cape Wrath Trail, as I did so the rain ceased & once again I thanked Dad for having a chat with the weather gods.

I soon packed up & showed Dad Sandwood Bay & asked him to look after me on this last stage. It all felt so surreal that this was my last day.

The Cape Wrath ultra runners were starting to come through, a real cheery bunch too. I started the steep climb up the side of the cliff, which was sandy & hard going. The young whippersnappers were soon running up the same path & I kept moving out of their way so they were not held up by a slow plodder, carrying 15kg on their back.

However I was surprised how many stopped & asking how I was & congratulating me on my efforts. These athletes had run the whole Cape Wrath Trail in 8 days, I was in admiration of their Herculean efforts & they thought what I was doing was an achievement, but I felt so small watching these gazelles striding out across the landscape.

I followed their path for a while, but after few km decided to turn off & join my original route. It did mean I missed the Bothy where James Smith lived on his own for 40 years, but maybe that an incentive to visit this wonderful remote landscape again.

Now in the book it did say not to underestimate this section & I would wholeheartedly agree. It is just pathless, boggy, marshland, with a few river crossings thrown in. You have to constantly take a bearing otherwise you can quickly go off course. At no time do you see the lighthouse to take a bearing.

Looking back

I am not sure if it was user error or GPS problems, but for the first time on this trip I ended up climbing higher than I needed to & had to stop & take a bearing again & weave my way back down onto my original plotted route.

I was soon at military range boundary & unlike the book where it says you have to climb over a fence, some kind soul had put in a gate. However as everything with this walk, to have one good thing, CWT makes you work for it. You have to drop down a slippy grassy bank & do a river crossing which as the book often says ‘can be difficult in spate’.

Now I am not sure if it was the purposeful mood I was in to get this walk done, or I am just getting used to ‘river crossings difficult in spate’ but it was a doddle compared to those I had crossed where I was up to my knees! I was soon over the crossing & clambering up yet another river bank to the gate.

So I was in the military firing range, could not see any low flying missiles coming my way, so took a bearing & deep breath, as I climbed up once again on boggy, ground.

It was starting to do me in mentally, I felt like this trail was not finished with me yet & it was going to make me work really hard before it allowed me to finish. I just cannot explain how hard it was underfoot, not only do you have to contend with the boggy, grassy, peaty ground, but there are craters everywhere, caused by the military, which you have to either go in or out of or skirt around trying not to slip in the process.

Also the weather had been pretty good, but once again Scottish mist had come in so I was getting pretty wet in the process.

I then spotted a few fellow walkers, they just seem to materialise from nowhere, who were also on the home run. Which I think explains how vast this area was, that up to now they had also been plotting their own way across & yet we had never seen one another the whole way across. I got chatting to them & asked about their route across, they had just come straight through the middle & agreed it was hard going. They were going to camp for the night before heading up to the lighthouse the following day.

Soon I crested a small hill there was a wonderful sight, the peninsula minibus which services people from the lighthouse to the Durness boat. It is a single track, I will use the word loosely, ‘road’, no cars are allowed, but they offer a service to visitors to visit the lighthouse & return them back to the ferry. I was hoping to get a lift tomorrow but for the moment that single track road was like a beacon or my saviour to get me off this moorland & I quickly made a bearing for it, but not before, yes you guessed it another river crossing. The CWT keeps on giving.

When I hit the track I was so grateful after 6 hours of trudging across moorland. I was aching all over & it felt good to have something stable underfoot.

I had 2.5km of undulating track before I would see the lighthouse & just before I did, I saw my first deer of the whole trip just down in the valley. It felt like the trail was giving me a reward for working so hard & I thanked the trail for that wee treat.

As I turned the corner I got my first glimpse of the lighthouse & I realised I had done it. The relief made me cry with such raw open emotion. I just stood & sobbed at what I had achieved.

Here was me, started walking in my 40’s around the Clent, & then Shropshire/Welsh hills & one week before my 60th I was on the finishing line of the Cape Wrath Trail, one of the hardest trails the UK has to offer.

I soon got Dad out & showed him what we had done, we had done it.
So with increasing emotion the closer I got to the lighthouse, I came right up to it & that was it, mission accomplished.

My body ached in places I did not know that were possible, but the elation & emotion overrode all of that. I was grinning like a Cheshire cat as I strode into the Ozone cafe & ordered a mug of tea.

It was done, what was next, whatever it was the CWT had taught me that I had the determination & resilience to cope with anything, after what the trail had thrown at me each day.
It is hard, it is tough, just when you think you are making headway, the trail throws you a curve ball. The trail is like one big lesson in life given to you in a small space of time. Whatever life has in store for me next, I am ready, so thank you Cape Wrath, you were amazing.

On a Journey to start a Journey

About 18 months or so ago, I took into my head to do something a little different to celebrate my 60th.

I have said the number….60…

There is something about saying those numbers…60. I feel like I am on the edge of something & I don’t know quite what that is.

Anyway I digress, so yes, I wanted to mark it with something that means a lot to me. Something that heals & gives me peace, in a way nothing else can, putting the boots on & going for an adventure.

But what adventure?

I came across the Cape Wrath on Twitter & then watching YouTube & decided it was for me. However not on the timescale some of these youngsters do it in, but in my pace & time. I keep telling myself, its a marathon not on a sprint!

My Dad was alive then, I told him about my plan, he was naturally worried, but I assured him all would be fine. I told him that I would bring back photos & regale him of my adventures. I will still do that, but in my head to him & him alone.

If you read my earlier blog you will know I tried the first small section of it last year & despite bruised shoulders, feet & back I did it.

Since then I have got fitter, addressed my injuries, taken advice, done my powerwalks & have a strict daily regime of stretches & weight bearing exercises.

Then my lovely Dad passed & for a while my life fell apart & the world has stood still. Its been a tough 3 months & I am on a journey with no structure & no rules, which is alien to me.

But I  have done & still am doing what I always do & focus on the task ahead.

So here I am, under a month to go & ready to face one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced, 13 days on the Cape Wrath Trail.

I am still trying to sort my food out, still trying to sort out what to take & what weighs what…but I am loving this preparation.

I am excited, nervous all wrapped into one. I am taking a piccy of my Dad & I, so he will come with me on my journey.

I am hoping for friends to join on a section or two, but that not set in stone.  I have my maps, planned my route, got a spreadsheet so family know approximately where I am supposed to be & where. 

So I am at the stage now where I pack, unpack & repack again & make endless lists. Does anyone else do lists lol??  Gone out on a few successful wild camps, convincing myself I can do this.

I have enjoyed the preparation journey to get to this point & now all I have to do is put my boots on my feet & my home for 13 days on my back.

If I finish, it will be a couple of days before the big birthday. I shall celebrate in my favourite place in the Highlands before returning home.

Let us see how it goes….

My Dad – there are no rules to grief.

I write this today 7 weeks & 3 days after my lovely Dad passed away.

Sounds like a statement you may make in a therapy group, but it is fact.

It is the only fact, as I have discovered there are no firm rules on emotions & how each day throws its own problems to you when you suffer from a loss.

My Dad just made his 91st birthday an achievement in itself, for one I am grateful for. His death, however, was unexpected, his sheer determination to hold onto life was undaunting and despite some illnesses he still managed day to day life.

I look back to my childhood and I am not going to look through them with rose tinted glasses, I look back at it as it was, no matter how painful & hard.

Dad was a GP and devoted to his patients, the old-fashioned sort that knew all his patients, how families intertwined, all their family relations and who got on with who.

We were taught as far back as I can remember, maybe 6, maybe younger, to answer the phone with our telephone number, stating the name of our residence, and we would take the patient’s name, telephone number, address and what was their condition.

My Dad biggest complaint as he got older was the fact that so many GPs worked part-time and out of hours, you got a locum who could live 50+ miles away to come and see you.  If you valued a quiet afternoon, you never brought that subject up!

Dad gave me three things in life, love, music, and a passion for books.

When I was 4 years of age, Dad was getting a little tired of me ‘banging’ away on his piano, so he organised piano lessons, he encouraged me to play so at least his beloved piano, (which he bought in his 20’s when he should have used his savings to buy a car), did not get quite the treatment of a 4-year-old with fat fingers.

It became apparent when I was around three, that I loved books and writing, so much so Dad taught me to read. By the time I went to school, I could read and write way beyond my years – the only thing I was ever good at school!

I have fond memories of Dad taking me to the local library just a few minutes from his surgery and leave me there with the librarian in the children section on a Saturday morning, while he did Saturday morning surgery. It is certainly something you would not be able to do now, but I considered that library as my second home for many years.

In later years, Dad loved my adventurous spirit, he would tell everyone what my latest walking adventures were, to anyone who would listen.  He loved the fact that I got Louise my campervan and I am so pleased I have memories of him going out with me in her and having tea and cake. He asked me that in any legacy he left, that I must promise to upgrade Louise to something which I would really want in an ideal world, something I will do.

Dad & Louise

It is this that I look back on, snatches of moments as I grew up and later in life that I fondly remember.  Sometimes the pain of looking back, literally catches my breath and I feel I can’t breathe.

When Dad passed, so many emotions raced through me, like a fast express train going to London.

I could not cope with people, noise, became very angry as the world went on and I wanted to shout from the tops, ‘my Dad has gone, how can you be so insensitive’.

I wanted to stay in my pit, never to get up ever again, if I shut my eyes, pulled the duvet over my head, perhaps the pain would stop, but it never did.

I wanted the world to stop so I could get off it, but it never does.

There is so much to do preparing for the funeral, you feel if you do not deal with it, perhaps it has never happened, then you want the funeral to put some closure and you know that is what your Dad would want.

The day of the funeral was just awful, I wrote a tribute and a poem which I gave at his service. I shut everyone out that was in the room in my head and the only way I got through it, was that I was talking to my Dad directly.

Dad standing proud with his University Birmingham tie & his MND lapel badge

So, what happens after.

Nothing, just nothing. I felt like there was a huge void.

I keep going to ring Dad, like I did every day, then just stopping myself and it breaks my heart that I am never going to hear his voice again.  I cannot make myself delete his number.

One thing I learnt from all of this; it is okay to feel how you do.

Not to make excuses for your behaviour, whatever emotions you are experiencing, the way you to react to any given situation, that is okay too.

Allow people into your grief-stricken world, not easy I know and something I am not very good at.  Moments of crisis I run to my woman cave and put a very big boulder to block the entrance.  However, eventually, bit by bit, it is okay to let people in, to listen, to make no judgement on how you feel on any given day.

I am writing this with tears streaming down my face, but because of my love for writing, I am finding this therapeutic, almost cleansing and I thank you, if you have got this far, to come on my journey with me.

I know for everyone else; grief can be a subject that is difficult to address, what do you say to someone who has lost a loved one.

I would say do not be afraid to reach out, let that person know you are there.

If they want to tell you the same childhood story 15 times, then let them.

Talking is good, going into a woman cave is not.

So where am I now.

Well, I am still on a roller coaster of emotions. Only a fortnight ago I could not have written this, without running to my woman cave, so that must be good.

I have good days and bad days, but that is okay. I am still finding it hard to recollect all my memories, they come in waves, like my emotions.

I wanted to share this, in case you may be going through similar, or you know someone who is going through it and feel it may help to reach out.

I wanted to share it too for me, so one day I can look back and think what an awful time it was, but I can look back now and think of my Dad with a smile, a positive one.

Dad & his little girl.

Cape Wrath Trail 6 day hike Part 1 – COMPLETED!

Day 1 Fort William to Gairlochy

Woke early this morning could not sleep, excitement & nerves creeping in. My foot with the plantar seemed to know it was going to be put through its paces at first light & started to give me jip. So hot shower, fully smidged up, stretches & a brew done, time for breakfast.

So off I went joining the Great Glen Way, destination Gairlochy. The canal was just beautiful, with only a slight breeze the reflections it gave me all the way were stunning. At each bend it  gave me another different picture.

I was also kept company by a different aray of boats, from small sailing boats to a rather classy boat from Jersey. Everyone returned my hearty wave & hello, boating community are as friendly as walkers I have discovered. Met a couple who were walking the Great Glen Way to Inverness who were very sensible & having their bags transported for them!

Day 1 done & still smiling.

Once I got to Gairlochy it was a mile road walk to the campsite which my plantar was not impressed by!

Pitched the tent & had a comfortable hour having food & few brews before the expected rain came in.

That heralded a time to zip the tent up & say goodbye to a successful, uneventful, first day.

Day 2 Gairlochy to Invegarry

Woke up at Gairlochy & it had a misty damp air to the feel of it. Was packed up & on my way by 8am, said goodbye to the three amigos I had got chatting to who all had arrived late at campsite previous night, due to spending to much time in Fort Williams Weatherspoons that morning!!

Only one had done any walking before, the West Highland Way, the other two zero. One of them asked me why I did this, I told them it was all about the experience, taking in each day & drinking in every sight & sound as well as the people you meet on the way. I also  imparted some advice on how to make their journey more comfy, by resting regularly, grazing on food during the day, taking boots off, putting cream on their feet etc. Next morning as I said a cheery goodbye, all three were starting to put cream on their feet & thanked me for my advice. They were walking the Great Glen Way & I do hope they got to the end ok.

Today I was walking to Invegarry about 25km, most of it forest tracks walking down the length of Loch Lochy, original name I know! I have began to realise how long Lochs are, very long! The morning went well, I managed the pain in foot & the glimpsing of the Loch through the variety of the trees kept my mind occupied.

I have a tendency to push on & not feel hungry when walking & that is a bad mistake. Luckily I experienced a Scottish mist with a fine drizzle which forced me to put my waterproofs on, so out came my wraps, tuna toppers & cheese…I sat on a bridge wall munched my lunch until I was forced to move on due to the midges becoming interested in me being their lunch time snack!

Just as I was leaving I saw this plaque, I did not feel sad, I thought if your time has come, as a walker what a fine way to depart this earth.

Anyway onwards & another 10 km or so, after an hour I was starting to suffer with my plantar every time I put my foot down it was like a knife going in, I tried everything to shift how I walked but nothing worked.
Eventually I came in towards Invergarry & I popped out onto the road, that is when my trail angel came & rescued me, name is Kevin & owns the Ardgarry Farm B&B at Invergarry.

I text him & 15 minutes later he appeared, I could have hugged him if it was not for Covid! With ease he put my bag & sticks in his car & drove me to my warm bed for the night.

This place is a gem, I had one of the self contained rooms with a very comfy bed, amazing walk in shower, a fridge full of fruit, juice, yoghurt, as much tea & milk I could drink, pure luxury. He has a variety of self contained units, which you can book for one night, so if you do the TGO, it may be worth giving him a call, he will pick you up locally & drop you back down where your walk starts. Cracking service at a good price!

Anyway I digress, after a hot shower, lots of medication, catching up with family & friends, it was time for a well earned rest.

Day 3 Invergarry to Poulary

So after a very comfortable night, it was time to get going again. My lovely family & Twitter family had given me great advice & encouragement the night before, so I felt quite buoyed up & ready to hit the trail again. Leaving a very heavy waft of ‘Deep Heat’ in the room, my trail angel Kevin dropped me back down onto the start of my walk.

Today I was walking to Poulary about 19km & hoping to find a camp spot on the side of Loch Garry, that was the plan!

So off I went through Greenfield forest, following a variety of trees & forrestation as I went. I love forests, whatever stage they are in, the smells, the colour, the different views they give, are all a delight. I often think how wonderful it would be, if trees could tell a story.

My foot was behaving which was good & my shoulders although sore were also doing good. I was enjoying myself today & felt quite content. Then I met this sign!

I went over the cattle grid & oh yes the beasts were waiting for me straight on the path. Mum, Calf & Dad, they were big, very big!

Anyone who knows me, knows I do not have a love for cows, this was always going to be hard part of trail walking, meeting cattle. So with little choice, armed with false bravado, I marched confidently but slowly on, Mum & Calf decided to move on to other cattle who were in the trees nearby, but not Dad. He refused to budge one inch, just looking at me, so I had little choice but to walk around him, heart was pounding but I looked steadfastly forward & kept moving slowly onwards.  My body was shaking & hands trembling, but when I was at safe distance I looked back & took this, he was still standing in same spot!

I did feel very pleased with myself though, an achievement for the day.

A little later on I had a good lunch which helped & just further down I met some people who were going to canoe down Loch Garry, camp up for the night & return back. I thought perhaps that is one to try in the future…

I decided at Greenfield not to do the faint boggy track with a river crossing. I was feeling good with my aches & pains & I decided to do the quiet single road track instead. A good decision in my part I think.

So just after Poulary I found some water, pitched my borrowed tent & camped up for the night. Looked at my map for the following day, which involved my first major climb & some faint tracks.

But that was all for another day, as I looked down at Loch Garry, with the wonderful forest laid out before me, I had my dinner & reflected on another successful day.

Day 4 Poulary to Loch Cluaine

Woke up in the morning with the air still, midges in force & the Scottish mist down, so I snuggled back into my sleeping bag, before forcing myself up to have a brew & breakfast.

My route today was Poulary to Cluaine, I was a little nervous today, so far my route had taken me down forest tracks & single track roads, but today involved going up & down two bealachs & route finding. Also the weather was forecasted to be hot with no wind.

I kept checking for the mist to clear & once the sun peeked out I packed up my gear inside the tent, donning my rather fetching midgy gear,  I came out quickly dropped the tent & got on my way.

Thanks to YouTube clips I knew there would be a sign for the start of my walk & there it was. So looking onwards and upwards following a faint path of stones & flattened grass I started off.

It was tough going, for me anyway, with the heat, weight of bag & having to take care underfoot. Halfway up I saw a man coming down with what I thought was a flashing light, turned out to be his compass reflecting in the light!

We enjoyed pleasantries with one another he had been out early for a walk & was on his way down. We said goodbye & off he went, I realised later he was wearing Wellington boots!

I eventually got to the top of Mam na Seliag or rather the col of it. I took my bag off, drank lots of water, sat on a rock & just drank in the views. The expanse of the mountains which lay ahead were breathtaking. I literally felt on top of the world. I just sat there for a while in my own thoughts. I thought how lucky I was to be there, to see this view which only your feet can take you. I thought how lucky we are to live in such a special place & we should never take it for granted.

So time for the descent, which was ok, had to take care underfoot again, lost & gained the faint track down a few times as I made my way to Loch Loyne, my first river crossing.

However, the views on the descent were fantastic as you looked up, the valley beneath you opened up, like opening a tin of beans, as the can opens, you know there are little beauties inside!

So got to Loch Loyne, I did have some water shoes to change into, but the river level was low so I gingerly got across with no mishap & only one wet foot…not sure why only one.

I sat on the side having got more water, as by this time I had run out of water, had my lunch & sat there for a while. Time was running on & I was already thinking that I had another climb to do then a further 7km to Cluaine & I did not think I had enough energy in the tank to get there.

So I wanted to get the final climb up Coire Odhar done, so off I went, in normal times it would be a good walk up but with 3 previous days of walking inside me I was starting to flag. I kept taking photos & getting my breath, always a good excuse!

Once I got to the top Loch Loyne opened up in front of me & so did a very flat pitch with excellent views. It should have had a sign on it, ‘Jenny Pitch Here’, so I did just that.

I had spare food which gave me flexibility in changing my plans, something that is important on treks like this, another bit of good advice from seasoned long distance trekkers.

I had not done great mileage only 10k & 654m of ascent, but it was enough for me. I am no spring chicken or fit like some of my fellow Twitter friends & YouTube makers like Scotland Mountains, Kevin Russell & Robin Wallace, of all but a few I could mention, who all have the ease of climbing up mountains with great speed & fitness, like mountain goats!

But I had enjoyed my day, had drank in the views, had enjoyed my experience & had an adventure & that is what this was all about.

Day 5 Loch Loyne to The Affric Kintail Way

Woke up to beautiful mist sweeping across the hills & Loch Loyne which lay below the summit I was on. The mist swept across the mountain tops giving me glimpses of what lay ahead, It was like theatre curtains opening & closing as the audience claps with joy & enthusiasm.

Today I had some catching up to do as I had 7km to make up just to get to Cluaine. So my plan today was to get to Cluaine, have some real munch food, pick up my cache of food & try to see if I could get to the Bothy or near there on the Affric Kintail Way. But that was a good 20km away so with brew & breakfast done, tent dropped I hit the trail once again.

As I descended the faint path down, what I thought was the path I would take, was not, just shows how sometimes your bearings can go a little array. So after checking my GPS, I came across a much stronger easier track which opened up to the wide expanse of Loch Cluaine.

The cloud formations were giving me a full performance today, sweeping over the mountain tops like fluffy cotton wool or super large cobwebs stretching their web across from one peak to another.

As I turned a corner a wonderous sight behold me, Cluaine Inn, this meant food, real food, the kind that has some real bite to it! So with renewed energy it was not long before I was at the Inn.

I soon demolished a Philly steak cheese sandwich, with paprika fries & mango sorbet, gosh it was good!

I picked up my food bag from them & packed up my bag.
The manager looked at me with some amazement & asked me how heavy it was, I said around 15kg, he just shook his head & asked where I was going, when I told him he just shook his head again & wished me safe journey.

Getting going again was tough, not helped by the uphill that followed when I turned off the road, but I still had a long way to go.

As I was forging ahead I saw a apparition or what I thought was an apparition, then I realised I did not have a fever or was hallucinating, but what I saw was a 4×4 truck with camper box on top coming slowly towards me. I was not on a path as such, I was following a very grassy stony sheep trail track, muddy & indistinct at times & this truck was on it. I was flabbergasted, I could not acknowledge them as they went very slowly past. To say I was disgusted by their total disregard to their surroundings & more important the environment & the damage they were causing was understatement.

Anyway, with a shake of my weary head I went on my way, following the glen which undulated & at every corner gave me another slice of valley to revel in.

I decided not to follow my predestined route as that was another 2km on & then I would have to come back on myself. So I decided rightly or wrongly to go off piste & heather bash my way down to a gate I had spotted. I knew I would have to cross the river but this was my only river crossing of the day & therefore it did not matter if I got wet feet.

I carefully made it across & eventually got a rather soft pitch & was soon snuggled into my tent once again.

Day 6 Final day to Shiel Bridge

Woke this morning to a heavy heart as it was my last day on this trek, another 19km or so. I had been advised by friends that after 3 days, I would soon get used to the rhythm & routine of walking & camping with my bag & they were right. My plantar had seemed to disappear on Day 3, my aching shoulders did not groan so much as I put my bag on at Day 4 & I even enjoyed  the rhythmic click of my sticks as I walked.

Anyway it was also Midge fest & I mean Midge fest, so packed up inside tent, donned my best anti Midge gear, dropped tent & quickly got onto the path.

I had not bothered with breakfast or tea that morning as I was keen to get away from being eaten alive, but I knew there was the Cambian Bothy further up & was hoping I could take some respite from the midges & have a brew & breakfast there.

Sure enough I saw the red roof of the Bothy, hoping & praying in equal measures it was open. I got to the door & with a satisfying click the door opened. It was a little piece of haven within a stunning location.

After brew & breakfast it was time to get on my way. It was what I call a Scottish mist type of day, where there was rain in the air but in return you got the beautiful inversions of low cloud, which gave a fantastic show on the mountain tops as you walked.

Underfoot it was going well, the stones were slippy & when I approached the waterfall on the left side, I knew for me anyway, great care would need to be taken as one slip could cause a problem. It is fair to say, there was two places when ‘bum scrambling’ came into play. Always the safer option in my humble opinion if you are not comfortable coming down smooth granite rocks with a big pack on!

Eventually the bridge came into welcome view with another Bothy in site, I got a little emotional as I came down off the tops & back into the valley, as I knew at the end of the Glen, was the end of my walk.

I reached the Bothy but it was locked so just a bit further on sat & eat my wraps & tuna toppers, with chocolate bars & took my surroundings in, savouring my last lunch out on this trek.

I continued to walk down the Glen, thankful the cattle who reside in this Glen were happily munching grass on the other side of the river.

So as I walked down the last few km I reflected on my walk & what I had learnt about myself, but that is for a separate blog, the ‘Epilogue’.

For now as I reached the gate & sign for Affric Trail, I cried with emotion & achievement that what I had set out to do, I had done it.

The lady who started walking on the Chiltern Hills all those years ago was back packing the first part of CWT.

I had done it…

Cape Wrath Trail Part 1

Earlier this year during yet another lockdown, the reality of hitting another milestone birthday in 2022 started to loom in my head. I started to think about what I would like to do to celebrate in reaching this milestone in relatively one piece & good health. A plan started to formulate & true to my most predictable nature, birthday party quickly disappeared…then a ‘outside my comfort box’ plan started to form in my head.

Inspired by the Twitter community who have done the Cape Wrath Trail in breath-taking speed and agility, though I decided speed and agility was not my forte, and I have difficulty in taking so much holiday in one go…the plan started to formulate.

So, after looking at the maps, I decided this year I would plan to do a taster or a starter, so I have decided to walk from Fort William to Shiel Bridge as logistics for getting there and getting home from there, are much easier. This is with a view that next year, I take an extended holiday & finish the walk from Shiel Bridge to Cape Wrath.

I have also decided, because I have done so much walking around & out of Glenfinnan, that I am choosing the alternative route from Fort William to Invergarry and go onwards from there.  This way it will ease me in the first two days and yes, I know I could do it in one day – but it is a holiday – honest – not a challenge.

I have never done anything like this before, yes, I have done several UK well known trails and walked the TMB in the Alps & Pyrenees etc – but there is something about walking the wilderness of Scotland which I am finding exciting and nervous in one breath.

Quite a few of the Twitter walking community have done the TGO challenge many, many times and would probably consider this a ‘walk in the park’.  But for me it is a challenge as I have plotted my route, worked out hopefully where I will camp, carefully looked at river crossings, download my route and tried to think of every conceivable event – which I know I won’t have. Something a few years ago would have terrified me and I would have thought well above my capability.

I have got myself fit, lost some weight, I am managing the pain with my Plantar Fasciitis and strengthened my shoulders with daily exercises & stretches to carry a rucksack for 6 days – something I am not used to.

Talking of rucksack, I have yet to pack it, I know it will take several attempts as I try to lessen the weight, I look at my list, look at my rucksack and already I am shaking my head trying to make 2+2 = 4!

I do consider myself to be a newbie & inexperienced compared to so many I know who walk our great mountains with apparent ease & knowledge. However, I know where I was in terms of knowledge & experience 6 years ago & where I am today & I feel better placed to face any challenges that will come my way.

So, in just over two weeks I am off, so watch this space. Do I have any expectations – no – I am taking each day as it comes & drinking in the experiences of being totally immersed in my walk & my surroundings.

Scotland, I hope you are ready for me, I am certainly ready and excited for you.



2020…what was that all about!

2020 started like any other year. Plans being made for my various walking holidays in Scotland & Pyrenees, thinking about how to improve my fitness as a lot of us do in January!

Then a mood, an atmosphere, whispers about a new disease started to arise & suddenly almost overnight we were in lockdown.

Luckily the weekend before lockdown I was able to see my Dad, for that I was grateful.

So that was it, lockdown it was! I did not really know any local walks in my area apart from the prom. Well that was never going to satisfy my walking hunger, so I set about exploring my area & was quite surprised what I found. Little country lanes, the woods & of course my lovely sunsets & sunrises on the prom.

I worked from home during lockdown & have done ever since. Which was great at first with no commute & being able to have the flexibility it gives you. But when you live alone, your own support bubble can feel quite suffocating & incredibly lonely.

We were then told that lockdown was being lifted gently at first. My first walk out was Winter Hill & it felt so good!

Soon I was making plans again, meeting up with friends like Anelda, we had kept each other going during lockdown via wapp etc & when we met up in a wee cottage in Wales, life felt normal.

I was back out wild camping, after months of feeling cooped up, I wanted to be out as much as possible. I then went to Northumberland to walk the Cheviots, a very good substitute for the Pyrenees, can highly recommend it!

As some of you may know I am in love with Scotland. So fully aware come the colder months, we may go into another lockdown, a 9 day trip in Louise was planned. We had a grand time, out wild camping for 2 nights on the Glen Affric trail from Shiel Bridge. A visit to Skye, a stay in Cannich, just truly beautiful & just for a moment I could forget the pandemic world we were living in.

Then my last social contact was my betsie Hayley, as we like to call one another. Another very good friend who always checks up on me if I go into my cave! She came to stay & we went off to Coniston & camped in Louise for the weekend. I suspected but did not dare to admit, this would be my last interaction for a while.

So back into lockdown of a sort as we went into Tiers. I still went out walking of a weekend choosing my places carefully, keeping in my own bubble, just me & Louise. Felt strange not supporting local cafes & shops, but I kept to myself & having Louise meant I was once again contained!

Christmas I was so lucky my son Chris could make it. It was the only family meetup we could have, but with the power of technology, video calls with my daughter & hubby, helped bring them closer. I cannot tell you what it meant, but maybe these pictures do.

So after he left & before we went into higher tier, one last wild camp in the mountains. But no, 2020 had one last surprise for me! Off I went, got up to the top, pitched my tent, unpacked & went to lit the gas & voila…the gas would not ignite, no matter what I tried.

So I packed up, the sun was going down & the temperature dropping on already snowy, icy paths, but you know, it was the most magical experience. This no longer felt that I was being robbed of a camp, but more that I was being given a very sensory & beautiful gift.

So that is my 2020 in a nutshell. What can I take from it. Family & friends have helped me get through the loneliness I have felt. You may not be mentioned here, but you know who you are. I have not been able to see all of them this year, but we have checked up on one another, made sure we are all ok & for that I am very blessed.

I am stronger mentally then sometimes I give myself credit for & I am fitter than I allow myself to believe at times.

But I am truly blessed that I have my family & friends & I have this passion for walking as all three take me & allows me to experience most wonderful moments.

Thank you x

Highland Adventures

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.

Louise & Jenny – Cheviot Hills

After not being able to go the Pyrenees due to lockdown, I thought it gave me an opportunity to go to Northumberland to explore the Cheviot Hills.

I did think about not using a campsite & Louise & I just going where we fancy, but with the current situation, I thought it was safer to be on a campsite. I booked into a campsite at Wooler, Highburn House Holiday Park. Not normally my cup of tea so to speak as it was normally a large campsite with children facilities etc, but as there was no tents allowed & facilities closed down it lent itself to a much quieter site, then I think as normal.

Wooler though is a brilliant place to centrally locate yourself to the Cheviots – easy access to anywhere.

Day 1 eased my hill legs gently into this walking malarky & went up Yeavering Bell, well it would have been eased in if I had not ‘misplaced myself’ on the start of the walk! Easily done I tell myself. So after a little detour, all kilometres for my yearly tracker, off I went out of Wooler, followed part of the St Cuthbert Way & then up through the forest to following the rolling hills up to the top of Yeavering Bell then a circular back to Wooler – a grand day out.

Day 2 now I was all warmed up, Louise & I set off to find the start of the walk up to The Cheviot. We followed a single track road down the Harthrope Valley & started our walk from near Langleeford. The drive in & out was beautiful, both of us were a little nervous of meeting cars on the single track & Louise only had to breathe in once or twice to allow cars to pass!

The walk follows the river to start with before climbing up gently again through the rolling hills. Plenty of time for ‘photo opportunities’ i.e. getting your breath! Again I ‘misplaced myself’ common theme here as you can see & involved a bit of a tricky bum walk down, but hey ho all the joys of walking somewhere new.

It was a steady climb up & when I thought I was nearly there, no there was one more climb to go, always the way. However the views were amazing from the top. For once I was lucky with the weather & did not have to don my normal attire of the wet weather look!

Day 3 – I spoke to soon, the wet weather came in so a road trip for Louise & I off to St Abbs to a smokery to replenish supplies & as the weather dried up, off we went to Bamburgh for a beach walk. After that as the afternoon drew to a close I visited St Cuthberts cave where it was reported the monks of Lindisfarne brought his body after the Vikings raided Lindisfarne, before taking him on to Durham Cathedral.

Day 4 – the wet weather continued but was not going to waste the day, so waterproofs at the ready off Louise & I drove down the Beamish valley, another single track road of passing places. So from Hartside I walked up to Chesters & up another ascent to Salters Track, then onto Little Dodd where the wind came whistling down the valley & then a short diversion to avoid my four legged friends the cows, before coming back to Louise. This was a lovely walk & I have vowed to do this again in good weather, because I believe the views would have been amazing!

Day 5 – This has been on my bucket list for a long time, Windy Gyle & as the sun made another appearance it was boots on & Louise & I drove off down another valley road to Barrowburn. I was given this route by a social media friend, Martin Lawton, who gave me a fantastic route, with scenery that was eye watering at times. Thank you Martin.

So off I went from Barrowburn, up The Street, onto the Pennine Way where I sat & had a boots with a view moment & took time in to look at the Cheviot Hills in front, most of which I had walked over the last few days. It was a time not to rush, but just to savour, fill those memory boxes & just be thankful that you love walking so much, you get to enjoy such wonders. I met some mountain goats – did a bit of a double take as did not expect to see them!

After a final push up the summit of Windy Gyle, I was not disappointed. Sometimes when you want to do something so much, when it comes to it, it can be a bit of a disappointment, this was not. It is not known Windy Gyle for nothing, windswept Jenny came in to action.

I then took the descent through the meadows, again, another diversion of taking a very wide path to avoid the cows was required, where I let out a sigh of relief as I closed the gate behind me. But what a walk, truly stunning, thank you Martin.

Day 6 – Another lovely day of weather, so off I went to walk the Pilgrims Way, with nothing but sand under my feet (& mud at one point) & the local seal colony in full voice with birds also in full chorus. It is a very atmospheric walk & one to be experienced. Holy Island itself was busy & after a quick scoot around the island I walked back to the safety of Louise.

Day 7 – my final day, the sun shone brightly, so again Louise & I set off to Dunstanburgh Castle & walked St Oswald Way to Crasters. I stopped for lunch & watched the dolphins play in the sea, chasing the boats & giving us all a sight to behold. Once I was in Crasters it was time to visit another smoke house to bring back some lovely delicacies – oh & I may have had an ice cream before returning back to Louise.

I had a lovely holiday in Northumberland, I found the people incredibly friendly, Louise got quite a bit of attention as she is not your average VW campervan, being slightly smaller etc. She does of course do a great sunset or two!

If you have not been to Northumberland, I do highly recommend it, the walking is fantastic, so much choice for every ability. Northumberland, thank you for a great time, Louise & I will be back!