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.
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.