Stage 148, 13th August: Dundonnell House to Ullapool
With yet more heavy rain overnight, I was surprised to see that the river levels had significantly dropped back . To me, this fact only demonstrated just how much water Bertha had dumped over such a short period of time and I was beginning to appreciate that even that much rain isn’t normal for this part of the world. Needless to say, more showers were forecast for today.
At least I didn’t have to start on a main road and I headed out up a narrow lane to cross the peninsula splitting Little Loch Broom from Loch Broom. The climb up the side of the hill and over a pass to make the crossing was a gradual but long one and eventually I left the road to follow a steep track down to the old jetty and former ferry crossing to Ullapool. At the bottom Castaway Cottage, now a holiday let, sat a little sadly among the debris delivered by a once raging but now rather innocently bubbling burn. The storm had left a huge, twenty metre wide scar of boulders, rocks, stones, branches, trees and flattened bracken, The stream now barely filled a few metres of the wound it had created. The damage around here was more substantial than anything I had expected and clearly the storm had been a very rare event.
The path edging up Loch Broom was marked on my map. It may have been a path once, but was no longer recognisable as anything quite so civilised and that was when I could even find it. It now comprised mud, bog, running streams and splashing puddles. Clearly the thin soil hadn’t completely drained and crossing some of even the smallest streams proved to be quite a task. Progress was ridiculously slow and the next two miles took me nearly two hours to complete.
Back on the road I soon found that it too had been breached by a landslip and water was still cascading across the tarmac as locals in high spirits exchanged deliveries by hand across the new gulf now marooning anyone on the North side of the landslide. At the head of the loch I turned on to the main road. It was clear that normality had resumed as the road was busy with trucks and heavy vehicles shuttling their goods to and from Ullapool and presumably via ferry to Stornaway. With the odd shower to accompany me, it wasn’t a pleasant couple of hours into Ullapool but interest was maintained as I passed another house which had lost it’s entire driveway, a heavy stone front wall and probably much of the downstairs furniture to another very muddy flooding river. Ullapool itself seemed oblivious and the trinket shops selling the usual mix of tartan bric-a-brac were brimming with American tourists being happily and probably extortionately relieved of their dollar.
Stage 149, 14th August: Ullapool to Acheninver
What? A dry day? Is that possible? Apparently I was due one and I was genuinely trying to remember the last time I had had a completely rainless day and was surprised when I worked out that it wasn’t that long ago when I climbed over the Pass of the Cattle. But to me it felt as if it had rained every day for months and I thought I was due a break.
I left Ullapool to great news from home and paused for a personal celebration by buying myself some waterproof socks to trial on some of my wetter off-road walks. The fact that my eldest daughter had achieved better A Level results than I ever did and had got into her university of choice left me proud, delighted for her, generally ‘well chuffed’ and ready for a grand day out.
It was more ‘A’ road for the first few miles before tracks took me around the estuary at Keanchulish and up onto the renowned Postie’s Path. Despite a sign warning me that I was entering dangerous mountain country I still hadn’t twigged that I was actually on the Postie’s Path until two rounds of Marmite & Dairylea sandwiches dislodged something in my brain as I sat down for lunch at the top of a steep climb. The path was less than eight miles long but comprised a series of spectacular views across to the Summer Isles supplemented by rocky scrambles, steep cliff drops, more boggy patches and the occasional landslip to keep my attention. Fortunately the streams were now nearing normal levels and were safe to cross.
I’d heard much about this path and the views over Horse Sound to Horse Island and Tanera More were truly spectacular. This walk was very much on a par with my walk last week into Lower Diabaig, though it felt a little easier on the ankles and knees which were no longer complaining. However, I did wonder if the postman who walked this path twice a week until the 1960s ever had knee trouble. The waterproof socks also got a good test and I can certainly vouch for their ability to keep water out. But they also keep it in, which isn’t great if your feet get a smidge warm.
Alec met me by car at Acheninver and he demonstrated his rally driving skills as we took a one hour drive to catch up with Jeannie at Unapool and an overnight park up outside their cottage. We had a grand evening sharing a hearty dinner and musical entertainment at the table of Alec and Jeannie’s friends – Lesley, Lindsay and their children Ben and Ewan. Even the thick clouds of midges didn’t get me. Maybe I am becoming immune. Or maybe they no longer recognise me as English as I’m sure the midges sole purpose in life is to prevent too many English from inhabiting the West coast of Scotland.
Stage 150, 15th August: Acheninver to Inverkirkaig
It was almost perfect walking weather as I set out for twenty four miles of mainly single track road. It was cool, but not cold. There was enough of a breeze to keep the midges at home and it was overcast enough to allow me walk hat free without the risk of sunburn on my bald pate. The only thing missing was enough of a break in the clouds to give me an occasional burst of sunshine to brighten my photos. Most of my recent pictures seemed to have the backdrop of a leaden sky and I suspect that many stunning vistas had been missed due to the inclement weather.
It was a long lane walk edging Badentarbat Bay with gorgeous scenes out to the Summer Isles, Lewis and Harris with far reaching views back to the Torridon Hills and even the very distant Cuillins of Skye. I had a brief escape off-road and around a small low headland with a two mile stretch of purple heather lined path from Dornie to Old Dornie. It was cracking little route and I wanted it as my own. Pete’s Path sounded rather good and especially as it would be around here that I notched up my 3,000th mile.
Old Dornie was popular with visitors out to cruise the Summer Isles. It was a sheltered, if not picture postcard bay, littered with small moored boats of all shapes and sizes and I climbed out of it to walk the tarmac again ticking off every white diamond shaped ‘Passing Place’ sign as I counted down the miles to Inverkirkaig. When the signs got a bit tedious, I ticked off the lochs and lochans instead, but the slog seemed longer than expected today and I ended up almost angrily route marching the last few miles into Inverkirkaig and a very welcome end of week meal with Alec, Jeannie, Lesley and Lindsay in Lochinver. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that it rained too, how silly of me to forget.
I said my goodbyes and profuse thanks, particularly to Alec who had spent the last two weeks suffering the musky damp smell of my boots and socks which undoubtedly needed a few days of decent weather to dry out properly. He had also got to grips with the vagaries of Fiat electrics and for once everything on board the bus seemed to work. We even had a stock of spares.
Rest Day, 16th August: Achmelvich nr Lochinver
A windy night had rocked me to sleep and then woken me at retaliatory intervals with a heavy gust, but in all I slept well and woke late for a day of laundry and various stuff. I hung around for Jeff and Jenny to arrive at lunchtime. They had elected not to sleep on board but to treat their week as a holiday and move Snickers along parallel to their B&B plans. It suited me to have some space and to be able to hang my socks up without too much guilt. I also noted that the campsite shop sold ice cream and because I hadn’t had one all week I might just have indulged myself with a good old-fashioned Mint Feast.