Stage 151, 17th August: Inverkirkaig to Culkein
As Jeff left the car park at Inverkirkaig and waved me off for another day, the heavens opened wide and a colossal shower hit me full in the face as if waking me from a deep slumber with an ice-cold flannel. By the time I reached Lochinver the rain took a break for twenty minutes and just enough time for my trousers to dry out in the wind. Then it threw it down again, dried, rained, dried – and so on. In all I counted seven heavy squalls and three light showers whilst I was out, but on a positive note at least I could stay warm and get dry between them.
The path from Baddidarach to Ardroe was another purple heather beauty but also rather splashy. I had another muddy splash across country from the sandy windswept beach at Achmelvich to pick up the coast road near Clachtoll and my first sight of proper foaming roaring surf for what felt like and could well be months. I’d walked around most of West Scotland with the coastline sheltered by nearby islands or tucked up along the side of the deep fjord sea-lochs and other than the sound of waterfalls I’d missed the reassuring ‘white noise’ of big breaking waves. I sat on a damp grassy bank to eat my lunch and reassuringly absorbed the sight and sound as each wave crashed against the shore.
The single track road continued ever on and took me all the way to the Stoer Head Lighthouse before leaving me to squelch my way along a very blustery cliff top to meet up with the Old Man of Stoer. With the rain laden clouds looming in, I quickly took my statutory photo as evidence of my visit and cut inland to contour around a small hill and pick my way through the marsh and bogs. As I did so, the heavens gave me one last battering of the day. But this time and with a little help from pathless bogs, the elements won. I was officially soaked for the fourth time on this journey. Some parts of my base layer shirt were dry, but all other items of clothing, yes all, were best suited for a tumble drier. I’m not sure Jeff and Jenny were overly impressed at a bedraggled soggy walker sitting in their car at Culkein. But I was told that they had waterproof seat covers.
Stage 152, 18th August: Culkein to Kylesku
Today I managed a full ten minutes of walking without rain, but all too soon a heavy shower got me thinking along the lines of “here we go again”. But no, I was wrong. The rain relented and my skill at battering down the hatches quickly to keep dry weren’t really needed as occasional light showers are but a breeze these days. Though talking of breezes, I was accompanied all day by a very autumnal chill blustery wind that necessitated a woolly hat pulled down over my ears to protect what’s left of my precious hair from blowing away.
I completed the loop of Stoer Head and joined the Drumbeg road for a single track walk full of ever-changing views, perspectives and curiosities. At Clashnessie I had the double of a sandy bay on one side and a flourishing waterfall on the other. At Drumbeg I had open views across Edrachillis Bay whilst inland at Gleann Ardbhair I had stark hills and temperate rainforest draped with cloud.
By the time I reached the main road overlooking Loch Glencoul near Unapool, I also had a bit of a geological conundrum to get to grips with. How did a quartzite band end up sandwiched in the bread of Pre Cambrian gneiss? Some reckon it was a process akin to riffle shuffling a pack of cards when a huge thrust in the earth’s crust took place, others reckon some form of hydrothermal intrusion. Answers on a postcard please. In all honesty I preferred the sight of a stag watching me intently before my approaching odours had him bounding across the hillside to escape. All in all, it was one rather lovely road walk and well worth a leisurely drive if you have no reason to wear boots.
Stage 153, 19th August: Kylesku to Claisfearn nr Scourie
I started out with a few miles along the main A894 from Kylesku crossing the bridge which had looked very much like an alien spaceship when I saw it from a distance yesterday. I briefly came across Lindsay, who parked up and came over for a quick chat, as I stood by the side of the road responding to texts from home that had sprung through all at once as my phone signal kicked in. As we discussed my route ahead and made our farewells, I truly felt that another new friend had been made.
The road was open, wide, nigh on empty and ideal for speed. I suspected that Jeremy Clarkson would like this one but also rather hoped that he wasn’t heading my way. Just in case he was out testing a new Ferrari, I turned off left and took a couple of minor headland jaunts to escape.
First I followed the old coast road which was very overgrown. Though now only fit for single file walking traffic, it still had ‘Passing Place’ signs partly buried in the deep undergrowth which seems to reclaim our human laid tarmac very quickly. As the now obligatory heavy shower caught up with me I bumped into a chap taking shelter under a tree and out collecting insects with his trusty net as his steed. With my trusty, but now very bent, walking pole as my steed we made an equally mad looking pair and chatted for a few minutes whilst waiting for the rain to abate.
My second jaunt took me up a track where I was approached by a man in green overalls with three friendly terriers. In a thick Essex accent he warned me off trying to get through as the path on my map beyond the house was overgrown. Thinking that he might just be trying to keep me off his Scottish land, I vowed to give it a go and left him saying that I’d as likely be back in five minutes. So when I came across a lovely path, I began to believe my instinct was correct. It wasn’t. The path soon dissolved into thick bracken and a tangle of young trees. Though I could see a path of sorts it disappeared completely at a rather tall deer fence. Once I’d scaled this, the bracken was thicker and deeper and at one point I tripped over a hidden rock and fell head first into a thick bracken bed. I lay there for a few seconds like a helpless tortoise on its back. After a combination of swearing and a fit of the giggles, I got to my feet and scrambled my way to the lane. I might have won through, but I was glad nobody saw me win this one.
I had lunch in Snickers parked up at the campsite in Scourie. I lingered a little longer than normal and changed out of some wet clothes for an afternoon cross-country walk to Tarbet. Anything across country was now very wet, extremely boggy and also strewn with rocks and boulders. The terrain had become bleak and very barren. What soil there might be was thin and little more than heather and marsh grasses seemed to thrive. Every little crag and hill was mainly bare rock and the higher hills often bore the illusion of snow cover as the wet rock glistened in any stray ray of sunlight. By the time I reached the rendezvous point I was much later than planned and because a phone signal was a rarity I couldn’t tell Jeff and Jenny of my delay. They were a little worried and came driving up the lane to look for me. I apologised, but I suspect they were a little relieved and not angry.