Saturday 23rd August
Andy had made an earlier start on Friday and chosen to book himself into the Loch Leven hotel, we chatted a couple of times on the way up and he mentioned he'd had a funny turn with his vertigo again after the long drive and was retiring early for the night. I tried to call Andy a few times in the morning but couldn't get hold of him until around 08:00, he still wasn't 100% but we agreed to meet up in Fort Bill a little later.
Pete and I headed for Morrisons cafe for a very average breakfast whilst Andy enjoyed smoked Salmon at the hotel, the van was parked in the long stay car park and a couple of hefty tickets left in the window to see us through to the end, we jumped in with Andy and headed round to Glenfinnan. After leaving some details at the hotel we left Andy's car in the car park, loaded our packs and began our trek north to the cape.
Andy, Pete and me hiding, heading north from the viaduct
Our route took us up the very pretty Glen Finnan, following the river and plantations until we reached Corryhully bothy where we branched NE towards Streap. We stopped for five minutes at the bothy to dodge a squally shower, Andy still wasn't right and had a couple of wobbles whilst we sheltered inside.
We continued up the steady 2km climb towards Streap, it was hot in the sun and we were soon taking layers off.
At the top of the pass we took a break, Andy's condition hadn't improved so we dicussed his options at what seemed like a sensible place. After the months of planning and preparation it was fustrating, the only sensible option was for him to turn around and head back down although his heart was saying differently. Andy turned around and headed back down the glen, Pete and I packed up and continued on, half way through day one, three became two.
As we dropped a couple of hundred metres conditions underfoot got really wet, we bog jumped for a while before giving up and just wading through, Glean Cuirnean was a nightmare and lovely way to start a long hike. Reaching the bottom we took five minutes to empty our trail shoes and refil our water bottles.
We thought we crossed the worst of the bog but when we reached the forestry in Glen Pean we were diverted for another kilometer and half though knee length grass and ankle deep bog, at the bridge at Strathan we could rejoin our route through the forestry and on to the bothy.
We were the first to reach A Chuil bothy shortly before 18:00, half an hour later another couple arrived who were out on a CWT reccie, they'd met Andy at Corryhully so we were pleased to hear he'd made it down the valley okay. A little later three Munro baggers arrived with coal, timber and whisky, they were good folk and we chatted about our propsed route, it sounded like we were in for a good trip. We ate our meals, washed shoes and socks and retired fairly early, I was soon asleep despite the AC DC and whisky fueled laughter from the next room.
Distance - 18.1km
Sunday 24th August
I slept great, as did Pete I think, but we were both up at first light eager to get cracking. It was another beautiful morning without a cloud in the sky, we cooked and ate breakfast outside before packing up and tip toeing past the other guys.
Pete sends the first Spot of the trip
Looking back to the bothy
We meandered up Glen Dessary following the river through a very pretty plantation, if there is such a thing? After leaving the forestry we climbed out of the glen and up into a narrow gorge towards Lochan a Mhaim and the Finiskaig river.
We followed the Finiskaig river a little too far, we should have crossed much higher but instead found ourselves scrambing over large boulders and swinging off dodgy looking old birch trees, we could have turned back but it was actually good fun.
Finiskaig river and Sourlies beyond
We called in at Sourlies for lunch, wild boar saucisson from Sarlat with a nice parmesan reggiano, washed down with cherry Koolaid and Nuun. After leaving the bothy the tide was right out so we walked around the beach and round towards Carnoch. The going was very wet again, trying to reach the footbridge was swamp hell, I tried to vault one patch and went up to my thigh in stinking bog juice.
It was much the same all the way along the glen towards Ben Aiden, we passed the couple from the bothy who'd pitched on a rise to avoid the bog, I considered joining them but it was too early in the day so we pressed on. The path was dodgy at best as we headed for the proposed camp site, a short steep scramble with only bracken and heather for handholds got the pulse going. Head height bracken and more bog meant the lasy couple of Kms were another slog, we reached the camp area around 18:00.
I pitched my Trailstar on the only bit of half dry ground we could find
The river was low and no rain forecast so Pete chose to bivvy on the raised river bed. We had a small fire on the beach which meant we could dry our shoes and socks off once again, we ate, drank and chatted for a while before calling it a night.
Distance - 16.6km
Monday 25th August
We were both up at first light again, the secluded glen we were camped in was chilly though, with no chance of any warmth from the sun we had breakfast and packed up.
Looking back down to camp
Our route took us along a very pretty valley under the shadow of Ben Aiden
A simple climb out of the end of the valley had us stumped, the bracken was head height again and we struggled to find our path through. In the end we resorted to clambering up the side of a burn and up the hill side before we could pick up our path again.
Towards Loch Quoich and Sgurr Mor
It was a slog up the beallach but we were soon descending down Gleann Unndalain, the first decent path we come across since leaving Andy. It was here I put my left foot on a sharp rock and bruised my outer arch/metatarsal area, this would niggle me for the rest of the trip.
Looking north towards Barrisdale Bay
We stopped at the bothy on the way through for lunch, nicely setup and would make a great base for a few days.
The walk from Barrisdale round to Kinloch Hourn took a bit longer than expected, not helped by the fact I missed a path meaning we had to back track a couple of Kms early on. The scenery was lovely though, we stopped at one of the rivers and soaked our feet for half an hour in the sun.
We reached the asphalt at Kinloch Hourn about 18:30, Andy had mentioned there was somewhere to pay and camp with basic facilities so we were on the look out, as we walked past a farm a lady came out and gave us directions. We found the gamekeepers cottage and paid a bloke from Pudsey a pound to sleep next to the river. Big Easy Gumbo for tea followed by lemon cheesecake and that was me out for the count.
Distance - 20.2km
Tuesday 26th August
Another bright start to the day, although neither of us were in a hurry to get up, we had a lazy breakfast and broke camp. The guy from the cottage called by for another natter, it must get lonely round these parts.
We followed the track back down to the cottage and up through the cedar forest, the smell was amazing, we picked up the Allt Coire Sgoireadail as we climbed through another beautiful glen.
We dropped down into Wester Glen Quoich then turned north up the Bealach Duibh Leac, the descent was easy enough but the path soon disappeared as we climbed the bealach. The haul up the western flank of Creag nan Damh nearly killed me, tussocky boggy ground with lots of undulation whilst still trying to climb 300m, by the time we reached the top my legs had gone.
Shiel Bridge in the distance
The descent from the bealach was steep in places but well drained and easy to follow, we reached the Allt Coire Toiteil and had a long lunch whilst soaking our feet.
We followed the very pretty Allt Mhalagain down to the A87 and road marched round to Shiel Bridge, it was stiffling in the sun and dodgy on the busy road.
We called at the shop on the way past, I fancied a couple of cold ciders for that night plus a bag of marshmallows to scoff on the walk round.
A calm Loch Duich on the way to Morvich camp site
We hobbled into the campsite just as the warden was locking up for the day, we got booked in but when we enquired about our food parcels we'd sent up we found only mine had arrived, doh! With Pete's parcel still awol we looked at what we still had surplus, probably enough to get by for a few days but certainly not enough to get us to Kinlochewe and our next resupply. We looked at the maps and came up with a plan, still hoping that postie would bring Pete's parcel first thing the next morning we had a plan B in case he didn't.
Distance - 22.4km
Wednesday 27th August
The warden had said postie normally arrives around 10:00 each day, with this in mind we had a lie in, I still woke fairly early though and took a walk up the road to where I began my TGO in 2012, Gleann Lichd looked a lot different in the sunshine.
I sorted through my new food parcel and repacked the food bag, we packed up slowly and then sat around twiddling our thumbs waiting for postie. I think it was around 10:30-11:00 by the time he arrived, Pete quickly intercepted him and began repacking with his new supplies. It was gone midday by the time we were ready to leave, our 23km planned route was out of the question now so we put plan B into action. That was a bus from Shiel Bridge to Kyle of Lochalsh then a train to Strathcarron where we would pick up the western alternative route on the Harveys map we had. We'd miss the Falls of Glomach but we didn't have much choice unfortunately.
I grabbed a full Scottish at the Jacobite while Pete took a wander over to the beach to enjoy some of his new supplies, we caught the 15:00 bus to K.O.L, enjoyed ice cream and other junk before getting a train into Strathcarron for around 17:00.
Leaving the station we followed the river Carron along the valley to Coulags before turning north up the Fionn-abhainn, it was midge hell in the last of the daylight and camping options weren't great, so we pressed onto a bothy we'd spotted on the map.
The bothy was empty when we arrived and with darkness fast approaching we settled in for a quiet night. Pete cooked with hexy in the pot belly stove which worked really well, I fired up the Jetboil and tucked into Dotties Chicken and Dumplings stew. Not long after nightfall we crawled into our bags.
Distance - 10.5km
Thursday 28th August
With another short day ahead we both enjoyed a lie in, at breakfast we were joined by a couple we'd seen a few times along the way, they weren't camping but carryign day packs and using hostels and hotels, they looked a bit confused when they turned up and found us there already.
We enjoyed a nice clear and dry path all the way up the glen beyond Loch Coire Fionnaraich, turning NE over the Bealach Ban
Coming over the other side of the pass we were greated with one of those views that'll stay with you forever, the clouds even lifted just in time for us to enjoy Liathach and Beinn Eighe at their best.
West towards Loch Torridon
As we dropped down to the Ling Hut we scouted out a few possible campsites, nothing too good so we carried on, eventually settling for some nice flat grass beside a ruin not far from the car park. The midges were a bit full on at times so I broke out the Beatons for the first time.
Friday 29th August
It felt a bit cooler when I woke, looking out of the Trailstar I could see we had grey skies for the first time on the trip, I was toasty in my bag but got up and had breakfast before packing up, Pete stirred not long after.
I'd pencilled in the route for today during the planning stages, it was going to be a nice to have if we had the time, as it turned out the amended route and parcel cock up put us right there, bonus.
Climbing up between Liathach and Beinn Eighe
Beinn Dearg and Sgurr Mor
We climbed the decent path around the back of Sail Mhor and the Beinn Eighe massive up to the hidden loch
Loch Coire Mhic Fhearchair
A nice lunch break in the sunshine was spent eating shortbread and Nutella while Pete repaired a tear on the collar of his pack with Hippo tape, as we packed up and headed down from the loch the skies darkened and it began to rain, on with the waterproofs. To coincide with the downturn in the weather the path also became very sketchy and we were soon back to bog jumping and heather bashing. Trying our best to contour the slopes we got suckered in by a faint path and ended up way off route, a slog uphill to get us back on track but we still couldn't find a decent route. We resorted to taking bearings until we reached a path a couple of kilometers further up the glen, totally soaked and fed up we strolled into Kinlochewe.
We were booked into the bunkhouse the following night but were confident they'd fit us in a day early, as it turned out there was a cycling meet on the next day so they were full, we called in at the caravan site and were dead chuffed when they said they had space.
Once we were setup and a few bits of clothes laundered we headed round to the pub, we missed the food but a couple of Guinesses went down very nicely before collecting our next food parcels and heading back to camp for dehydrated rations and an early night.
Distance - 19km
Saturday 30th August
With an awful weather forecast we decided to take the day off, get some admin chores done and give the feet a rest, we had the night in the bunkhouse to look forward to and a table booked in the hotel for some proper grub later. After recovering clean washing from the excellent drying room we left the camp site, sent home some surplies at the post office and took a gentle stroll up the river. We stopped under a bridge for an hour or so while the heavy showers came in waves, we watched the river rise a couple of feet during the time we were there, we were glad we weren't on the hills.
The pub grub was okay, nothing to write home about and probably not worth the price we paid, but still better than eating out of a plastic bag. I hardly slept at the bunkhouse, the bloke above me snored like a lancaster bomber and kept me awake all night. Earplugs and MP3 player didn't have any effect, give me a bog and the Trailstar anytime.
Sunday 31st August
Morning couldn't come soon enough, despite hardly sleeping when I saw Pete walk out of the room I got up too. It must have been around 05:30 but we were both packed and ready in no time, out the door and back on the trail. Leaving the Torridian hills behind us we followed the Abhainn Bruachaig up towards the Heights of Kinlochewe, we still had low cloud and it looked like it would rain anytime.
It was warm and muggy as we turned north up Gleann na Muice, the midges were loitering and pounced whenever I stopped for a minute.
Our nice dry track would soon run out as we reached the lochs at the top of the climb, where we had to take a bearing over the Bealach na Croise between Sgurr Dubh and Beinn Bheag.
Descending down the other side we dropped into another beautiful glen, we took a break by the river for half an hour.
Loch an Nid
The path down the glen was boggy in places but easy to follow, we reached a hazel wood at the bottom and considered camping with the cows.
Following the Abhainn Strath na Sealga towards Shenavall bothy
Five minutes from the bothy and we get a soaking from a shower coming up the glen, nice one
Bothy in the distance
When we reached the bothy there were folk there already, they looked like they were stopping for a week by the amount of food they had with them. They were all sleeping outside in a tent so we had lots of options for sleeping, we took the small room at the end.
Distance - 26.9km
Monday 1st September
Despite us finding a cosy room we hardly slept, a mouse decided to try and raid us in the night and spent hours chewing througha wad of plastic bags we'd rammed into it's hole, Pete spent the night punching the skirting board everytime it started. We were up at first light, packed and away up the hill before 06:30.
Looking back down to the bothy and Beinn Dearg Bheag and Beinn Dearg Mor
An Teallach disappearing behind us
I'm not sure why but I didn't take many more pictures on this day, the walk over the tops from Corrie Hallie to Inverlael wasn't very exciting, mostly land rover track with a dodgy bit at the end. We were surpposed to leave the hillside through a plantation, but after what looked like storm damage, the whole place was a mess. We should have taken a right hand turn but instead decided to follow the route on both our maps, I'm glad to report the cuben pack survived the gorse, brambles and holly bushes unscathed.
Inverlael and Loch Broom
When we reached the A835 we took a break at the river and then began the seven mile road walk to Ullapool, after about 3km we'd had enough and rang for a taxi. The cab dropped us at Broomfield campsite where we booked in, got the shelters up and headed straight to the chippy for fish supper and Irn Bru. We walkd up to tescos later for baccy and I had a craving for fresh fruit and greek yoghurt, weird!
Distance - 20.4km
Tuesday 2nd September
Despite the earlier hiccups and change of route we still decided to take a zero day at Ullapool, after a lie in on perfect family campsite grass we took a wander up to the outdoor gear shop and had a mooch in town. I needed two more 100g gas carts and Pete was concerned about radiant heat in his Bulin so treated himself to a Pocket Rocket.
We had another clothes washing session in the afternoon followed by another jaunt up to Tescos, the weather was lovely so we decided to shop for a BBQ on the beach later.
Can anybody ID this? I had a few of them visit over the course of the trip
Several Rekorderligs, sausages, garlic mushrooms, sauted tatties and burgers later we called it a night.
Distance - not a lot
Wednesday 3rd September
Another great nights sleep on the campsite and we were both up fairly early, yet another vist to Tescos on the way out and we were on our way again. We followed to route up through the quarry and into the pretty Glen Achall, evidence of the recent flooding at every burn, tide marks around the loch a good two metres higher than normal.
We stopped for lunch next to the river beyond Cadubh, the midges were out in force again so we didn't hang around for long.
Knockdamph was tidy but it was too early in the day to stop
At a ford crossing near the confluence of Rappach Water and Abhainn Poiblidh we got well and truly mugged by clegs, mossies and midges, I'd planned to camp here but we binned that idea and pressed on to the Schoolhouse bothy.
The Beatons Boys
Schoolhouse bothy, immaculate
It was only around 16:00 when we stopped for the day, Pete had a siesta while I did some admin, we ate early and retired ahead of a long day tomorrow.
Thursday 4th September
Without heavy snorers, annoying mice and AC/DC we were both well rested when we woke, cinnamon porridge and a couple of brews and we were away down the track through Glen Einig.
When we reached the A837 at Oykel Bridge I was hoping to grab anothe brreakfast, we timed it badly and just missed it, we settled instead for a fresh coffee and giant slab of lovely homemade flapjack.
The route along the glen was pleasent, all of it on good land rover tracks so progress was good. We came across a CWT sign for the first time and followed the blue blazes up a bog and onto a disused forestry track, the first few kms weren't too bad but eventually my bruised foot started to ache on the stony surface.
But we still made good time and eventually the river led us to Loch Ailsh and the quaint houses beside Benmore Lodge, I had us for camping around here so we tracked the river northwards looking for somewhere flat and dry'ish. Leaving the forestry we found a nice flat area right next to the confluence of the River Oykel and Allt Sail an Ruathair.
The breeze seemed to swirl around in all directions where we'd stopped, just enough to keep the midges away but as soon as it dropped they were out. We thought they must be related to the commando midges we experienced at Shenavall.
More Packit Gourmet delights and another early night.
Distance - 24km
Friday 5th September
It had rained several times during the night, it woke me up a couple of times, the river had risen a few inches when I looked over. It was flat calm with bugger all breeze, it made for a hasty breakfast and pack up when the flying teeth appeared.
Running away from the midges
Following the River Oykel
As the glen closed in under Breabag the track turned into path and then petered out, we bog jumped our way for a couple of kilometers until we stopped at the outlet of Dubh Loch Beag for a second breakfast.
At the end of the glen is a fairly steep climb up tussocky grass, we picked out a good line from the bottom and soon made it up to the pass under Breabag Tarsuinn and Conival
As the bealach drops down the other side we picked up deer tracks that carried us down the pretty Gleann Dubh
Gleann Dubh, Inchnadamph and Loch Assynt
We were booked in for the night at Inchnadamph Lodge and arrived there early afternoon, it's a fantastic place with everything you need laid on, even free tea and coffee. We spent the afternoon doing laundry and sorting through our third and final food parcels.
The lodge became busy in the evening with various walking and geology parties turning up, luckily we had a bunk room to ourselves so we enjoyed a quiet and restful night.
Distance - 14km
Saturday 6th September
With heavy rainfall overnight and more forecast for the day we looked at the maps and decided to take the road walk over to Kylesku rather than going round Glencoul and Glendhu. It was a tough decision as it was a great stretch of the route, we'd pass the highest waterfall in Britain at Eas a Chual Aluinn before spending the night at the secluded Glencoul bothy, but with one if not two big river crossings to make I didn't think we'd be able to cross them. We talked about catching a bus north but then decided instead to walk the A894 over the tops beside Quinag and down to Kylesku. It was a horrid walk, it rained most of the way, relentless s-bends for what seemed like forever, the only thing that kept the spirits up was the dumb sheep that walked in front of us for a couple of kms.
Looking down to Glencoul
We stopped for a tea and scones on the way through Unapool before continuing down the hill to Kylesku. I'd arranged with the hotel to camp in their grounds but as we passed through we didn't fancy it, we carried on through the woods until we eventually found somewhere big enough for a bivvy and a Trailstar, between showers and a setting sun we got set up.
Under the bridge lol
Sunday 7th September
I slept great again, despite a visit from a noisy mouse during the night, it was our longest day of the trip so far so I gave Pete a shout and we got up. We'd both heard dolphins clicking and squealing around first light, with a resident seal nearby and the otters that came to see us off, camping under the bridge was actually quite nice.
Quinag still in cloud
A very quiet Kylstrome harbour, not like I remember it as a kid in the 80's
We made our way along the forestry following the northern shore of Loch Glendhu before reaching the big waterfalls at Maldie.
The climb over the tops was bland I thought, luckily we had a soft spongy land rover track over peat so the going was very easy, apart from having to stop and get small stones out of our shoes every mile or so.
Reaching the top of Bealach nam Fiann we were pleased to see the descent into Lochmore
Pete getting friendly with the locals
We still had a long way to go and frog marched along the tarmac to Lochstack Lodge and our path to Rhiconich
Arkle over Loch Stack
The track we followed from the lodge would eventually bear north behind Arkle and this would be our get off point, it didn't look too bad on paper but the next five or six hours would be hell. in hindsight we should have stuck with our guts and stayed high but we ended up down at the side of Loch a Garbh-bhaid Mor following a pretty shoddy path. Pete jammed a pole between two rocks and snapped the bottom section clean off, the heather routes and endless bog meant we were both pretty hacked off. I didn't realise until the next day that I also ripped a hole in my Roclite, presumably in the heather roots. We both took tumbles and slips along the so called path, we'd eventually reach the river Garbh Allt which stopped us in our tracks for a while. It was flowing fast from the recent rainfall and despite a search upstream we couldn't find a decent crossing. With no camping options nearby we went for it anyway, it wasn't as deep as we thought, only knee height but still flowing fast.
Both soggy and knackered we carried on, more of the same for the next few kms until we reached Rhiconich. The area I'd marked for camping was a field of waist high bracken, we tried the hotel but it looked shut. With the light fading we trudged along the B801 towards Kinlochbervie, looking for anything flat and big enough for our shelters. We checked out the local BT exchange building but we pushed on, eventually coming across a layby and picnic area just outside Achriesgill, perfect. I couldn't be bothered to cook, I made a couple of brews and hit the sack.
Distance - 33.4km
Monday 8th September
Both excited to reach Sandwood Bay we were packed up and down the road shortly after first light, the road walk up to Kinlochbervie was quiet, we called at the London Stores shop on the way through and got some very useful info regarding transport options from the lighthouse at the Cape.
When we reached the main harbour in Kinlochbervie it was only around 08:30, we tried to buy booze for Sandwood from the wee Spar shop but they couldn’t serve us until 10:00. We made use of the local amenities and killed time until we could stock up on Magners, Baileys and red wine, with the important supplies sorted we continued on the road northwards.
This made us giggle, plonk a bench in a bog and make the hikers feel welcome
The road wound itself along the coast, small hamlets of derelict buildings and empty holiday homes were dotted around.
Reaching Blairmore we took the path over the moors to Sandwood, at only 4.5 miles it seemed to take ages before we got there, the fresh water Sandwood loch coming into view first
After a final small rise we were greeted with views of the magnificent Sandwood Bay, we wandered down through the dunes and made for some rocks exposed at low tide, sitting in the sunshine we could feel the trip was nearly over.
We walked to the far end of the beach where the fresh water loch ran down into the sea, we thought it would be easier to try and camp around here rather than carting water supplies back and forth. We found some really nice pitches and settled on a raised area of grass topped rock behind the dunes.
With two days at Sandwood we settled in and made an attempt to get through our remaining rations, booze and gas supplies.
The rest of the day was spent exploring the beach and dunes, listening to the waves crashing on the shore and generally chilling out around camp. It was a great way to finish off a trip and reflect on the journey.
Distance - 16.6km
Tuesday 9th September
Today was another day off, the morning started cloudy and quite cold with a stiff westerly breeze, I swung the door round slightly on my Trailstar as the wind direction had changed during the night. Getting back inside I enjoyed West Memphis Grits Souffle from the comfort of my sleeping bag, a couple of coffees and I got up. As the morning wore on the weather began to improve, by lunchtime we had blue skies and glorious sunshine once again.
We took a walk along the beach and explored the rocks at the southern end
Pete snoozed in the afternoon whilst I destroyed three Packit Gourmet courses, the lemon cheesecake being a bit too much after tortilla soup and tuscan beef stew. As the night drew in we finished off the booze and sat on the beach listening to the waves crashing, thoroughly relaxed we call it a day.
Distance – not a lot
Wednesday 10th September
The final walk to the Cape looked interesting both from the ground and on the maps, perhaps it was going to be a final sting in the tale. We’d booked two seats on the minibus from the lighthouse to the ferry, with a pick up time of 13:15 we had plenty of time to get to the Cape but we were both still up early doors. We packed up and took the path from the beach up onto the cliff tops.
Looking back to Sandwood Bay with the early morning sun hitting the dunes
We came across a shelter midway over the crossing, it was probably a good retreat once upon a time but now it was barely upright.
We got glimpses of hidden coves and beaches, stirring up thoughts of revisiting sometime with the boats.
We’d rung the live firing hotline a few days previously in Kinlochbervie, luckily for us they’d scrapped their plans for the week.
Reaching the track we were left with a short walk round to the lighthouse
The cafe opened just as we arrived, we grabbed a coffee and retired outside to sit in the sun until the minibus arrived. Despite us booking two seats a couple of days previously, when the bus arrived it was full, one chap kindly offered to stay behind for the next one which meant Pete could grab his seat and I got to enjoy 11km of rough track sat in the footwell of a battered LDV van. We made the short ferry crossing but then had just 35 minutes to beast 4km round to Durness to catch our bus to Inverness, we made it just in time for what turned out to be another interesting journey. Pulling over for a five minute break at Lochinver the bus driver was tinkering under the bonnet, a few minutes later he switched the ignition off and then couldn’t get it going again. After getting a jump start from a passing land rover we were on our way again, a few miles down the road and the fuel pump and turbo went, we limped into Ullapool where we were stuck in a taxi to Inverness, our next connection was to Fort Bill to collect Pete’s van and head home.
Distance – 12.3km