The Cape Wrath Trail – Day 14. Kinlochbervie to Cape Wrath Lighthouse

So, our final day arrived. Like all days of long walks the final one is a mixture of emotions, relief that you are getting the job done, sadness that that two weeks of walking in the most remote part of Britain is coming to an end and satisfaction of a well spent ‘holiday’.

We had the luxury of a Spa (shop not posh health club) this morning to buy food items such as pears, apples, tomatoes and an avocado – fresh food trail magic. We then had an easy four mile road walk to the car park at Blairmore where the John Muir trust who care for Sandwood Bay and surrounding area have provided some toilets and nice places to rest – so out came the kettle for some tea. There was plenty of people about looking to camp on the beach over the Bank Holiday weekend and we enjoyed the next four mile section down to Sandwood Bay.

The area is really beautiful and seeing the beach and the sea after such a long journey was fantastic. We had lunch in a sheep fold sheltering from the wind and then made our way down to the beach and dipped our toes into the Atlantic…. cold, so very cold.

The final 8 miles of the walk were over pathless peat moors but the sun was shining yet again and the bogs were mostly dry. We stopped off at our last Bothy at Strathchailleach where I had stayed with Ginger a few years ago when it snowed. I even found our entry in the Bothy book from back then.

Sandy (not my Brother, Ginger)

This was home to James McRory- Smith, better known as Sandy who lived here for 40 years as a hermit with no gas, electricity or telephone. It has a great supply of peat to burn and another lovely place to stay. (if you like your accommodation to be basic)

We had The Cape in our sites though so off we slogged for another two hours of bog hopping, climbing the MOD fence and over the last couple of passes before the descent to the pot holed road where you walk for the final 2km to the lighthouse.

It was hard work but as the guidebook says, the remoteness is intoxicating and it was a day we will remember as we rounded the final corner and there it was! Our destination.

There isn’t much at The Cape apart from The Lighthouse, just some abandoned buildings and the fantastic Ozone Cafe run by John Ure and his daughter which is open all year round.

The Cape Wrath Ultra was finishing the next day and we had a lovely evening in the company of Stuart Smith and some of the other staff working on the event – the bunk room was full (this was a great space by the way, basic but really warm and cosy) but we were allowed to sleep on the floor of the cafe which was really generous of the owners as the wind was pretty strong up there.

We also chatted to Adam who was walking with Martin the donkey from Cape Wrath to Portland Bill in Dorest – I love the eccentricity of the human race, good luck to them both who are raising money for the young peoples homeless Charity, Centrepoint. You can follow there intrepid journey at http://www.adamwalks.com or Twitter @adamwalks. Martin isn’t too keen on bogs so the first 250 miles will be tough.

We slept well and packed up our beds before the first runners came in at about 10.30 and the team at Ourea events kindly ensured we got on the first minibus to the ferry over the Kyle of Durness. We also saw Dan, The Scottish-American on his approach to the end, we salute him and all the other people we met walking the trail.

Thanks to Fred for some beautiful pictures (the one above was the last and the best) and for being such a brilliant walking companion again. We have learnt over the years the joys of walking and team work and good company along with humour is much needed on long hard treks like this. It might not be everyone’s idea of a holiday but for us it is a slice of heaven, carrying all your gear and food on your back day after day and enjoying the simplicity of moving from one place to another.

The guidebook says, “It’s easy to get sucked back into the hectic pell-mell of everyday life, leaving trail memories distant, detached and unreal. But try to hold on to some of the sedate pace of wilderness, remembering the simple pleasures of getting from one place to another, surviving and traversing a landscape that has existed since time immemorial”

The Cape will be standing, solid and immovable a giant buttress to the wild Atlantic, long after our time has come and gone and we were there, in that place in that moment.

Finally, our bodies and our kit just about held up, gashed arms, (Fred’s arm is healing nicely) dug in ticks, broken cutlery, lost sunglasses, malfunctioning zips and one sorry state of a backpack. It got me to the end after I had the idea of removing the back support and placing it over the gaping hole just before my kit fell out into another bog. I have promised the spare parts to Stuart Smith from Nav4. The sleeper train beckons from Inverness after a vegan pizza tomorrow.

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The Cape Wrath Trail – Day 13. Dam below Loch an Leathaid Bhuain to Kinlochbervie

Clouds envelope Foinaven

You know the day is going to be OK when you wake up in your sleeping bag on top of a dam in the middle of nowhere. This was a worrying start, we had to be careful where we dug the toilet hole on this occasion.

We made really good progress today and apart from some terrifically boggy and rough terrain we made it to Kinlochbervie in time for tea…. well tea in our B and B room, the wind picked up a treat so we decided four walls would be better tonight.

After a brew up by Lochstack Lodge we encountered the bog monster again along Loch a Garbh-Bhaid Mor so we threw in the towel and had a long lunch followed by a little snooze in the sun. Things did pick up after that and the path to the pub at Rhiconich was a delight by the river. The pub wasn’t serving anything liquid or solid so we ploughed on down the road and ate chips at The Schoolhouse and drank Ginger Beer and also sat on a picnic bench which was a little slice of heaven.

We visited the legendary London Stores at Badcall which is an Aladdin’s Cave… Vegans are also catered for and we bought some soya milk… happy days.

After a hunt around for some lodgings and some help from the locals we found a room for the night which did us just fine. Tomorrow is the final day and we have arranged to sleep at the lighthouse

The Cape Wrath Trail- Day 12. Inchnadamph to Dam below Loch an Leathaid Bhuain

Glencoul Bothy

Another gloriously sunny day on The Cape Wrath Trail. After yesterday’s excitement a quieter walk was in order but this is The Cape Wrath Trail and we had a climb over the pass below Glas Bheinn and Beinn Uidhe to get our teeth into first thing.The guidebook said that we would need to have our wits about us but that this was some of the best mountain country in the world. We rested at Loch Fleodach Coire where the silence was awesome and then made the pass and zigzagged down the other side towards the sea and Loch Beag.

This was the top of the descent….

… this is some old bloke…

As we followed a pretty rough path along the river we were treated to some stunning waterfalls, Eas a Chaul Aluinn is the longest drop in the UK… I think.

We made it to Glencoul Bothy for lunch which is in a superb location.

We then got an amazing view as we climbed out the valley towards the next Bothy at Glendhu.

View of Glendhu Bothy

We reached the Bothy in good time and chatted to the people who were staying the night, Day walkers, Cape Wrath walkers and Dan turned up and asked why he hadn’t seen us on the way down yesterday- we told him about our adventures.

We decided to move on as we were trying to get to Kinlochbervie the next day. So we hydrated our dried food in the trusty old food thermos so we just had to put the tent up and eat later and on we went.

What happened next was a bit of nightmare. We pitched the tent a few miles later and were feeling quite happy with our view and pitch and were just about to eat and get into our sleeping bag when we noticed we were crawling with ticks! After ten to fifteen minutes of picking them off we had to abandon camp and walk-on. Sometimes the simplest of things – you don’t see this in outdoor programmes or Magazines.

We marched on with our skin crawling, tent tucked under my arm, it was like we were leaving a music festival after a heavy weekend. The last thing we wanted to do was put the tent back up so luckily we found a concrete dam to sleep out on, it worked pretty well and we had a good nights sleep. It’s never a dull day on this walk.

The Cape Wrath Trail – Day 11. Oykel Bridge to Inchnadamph

Be more Lodge and Loch Ailsh

This certainly was a day of two halves and just shows how things can go wrong in remote and wild country very quickly.

The day started with a gentle enough stroll along wide 4×4 track by The River Oykel. There were fisherman’s huts dotted along the way and we took the opportunity for a tea break where there was a bench – luxury.We were approaching some big mountains, notably Ben More Assynt where the latter part of the day was a trackless section over the pass below Conival.Our spirits were pretty high, my backpack repair was holding up and we even experimented with a new snack which was pip n nut chocolate and coconut hazelnut butter in between two hob nobs – a real winner.

Things started heading south when my spork snapped in the peanut butter jar – a common problem on through-hikes – damn it!

We however merrily tramped on after lunch, maybe we were taking it a bit too easy and had one tea break too many, but the weather was belting and the scenery was quite awesome. The path rose steadily as it got progressively smaller and boggier and then as expected it ran out and we contoured at about 320m as not to drop too low to the river in the valley. We rested and drank before the 250m climb (Dan the Scottish American was just in front) to the pass and Fred reminded me to pick up my sunglasses. Up we went and made good progress to the pass – when we got to the high point I realised I had not picked up my sunglasses or they had fallen off the brim of my cap. So…..

…. down the pass I ran… 250m to the river and couldn’t find them and the up 250m to the pass, oh man! I loved those glasses, they have seen me through The Te Araroa and Land End to John O’Groats – it can happen. On we plodded over some pretty sharp looking drops and down the River Traligill to our hotel in Inchnadamph.

The trail was really narrow above the river in places and as I was contemplating my sunglasses and general weariness when I heard a scream from Fred – the path had given way and she fell 10ft down towards the river and on her way down banged her arm on a rock – oh no, poor Fred!

There was lots of blood which was dripping pretty heavily and a deep gash – not good and we were in a pretty steep section of the river. Out came the medical kit (note to myself- don’t send half of it back home because we hadn’t used it up to now) where we managed to get enough bandages and wound dressing along with some trusty duct tape to get down to the hotel with Fred’s arm patched up.

We had a DuoDerm dressing which meant it can protect the wound for the last few days of the walk… this is not an area where you can go and see a Doctor easily.

The Inchnadamph Hotel was great and we had another re-supply parcel waiting for us with some Nanny State Beer and we chilled in the room after a very ‘exciting day’.

The Cape Wrath Trail – Day 10. Ullapool to Oykel Bridge

This was a nice walk to get back on the trail after a lovely rest day watching the rain from the comfort of our room. The gods were looking after us again, it seems and we couldn’t grumble too much as we battled a head wind as we strode along Loch Achall.

This section to Oykel Bridge was the busiest we had seen so far and we chatted to five other Cape Wrath walkers (including Dan the American, who in fact turned out to be Scottish and walking the National trail) and an assorted number of bikers at the two bothies along the way. We had lunch at Knockdamph Bothy where Fred gave away more Bombay mix to Roy and John who had just joined the trail in Ullapool and then it was more 4- wheel drive track to The schoolhouse Bothy at Duag Bridge where one of the rooms was built with beautiful wood panelling.

This was a great place for more tea – if you are carrying that much gas then you have to use it… and tea as everyone knows fuels a long tramp and raises general morale.

We arrived at Oykel Bridge and went to the hotel bar and ate chips and had a couple of bottles of Becks Blue with John and Kenny who we met earlier in the day. This was a good place for walkers and fishermen and the bunkhouse looked pretty decent.However, we decided to walk a couple more miles as there wasn’t anywhere suitable to pitch the tent near the hotel and found a decent space just off the forest track. It was a good long day finished off with the chilli, vegan cheese and Flat Tire. Tomorrow looked a day of two halves – easy start and a tougher finish.

The Cape Wrath Trail – Day 8. Kinlochewe – Nr Shenavall Bothy and Day 9. To Inverlael

An Teallach Ridge

Another great day on The Cape Wrath Trail. We had a great vegan fry up from our B and B hosts and talked a lot about Patagonia – maybe the next adventure beckons in Chile. After a latish start, (as ever it is always hard to get going after an easy previous day) and one final flat white we took to the trail along the path to The Heights of Kinlochewe, it was really easy going and we chatted to a guy who was cycling from Bothy to Bothy. The path continued to climb in an easy(ish) manner and we had lunch just before the next pathless section by Lochan Fada.

The pathless section is well trod in places and there was some handy cairns to lead the way. We picked up a stalkers path to Loch an Nid and followed that all the way down towards Shenavall Bothy with not too much trouble.

We suspected that the Bothy would be busy as it was a Saturday night and with the decent weather and An Teallach being above Shenavall we had an easy decision when we came upon a fantastic group of trees in Strath na Sealga.

There were already four other Cape Wrath walkers pitched and a chap called Alan from Oxford who had been there for a few days. We had a great evening around a roaring fire with Paul, Wayne and Toby from Somerset who had been walking with Lulu(?) after they bumped into her early in their trip. We swapped stories about trails we had all walked, tents (always love a conversation that starts with “is that tent a z-packs) and general kit and I managed to donate more Bombay mix. They were a fantastic bunch and we really enjoyed our time with them, not one phone in sight and no talk about jobs, money etc. That’s a rare thing.

The next day we had an 11 mile walk over a couple of climbs to Inverlael where we had arranged a taxi to take us to Ullapool for a rest day or ‘a zero’ in hiker speak.

Descending to Inverlael

On the way we met two guys doing The Highland 550 Mountain Bike Trail, I was reminiscing about when I mountain bikes across Scotland from West to East 17 years ago with my Brother but was quickly put off when I saw the 450 metre ascent that they came up pushing their heavily laden bikes that we descended to the road. Hats off to those guys. I still think mountain bike touring in Scotland is the hardest thing I have ever done.

We are in Ullapool now, staying at The Celidh Place Bunkhouse and it has been brilliant here, decent price and loads of room to spread out all of our kit, we have been to the launderette and even done some yoga and it has rained for 24 hours non stop! The weather from tomorrow looks great until we finish in 6 or so days time.

Fred living the high-life on Becks Blue.

The Cape Wrath Trail – Day 7. Easan Dorcha – Kinlochewe

I think Fred got a bit tired of the scenery and forgot to take photos. This was a short walk as we missed out the back of Ruadh-stac Mor section and walked via Coulin Lodge to Kinlochewe.

We passed a film crew checking out some locations along the way and then climbed through the forest and dropped down for a few KM on the road. It was OK but we wouldn’t recommend this way as the forest has been cut and the road is wide and ugly up there.

Kinlochewe was the biggest place we have been to so far and we had a great lunch in The Whistle Stop and then lazed about all afternoon in our B and B.

My backpack is suffering so I taped up the gaping hole again and tended to my ticks – Fred has reached the stage of the walk where her feet are becoming an issue (just the general aroma), so all in all a nice half day to do some housekeeping.