I had two weeks off work, and much planned. I was to be mostly solo on this holiday bringing the advantage of only having my own itinerary to worry about, and hoped to get some pack rafting, cycling and hill walking done.
The holiday started with good company at the Clachaig. I went for a paddle around Loch Leven, while Lucy (my other half) went to recce a future marathon she had signed up for. The paddle was grand with some interesting islands, especially the burial island Eilean Munde which, due to nesting birds was the only one I was able to land upon.
I had previously parked the van on the dirt crawling distance from the Clachaig, and returned via the bike after my paddle to find Lucy already back and showered. Our chums Shaz and Liz joined us later and we had a grand evening in the pub, the band knowing how to get the crowd going. We were rather abruptly removed from the Clachaig 30 mins past closing, and retired to the van with our half full glasses accompanied by a random pulled by Liz in the pub.
The following day, Lucy was up and away for 8:30am, cycling back to Stirling on her bike. I was not yet fit to drive so went for a walk locally, before heading to Ft Bill, and then onto Loch Ailhort where I intended a Monday paddle. Strangely, I drank coffee and orangejuice that evening after the face-full the night before!
I had parked at a decent launch spot for Loch Ailhort near Ailsary on the A861. The weather was a bit manky, but fortunately got steadily better as I paddled towards Peanmeanach Bothy via the scenic Eilean nam Bairneach.
I stopped off on Eilean nam Bairneach for a spot of food and the weather steadily improved.
Eilean nam Bairneach (Loch Ailhort)
Continuing on, I was against the tide, and the wind combined which made for slow progress, but I got to the bothy to find a couple from Germany the sole residents. Big plans for the following few days meant that I did not stop long.
I headed out towards the left hand island visible in the photo below, but ended up turning back as the wind got stronger and the waves larger.
Once back at the van, I packed up and headed around to Arisaig to try and find somewhere to leave the van. My first choice of campsite had shut down, and I ended up at ‘The Croft Caravan and Camping Site’. This site was not listed anywhere, so I added it to google maps together with a few 360’s ( here ). Just toilets/taps (no showers), but at £15 per unit, its reasonable for this part of the world. I booked in for 4 nights, but intended in spending two of these in the hills with the Packraft – just needed somewhere safe to abandon the van!
Tuesday 24th – Thursday 26th
3 Day packrafting adventure which you can read about here!
Friday 27th through Sunday 29th
After the packrafting adventure of the preceeding 3 days, I wanted a rest. I spent Friday close to the campsite around Arisaig in the occasional drizzle exploring the beaches.
After that, I headed to Mallaig for resupply and hopped on my pre-booked ferry to Skye. Once at the other side, it was time to find somewhere to kip for the night.
Various choices went through my mind, but I am glad I chose the one I did – the tiny hamlet of Ord on the shore of Loch Eishort. There was one other van there, but plenty of space for me. No internet meant that I got to deploy my two-way sat dish (which see’s infrequent use these days as EE’s 4G mobile coverage has improved hugely over the past couple of years). The views and sunset were to die for with views over the Cuillin as the backdrop.
The following morning, I was off out in the boat again, Plan was to head up and across the Loch to the village of Heaste via a couple of islands, and hopefully visit the cleared village of Boreraig on the return.
The Eilean Dubh was grand, but the fishing village of Heaste less so with all the fishing junk left about the place. I also arrived at low tide so it was not showing its best side. I found a spot for lunch, leaving in a hurry when the heavens opened and the wind started howling.
Battling into the wind, I made the shelter of Eilean Dubh again, my plans to go along the opposite coast thwarted by the crosswind and the need for a 1KM open water crossing to get back to the van. Fortunately, while rounding Eilean Dubh, the wind dropped and the rain stopped! I was able to join the islands together and get to Boreraig for a look around.
Boreraig was once home to over 100 folk, but like so many other settlements across Scotland, it was forcibly cleared in the mid 1800’s by landlords eager to put the land to other, more lucrative uses instead. Its a surreal spot, and wandering through the ruins you wonder what it must have been like 170 years previous when those 100+ folks called it home.
The trip back was uneventful save the rather threatening looking weather heading in from near the isle of Rum. I made it back, and had another night in the same spot, before taking some pics the following morning before my departure.
With the wild howling, I was banking on a driving day today. I headed to Broadford, and then over the Skye bridge, and around to Loch Carron, pulling over for lunch at a nice spot. I started writing up my blog from my 3-day packrafting trip and that took so long that I ended up spending the night at my lunch spot!
The following morning dawned raining, I completed and uploaded the blog then headed around to Lochcarron Village, dumped the van and hopped on the bike. I was not going far, but was after getting a look at the road-end at Ardaneaskan as well as a look at Strome castle.
The spot at the road-end was magic, a great spot to spend the night I thought – so I cycled back to the van and then drove to Ardaneaskan for the night. It had started raining again, but when it stopped, I headed off for a local walk in the direction of Achintaid. Rather pleasant with views to Skye. I did try to get up the hill Bad a’ Chreamha, but it became clear that I needed to get this from the east, not the west.
Loch Reraig 360
Back at the van, some Germans had showed up and a couple of girls from Englandshire. We took in the sunset while talking about the fuck-up that is Brexit.
The following morning, I was out early (for me!) as this was to be a day of 2 halfs – decent in the morning, utterly pish in the afternoon. Bad a’ Chreamha (the hill spied yesterday) was the plan, as its the highest spot on the peninsular, and a Marilyn no less!
I cycled to the start near Strome Ferry, and set off walking up a track that looked like it would get me to a point from which the upper slopes could be climbed. This track provided some grand views over Strome Castle
Leaving the track at a suitable point saw me following the right hand side of a ravine through fern (and likely Tick) city before arriving at easier, grass/heather covered slopes above. A short stroll then gets you to the pretty flat summit and Trig point. It was very windy on the summit and the weather was starting to go downhill so I did not hang about for long.
Bad a’ Chreamha 360
Back at the Van, I packed up, and headed around the coast in ever worsening weather. I pulled over for some lunch, and to make use of a stream fresh water supply to do some washing (in the van’s twin-tub!), after which I continued towards Sheildaig. The community campsite at Shieldaig is currently closed pending redevelopment (should re-open in 2019), but Shieldaig was still a grand spot for some van servicing and to top off the water (the former campsites tap still works!). My destination for the night was a couple of friends croft at Inveralligin nr Torridon (they are members of the mountaineering club I am in). They cooked the food, I provided the beer and a grand evening of banter was had while staring at the miserable Torridonian weather that I appeared to have delivered to their front door!
The following day, with the weather looking a little better, I decided to cycle to the road-end at Diabaig, and then walk out to the former SYHA that is now ‘Craig Bothy’. This meant taking on the Bealach Gaoithe (loosely translated as windy pass), from which I got some decent views.
Reaching Diabaig, I switched to walking mode for the wander into Craig bothy, enjoying the views along the way
I soon reached the bothy, which very luckily has survived the recent fire in these parts. As a former SYHA, it maintains facilities of a slightly higher class than your average bothy including a flushing toilet! I was particularly amused by the sign inviting you to remove your half-frozen shit using the supplied ladle in winter! I took a whole load of 360’s (see google maps), and then headed down to the stony beach a further half-mile walk away.
Craig Bothy 360
I had an uneventful return journey apart from the incessant rain that began as I was climbing the pass. I bid my farewell’s to my hosts, and headed towards Loch Maree. I had a 3 day/2-night packrafting plan into the Fisherfields during the final 5 days of my holiday – I just needed the weather to sort its-self out!
I drove to Poolewe and took the minor road to Gaineamh Smo where I knew there was a no facilities fiver a nigh campsite which would be a decent spot to ditch the van. I was raining the forecast looked manky hmm.
Wednesday 1st – Thursday 2nd August
The next morning dawned manky with the wind howling, and I bailed on the trip, I would try again the following morning. The fog did finally lift off the sea by about 1PM, and I set off on the bike for a local hillwalk to Camas Mor.
This proved a good choice, and apart from an hour I had the rainwear off. Lots of wee lochans on this walk and some superb views into the Fisherfield and to Sail Mhor.
The path up until this point had been a bit so-so, it improved for the latter section but a huge herd of cows plus a rather large bull made me detour through the heather to reach the track! There is an estate bothy at the end of the track ‘Ivors Bothy’ complete with an ‘unsafe structure’ sign. I tried to get in, but the door was knackered and I was not sure if a big tug would either A) bring the building down or B) mean I could not close the door! I took photos instead!
I arrived at the headland above the spectacular beach Camas Mor, to recognise it from a previous trip when we drove the van down to Rubha Reidh Lighthouse!
Camas Mor 360
I had an uneventful return journey that saw me back at the van for around 8PM. The rain came back on, and the damned wind had not stopped howling all day. Would have been a nightmare in the boat – maybe tomorrow?
Friday 3rd August – Sunday 5th August
Friday dawned with a familiar sound – can you guess which one?! Over breakfast, I checked the forecast which said it was going to be pish ‘n’ windy for the next 5 days. The Fisherfield trip was going to have to wait. The good news was that the forecast for the Cairngorms was much, much better so I bailed. I had lunch on Loch Maree (in the rain), but once I reached Garve, I could see blue skies! I re-stocked in Inverness and picked up the A939 via Carrbridge, the sun was out (it was still bloody windy, but I guess you cant have everything!). I parked up at Dorback Lodge. Corbett bagging tomorrow.
Saturday dawned fine, and I set off up the Corbett Geal Charn. It looks like this once affluent estate has fallen upon harder times – many many grand, abandoned buildings throughout today’s route. Some would make superb bothies. The ascent route was heathery, and pretty pathless low down. It improved with height as did the views.
Tomorrow was my last day, and to enable a sensible arrival time back home, I opted an easily-bagged Corbett ‘The Fara’ on Loch Ericht at Dalwhinnie. I parked the night on a minor road with a view.
I used the bike for access, and then climbed the hill easily via a break in the forestry for some nice views up/down loch Ericht
Loch Ericht – Quite Long!
After that, it was back to the van for the drive back home. Not the intended finish to my holiday, but not a bad one, and I am glad I did not hold out at Poolewe for better weather any longer – it was not going to happen!