The rigours of the day made themselves known as soon as I tried to get my head down. An agonising dose of cramps gripped my thighs. Luckily, I had plenty of food so didn’t need to rush. I spent the next morning reading a copy of an early Bear Grylls autobiography which someone had left in the Glencoul bothy. I wonder if President Obama was aware of Bear’s taste for displays of public nudity before their Alaskan rendezvous. Other interesting reading material detailed Britain’s smallest war memorial, which can be seen on a knoll in front of the bothy. Apparently, Dan Snow is a regular visitor.
After lunch, I set off on the short walk past a seakayakers’ extensive camp to Glendhu bothy. As the path ascended a rocky prow, the views back to the bothy and to the big waterfall became stunning but Quinag was the dominant feature. At the highest point of Aird da Loch, a thunderstorm rolled in so I ran down the path to woods and a rough bit of coastline. A boat party had been dropped off at Glencoul and had hiked towards Gleann Dhu in the morning and I had seen a boat leaving Gleann Dhu as I was descending through the storm. Perhaps that’s why the bothy door was wide open when I arrived. Glendhu bothy is another with a site which suggests extending the visit. Sadly, after my easy day, I really did need to get on.
Easy, estate roads took me to Lochmore Lodge for a brief, but scenic, stretch of road to Achfary. Achfary is a fascinating hamlet and does not deserve the guide book’s “no amenities to detain you here.” It is well worth a short stop, if only to read the plaque and photograph the black and white call box. I took what I suspect is the Scottish National Trail option up the delightful Strath Stack into increasingly unpleasant weather. After a boggy stretch near Feur Lochan in low visibility I reached a junction by a big deer fence.
The deer fence, which ran beside the descending, onward path to Lochstack Lodge, featured ramps which looked as if they had been designed to let deer cross from west to east but not back. The ramps were like lightweight, three day eventing obstacles and probably would not have supported a horse. A man I met later on the way to Sandwood Bay whose wife worked at Achfary was unable to provide any more information on the ramps but did tell me about a woman who had had to be rescued from Glendhu bothy. The weight of her rucksack had astonished the person who loaded it into a boat. Stupidly heavy and probably the cause of her problems.
As I walked down the drive to Lochstack Lodge, a vehicle pulled up beside me and a posh man who sounded as if he owned the place asked me my intentions. I was obviously backpacking and near the end of my day’s hike so honesty was the only policy available. He gave me his best wishes.
The ground around Loch a’Garbh-bhaid Mor is rough and wet. Unsurprisingly, the tiny pitch on decent turf I found at the east end of the loch had been used before. Camping just a few feet from a large loch meant heavy condensation on the tent next morning and bashing through rough vegetation to a river crossing referred to as difficult in the guide book was frustrating. I wanted to see how bad the Garbh Allt really was and to get it done. Garbh means rough, which suggests the locals have an opinion. Of course, it was an anticlimax. The bed was quite slippery but the flow was gentle enough.
I had hoped to eat my way along the road to Kinlochbervie but Rhiconnich was an unwelcoming dump, the London Stores had the smell of a store crammed with items that took ages to shift and the only other food stop was very posh. Luckily, the supermarket at Kinlochbervie is good. I stocked up with food for three days, in case the ferry was held up by bad weather and also took a large lunch down to a bench by Loch Clash.
An easy road hike took me to the Sandwood track. I found a place for my tent on glorious turf near Sandwood. There is so much camping available around the bay and the loch that I failed to spot most of the other tents using the area. The two I could see were just over a kilometre away by the loch’s outflow.
The weather was deteriorating when I woke so progress to the Cape was a bit of a rush interrupted only by a visit to Strathchailleach bothy to see the lurid murals. The murals were nowhere near as risqué as is made out. Far better was the offer of tea as I stepped inside the bothy from two gentlemen who were enjoying a bothy bagging trip in the area. Refreshed, I hurried on across the moors in the rain. For the last couple of miles, I walked with a young German woman and an older English man who had met on the ferry across from Fort William and done the entire route together.
The door to the Ozone Cafe was unlocked so we went in for shelter from what was now pretty foul weather and discovered Mary. She had made fast time from Sandwood Bay along the cliffs. John Ure took some waking but, once on the job, he provided an excellent service. While we ate and drank, he rang the ferry and confirmed my suspicions. The weather had stopped the service. We would all be resting at Kervaig that night.