[This walk took place on the 6th July 2019]
After visiting Sandaig, I drive to the end of the Glenelg road, park my van, and unload my new companion. It’s a replacement for the horrible Monster bike. A new foldup bicycle – called Scooty.
Scooty is even heavier than the Monster, and I haven’t yet managed to fold him up, but he has one major advantage – an electric battery. This means we can go uphill. That’s very fortunate, as it is uphill most of the way from Glenelg to Sandaig.
I park Scooty on the track that leads to Sandaig, making sure he is out of sight of the road, and chain his wheel with an enormous D lock. The lock almost weighs as much as the darn bike, but he’s too heavy to hide in a ditch. (Actually, I could probably get him into the ditch, but I would never manage to get him out!)
It’s all road-walking today, and I set off in good spirits, determined to make some decent mileage.
On my last trip, I thought I would finish walking around the Glenelg peninsula and reach Shiel Bridge in three days… which turned out to be far too optimistic. (Ju, another coastal walker, aka the Helpful Mammal, walked from Kinloch Hourn to Shiel Bridge in a single day. It’s going to take me 3 more days to get there, and I’ve already walked 4 days from Kinloch Hourn!)
At the brow of a hill, I stop to look back. This will probably be my last view of Loch Hourn and of Knoydart. Shame the light is dull and the photo doesn’t do the scene justice.
I always feel sadness when I leave a set of familiar landmarks behind, or say goodbye to an area I’ve spent some time walking through. But, it’s definitely time to move on.
There’s a little knobby hill ahead, Mam nan Uranan (the name makes me smile), and the road winds around its base.
As I come around the corner, and over the top of the rise in the road, I’m rewarded by a new and beautiful view. That’s the Isle of Skye over there, but what’s that waterway? At first I think I’m looking up a river estuary, but then I realise it’s not a river, but the narrowest part of the Sound of Sleat.
Further along, as the road begins to dip downhill, I get another great view. Glenelg Bay – lined by a series of pale, curving beaches.
Downwards. I’m walking through woodland now, and temporarily lose sight of the coast. Look at those high hills ahead, their tops muffled by clouds.
Lower down the hill, I get glimpses of the Sound of Sleat over the tops of the trees, and watch the progress of a ship – maybe a ferry – as it pushes its way slowly against a ferocious current.
I’m coming down towards the sandbank-lined mouth of a river valley – Gleann Beag – where a river with the same name (but different spelling), Abhainn a Ghlinne Bhig, empties into Glenelg Bay.
At the bottom of the valley is a strip of flat farmland, and a pretty set of farm buildings and cottages. Propped up on the verge is a road sign telling me the speed limit is 30mph.
Hard to imagine anyone would drive faster than 30 along these narrow single-track roads. The road crosses over a cattle grid, and over the river bridge…
… where it meets a T junction. I stare at the road sign in disbelief. Corran is only 10 miles away. 10 miles! Surely I’ve come further than that in 3 days? What on earth have I been doing? How dare I call myself an long-distance walker? I’m stunned by my own ineptitude.
A footpath sign, further up the road, is even more disheartening. Kinloch Hourn is only 11 miles away. That seems incredible.
But then I remember that Kinloch Hourn is only 11 miles away if you take the direct path across the mountains. I’ve walked around by the coastline, so I’ve definitely covered more than 11 miles!
Mustn’t worry about it. On my last trip I had terrible weather and spent a lot of time sitting inside a cosy cottage, watching the rain lash down outside, while eating cake and drinking whisky. Not a bad way to spend a few days.
Onwards, past another pretty cottage which once belonged to someone called Roddy, according to its name – Roddy’s Cottage.
The road runs along the flat and close to the shore. To my left is scrubby land covered in bushes and long grasses, while to my right the slope is banked with rocks and trees.
I must be nearly at Glenelg, where I’m going to stop and have lunch in the pub, but I can’t resist this bench with a wonderful view across to Skye. Sit and eat a snack bar… just to keep me going…
… and take a self-portrait. Oh dear, lovely view, but I do look a bit porky. Obviously been eating too much cake and drinking too much whisky.
Onwards. I’m approaching houses. Another road sign warns me – rather unnecessarily – that there is no footway for 3/4 mile. Well, there’s actually been no footway for 10 miles or more.
I pass a yard full of machinery, old vehicles, and assorted junk. A grey shed with orange trimmings turns out to be the Glenelg Community Fire Station.
A woman overtakes me on her bike, with a young child riding in a back seat. Makes me feel guilty as I watch her pedalling along, and I think of my Scooty bike. Is it cheating to use an electric bike?
This is a pretty road. Little boats are drawn up on the grassy foreshore. The Isle of Skye must shelter this part of the coast from the full brunt of the Atlantic storms, and the people who live here will have great views and easy access to the water.
I pass a rather splendid war memorial with an impressive statue of a soldier and a winged angel. ‘No overnight parking’ says a nearby sign. I don’t blame them. Who would want a host of camper vans parked so close to residential houses and blocking the view of the memorial.
The houses disappear, and the road narrows, passing between great hunks of rock and winding close to the shore.
Round a corner, and I come across this little shed. At first I think it is someone’s private bike shed, but then I realise it’s the premises for a little business. Bikes for hire and for sale. Repairs done. Bike lessons available.
The blackboard has a chalked message. “Opening hours vary. Please call ahead to check or to arrange a time to meet. Jake.”
Well, at least I know who to call if Scooty gets a puncture – something I dread happening as I don’t carry a pump or a spare tyre, and have no idea how to change one anyway.
I pass a little white church that sits close to the water on a raised bank…
… and am relieved to see the sign hidden among foliage on a wall. “Glenelg Inn. Open all Day.” Excellent. I’m very hungry and it’s a long time since I had the luxury of a pub lunch on one of my Scottish walks.
But, oh dear, I round the corner to discover another sign in front of the driveway to the pub. “Glenelg Inn closed all day today.” Oh, no! How utterly disappointing!
There are people wandering around in the car park and, from their clothing, I gather it’s probably a wedding celebration. How very, very inconvenient. How dare they get married today, of all days.
I think of the last pub I tried to have lunch in – a pub with a very similar name, the Glenuig Inn – when I walked from Kinlochmoidart to Glenuig.) That was shut too. I’m really not having much luck with pubs in the Highlands.
Oh, well, I know there’s a café in the nearby Community Centre. I’ll eat lunch there instead.
[To be continued…]
Route so far: