414pm Totaig to Shiel Bridge

[This walk was completed on the 8th July 2019]

I leave my Scooty bike parked at the end of the road, and set off to walk the 6 or 7 miles back to Shiel Bridge. It’s been a frustrating morning, but this road is really lovely and a joy to walk along.

I’m surrounded by mature trees, but through gaps in the foliage I get some great views across Loch Duich. The castle on the other side looks very familiar – a commonly photographed tourist spot, I realise.

When I rode along the road this morning, at the start of my walk, I was nervous about meeting oncoming traffic. The road is narrow and twists and turns, following the contours of the shoreline.

Luckily, very few cars seem to venture as far as the end of the road. The few I’ve met this morning seem to belong to dogwalkers and raspberry pickers. Maybe not surprising there is so little traffic, because there’s nothing much here.

The views up Loch Duich are magnificent. The five peaks at the far end of the water belong to a ridge of mountains known as the Five Sisters of Kintail. It provides a popular walking route, I gather.

After a mile or so, I reach the village of Letterfearn. A group of people are gathered around a shack by the shore, and there seems to be a village fete going on. I would like to stop and see what’s for sale, but they are in the process of packing up by the time I get there.

Letterfearn is one of those stretched out villages, with a string of houses scattered along the road. On the right I pass a post box and a shack enclosed in corrugated metal, which looks like it might once have been a church or a school house.

It’s very rural and peaceful. A sign warns me of hens ahead. Interestingly, the warning is for dog walkers, and not for motorists.

I keep an eye out, but don’t see any hens, and only pass one lazy old sheepdog dozing by a gate.

I’m nervous of collies, having been bitten by one in Lincolnshire when walking the Viking Way. But this one doesn’t seem interested in me at all.

I really love this road. The trees that cover the slope to my right are old broadleaf trees – oak, sycamore, ash and silver birch – and, in some places, have tumbled over.

I can’t help comparing this beautiful natural woodland with the horrible pine forest I stumbled around in earlier. These woods are full of birds and life, and don’t seem sinister at all.

Onwards. The Five Sisters are growing larger.

I pass the occasional cottage, and am impressed with this newly built house. Love the clean lines and the large windows. The people who live here will have great views over Loch Duich.

Not all the buildings along the road are as nice as that one. This structure has definitely seen better days!

I pass an industrial area, with a car park, various containers, parked cars, and a jetty. Yes, it’s yet another fish farm. Fish farms and logging seem to be the main industries around here – apart from tourism, of course.

Here’s a house in the process of being renovated. Looks like they are adding a garage.

By this stage, I’m beginning to feel very tired. Yesterday was a tough day – with two hard cycle rides and a difficult walk. Today has been equally frustrating. Having failed to make my way all the way through to Ardintoul, I’m fretting over the one kilometre gap in my coastal walk.

Thank goodness the view is wonderful. Look at the light on those mountains.

A sign warns me of timber lorries, and tells me I mustn’t go more than 20 mph. I haven’t seen any lorries, but now I’ve reached a more populated area of the road, I have met several fast-moving cars. Definitely doing more than 20 mph.

When I bought my Scooty bike, the man in the shop warned me my electric power would cut out if I reached a speed of 16mph. I reassured him this was highly unlikely!

I come to a passing place where someone has lined the grass verges with pots of flowers. There’s a cottage just opposite, and I guess the owner has prettified the place.

A little further along, the road runs close to the shore. I step off the tarmac, and sit on the stones at the top of the pebbly beach. Time for a rest and a snack.

Despite the frustrations of the past few days, I’ve really fallen in love with this area. It’s very beautiful.

Onwards. I pass a building that looks like it once was a chapel, or maybe a school house.

Ahead is a signpost, pointing off to the right. I stop to have a look…

… “Forest Walk” says the sign. I check my map, and realise there’s a path up the hill which would, eventually, join the road that crosses over the Ratagan Pass.

I know that if I want to complete a continuous circuit of the coast, I should return to Glenelg Bay and walk up and over to Shiel Bridge via the pass. It would be a tough old walk, but would get round the problem of the missing kilometre.

My heart sinks at the prospect. It’s a dauting enough climb in the van, and I’ve already cycled over the pass on Scooty – twice. But, yes, it would make the circuit complete.

At this point, I realised I’d conveniently forgotten about another uncompleted section of the coast, when I’d failed to complete another 1 kilometre section, right at the tip of the Morvern Peninsula. Oh dear. Now I’ve got two missing sections to worry about!

The road widens to provide a roadside parking space on my left, while on my right there’s an area of cleared grassland with a picnic bench.

I make a mental note of this spot. It would make a good place to park my van – the lovely Beast – for an overnight stay. But then I remember my Scooty bike needs charging and so I really need to find a campsite with an electric hookup. Yes, one of the downsides of my new bike is that I must give up ‘wild’ camping.

Nearby there’s a little cemetery. Love the mix of old, weathered stones among the more modern memorials.

Will this road never end? Onwards. I’m approaching the final village along this stretch – the one that gives its name to the pass over the mountains – Ratagan.

Ah, here’s a youth hostel. It’s not the nicest of buildings, but is set in a great location. This morning, when I rode past on my bike, people were packing up their cars outside.

Ratagan is another strung-out village. A mix of old and new houses.

It even has a bus stop, complete with chairs to sit on. And a child’s scooter is parked outside. I’ve not seen a bus for days, but there must be one that comes here.

I’ve nearly reached the end of Loch Duich. The village at the top, Shiel Bridge, is dwarfed by the Five Sisters. They really are magnificent.

An area of the loch seems to be partitioned off by a semi-circular dyke. Wonder why. Perhaps to hold back the water? Perhaps some old fishing arrangement? Anyway, there’s a hole in the stone barrier and the water is pouring through.

I’ve reached the final section of this little road. It coils up the hill and joins the main Glenelg road at a T junction.

Now it’s a gentle downhill amble towards the top of the loch. This road is much busier, and I must keep jumping onto the verge to let traffic go by.

At the top of the loch, I stop to take more photographs.

It’s really a beautiful view, with a bright field of horses, a mass of russet coloured seaweed covering the shore, a long stretch of silver water, and a great backdrop of blue-green mountains. The sun has been going in and out all day, but unfortunately it now decides to stay stubbornly behind a cloud, and the photographs I take are rather dull.

I soon reach the campsite where I’ve spent the past couple of nights. If I’m serious about walking over the Ratagan Pass, I should visit the owner to extend my stay. He spends his day behind the counter in the nearby petrol station cum village shop, and I need to hurry up, because the place closes in an hour.

But I seem to have spent ages walking around the Glenelg Peninsula. Five days, in fact.  And I can’t face that mountain pass again – not at the moment anyway.

My van is already packed up and ready to go. It’s time to move on.

Miles walked today = 10 miles
Miles cycled = 6.5 miles
Total distance around coast of Britain = 4,299 miles

Route: (morning in black, afternoon in red)

About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
This entry was posted in 22 Highlands and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to 414pm Totaig to Shiel Bridge

  1. Karen White says:

    You are making good progress. It is certainly a beautiful part of Scotland and I love the muted tones that the softer light brings to your photos.

  2. I seem to have missed some recent posts but I’ve caught up with you again now. That is a wonderful area full of classic Munros – happy memories for me. I’m looking forward to more posts.

  3. chuckles4th says:

    Beautiful photos, Ruth.

  4. Katherine says:

    Thanks for sharing this walk. A lovely diversion for me as am choosing between ironing and cleaning…a breath of fresh air.

  5. Jayne Hill says:

    So glad you had a better day than the previous one. It is a most beautiful area and not one I’ve visited for far too long, but very, very remote – as you have found.

  6. rlbwilson says:

    A walk of classic views! Many years ago, we stayed in Ratagan YH, but it looks different from my memory in your photo … too many years ago, obviously.

  7. jcombe says:

    Noticed Quintin is on the BBC website today : https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-gloucestershire-50742373

    Hope you have a good Christmas and look forward to reading about more of your walks next year.

  8. JacquieB says:

    Wishing you all the very best and particularly more glorious walking in the forthcoming year.

  9. Di Iles says:

    Hi Ruth, the Highlands are just stunning aren’t they? Five sisters are spectacular! Wonderful to be catching up on your fabulous blog again! I was way behind with it but plenty of time now under lockdown! Had to cancel my holidays in Scotland so reading this is just what I need. Thanks Ruth and hope you are staying safe.

    • Hello Di. Very frustrating being confined and the current weather in NW Scotland is, apparently, fabulous 🙄 But the important thing is to stay safe and enjoy what we have. Hope you are well too. Best wishes x

  10. Madeline Osborn says:

    So glad to read your account of walking along our road. It’s good to remember how it looks in summer now it’s dark and wet. And so pleased to see your picture of our dear collie. She was very old and died 3 months later, so it was lovely – and a bit sad – to unexpectedly see her again. Thank you.
    The arrangement at the end of the loch is an old fish trap or yair.
    I hope the rest of your journey was as beautiful and as interesting.

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