415 Shiel Bridge to Eilean Donan Castle

[This walk took place on the 10th July 2019]

Last night, I moved my Beast to a campsite further along the main road, and spent several hours this morning sitting in my van watching the rain lash down. Then I noticed the sky was lightening up and the rain had stopped. Come on! Time to get out and do some walking.

It’s a late start – nearly 11am by the time the bus drops me off at the junction at Shiel Bridge. By this time, the sky has darkened and – of course – it’s spitting rain again.

Feeling cold and miserable, I walk back to the bridge and take a photo of the clouds draped over the hills above Loch Duich. Quite a different view from yesterday!

My original plan was to cycle from the campsite to Shiel Bridge, and then walk until I reached the town with a weird name – Kyle of Lochalsh. Then I planned to catch a bus back to Shiel Bridge, pick up the bike again, and cycle back to the campsite. But, I just couldn’t face all that cycling in this weather. Thank goodness today’s walk follows a bus route!

It’s only 16 miles to Kyle of Lochalsh, and all along roads. I should make rapid progress.

The rain eases again, and I stop to take more photographs looking down the loch. Have to admit, the low drifting clouds make for some atmospheric shots.

Oh, hello. Are you a llama or an alpaca? Are your ears shaped like bananas? I can’t really tell, but I think you are a llama (long face and long ears), but I could be wrong.

Love this rusty old boat sitting on the foreshore. I wonder if it still floats?

The road curves around the top of the loch, and across a pebbly bay I spot the Kintail Lodge Hotel. Shame it’s comes so early on my walk. Would make a good stop for coffee and a warm up.

There’s a busy little car park in front of the hotel. A couple of tourists are taking photos of each other by the roadside, and I offer to take one of them both together.

It may seem an uninspiring spot to take a photograph, but this is the view they would have in the background. Yes, beautiful.

I leave the road and walk past the hotel to where a track winds along the shore. It’s one of the few places I can leave the road today, so I’m determined to make the most of it.

This little detour from the tarmac is nearly a big mistake. The track peters out, and I have to fight my way across uneven ground, and through a thick barrier of bushes and brambles, in order to regain the road again.

Stumble back onto the pavement covered in mud and foliage, and feeling I’ve done a few rounds with Mike Tyson. Get some weird looks from passing motorists.

Ahead the road crosses the mouth of the River Croe via a causeway. Tall hills on either side.

I stop on the causeway to take some photos looking up the estuary. My map shows a narrow river dividing into several streams which thread their way through shingle banks across a flat plain. So I’m surprised to see that the whole area is covered in water, and looks like a small lake.

(Actually, I discovered this last night, when I drove along the shore of this water to a place called Morvich, which had a Caravan Club campsite open to non-members. Unfortunately, they wanted to charge me an exorbitant fee – over £30 a night. I’ve spent less to stay in nice little B&Bs in Wales!)

Beyond the causeway, I’m pleased to discover the footpath leaves the road for a while. It’s not a very busy road, but it’s good to get away from the onrush of passing traffic.

It’s drizzling gently now. I put my camera away, pull my hood down, and march onwards. The footpath rejoins the road, and I reach a place called Inverinate. It’s a strung-out village with a garage and scattered houses. I would love to stop for a cup of coffee in a nice, dry café, but don’t see one.

At the end of the village, the pavement comes to an end. (I’d spotted this problem earlier, from the bus, and so I’d already decided what I would do next.) In order to avoid a hazardous trek along the edge of the main road, I decide to swing off to the right and follow a minor road instead.

This road is lovely. Is runs roughly parallel to the main road (and perhaps it was the main road, once upon a time) but passes over higher ground, bending and twisting and running through woodland, and crossing a stream via a old stone bridge.

Unfortunately, I am wearing my lightweight road-walking shoes today, and I discover they are no longer waterproof. Just before I cross this bridge, I feel cold dampness seeping through my socks. Oh dear!

I climb higher. Through gaps between the trees, I stop to take photographs looking down at Loch Duich. Everything is hazy in the damp drizzle, but there in the water is the fish farm which I noticed yesterday when I walked along the far shore past Letterfern.

No road walk would be complete without discovering an out-of-place cone. Here is one, jauntily perched on a fence post. Where do they all come from?

And here is another intriguing road-side feature: a sign warning of leaping kangaroos. Really? Kangaroos in Scotland? Surely not!

I plod onwards and upwards, into the mist. Keep one eye out for kangaroos… but don’t spot any. Instead, I come across a few pigs and a beautiful white pony.

I’m approaching the highest point in the road. It’s marked on my map with a view point symbol. I’m hoping for some great photographs… but everything is smothered with grey mist.

Ahead, I can just make out the hilltop, where two walkers are standing looking out over the loch below.

I’m looking forward to meeting some fellow hikers. But, when I reach the same spot, the walkers have moved on. In fact, they drove on. I heard the car engine starting a few minutes earlier. Lazy beggars.

Well, this is the viewpoint. You have to imagine it on a sunny day, when I think you would see a magnificent vista over the bottom of Loch Duich and the beginning of Loch Alsh.

Feeling a bit disheartened, I follow the road runs steadily downhill. It takes me into deeper mist…

… until I emerge under the cloud cover, and get a better view of the view. I’m looking down over the junction of Loch Duich and Loch Alsh.

I remember my aborted walk of yesterday, and feel even more despondent. Last summer in Scotland was glorious. This summer is damp, cold and miserable, and the Scottish landscape, along with the Scottish weather, seems determined to defeat me.

Onwards. down the road. Steep slopes above and below. Loch Alsh ahead.

I pass a little shelf where someone is selling “wet trees”. No, hang on… I’ve read it wrongly. “Wee trees.”

Coming down lower, and I get a better view of Loch Duich. Remember walking along that shore yesterday.

Perhaps I should go back to try to finish that walk? If I drove to the end of the road and walked from Totaig, perhaps I would have more strength and the energy to find a way through?

Well, today I need to finish this walk. The rain has stopped again and my feet, although wet, are warm enough. Onwards.

I pass a curious collection of objects arranged on a stone wall. Objects d’art?

Nearby, a car is being used as a garden shed, and I pass a cottage surrounded with more pieces of eccentric artwork. How wonderful. The place cheers me up, for a while.

There is still no sign of kangaroos. The road twists down through a wooded area, punctuated by craggy rocks. It’s really very pretty. But my gloomy mood has come back.

Ah. Just look at this view. I can see all the way down Loch Alsh. In the distance, lost in the mist, is the bridge over to Skye. The mainland end of the bridge, at Kyle of Lochalsh, is my destination for today. Oh dear, it still looks very far away.

Closer, and clearer, on the shore just across the water, I can see the little white cottage at Totaig.

The slopes beyond Totaig don’t look so tough from this vantage point. Positively tame. Yes, I will go back there – one day – and finish that walk. Yes, I’ll find a way through from Totaig to Ardintoul, even if it kills me!

Onwards. Round a few more bends, and here is another glorious view. The castle at Dornie, Eilean Donan. Seems a popular place. Look at all the people on the bridge.

The road is steeper here, taking me past a little church. Or is it a school house?

I stop to read the sign on the wall. Maybe it was once a chapel or a school, but now it’s a village hall.

My little road takes me down into the village of Dornie. I walk a few hundred yards along a wide road towards the main A87 and the castle. Near the junction, the verges are lined with cones. I remember the cone I saw earlier. Is this where it came from?

It’s raining again. A cold, seeping rain. My feet are wet, my glasses are smeared, and I can’t shake my despondent mood. Oh dear. It’s just one of those days when everything seems dull and dreary.

At the junction, I should turn right and follow the road towards the Kyle of Lochalsh. Or, I could cut the walk a little shorter and just walk back as far as my campsite. Or…

… but then I spot the bus stop.

The thought of catching the bus back to my campsite is overwhelmingly appealing. I check the times. There is one due in 15 minutes. Perhaps I have time for a quick visit to the castle?

The bagpipes start up. The crowd of tourists mill about at the far end of the bridge. The rain falls in a steady drizzle.

No, I’ll just huddle in the bus stop and wait for the bus. Back in the beast, I can turn on the heater, brew a cup of tea, and get out of these wet socks. The rest of the walk can wait.

High points: the lovely minor road, with wee trees, and eccentric artwork.
Low points: the wet, the cold, and the mist.

Encounters: 1 llama, 1 pony, several pigs, and absolutely no kangaroos.

Miles walked today = 8 miles (pathetic!)
Total around coast = 4,307 miles


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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49 Responses to 415 Shiel Bridge to Eilean Donan Castle

  1. john says:

    What happy memories of getting to Skye have been evoked. Many thanks.

  2. Russell White says:

    Hi Ruth great to hear from you back on the Blog! – Very recently in the middle of Storm Ciara I was stupidly walking the SWCP – but it included the very boring bit from Braunton to Bideford on the Tarka Trail which I hated – BUT took comfort in rereading your thoughts which were not altogether different from mine – possibly I had many more expletives – but my god that Otter path is endless tarmac. Anyway i’m off down to the path on Sunday & back on the coast route again – Westward Ho! to Bude.
    All my very best to you – Cheers Russ

    • Hi Russ. Oh yes, I remember the Tarka Trail. Fine if you were on a bike, but deadly dull on foot. Glad you survived despite the storm. Westward Ho! to Bude is a wonderful stretch, but very tough. Good luck!

  3. RAY PERRY says:

    Welcome back. It’s so good to see another episode in your adventure.


  4. Jayne Hill says:

    Another great day – and welcome back, your updates have been missed. Thank you for reminding me of the beauty of this area, I hope to get back up there this summer.

    In defence of the Caravan Club, they would have quoted you £17.40 for one night in July if you were a member, so perhaps joining up would pay for itself relatively quickly?

    • Yes, it’s a lovely area. Shame I couldn’t see much of it on this particular day. I’m sure the prices for non-members were pitched at a rate to encourage you to join. But it just put me off, instead!

  5. Eunice says:

    Nice to see an update Ruth, you’ve been missed. The kangaroo sign is certainly a strange one 🙂

  6. owdjockey says:

    Hi Ruth, my daughter brought ne exactly the same Kangaroo sign back from Oz, together with a “DANGER Croodiles no swimming” which is next to my garden pond!
    I was tempted to climb up the old road, but that was a lot of ascent especially with an 18 mile walk ahead of me.

    • Hi Alan. I think the guy with the strange artwork probably put the kangaroo sign up! Seems he has a cheeky sense of humour. Your 18 mile walk was ambitious. My own walks seem to get shorter and shorter!

  7. Linda Jackson says:

    I was just thinking about you the other day and how much I missed your blog entries. So happy to see this in my email box this morning. Happy walking Ruth!

  8. Wallace Alec Langley says:

    Hi Ruth, I have been following your trek around the coast for a few months now and always enjoy your comments and pictures.
    I’m also walking the coast solo, having completed the stretch from Berwick to Aldeburgh, and Shotton Station on the Welsh border to the Scottish border at Gretna. I had never heard the term “a flipflop walker” until I read your book. I too hate walking in the rain just fitting days in as the weather permits, 91 days so far in the last 22 months. Not the fastest walker but I really suffer with blisters which usualy force me to stop after 3-4 days. Overall a wonderfull experience, I just wish I had started when I first retired in 2013.
    All the best with the rest of your walk.

    • Hi Alec, how wonderful to meet another coastal walker. You’ve covered a fair distance already, and well done for completing Lancashire and Cumbria, which I found quite a challenge due to their non-existent coast paths! Sorry to hear about the blisters. I seem to have defeated blisters now. I wear double socks, and keep my feet soft with regular buffing and moisturising (I know that seems the opposite of what you should be doing, but it really helps!). Good luck with the rest of your adventure, and keep us posted on how you are doing. Best wishes, Ruth

      • Alec.Langley says:

        Ruth, Thank you for your hints and tips, I think that I’ve tried every combination of socks known to man over the years, the 1000 mile socks seem to be the best for me.
        The last few weeks have been torture waiting for the weather to improve, then (covid-19) I despair sometimes.
        All the best Alec

        • Chris Collins says:

          If you want to avoid meeting people on walks I would suggest the East Anglian coastal paths which are gloriously desolate and one rarely meets a living sole bar seals and bird life.

  9. 5000milewalk says:

    It’s wonderful to read a new blog entry from you again Ruth! I can fully understand your mood on that walk, some days it’s just so hard to pull yourself out of it, isn’t it?
    I haven’t had to do a miserable weather walk yet, but as I get further away from home I guess I’ll just have to. Once you’ve driven that far you can’t just sit in the van all day can you!

    • Hi Paul, now I’m retired and can spend as much time away as I want, I have to confess I often spend half a day, and very occasionally a whole day, sitting in the van and watching the rain fall. I do find walking in the wet pretty miserable. And I think we all have days when it all seems rather difficult and wonder why on earth we’re doing it. Luckily, the good days far outweigh the bad. Congratulations, again, on your excellent blog: https://5000milewalk.wordpress.com/

  10. Good to catch up with your walk again.
    “Nearby, a car is being used as a garden shed,” a tantalising description – where is the photo?

  11. jcombe says:

    Ah welcome back – another sign Spring is here!

    A shame about the weather but some stunning views on this one. I will be doing this walk this year so some very useful information here for me. I also planned to use the more minor road to the east of the A87 rather than walk on that main road. However once it ended I assumed I’d have to walk in the road the rest of the way to Shiel Bridge so great to know there is a pavement (I’ve neither driven nor walked this way yet).

    Also good to know there is a bus. I had wondered it there would be so good to have it confirmed (so far I’ve only reasearched the buses for my next trip which will see me end a bit north of Kyle of Lochalsh I think, where I’m staying next time).

    I have about a month to go now before my next trip to Scotland to resume my walk, it feels like it’s been an especially long winter this year especially as we seem to have torrtential wind and gale force winds every weekend at the moment (and this coming weekend looks to be no exception)

  12. We arrived in Dornie on 13th July last year. Our paths almost crossed! Welcome back.

  13. Jacquie says:

    Lovely to be walking with you again. Didn’t envy you thee walk along the main rosd but the side road is deliğhtful.I know the area cos my sister lives at Tornapress nr Kishorn.I wonder if you’ve got that far. Anyway, welcome back.

  14. chuckles4th says:

    Fantastic to hear from you again, Ruth! Love reading your blog and today’s photos are fantastic. Well done for persevering and keeping going. Looking forward to more posts now! Jules

  15. Karen White says:

    I’m so pleased to see a post from you drop into my inbox today, I have missed your beautiful photos of Scotland and your delightful writing style. I loved the ‘wee trees’ sign and the views on this walk were wonderful.
    I hope you’ve had a good few months over the winter, no doubt planning this year’s walking!

  16. Chris Collins says:

    Hi Ruth!
    Sounds like your mood matched the weather! I agree the views would have been spectacular in drier conditions! I note you’re delaying your walking notes, any reason?
    Last year I completed the Kent coastal path as far as Dover having started a couple of years back in Hunstanton! Hope to restart walking when this wretched wet and windy weather finally gives up. Even had snow yesterday in Bury St Edmunds for first time this year!
    All the best Chris

    • Hi Chris, yes, I find the weather has quite a profound effect on my mood. I’m late doing the write-ups because (1) I’m afraid I had a dose of Lyme’s disease in the autumn, and the treatment made me quite unwell (2) I’ve spent most of the winter following the sunshine abroad!
      Well done for getting to Dover. Hope the weather improves soon – fingers crossed.

  17. Robin Massey says:

    Thanks Ruth, always pleased to see another of your posts pop up. Very enjoyable!

  18. All familiar territory for me. Your descriptions and the photos make that unique on-and-off rainy Scottish weather palpable. I look forward to more and hope you will be resuming soon.

    • A few more 2019 walks to write up, Conrad. I’ve had a busy winter and my mind has been on other things. Looking forward to walking in Scotland again soon! Been reading your accounts of walking the coast too, although not always commenting. Blackpool looked very, very cold.

  19. That was indeed the old road (which means, of course that I couldn’t resist it; I was much luckier with the view, though).

    Weather really does have a string influence on mood and, in turn, on the impressions and memories you get from a place.

  20. Paul sennett says:

    Terrific photos
    Lovely to see you are still walking. And doing well

    We are embarking on the rather challenging Cumbrian coast this year. As part of our walk around England

  21. Pam Leyl says:

    Fabulous reading your blog again Ruth! I wouldn’t be too despondent with only covering shorter distances when it was grotty weather, they always seem a far longer than sunny days walking double the amount!!……
    I know it’s a challenge, but surely it’s supposed to be enjoyable as well?

  22. Hello Ruth, So lovely to see you back on the road again; we just think that what you are undertaking is amazing; and we often mention you to other less ambitious walkers and get the usual waaaaw response. 4,297 miles is amazing. Keep it up. All good wishes Jane and Brian…

  23. Chris Elliott says:

    Great to hear from you again. You were sorely missed. I have been without broadband and a telephone for 16 days as a tree fell down on my telephone line and electricity cable. South East Electrics fixed it in a day. Sadly BT took 16 days. At least I had the delight of finding you on;line once more. I hope you did fill in the gap at Totaig. I think from that direction it should be signed and so should be relatively easy to follow. You don’t want to get lost like I did. Like you I am fed up with the rain so this week I have packed the haversack and on Friday I shall venture out to walk my first island. I was going to start with Sheppey but that will be too wet. So I am going to be a wimp and start with Portsea Island and then do Hayling. I can’t believe it is 7 months since I completed my coast walk and I haven’t walked at all! Enjoy the trip north from Kyle…

  24. Sounds amazing, despite the weather. Scotland is a breathtaking scene around every corner. Those lochs are something else. I enjoyed reading your descriptions, really brings the area to life

  25. Ian and maggie Lilley says:

    Hello Ruth. My very first comment. I have been following you since I retired in 2015 and I came upon your blog. Having been a walker, on and off, over the years, Pennine way, south-west coast path, South Downs way and others, you have now inspired myself and my wife Maggie to don our walking boots. Like you, we will keep to walking the coast as we are always surprised by what “ancient revealings” lie around the next corner, this expression was coined by our son when he was very young. Though we live in Tunbridge Wells, our son lives in Cockermouth, hence our first venture out was st bees head to silloth. Your book was an enjoyable read ( I am dead wary of any cows also ) and we are glad to receive your blogs again. Do enjoy the New Years walking now, please, spring is finally here. Best wishes, Ian and Maggie

  26. jcombe says:

    I did this walk today (though in one go from Shiel Bridge to Kyle of Lochalsh). Like you I took the “high road” when the pavement ran out and was lucky that the views were wonderful for me (no mist) especially of the castle. I visited the castle earlier in the week.

    The Kangeroo sign, Wee Trees and car used as a shed are all still there.

I welcome your views

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