[This walk was completed on the 11th July]
I cross over the main road, and walk a short way down a minor road leading towards Balmacara Square. Ah, here it is – the footpath (another Core Path) that should take me over the hills to Kyle.
Three miles to Kyle of Lochalsh says the finger post. Nearly there.
“It is illegal for motorbikes to use this path network,” says another sign. That’s a relief! I’m hoping for a traffic-free few miles.
I cross a stream over a narrow wooden bridge, walk safely above muddy ground via some stepping stones, and continue uphill into a forested area. Although I can hear the road traffic just beneath me, this beautiful path is peaceful and my spirits lift.
Pines give way to broadleaf trees, and then I’m back among pines again. The path climbs higher. I pass through a gate – where a couple of fire-beaters stand guard – and soon leave the woods behind.
Now I’m walking across a high, open area. The sun has disappeared again, but the clouds are light and the air is bright. Looking back, I have a great view across Balmacara Bay and Loch Alsh.
Ahead is the mouth of Loch Alsh and, silhouetted against the bright water, I can see the arch of the Skye Bridge. Kyle is down there, somewhere over the next ridge.
My path meanders up and down, past outcrops of rock and through little wooded valleys.
I pass a tumbling waterfall. The cascade spills over from higher ground, while little subsidiary streams streak down neighbouring rocks.
So much water in Scotland! When it’s not falling from the sky, it’s busily trying to find it’s way back to the sea.
I reach the highest point on the walk, and stop to look back and admire the views again.
Such a beautiful path, and well-maintained. Nobody else about. This is lovely.
I find myself humming “You’ll take the high road, and I’ll take the low…” But that song is about Loch Lomond and death – perhaps not the most appropriate tune. Funny how these ‘ear worms’ start playing and are so hard to shift.
Another gate marks my exit from the high county.
At this point, I discover I’ve lost my glasses. Must have taken them off to take a photo, left them dangling in the neck of my T-shirt, and now they’re not there. I turn back and retrace my steps, keeping my eyes on the ground, searching for any sign of them.
My glasses were rimless, which makes them look less obvious on my face, and also makes them practically invisible on the ground. I walk to and fro, parting long grasses with my stick and scanning the pebbly path for any sign of glinting lenses.
Finally, after an hour of fruitless searching, I have to admit the damn things are lost. They’re distance glasses and I need them for driving but, luckily, I can see pretty well without them. Also, luckily, I keep a spare pair in The Beast.
Back through the gate, and I leave the high ground behind, along with my lost glasses.
At a bend in the path, I get a view of the road below. The A87 doesn’t look very busy, but the traffic races along at frightening speeds, hurtling around the curves at the bottom of the cliffs.
I’m glad I chose to follow this footpath instead.
A snake slithers away from the path, hiding itself among the long grasses. I pull my camera up, but only manage a blurry shot. A grass snake.
Beyond the gate, the path plunges down. I’ve reached Sgalpaidh burn and below I can see another footpath sign.
I cross over the burn, via some stepping stones, and stand at the crossroads. I could follow the path down to Sgalpaidh Bay, or turn inland and head up towards Loch Scalpaidh.
But my destination today is Kyle of Lochalsh. Straight on, and only a mile to go.
Onwards. The path follows the glen downwards towards the loch…
… before curving round to follow the slope of the hill. I walk through a group of ancient trees – twisted oaks covered in moss. Their trunks and branches, shaped by the wind, lean into the hillside and form a tunnel above my head.
In an open space, I stop to look across the water. That’s Skye over there. And another fish farm.
I thought my walk was nearly over, but it’s funny how the last mile is always the longest. I assumed the path would continue gently downhill, but instead it takes an uphill route and, again, I’m walking across high, open countryside
Over the brow of the hill, and there is Kyle of Lochalsh below, and the famous Skye bridge. The light is low in the west, directly in my eyes, making photography difficult.
Something slithers beside my foot. Another snake. I pull up my camera again and manage a decent shot. I think it’s only a grass snake. But maybe it could be a pale-coloured adder?
Down the hill, and the path ends, rather abruptly, in a small industrial estate on the edge of Kyle.
I follow the main road, past a petrol station, and into Kyle. Go down to the railway station, hoping to find a short cut to the car park, but am unable to cross the barrier formed by the railway line.
Backtrack and soon find the correct route. Ah, there’s my lovely Beast. And what a good view of the bridge.
Well, I’ve finally made it to Kyle. I meant to cover the distance from Shiel Bridge in a single day. Instead it’s taken two days of walking (and another extra day which I lost sheltering from the rain!)
I really am the slowest walker in the world!
Miles walked today = 11.5 miles
Total distance round coast = 4,318.5 miles