416 pm Dornie to Kyle of Lochalsh

[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.

51 footpath to Kyle of Lochlash, Balmacara, Ruth hiking the Scottish coast

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.

52 motobikes illegal, Ruth hiking the Scottish coast

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.

53 woodland path, Balmacara, Ruth hiking the Scottish coast

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.

54 gate up the hill, Ruth hiking the Scottish coast

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.

55 Loch Alsh to the Glenelg Peninsula, Ruth hiking the Scottish coast

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.

56 looking ahead to Kyle and the Skye Bridge, Ruth hiking the Scottish coast

My path meanders up and down, past outcrops of rock and through little wooded valleys.

57 path across high ground to Kyle, Ruth hiking the Scottish coast

I pass a tumbling waterfall. The cascade spills over from higher ground, while little subsidiary streams streak down neighbouring rocks.

58 waterfalls beside path to Kyle, Ruth hiking the Scottish coast

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.

59 view looking back, Loch Alsh, to Kyle, Ruth hiking the Scottish coast

Such a beautiful path, and well-maintained. Nobody else about. This is lovely.

60 path over high ground to Kyle, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland

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.

61 gate off the high ground, down to Kyle, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland

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.

62 walking above the A87, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland

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.

63 footpath down to signpost, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland

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.

64 Kyle of Lochalsh 1 mile, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland

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…

65 downhill to Kyle, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland

… 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.

66 forest walk to Kyle, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland

In an open space, I stop to look across the water. That’s Skye over there. And another fish farm.

67 view over to Skye and fish farm, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland

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

68 high ground again, Ruth hiking to Kyle of Lochalsh

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.

69 Kyle of Lochalsh and the Bridge, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland

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?

70 snake in the grass near Kyle, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland

Down the hill, and the path ends, rather abruptly, in a small industrial estate on the edge of Kyle.

71 end of the walk at Kyle of Lochalsh, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland

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.

72 The Beast near the bridge, Kyle of Lochalsh, Ruth's coastal walk

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


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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28 Responses to 416 pm Dornie to Kyle of Lochalsh

  1. owdjockey says:

    Hi Ruth, I think its a grass snake, but it could be a Slow Worm. I’ve also lost two pairs of glasses on my travels. I just buy a cheapie pair these days and have also invested in a lanyard to keep them safe.
    The high footpath you took looks really nice, I just continued along the road, which had a reasonable verge.

    • 5000milewalk says:

      Snap! I lost a £2.75 pair of reading glasses last week, on the beach near Heysham Power Station… I was devastated! I’m too vain to put them on a lanyard though 😄

      Beautiful photos as ever Ruth, wonderful 👍 it’s frustrating when you’re trying to get the miles in but various reasons stop you, isn’t it.

    • I was lucky with the footpath. It was a Core Path and should, theoretically, be OK, but you never know in Scotland.

  2. It is a slow worm, nice spot.

  3. jcombe says:

    Well at least the weather was better for this walk. I’m glad to hear there is a proper path. I couldn’t really work out where it went from the OS maps but I have found it on part of the Highland Council website so this will be useful for when I come to walk this section (later this year). It looks like a lovely path and is actually a path on the ground – which is not always the case with Scottish paths in my experience!

  4. Russell White says:

    I’m sitting in the Hartland Quay Hotel in Devon supping a pint of Cornish ale and am absolutely loving your treks in Scotland – this walking lark is addictive – I managed Clovelly to Hartland Quay today -Muddy or what 😄

    • Robin says:

      Russell, the next bit from Hartland Quay to Bude is an absolute pig of a walk! When I did the SWCP this was the section I would not want to walk again! Severe walking.

    • owdjockey says:

      Ahh I remember it well. I popped in on a really hot day 5 years ago and got chatting to another walker, a few pints of Tribute went down really well! It was a really tough day though walking from Bude to East Titchberry over 20 miles. A few sections can be walked along the beach, tide permitting, which cuts out a few of the ‘ups and downs’

    • Hope you completed this successfully, Russell. It’s a really tough walk. I divided it into two days by leaving the path at Morwenstow, which has an excellent pub too.

      • Russell White says:

        Hi Ruth – I did just that and ended up in a quiz night at The Bush Inn in Morwenstow – highly entertaining. Unfortunately the weather was atrocious and made walking treacherous and difficult – however I have made it through to Bude and am now home reading more of your latest adventures – I love the photo of the Lighthouse in Skye. Best wishes and good luck as ever – Russ

  5. Eunice says:

    It was a slow worm Ruth. I love the view across Balmacara Bay and Loch Alsh, shame about the glasses though.

  6. That looks a nice walk, I’ll remember it for next time. We did a walk from Balmacara Square but not the one we intended. So many paths in different places last year seemed to be closed for forestry work, or had just been logged and weren’t very attractive.

    • I was lucky not to come across any logging, Anabel. I know it’s a good thing to ‘grow’ our own wood, but logging does devastate the area. It’s like walking through an apocalyptic landscape sometimes.

  7. That path was only half built when I tried it, ending suddenly partway. There was a path of sorts that it replaced but that was narrow and made entirely of mud and rocks.

    The ‘snake’ definitely looks like a slow worm (a type of legless lizard); I’d be very surprised if grass snakes can be found so far north.

    Shame you didn’t detour into Balmacara; it was a great place to stop for a cup of tea and a rest.

  8. Chris Elliott says:

    Your path looks lovely. I wonder if it was there when I walked this stretch? I took to the road and it really wasn’t very pleasant. You may be slow but you are finding some much more delightful routes than I was able to walk. Keep it up – it’s almost like walking the coast again! Absolutely fascinating. It’s funny how much things change even after just 2 or 3 years. I wonder if all these new paths have been built as part of the UK coastal path plans. Scotland already has an almost complete path down the east coast, but as you have found very few on the west.

    • Hi Chris. It seems to be a new path. I don’t think Scotland is planning a proper coastal path around the whole coast. I wrote to the Scottish Ramblers and asked why not. They replied and said it was because people walking in Scotland preferred to walk in wilderness. I’m not sure this is true at all, as I rarely meet anybody walking near the coast.

  9. Those are stunning views. Scotland is a jewel. I was surprised by the “slow worm…I am wondering, would all the worms be slow in Scotland, or are there faster ones? 🙂

  10. Brian Williamson says:

    Thanks keep posting! Just spending a week on the Lizard down Cornwall as usual, but bringing my Radio Ham equipment with me!

    • Hi Brian, and hope you’re having a wonderful time down on The Lizard. Shame about the weather.

      • Brian Williamson says:

        Sorry, I’m actually going down for about ten days in May, for a cheap ‘slap-up’ holiday sleeping in the back of my old Transit Van, on an excellent cheap campsite called Wild Camping for £10/night. Will be going to The Minack Theatre, Lost Garden’s of Heligan and trying to get a phone photo (to get enlarged and printed) of the very interesting Gwennap Head Lookout Station, which is very iconic on The South Coast Path!
        Good Luck!

  11. Karen White says:

    It looks a lovely path and a beautiful walk. A delightful slow worm too, a real treat to see one.

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