420pm Strome Ferry to Lochcarron

[This walk was completed on the 15th July, 2019]

After a short lunch break, I continue onwards. Cliffs rise high to my right, while the railway line snakes along the left-hand side of the road.

51 narrow road under cliffs, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

I’m stepping off the map for a while. Although I usually buy a paper Ordnance Survey map for each stage of my walk, the next section is only a few miles (around the top of Loch Carron) and it didn’t seem worth the cost of buying the extra map. Anyway, I can’t get lost. All I have to do is follow the road.

So, when I come to a tunnel, I just think it’s an ordinary tunnel. It has two entry portals – one for the railway track, and another for the road.

52 Avalanche shelter, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

[Later, looking at the OS map online, I realise the tunnel is, in fact, an ‘Avalanche Shelter’!]

From a distance the tunnel, looks starkly functional, even rather hideous, when I get closer I realise it does have some nice decorative flourishes.

avalanche shelter decoration, Loch Carron

Beyond the tunnel, the road bends away from the railway line, and rises steeply.

53 uphill climb after Avalanche Shelter, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

It’s a tough climb up the hill. A car pulls in beside me and the driver offers me a lift. Very kind, but I HAVE to walk ALL the way, I’m afraid.

The climb is worth it, because the view from the top is wonderful, overlooking a wide river valley.

54 mouth of the River Attadale, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

Down the hill I go, dodging campervans and lorries, until I reach the flat land at the bottom. A road bridge takes me over the Attadale river, and a sporty open-top car zooms past. Now, I might have been tempted if that vehicle had stopped to offer me a lift…

55 turn off to Attadale Gardens, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

I walk past the driveway to Attadale Gardens, where several cars are parked, and then past a pedestrian gateway. The gardens – the little I can see – look beautiful, but I don’t have time to stop.

56 Attadale Gardens gate, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

Just beyond the Attadale Gardens sign is a station. Attadale Station. Another railway station stuck seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

57 Attadale Station, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

[Later, I discover that Attadale might have been an important terminus, but the loch was too shallow to allow steamships to dock safely, and so the terminus was moved to Strome Ferry. According to Wikipedia.]

After crossing the flat bottom of the valley, the road climbs up again.

58 14 degree hill out of Attadale, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

It’s even steeper on this side, and an even tougher climb, but again I’m rewarded by a wonderful view from the top. I’m looking down past the end of Loch Carron, and can see the River Carron winding along the valley ahead.

59 view downhill to River Carron, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

On a steep part of the slope, I hear gears grinding behind me, and I’m passed by a rather odd-looking ambulance. Not exactly streamlined – more like a brick on wheels, and dull-green colour. Very military looking.

60 army ambulance, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

And then by another one, this one is painted a sandy colour, and even has a blue light on top. Followed closely by a sandy-coloured land-rover type vehicle.

61 more army vehicles, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

A whole string of similar, ancient ambulances grind past me. Are they really military ambulances? Or is there a special club consisting of vintage-ambulance owners? Or, to be specific, vintage-military-ambulance owners?

62 two more ambulances, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

It’s a mystery.

Down I go, enjoying this section of the walk, despite the traffic. I’ve nearly reached the top of the loch.

63 tide out, Loch Carron, Ruth hiking around the coast of Scotland

The road flattens out, and I pass a pottery and craft shop, which doubles as a restaurant. Notice the little blue open-top car is parked outside and feel a flash of envy. If only I’d known you could get food here, I wouldn’t have bothered with a picnic and would have stopped here for lunch instead.

64 Carron pottery, restaurant and art gallery, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

I’ve nearly reached Strathcarron. It sits on a grassy plain at the top of the loch, at the mouth of the River Carron, and is surrounded by meadowland.

65 approaching Strathcarron, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

Sadly, at this point, my route will diverge from the railway line. Now, the main road sweeps round in a wide right-angle turn and crosses over the line, while the tracks continue straight up the valley.

Strathcarron has a station too. In fact, I caught the train to Strome Ferry from here this morning.

66 Strathcarron station, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

It’s been wonderful having a train service to get me to and from my walks. A real treat. So I’m sad to lose the line. From now on, I’ll be relying on a combination of The Beast and my Scooty bike.

Just beyond the platform is the Strathcarron Hotel. I guess it might have once been the station master’s house. It’s now just gone 3pm and, to my surprise, the bar is open.

67 Strathcarron Hotel, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

I check that my Scooty bike is still waiting for me. Yes. Still safely chained up behind the hotel. I rode it here this morning to catch the train, and will return for it later.

68 Scooty parked by the station, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

In the bar, I enjoy a leisurely pint of cider. Another treat. It’s rare I find a pub open at the time I want one!

A number of workmen are standing at the bar, discussing the recent bad weather. Nearby, a group of American ladies are chatting at one of the tables. I met them on the platform this morning. They were catching the train to Kyle, but I suggested they break their journey and visit Plockton too.

“Thank you for your suggestion,” one of them calls over. “Plockton was a beautiful place.” In fact, they enjoyed Plockton so much, they never got to Kyle.

I spend an hour in the bar. It’s good to have a rest on a proper chair.

Onwards. I follow the main road, crossing the River Carron via a bridge.

69 River Carron bridge, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

And, a little further along, I find a track leading off to the left. Lochcarron, 4km, says the signpost. Excellent. This is a shortcut and should cut out a triangle of road walking.

70 track across fields, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

The track leads across fields. Hello sheep.

71 sheep in field, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

Not exactly a straight line, the route curves gently around, neatly bypassing a pine plantation. What a pleasant walk, and in warm sunshine too.

72 water meadows, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

I come to a little stream, with a choice of two crossings. A metal footbridge, and a line of stepping stones. Which would you choose to use?

73 bridge or stepping stones, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

I choose the stepping stones, of course!

The track ends in a long, straight green stretch. There’s the road ahead. No longer the A890, which has swung round to the right somewhere, heading inland. This new road is the A896.

74 approaching the road, Ruth hiking over fields to Lochcarron, Scotland

I join the A896 outside the Smithy Community Hub. Apparently it provides arts and crafts, shops, tree houses, events, pottery, etc. But it no longer provides Visitor Information, apparently, as these words have been crossed out.

75 The Smithy Community Hub, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

It’s closed anyway. Possibly for renovations, as there seems to be a new building going up beside the old one. Nearby, a Marie Curie sign leans sadly over a barren patch of land proclaiming, somewhat optimistically, that this is “Lochcarron Field of Hope.”

76 Marie Curie field of hope, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

Despite it’s rural appearance, a lot seems to happen along this road. I pass a small industrial yard. It hosts a wide variety of businesses, a woodworking centre, a motor trader, storage facilities, and Lindy’s Laundry.

77 industrial yard, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

Further along is a golf course. A common site in the southern part of Scotland, I haven’t come across a course for a long time. Red flags flutter cheerfully in the breeze.

78 golf course, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

A new-looking chapel, with a graveyard of old and modern stones.

79 church and graveyard, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

And, at the end of the golf course, there’s an aptly named café – the Tee-Off Café. Closed, of course, since it’s past 5pm.

80 Tee-Off cafe, closed, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

On the right, I pass a tumbledown building, possibly an old chapel, standing among ranks of ancient grave stones. Very atmospheric in the slanting light of the afternoon sun. I stop and take photographs.

81 ruined chapel and graveyard, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

I’m approaching the village of Lochcarron now, and the road hugs the shore of the loch. Speed limit warning signs appear.

82 approaching Lochcarron and speed signs, Ruth's coastal walk

At a bend in the road, I turn and look back up the loch. Love those mountains with their wide, sweeping slopes, and the flat emptiness of the water.

83 view up Loch Carron from the shore, Ruth hiking around the coast of Scotland

A nearby bench provides the opportunity for a self portrait. For once, I’ve been able to shed my coat and walk with bare arms.

84 self-portrait, Ruth hiking to Lochcarron, walking the coast of Scotland

On the other side of the road is a primary school. Figures are painted along the wall of the building. I suppose they are intended to look like cheerful children playing but, when seen through the bars of the fence, they look sinister. Zombie prisoners trying to escape.

85 children on the wall of the school, Lochcarron, Ruth Livingstone

I’ve nearly reached the village now. It’s long and thin, consisting of the main road and a parallel lane, both sandwiched between the loch and the high hills behind. Obviously has some sort of bus service too.

86 bus stop in Lochcarron, Ruth hiking around the coast of Scotland NC500

A bright red truck sits on a patch of flat grass near the shore. ‘Incident Response Unit’. What?

87 incident response unit, Ruth walking the shore of Loch Carron

It seems an incongruous thing to find beside the peaceful loch in a sleepy village. No sign of an incident. Perhaps it’s been dealing with the zombie invasion at the school?

On the corner is a small garage and petrol station.

88 Lochcarron garage, Ruth walking around the coast of Scotland

[Later I learn the garage is very busy, due to the number of vehicles that break down on their way over to Applecross. And it’s the only garage around for miles.]

I pass a rather dilapidated hotel, and the first indication that I am well and truly on the NC500 route. “The 500 T shirts here.”

89 The 500 T Shirts, Ruth walking to Lochcarron, Scotland

I leave the main road, walking up a steep little footpath that links with the minor lane above. It emerges at the campsite where I’m staying.

90 up the hill to the Wee Campsite, Lochcarron, Ruth Livingstone

It’s a small site – endearingly called the Wee Camp Site – and takes not only campervans and small motorhomes, but tents too. The pitches are arranged on terraces, rising above the lane, so that every spot provides a good view over the loch.

91 the electric Beast, Ruth walking to Lochcarron, Scotland

I’m leaving the area tomorrow. Heading home, but not directly, because I’m stopping on the way. I have one piece of unfinished coastline to complete.

Yes, tomorrow I’m heading back to the Glenelg Peninsula. I’m going to find a way through from Totaig to Ardintoul – even if it kills me!

Miles walked today = 12.5 miles
Total around Scotland = 4,359.5 miles



About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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21 Responses to 420pm Strome Ferry to Lochcarron

  1. owdjockey says:

    Hi Ruth, I think the real reason for the covered road and rail sections is to protect from falling rocks, which caused the the road to close on a number of occassions over the years. The militart vehicles are all ex-military as they no longer have the Military Number plates, just the standard Road vehicle plates.

    • Ah, I was wondering about the real risk of avalanches. Rock falls seem far more likely. And I’m glad those military ambulances are no longer in use as military ambulances. They seemed awfully old fashioned!

  2. Karen White says:

    The road walking looks unpleasant and quite dangerous too – though the view from the top is amazing. Strange to see all those ambulances together – maybe some kind of rally for enthusiasts.

  3. JacquieB says:

    Have driven through the avalanche shelter (as it is known locally ) many times and never noticed the decoration before. Remember a very good evening in the Strathcarron hotel some years back.

  4. Robin says:

    I think that the presence of the blue sports car in the carpark means that you should have ventured into the place and had a meal! You never know what might have happened next!
    Robin L.

  5. Hugh says:

    Hi Ruth, suggest you pass your cycle lock through the bike frame as by removing the saddle it could easily be stolen ( or is that what your secretly hoping!)
    PS great to have regular updates again, keep on walking 🙂

  6. We were still following just behind! We visited Attadale two days later, though it was wet by then. The gardens were lovely with an interesting sculpture trail and a nice little do-it-yourself tearoom.

  7. Eunice says:

    More beautiful scenery, I love the view from the top of the first hill after the tunnel 🙂

  8. Chris Elliott says:

    I stayed in your ‘dilapidated’ hotel! – It wasn’t the greatest. Really pleased to hear you went back to Totaig!!!

  9. Jill Shuker says:

    Hello Ruth so lovely to be able to read your adventures in these extreme and extraordinary times. Thank you , photos are beautiful

  10. jcombe says:

    I did this walk today but in two sections. I drove to Strathcarron and parked at the station and then walked to Lochcarron. I’m afraid I used the bridge (actually there were two bridges, one either side of the stepping stones) because after all the recent rain one of the stepping stones was under water. Lochcarron is very beautiful. Sadly the community hub was all closed, as was every cafe you pictured (presumably Covid). Attadale Gardens are open however (but the cafe there is still closed). Then I took the bus back to Strathcarron, drove to Strome Ferry and took the train back to Strathcarron (it was the only way to avoid a long wait for a train due to the infrequent service) and then walked back to Strome Ferry.

    I managed to find a route along the shore from just outside Strathcarron (where I spotted a path over the railway line) to Attadale station. Sadly after that the only access over the railway line went to peoples private houses so no real way to get back onto the shore. I was passed by the Royal Scotsman train (https://www.belmond.com/trains/europe/scotland/belmond-royal-scotsman/) presumably heading for Kyle of Lochalsh at Attadale

    • Shame you couldn’t use the stepping stones. Yes, Lochcarron is a beautiful place, and I do wonder how local businesses have coped with Covid and the shutdown. Must be tough on the local economy. How wonderful to see the Royal Scotsman!

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