[This walk was completed on the 6th August 2019.]
When I reach Loch Reraig on my return walk, I don’t retrace my footsteps and follow the footpath signed towards Leacanashie. Instead, I keep going straight along the track, and soon cross over the Reraig Burn via a low bridge.
I stand on the bridge and take a photograph. The burn meanders in lazy curves to join the waters of Loch Reraig. So beautiful.
Further along the track, a couple of lambs are dozing beside the gravel. They leap up when they see me, and scurry to join their mother.
What lovely markings they have. Are they Jacob’s sheep?
The track swings to the right, away from the shore, and heads up the river valley. I pass a few storage buildings, and see a parked white vehicle. This is the same vehicle I saw slowly edging along the upper slopes of the valley earlier. On the side are the words “Reraig Forest” and the silhouette of a roaring stag.
I assume there is an estate called Reraig Forest where stag hunting is allowed. [Later, when I look on my map, most of this area actually belongs to the Forestry Commission.]
A fork in the track would take me higher up the slope. From up there, you might be able to join a path that leads to Achintraid. But, my map shows a mile-wide gap between the end of the Reraig track and the beginning of the Achintraid path, I couldn’t find any description of the walk online, and the route is not designated a Core Path. In addition, there has been recent logging in the area.
For all the above reasons, I decide not to explore this option.
I see so few people on my walks, I’m taken by surprise when a couple of hikers come down the higher track and pass me. They’re walking at a good, serious pace. Manage to snatch a photo of their backs.
Really, I should have asked them if you can get through to Achintraid via that higher route, but by the time I gather my wits, the moment has passed.
Onwards. Soon, the track passes through a deer fence and crosses the Reraig Burn via an ugly concrete bridge.
On the other side of the gate is a sign asking dog owners to keep their dogs on a lead. Apparently a lamb was badly injured by a dog earlier in the spring.
I think of the lambs I met earlier, and how robust they look now. But they have such a fragile start in life.
Through the gate and I reach the V fork in the track. Now I’m back on this morning’s route, and all I have to do is retrace my steps. There should be a footpath off to the left… where is it? Ah, there’s the finger post. Almost hidden in the bracken.
(The finger post is on the far left of the photo above. Easy to miss!)
The start of the path looks very overgrown, but it’s not too bad really. Almost immediately, I have to cross the Reraig Burn. It’s a ford, with no obvious stepping stones, but the water is very shallow, and I wade across without getting my feet wet.
The path rises gently. I’m walking through the Reraig Forest. It’s a strange mix of old conifers, some new springing firs, and established broadleaf trees.
The path widens into a track. I love it when the trees arch my head. These ones have trunks covered in lichen, and the boulders beside the path are covered in cushions of moss. Such a quiet, magical place.
I reach a wire fence. The path becomes a quagmire, and I try to avoid the worst of the mud by edging along the grass above the path.
Once through the gate, I believe I’ve officially left the Reraig Forest, but I’m still surrounded by trees. To my left is another stream.
This can’t be the Reraig Burn, can it? I’ve already crossed over it. Check my map. No, it’s a tributary, called Allt Ribeig.
I realise something else. I’m now definitely in Wester Ross. In fact, “Wester Ross” is written in bold dark letters on my map, just above the path. It’s such an evocative name (to my ears anyway). Foreign and mysterious. Belongs in a fantasy novel.
Onwards. I’m playing tag with the Allt Ribeig. Now, I must cross over it, avoiding the slippery looking rocks and splashing through the shallow water of another ford.
The landscape opens up and I’m walking up a wide slope covered in grass and bracken. There’s a fence on my right, while, to my left, the little stream runs hidden in a shallow valley lined by vegetation. Ahead is an impressive knob of rock.
Uh oh. I have to cross over the stream again. The water is running fast, knee deep, and looks very cold. The bed of the stream is covered in shifting rocks and pebbles.
Luckily, there is a line of stepping stones I can use, but the gaps between them are made for giants. Too wide for my short legs to step across.
I have no choice. I must jump between the stones.
(I crossed this stream earlier, of course. Hiking boots aren’t made for jumping, and I had no idea how slippery the landing site on the next rock would be. The stones were too high for my walking pole to be of any help. Each leap was an act of faith.)
Knowing that I survived the crossing earlier, makes the return experience a little easier. Still, the jumping makes my heart race and my palms turn sweaty. It’s such an isolated area… one slip and I could be in serious trouble.
But I make it across without injury.
Now the stream is on my right, and the path becomes a rocky ledge. Ahead, the lump of rock looms.
I check my map again. The outcrop is called “Blar nan Clachan Mora.” What an exotic sounding name. [Later, I look the words up in a Gaelic dictionary, and I think it means something like Head of Big Rocks.]
No more trees now. I’m climbing steadily up an open slope, and will pass just under the mass of rocks.
Over the brow of the hill… and look at that view. Loch Kishorn. Across the water, the countryside looks wild and high. The snaking road I can see (just to the left of the middle mountain) is the Applecross Pass. Or, to give it its proper name, Bealach na Ba. Pass of the Cattle.
The afternoon is gloomy, and the rain clouds above the mountains make the view look sinister and intimidating. Am I really going to climb over there tomorrow? How tough will it be?
Tomorrow is another day. Onwards. I need to finish this walk.
The path descends into the valley. Sometimes easy walking, sometimes steep. I leave the open country behind and walk through young woodland.
I walked this route the ‘wrong way’ round because descriptions of the route had warned the start from Achintraid was tricky – involving a steep rock and a rope – and I wanted to make sure I could get through by doing the hardest part first.
There actually is a point where you have to slide down a steep rock, and someone has kindly left a rope for support. I used the rope to climb the rock on the way up, but simply slid down (on by behind) on the way back. Sadly, I didn’t take a decent photo of this obstacle – too dark and gloomy.
(In retrospect, the steep rock with the rope isn’t the tricky part of this walk. The most difficult part was crossing over the stepping stones made for giants!)
Beyond the slide, the path is very easy, and I soon join another track.
I catch glimpses of cottages now, hidden in the foliage on either side of the route. I must nearly be at Achintraid. The track is joined by multiple driveways, and widens into a rutted, gravel road.
Soon, I reach the shore of Loch Kishorn, and the tarmac road. The footpath sign points back the way I’ve come, and is unhelpfully vague – if you are a long distance walker. “Woodland Paths” Yes, quite.
I look left along the shore. What a pretty place. The road ends a few hundred yards in that direction, and from there a path leads around through the trees above the shore. (This is the same path that may or may not end up at Reraig.)
I had thought I might follow the road to the end, and walk along the path for a while, but I decide I’m too tired for unnecessary exploring. So, instead, I turn right and follow the road as it curves around towards the top of Loch Kishorn.
Just past the next bend, I come across The Beast. I couldn’t park him at the top of the road as there was no convenient parking space. So I’ve left him here.
It begins to spit with rain. I open up The Beast, and shelter from the rain in the front seat. Well, it’s a good opportunity for a quick snack and a drink.
The shower passes. I jump out of my van, a little reluctantly. It’s tempting to just drive off… but I must finish this walk today. Tomorrow I’m going to be walking up the Applecross pass – a looong and tiring walk – and I don’t want to leave any extra miles to do from today.
Onwards. The road passes over a river – Abhainn Cumhang a Ghlinne. Bit of a mouthful, but it simply means the Narrow River of the Glen.
(I’ve discovered a lot of the more exotic-sounding names in Scotland are, when translated from Scottish Gaelic to English, simple prosaic descriptions. Name places in Welsh were similar.)
I pass a playing field. Among the ordinary goal posts are an unusual pair – too narrow and tall for football. Must be another Shinty pitch.
The skies are dark and threatening rain again. Shame that the dull light spoils photography of this beautiful area. I’ve reached the top of the loch, where the shore is a mass of mud and seaweed. Kishorn Island straddles the entrance to the loch. Beyond, the blue mountains of Skye are lost in a cover of clouds.
The road rises, and curves away from the shore. Ahead is a vista of rain-swept mountains. The bright ribbon of road I saw earlier – the Applecross pass – is now invisible in the gloomy light.
This little village is called Ardarroch. Down on the shore, a group of children are playing on the sand. Even in the dull weather, they’re making the most of the day.
The road rises higher. I’m right at the top of the loch now, and can see where the Kishorn River empties into the sea.
A noise startles me. Look down. A trio of deer are standing in the bracken. They watch my progress along the road, but don’t seem unduly worried.
I guess they’ve become used to human activity, and I wonder what havoc they play in people’s gardens!
A few yards later, and I reach the T junction where my little coast road joins the main A896. This is the end of today’s walk.
My trusty Scooty bike is hidden in the long grasses, leaning drunkenly against a fence post. Always a relief to see him.
It’s an easy ride back down the road, through Ardarroch, across the bridge, into Achintraid, and back to The Beast.
It’s nearly 5pm. Time to move on. This evening, I’m driving The Beast along the long road route (avoiding the high pass) around to Applecross, where I’ve booked a pitch for the next few days.
Miles covered today = 8 miles walking (and a mile on the bike)
Total distance walking around the coast = 4,382 miles
Route (outward option in black, actual return route in red):