426am Toscaig to Applecross

[This walk was completed on the 10th August 2019]

I drive from the Applecross campsite down to Loch Toscaig, and the pier at the end of the road. The pier is somewhat underwhelming, as it is, basically, a large car park!

The man in the only other vehicle is a fisherman, and is just setting up his lines. I ask him if he is going to catch his supper, but he tells me he throws all the fish he catches back in the sea. He has driven 2 hours to get here. 

I don’t understand fishing.

Yesterday it rained all day, and I spent the whole day sheltering in The Beast, only venturing out to extend my booking at the camp site, and to head down to the main street for a meal. Today is dull, with low clouds and a damp feel to the air, and I wonder why I’m doing this…

I turn my back on the pier, and head up the road, which curves around the muddy shore at the top of Loch Toscaig.

A family on bikes come past me. They reach the pier, turn around, and come back.

I pass the turn off to Upper Toscaig (where I walked the day before yesterday) and keep going up the road. Despite the dull light, the scenery is really beautiful.

I soon reach a little bridge, and the turnoff to a place called Aird Dhubh, a name that gets me reciting “Rub a dub dub, three men in a tub…” in my head. 

05 turnoff to Ard Dhubh, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

The road to Aird Dhubh snakes around the edge of a small bay called Poll Domhain. It’s very pretty, with small boats moored in the water, and golden seaweed lining the shore.

06 view over Poll Creadha to Camusterrach, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

I only wish the light was better, as my photographs are dull, and don’t do the place justice.

A short distance along the road, and I come to a footpath branching off to the left. The signpost points to Coille Ghille and Ardbain, places with flexible spellings, as the signpost also gives the Gaelic spellings of Coille Ghillie and An Aird Bhan, while my OS map simply runs the words into one and offers Coillegillie and Ardban.

07 beginning of path to Coillegillie, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

Anyway, I’m leaving the road to go and explore these places. They’re not really part of my walk, if I strictly follow my own rules, but it’s a good excuse to spend longer on the Applecross peninsula.

The path is well trodden, and heads over a small rise, before descending into a valley, where it crosses a little river via a wooden bridge.

08 footbridge over burn on way to Coille Gillie, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

Just past the footbridge, I meet a couple of walkers coming towards me, and snap a photo of their backs.

09 fellow walker, path to Coille Gillie, Ruth hiking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

Emerging from the trees, the path goes over a ridge of higher ground, giving me a great view down to the sea, where a peninsula juts a finger out into the water. Sitting on that piece of land is Ardban.

10 Ardban from the path, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

Here’s the footpath to Ardban, but I’m not heading there yet. Instead, I’m carrying straight on to Coillegillie.

11 turnoff to Ardban, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

Near the signpost, a polite little sign warns dog owners to keep their animals on a leash. It’s horribly sad to think of lambs getting mauled, but dogs do need the freedom to run off the lead too. Most of this countryside is open land, possibly common grazing, with no fences to protect the sheep. 

12 dogs on leash sign, Ard Ban, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

Onwards. The path passes through an area of young woodland…

13 through woodland to Collie Billie, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

… before emerging onto an open hillside, covered in the usual bracken. There’s the sea ahead, with a couple of dinghies bobbing on the water, and with a few scattered cottages on the shore. This must be Coillegillie.

14 down to Colliegillie, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

With no road access, I’m not expecting to find much here. In fact, most of the cottages are in ruins, although some seem to be occupied, although I’m not sure if they’re holiday lets or function simply as beach huts.

15 ruined cottages, Colliegillie, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

Guess the dinghies in the bay provide the easiest mode of transport to get here.

I walk past the ruined cottages, and find a perch on the rocky cliff. Time for a drink and a snack. What a view. Shame about the clouds.

16 rocky shore, Colliegillie, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

I watch one of the dinghy’s leave the bay. Wonder where it’s going?

Now it’s time to retrace my steps. On the way back up the hill, I pass another group of walkers heading down into Coillegillie. On my last walk I met nobody, but this seems a popular walking route.

17 more walkers at Collie Gillie, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

I reach the signpost and the footpath leading to Ardban. From this spot, I have a great view over Poll Domhain. Love the little tidal island sticking up. With the sprig of vegetation on top, it looks like a Christmas pudding.

18 christmas pudding island, Poll Domhain, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

I pull my map out to check the name, but the island doesn’t feature. Oh well, I’ll call it the Christmas Pudding Island.

The path leads around the edge of the bay, and I stop to take more photographs. The water is very clear. On a sunny day, Poll Domhain would probably look bright blue or green.

19 Poll Domhain, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

I reach the tip of the peninsula, where Ardban sits. It consists of a couple of cottages, and a farm, surrounded by fields of sheep.

20 Ardban, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

On the other side of the peninsula is something unexpected. A lovely curve of white-sand beach!

21 beach at ArdBan, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

I climb onto higher land at the end of the beach, and take photographs of the view. What a beautiful spot.

22 picnic spot, beach at Ard Ban, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

Down on the shore, a couple begin slowly making their way along the sand. The man is middle aged, and the woman is elderly – possibly his mother. She makes her way slowly, painfully, with the aid of two walking sticks.

23 elderly walker, beach at Ardban, Ruth hiking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

I set up my camera for a self portrait. The camera tilts while the timer is ticking, and the resulting photo is very skewwhiff, while I laugh at the crazy angle. 

24 self-portrait, Ard Ban beach, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

[With the aid of modern technology, I put this right before posting the photo up here!] 

By the time I’ve finished taking my portrait, and have opened up my rucksack to take my picnic out, the elderly lady has found a spot to sit on a rock below.

25 another lady walker, Ard Ban, Ruth hiking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

I eat my lunch, and wonder if I’ll ever finish this coastal walk before I, too, become really old and doddery. 

[To be continued…]

Route so far:

About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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19 Responses to 426am Toscaig to Applecross

  1. jcombe says:

    I just stuck to the road from Toscaig to Applecross and feel like I missed out not exploring these paths and beaches now.

    The pier at Toscaig is large because before the coast road around the peninsula was opened (in the 1970s) the only road to Applecross is the Applecross pass, which is impassible in wintry conditions, leaving Applecross cut off for much of the winter. As a result a ferry used to run from Toscaig (not sure where too, though) to connect the peninsula with the rest of the world when the Applecross pass is blocked. I must admit such a service would be useful now given how long it takes to drive from Toscaig to anywhere else!

    • jcombe says:

      I did a bit more research the ferry from Toscaig used to run to Kyle of Lochalsh (there is even a photo of it here : https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/389901). It would have been very useful to me as I was staying in Kyle of Lochalsh when I did this walk and it’s now a very long (and quite demanding) drive!

      As to the place names I noticed that a lot seem to differ, though I think some are just wrong on the OS maps. The printed OS map of this area seems to be particularly poor. For example mine shows “Kalnakill” but the street sign showed “Callakille” for the same place. However that seems to be different online with the street-name spelling now used on the OS Map. Mine also shows a large area of woodland east of Cuaig and south west of Fearnbeg that doesn’t actually exist (and again is no longer shown as woodland online). My printed map is quite recent and says “Revised July 2007, reprinted with new cover, September 2015”, so would be curious to know if yours shows the same errors.

      • Wow, what interesting information about the ferry, and it explains the ridiculously large pier in the middle of nowhere. Love the old photo too. Thank you for the link. My version of the OS map is the same as yours, with the old spelling of Kalnakill. The woodland must have been harvested sometime in the past, but now seems to be part of a new woodland planting scheme. There were signs up about it, although I didn’t see many actual trees! Scotland is quietly going about replanting natural forests, which is great to see.

        • jcombe says:

          OK I’m glad it’s not just my version of the map that’s littered with errors then! I actually followed a signed path I saw a signpost for beside the road from Arinacrinachd to Cuaig and then walked back on the road, so as to make a circular walk. The path wasn’t marked at all on the OS map so I got very confused when the map showed I was supposed to be surrounded by trees, but with no trees around me at all (all open land) or evidence there ever had been (at least not for a very long time). Fortunately the path was well marked with wooden post and cairns. That and the confusion with the place names nearly all of which seem to be spelt differently on the map compared with the road signs (which you clearly spotted too!) left me a bit frustrated with the quality of that OS map.

          • 5000milewalk says:

            I was just wondering if that ghost woodland is one of the OS’s little tricks to spot illegal copies of their maps? I guess a woodland is a bad choice for that though since they’re likely to come and go….

      • Sheila Capewell says:

        Many years ago when I used to spend every holiday at my Granny’s house on Shore Street, Applecross the post and newspapers used to arrive on the ferry from Kyle to Toscaig. The ferry met the train from Inverness in Kyle every day so it would also bring passengers too. I think it stopped running when the coast road was built. From then a mail bus met the train from Inverness at Strathcarron. That bus met another bus at Kenmore I think. I once travelled to Applecross from Stoke-on-Trent catching a train in Crewe to Inverness, a train from there heading for Kyle but we got off at Strathcarron and made the hair-raising journey round the coast on the mail bus.

        • Thank you for sharing this memory Sheila, it’s sad that all the little ferries seem to have disappeared, and the mail bus no longer runs either! There is a little bus that does run from Strathcarron to Applecross (which I caught) but it only runs on certain days and it stopped running during Covid, I’m not sure if it’s restated. But I guess the isolation is what makes Applecross such a magical place. Best wishes.

  2. Brian Williamson says:

    Thanks for the post, Ruth. Just managed me and tent on Lizard Cornwall for four nights (because of COVID nonsense).
    Mr Williamson

  3. Eunice says:

    I don’t understand fishing either Ruth – to me it’s pointless, time wasting and cruel 😦 Love the view of Poll Domhain with the boats and the idea of Christmas Pudding Island 🙂

    • I confess I did a lot of fishing when I was a child and we lived in the Bahamas. Hook on the end of a line off the rocks, or off a little pier if we could find one. Never caught anything!

  4. John Bainbridge says:

    Hope you can get back up there soon. JB

  5. Jane and Brian Thomas says:

    Hi Ruh.. Jane and Brian here from Pen Llyn, just wishing you well and so so impressed still at your endeavor. Just one question; as a way of whiling away those hours is there some merit in researching some of the names of the places that you pass through? or is there a ready source available provided by the Scottish/Highlands tourist boards?.You’re looking a long way away from being an old and doddery walker. You are an inspiration .. end of. Keep it up.

    • Hi Jane and Brian, thank you so much for taking the time to comment, and for your kind words. Scottish names can sound really interesting and I sometimes look up the Gaelic translations, which often turn out to be practical names like The Big Red Rock. (I think Welsh place names are similar – and I’m thinking of Llanfairpg….gogogoch!)

  6. Karen White says:

    Christmas Pudding Island is delightful, it couldn’t be called anything else! It’s hard to believe that it’s already a year since you did this walk. I do hope you can get back up there soon.

  7. Chris Elliott says:

    Tut tut. Of course you’ll finish it. The east coast of Scotland has a footpath the whole way. You’ll zoom down it. It took me 66 days to do the east coast / 15 days to do the north and 158 to do the west!!! Once you’re in Tongue it’s a breeze. You’re almost there!!! And you’ve got the best scenery to come. Sandwood Bay is majestic. Don’t get depressed. We all have our dispiriting days. You’ve come so far and have some wonderful things coming up which you will really enjoy.

    • Hi Chris, how wonderfully reassuring. Everybody says the same, so I hope it’s true. Without the COVID restrictions, I was hoping to reach Cape Wrath this year… oh, well, maybe next year.

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