426pm Toscaig to Applecross

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

After lunch, I follow the footpath back to the shore of Poll Creadha bay. Joining the road again, I head left towards Rubadubdub – sorry, Aird-Dhubh. On the way, I turn off to visit a slipway, where a not-very-necessary sign warns me my non-existent car might fall into the water.

26 slipway, Ard Dhubh, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

I spend some time around the slipway, taking photos of the boats in Poll Creadha, and the crab (or lobster) pots stacked on the bank.

Back on the road, I enter one of those can’t-be-bothered moods, where I again wonder what I’m doing strolling aimlessly around the bottom of the Applecross peninsula, when I could have finished it by now.

Ah, here’s a convex mirror. Time for another self-portrait.

27 second self-portrait, road to Aird Dhubh, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

Aird-Dhubh is a largish hamlet. I’m not sure how many people live here permanently, or if the cottages are mainly holiday homes? Cars are parked in some of the driveways, but there’s a deserted feel to it all.

28 Aird Dhubh, Ruth hiking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

I confess, I don’t go to the end of the road – another dead-end – but turn round at this point, and head back. A runner overtakes me. 

29 Scottish runner, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

Well, one thing I know for certain, I would much rather be walking than running. Much rather! 

Marching back, past the slipway, I soon reach the end of the road, and join the ‘main’ road at the top of Poll Creadha bay. It passes over a river via a bridge. 

30 back on the road to Camusterrach, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

I check my map – but the river has no name.

The road leads straight to Applecross now, and my mood lifts. It’s been a lovely day of walking so far, and the next few miles should be easy road-walking.

31 road back to Applecross from Ard Dhubh, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

A couple of cyclists overtake me on a hill. As usual, the man is leading, and the woman is puffing away behind him. Another thing I know for sure, I would much rather be walking than cycling. Much rather! 

32 cyclists on the hill, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

In fact, I cycled up here the day before yesterday, on my way back from my walk out to Airigh-drishaig. Luckily, thanks to my electric Scooty bike, I almost whizzed up this same hill!

At the top of a hill is a picnic spot, with a new-looking bench. It would be tempting to sit down and admire the view over Aird-Dhubh, but a couple have beaten me to it.

33 view over Ard Dhubh, Ruth hiking along the coast of Scotland, Applecross

Down the other side of the hill, and the road is sandwiched between a rocky cliff and the sea. Ahead is the hamlet of Camusterrach.

34 road around Poll Creadha, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

Camusterrach is a collection of white-painted cottages, spread out along the road, with a side road leading down to more cottages at the water’s edge. 

35 walking through Camusterrach, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

Again, I’m not sure how lived-in this place is, or whether the buildings are mainly holiday lets. I pass a Free Church of Scotland, and then the Applecross Village Primary School. A sign by the school says ‘Eggs for sale”…

Applecross School, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

… and a large plastic box on the wall (behind the sign) contains the eggs and, I presume, an honesty box. 

eggs

Wonder if the chickens that laid the eggs belong to the school?

Actually, I’m surprised to find the school is situated out here, because I’m still a couple of miles out of Applecross itself. [Later, I realise the name ‘Applecross’ applies to the whole area, and not just to the collection of buildings known as Applecross on the map.]

At the school, the road divides into an inland route, and a coastal route. Of course, I take the coastal route, and pass through an area called Camustiel, where more white cottages line the shore. 

36 road through Camustiel, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

Further along, I come to the village shop, and pop in to buy a few things for tea. They are out of milk, and don’t have much of a selection, but I buy some ham, cheese, and bread for sandwiches.

37 Applecross shop, Ruth hiking the coast of Scoltand

Just beyond the shop, the two roads converge into one. Here I meet a lone walker. We have a brief conversation, because he is in a hurry to reach the shop, but tells me he is  ‘wild’ camping by the edge of Applecross Bay.

38 shopper looking for milk, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

Only after he has disappeared, do I realise that he mentioned buying milk at the shop. There isn’t any left. I should have warned him. Too late now!

Just before Applecross, the road passes round the edge of an inland lake. Loch a Mhuilinn. By this time, it has started to drizzle, and the view over the far side of Applecross Bay is blanked by rainclouds.

39 view over pond to Milton, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

I put my head down and march around the loch. I’m sure in sunnier weather I would stop to take lots of photographs, but the rain forces me to make rapid progress.

On the other side of the loch, I reach Milton (according to my map) or Milltown (according to the road sign). 

40 Milltown, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

Milltown is just a collection of buildings, some very much worse for wear. Luckily, just beyond the buildings, the rain stops, and I enjoy a rain-free stroll into Applecross.

41 walking into Applecross, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Wester Ross

The Applecross street is, as usual, bustling with people and traffic. There are cars parked in every possible space, and motorcyclists roam the street. 

42 busy Applecross street, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland

The reason for all this activity? Well, it’s mainly due to the tourist traffic generated by the NC500 route. Applecross provides the only pub for miles around – The Applecross Inn. 

43 Applecross Inn, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland

(While planning this trip, I tried to book a room here for a night – to give me some respite from camper-van living – but the place was fully booked for months in advance. And quite expensive too, for a single person.)

Because the place is so popular, there is a spill-out bar outside, housed in a shiny silver van. You can eat and drink in the marque overlooking the sea.

44 Applecross Inside Out van, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland

[I did buy food and drink here on one of the nights I stayed, but the midges made it impossible to enjoy the marquee experience!]

Past the Applecross Inn is another reason for the area’s popularity. It has a 24 hr, unmanned, community petrol station. The sign outside asks visitors to use the pumps, as a way of supporting the local service. 

Applecross petrol station

Opposite the pumps is a newish-looking building, The Junction, a cafe/bistro. I’m eating here tonight (again) as they don’t usually require a reservation if you arrive early enough, and it’s less frenetic than the Applecross Inn. 

45 The Junction, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

I continue down the road, ignoring the turn off to the pass and my campsite. It’s early yet, I’m not tired, and I can go a bit further.

46 road around Applecross Bay, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

I find a suitable spot where I can leave my bike tomorrow, and notice a signpost for a footpath that runs above the road. Good, I can follow this back to the campsite.

47 footpath above the road, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, Applecross

A nearby plaque explains the legend of the four trees of Applecross.

Four sweet-chestnut trees once stood here, and might mark the place where two competitors had a race to lay claim to Applecross. The winner, apparently, cut off his arm (or hand) and threw it ahead to secure his claim. The trees were planted to commemorate this unlikely event.

48 four trees of Applecross, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland

The legend seems completely ridiculous, but the trees were revered and preserved, until they eventually died and rotted away. 

The plaque doesn’t mention it, but it appears four new trees have been planted here, protected from deer by four little wooden palisades. 

49 The 4 trees planted at Applecross, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

I had noticed some wonderful trees when I entered Applecross after walking over the Bealach Na Ba pass. But it wasn’t the tiny new trees I noticed, nor the apple trees that I expected to find, but these magnificent ones standing on the ridge above me now.

50 Applecross trees, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland

With their pale park, and spreading canopies, these trees are truly gorgeous. I have no idea what they are, but for me they are one of the most beautiful things about Applecross.


Miles walked today = 11, but many of these in the wrong direction!

Total distance around coast = 4,415 miles

Route (morning in black, afternoon in red) :

About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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18 Responses to 426pm Toscaig to Applecross

  1. tonyhunt2016 says:

    So difficult covering all the options walking the Scottish coast, and you’ve been very assiduous. The Applecross Inn, and especially the atmosphere inside on a rainy, windswept day, was probably the high-point of our last tour of Scotland!

    • Hi Tony, yes, I was a bit obsessional about covering as much coast as I could on this particular trip. It was worth it – because so beautiful. You might find the Applecross Inn experience quite different now. So many people in touring vans and bikes!

  2. owdjockey says:

    Hi ruth, I bought a fish supper from the Airstream outside the inn. Expensive and tasteless. I reckon the trees u like are Eucalyptus. They pop up all over Scotland having been introduced by the Victorians
    Writing this in Cupar in Fife after a long day walking from Monifieth to Guardbridge. Most of it in the rain!

    • jcombe says:

      Yes having been turned away from the pub myself I tried to use that AIrstream place but they only had a choice of I think two varieties of fish and chips. Not being keen on fish myself I was hoping they might do pie and chips or sausage and chips, but sadly no. So I just had to have chips which as you say are expensive.

    • Hi Alan, I had fish and chips there too, but ate it so quickly (because of the midges) that I didn’t really appreciate the taste! Yes, those trees are probably Eucalyptus. Sad that they are a foreign import, but they really are very striking. Well done on your recent walk, and shame about the rain.

  3. jcombe says:

    Applecross is a lovely spot isn’t it? That sheltered bay backed with trees is very pretty.

    I did this walk myself only a little over a week ago. I had already walked from Applecross to the seemingly un-named sandy beach to the north (and cycled the same way in the other direction) in the morning.

    Although I’d bough a sandwich and other food for lunch it was a lovely sunny day and I decided it would be nice to have lunch at the pub (the Applecross Inn). However presumably due to all this Covid stuff you’re not allowed to just go into the pub any more, they had people in high-vis jackets standing outside. They’d set up an outdoor seating area under a gazebo outside and I spotted only 2 of the seats (out of around 10) were occupied. So I asked if they were serving food only to get the response “you have to book online, it’s reservations only”. In fact I was told you can’t even go there for a drink unless you have booked a table in advance! However there is no mobile signal there – so if you are already in Applecross how are you supposed to book online? I asked if they could “book” me in now but was then told they were “fully booked”. I pointed to the mostly empty tables outside (it was around 1:30pm at this time so I thought unlikely to suddenly fill up) and was then told they were “short staffed”. I gave up at that point, it was clear they didn’t want to serve me despite seeming to have plenty of space. I just thought it bizarre to go “online reservations only” in an area with no mobile signal. I did not think it was at all a friendly place. They also kept most of the inside tables for hotel guests. I certainly got the feeling it was a locals place that was not welcoming to visitors that weren’t staying there.

    Sadly “The Junction” was also only open for takeaway you cannot sit inside now (at all). Eating in Scotland is such a pain at the moment given everywhere now seems to insist on a reservation since it’s quite difficult to plan a walk with such precision to arrive at exactly you reserved time.

    So I ate my lunch on the beach instead, left the bike in Applecross, drove down to Toscaig and then walked back. As I’d already walked in the morning I decided not to take in any of the dead-end roads and paths you did. In hindsight I regret that as it looked like I missed some beautiful places.

    When I’d finished the walk I then had to cycle back – without any electrical assistance, though I did end up walking up most of the hills – too steep!

    I tried to sit at that bench you photographed but quickly got surrounded by midges and had to give up with it.

    As you probably know already the village on the map as Applecross is technically Shore Street (and as you say the peninsula itself is Applecros). I’m afraid I didn’t bother with the shop either since you have to queue for that now and there were already several people waiting. Like I say eating in Scotland is such a pain now!

    A shame about the weather I was very lucky to have perfect conditions on this day with continuous sunshine.

    I did try to use that petrol station but just as I got there someone else was trying to use it towing a caravan! They were in the process of trying to unhook the caravan to get to the petrol pump, but had blocked the access in doing so and I couldn’t be bothered to wait so I gave up. A shame really as those places are a godsend (There is another of those self-service pumps in Durness near Cape Wrath which I used a number of times as otherwise I think you have to go all the way to Ullapool or Thurso!).

    • jcombe says:

      Oh I meant to add here are my pictures of the walk if of interest : https://www.flickr.com/photos/joncombe/albums/72157715557544872/with/50246225307/

      It does not look like much has changed in (almost exactly) 1 year!

      • Your photos are lovely Jon. You clearly had better weather than I did. The midges are a real pain, aren’t they. Must say, I couldn’t live up there, even though it is beautiful. The winters must be horrendous and dark, and then when you get warmer days… out come the midges!
        Even before COVID, I found it really difficult to find places to eat out in this part of Scotland. Many pubs on the map no longer exist. Those that do have irregular and inconvenient opening hours. And the tourist crowds mean you usually have to book in advance, which I rarely do since I’m not that organised!
        I was glad to discover those pumps too, because I was thinking I might have to drive all the way back to Lochcarron to fill up.

      • 5000milewalk says:

        For the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about when I get to Scotland. It’s just 10 walks away now (8 after this weekend) and I’m having doubts. The whole Covid-caused situation there worries me, and my ability to cope mentally in the more deserted parts (not Covid itself of course since I’ve already dealt with that! 😁). I’ve been thinking about missing out Scotland for the time being, and heading over to Berwick and continuing clockwise. Then doing Scotland after I get all the way round to Liverpool where I started, in a few years time, when Covid has gone away and I’m more mentally prepared for the loneliness and remoteness of it. The only thing is it feels “wrong” doing that, missing such a big section out. But I just don’t feel like I’m ready for it.

        One big disadvantage of doing that would be I wouldn’t have your write-ups for a while to guide me Ruth! Anyway, what do you guys think?

        • Go with your gut feelings Paul.There are no rules. walking south from Berwick is delightful and more logical in the present circumstances. Scotland will be there forever.
          I once drove up to Crianlarich for a weeks Munroing, I had strange doubts at the back of my mind so I drove straight back and went into work the next day. No regrets.
          Excuse me butting into your comments Ruth, Sir Hugh had already blackened my name, ex GP, on a recent comment.

        • jcombe says:

          I hope you don’t mind me giving my opinion, but really only you can make that call! I did most of England first before I went on to Scotland if that helps but then I hadn’t really done most of the coast “in order” anyway, it was more putting of the bits furthest from home off until later. When I did start I started in Fife, knowing it has a good coast path as a more gentle introduction.

          Midges and accommodation are only really a problem as you get further north (midges perhaps in the Highlands, not really sure when they start being a problem) so I don’t think you need worry too much about that just yet if nothing else I doubt you’ll have problems finding accommodation in the bigger towns and cities (e.g. Dumfries, Kilmarnock, Glasgow, for example) though it might mean further to travel.Ticks can be encountered anywhere, not specific to Scotland.

          I think it’s worth considering that the Scottish border is only really a line on a map. Things don’t suddenly change dramatically once you have crossed it. The main change being most footpaths (other than long-distance trails) are not properly marked on the OS Maps (in practice most are marked as the grey dotted “path” or grey double dashed “track”). However the first county, Dumfries and Galloway has good online map of paths, overlaid onto the OS maps (see https://info.dumgal.gov.uk/mapviewers/pathsmap.aspx which shows the paths that exist there, Ruth put me onto that). Maintenance of paths in Scotland tends to be more variable than in England. Some are excellent. Others are really just a sign post at either end and no visible path at all! But remember, there is a right to roam in Scotland.

          Crossing the Solway Firth I don’t think you’ll initially notice much difference. There are some sizeable towns about (Gretna, Anna, Dumfries) so it is far from deserted. Of course it does get more remote (often much more remote) as you get further north. Due to the lack of the paths walking in Scotland you’ll spend a fair bit of time on roads and even the quietest roads will typically have some traffic. Scottish drivers are also quite prone to stopping and ask if you want a lift, especially if the weather is poor and if you are somewhere remote – even with this Covid stuff that still happened to me a few times on my most recent trip if you are worried and that was without asking. I imagine far more would stop if you stick your thumb out or look forlornly at them!. On main roads in south west Scotland buses are still fairly plentiful (again, not as you get north) if you want to bail out.

          The west coast is much more remote (and harder) than the East Coast I can say that for sure but I don’t think you get anywhere really remote until you are north of Glasgow really (depending where you cross). There is a good coast path around Ayrshire (and again some large towns).

          I can certainly relate to your feelings. Going up the East Coast of Scotland I can certainly remember feelings of apprehension at times but going up the East Coast I was never usually that far from civilization so it wasn’t mostly as remote as I had thought.

          It was really when I reached the north coast and got to about Melvich I started to feel it was getting serious. I do remember seeing the landscape change from fields etc to largely deserted open moorland, lochs and lochans etc and realizing how remote it had become. I think when it hit me was waiting for a bus in Melvich at the end of my walk and I think there was only 1 bus per day. There was no mobile signal and the shop had closed for the day and I did wonder what I’d do if the bus doesn’t turn up (but it did … and I think there was a pub). This continued as I reached more remote place with not even buses and only minor roads. However as I made progress and had no issues, those feelings largely went away. There are still some areas I worry about (Cape Wrath was one and another is Knoydart, which I’m now quite close to), but it’s not as daunting as it was.

          At the present time with all this Covid stuff, eating in Scotland is a problem. Track and Trace (or Track and Protect, as they call it), is mandatory there so you have to provide contact details at any pub, cafe or restaurant. Some have taken this to the point you have to book in advance and at a specific time (a problem if you don’t know how long it will take to finish a walk) so you can’t just walk in to a pub there any more in general. However Takeaways don’t have this restriction and are quite plentiful so that is an option for food and most towns and villages will have a food shop so you can get food from there if you don’t mind not having hot food. Worth carrying some cash as not everywhere (especially takeaways) takes cards (and also remember the notes in Scotland are different, English notes are accepted there and the reverse is also true, but you do tend to get problems in some shops spending Scottish notes in England, but not the other way around).

          I have only covered the west coast of Scotland from Cape Wrath down to the end of the Applecross peninsula when going south but I’ve also done a bit of the south west, from the border to Kirkcudbright and most of Ayrshire but Ruth is better placed to tell you what the rest of the west coast is like..

          But as I say only you can really make the call. If you move over to Northumberland, it is stunning, there is a good coast path most of the way (though I think it runs out near Blyth) and lots of nice beaches and castles. I have written up my walks along that side if it helps you. Anyway good luck with whatever you choose.

  4. Chris Elliott says:

    When I walked through Applecross I happened to coincide with the Highland Games. The place was heaving. I got a pitch in the camp site for the night of the games but as I booked so far in advance I stayed in the Inn for two nights afterwards. As a treat it was lovely. Further to what John says above I believe the village of what Sassenachs call Applecross is actually just called ‘The Street’ by locals although as John says formally Shore Street. You’re right – the whole area is what is called Applecross. Did you ever discover the Applecross Gallery? There is a young chap on the high road to Toscaig that sells and takes the most wonderful photographs. Well worth a visit if you ever go back. I spent an hour in his gallery admiring his work and having a free coffee!

    • Hi Chris. I spent many nights at the campsite because, with all my little diversionary walks I spent far longer in Applecross than I anticipated. The site only has a few pitches with electric hook-ups, which I needed to charge my bike, so I was constantly in a state of anxiety as I tried to extend my stay using the online booking service and their very dodgy wifi! Would loved to have stayed at the Inn, but it was not possible. I did see the signs to the gallery, and the offer of a free coffee was still there, but I didn’t go in. Now I wish I had!

  5. Karen White says:

    Ruth, I absolutely agree with you about runners, whenever I see someone puffing along in the village when I am out walking I just think “Why?” I also think the legend of the Applecross trees is highly unlikely!

    • Hi Karen. I confess I trained to do a Park Run a couple of years ago, using the NHS Couch to 5 app. Sarah Millican was my ‘tutor’ on the app, and she made me laugh. But, as I puffed my way through the sessions, it dawned on me that she (Sarah) has probably never run 5 Km in her life! Anyway, I did run the Park Run with my daughters – it was a surprise for them. Needless to say, I came last. Glad I did it, but a not-to-be-repeated experience 😀

  6. I can understand your reluctance to leave Applecross although it sounds as though it is a lot busier than when I was last there: probably over thirty years ago! Can’t remember exactly the date without some research.

  7. 5000milewalk says:

    Lovely write-up Ruth. I’m enjoying your writings around this area 😊

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