[This walk was completed on the 11th August 2019]
I am determined to cover a good distance today, and make up for some of the ‘wasted walking’ I’ve been doing along dead-end paths at the bottom of the Applecross peninsula.
But, the narrow, twisty single-track road along the coast is hard to navigate. When I pull into a car park, believing I have travelled miles, I discover I’m only half way to my intended destination.
Decide I’ll do the walk in two sections, and set off cycling back the way I’ve come. Leave my Scooty bike beside one of the newly planted trees along the shore road in Applecross.
Time to begin the first part of today’s walk.
Applecross Bay is a wide semicircle of brown sands, ringed by the tree-lined shore and the dark-green mass of surrounding hills.
I can understand why people travel here to enjoy the place, and why it is such a popular stopping-off point on the NC500. Although most of the overnight campers have moved on, there is still a smattering of tents on the green sward in front of the beach.
The tide is out, and the distant views are obscured by mist, but it is still very beautiful. I stop to take numerous photographs.
I wonder what the locals think to all the campers? This van, for example, has an awning attached and it looks like these visitors will be here for more than one night.
There are public toilets near the Inn in Applecross, with a sign declaring the toilets are free. I wonder what all these ‘wild’ campers do with all their waste. Do they use the toilets? Or do they (like me) have a trowel for digging holes? Or do they just leave deposits on the shore?
Yuck. I really don’t want to think about it.
Near the end of the beach, the Applecross River empties itself across the sands, leaving multiple trails of running water. I stop for more photos. Shame about the haze. Is that Skye in the distance?
The road swings away from the shore, temporarily, and heads up the river towards the bridge. I pass yet another van, parked beside what was probably another impromptu camping spot.
Off to the right is Applecross House, with a Walled Garden which is open to the public, and an attached restaurant. I plan to eat there tonight.
The bridge over the Applecross River is not the prettiest bridge – solid and functional – but I guess it serves its purpose.
Past the bridge, the road runs along the shore again, and starts to rise. Here, I come across a stone with a plaque attached. At first, I think it’s a war memorial but, on closer inspection, it turns out to have been placed as a dedication to the opening of the coast road.
I’m surprised to learn that this 14 mile stretch of road, running from Applecross to Shieldaig, was only opened in 1976. The opening was done by the Queen’s younger sister, Princess Margaret. Back in 1976, I was still a medical student, and Princess Margaret was a glamourous, chain-smoking, heavy-drinking lady in her forties.
What did they do before this road existed? All travel must have been over the notorious pass – the Bealach na Ba – or by sea. What an isolated place Applecross must have seemed in those days.
Further along, and here is another memorial stone. This one is a proper war memorial.
The road climbs higher and begins to swing northwards, away from Applecross Bay.
I stop to take more photographs, looking back across the beach. Beyond, in the distance, dark clouds curl over the mountains where the Bealach na Ba pass lies.
When I walked over the pass a few days ago, there was nothing to be seen because of thick mist. I was hoping for a few clear days, and wondering whether I could risk taking The Beast for a ride up to the top, just to see the views.
No point going today. There would be no views to be seen.
Onwards. The road is flanked by rocky cliffs on one side, and a steep slope down to the sea on the other. It is dramatic scenery, and I really enjoy this section, although I have to keep a constant ear open for traffic.
There is some sort of industrial yard built into the side of the cliff. At first I think it might be the remains of a small quarry…
… but a tumbling waterfall nearby leads me to think it is something to do with water.
Of course, it might be just some sort of storage area. I don’t know, and there are no obvious signs to inform me.
The water is channelled under the road, and hurtles down the slope on the other side. It’s frothy race is in stark contrast to the serene calmness of the sea beneath.
Swinging further around the point, the road is heading north now. Out of the shelter of the bay, the breeze has picked up – good, no midges – and a few white-sailed boats are out in the sea. Wonder where they are going?
The cliffs flatten out, and the road gently undulates along, keeping high above the water. Looking ahead, I can see a cluster of houses on a finger of land.
I don’t need to pull out my map, I already know that I’m looking at a place called, somewhat unimaginatively, Sand.
The road passes over another waterfall. Look at that beautiful view. Although my OS map doesn’t reach that far, I think that is definitely the Isle of Skye.
Over the brow of a rise, and I can see the car park ahead, where The Beast is waiting for me. Nearly there.
One more waterfall to cross over. Ah, so many beautiful falls along this road, all unnoticed by the passing motorists. In England, people would flock to places like this.
When I reach my lovely Beast, I decide to brew up a cup of tea, before returning to pick up my Scooty bike and complete the second part of today’s walk.
Sitting on the doorsill of the van, I feel a contented lethargy settle over my body. Soon, I’m conducting an internal argument with myself, while sipping my tea and admiring the view.
‘You’re on the the right road now. Only 14 miles from Applecross to Sheldaig, and you can finish this today.’ My ambitious voice is impatient. ‘Come on. You can do it.’
‘Yes,’ my lazy voice replies. ‘But what’s the rush? Look at that view! And I’ve just remembered there’s a packet of chocolate biscuits hidden somewhere in the van.’
No, I don’t do any more walking today.
Miles walked today = 4 miles (and 4 miles cycled)
Total around coast = 4,419 miles