[This walk took place on the 12th August 2019]
I spend the morning sheltering from the rain in my van, before driving up from Applecross, and parking at a beautiful viewpoint just south of Cuaig.
Pull on my waterproof trousers and zip up my raincoat. Hop onto Scooty, and sail down the road to the parking spot at Sand, where I hide Scooty in a clearing surrounded by dripping bracken.
By the time I’ve locked the bike up, the rain has stopped. I strip off my waterproof trousers, noting that my trousers are damp – not from rain, but from perspiration. I really HATE wearing waterproofs. You get wet anyway!
Set off back up the road, on foot now. Wow, this hill is steep!
It’s still raining over the mountains across there. A lone sailing boat glides up the coast. I wonder if it is the same one I saw yesterday?
When I reach the brow of the hill, I stop to admire the view over the beach below and to take photographs. This place is called Sands. Such an apt name.
The beach is accessed via a road, which continues down to a group of white buildings set on the Sands peninsula. Now I can see them clearly, they don’t look like holiday cottages after all, as I first assumed. Maybe it’s an outdoor centre? Or a sailing centre?
[It’s not until later – in fact, not until I wrote up this blog – that I discovered from other commentators that the buildings on the Sand peninsula actually belong to the military!]
Hear voices above me, and am surprised to see a family striding along the hillside just above the road. They look rather bedraggled.
I check my map. Oh yes, there is a footpath running along the slope, I remember now. I considered using it. But I decided the road was closer to the sea, and not busy enough with traffic to justify breaking my rule – I must stick as close to the sea as is safe, legal and reasonable.
I’m approaching the turnoff to Sand. The footpath ends here, anyway, and the group come off the slope and onto the road.
They head down towards Sand, and have disappeared by the time I get to the junction. Shame, I was hoping for a chat.
The camp site in Applecross is full of people – but frenetic with coming and going. Most people only stay one night and, because of the midges, there is not much time for outdoor chitchat. It’s been a lonely few days and I long for a conversation.
Onwards. The road undulates up and down.
After such a wet start to the day, the sky is clearing nicely, and I begin to get some terrific views across the water.
There is a steady stream of traffic along the road, and it increases as the weather cheers up. (By steady, I mean some sort of vehicle every 5 minutes or so!)
Look at this odd circle of trees. Obviously planted to enclose something. What? Was there once a cottage here? Or a sheepfold?
A caravan trundles by. I find it hard enough navigating along here in my little campervan (aka The Beast), because the road is narrow and passing places are tricky to negotiate. I don’t know how people cope with larger vehicles.
Anyway, I wouldn’t swap my Beast for anything else.
Onwards. Glad it’s stopped raining, and my trousers have dried off in the breeze. Past waterfalls, and the occasional driveway leading to some half-hidden cottage, this section of road is long and flattish. Easy walking.
Oh, just look at this dramatic waterfall! I stop to take more photographs.
Further along, and I’m overtaken by a stream of motorcyclists. They’re carrying luggage, and are probably doing the NC500 tour.
I spot a sign lying fallen in the grass by the side of the road, and stop to read it. It talks about the North Applecross Woodlands project, and marks the beginning of a footpath which leads into the woodlands, and you can visit a “spectacular waterfall”.
Apparently a number of native trees have been planted here: birch, alder, hazel, rowan and grey willow. In fact, my map shows a woodland at the top of the hill.
I stare up the slope, but can’t see a single tree. Perhaps they’re over the brow of the hill and on the opposite slope? I hope the deer haven’t eaten them all.
Onwards. That must be Londain below. Not exactly a large place. Looks like a small farm and maybe some holiday cottages.
Here’s the turn off to Londain. Hang on. It says Londain on my OS map, but the signpost says Lonbain. It looks as though the ‘b’ is a new addition to the sign, as it is a different kind of typeface to the rest of the letters. Darker and larger.
[On an earlier post, a fellow coastal-walker, Jon, mentioned the two spelling variants of Kalnakill and Callakille. I’m amazed by the continuing flexibility of Scottish place names, and later discover this interesting site: http://www.applecrossplacenames.org.uk/]
Above Lonbain, I meet a fellow walker and we stop for a chat. She is Scottish, on holiday here, and is just out walking her little dog and not going far. She loves the place and comes regularly, but couldn’t live here permanently. We discuss the absence of shops, and the absence of fresh food in the few shops that do exist. She admires my long coastal trek, and says how few walkers she meets along the road.
After this encounter, I feel surprisingly cheerful. It was really good to have a proper conversation with a fellow human being.
Further along, and I spot the perfect holiday cottage. On its own. Overlooking the sea. Just the right size. And what a view.
[A year later, this pretty place turns out to be our Prime Minister’s holiday cottage!]
Onwards, past Lonbain, the road snakes up a rise. I’m beginning to feel unusually tired.
Here’s another pretty cottage. Actually, it’s a proper house. Maybe a farm. What an idyllic setting.
Not all the cottages along here are so beautiful. Take this one, for example. Definitely in need of major renovation. And the neighbouring building is in even worse shape.
In a field below are a herd of Highland Cattle, with a few calves among them. They are some distance away, and the photos I take are blurry.
Earlier today, when I cycled along the road on my Scooty bike, there were several cows on the tarmac, stopping the traffic. Motorists had got out of their vehicles to take photos of them, with several tourists trying to drape their arms around the beasts’ necks. Most of the Highland cows I’ve come across are docile and appear very friendly, but I thought the tourists were pushing their luck.
Anyway, now the road is empty of cows. Shame, because I would like to take a few photos of them, from a reasonably safe distance, of course.
At the top of the next hill is the car park at the viewpoint, and I can just see my beautiful silver Beast, waiting for me.
I cross over another river, and stop to take more photos of the tumbling waters. Allt an t-Srathain. I can hear the roaring of a waterfall, but the falls themselves are not visible from up on the road.
The road continues to rise. A boat – maybe a ferry – is chugging along slowly just off the shore. There are no cows on the road, but a recently-shorn sheep gives me a baleful look.
When I reach the car park, I take more photos of the boat, and the beautiful views. So glad the weather has cheered up. What a difference the sunshine makes!
I’ve only walked just over 5 miles today. My plan, now, is to drive back, pick up my Scooty bike, and drive further along the road to extend my walk. But, I make the mistake of brewing up a cup of tea in my van, and getting out the biscuits, and, after a while, I decide I’ve done enough walking for the day.
Later, when changing out of my walking trousers, I discover a strange red rash in the crease of my groin. Oh, how annoying. It must be chafing, sweat rash from cycling this morning with my waterproof trousers on. Luckily, it doesn’t itch and isn’t sore. I’m sure it will heal up soon.
Miles walked today = 5.5 miles (Really, I’ll never finish the coast at this rate!)
Total around coast = 4,424.5 miles