[This walk was completed on the 13th August, 2019]
This morning, I park my van (The Beast) near the hamlet of Kenmore, and cycle back to the Cuaig viewpoint, where I stow my Scooty bike behind a boulder. Looking ahead at the road, I can see it leaves the shoreline and heads northwards in a series of swinging curves.
Shame about the haze, which obscures the distance and makes my photography dull. Oh well, as long as it doesn’t rain, I’ll be happy.
Onwards. The first place I will come to is Cuaig. Is that it? Just one house?
The road rises and I come over the brow of a hill. There’s only a little traffic this morning, and the occasional cyclist.
I cross over a little river – the Abhainn Chuaig – and stop to admire the view. Oh, that’s Cuaig, just upstream. A bigger place than I first imagined, and set in the middle of nowhere.
Below me, the river slides downwards through a little valley, and empties into the sea. That bay is called Sgeir an Oba, which means, I believe, Rock of the Bay.
At this point, I could take a path which runs inland, cutting across the top of the Applecross peninsula and re-joining the road at a place called Arrina.
Arrina? I check my map, which shows a place called Arrisa, but no Arrina. These Scottish names are certainly fluid!
Anyway, I’m sticking to the road today, because it offers the closest walking route to the coast.
Nearby is a sign with information about the North Applecross Woodlands. I saw a similar sign yesterday, but with no evidence of any trees. Now, I stare across another treeless landscape. Where are these wonderful new woodlands?
Are those a couple of new trees – just peeking over the top of the hill?
Onwards. When the road rises, I get a wonderful view looking towards Skye, where the sun is lighting up patches of greenery. Must make the most of this view, because I will soon be heading eastwards, and away from Skye.
A large lorry thunders by, carrying logs. I guess it must have come from Applecross, where there is logging underway on one of the hills. It’s the first one I’ve seen on the road, and I’m glad I’m walking, not driving. I would hate to meet such a huge truck while driving my little Beast along these narrow lanes.
I’m not very happy to see the logging lorry, to be honest. This landscape could be covered in trees. In fact, it should be covered in trees. I really hope the replanting scheme is successful.
Climbing the next hill, I come across a minor traffic jam. The cause? A recalcitrant sheep, who can’t understand why she shouldn’t be walking in the middle of the road. A black sheep. I raise my arms, and shoo her to the side of the road.
Funny how she isn’t scared of the cars, but gives me a nervous look, and moves away when I approach.
I reach the top of the rise. Around me, a number of little lochs lie scattered in the grassy landscape. To see them better, I must leave the road and climb higher up the slope, where the views are wonderful.
I perch the camera on a piece of rock, and set up the timer for a self-portrait. On the first attempt, I miss myself out of the photo completely.
The second attempt is better, but I don’t quite manage to turn around before the timer comes to an end and the shutter clicks. Never mind. I quite like this photo of my back. It’s my best side!
I rejoin the road. When I drove through here earlier, in The Beast, I christened this area “The Valley of the Lochs”. It’s a lovely, open landscape, filled with pools of bright water, surrounded by outcrops of rocks and rolling grassland.
I’ve been overtaken by several cyclists already, and now two young women whizz by and shout a cheery “Hello”. They’re carrying luggage and I wonder if they’re planning to cycle the whole NC500 in one go.
The road dips and rises. Just love this landscape. Ah, here’s my first good view of the sea ahead to the north. This must be the beginning of Loch Torridon, and look at that lovely bright beach across the water.
I check my map, but the golden beach isn’t visible on my current OS map. [Later, I discover the bright sands I can see are at a place called Red Point.]
I’m approaching the northernmost tip of the Applecross peninsula. A sailing boat – a solitary white triangle – is sailing across an empty expanse of sea. I wonder if it is the same lonely boat I saw yesterday?
The next hamlet is called Fearnmore. When I drove through here on my first trip to Applecross, as the light was fading, and the coastal road seemed to wind on and on forever, I misread the sign as Fearmore. It seemed a very ominous name at the time!
But in the gentle light of day, Fearnmore is just another cluster of houses. This one, with it’s balcony overlooking Loch Torridon, looks as if it has been renovated recently. It’s for sale too!
My surname (Livingstone) is Scottish, although the clan history is confusing, and nobody in my immediate family has ever lived here. I’ve loved my visits to Scotland, but I’m not sure if I could live here permanently. The winters must be dark and dismal, and the summer is full of midges and ticks.
I’m just not tough enough to be a Highlander.
I leave Fearnmore behind, turning to take a photograph of the sign that gave me such a bad feeling when I first drove through here.
The road has curved round, and I’ve left the sea and the view of Skye behind. Heading eastwards now, along the southern shore of Loch Torridon.
At the top of a rise, a gated track seems to lead towards a group of standing stones. Of course, I have to explore…
… although, sadly, the standing stones turn out to be just a couple of old gate posts.
The view from this vantage point is wonderful. I sit down on a piece of flat rock, and pull out my packed lunch. Watch the storm clouds hurling rain down over the other side of the loch.
Luckily the sun is shining over here.
I make slow progress along this stretch of road, mainly because I keep leaving the tarmac to climb up the bank and stare at the views. Look at this lovely little cove – such crystal clear waters. And there are remnants of some old structure on the shore – maybe something to do with fishing?
The road doesn’t seem in any hurry to get anywhere either. It curls and twists around, only loosely following the coast. The rain has soon cleared from Loch Torridon. What a lovely view.
I look inland, squinting into the sun, and see young trees sprouting across the landscape. Aha! This must be the newly-planted North Applecross woodland. It really does exist!
Onwards, along an undulating road which makes its lazy way across the landscape.
The road twists closer towards the shore, and I climb up a hillside to get another beautiful view of another pretty cove.
… and then I reach Fearnbeg, Fearnmore’s little brother. Here the bins are lined up along the main road, and someone has drawn a picture on one of them. There’s a clear illustration of what to do with “General Waste”, just in case of any confusion. Makes me smile.
Onwards. A seagull watches me from a rock above the road…
… and further along a group of sheep are grazing, with one sentient ewe keeping a wary eye on me.
The road is gently drifting downhill now. The sun disappears behind the clouds and the air gets gloomier. Ahead, the dark green of a forest fills one of the glens. More trees, but not new woodland, because these seem very well established.
As I approach the trees, the first rain drops begin to fall. I stop under the shelter of some overhanging branches. Here is the beginning (or end) of the footpath to Cuaig.
The rain falls around me. I’ve still got a rash in my right groin from cycling in my waterproofs yesterday. Luckily it doesn’t itch, and it isn’t sore, but I don’t want to make it worse. What is most likely to aggravate it – wet trousers from rain, or wet trousers from sweat?
The rain gets even heavier. Reluctantly, I shrug off my back pack and pull out my waterproof trousers.
While I’m doing this, I notice I’m standing opposite the turn off to Arrisa (or is it Arrina?) The house on the corner has a row of orange gas bottles lined up outside, next to a well-used car, and… what’s that on the far right of the gate? A Zimmer frame?
There’s something very poignant about seeing a walking frame outside the gate of an isolated house. I’m so glad that I don’t have any problems with mobility – not yet anyway.
By the time I’ve pulled on my waterproof trousers, adjusted my boots, and taken a few photographs… the rain stops! Oh well. Off come the trousers again, and I march off down the road.
A few minutes later the sun comes out. I turn round and see Arrisa (or Arrina). It’s a tiny village, just a collection of white cottages tucked into a the slope of the hillside. Very pretty in the sunshine. I wish I’d gone down and taken a better look at the place.
Oh well, too late now. Next stop is Kenmore.
The road curves around the edge of the forest, and slides down a steep slope. A couple of cyclist whizz past me. Hope their brakes work.
As I approach Kenmore, the rain clouds are gathering once more. I take a quick look at my map… there is a footpath off here… somewhere. Aha – I spot the first walker I’ve seen all day – a lady in a red jacket is striding up a field towards the road.
I ask her if she has come up from Kenmore, and she says, yes, this is the right path. She can’t stop, because she’s hurrying to finish her walk before the rain starts again. Her cat is accompanying her.
She warns me the path is a little boggy, but it turns out to be fine. I head down, following the vague trail through the grass, towards the shore of Loch Torridon.
After crossing a strangely bumpy field, I skirt around a raised mound, and then walk through a grove of midge-infested trees, before reaching the beginning of a grassy track, lined either side by fences.
Running along the border of the garden of a private house, the track joins the road. I turn right – no choice really, because the road has come to a dead end beside the track – and walk past a collection of sweet little cottages. This is Kenmore.
No shops. No sign of life. I walk past the Old Post Office, now a private house. As I leave the buildings behind, the sun comes out, and I turn round to take a photo. Kenmore a pretty place indeed, but also a dead place.
The last mile of any walk is always the longest. It doesn’t help that there is a steep climb out of the village towards the main road. I keep stopping to
rest take photographs. A salmon farm lies out in Loch Torridon, while grey rain clouds drape the mountains on the other side.
I look at the far shore. It seems very remote. One day I’ll be walking over there, but not on this trip. I’ve extended my stay at the Applecross camp site several times already, but now I’m ready to go home. Tomorrow will be my last day.
My lovely Beast is parked at the top of the lane, at the junction with the main road.
Well, it was another short walk today. But I am steadily making progress, and tomorrow I should finish the Applecross Peninsula. Most people do it in one or two days, but it’s taken me all week!
The house at Fearnmore was still for sale at the time of posting this. A bargain if you want to buy it. Details here.
Miles walked today = 7.5 miles (and another 7.5 miles on the bike!)
Total around coast = 4,432 miles