[This walk was completed on the 14th August, 2019]
It’s a dull morning, and I leave my Scooty bike chained up in the layby near Kenmore.
Today, I’m heading for Sheldaig. Finally, I’m going to finish the Applecross Peninsula and leave this beautiful place behind, so I feel a mixture of sadness and excitement.
I set off down the road, determined to set a fast pace for a change. The landscape here is different – less open, and with more folds and steep inclines.
My OS map shows a path running almost parallel with the road, which should take me across open countryside to Ardheslaig, a couple of miles away. Of course, a path on the map doesn’t always translate into a path on the ground… but here’s the footpath sign. Good!
Even better, the path looks fairly well-trodden, and will make a welcome change from road walking.
First, the path follows the line of electricity poles, and dips down into a shallow valley. Here, it crosses over the river, Abhainn Chracaich, via a new-looking wooden footbridge. I stop on the bridge to take photographs of the water rushing below me.
On the other side of the river, the path has left the line of poles, and slowly climbs up the slope of the hill.
This hill is called A’ Bhainlir, and seems like a mini-mountain to me but, when I check the map, I discover the summit only tops 175 metres. As I climb higher, I get a great view down onto Kenmore and its sheltered bay.
The path is mainly stony and easy to walk along, with only the occasional patch of mud. What’s this footprint? A cow? A deer? The Applecross monster?
Actually, I don’t think Applecross has a monster. It’s too pretty for monsters.
I’m walking through an open landscape, still climbing. Below is a loch – Loch na Creige – with the road winding beside it. Can see little vehicles on the road – camper vans, motor homes, minivans, cars, lorries, and hear the distant roar of occasional motorcyclists.
How nice to be up here, away from the traffic.
Walking along the coast road has been a bit of a slog, to be honest, and that’s probably why it took me so long to get round the peninsula. I’m so glad I found this path. This is proper walking.
The air is cooler on my face – fresher – a sign I’m about to reach the top of the climb.
Over the brow of the hill and… what a view!
The path actually winds round the shoulder of A’ Bhainlir, missing out the top peak. So, I leave the path and climb higher up the rocks. It’s hard work, because the rocks are steep and the ground around them is boggy.
Oh, look, a cairn. Time for a sit down and a rest.
I haven’t reached the top yet. There it is…
…but I decide I’ve got far enough up the slope. The breeze will keep the midges away, and it’s time for lunch.
Just look at the view. There’s the road in the distance, and beyond is Loch Shieldaig, and then Loch Torridon. The mountains behind seem to go on for ever.
When I rummage around in my rucksack for lunch, I discover a tiny little portable tripod. It used to belong to my dad, and I must have been carrying it around for ages, but I forgot all about it.
Of course, I immediately set up the camera for a self-portrait.
It might be the middle of August, but it’s chilly up here. I’m wearing my winter coat, but I soon get cold. Time to move one.
Climb back down to the path, and set off over the other side of the hill, along a comfortable track of green grass. I’m heading back towards the road.
My map suggests the path joins the road for a few hundred yards, before separating again. In fact, the path takes a precarious route running parallel to the road, but just below it.
I stumble over rocks, worried I might twist an ankle. Although there is traffic passing a few yards above my head, I’m invisible down here. If I break an ankle, or a leg, or my hip – I could lie here for days and be undiscovered.
Driving out in the van earlier, I saw this section of the road was very steep and twisty. I began worrying whether my Scooty bike would cope with the climb, and had reconciled myself to having to push the damn thing up the steepest sections.
In fact, when cycling up here, I was so anxious waiting for the “steep climb” to happen, it was a shock to reach Kenmore and discover that Scooty had already conquered the climb, without my even realising it.
I spend a lot of time worrying about things that might happen… a bad habit. Must stop it.
Now, I’ve successfully negotiated the tricky section of the path, and it leads me away from the road and down into the next valley.
At the bottom, I cross over another river – Allt a’ Mhuilinn – and rejoin the road, as it swings down towards little creek, Loch Beag, and a place called Ardheslaig.
Ardheslaig sits on a finger of land, jutting out into Loch Torridon. I was planning to walk around it, or at least follow the road to the end, but the turnoff is marked by a cattle grid and this unfriendly sign: WARNING! BULL.
The sign is faded and weather-beaten, and I have no idea if there really is a bull roaming freely on the other side of the grid, or ferocious cows guarding their calves. But I really, really, don’t like walking near cattle, and I decide to give Ardheslaig a miss.
(So much for my resolution to stop worrying about things that might happen. Broken already!)
Close to the turn off to Ardheslaig is a bus stop – no, wait, it’s just an information sign with more information about the North Applecross Woodland Project. 1,500 hectares, 9 separate plots, a million and a half trees. Quite a project. Hope it is successful.
Further along, here’s another sign. What does it mean? No idea.
The road drops down to run closer to the shore. This is Loch Shieldaig, an offshoot of Loch Torridon. Love the red-roofed house – you see a few of these around here.
Onwards… to Shieldaig.
[To be continued…]
Route this morning: