434 Inveralligin to Craig’s Bothy (part 1)

[This walk was completed on 8th August 2020]

It’s a thrilling, downhill, free-pedalling ride to Lower Diabaig, where I leave my bike chained near the beginning of a footpath. This is the path that should take me all the way to the famous Craig Bothy.

01 bike at the start of the path, Ruth's hike to Craig Bothy and back, Scotland

My whole day has been planned around one golden rule: the horrible Monster Bike can only be ridden downhill. So, I’ve had to make some compromises about how I tackle this section, and I’ve divided today’s walk into three parts. I don’t like doing this, because I prefer to complete my walks in strict geographical order, but today I’m starting with the final part first.

Despite the remoteness of the location, there is a hand sanitiser bottle stuck to a board beside the gate, which I dutifully use. Then I head up the hill, following the path as it threads its way through coarse grass and patches of heather.

02 up the hill, Ruth's hike to Craig Bothy and back, Scotland

I haven’t got far when I feel the urge to check I’ve still got all my vital possessions with me.  Again? OK, yes, I checked when I got on the bike, and again when I got off the bike. But… what if I’ve lost something since then?

This constant checking-urge is verging on obsessional – a bad habit I must break. I think it’s a response to the uncertainties and seismic shifts in my personal life. Not surprising, maybe, because I’ve left my husband of almost 40 years and moved to a completely new city where I have never lived before. It’s coming up to a year’s anniversary of my divorce, and of course my attempts to build a new life for myself have been complicated by lockdown.

So, I try to fight the urge, but decide I won’t enjoy this walk unless I start in the right frame of mind. Reluctantly, I swing my rucksack off my shoulders, and begin the check.

rucksack openKey to the bike? Yes. Key to the car? Yes. Paper OS map in pouch? Yes. Garmin tucked safely inside? Yes. Garmin turned on? Yes. Phone safe in a waterproof bag? No… but, oh, of course, my phone is in my jacket pocket… no. No, it isn’t!

Where’s my phone?

I empty out the whole rucksack, check through all my pockets in all my various layers of clothing… NO PHONE!

It’s one of those cold, clenching moments when everything turns grey. I can’t survive without my phone. Not only is it my lifeline in cases of emergencies, but I carry my credit cards in my phone case. Without it… well, I’m well and truly stuck. Can’t even buy enough petrol to get me home.

I retrace my steps, scanning the ground anxiously. No sign of it. I make my way back to the beginning of the path, fighting a feeling of panic. Why did I choose a green case, so easily missed among the grass, why not bright orange?

Almost back to the beginning of the walk, and I’ve achieved that strange sense of calm when you know you’re in serious trouble and there is nothing you can do but deal with the consequences.

Suddenly, there it is! Just by the gate. I must have dropped it when I was sanitising my hands.

03 found my phone, Ruth's hike to Craig Bothy and back, Scotland

The feeling of relief is intense. I almost start crying.

Come on, Ruth, that was lucky. Must be more careful. I clutch my precious phone tightly, and make myself a promise to keep checking. It’s a useful habit after all!

Onwards. I climb the path again, and reach the top of the hill. Oh, what a beautiful view. That’s Skye in the distance.

04 view from the top of the hill, Ruth's hike to Craig Bothy and back, Scotland

I was feeling anxious about the state of this path after all the rain yesterday, but it’s not too bad. Most of the surface is rocky, with flatter stones often forming a uneven pavement of sorts. Trouble is, you have to keep watching your step, which interferes with looking at the views.

05 hike over stony landscape, Ruth's coastal walk to Craig Bothy and back, Scotland

The path keeps, roughly, parallel with the coast, but swings away from the water and runs along the side of a slope, without much of a view inland. The landscape is unstructured – with no trees or other landmarks. I’m surrounded by grass, stones, and the occasional outcrop of rocks.

06 featureless landscape, Ruth's coastal walk to Craig Bothy and back, Scotland

To be honest, in this featureless landscape, with the sea a blue line in the distance, I’m finding the path a bit boring. At least it’s warm in the sunshine. I slip off my jacket.

Ah, here’s some excitement, a cairn ahead. I make my way up the path towards it.

07 cairn on the horizon, Ruth's coastal walk to Craig Bothy and back, Scotland

I stop at the cairn, which is on a slope which might be slightly higher than some of the surrounding landscape, but the cairn certainly isn’t at the top of any hill. Why here? I guess it might be the highest point on the path.

And – yes – I do another check. Keys, map, Garmin, phone? Yes, yes, yes and YES.

I’d been aware of a couple walking behind, and slowly gaining on me. Now, I’m happy to admit I am a very slow walker, but I don’t like being overtaken. So, I use the cairn as an opportunity to stop for a drink, and to take out my phone. Wait, for the other walkers to come past.

09 two hikers passing, Ruth's coastal walk to Craig Bothy and back, Scotland

After they’ve gone a safe distance ahead, I set up my camera on the cairn, and snap a self-portrait.

10 self portrait at the cairn, Ruth's coastal walk to Craig Bothy and back, Scotland

Then onwards, through more of this stony, grassy, landscape.

The path turns upwards beside a burn, where a narrow stream of water runs down towards the sea, in a series of mini-rapids.

11 beside a stream, Ruth's coastal walk to Craig Bothy and back, Scotland

At the top of this slope, the view ahead opens up. Beautiful. I love the look of that finger of land ahead. The sunlight – falling in patches – lights up a distant beach.

12 Red Point ahead, Ruth's coastal walk to Craig Bothy and back, Scotland

I check my map. That must be Red Point. A very English-sounding name for such a wild Scottish place.

Soon, I reach another cairn. This one consists of a pile of stones perched on a larger rock. What possesses people to create these structures? I never get the urge to move stones around while out on a walk! But at least the second cairn provides another useful waymark along the route.

13 second cairn, Ruth's coastal walk to Craig Bothy and back, Scotland

Ten to fifteen minutes later, I meet the same couple of walkers who passed me earlier. They’re on their way back, presumably having reached the bothy and turned back.

14 hikers returning, Ruth's coastal walk to Craig Bothy and back, Scotland

Good, can’t be far now.

I follow the path, which continues on through the landscape of grass and rocks. A bright patch of water catches my eye. Pull out the map again. That’s Lochan Dubh – a name I’ve  seen before (it’s not uncommon in Scotland to find several places with the same name!)

15 Lochan Dubh, Ruth's coastal walk to Craig Bothy and back, Scotland

In Scottish Gaelic, Lochan means little lake, and Dubh means black. So that’s supposed to be a little black lake. Looks very blue today.

The path rolls over up and over a ridge of high ground, and begins to drop down into a river valley. Ah, there’s the bothy near the bottom. Seems a long way down.

16 Craig's Bothy from the top of the hill, Ruth's coastal walk to Craig Bothy and back, Scotland

The path down to the bothy turns out to be quite tough. Firm stones give way to loose shingle, and any flatter surfaces seem to be inconveniently covered in a slick of slippery mud. I slip and slide downwards, grateful for my pole, and only pause near the bottom to take another photo of Craig’s Bothy.

17 drawing close, Ruth's coastal walk to Craig Bothy and back, Scotland

I can see figures moving about among the trees in front of the bothy. More walkers! Where have they come from? Perhaps from the other direction, from Red Point?

When I get down, I discover it’s a family. A couple with two children. They’re having a picnic among the trees, which I’m sure is a mistake, because I can see midges dancing in the shade. They tell me they’ve come from Red Point, as I suspected, but the path is very overgrown and muddy, with lots of midges among the bushes.

I’ll be walking their route tomorrow, so I’m not very pleased to hear this. I ask where the path to Red Point starts, and they point further down the slope towards the river. There’s a bridge down there.

The entrance to the bothy has a sign asking people to keep the door closed, in order to keep wild animals out. I push it open, and go inside. What a cosy place! It has a nice wood-burning stove, a comfortable chair or two, and a desk with a guest book. Someone has painted an intricate pattern on the wall.

18 downstairs in Craig's bothy, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

I look at the guest book, which shows a sporadic stream of visitors. And then I go upstairs and am surprised to find it’s fairly clean, and some of the beds even have mattresses.

19 upstairs in Craig's Bothy, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland

Back outside, and the family has disappeared. I take more photos of the external view of this rather grand bothy – quite the best bothy I’ve seen so far.

20 front of Craig's Bothy, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

In fact, the building was once a youth hostel, but it’s inaccessibility meant it became little used, and was abandoned, being later taken over as a bothy. It is maintained by a voluntary group.

I walk down into the valley, following the direction given by the family, and find the bridge. The path is very muddy, and the bridge is rather rickety, but passable.

21 bridge over Craig River, Ruth's coastal walk to Craig Bothy and back, Scotland

On the bridge, I stop to take photos of the river – Craig River. I was planning to have my lunch here, but there are too many midges.

22 view down Craig River, Ruth's coastal walk to Craig Bothy and back, Scotland

Climbing back up the slope, I linger for a while outside the bothy. Why are all those orange balloons hanging from the trees? Buoy markers? Weird.

23 orange balloons at Craig Bothy, Ruth hiking around the coast of Scotland

Time to head back. I clamber up out of the valley, finding it much easier to climb up the slippery surface than it was to come down. Then I leave the path to find a nice big rock in an exposed place – with a great view, and enough wind to blow the midges away. Time for lunch.

24 lunch at the top of the hill, Ruth's coastal walk to Craig Bothy and back, Scotland

The walk back seems quicker (it always does, for some reason). I pass the two cairns. And then, about 1/2 mile from the gate, I meet another lone female walker. She is wearing shorts – daring because of the risk of ticks – and turns out to be a local who lives nearby.

25 local walker, Ruth's coastal walk to Craig Bothy and back, Scotland

She tells me she is planning to walk all the way to Red Point, and will then try to hitch a lift back to Torridon. She’s done this before. Crikey! For a moment, I wonder why I’m not doing the same thing, but then I remember it’s a long way back by road, and what if she fails to get a ride?

My plan is to tackle this section as two there-and-back walks. Much safer. And I’ve nearly finished the first one.

I meet another family, walking towards me along the path, and step aside to give them the obligatory 2 metres of passing space. Two adults and two teenagers. This place is getting quite crowded!

Onwards. There’s the gate ahead.

26 back at the start, Ruth's coastal walk to Craig Bothy and back, Scotland

I wheel The Monster back to the road, and leave it chained up against a fence. I’ll come back later to pick it up, but while it waits, at least the horrible thing gets to enjoy a lovely view over Loch Diabaig.

27 bike left on road, Lower Diabaig, Ruth's coastal walk to Craig Bothy and back, Scotland

I had been intending go down to the shore at Lower Diabaig. But it’s now 3pm, and I still have some distance to cover today, and the next few miles are all uphill. So, I decide not to do any unnecessary walking, and head up the road instead.

[To be continued…]

Route so far:

About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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38 Responses to 434 Inveralligin to Craig’s Bothy (part 1)

  1. jcombe says:

    Well done Ruth that is a tough walk. The beach at Red Point is really good, but you probably know that already. I signed the visitor book at Craig bothy but it was back in 2019 so you probably didn’t go back that far. There was no one about when I was there so I also had a look upstairs (those buoys hanging from the trees were there then, too). I found this a lovely walk.

    I hope that other walker did manage to get a lift. It’s a long way around by road (though perhaps not as far as Corran to Kinloch Hourn, which was an insane distance to drive between two places that are geographically so close). I suspect drivers are not quite as willing to give people lifts at the moment (having said that, I still had a couple stop for me, even when I didn’t want a lift last year, so it’s re-assuring to see it does still happen).

    I locked my bike to the tree next to the gate. You really don’t like your “monster” bike do you?! Lucky you find your phone too as I suspect it wouldn’t survive long if there was a shower, too and it’s not a place to be cut off.

    You’ll probably tell us next time but I was very surprised to see someone had managed to get a lorry along that road to Lower Diabaig (I recall it was parked in the last but one passing place), I was glad I didn’t meet that going the other way.

    • Ah, shame I didn’t see your entry Jon in the guest book. Should have remembered you passed through there the year before and looked harder! Yes, relying on lifts is risky. Covid certainly makes it harder, and many of the people on the roads that I saw were obviously tourists travelling with their families, and unlikely to stop for you.

  2. Tony Rudd says:

    I once used to ride a folding bicycle that could be described as a beast – it belonged to my Dad and it only had a proper brake on the front, you had to back-pedal for the rear one! Absolutely awful! Anyway my latest one is fantastic, it’s a Tern Link C7 and it’s absolutely wonderful!!

  3. Rita Bower says:

    So pleased you found your ‘phone Ruth. I was feeling panic on your behalf! I too, check ‘obsessively’, before I set off, after stopping & then sometimes again en route. I think it’s saved the day for me, a few times & not a bad habit, in moderation!! Having said that, I’ve still managed to lose 2 cameras in my wanderings…. 😦

    • Yes, I was lucky. One of the other walkers could have stepped on it, or picked it up. Sorry to hear about your cameras! The only thing I’ve truly lost on a walk is a hat – which was the same colour as the pebbles on a beach, so I didn’t notice it lying there.

  4. Eunice says:

    I’m glad you found your phone and you hadn’t gone too far before you went back. Some great photos here and I love the view with the little rock pool at the top of the slope 🙂

  5. Jayne says:

    Ah, I was wondering how on earth you were going to tackle Diabaig, especially with the Monster bike, because I remember driving down that steep road to the harbour and swearing that it was probably a place I was only ever going to visit once . . .

    As for the constant checking. This sounds like a ‘teach grandmother’ thing to say to a Doctor but do not beat yourself up. You are not being obsessive. You are being sensible and safety conscious. Walking alone, female: you’re actually being incredibly careful and sensible. If it gives you psychological comfort but doesn’t get in the way of enjoying yourself then keep going (and thank goodness you did, and went back to find the phone). My ‘safety’ routine is all the vital stuff – phone, keys, money – in the same small dry-sack, which is always in the same pocket in my rucksack so there is only ever one thing to check. Whatever works for you is the right thing for you to do and has served you well for nearly 4,500 miles. 👏 👍🏻 🥾

    • Thank you for your comforting advice, Jayne. I like to keep my phone handy so I can take snaps which I can then send to my family via Whatsapp (my camera takes excellent photos, but hasn’t got a WiFi connection). I think I tucked my phone under my arm when I used the hand sanitiser, and then forgot about it. A lesson learnt.

      • tonyhunt2016 says:

        Ah yes, tucking things under your arm is definitely one to avoid. I’ve nearly lost gloves and maps on several occasions that way – only companions or passers-by have saved me. I guess it’s a question of ‘mindfulness’, or put another way, avoiding automatic pilot when it really matters.
        I too misplaced credit cards, in my case in my wallet, while on a walking tour, realising it was missing in an OCD check about an hour into the day’s walk. After retracing my steps and finding nothing, a phonecall was made to the hotel I’d just checked out of, more in desperation than in hope. Yes, it was found outside my room – luckily it had wasted no time falling out of my rucksack as I was leaving I’d unzipped the pocket in which it lives the previous evening, (half-) thinking I might need to open it again before I left the hotel, which had proved unnecesary…

  6. 829b says:

    Perhaps you should carry an older second phone as backup.


    • That quite a good idea Ray. I could leave it in the car, or in my van, or wherever I’m staying. Then, if worst came to worst, I wouldn’t be stuck without one. And I have two debit cards, so could do the same thing with those, and leave one behind in a safe place.

  7. tonyurwin says:

    Wonderful scenery. I think we are all prone to double checking for the essentials. I remember a chap at work who, on leaving the office at the end of the day, always came back three times before taking the lift to check that his pedestal was locked. Now that is OCD!

  8. John Bainbridge says:

    The secret is to put things away safely ONCE, saying out loud where you are putting things as you do it, then not checking again.

  9. 5000milewalk says:

    I hate riding the bike to get to the start as well Ruth, but I’m not sure I take such extreme measures to avoid it as that! I’ve bought myself an electric bike too now, so hopefully those days are mostly over.
    I’m paranoid about losing something along the way too… especially my car keys. I have nightmares of getting back to the car and then having to walk all the way to the start again searching for them in the grass somewhere, or even having to leave it there and get back to Manchester somehow. So glad you found your phone, I can well imagine that feeling of vulnerability and panic you must have had.
    It looks like a lovely stretch along there. But I can understand when you said the path was a bit boring. It seems sacrilege to say it, but sometimes that’s just how you feel!

    • I hope you enjoy your electric bike, Paul, I love mine. Unfortunately I couldn’t fit it into the car, and my van was in the garage, so I had to take the Monster bike on this trip instead. Isn’t it weird how some sections of a walk seem to drag. Today, I think it was the lack of visible landmarks – just grass and rocks and a view that seemed never to change.

  10. Ian Gilbert says:

    Hi Ruth,
    When I was walking down the west side of Loch Striven two years ago and I reached Troustan I went to get my phone out of my bag to call my wife and let her know when I would be back at our caravan – we were staying at Glendaruel. The vertical zip down the front of my bag was at the bottom and the phone was gone! I had been brushing through a lot of woodland to get past fallen trees etc and this must have pulled the zip down. There was no way I was going back to look for it. The day before a diving team had lifted a practice WW2 ‘bouncing bomb’ from the loch when I passed them – the phone may have been in the loch – I could ask them to look!! More chance in finding the bomb!
    My keys, map, phone and wallet are all inside the bottom of my bag from now on. I have changed bag now and it does not have a vertical zip on the front. I still get a feeling of relief when I get to the end of a walk, at the car, bike or bus stop and everything is where I left it.
    Enjoying your updates.

    • Oh, Ian, that must have been a heart-sink moment – and a good tip to avoid a bag with a vertical zip. My rucksack has a top zip, and if I make sure it’s closed, all good. But, if I leave it a tiny bit unzipped, well, it just accepts that as an invitation to unzip itself completely!

  11. I’m glad you found your phone. I’ve not lost a phone but I have lost a camera (like you, I got it back) and I’ve had my phone brick itself due to rain seeping in. Both were extremely inconvenient but fortunately temporary.

    You won’t have found my name in the bothy book, since I never went inside. I didn’t have time, as I’d set myself too far a destination to dawdle.

  12. Katy says:

    It’s so good to see your posts again, I have missed them. You are lucky to have the relative freedom to do these walks, and I appreciate you sharing them – the scenery and discoveries as well as the dropped phones and midges! The only downside is that you make my “to go” list longer 🙂

  13. owdjockey says:

    Hi Ruth, hopefully you would have seen my details when I passed through in November 2018 on a out an out and back to Red Point from Diabeig.
    In my experience, 9 times out of 10 it is when you stop either for a food/water break, have to climb an obstacle/fence or leave a summit than you generally leave something behind, be it map, walking stick or camera. I left a really nice Silva Compass on the summit of the Munro Sgurr Fuar-thuill, above Strathfarrar back in 2002, hopefully somebody else made good use of it!

  14. Karen White says:

    Thank goodness you found your phone. I am an obsessive checker when I go anywhere, have I got my phone, money, tickets, etc etc. I check so many times I am more in danger of losing things as I take them out of my back to look for the others!
    This does look a gorgeous walk. Do people actually stay in the bothy? I don’t think I’d want to be there alone at night. I’d also be very wary of accepting a lift from a stranger.

    • owdjockey says:

      Hi Karen, yes and had just been re-painted when I passed through. The bothy is maintained by volunteers under the Mountain Bothy Association. The bothy used to be a YHA, before being adopted as a Bothy.

  15. What a fabulous part of the coast. I’ve only driven to Red Point from the north.
    The phone – been there, done that. Left wallet on bus from airport to Toulouse for start of walking Canal du Midi. Arrived Toulouse, needed camping gas, found wallet missing including bout £300 worth of Euros and all my credit cards.. French lady in shop sympathised and drove me to bus station. Radio messages sent back and forth. I waited twenty minutes for bus to arrive and was handed back my wallet – phew!

    • Oh Conrad, losing your wallet at the beginning of your trip must have been an awful experience. Thank goodness you got it back. I remember reading your account of walking the Canal du Midi and it was quite an endurance test if I remember rightly.

  16. Chris Elliott says:

    Hi Ruth – I wrote this comment before and it just disappeared into the ether. So apologies if this appears twice! It is so nice to see your photographs around Craig bothy. When I walked this stretch it was all mist and murk and I couldn’t see a thing. I stayed in the bothy overnight with a Dutch couple and their daughter who were testing out what bothies were like, and an English guy staying there 5 days to commune with nature and do a photographic project. Re losing things – I have two checklists. One for when I go away camping and one for when I am just walking and staying somewhere civilised and not camping. So far I have never lost anything but I can understand your paranoia. Better safe than sorry in the wilds! The only trouble is my camping pack weighs 18kg without my camera and map case and I can hardly lift it! I tried cutting down on it but couldn’t so decided to set off with it all in the hope I would find I didn’t use some things that I could dispense with later. Having walked the British coast the only thing I have never used is my midge head net! So my pack still weighs 18kg. I must be nuts!!!

    • Hi Chris. Shame you didn’t see the views, which were glorious, especially going down towards the bothy. How weird to spend 5 days living in a bothy – must have felt a bit odd sharing his ‘home’ for a night. I have a midge head net too, recommended by Andy Phillips, and haven’t used it yet either.
      I love the idea of wild camping, and have even bought myself a tent, but don’t think I could carry the weight!

      • Chris Elliott says:

        I have a super light 2 person tent – less than 2 kg which cost me a fortune. Being late 50’s at the time of my walk the attraction of camping soon wore off. i only camped for circa 20 nights in all. In north Scotland I ended up doing lots of there and back walks, in order to avoid the camping. Such a wimp!!! Now I am in my 60’s I suspect the idea would be even more unattractive, but if I seriously plan to do the islands I will have to do lots more.

  17. Calum says:

    The footpath out to Craig was rebuilt in the early 1990s by a group calling themselves Pathcraft – before that the last mile or so before Craig Valley was really bad as it skirted round a peat bog. Knee deep mud if you didn’t watch your footing and very easy to lose the path.

    One buoy was hung about there by Dad as a swing for my elder sister in the very early 1980s while my parents were the youth hostel wardens at Craig, probably about where the rightmost one is in your pic as it let a child swing well out over the bank – it tickles me that there’s now several hanging there.

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