[This walk took place on the 8th August, 2020]
I leave my bike above Loch Diabaig, and set off walking up the road. Cottages are scattered over the hillside. Some are clearly working farms and crofts, while others – the grander ones – are probably holiday lets.
As I climb higher, the view of Loch Diabaig gets even better. According to my map, there is a path from the end of the road, just beyond the pier, which runs above the shore for a while, and then climbs over the rocky hills on the far side of the bay.
It should be possible to follow this path all the way back to my car. But, I had read accounts by walkers who had said the route was very difficult. So, I’d wimped out and decided to stick to the road. Now, I wonder if I should have been braver.
Well, it’s too late to change my mind now.
A Land Rover passes me, and pulls into a lane leading to a smallholding. Love the look of the place – the red roof above the white walls, surrounded by sheep grazing on the grass.
Uh oh, this one seems to have escaped. “You’re on the wrong side of the fence,” I tell her. She gives me a hard stare, and takes no notice. The grass is always greener on the other side.
The road gets steeper, and twists around the edge of a white cottage. I hurtled down here earlier on the Monster bike, glad to freewheel, and hoping I wouldn’t meet a car coming up towards me.
At the top of the slope, the landscape flattens out, and the scenery is one of wide meadows, lochs and mountains. Sunshine flits across the landscape. So beautiful. The view seems to shift constantly under the changing light.
Earlier, riding along here on my bike, I wanted to stop to enjoy the views, but I forced myself to keep going. Now I make up for the lost opportunity and take far too many photographs.
A sign post tells me I’m leaving Diabaig. Bit of a surprise, as Diabaig isn’t mentioned on my map, and there is nothing here.
Diabaig must be the name given to the collection of scattered crofts I’ve just come past.
I’m feeling hungry again. There is nowhere obvious to sit by the road, so I climb over a low fence and perch on some rocks in a meadow. Pull out my snacks and a drink. Of course, as soon as I’ve settled down, the sun goes in – and the midges come out!
I scramble to my feet, pack up my rucksack, and carry on walking.
Loch a’Mhullaich lies in a shallow valley surrounded by hills, with the road snaking alongside its shore.
It’s a very isolated stretch of road. Quiet, apart from the occasional car. Despite the numerous fences, there is not much sign of any farming going on, and no sheep to be seen either.
Love this rusty old piece of agricultural machinery. I have no idea what it is.
A driveway to my right leads down to a property surrounded by trees. “Upper Diabaig” says the sign on the fence. Now, this place IS on my my map, although Upper Diabaig seems to consist of a single farm.
Apart from Upper Diabaig, there are no other inhabited buildings along this stretch of road, and none in the whole valley, as far as I can see, just remnants of stone walls. These ruins might once have been cottages, or probably sheep enclosures as there is no sign of a roof.
Loch a’Mhullaich merges into Loch Diabaigas Airde via a narrow isthmus. After this, the road begins to climb. You get a better view of the junction between the two lochs when you get a bit higher and can look back.
According to my map, there is a path that leaves the road at around this point. It hugs the shore for a while, before negotiating a steep slope to rejoin the road further along. I was hoping to take this path, but I don’t spot where it starts.
The road climbs higher, and I’m approaching the far end of Loch Diabaigas Airde. I can see the route swinging round and passing over the top of a waterfall. Still some way to go.
Looking down, I keep thinking I can see outlines of a lower path among the grass below the road, the route I should have taken… but it might just be my eyes playing tricks.
I’m trudging up another steep section of road, and keep stopping to
catch my breath take photographs of the view! Here’s a closer photograph of the waterfall.
I pause again, just above the waterfall, and take more photos of Loch Diabaigas Airde and the now-distant Loch a’Mhullaich. With the sun low in the west, I’m afraid the light is in my eyes and the photographs are disappointing.
Further round, I reach the highest section of the road, and I get a second chance to take some excellent photographs of the valley and the lochs below. The land beyond the sea must be the Applecross Peninsula and, probably, Skye too. Everything is soft blue in the distance, and it’s hard to tell what I’m looking at.
There’s a parking spot up here. Earlier this morning, the area was crowded by three campervans, whose occupants were slowly packing up after a night of “wild” camping. There’s just one empty parked car here now. I wonder where its occupants are? I’ve met nobody since I left Lower Diabaig.
Anyway, I have a chance to sit on the nearby bench beside the parking area. Time for an afternoon snack…
…but, of course, the sun goes in as soon as I sit down, and the midges come out. It’s quite breezy up here, but they linger around the grasses at my feet, and I decide not to risk getting bitten.
Midge bites are completely painless at the time of the bite, but 12 hours later they become intensely itchy. Worth avoiding.
The road dips through what appears to be a natural cutting in the hills. Bealach na Gaoithe, or Pass of the Winds.
Now, the road runs alongside a little lochan, with no name marked on my map. A patch of water, so high up and bright-surfaced, it seems to hold the sky.
Beyond the lochan-with-no-name, the road falls away, giving a wonderfully dramatic view down over Loch Torridon. Takes my breath away.
Down the hill, and round a few bends… and there’s my car, parked in a parking area at the beginning of the pass. Some people may have noticed I’ve ditched my bright blue Audi for this darker-blue Dacia Duster – aka the Buster.
It’s the first car I’ve bought on my own. In all my years of marriage, it was always my husband who bought the cars, after I’d drawn up an impossibly-long wish list of things I wanted in a vehicle. So, like many things in the past couple of years, this has been a first for me! My own choice.
You could say it was a step down-market, because, yes, the Duster is noisy and gives a rougher ride compared to the Audi. But Buster has a four-wheel drive, is very economical to run, and even has a helpful reversing camera. The dealers almost paid me money in part exchange for the Audi, but that shows that the true value of something can’t always be judged by its monetary value.
This morning, I parked alongside a battered van, from which a young man was emerging with a map in his hand. He watched me unfold the horrible Monster bike with interest (and probably was trying not to laugh as I wrestled with the thing!) He asked where I was cycling to, then pointed at the map and said, almost despairingly, that he couldn’t decide which mountain to climb today. Too much choice.
The van has gone now, so I hope the young man found a suitably challenging mountain.
A car pulls up, and a middle-aged couple get out. I wait for them to move on, so I can go and look at the plaque on the view point.
The plaque is, in fact, a truly excellent map of the view – really easy to read and not faded into oblivion like some of the maps I’ve come across. I spend some time trying to identify the mountains I can see.
The view point is at the top of a steep slope. Peering down the hill, I can see the road ahead winding downwards towards Loch Torridon.
That’s the last section I need to walk today to complete my route. It won’t take me long. But first, I must drive back to Lower Diabaig and collect the horrible Monster bike.
[To be continued…]
Route so far today (black line was part 1, red line is this post, part 2):