434 Inveralligin to Craig’s Bothy (part 2)

[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.

31 up the road from Lower Diabaig, Ruth walking the coast of NW Scotland

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.

32 view over Lower Diabaig and the bay, Ruth walking the coast of NW Scotland

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.

33 crofting life in Diabaig, Ruth walking the coast of NW Scotland

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.

34 hello sheep, wrong side of fencee, Ruth walking the coast of NW Scotland

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.

35 steep slopes and sharp bends, Diabaig, Ruth walking the coast of NW Scotland

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.

36 open landscape, Diabaig, Ruth walking the coast of NW Scotland

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.

37 Diabaig road sign, Ruth walking the coast of NW Scotland

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.

38 view over Loch a'Mhullaich, from Diabaig, Ruth walking the coast of NW Scotland

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.

39 rusting machinery, Diabaig, Ruth walking the coast of NW Scotland

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.

40 Upper Diabaig sign, Ruth walking the coast of NW Scotland

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.

41 ruined buildings, Diabaig, Ruth walking the coast of NW Scotland

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.

42 Loch a'Mhullaich and Loch Diabaigas Airde, Ruth walking the coast of NW Scotland

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.

43 Tom na Gruagaich, Beinn Alligin, Ruth walking the coast of NW Scotland

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.

44 steep road and waterfall, Bealach na Gaoithe, Ruth walking the coast of NW Scotland

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.

45 photo above the waterfall, Bealach na Gaoithe, Ruth walking the coast of NW Scotland

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.

46 view back down to Diabaig, Bealach na Gaoithe, Ruth walking the coast of NW Scotland

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…

47 picnic spot, but midges strike, Bealach na Gaoithe, Ruth walking the coast of NW Scotland

…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.

48 down to Bealach na Gaoithe, Ruth walking the coast of NW Scotland

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.

49 lochan with no name, Bealach na Gaoithe, Ruth walking the coast of NW Scotland

Beyond the lochan-with-no-name, the road falls away, giving a wonderfully dramatic view down over Loch Torridon. Takes my breath away.

50 view down to Loch Torridon, Bealach na Gaoithe, Ruth walking the coast of NW Scotland

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.

51 parking spot, Bealach na Gaoithe, Ruth walking the coast of NW Scotland

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.

52 relief map at viewpoint, Bealach na Gaoithe, Ruth walking the coast of NW Scotland

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.

53 twisting road down to Alligin, Bealach na Gaoithe, Ruth walking the coast of NW Scotland

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):


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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18 Responses to 434 Inveralligin to Craig’s Bothy (part 2)

  1. jcombe says:

    Well I remember driving on and cycling on that road and by both modes it was quite a tough road to get along. I did walk that first path and it was quite tough. Not helped because near the start it split and I took the wrong route, soon coming to a dead-end with a sheer drop ahead so I had to go back. Not ideal. Once over the first climb it was easier, but it was still a rough and rocky path. That sign at the view point is lovely, I managed to miss that. I do remember it being bad there for midges (we were there at a similar time), worse than I have come across before.

    As to the car if you are happy with it that’s all that matters I think – personally I never care what others think (but then my own car is a 2008 Renault Clio with well over 100,000 miles on it so it probably doubles in value when it has a full tank of petrol). I know if I had a nice/expensive car I’d always be worried where I parked it in case it got damaged. I do know a 4×4 is useful on that road. Going up that steep hill by the white cottage you photographed the road was wet and I slowed down for the left hand bend because you can’t see far ahead if anyone is coming the other way. That was a mistake as after that any attempt to get going resulted in wheel spin. I had to go back down and make a second attempt before I made it up there!

    • Well done for taking the coast route, Jon. In retrospect, I’m glad I walked up the road because the valley with the lochs was so very beautiful and the views were fabulous. As for that hill out of Lower Diabaig- wow, yes, it was very steep. I’m not sure my old van would have been happy, so perhaps just as well it was in the garage and I took the Duster on this trip.

  2. Karen White says:

    What wonderful, breathtaking views.

  3. Eunice says:

    I like the map at the view point and the view of Loch Torridon but the best one for me is the view from the highest section of the road, it looks gorgeous there 🙂

  4. Jayne says:

    Stunning, stunning, stunning 🤗

    Thank you Ruth, I shall carry these images with me all day – the views of Torridon, the Beinn Eighe and Liathach are some of the finest in Scotland and your photographs are absolutely gorgeous.

  5. John Bainbridge says:

    such lovely views. Hope you can continue this year.

  6. I take not much notice of warnings that say a route on a path is “difficult.” It’s not the North Face of the Eiger, IT”S JUST A WALK. You are way ahead of those the words are likely aimed at with your fitness, experience and determination. What stunning scenery and you still have the Torridons to come, and it just continues all the way up that west coast. I am looking forward to seeing your route through that section.

  7. tonyurwin says:

    Stunning views. That little lochan is like a mirror. Breathtaking when simply viewing the photos, so it must have been wonderful for you.

  8. Dear Ruth!
    I have found after a year’s Coronavirus-induced layoff from walking and blogging, that my capacity for both has diminished almost totally. My last walk and blog 142, was February 2020 fetching up in Stranraer.
    It was very wise of you to keep back some of your commentaries and release them slowly over the last year and thus at least keep your hand in blogging.
    Last week I struggled to keep my feet in whilst walking with grandson Stan (10) in Nash Forest near Presteigne, Powys. We managed only three kilometres, but it was Stan’s third walk in two days – and my first walk since lockdown. I am thoroughly out of condition. Stan’s off to climb Cader Idris- again!
    I, meanwhile now have to consider resuming my circumnavigation of Scotland, from Stranraer, pondering whether to strike south to the Mull of Galloway, or head north to Ayr and beyond to the Isles.
    Only 143 miles into Scotland, from Gretna, I have now accepted that Coronavirus has carved great chunks of my strategy of walking round Britain’s mainland, and I need a new plan to achieve my goal. I’m guessing it will involve a lot of ferries and island hopping.
    Time is no longer in my side and I need to restart soon!
    It will have to be a cunning plan.
    Giving up is not an option!
    What are your plans for resuming?
    All the best Bob McIntyre.

    • Hi Bob, the enforced “rest” has been very frustrating, hasn’t it. Well done for reaching Stranraer. It would be a shame to miss out the Mull of Galloway, but I guess there are difficult decisions to make, when you consider how large Scotland is!
      I have no plans for restarting at the moment. I think Scotland will open up a little towards the end of April, but some areas may remain closed to visitors. We’ll have to wait and see. I have a kitchen renovation planned for the beginning of May, so will need to stick around to see that through. And I want to visit family as soon as overnight stays are allowed in England. Maybe will head up to Scotland in June? I need to get properly walking-fit first. My usual 3-5 mile walks, without a rucksack, really aren’t good enough! Best wishes.

  9. Chris Elliott says:

    Hi Ruth – I love seeing the views in you wonderful photographs. When I saw that panoramic map of all the peaks there was sadly only one peak visible in the murk and mist. It’s nice to see what I missed!

  10. Rosemary Fretwell says:

    We did walk over the top, and yes it was tough. Tougher even than Cape Wrath which we did all in one day. But there were ‘useful’ ropes in places to help pull us up! See Walk 238 on my blog ‘Turn Left at Bognor Pier’ or ‘http:/leftatbognor.blogspot.com’ for the illustrated diary.
    We did it in April 2010, so there were no midges at that time of year. No wind either, and wall-to-wall sunshine. Views to die for because it was so clear. We were very lucky.
    We are presently ‘stuck’ in south Pembrokeshire, after delays by having to replace our car, our caravan, and both my knees! Then Covid 19, and a flash flood cancelling our caravan site booking! All the while we are getting older — now aged 76 and 79. But we are DETERMINED to finish — one day!

  11. Calum says:

    Diabaig, written alone like that, usually refers to ‘Lower’, as in I don’t think I’d ever seen the term ‘Lower Diabaig’ until years after Mum and Dad sold the croft and we moved away – it was always just ‘Diabaig’.

    ‘Upper Diabaig’ is familiar mostly from the English name for Loch Diabaigas Airde – Upper Loch Diabaig. There used to be at least five crofts along the north shore of the upper loch, along with the fank (shearing shed etc) almost directly north of the cattle grid up a dirt track. No idea if that’s still there – given someone’s still got sheep in the village it probably is.

    I’m not sure – it’s nearly 25 years since we moved away – but that lochan may be Lochan Dubh. I can on the other hand tell you that specific lochan freezes over hard enough to skate on during particularly cold winters. We used to get a day or two playing on it most years.

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