[This walk took place on the 10th August 2020]
Yesterday, I was in a bad mood and found the walk tedious – and that means I was in breach of one of my own rules: “Enjoy each and every walk”.
I’ve never been to this part of Scotland before, and will probably never return. The weather is beautiful, the scenery is stunning, and I’ve decided to spend a few hours just enjoying the place. So, I drive back towards Red Point, and park near the village of Melvaig, where I’ve spotted a lovely stretch of sand.
I sit on the beach for an hour or so.
There is one lone sunbather, reading the paper, about 200 yards away. I watch a lady paddling a kayak across the bay, dipping paddles in and out in a graceful rhythm – seemingly effortless. Far out at sea, a solitary white-sailed boat makes slow progress in the gentle breeze. I look out to the islands of the Outer Hebrides and think about how far I’ve walked, and how lucky I am to be alive and healthy, despite Covid. And how lucky I am just to be here.
Sometimes, it’s good just to sit and do nothing.
Driving on to Red Point, I park just short of Red Point Farm, at a viewpoint on top of the hill. There is nobody else here.
Down the slope is a pretty cottage, and a rather untidy smallholding with a caravan. I wonder if the owners of the cottage rent their place out to tourists, and live in the caravan while their home is occupied. It seems a common practice in the Highlands.
I walk down a path to a stone plinth, expecting to find a map… but the top of the plaque is empty. Whatever information was here, has vanished.
A short walk down to the end of the road, and I’m back where I finished yesterday’s walk. There is another beach here, one that I haven’t visited yet, and where everyone in the carpark yesterday seemed to be heading for.
The way to the beach leads through this gate. A sign warns me about sheep.
Oh yes, there are sheep – but also cows!
I don’t like cows because I’m rather nervous of them, but these seem peaceful enough and a fair distance away from my route. Nothing to worry about.
The path crosses the meadow, and then leads through a strip of vegetated dunes.
I can’t resist climbing the highest dune – always much harder than it looks, because of the shifting sand – before coming down to the beach. I’m not the only person here.
In fact, compared to me previous beach, this one is almost crowded. As well as a few families making sandcastles, there are several couples walking their dogs. And, in the water, a bevy of bodyboarders.
Some people are swimming. Brrrr.
Then I spot a surprising sight. A couple of cows amble across the sand, and stop to sniff the waves.
Where one cow goes, the others soon follow. Soon the beach is a awash with cows! They walk along the sand towards the rocks at the far end.
This is the last cow down. She stares intently at the waves.
… Oh, well, actually, she’s staring intently at the dog. Both the dog and the owner seem oblivious of her presence, but she clearly doesn’t like the dog’s presence. I feel a bit nervous and watch closely, albeit from a safe distance. Should I alert the dog’s owner to the potential threat? Or am I over-reacting?
Luckily, the cow eventually seems to lose interest, and ambles off to join the rest of the herd at the far end of the beach. Whew!
Well, it’s been an interesting day so far. I wasn’t expecting to see cattle on the sands.
I return to the road, where the carpark is now full of vehicles. A popular place.
Now, begins my very short walk – the only real forward progress I’m making today – back up the hill towards the view point and my car.
In contrast to the crowded carpark at the end of the road, the viewpoint carpark is practically empty. One other car has joined mine. But, what a view!
It’s only 2pm, but today I’m moving base. I’ve been staying in a self-catering lodge in Kinlochewe. The lodge is situated in an attractive valley, full of trees, but I’ve had to shut myself inside the place every evening, despite the long hours of sunlight and the warmth of the evenings. Trees, of course, means the lodge is in perpetual shade and surrounded by ferocious midges.
This afternoon I will check into a hotel in Gairloch. It will be a strange experience with Covid restrictions in place. Face masks are compulsory while inside. There will be no room cleaning. Breakfast is staggered to avoid crowding, and evening meals have to be ordered in advance and eaten at a table that you are only allowed to use for 90 minutes. All this takes away some of the fun of staying at a hotel.
I haven’t eaten out since lockdown started a few months ago. I’m a little nervous about the infection risk, but Scotland seems safer than Manchester, and it feels like things are gradually returning to normal. Maybe when I come back in September, things will be even more relaxed.
[Little did I know that we were about to go back into a second local lockdown in Manchester, and that our restrictions would last for months, and months, and months… and there would be no more trips back to Scotland this year.]
Miles walked today = 1.5 miles
Total around coast of Britain = 4,485 miles