437am Red Point to Opinan

[This walk was completed on the 11th August 2020]

After a lazy day yesterday, I’m determined to get some miles under my boots today. It’s a late start, because I get distracted by breakfast in the hotel (a strange experience where you wear a mask to enter the room but remove it once you’re seated, as if Covid only infects you when you’re standing up).

I walk through rain showers to reach the viewpoint at Red Point, where I take a self-portrait.

It’s a dull morning, and I’m glad I saw this same view in sunshine yesterday. Not so great today.

Time to walk back along the road, still damp from the morning’s rain. I really wish people didn’t leave their bins in such an obtrusive place. Really spoils the vista.

Then a large lorry rolls by, and I realise why the bin is waiting by the side of the road. It’s dustbin day!

I make the short climb to the top of the hill…

… where the view on the other side is wonderful. Not so wonderful is the sign warning me about animals roaming freely. I don’t mind sheep and hens, but would prefer not to meet any cows.

Soon spot some sheep. The lambs are nearly as large as their mothers now, and I guess will soon be on their way to the butcher. Poor things. Just as well they don’t know what’s in store for them.

I also notice large, fresh-looking cow pats. But, luckily, see no sign of the cows.

This road is long and pretty featureless. I’ve already walked up it once, choosing to walk instead of using my heavy Monster bike because of the unrelenting gradient. Walking down is much easier and the view is improving all the time, as the last of the rain clouds roll away.

Near the bottom of the slope, I hear a rumble behind me. Step out of the way to let the dustbin lorry go past.

Even in such a wild and empty place, the infrastructure of civilised life remains intact. Dustbin lorries carry away our rubbish. A lonely post box stands ready to collect the mail.

I pass a ruined building, and a few scattered cottages. An abandoned car stands forlornly in a meadow, no longer moving, but acting as some sort of storage shed.

There are a few mysterious container boxes (what do they contain?), stacks of pallets, and even a parked boat. Wonder if this one is ever used.

A “For Sale “sign catches my eye, and I wonder how much this property costs. Probably affordable for young couples, but then what do you do out here? It looks picturesque in the summer, but it must be a tough existence in the winter. And what do you do for work?

Onwards, the road dips down and up again.

A lone figure comes towards me. The only other walker I’ve seen today. He has long hair and is wearing loose pyjamas, like a Buddhist or a Judo player. I would like to chat, but he avoids making eye contact and strolls past without acknowledging my presence.

I’ve nearly reached the bottom of the hill, where the cottages are grouped closer together, to form a village called South Erradale. There are road works going on.

Now, here is a house I might like to live in. What a view!

A couple of serious walkers stride towards me, and give me a nod as they pass. They are carrying huge back packs, and I guess they’re probably heading for Red Point and Craig’s Bothy beyond.

They’ll probably do in a single day the same distance as has taken me three days – no four, if you count the lazy day yesterday – to achieve. I feel suddenly very dissatisfied with myself. So many days here already… and so little distance covered. What a wimp I am!

The first part of my walk today is nearly over. There is my car, parked in another little settlement, called Opinan. It overlooks some dunes and the lovely beach where I spent some time sitting in the sun yesterday.

I may not walk very far in a day, but at least I get to enjoy the place.

Just before I reach my car, I pass a green box attached to the wall of a shed. A public defibrillator.

They are a common sight now, and I have mixed feelings about them.

In my hospital days, as a junior doctor, I attended dozens of cardiac arrests, and our success rate was very low, even with all the equipment and the help of trained medical staff. Less than 1%, I’m sure. In fact, I only recall one successful resuscitation attempt, and that was with a man who lost consciousness as I was talking to him – so my reaction was immediate. He turned out to be in ventricular fibrillation, which is about the only condition where a defibrillator is likely to be helpful (the clue is in the name!).

Anyway, that green box is a stark reminder of our mortality and the uncertainty of life.

Route so far:

About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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15 Responses to 437am Red Point to Opinan

  1. jcombe says:

    Never worry about how far you did or didn’t go. It’s meant to be enjoyable not an endurance test and you have already come so far!

    Looking at my notes I did Shieldaig to Redpoint as a there and back walk. Well except I tried to follow the path from South Erradale to Badachro as a “shortcut”. It might be shorter in terms of distance but certainly not time taken due to the state of footpaths in Scotland (I never seem to learn!). I was a bit fed up of cycling by that point!

    Didn’t see many bins or bin men though but many Scottish landowners seem to be rather untidy so many crofts and small holdings seem to be littered with old cars, shipping containers and caravans!

    I certainly agree that the “Covid Secure” hotel experience is a thoroughly miserable one. I stayed in Mallaig for my first trip this year in May. For breakfast you had to queue up at reception the night before for a form (by 9pm), then fill in the form with your choice and your preferred time for breakfast. Then queue up again to hand it back in and wait to find if your preferred time was available or not. Of course in Scotland when you whole day is often planned around catching an infrequent bus, train or ferry, not getting the time you want for breakfast can throw the whole plan out so if you got back later the night before you might find all the “good” times are all booked! Then the rooms not cleaned and of course they only supply 1 day worth of tea and 1 cup (with no washing up liquid to clean it) even though I was staying a week. So if you want clean towels or more tea/coffee you must queue up at reception, but they can only deal with that in the morning, not the evening. (With only 1 person on reception and everyone needing to fill in all these forms and stuff there was *always* a queue). Then only one person allowed on the stairs at a time (my room on the top floor and no lift) and the stairs going round a corner so you can’t actually see if anyone is on the stairs or not (most people just ignored that rule). Then when you have dinner I was told you can only have soft drinks with your meal not alcoholic. If you want a beer you have to go and drink that outside (and be eaten alive by midges) before you can come back in (this is or was the law in Scotland at the time I was told, might still be I lose track of these ever changing rules). I mean the hotel was good (especially the views) and the staff pleasant but all these stupid rules make it pretty unpleasant stay and I was fed up of being treated like I was toxic and bound to poison everyone simply by existing. I actually had the same hotel booked for another week for my my trip in July (got back from that on Sunday) but after that stay I was so sick of the stupid rules that I managed to find a self-catering place on the same dates at a reasonable price (albeit a static caravan, on a croft) so I cancelled the hotel and booked that instead. Going self catering I had to cook my own breakfast and dinner but at least I can have it when I want and I’m allowed to drink a beer with my dinner without having to go outside!

    • I saw that “short cut” Jon, but decided not to take it and use the bike instead, and now I’m glad I didn’t attempt it! I agree the hotel experience during COVID has been pretty dire. On this trip (august last year) I spent the first half in a self catering lodge, but was looking forward to moving to the hotel to have some company at meal times, which didn’t happen as we were so spaced out I virtually had a dining room to myself. I had to book a set time and order my food choices in advance, so you basically just sat down and had your plate plonked in front of you. Quite soulless, but I was allowed to drink wine with the meal, thank goodness 😄

    • tonyhunt2016 says:

      One symptom of the restrictions that I’ll happily request when normality returns is the lack of daily room servicing when staying in a hotel for multiple days. It’s been so nice being able to leave the room in a bombed-out state and not having to tidy it each morning for the servicing staff!
      I don’t change the towels every day at home, so why do it on holiday, and getting fresh goodies from reception has not proven to be a problem.

  2. From my experience there are always low points on long trips but they usually disappear by next morning. Your candid assessment of resuscitation was an eye-opener for me.

  3. David Humphreys says:

    I have been following you since you passed through Arnside and admire so much what you have achieved. I can’t walk at present, so envy you too! The vicarious journey is wonderful. Good Luck. Soon the fleshpots of Ullapool!

  4. David Humphreys says:

    For interest I did resuscitate successfully a cyclist who collapsed on to me. I carried out CPR until the first responders arrived with their defibrillator. It worked on the fourth attempt. This was four years ago and after treatment he is cycling again and has just reached 70

    • Oh wow, well done David! Must be a great feeling to know you helped save a life. Shows how important speed is in these situations, as you were there right at the moment of collapse and I’m sure this made a big difference to his survival chances. (Was very pleased to hear about the successful resuscitation of that footballer in the recent European football cup too, and again the success was almost certainly because of the prompt response by his captain.)

  5. tonyurwin says:

    I get the impression that solo hiking in Scotland can be a tough challenge, both physically and mentally. There are always lots of people to pass and chat to, albeit briefly, on the South Coast. Your pyjama wearer comment reminded me that you soon learn the art of identifying those walkers approaching you that are up for a chat, and those that avert any eye-contact, no matter how narrow the path!

    • Hi Tony, yes it’s certainly much lonelier in Scotland. You meet very few people, and the things that usually add a bit of social contact – corner shops, pubs, cafes, etc – are few and far between. And in these Covid times, the isolation is accentuated by spaced out tables and masks. I’m very happy in my own company, but I really do like the occasional chat,

      • tonyhunt2016 says:

        Before the official narrative made everyone fear each other recently, I’d noticed that in densely populated areas people out walking ignored each other. As the density thinned there were exchanged hellos moving on to brief comments, and in the remote parts of Scotland it was usual to stop to chat for minutes on end! The fewer there are of us, it seems, the more we appreciate each other!

      • tonyurwin says:

        Yes, I am very similar. I enjoy hiking alone but always look forward to a chat on route or at a pub stop.

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