[This walk was completed on the 12th August 2020]
I leave my bike in the parking area by the bridge over the River Kerry. (Well, actually, I haul it into the bushes and chain it up among the ferns and gorse. I don’t want anyone to steal it at this point, as I need it for future walks.)
Then I set off along the road towards Gairloch.
The A832 is quiet compared to an English A road, but certainly busier than the roads I’ve walked along so far in this part of Scotland. There are no pavements and the verges are soft and uneven, so I must plod along the tarmac. Keep listening for the sound of, and dodging, traffic.
No sight of the sea. I walk past a few fields of sheep, but mainly I’m surrounded by trees. Kerry Wood, according to my map.
After a couple of miles, I reach the outskirts of Gairloch, and walk past the driveway of my hotel. Gairloch Highland Lodge.
I tend to plan my trips at short notice, depending on the weather. In the past, it’s been really hard to find accommodation along the route of the NC500 in Scotland, as most places are fully booked a year or more in advance. (This was the reason I bought my campervan.) But, with Covid decimating the tourist industry, on this occasion it was easy to find a place to stay.
From here onwards there is a pavement to walk along, and I make rapid progress.
Soon, I come to a bridge over a river – Abhainn Ghlas – which empties into the sea at the apex of a pretty little bay. This area is known as Charlestown, and provides the harbour for Gairloch.
My map promises “Boat Trips”, but the only boats I see are pulled up on dry land.
I stop on the bridge to take a photograph looking up the loch. At the far side of the water is Badachro, where I started my walk this morning. I peer into the distance, but Badachro village and its little harbour are hidden from view behind a protruding headland.
The photograph turns out badly, as the sun is too low and bright in the west, but I love the expanse of bright space and water.
On the other side, looking up the river, is an older bridge. I wonder if this was once the main bridge into Gairloch? Next to it is a pub – the Old Inn.
My hotel does not provide evening meals, but has an arrangement with this pub – it’s “sister” establishment – The Old Inn. Unfortunately, because of Covid, you have to book online and order your food in advance, and you’re only given a 90 minute slot for your evening meal.
Although it doesn’t take me 90 minutes to eat my food, I do like to sit and enjoy a glass of cider or wine before (and after!) a meal. After all, there’s really nothing much else to do in the evenings, especially with the maddening midges out.
I must say that the whole experience of eating out has been dispiriting, as ordering in advance takes half the fun away. Basically, you sit down and your food is plonked in front of you. Also, the place consists of a maze of smaller rooms, and the diners are so spaced out, I end up eating on my own. It feels safe, but also rather weird and lonely.
Never mind. I should be grateful the restaurant is open.
Onwards. I pass a sign on a lampost that says ” Caution, cats crossing”. I keep a look out, but don’t see any cats.
After Charlestown, I walk past a golf course. The areas I’ve been walking through recently are remote, and I realise this is the first golf course I’ve come across for some time.
Here is a branch of The Bank of Scotland, sitting in splendid isolation. A rather fine modern building.
An OpenReach van is parked outside. I’m not sure what these vans get up to, but you find them parked in all sorts of places.
I like the simplicity of this chapel – belonging to the Church of Scotland.
Nearby is an extensive graveyard – and a fingerpost indicating a Core Path. It leads to the “Harbour via Beach Path”. Of course, I’ve already passed the harbour, but – a beach! I might be going backwards, but I must follow the path.
I pass a number of people wearing swimsuits and towels, then the path emerges through bushes, crosses a stream via a wooden footbridge and – hey presto – here’s a lovely beach.
It’s a fine day, although not particularly warm. But people are swimming! (Well, the water is shallow, so I guess technically they’re paddling, not swimming.) How brave.
I walk to the end of the beach and perch on a rock to eat a snack and have a drink. Then I realise my car is parked up there, on top of that headland.
I wonder if I can walk up the cliff? I ask a couple of nearby sunbathers, but they are only visiting the area and don’t know.
Behind some rocks, I find a likely-looking footpath. It’s heading in the right direction, but is very overgrown and steep. I’ll give it a go.
After a while, as I crunch over broken bottles and thread my way through thistles, I chicken out and return to the sand.
After retracing my steps along the Core Path, I’m soon back on the road. Past the graveyard, I march along the pavement, heading upwards. The traffic is building up now.
I reach the parking spot at the top of the hill. “Viewpoint” on my map. This morning, mine was the only car here, now the little place is full. But, what a view!
Looking back soutwards, down across the beach, I spot two young boys climbing up the slope, following a footpath through the bracken and grass.
Perhaps if I’d perservered, I would have ended up here? Shame I turned back. Oh, well, too late to worry about that now.
I visit the nearby war memorial…
… and look northwards along the coast. There’s the rest of Gairloch, strung out around the bay. Tomorrow, I’ll be walking along there.
I perch my camera on a nearby wall, and set the timer. Get the timing wrong, and take a rather poor self-portrait.
Then it’s time to drive back to collect the Monster bike.
I’ve only covered 10 miles on foot, but this is the longest walk I’ve done for some time, and I’m feeling pleased with my progress, for once. Yes, I really deserve a nice glass of cider tonight.
Miles walked today = 10.5 miles
Total around coast of Britain = 4,504 miles
Route (morning in black, afternoon in red)