[This walk was completed on the 13th August 2020]
After a picnic lunch, I head down onto the sands of Big Sand. Now I know why the place is called Big Sand. What a lovely long beach.
Big Sand lies in a shallow bay, sheltered by a large island just offshore, called Longa Island. The sea is beautifully clear, and I can see the contours of the sand under the rippling water.
Finally, the clouds have lifted a little. The air is bright and fresh, the water is shimmering blue and green, and I really enjoy this part of the walk.
The official Core Path runs along dunes just above the beach, but I was hoping to walk further along the sand. My way, however, is interrupted by a little river called, appropriately enough, River Sand.
I turn inland and follow the river up into the campsite, hoping to find the footbridge marked on my map.
Yes, there it is. An ugly, functional bridge, but just what I need.
I’m back on the Core Path now, with signs guiding me across a few grazing fields…
…and then along a very overgrown path beside someone’s garden, before I end up standing on a road. The house opposite looks beautiful but I decide it is, sadly, probably a holiday home.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but I didn’t expect the settlement of Big Sands to be so… well, so empty. There are several roads, forming a sort of trident like arrangement, but the buildings are very spaced out, so I guess this is another crofting settlement.
I’m walking along the most easterly road of the trident, and the next part of my walk is uphill. Someone has planted trees (or allowed them to grow) in this section, with deer fences protecting the younger plants, on the right, from marauding deer.
The more I’ve learned about Scotland and the attempts to reforest swathes of the highlands, the more I realise what a problem the deer have become. With no natural predators, their numbers can easily grow out of control. Although I haven’t actually seen any deer for some time, that doesn’t mean they’re not out here, somewhere.
At the top of the hill, I pause to take photo looking back down over the camp site of Big Sands. It looks a lovely place to stay, and I make a mental note of this in case I ever return in my campervan.
I’ve nearly reached the end of the prong of my trident, and here the road makes a right-angled turn.
Walking past the two other prongs, each one leading downhill with tantalising glimpses of the sea, I reach the point where the Core Path leaves the road system.
I was worried this part of the Core Path might be impassable, but it follows a wide, clear track. The signpost tells me it is only 1.8km to North Erradale.
I have to convert 1.8km into miles, because I’m old-school and can’t process distances in kilometres. Only 1 mile to go. Excellent.
It’s uphill to a sheepfold at the top. Bealach Buidhe, says my map, but I’m not sure whether that is the name of the hill or the name of the track.
The sheepfold is a pile of ruined stones, and now the track disappears. But the Core Path continues as a… well, as a stream!
When I reach the top of the hill, the views are wonderful. And the path at the top is clearer. But just for a few minutes.
The path soon deteriorates again, into a mess of mushy grass and mud. It’s quite hard to spot the correct route among all the sheep tracks, so I stumble around a bit looking for where it might be.
It’s a good job I’ve worn my proper hiking boots today.
The line of electricity poles would be a helpful marker, but they’re not shown on my map. There does seem to be some sort of path running under the poles, so I follow this.
I’m walking along the side of a river valley, dropping down gradually towards the sea
Looking ahead, I don’t see much sign of North Erradale, until I realise it’s here – spread out below me along the valley floor. Yes, North Erradale is another one of those crofting settlements.
The river at the bottom of the valley is the Erradale River, from which the settlement must have got its name. I passed through South Erradale a couple of days ago, also named after its own River Erradale – but a completely different river.
Scotland is very economical with names, as I’ve noted before, and often uses the same one for several different places!
Nearly reached the bottom of the valley. This path has been difficult to follow – uneven and overgrown, and has required a lot of concentration to keep my footing. Only a mile, but it seemed much longer. So, I’m pleased to spot the gate in the fence where the path must join another track.
I hurry towards the gate, scattering a few sheep.
Through one gate, and then I must cross a very boggy piece of ground before I reach another gate…
… and, finally, I’m on the reassuringly firm surface of a track. Soon I join a proper road.
The road runs long and straight, and I’m so excited by my rapid progress, I nearly miss the turn I need to take.
This road, to the right, will take me up the other side of the valley and out of North Erradale. Unfortunately, it’s uphill all of the way, towards a lumbering mass called – I check my map – Meall Glac na Daraich
I’m tired now, after a day of cycling to Gairloch, and then this long walk back. So, I stop frequently
to rest to take lots of photographs on the way up. Mainly of sheep!
At the top, I join the main road – if you can call the sleepy B8021 a main road! – which runs across the shoulder of Meall Glac na Daraich.
I’m walking backwards now, something I used to call “wasted walking”, to find my car. On these narrow roads, parking is difficult and I’ve left my car in an official parking spot – the only one for miles around.
Don’t mind this “wasted walking” today. It is a beautiful road with great views, although less impressive in the photographs because of the lingering low cloud across the mountains.
There’s my car. I left it here all alone this morning, and it still remains all alone. Has anybody else used this parking area today?
A group of sheep seem surprised to see me. One bold matron give me a quizzical look. What are you doing here? Nobody ever uses this parking spot, don’t you know? It’s in the middle of nowhere.
I give the sheep my best haughty stare. Have a quick snack and a drink, before setting off to pick up my Monster Bike and return to my hotel.
Miles walked today = 9 miles (although a couple were in the wrong direction!)
Total around coast = 4,513 miles
Route: (morning in black, afternoon in red)