[This walk was completed on the 18th May 2022]
I wake up to dark clouds. My bedroom is right under the eaves, and the sound of torrential rain hammering down on the skylights does nothing for my dented confidence. Yesterday was a failure. Will today be a washout?
The rain finally clears in the early afternoon, and – miracle – the sun shines down from a blue sky. With no excuse to delay any longer, I pack my rucksack and hop onto my trusty e-bike (Scooty).
Better late than never. It is nearly 5pm by the time I make it back to the Arctic Convoy memorial at the end of the road.
On the way here, I overtook a couple of cyclists, feeling a bit guilty becuase I could zoom past on my e-bike, while they seemed to be huffing and puffing up the hill. They arrive while I’m locking up Scooty and we admire each others bikes. To my surprise, I discover they are riding e-bikes too. So, Scooty really lived up to his name!
Time to set off on today’s walk. Road-walking all the way – which to be honest is a relief after the trials of yesterday. Unfortunately, I have to set off squinting, as the bright afternoon sun is shining straight into my eyes.
I pass a boat on a trailer…
… and a protective mother sheep with her sprightly little lamb.
And then I ‘m round a corner and descending the hill I climbed earlier on Scooty. Wow. What a view!
Cove is a small hamlet of scattered houses…
… with a boulder-strewn beach and a wonderful view down Loch Ewe.
I pass a signpost that says I am entering Cove (or, in my case, leaving Cove behind). Making slow progress because I keep stopping to take photographs.
Look at that pretty little bay ahead. My host at the studio apartment stopped by this morning to apologise for the weather, and told me there was a lovely beach along here. Is that it?
The two cyclists I met earlier overtake me. They’re going quite fast this time, as their e-bikes clearly prefer the downhill slope.
I pass the lovely little cove, and enter a flat section of road. A bit boring, with no sea view and not much to look at except the distant rim of mountains. I’d forgotten how boring road-walking can be, but I guess it’s better than sploshing through bog.
There’s another beach ahead. First, I pass a turn off to a farm house, or possibly it’s a riding stable. A woman on horseback is making her way slowly along the lane. I like the idea of horse riding, but the reality of being up on the back of an unpredicable animal, and totally at its mercy, is a scary one.
Horses aren’t as terrifying as cows, but I prefer to admire them from a distance.
Just look at this gorgeous beach. It must be the one my host was talking about. Inverasdale, I think he called it. Red sand constrasting with the blue waters of Loch Ewe – absolutely beautiful.
There’s a car park nearby, and a field with a couple of camper vans. But I can see a path leading down to the sands. Of course, I must go down to explore.
It’s really one of those perfect, unspoiled beaches, with a huge expanse of soft sand, interrupted by rocky outcrops – all red sandstone (I think) – which gives variety, creates rock pools, and provides me with somewhere to sit and admire the views.
The beach is actually divided in two by a grassy finger of land that stretches out into the bay. And what’s that on the grass? Cows! Luckily, they seem more interested in the grass than in me. I make a wide detour up the beach, and get past safely.
Stop on the other side to take a photo of the beasts.
This second part of the beach seems even wider. And is completely empty. My footprints are the only tracks across the sand.
As I reach the far end of the sand, I head up towards the dunes, a section of which is fenced off. “Firemore Sands, a community dune restoration project” explains a sign. The dunes will be planted with marram grass to stabilise them.
When I reach the road, I walk back a litle to look at the campsite signs. It’s a facility-free site, but a good way of stopping random “wild camping” I suppose. £40 a week, or £10 a night. Not bad, even with no facilities. And there is an honesty box in case the warden doesn’t come round.
I am puzzled by the name “Firemore Sands”, because I’m sure my host called it something different – Inverasdale, if I remember correctly. My map is no help. Scottish place names are rather fluid.
An information board tells me that “Firemore” means “Big shore land” in Gaelic, which seems a good name for the place. The small crofting community here was established when the locals were cleared out of their land in the glens to make way for sheep in the 18th Century. Such a terrible thing to do.
Onwards, down the road. I’m approaching a place called “Midtown” on my map…
… and come across a fenced off lawn with some rather jolly gnomes. They make me smile, but seem more in keeping with a suburban garden than a Highland landscape.
The road bends around, and there’s a school on the corner. I think I’m in Midtown, but the school sign says “Inverasdale Primary School”. It’s all very confusing.
Midtown (or Inverasdale) consists of a long straight road with a couple of side roads. Houses are well spaced out in a crofting configuration, so the place seems to lack a centre.
The views over the loch are wonderful, even though I am now someway away from the water.
As I make progress along the road, the feel of the community changes – from practical crofting cottages to gentrified holiday-cottages. I must be nearly at my destination now. Love the colourful rhododendrons – and, yes, I know they are foreign invaders and we aren’t supposed to welcome them.
This cottage seems ripe for development. I often see places which I daydream about buying and doing up…
… but I don’t think I could live here permanently. It’s beautiful on a sunny afternoon in May, when the sun doesn’t set until well after 10pm, but the winters would be too dark and gloomy for me. I find winter in Manchester is dismal enough!
Oh, hello little lamb. Watch out for the traffic, won’t you.
Another place that needs doing up!
I stop at a roadside mirror and take a self-portrait. Should have cleaned the glass first!
You often see collections of metal containers lying around in the Scottish landscape. What are they doing here? What’s inside?
I pass a parking area, just off the road, with a sign that explains this is “Parking for Hill Walkers”. The track I didn’t follow yesterday (the one which led along the bottom of the escarpment where there is supposed to be a hidden tropical forest) joins a side road somewhere near here. I did ask my host if it was possible to follow this track all the way to the lighthouse at Rubha Reidh, but he didn’t know.
This pretty little cottage looks like it’s been “done up” recently. I wonder if it was originally a small chapel or a school house.
Beside the cottage is a hut. These are often called “shepherd’s huts” on the tourist web sites, but are really nothing more than glorified sheds, and seem quite small.
I like the thought of staying in one, but the practicalities would probably annoy me. I would prefer my new camper van, Perky.
This seems to be the village centre, because it has both a post box and a phone box.
I open the phone box to check – and, yes, there is a working phone inside. Rare in England, but reasonably common in the Scottish highlands.
Cross over a little river. It takes a meandering course to join the loch, and its banks are lined by an attractive pebbly beach.
I thought I was nearly in Naast, where I’m staying, but this road is going on for ever. The landscape has closed in around me, with a ridge of rocky peaks beginning to crowd in from the right.
I’m convinced I must have missed the turn-off to my studio apartment. Surely I’ve already walked through Naast. This can’t be right!
It’s now 7:30pm in the evening, the clouds have come down, the wind has dropped, and I see the midges are beginning to assemble.
Oh, silly me. I’m approaching a collection of scattered cottages and a small crossroads, where I remember the turn-off I need is opposite the postbox. THIS is the centre of Naast, can’t you tell?
My studio apartment is above a garage. It is where my host and his wife lived while they were building their own house, which is nearby. I promise you, it is MUCH nicer than it looks in the photo – very light and airy inside.
And the view from the windows is amazing. I can see the road continuing on from Naast to Poolewe, the village at the top of the loch. That’s where I will be heading tomorrow.
You might wonder why I’m not actually sleeping in my new camper van. Well, I might use it when my time here is up, but it is still only mid-May and rather cold in Scotland, and I was lucky to find this place had a vacancy.
Miles walked today = 7 miles
Total around coast = 4,724 miles