Friday, September 18, 2009

Walk 230 -- Ardmair Point to Ullapool

Ages: Colin was 67 years and 133 days. Rosemary was 64 years and 275 days.
Weather: Hot and sunny at first. Then some cloud and a cool wind.
Location: Ardmair to Ullapool.
Distance: 7 miles.
Total distance: 2115½ miles.
Terrain: Nearly all road. Near the end we crossed a golf course, went along a little beach (where the tide was practically covering the path) until we crossed a river via a footbridge, and then took a grassy path round a small Head. Finally we walked through ‘tent city’ set up for a music festival, and along the waterfront to the main jetty in Ullapool.
Tide: Coming in.
Rivers: No.215, Allt an´t-Strathain at Rhue. No. 216, Ullapool River in Ullapool.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: None.
Pubs: The Ferry Boat Inn in Ullapool where we drank Caledonian beers. I had Deuchar’s IPA and Colin had 80/-. Morefield Hotel, also in Ullapool, where I drank Thatcher’s Gold Cider and Colin had Atlas ‘Equinox’ and Cairngorm ‘Stag’. (We did go to these pubs on different days, and neither of them today because we were still too tired after yesterday’s Walk.)
‘Historic Scotland’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: None.
How we got there and back: We were staying in our caravan in Ardmair, and we had hired a car locally so we had two. Yesterday we had left the hire-car in Achiltibuie because we were too tired to fetch it after our Walk. So we drove our own car to Achiltibuie this morning, then took both cars straight to Ullapool. We left the hire-car parked on the waterfront, and came back to the caravan in our own car.
At the end, we ended the Walk very near where we had parked the hire-car. So we got in it and drove straight back to our caravan at Ardmair.

We started today’s Walk after lunch which we had in the caravan after collecting the hire-car from Achiltibuie and parking it in Ullapool. While eating, we looked again across Loch Kinaird to the mountain we had walked down yesterday, and still found it difficult to pick out the route we had come. We felt a certain sense of amazement at what we had done!
We walked round the perimeter of the caravan site, which is on a small promontory, and before we left the site we could see a seal in the water. It was some distance away, so I did not get a very good picture of it (Colin didn’t bring his camera today). We also saw two canoeists and Colin was envious! I think he would have preferred to canoe round the coast of Britain rather than walk.
We exited the site and walked down the road as far as the turning to Rhue. We passed a shingle beach, and then ascended a hill to cut off a headland. We decided there was to be no walking across rough country today because our knees were still too tender after our marathon yesterday. It was a bit of a drag, walking along the main road, but there wasn’t too much traffic.
We chose to walk part way down the lane to Rhue even though it was a dead end. (I think we still felt a little bit ‘guilty’ about making up excuses to take a short-cut on Walk 228 when we were coming down to Achiltibuie!) We were rewarded with lovely views across Loch Broom.
We came across some weird chickens, they must have been a rare breed because neither of us had seen chickens quite like that before. Each bird had a crown of feathers which looked like a wig! They were running quite free across the lane, I hope they laid good eggs.
We walked to the end of the tarmacked lane where we could see the lighthouse, but we didn’t go down to it. Then we retraced our steps to the main road, we had to in order to cross the river.
We watched a ferry from the Outer Hebrides ploughing its way along Loch Broom to Ullapool. One day we’ll go on it and explore those magical islands! Next to the main road we came across a shrine with candles and flowers. It seemed to be round a rock, but we couldn’t work out what it was all about. The flowers looked untidy and the candles had, of course, blown out. It looked as if it had not been tended for several days.
We walked alongside the road for about two miles, until we came to the golf course. We had fantastic views of Ullapool as we walked down the hill. We noted that there was a big blue tent on the edge of the loch, and speculated as to whether there was a circus in town as it did look very like a Big Top. We were to learn, later, that we are far too old-fashioned in our thinking!
We heard some snorting in the undergrowth behind a fence to our right. It sounded very like pigs, and sure enough it was — saddle-back type. We thought our little grandchildren, Natalie and Frank (now both approaching their second birthdays) would have been very amused with the ‘piggy’ noise!
We turned in at the golf club and walked down to the waterfront. The tide was almost in, and we wondered if we would be able to get round to the footbridge over the river. We asked some dog-walkers that we met if there was a path round above high water mark, and they told us to go through a gate further on which is labelled “Private Fishing”. Before we did that, we stopped and ate our chocolate. (Today was only a short Walk, but we felt we still needed the extra energy boost after our efforts yesterday — that was our excuse, anyway!)
The water was right up to the path, and over it in some places. But we were always able to get past without getting wet. As we approached a house, a lady came out and said we could walk through her garden if the path was under water. We thought that was very kind of her, but we didn’t need to as we just about made it on the other side of her wall. I wonder if she ever gets flooded, I wouldn’t like to live there despite the amazing views!
There was a painting of a forest fire on a big board by the loch-edge, but it was a bit abstract. It reminded me of my days at College forty-five years ago, when some of my friends did an Art course. Ann could paint, and went to a lot of trouble to produce beautiful landscapes. I always thought her pictures were fantastic. Joan, a much more flamboyant character, couldn’t do anything like that. One afternoon they were given two hours to go away and paint a picture to be brought back for criticism after tea. Ann worked hard, and produced a lovely picture in her usual style. Joan frittered away the afternoon doing anything but painting. I was studying a different subject, and only met up with them at tea. There Joan asked me if she could borrow a postcard I had of a picture of Vesuvius. I had to fetch it from my room, and this left Joan a mere five minutes to paint her picture of an erupting volcano. The Art lecturer went into ecstasies about it, praising Joan to the hilt. Ann’s picture got a glance and a grunt. To this day, I still feel sorry for Ann, I just don’t believe in all this modern art rubbish!
Getting back to the present, I forgot to look on the back of this painting where, apparently, there was another painting. Something distracted me and we walked on, Colin is not interested in Art at all.
Further on we met a lady coming through the bushes with her dog. “I hope you haven’t come for a quiet weekend in Ullapool!” she said. She then told us that the big blue tent had been put up for a ‘Music’ festival and they were just about to get going. Again this is not real music, but what passes for ‘music’ in this day and age — an unholy row! She told us that everyone living within earshot — and that must be the whole of Ullapool for it is only a small town — had been given free tickets worth £150!! But most, like her, didn’t want to go, they just want peace and quiet. How glad we were that our caravan is four miles away and behind a hill at Ardmair!

We crossed the footbridge, then walked round a grassy patch on a bank next to the water. We came across another painting, supposedly of waves on the sea but it wasn’t very good. On the back was a picture of a bird in the hand — it looked as if a child had done it!

By now we were approaching the big blue tent. A loud thumping noise was coming from inside, and every time it stopped girls screamed and cheered. It seemed a bit incongruous with the scene we were experiencing outside, sunset over the loch.What is our world coming to? Most young people seem to have completely lost touch with nature and the natural world, particularly natural sounds.
We had to walk on the shingle beach to get past because the grassy sward had been fenced off and there were ‘bouncers’ everywhere. Then we came to the caravan/camping site — and to think I very nearly booked us in to this site because of its proximity to the town! Horror of horrors!! At every site we have stayed at so far in Scotland, we have been told to leave a set distance between caravans for safety reasons. Then if one caravan catches fire, it doesn’t spread to the next, it’s as simple as that. But here the caravans were parked cheek by jowl, in many cases you couldn’t have even walked between them.
When we got to the tents it was the same story. Pitched right up against each other with guy ropes crossed over, we could hardly get through. The site was already jam-packed, and still they were arriving! They had to carry all their stuff in from the road outside because there was hardly room for their tents, let alone their cars. It was chaos!
We picked our way over guy ropes to get on to the sea wall, and thence round the end of a row of fishermen’s cottages. It was relatively peaceful round there, though the ‘music’ could still be heard, particularly that awful beating of the drums. We sat on a seat for a while to look at the view down Loch Broom and take stock. Ullapool is a beautiful place, but it doesn’t sound a beautiful place during a music festival!
We tried to work out which cottage was the B&B we stayed in when we were up here about ten years ago. It was one of the best, and I remember being able to lie in bed in the morning and look right down the loch. We thought it must be “Point Cottage” and we wondered if the same people were running it. They came from Winchester, I seem to remember, not Scottish at all!
It certainly wasn’t the derelict cottage a few doors up. We walked along to the jetty where the ferry no longer runs to Altnaharrie, but it used to so we are going to pretend again! Although it was a beautiful evening, there was a cold wind blowing along the loch. Colin felt particularly cold, I’m sure it was because he was tired though he’ll never admit it.
That ended Walk no.230, we shall pick up Walk no.231 officially at the jetty on which we were now standing, but in reality on the jetty at Altnaharrie on the other side of Loch Broom. It was seven o’clock, so the Walk had taken four hours. Our hire-car was parked nearby, so we got into it and drove straight back to our caravan at Ardmair — over the hill and out of earshot of any drumbeats, rock music or screams!

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