Friday, April 09, 2010

Walk 235 -- Rua Reidh Lighthouse to Gairloch

Ages: Colin was 67 years and 336 days. Rosemary was 65 years and 113 days.
Weather: Constant drizzle this morning. It dried up this afternoon, but remained cloudy and windy.
Location: Rua Reidh Lighthouse to Gairloch.
Distance: 14 miles.
Total distance: 2176 miles.
Terrain: It was mostly roads. But at one point a steep and very boggy path led up a hill, and a better stony track led down the other side. After that we crossed a field to the beach, followed a grassy track along the top of the stony beach, then walked on lovely sand for a while. It was good to be back on the beach again! But all too soon we had to revert to the road.
Tide: Coming in, then going out.
Rivers: No. 227, Allt Loch na Cloiche Gile. No.228, Allt Grisionn. No.229, Erradale River. No. 230, River Sand. No.231, Abhainn à Mhuilinn. And lots and lots of streams.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: None.
Pubs: Melvaig Inn, where Colin asked for ‘Suilven’, an ‘An Teallach’ beer. But it tasted horrible because it was the bottom of the barrel, and he gave it back! So the landlord put on a new barrel of ‘An Teallach Ale’ which was nice, so Colin said. I had a shandy.
‘Historic Scotland’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: None.
How we got there and back: We were staying in our caravan in Gairloch. Yesterday we caught a bus to Poolewe and walked to Rua Reidh Lighthouse where we stayed the night. This morning, after a delicious cooked breakfast, we set out from the lighthouse.
At the end, we came to our caravan in Gairloch.

We slept well after our adventurous Walk yesterday! Following a sumptuous breakfast, and with packed lunches in our rucksacks, we set off in the drizzle to walk to Gairloch. All the other guests left by car. We had a quick look at the rocks next to the lighthouse which had intrigued us last night, but in the rain this morning we couldn’t work up much enthusiasm for them. The truth was, we were just too tired!
We climbed up a steep slope in order to avoid a length of road and a hair-pin bend. It was only at the top of this that I realised I had left my trekking sticks behind, propped up in the porch. Colin went back and fetched them, bless him!
We continued along the road southwards, and came to the first of many streams we would have to cross. But today there would be bridges at every one! There were hosepipes tapping the water from the stream — now we knew why the water coming through the taps in the lighthouse accommodation was so brown. This was their water system! It rains so much up here, I don’t suppose they ever run out.
We were passed by the other lighthouse guests in their cars as they left, one by one. Then we were passed by one of our hostesses in her car, and later she drove back so she couldn’t have gone far. It had gone very quiet, just the gentle patter of the rain, when two runners took us by surprise. There was absolutely nobody, then suddenly they were there right behind us. They really made us jump! They must have been running across the moors somewhere because they certainly weren’t on the road, I had only just looked. They ran off down the road ahead of us and disappeared.
After two miles of a lonely, open, undulating road across the moors, we came to ‘civilisation’ — well, a cottage or two. It was the exit from the open moors and the end of the road from the lighthouse. Propped up there was a notice saying “No hostel vacancies tonight”. So that is why our hostess drove past us then back, it was to put that notice up. We knew they were fully booked tonight because I had tried to book us in weeks ago, but was told they had a group in and had no vacancies. So we came up a couple of days early so we could fit in the lighthouse Walk when they did have room for us. That was one of the reasons I was so anxious when my leg played up a couple of days ago, we had to keep to our schedule or we would have been sleeping in that bothy!
We were walking through the hamlet of Melvaig when I pointed out to Colin that there was a pub about a hundred yards down a side road towards the sea. For some reason he was reluctant to turn off, “It probably only sells keg out here in the sticks!” he kept saying. But I wanted a rest out of the rain, so I insisted we went down there — only to find out it was a ‘real ale’ pub! Unfortunately the first pint that was pulled for Colin tasted horrible, and he gave it back. The landlord apologised, explaining that it was the end of the barrel. (Such a pub would never have got in the ‘Good Beer Guide’ because the landlord should have known that and not served it.) He put on a new barrel, and the second pint he drew for Colin passed the taste test!
The landlord was not Scottish at all, he was from London. There were photos of the Goodwood ‘Festival of Speed’ on the walls, so he and Colin had a lot to talk about. I just had a quiet doze in the corner!
But we had to move on. When we left it stopped raining, and it held off for the rest of the Walk. We soon came to a stream where we were able to sit on a rock out of the wind tucking into the first part of the packed lunch provided by the lighthouse hostel.
We passed a house where there were several pairs of antlers decorating the guttering. We had lovely views of the Outer Hebrides in the misty distance. We have never been there, but we would like to one day. Also we had views of Skye which became clearer as the day progressed.

There was more of the lonely, open, undulating road across the boggy moors before reaching the next hamlet where the road did a big loop inland. The only wildlife we saw was a bright hairy caterpillar.

We turned off the road at North Erradale, cutting a corner over rough ground — Colin’s idea, not mine. (It took longer than if we’d stayed on the tarmac and taken the ‘long’ way round, and far less danger of twisting an ankle, or worse.) We followed a lane until we were able to cross the river. Our way was shown by a small sign pointing walkers towards Gairloch which they reckoned was only three miles away. We knew that was nonsense, and when I measured it on the map later it turned out to be more like five!

We followed a footpath, marked on the map, which led over a hill between two peaks. My, it was muddy! It was very difficult to walk — slippery, and we were lucky not to get water in our boots. It was like walking over a bog! If we’d known it was going to be such hard going we would have stayed on the road even though that would have been much further.
However, at the top we had amazing views of Skye, and of the Torridon Mountains which looked magnificent. There was a much better track going down the other side, it had stones in it which gave some grip, and there didn’t seem to be so much water about. We met a road which we followed to its end. Then we crossed a field and eventually descended to a stony beach. Fortunately there was a grassy path along the top so we didn’t have to struggle over the stones.
There were small rocky islands offshore, the Hebrides and Skye in the distance, and the Torridon Mountains looked ever more spectacular the nearer we got to them. Yes, we were really enjoying the views! And the sky brightened to occasional hazy sunshine, which was nice.
We came across some chickens on the beach. It just seemed a strange place to meet these domestic birds, but we were passing a cottage so I suppose they belonged to the owner. They were scrabbling amongst the seaweed for food — bet they lay delicious eggs!
The stones and boulders we were passing seemed interesting, it would have been nice to have a real geologist with us, I don’t know enough about rocks in the field to identify them. Many of them were stripy, I thought perhaps they may be metamorphic?
A dog came bounding over to us, and Colin encouraged it as he usually does. Then we had difficulty getting rid of it — it wanted to follow us for evermore! We didn’t know who it belonged to, and kept trying to discourage it from following us, but it wouldn’t take any notice. Then it’s owner appeared at the top of the bank behind the beach, and he didn’t seem very pleased with either the dog or us. Perhaps he should train it better, then it wouldn’t make itself such a nuisance to people.
The sun began to sink low improving the already wonderful views. The beach turned sandy as we progressed, so we were able to walk much nearer the water. It was lovely to walk on a sandy beach again, they are few and far between in north-west Scotland. We came to a river, but it was very shallow across the beach so we were able to paddle across with no difficulty. We didn’t have to walk up to the footbridge, which wasn’t far away anyway.
The beach ran out after less than a mile, and we had to climb up to the road which had come back to meet us. We still had a good two miles to go, and we were both very tired having walked for three consecutive days. The only way I could cope with this was to ‘power-walk’ using my trekking sticks. This meant I walked more quickly, which was good, but it also meant I didn’t look at anything, which was bad. Fatigue had made me lose interest anyway.
We thought Gairloch was round every next corner, but of course it wasn’t.
Carry on! Left! Right! Left! Right!
Then suddenly it was — we were there! We passed a “Chip Shop Open” sign and that decided what we were going to have for supper. I was in no mood for cooking.

That ended Walk no.235, we shall pick up Walk no.236 next time at the caravan site in Gairloch. It was ten past seven, so the Walk had taken nine hours exactly. We bought our fish’n’chips and took them back to the caravan which was just around the corner.

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