Friday, April 16, 2010

Walk 240 -- Torridon to Shieldaig

Ages:  Colin was 67 years and 343 days.  Rosemary was 65 years and 120 days.
Weather:  Sunny at first, clouding over.  There was drizzle as soon as we got back to the car.  The cold wind persists, as does the volcanic ash apparently though we have seen no sign of it.
Location:  Torridon to Shieldaig.
Distance:  8 miles.
Total distance:  2215 miles.
Terrain:  Road – hard-packed track – road.  Slightly undulating.  Easy walking, what a relief!
Tide:  Out.
Rivers:  No.239, River Torridon.  No.240, Allt Coire Roill.  No. 241, River Balgy.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  None.
Pubs:  Torridon Inn where Colin drank An Teallach ‘Crofter’s Pale Ale’ and Cairngorm ‘Howler’.  I had a shandy again as I find it more refreshing.
‘Historic Scotland’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  We were staying in our caravan in Applecross, and we had hired a small car locally so we had two.  Yesterday we left the hire car in Shieldaig.  Today we drove to Shieldaig in our own car, then switched cars and drove the hire car on to Torridon.
At the end, we came to our own car in Shieldaig.  We had tea and caramel shortcake, then we drove to Torridon to pick up the hire car.  From there we drove both cars back to our caravan in Applecross.

We followed the road across the causeway at the end of Loch Torridon, and crossed the river leading into the loch.  A plaque on the bridge told us that the bridge was “reconstructed” in 1963 (the year Colin & I met!) as part of the highway linking Shieldaig with Torridon.  Until that comparatively recent date, it was only possible to travel between the two villages along tracks and footpaths — or boat!
We came to the Torridon Hotel crossing another river in the grounds, and although it was early in our Walk, we went into the bar.  The barmaid was Australian, recently come over.  She was very interested in our walking project, and when I gave her one of my blog cards she said, “It’s quite made my day!”  I wonder if she is still reading the blog, if so, “Hello!”  I warned her it would take about two years to write up this Walk as I am now so behind, and so it has!  We must have been there about an hour and wanted to stay and chat, but we had a Walk to get on with so we reluctantly left — after quaffing our drinks, of course.  We were both tired and were reluctant to get going, but the Walk turned out to be a pleasant one well away from the road for most of it.
We continued through the vast grounds of what was once a large estate, but had been left to go to seed.  We followed a good track through rhododendrons which had been left to go wild.  Once in the woods, we found a log to sit on and eat our pies.  Then we continued on a good track which we think was probably the only ‘road’ to Shieldaig pre-1963.  We kept catching glimpses of the loch and the mountains through the trees, then we had a stretch where we were walking along right next to the loch. 
We came to a place where there were lots of big rocks, and there seemed to be a manmade wall built out of these same rocks.  It looked as if we were going through a gateway, with a rock pillar each side.  Maybe we were leaving the confines of the Torridon Estate.  We sat on a rock and ate our sarnies.
We studied the map, and got it wrong!  We thought we were further on than we actually were (perhaps I was slow and ‘sluggish’ again) and thought we had passed the dead-end track leading on to the tiny peninsula of Àird Mhòr, but we hadn’t.  So we took that track as we knew we had to take a right fork further on.  Several hundred yards down the track we realised our mistake, and had to retrace our steps.  That was annoying.  We correctly followed the lower track later on, and ignored a grassy path which seemed to disappeared down to the beach.  
We also ignored a dodgy looking wooden footbridge which seemed to be in the middle of a swamp with no footpath leading to or from it.
Eventually we passed a log cabin, which was occupied.  Next we passed a derelict cottage and stable where every window was broken.  Then we came out on the road by Balgy Bridge.  This bridge, too, boasted a plaque telling us the bridge was constructed in 1963, linking Shieldaig and Torridon.  We managed to find a rock which was sheltered from the wind, so we sat on it to eat our chocolate.  The good weather we had been enjoying for the past week or so seemed to have deserted us today.
We ‘power-walked’ the rest of the way into Shieldaig along the road.  There was very little traffic.  At one point we walked a short bit of ‘old road’, but it was more of a bridle path than a road.  It was the only road prior to 1963.  In those days the postmen used to deliver everything by boat.
The main road bypasses Shieldaig, but we walked into it.  We passed an upturned boat, then we passed what we had thought was a caravan site since it is marked on the map as such.  It would have been a much more convenient place to base ourselves for several Walks.  But it turned out to be just a piece of land where caravans are tolerated — no electric hookups, no toilets or showers, no nothing, in fact.  That is why we’re staying in Applecross.  We turned down the steep bit of hill to the waterfront where our car was parked.  It started to drizzle just as we reached it, so we timed that well.

That ended Walk no.240, we shall pick up Walk no.241 next at on the waterfront in Shieldaig.  It was a quarter to five, so the Walk had taken five hours and twenty-five minutes.  We had tea and caramel shortcake, then we drove to Torridon to pick up the hire car.  From there we drove both cars back to our caravan in Applecross.

All the UK and northern European airports are closed still because of the volcanic ash drifting over from Iceland, which is getting worse.  Thousands of people are stranded abroad, and thousands more have had to cancel their plans to go abroad.  The airlines are losing billions!

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