Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Walk 243 -- Lonbain to Applecross

Ages:  Colin was 67 years and 347 days.  Rosemary was 65 years and 124 days.
Weather:  Stormy hail showers, but very sunny in between.  There was a strong wind all day which was bitterly cold.
Location:  Lonbain to Applecross.
Distance:  9½ miles.
Total distance:  2242 miles.
Terrain:  All undulating quiet road, except the last mile which was track, moorland path and a rough track through woods.
Tide:  Going out.
Rivers:  No. 246, River Applecross.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  Nos.209, 210 & 211 all in the last mile.
Pubs:  Applecross Inn where Colin drank Isle of Skye ‘Red Cuillin’ and I drank Symonds ‘Founders Reserve’ cider.
‘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.  This morning we drove the hire car to Lonbain.
At the end, we finished at the caravan in Applecross.  After a rest and refreshment we drove our own car to Lonbain, then both cars back.
The next day we drove to the Kyle of Lochalsh, me in the hire car and Colin towing the caravan with our own car.  I returned the hire car, then we took the rest of that day and all of the next to tow the caravan home to Malvern.

We were still sitting in the car above Lonbain when we noticed how beautiful the mountains on Skye looked with snow on their tops.  SNOW?!  Then we watched as both Raasay and Skye disappeared in a maelstrom of cloud.  That should have warned us, but naively we got out of the car to begin the Walk.  
The wind was bitter, so we gritted our teeth and started in marching mode.  It wasn’t more than a few minutes before the wind increased tenfold, and we were battered by hailstones!  Fortunately it was blowing from behind us — I don’t think we could have walked against it — but even so the hail really stung the backs of our legs.  I thought to myself, “Why are we doing this?  We don’t have to!”  I was questioning my sanity once again.  Colin said he quite enjoyed it, in a way.  Then I was questioning his sanity!
However it didn’t last long, such storms rarely do.  Soon we were bathed in glorious sunshine with breathtaking views, though the wind was still bitter and remained so for the whole of the Walk.  We walked fast!
We saw a deer on the horizon.  Then we realised there was a whole herd of them camouflaged by the terrain.  When they ran up to the horizon they made a good picture against the sky.  It was very remote where we were — no habitation, just rocks, the sea, streams tumbling down almost vertical rockfaces and the narrow road we were walking along with an average of about three vehicles an hour.  But the views were amazing, the Cuillins on Skye seemed to get ever nearer.
We came to a sandy beach which we had planned to walk on, but we couldn’t because the tide was not far enough out.  It is such a long time since we’ve walked along a sandy beach, and although this was only a short one we were disappointed that it wouldn’t be worth the effort of getting down there.  We sat behind a rock, desperately trying to shelter from the icy wind, and ate our pies.
As we walked on we endured another hailstorm, but this one was short-lived thank goodness.  I kept having to put the camera away out of the weather, then get it out again because the views were so fantastic.  Raasay, Skye and the Cuillins kept disappearing behind storm clouds, but soon reappeared each time.  The light was constantly changing, I was unable to capture all its different moods with my camera.
The old bridle path wound round the hill at a much higher elevation than the road.  We were quite glad the road was nearer the sea, we didn’t fancy climbing mountains today.  But that was the only way until just over thirty years ago, until then all the hamlets we had passed since Shieldaig were really cut off from the rest of the world.
Our road seemed to narrow, and we were squashed on to a narrow strip between the mountains and the sea.  We rounded a corner, and were rewarded with a wonderful vista across to Applecross itself.  We could even see our caravan perched on a ‘platform’ behind a ribbon of houses — if we looked through the viewfinder at full zoom!   
We sat by a huge rock and ate our sarnies.  We were bemused to see snow up on the Pass.  We had both driven over there in recent days, and we wondered if it was now closed.
We walked on across Applecross Bay.  There was no point in going down on to the beach, which was quite stony anyway, because it is bisected by a river.  So we stayed on the road.  We came to a plaque which told us the road we had been walking on was only opened in 1976!  We hadn’t realised it was that recent.  Before that the communities this side of the mountains could only be reached over the Pass which is often blocked with snow, or along the bridle path, or by boat.   
We passed a highland cow in a field, but he (or she) flatly refused to pose for my camera — food was far more important!
We crossed the river on the road bridge.  Colin saw some steps leading down to the beach.  At the bottom he found a large rusty spoon attached to a chain.  Was it some kind of well, or what?
We passed the end of the road leading up to the Pass, the highest paved public road in Britain.  Two red notices warned us that there is a high snow risk and the road is often impassable because of this. 
Also that it is unsuitable for caravans which should be taken round via Kenmore and Shieldaig, the way we had walked over three days.  We strode on towards the pub, but didn’t quite make it before we were caught in another hailstorm.
I nearly fell asleep in the warmth of the pub.  Perhaps we were ‘demob happy’ because we knew the walking was nearly done for the time being, and tomorrow we were going home.  Also, I had a weekend with my lovely little grand-daughter, Natalie, to look forward to.  I don’t see my grandchildren very often, so when I do spend time with them it is a real treat!  We could have ended the Walk there and then, for the pub is situated just below the caravan site.  To continue towards Toscaig is a dead end, but we had decided to walk two more miles round a small lochan and approach the site along a track from the south.  In the nice warm pub we regretted making such a decision!
But we pulled ourselves together and marched on.  The village petrol station amused us, one pump had its front laying on the ground and a bag over its top.  The unleaded pump was blank, obviously not working.  The Diesel pump was working, but had a notice which said, “Cash sales only, please pay at the shop”.  Now the shop is in someone’s house a couple of miles down the road in Camustiel.  Such trust!  We didn’t use this petrol station, we didn’t dare to think what the cost of the fuel might be in this remote place — if, indeed, they had any! 
We could have climbed straight up a footpath to the caravan site above, but we decided to do a two-mile circular walk instead.  We walked a little along the road until we came to the village which has very few houses, some of which are derelict.  We passed a lochan, then left the road to continue on a track round the water.  On the far side we climbed a moorland path and entered a wood.  It had started to hail again, so I gave up with pictures and put the camera away.  A track took us down through a dark wood to a farm and the caravan site.

That ended Walk no.243, we shall pick up Walk no.244 next time at the entrance to the caravan site in Applecross.  It was ten past four, so the Walk had taken six and a quarter hours.  After a rest, tea and biscuits in our caravan, we drove our own car to Lonbain, then drove both cars back to the site.
The next day we drove to the Kyle of Lochalsh the long way, not over the pass.  I drove the hire car and Colin towed the caravan with our own car.  I returned the hire car to its owners, then we took the rest of that day and all of the next to tow the caravan home to Malvern.

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