Monday, 19 July 2010

North to the Cape - Day 4: Barrisdale to a Potting Shed

This was going to be an easy day.  A stroll along the side of Loch Hourn to Kinloch Hourn, then a bit of a climb to camp below Sgurr na Sgine.  It would be 8 miles and leave us in a good place for the following day's crossing into Glen Shiel, with a possible detour onto the Saddle.  Well, without wishing to give away too much, it wasn't going to pan out quite like that.

We had a slow start and didn't get away from the bothy until 10am.  It was still windy and showery but on brief occasions we got to see our shadows.  The track out of Barrisdale was good.  So good in fact that we missed the right turn to KLH and ended up on the small promontory where the loch narrows.  Backtracking, we found a smaller path and set off on the first of a series of climbs, totalling 800 or 900 ft, which define the character of this stretch of the route.  Brook and Hinchcliffe descibe the path down the side of Loch Hourn as 'laborious' and this seems to have informed every other commentator on this stretch of the walk.

Looking west along Loch Hourn

The way the book splits the route puts this stretch at the end of a day and the expectation of a flat walk by the loch side might put a downer on the day when this isn't realised.  We were fresh, more of less, and I rather liked this section. We were also spurred on by the promise of a tea room in KLH, which we had learnt about from someone staying in the bothy.

The tea room didn't disappoint and after an hour (oh alright, an hour and a half), an extremely large and tasty corned beef sandwich and a huge pot of tea, we reluctantly set about the rest of the day's walk.  Now whether it was lightheadedness due to a real cup of tea or the crossing of the previous three bealachs or some other factor, I can't say but a degree of numptiness set in and it lasted for the next 24 hours.

The tea room at Kinloch Hourn

The first episode was in trying to find the way out of KLH.  A large sign clearly indicating the direction to Glen Elg was followed up by a number of closed gates into what looked like front gardens, a path along the beach to nowhere and a path higher up and parallel to the beach.  We could see where we needed to be - up by some pylons - but there was no obvious way to reach it.  So we set off up the side of a stream coming down the hillside, straight up the fall line, spurred on by the occassional evidence of others having passed this way, probably also lost!

It was steep and seemingly endless but eventually we reached the path and after a brief spell of immoderate language aimed towards people with locked gates, a sense of normality was restored.  It even started raining again and the wind got up a bit and we felt much better.

The track to Sgurr na Sgine

The intention had been to camp by Allt a Choire Reidh, between Buidhe Bheinn and Sgurr na Sgine, somewhere near where the ford is marked on the map.  On the one hand this was madness.  It's a horrible place to camp.  It's boggy and lumpy and windswept.  I guess in better weather it might look more inviting but it would still be a bad place to put a tent.  On the other hand, there is a useful garden shed there, which the Book describes as a shelter.  I must have read about this back in Sheffield but I wasn't carrying the Book.  I was carrying a book (which I never opened in the entire 7 days).  I just wasn't carrying the Book.  Anyway because I wasn't carrying the Book, I couldn't read that it wasn't intended as a place to sleep.  So armed with this ignorance, and after evicting a large number of spiders, we spent the night there listening to the increasingly heavier rain and wind.

The potting shed

For future reference, camp at KLH.  Whilst it is possible for two people to spend a moderately comfortable night in the potting shed, it is not intended for that and camping up there would be hopeless.

9.5 miles and 2,900 ft for the day.  37 miles from Glenfinnan.


The Odyssee said...

We too like the walk from the bothy to KLH although you never seem to be making progress. There are stunning views down or up the loch and plenty of wild flowers.
I have stayed in the both the properties along the loch prior to reaching KLH.
The first used to be rented to a friend of a friend and we had permission to use it a number of years ago. I think it is rented to a club now.
The second place is a B & B and very nice it is too.
I think you can stay at KLH farm if you ask but i don't think it is advertised as far as i recall.
Good job there was only 2 of you in the potting shed.

Pennine Ranger said...

Did you notice the small outcrop of twisted rock on the right hand side of the path? I love Scotland's "in yer face" geology.

So which gate does the track out of KLH go off from? In hindsight, and subsequent staring at the map, the most likely seemed to be by the last house, a deer gate with a screw gate karabiner keeping it shut.

I think we would have floated away in the night if we'd had to put the tents up! Anyway, there is more excitement to come next...

The Odyssee said...

I don't remember noticing an outcrop but it is about 8 yrs ago since i was last there.
I remember going down a farm track after KLH farm towards some estate houses and the path went between 2 of them. I don't recall a locked gate so maybe this is new. I am surprised because they are very walker friendly.
When we stayed at Runival we very kindly accepted a lift on the boat belonging to the owner of Skiary B & B.
We did have quite a large dray with us, so it was a big help.
And of course the cake and coffee at KLH can never be forgotten.

Phil said...

I remember that tea room well. In 2003 I parked my soaking boots outside, and to the great amusement of my companion, a collie peed into one of them with great accuracy and considerable volume :-(

Enjoying your tale immensely, Tony.

Pennine Ranger said...

Phil: Yes I can see how that would be distressing. It would have been more irksome if they'd been dry though!