Sunday, 1 August 2010

North to the Cape - Day 6: Shiel Bridge to Glen Ling

Just north of Shiel Bridge is the place where the North to the Cape route, which we were following,  and the Cape Wrath Trail,coming in from Glen Lichd,meet up and continue on to the Falls of Glomach.  After that there are a few variants, which we had mused over but the wet weather and heavy going underfoot inclined us to stick with the Book's route via Killilan and Glen Ling to Strathcarron, from where we would be getting the train back to Sheffield in two days time and return to the day jobs.  For now, the biggest hurdle to overcome was leaving the comfort of the hotel.  The high winds and heavy rain had continued most of the night.  Looking out of the window at 8am, the clouds had lifted a little but it was still raining steadily. I focussed on packing the rucksack and collecting still damp items of clothing from the drying room.  I wanted to get off before either of us articulated the idea of calling it a day and getting a lift to Strathcarron.  At the same time I felt a slight pang of guilt at dragging Christine back out into the wind and rain for another two days.  But this was what we had come to do, so it had to be done.

We finally got away at 10am and headed for Morvich, passing the Jac-O-Bite restaurant which Steve Gough and I had called in at during our first day on the TGO Challenge last year.  Well to be strictly accurate, during our first 500yds from signing out at the hotel!  Despite the rather naff name, the J-O-B does extremely good coffee and cake.  Thankfully it didn't open until 11am, so we had no temptation for further delay.

Glen Shiel and The Jac-o-bite

The road to Morvich and the forestry section above Strath Croe is not terribly exciting but it made a welcome change from the previous day's endless splodging over trackless moorland.  The rain came and went in heavy showers and we gained height up to the Bealach na Sroine, which has a line of cairns spaced every hundred yards or so.  I know this is a tourist route but even in dense fog it, I would have thought it would be almost impossible to get lost along this narrow corridor.  By this time the cloud lifted enough to give some fine views to the north and a sizeable river ending abruptly in some white stuff.  OK, so maybe this was going to be worth turning out for. 

The Allt Coire Lochan disappearing over the Falls of Glomach, viewed from the northern end of Bealach na Sroine

This stretch is such a contrast to Knoydart.  These hills seem much friendlier and the whole place has a far less serious feel to it, which was not unwelcome after the previous four days.  There is an NTS sign at the top of the falls warning you it's a dangerous place (you don't say) and a steep path down the side which leads to a couple of natural viewing platforms where one can gaze in awe at the power of nature and capture it inadequately on an SD card. 

Falls of Glomach

One postive thing about rain in Scotland is the way it brings out the waterfalls.  Glomach is about the same height as Gaping Gill main shaft is deep and I'm happy never to have seen this much water going down GG.  Feeling slightly wobbly, which may have been the exposure or hunger, we climbed back to the top of the falls and had a bite to eat, thereby treating the symptons for both possible causes in one go. 

The track down the left side of Allt a Glomaich is well defined and mostly risk free save for a few awkwards steps lower down.  The Allt na Laoidhre, which crosses the path, required wading. 

Crossing the Allt na Laoidhre

Stopping on the far side to wring water from socks (and boots), we had some more lunch before continuing down to Glen Elchaig, where a good bridge crosses the River Elchaig. 

Looking west down Glen Elchaig

The track and subsequent road to Killilan isn't that exciting but it did allow us to pick the pace up a little.  There is a bunkhouse at Camas-Luinie and if you know that, and the fact that there is nowhere to camp at Killilan, you would take the road on the left about a mile before Faddoch.  We didn't know either of these facts, so we headed straight to Killilan, with its neatly trimmed grass verges and tidy fields.  It felt like being in Switzerland but a Switzerland where nobody lives.  It was 6pm by now and we were getting a bit past our use by date for the day.  We sat on a wall just by the sign pointing to the bunkhouse 2km away and brewed up some soup.  Neither of us felt like doing it.  It was 2km and it was in the wrong direction. When a  car drove past I flagged it down to ask about camping.  The occupants were very helpful and suggested we could probably camp by a shed just over the bridge.  It sounded a bit vague and when we went to look at it, it was in a field of sheep with no easy access to fresh water, despite the R. Ling being close by.  It wasn't raining and we still had at least 3 hours of daylight so I suggested to Christine we continue on for another hour to look for somewhere in Glen Ling.  This wasn't greeted with any real enthusiam but the options were limited, so we headed up the road to Nonach Lodge, ignoring the somewhat off-putting sign saying private road.  We were half way up the road when a car drove up full of fisherman (fly not Captain Birdseye).  They stopped and asked us if knew where we were going.  I tried to sound confident.  I'm a consultant.  I spend my life trying to sound like I know what I'm talking about.  Rather perceptively, they asked if we were looking for somewhere to camp and said that there was a good spot by the river about 35 minutes walk along the track which follows the river.  They said we needed to turn right at the end of the road and go through the gate by the hen house.  This was slightly confusing as the hens had gone to bed, as their owner explained to us when he came out to ask if we knew where we were going and explained the route again.

It had turned into a lovely evening and knowing we had a place to camp, our spirits lifted as we passed through the iron gate.  The track leads to a gate in a deer fence, at the point where the power lines cross the river.  Immeadiately after this the path forks.  The obvious route goes uphill whilst the route following the river is less clear.   So excited was I about getting the tents up, I would have missed it, had Christine not shouted me back.  It was a good job one of us still had an eye on the ball.  The River Ling is a proper Scottish salmon river, wide and pondering for long stretches, punctuated by small cascades and deep pools and whilst not a fisherman, I can see it must be a fabulous place to stand and wave a fly around on a bit of string.  I can't remember the detail now but I do recall that the rock slabs in the riverbed offered some interest to a weary walker with Ben Killilan rising up behind.    There are two camping spots but the first is well above the river, so not so convenient for fresh water.  The better one is about five minutes further on, a little before the Allt Loch Innis nan Seangan, and is a large expanse of flat grass separated from the shingle shore and River Ling by a small flood embankment.  The midgies were out by the time we got there and pitching the tents was a rapid affair and I remember collapsing inside and after a while, forcing myself to get the stove on and warm up some food.  It was 9pm.  Another satisfying day, where we'd overcome the temptaion to give up at Shiel Bridge and ended up two miles further on than planned.  It rained during the night but only lightly.

Our camp in Glen Ling

We'd covered 16 miles and a climbed a tad over 3000ft that day and were 62 miles from Glenfinnan.


The Odyssee said...

Smashing post Tony. I have just emptied my boots out again. Lol.
It's a nice stretch of walking country. I don't mind the odd bit of road and touristy tracks. Much better than forestry.
I got sick to death of the forestry on the Rob Roy Way.

Louise said...

I know this was first posted a while ago, but I'm doing a little googling to get some pitching ideas for the Challenge this year. This spot in Glen Ling looks ideal, I'll be coming from the west (strangely) following the Allt Loch Innis nan Seangan. I shouldn't miss it!

Tony Bennett said...

Louise: The grid ref is NG 945327. t's pretty obvious flat bit of ground with an earth embankment flood defence. Have fun :)

Louise said...

Brilliant! Plotted, thanks.