Monday, 2 August 2010

North to the Cape - Day 7: Glen Ling to Strathcarron

This was to be our last day and we had just 8 miles left to reach Strathcarron.  The tents were wet but at least it stopped raining while we packed them away.  We set off about 9:30 and I was glad that I had had my last breakfast of  noodles and soup for a while.  I really do need to change the menu (please, nobody suggest porridge).

We reached the Allt Loch Innis nan Seangan (I'm also relieved I don't have to type that again), which was easy to cross and started to gain height as the track turned north towards the bealach and forestry. It rained on and off but it was a pleasant and peaceful walk with varied views from the snaking River Ling, through scented pine woods and out to  more open countryside above Attadale.  There was little or no wind and it had got a bit midgy on this side, so we kept moving in a bid to outrun them, which was of course futile.

Upper Glen Ling

After a kink in the lane, to get round Attadale House and Gardens, we met the A890, which was really very unpleasant.  Apart from the feeling we had been spat back into the real world, there was no footpath or verges and quite a lot of fast moving traffic.  In addition the road climbs quite steeply as it cuts over the western end of Carn Ruaridh.  Why couldn't it have been built it alongside the railway line?  Periodically we would have to dive for cover as another vehicle sped past, and in places where there was a bit of a verge, we kicked our way through discarded bottles and cans.  It felt like a poor end to what had been a fine walk.  However, some relief was at hand in the form of two things. 

The first was an unexpected viewpoint, with a tourist information point describing the Moine Thrust on the far side of the loch.  I think it was probably  mentioned in The Joy of Sex but I'd long since given my copy to Oxfam to send out to Africa. 

Loch Carron from the view point

 The Moine Thrust

The second and even more exciting (yes, I appreciate that's hard to believe) was a tea room at the bottom of the hill (marked on the OS 1:50k as Pottery), assuming we survived the campervans driven by anxious tourists, who were not going to slow down for anything and risk losing momentum up this stretch of 1 in 5.  It took a few minutes to make ourselves presentable enough to go inside and we sat at the first empty table before anyone noticed the odour of socks and asked us to leave.  We might well have stayed there all afternoon but it was only another mile to Strathcarron, where a hotel room, hot shower and bar awaited us. 

Strathcarron Hotel

It took a little while to find anyone at the hotel to give us our key but the goth receptionist was a very pleasant lass (well I thought so).  Christine opened the window and put our boots and socks out on the flat roof just below it.  We could probably have bottled the smell and sold it to the military as a biological WMD. 

The bar was typical of many in this part of Scotland with pictures of the local shinty team on the walls and a motley assortment of people including two oil men and some local fishermen who came to sit at the table next to ours.  They were big and loud and it was impossible not to overhear their conversation but apart from a few words which sounded close to english, I've no idea what they were saying.  The younger of the three fishermen felt it necessary to repeat  back to the two older ones, everything they said but in the form of a question.  "They're putting in new bouys".  "So they're putting in new bouys?"  "Aye, that's right lad, they're putting in new bouys". After more than 10 minutes of this 'Groundhog Day' experience I was close to interjecting to ask if he had some hearing or comprehension problem but Christine saved me from myself and ordered some more Red Cuillin.

So we'd done what we set out to do - 70 miles from Glenfinnan to Strathcarron with16,000 ft of ascent . We'd deviated from the original plan in terms of some of the places we stopped at night but it had all worked out pretty well.  We'd had two nights in bothies, two in tents, two in hotels and one in a garden shed.  I'm pleased we took the route through Knoydart and not Cameron McNeish's with his 'up the middle' start.  I walked Glen Affric and Glen Lichd last year on the challenge anyway, and they are both very fine,  but I think the North to the Cape start is much more in the spirit of what a route to Cape Wrath should deliver.  I don't know if it is the toughest long distance walk in Scotland, a description  I have read in a few places.  I'll maybe have more of an opinion when I've done the rest of it.  If we had been continuing, we would certainly have taken a day off at Strathcarron.  Knoydart is full on, intense, rugged and wild. You're hemmed in by the mountains and sea all the way.  It's a good value for money route that you have to commit to and be confident in your navigation, hillwalking and camping skills.  Until Shiel Bridge, any escape route would need a least a day to reach somewhere useful, unless you could get a ride out from KLH.

So this leaves the question of when we will come back to complete the remaining 120 miles to Cape Wrath.  It won't be this year and if we get on the Challenge next year, it may have to wait until 2012, which would be very frustrating as I am itching to experience the rest of the trail.

The End

Distance for the day: 8 miles and 1600 ft of ascent.  Totals from Glenfinnan: 70 miles and 16,000 ft.


Martin Rye said...

Well done Tony. Mean weather and conditions up there. Still you waked through some of the best hill country in the UK. I would love to do the Cape Wrath Trail. Got Patterson's book years ago. Just a dream at the moment.

Mike Knipe said...

Phew - How are the webbed feet by the way?

I enjoyed that, probably more than you did......

Pennine Ranger said...

Thanks for your comments guys. It really is a fab walk. I'd recommmend it to anyone but keep that a secret 'cos we don't want it getting overrun by a lot of folk ;) I can't wait to get back to finish it. The only time I felt I'd had enough was towards the end of the day to Glen Shiel, stumbling through bogs when we could see a perfectly good track on the opposite bank. Yes, Mike, Trench foot has been a bit of a problem since I got back!

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed that vicarious experience! In fact I'm slightly alarmed that it might be so long before you go back for the rest - can you really keep your public on tenter-hooks for all that time?
One tip - next time I reccomend porridge for breakfast (heh-heh).