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North by Northwest: Cape Wrath Trail 2017 Part 1

PostPosted: Fri Jul 28, 2017 4:35 pm
by jaggedlittlehill
First off, an admission - I don't enjoy walking. Not really. I mean, hillwalking is great, a short walk along the beach is lovely and all that but just walking along a flat path with no real destination apart from a bit further along that path was not something that ever particularly made my heart soar. On long approaches to hills or climbing routes - particularly when alone - it's often a case of "head down and get it over with" or "I wish I was running this".
So to attempt a 200+ mile mostly solo walking trip might seem to be an odd choice. But with my 7 year tenure in Scotland coming to an end I was looking for a good send-off before I left for Ireland and for some reason the Cape Wrath Trail had been percolating in my mind for a couple of years. It has been billed by many as the toughest and most spectacular long distance trail in Britain so I figured I'd put those claims - and myself - to the test. I'd done plenty of hillwalking and the odd wild camp before but no long distance hikes or back to back wild camping trips. The plan was to complete the first part from Fort William to Ullapool solo then I was to be joined for the last week by my girlfriend and unwitting fiance-to-be Claire (more on this later!)

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The Cape Wrath Trail starts from Fort William in the shadow of Ben Nevis and follows a series of glens, hills and passes to reach Cape Wrath - the most North Westerly point of mainland Britain. It is completely non-waymarked, has several different route choices, follows often pathless terrain, crosses occasionally uncross-able rivers and takes you through some unspeakable bogs for miles on end.
Well what was I waiting for??!

Day 1: Fort William to Cona Glen. 12km

My train from Glasgow arrived in Fort William just in time for me to miss the Camusnagul ferry across Loch Linnhe to where the walk officially starts. I thought this might happen so I had a back up plan - taxi down to the Corran ferry and walk north along the road to reach Cona Glen. This would also save me about 4km of road walking. It felt wrong to be starting the walk by immediately skipping the first part of it but it couldn't be avoided. The taxi driver was the chatty sort and spying my backpack he asked what I was up to. Without wanting to get into the nitty gritty of the Cape Wrath Trail I downgraded my exploits and said I was only heading as far as Glenfinnan, about 30 km away.
"That's a looooong hike alright."
"Yup" I replied.
"You're going on your own?"
"Yeah I couldn't convince my girlfriend to join me"
"Aye she's got brains" he said.
The ferry glided across the still, glistening waters of Loch Linnhe with a snow capped Ben Nevis looking on.

Sailing across Loch Linnhe

I had been wondering for months how I'd feel talking my first few steps on the journey - mainly worried about instant regret - but the sunshine, the birdsong and the scent of the abundant gorse made for a very pleasant start.
"Not too bad this Cape Wrath Trail thing" I said to myself.
This didn't last too long unfortunately as after about 45 mins walking I was sitting at the side of the road applying a blister plaster to each foot. Having completed about 3km of a nearly 400km walk, this was concerning to say the least! I was walking in light hill-running shoes which have seen me through many miles of rough ground over many of the Scottish hills with no problems but I guess the weight of the pack combined with the hard road surface was something different. The plasters seemed to help and soon I was turning off the road and marching down Cona Glen where I intended to camp for the night.


The track through the glen made for easy walking and my feet appreciated being off the hard tarmac surface. 3 hours after leaving Corran I found a nice pitch beside the river and set up my Hileberg Akto tent.
At 12km it was a short day but no point in overdoing things on day one right? :D

Day 2: Cona Glen to Glenfinnan. 25km

It was a cold night and I awoke to find the summits capped with a fresh dusting of snow. I got up at 7 (well, as much as you can "get up" in a tent) and began the process of preparing for the day ahead. Considering all that needed to be done was pack my stuff away, put on my shoes and pack up the tent this really shouldn't have taken very long but for the next 3 weeks I struggled to get this accomplished in under an hour every time. My hands froze when packing up the tent so the mitts were on as I set off. The goal for today was to reach Glenfinnan - about 20km away and involved continuing down the glen before climbing over a pass which then led down to Glenfinnan.
It was a bit drizzly as I made my way along the glen, spotting a couple of tents beside the track. After 6km I turned off the track onto a soggy path which climbed steeply up to the pass. The rucksack weighed heavily on me during the ascent and my progress felt slow and laboured compared to the more sprightly pace I had maintained up to now. Many times during the walk I used to fantasize about tearing out and discarding pages from my guidebook or chucking out maps I would no longer need once I got to a bin just so I could be a pitiful few grams lighter, but whenever I got the opportunity I could never quite bring myself to do it.
I also had my first bout of saturated feet as the boggy ground sucked away at my shoes. Better get used to this. At the top of the climb I met a hillwalker aiming for a hill at the top of Glen Cona. He was well wrapped up against the rain. "It's not very nice is it?" he uttered forlornly as we passed. It certainly wasn't, but nor was it lashing rain and apart from my soaked feet I was staying pretty dry. Descending towards Glenfinnan the rain stopped and the
views of the hills ahead and the thought of lunch in the visitors' centre cafe spurred me onwards. The sun started poking through occasionally and when I arrived at the cafe it had warmed enough to allow me an alfresco lunch. Tourists milled about as I tucked into a hearty mix of soup, bread, muffins and scones. I got chatting to the estate owner who remarked I was the 4th CWT hiker to pass through today and he was seeing around 7 daily. I was glad to hear I wasn't alone in thinking this might have been a good idea.


As it was still early enough I walked the short distance to the hotel bar for a bit and took the opportunity to check the forecast for the next few days. Little rain, a smattering of sun and calm skies boded well, especially as I was heading into Knoydart - a notoriously remote, rough tract of land and featuring some potentially tricky river crossings.

Glenfinnan Viaduct

I set off down Glenfinnan passing underneath the world famous "Harry Potter viaduct" and after 6km pitched the tent beside the river just before the track began to rise to the next bealach. Sunlit peaks soared all around me and I spent a pleasant few hours whiling away the evening.

Wild camping in Glenfinnan

Day 3: Glenfinnan to Sourlies Bothy. 22km

Probably the worst thing about multi-day backpacking trips is having to don wet socks every morning. Even if I managed to partially dry my socks off overnight then my shoes would still be waterlogged and putting my shoes and socks on every morning was easily the worst 5 seconds of every day. Tough life eh?
Today's aim was to head towards Sourlies bothy at the head of Loch Nevis with plenty of rough and boggy ground to negotiate but as I poked my head out of the tent the clear blue skies and sunlit-crown of Sgurr nan Coireachan promised an easier ride than i could reasonably have hoped for. Despite the sun it was another chilly start and I was well wrapped up as I plodded up the track.

Steep start to day 3

Reaching the bealach - by now well warmed up by the exertion - I was struck by a sudden overwhelming silence: no wind, no birds, no running water, just my own feet treading lightly on the soft grass. The views to the north from the top were tremendous but the path downwards initially required all my attention as it was quite steep in places. The angle soon relented and I bounced down over springy ground towards the river which would be my first river crossing of the walk. Thankfully it presented no difficulty and the water was only about halfway up my knees. I continued down stream towards Glen Dessary where I picked up a good 4x4 track which shuttled me westward towards wilder country.

I stopped for a bite of lunch, glad to get the backpack off for a few minutes and bask in the warm sunshine. Continuing on, the track turned into a rough path which passed under the Munros of Sgurr nan Coireachan and Garbh Chioch Mhor into Upper Glen Dessary where the path became indistinct and harder to follow.

Glen Dessary

I passed by Lochan a Mhaim and the path improved as I approached the crossing point of the Fiskaig river- an embarrassingly easy ankle-high splash. It was all downhill to Sourlies bothy and Loch Nevis soon came into view - a grand sea loch extending for 20km inland. Sourlies enjoys a wonderful location by the loch shore and I sent up camp not far from the door.

Descent to Sourlies

The sun was beaming down from above Loch Nevis and I hung up my sopping wet socks and gaiters in a mostly fruitless attempt to try and dry them off.

The washing line

I lazed about outside the tent awhile, enjoying being off my feet after a long, tough day, knowing more of the same awaited me tomorrow. A herd of deer grazed peacefully beside me and a breathless sigh hung over the land. Dinner was cooked and consumed eagerly watching the sun fade out behind lonely mountain ridges slumping into the sea.

Day 4: Sourlies to Kinlochhourn. 23km

Another big day loomed and I was off again at 8. The first objective was to round the headland next to the bothy. High tide necessitates climbing up over the headland but I got lucky and the tide was out meaning i could wander around it across the sand. In 3 weeks of extraordinarily calm weather these few minutes rounding the headland were among the most tranquil I experienced with not a soul about, birds skimming over the water and an all
encompassing stillness enveloping the expansive landscape. A moment a world away from everyday life, but feeling infinitely more natural and comfortable than the normality I'd temporarily left behind.

Sgurr na Ciche

Shortly afterwards I encountered the first bogs of the day on the approach to the bridge over the river Carnoch. And what exquisite bogs they were! The ground was woefully sodden and negotiating a solid path that wouldn't suck me downwards into the very bowels of the earth itself was far from easy. At times I felt like I was a contestant on Takeshi's Castle taking on the skipping stones game - expecting at any moment that the seemingly dry bit of ground i was about to step on would give way and leave me floundering thigh deep in the bog like a swamp monster forlornly hunting for a victim. The bridge across the river comes complete with it's own sign, warning of how dangerous it supposedly is. To be honest if the sign hadn't been there I wouldn't have given it a second thought but as it was I was very gingerly stepping along it, thinking light thoughts.

Easy does it

There followed quite a rough walk up the glen with the spear-like sentinel of Sgurr na Ciche watching my every move. The scenery clamoured for my attention in every direction.
At the point where the glen turns 90 degrees to the right I struck off up some vertical boggy grass to intercept the good path that runs horizontally about 300m further up. This was slow, tiring work and after 20 minutes of effort I was mightily relieved to have reached the path which ran like a veritable motorway to the next pass. I was feeling light as a feather as strode along it, barely noticing my backpack. The path descending into Barrisdale Bay was a joy
and I bounded down enjoying the terrific views of Loch Hourn and the bulk of Ladhar Bheinn rearing up imposingly to the west.


Dropping down to Barrisdale

I'd promised myself some lunch once I reached the bottom and perched on a rock to have a ham and cheese roll. Ahead lay the 11km of coastal path with ran along Loch Hourn to reach Kinlochhourn where there was a tea house and my intended campsite for the night. I'd read numerous accounts of how tiring this section can be and sure enough it was full of ups and downs and plenty of rough sections which made progress slow in parts. Any hardship was more than compensated for by the views down the loch of tiny islands, lonely and seemingly inaccessible dwellings and glimpses of the tea house far in the distance.



3 hours after lunch I reach Kinlochourn and made a beeline for the tea house where I guzzled down a Pepsi and made use of the wi-fi to contact the outside world again. I also met some fellow Cape Wrath hikers for the first time: Daniel, a German living in Edinburgh and a father and son from the US who were staying overnight in the tea house. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't slightly envious of them as they headed up to their room with the prospect of a hot shower and a proper 3 course meal awaiting them while I crossed the river and pitched my tent. I hadn't showered for 4 days. :shock:


Day 5: Kinlochhourn to Shiel Bridge 17km

On paper an easier day lay in store which involved crossing the highest pass of the Trail at about 720m then descending into the hamlet of Shiel Bridge where I had a room booked at the bunkhouse. On either side of the pass lay 2 Munros : the Saddle and Sgurr na Sgine. I had climbed the Saddle before but not Sgurr na Sgine and I figured
seeing as I'm going to be only 200m below the summit I might as well tick it off. I left Kinlochhourn on a steep 4x4 track that soon opened up to a stunning view back along Loch Hourn to Barrisdale from where I'd come yesterday.

The View back towards Barrisdale Bay

The track continued for a another few kilometers until I turned off the main trail route to strike up the mostly pathless south ridge of Sgurr na Sgine. The ridge steepened considerably towards the top and I was glad when the summit cairn appeared out of the mist. With no views forthcoming and a cold wind numbing my face I began my descent to the bealach with the Saddle where I would rejoin the trail route once more. When I reached the bealach the cloud lifted and I was granted a vast panorama northwards of the majestic hills of Kintail, rushing suddenly
up from Glen Shiel forming an impenetrable wall topped with pointed summits like watchful sentries.

My growling stomach willed me to stop for lunch and I duly obliged. Soon the clouds overhead started breaking up like crushed ice melting away into the blue sky.


The Saddle emerged from the cloud like an alpine giant, the upper reaches covered in a blanket of snow and the sight of it provided at least as much nourishment as the food itself. Re-energized I hurried down the pathless slopes into Coire Caol to reach the river.

The Saddle

There was a hint of a path in places here but nothing that could be described as useful. Crossing the river at the end of the glen was another simple affair and with my feet already being soaked I could just walk straight across and joined the 4x4 track leading easily down to Shiel Bridge. A short walk along the road led me to the luxury of the bunkhouse behind the Kintail Lodge. I had made quicker progress than I expected over the first few days and reckoned I'd treat myself to a well-earned rest day. Unfortunately due to my smartphone giving up the ghost shortly after I got home from the trip I ended up losing almost all my photos from the next 2 weeks so you'll have to use your imaginations a bit from now on!

Day 6 Rest Day

Nothing much to do today apart from rest up and re-supply at the Shiel Bridge shop. The weather was pretty grim and I was glad not to be out walking in it. The bunkhouse was comfortable and there's a cosy bar serving fine food and ales in the hotel next door. It was in this bar where I again ran into Daniel who had come across another German, Matthias, who had just completed the West Highland Way from Glasgow to Fort William and immediately started into the Cape Wrath Trail. He had planned to stop here, then get a bus further north to do another stage or two. Twenty years ago he had completed the Trail going north to south with 3 friends all decked out in old army gear and getting drenched every day. It was good to hear he hadn't been put off coming back!

Day 7: Glen Shiel to Maol-Bhuidhe. 25km

A digression readers, if you will allow me:
Never mind the midge, never mind the weather, never mind the bogs.....
The earworm. That nagging tune you JUST CAN NOT GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD is by far the greatest enemy of the solo walker.
Here's a taster of the songs that tormented me for hours on end, like a gruesome day-long hangover you just can't shake:

Don't You Want Me Baby
500 Miles by The Proclaimers (appropriate enough I guess, if somewhat of an exaggeration)
Loch Lomond
Rosanna by Toto (I REALLY hate this song)
Hot and Cold by Katy Perry
I wish it could be Christmas Everyday
Irish National Anthem
French National Anthem
Scottish National Anthem
Italian National Anthem (not sure why anthems featured so heavily)

These and countless other songs I never want to hear again went swirling around my brain and sometimes I resorted to singing them out loud to try and shift them like some kind of exorcism. It never worked.

Well rested after my day off I hit the road for a day which would bring me over 2 passes, past one of the biggest waterfalls in Britain and into some truly remote mountain land. First a 4km walk along the road to Morvich past the caravan park and onto a 4x4 track leading up to the bealach na sroine. There was a lot of water about from the overnight rain and burns streaked down the mountains like bolts of lightning rending them in two. There was some light rain as I neared the high point and the scenery was incredibly bleak and wild with dark hill and moorland stretching out in all directions. The path lead me down towards the Falls of Glomach - a huge waterfall with a 100m vertical drop. A side path brings you down to a viewpoint. The water thundered over the drop and the sense of power was awe-inspiring. Rejoining the faint path back above I carried on down along the side of the ravine negotiating a couple of rocky steps which required some care. Towards the bottom I had a minor slip on some wet grass. I jammed a pole into the ground to stop myself hitting the deck and in doing so managed to bend the bottom section of the pole out at a crazy angle.

The prospect of losing a pole at this stage was worrying as I'd come to rely on them so much over the past week. That's what you get for buying the cheapest poles in the shop eh? Thankfully it wasn't as bad as I'd feared and I was able to bend it back almost straight again. Crossing the bridge over the Allt a Ghlomaich I ran into David and John again - the American duo I'd met in Kinlochhourn. They were headed to Maol Bhuidhe, a remote bothy that was also my destination for the night. An easy stroll followed along Loch na Leitreach towards Iron Lodge where the track turned uphill over another bealach. The ground up here was extremely boggy as I descended to Maol Buidhe and the river Ling.

I briefly entertained the idea of continuing on to Ben Dronaig Bothy another six kilometers away but moving on so swiftly from such a charming setting would have been a crime. I pitched the Akto next to the nearby loch. That night was another cold one and I wasn't surprised to see a substantial dusting of snow on the surrounding hills the next morning.

Day 8: Maol Bhuidhe to Coire Fionnreach Bothy. 31km

The start of next day's route offered 2 choices - going anti-clockwise or clockwise around Ben Dronaig. I'd heard there was a decent 4x4 track on the anticlockwise route which would make the going a bit easier. I crossed over the river and negotiated some annoying peat hags then eventually reached the track. This brought me along the NE shore of lonely Loch Calavie in the shadow of Lurg Mor and Bidean a Coire Sheasgaich - 2 of the most remote Munros in Scotland. Had I realised this at the time I might've been tempted to climb them but I only clocked it later that day. The views in every direction were fabulous with a real sense of isolation and seemingly not a soul for miles around. Shortly after reaching the end of the loch the track descended towards another bothy - Bendronaig Lodge (renowned for it's flushing toilet!!) . Just before the lodge the track improved markedly as a result of hydroelectric works which were going on. Unfortunately this also meant there was some works traffic going up and down the track which somewhat spoiled the sense of wilderness - especiaslly when I noticed one of the vehicles had a license plate from County Cavan where I grew up! had The track continued onwards and carried me easily up and over another pass which then descended towards Attadale Gardens where I ran into Daniel again. We trudged along the road alongside Loch Carron with its ups and downs with the prospect of a hearty lunch in the Strathcarron Hotel quickening our pace.

The bar in the hotel was pretty busy I and tucked into a fine lunch featuring more bread than was truly healthy for a human. Soon after we were joined by the Americans David and John who were planning on staying in the hotel for a couple of nights. Daniel and I however had some further progress to make so we bade them farewell and headed off on a picture perfect path along the river Carron with its attractive fishing spots and vivid colours of bright blue sky, green grass and yellow gorse. We all too soon turned onto the road for a short stretch where we watched an unfortunate gentleman reverse straight into a ditch leaving two wheel of his jeep hanging in the air. We stopped to lend him a hand (thankfully he was unhurt - just having what sounded like the day from hell) and then
turned off the road heading northwards up the path from Coulags which led for about 3km to Coire Fionnreach Bothy. The bothy was empty when we arrived and with the evening being so pleasant we pitched up on the flat grass outside it.

At this stage I was mulling over tomorrow's route, unsure whether to stick to the guide book route which would take me through extremely rough, pathless, remote but spectacular terrain around the back of Beinn Eighe in Torridon or take the easier route via Coulin Lodge. I knew the weather was supposed to take a turn for the worst around 1pm with high winds and rain forecast so that pushed me towards the easier route and Daniel was in agreement.

Day 9: Coire Fionnreach to Kinlochewe. 30km

Whatever went through my head last night I don't know but I awoke with a complete change of plan and I was hell bent on tackling the rough road! All I could do was hope that the weather gods would smile on me for just a few more hours, alas hope makes for a good breakfast but a poor supper. I let Daniel know my plans and we agreed to meet in the bar at Kinlochewe that evening. I set off at 8 and made quick progress up the coire and over the pass where the good path petered out. The morning was dry but quite overcast and the summits were shrouded in cloud. From the top of the pass I made my way through some bogs hunting for the start of a good path which I knew was there somewhere but it took longer than I would've liked before I stumbled across it. When it did finally arrive it was a beaut and I had great fun jogging down with the massive black Torridonian peaks of Liathach and Beinn Eighe rising magnificently ahead. The path eventually deposited me at road running through Glen Torridon 3 hrs after setting out. Had I followed this road I knew I could be in Kinlochewe and relaxing in the bar within 2 hours but I had grander plans this day.

Descending to a moody Glen Torridon

I wolfed down a quick lunch at the side of the road and followed the initially excellent path with the rising crags of Liathach on my left and Beinn Eighe on my right. After a couple of kilometres the views really opened up towards the forests of Flowerdale and Shieldaig and I realised why this route was so exalted. Wilderness sweeping away from where I stood for as far as the eye could see and the mind could imagine. The path led me up towards Coire Mhic Fhearchair where views up to the Triple Buttress - a renowned climbing venue - awaited. For the past couple of hours the weather had been threatening to turn and sure enough just as I was reaching the entrance to the high corrie I turned to look northwards and saw a band of rain rapidly approaching and felt the wind picking up.
When it hit it was like a freight train, coming just at the worst time when I was at the most exposed point of the path. Gusts threatened to knock me over and i had to stop and brace myself for a few seconds against the worst ones while rain lashed on the hood of my jacket.
I stole a couple of quick glances up at Triple Buttress (not the best time for appreciating it I'm afraid!) and teetered over stones across the river from the corrie lochan. There was a small waterfall just down from where I was crossing that actually had water being blown back up with the wind and into my face. I knew I had to drop down a bit to about the 400m contour and use this to traverse for the next few kilometers around the back of the mountain. As i descended the weather mercifully backed off a bit. The 400m level basically is used because it's high enough to stop you from being consumed by bogs and low enough to keep away from too much steep ground but my God is it tough going! No path at all, boulders everywhere, deep heather, little ups and downs over small ridges and hollows that were very slow going. As a consolation I was granted wonderful constantly evolving views of the individual peaks of Beinn Eighe in all their glory. I laboured on for several kilometers with no quick end in sight, trying to keep as much to 400m as possible which was always difficult. This was definitely one of the most mentally and physically trying few hours of the whole trail. A saying that often springs to mind at times like this is "if you're going through hell, keep going." So I did. After a final boggy sting in the tail and a short ascent I was back on a good path and descending to Kinlochewe. The descent felt unfairly long and the rain returned quite heavily but at last I reached the Kinlochewe Hotel. It had taken me 6 hours to walk the 16km around Beinn Eighe. I peeled off my waterproofs which had done their job and checked into the bunkhouse. I found some space in the drying room for my clothes and enjoyed a long shower. Daniel arrived shortly afterwards and we traded stories over a good meal in the bar.
Toughest day on the CWT - done.

Day 10: Rest Day

The poor weather continued into the next day and I stepped outside to find the landscape transformed, with snow down to about 200m. A good day for a day off! I sat in a local cafe watching the snow fall and bought some more supplies to see me through the next couple of days until I reached Ullapool. In the bar that evening I got talking to a guy who had a fancy program on his computer that showed a simulation of the weather for the next day. Wave after wave of rain were sweeping down from the north. Great :roll:

Day 11: Kinlochewe to Shenvall bothy. 27km

Sure enough the weather this morning was pretty awful but a nice breakfast fry helped gird my loins for what lay ahead. As I was heading out the door, wrapped up like it was summit day on Everest the hotel owner commented on my "steely determination". It was satisfying how easily I could deceive him. I hiked along the road for a short while and soon started stripping off layers as the rain eased and I began to warm up. It was easy going up to the
cluster of buildings at the Heights of Kinlochewe where I turned off onto another track which climbed further up Gleann na Muice towards Lochan Fada.

Winter has arrived! Again!

Every 30-40 minutes or so a band of stinging rain would hit for about 10 minutes and any exposed flesh would be painfully assaulted, once or twice making me yelp in pain. Climbing up the glen, I hit hit snowline. Upon reaching Lochan Fada I was to climb up and over the nearby bealach. The guidebook recommended climbing slightly higher then descending to the bealach to avoid
some boggy ground but with the risk of some more bad weather sweeping in I figured staying as low as possible would be best. With this in mind I took a compass bearing and struck out directly for the lochan at the low point of the bealach. Minutes later I found myself crawling up and over snowy peat hags and realised just why this route wasn't recommended! I struggled upwards and soon enough reached the cairn marking the middle of the bealach. No path presented itself down the far side but the going was relatively easy. As soon as I reached Loch an Nid the showers returned and i could see them approaching me as they slowly engulfed the glen. First one or two drops then very quickly a stinging barrage that had me huddling inside my jacket hood. Again they never lasted more than a few minutes. I continued northwards for a few kilometres before swinging northwest in the direction of Shenavall. This last stretch was magical, with the snowy hills all around and a pleasant if saturated path along the meandering river.


I threw the tent up not far from Shenavall bothy just in time to dive inside to get out of the next shower (which turned out to be the last of them) and spent the evening reveling in the splendid surroundings in which I'd found myself once again. After narrowly missing burning my whole tent down using my Trangia stove I settled in for what I predicted would be a chilly night.

Camping at Shenavall

Day 12: Shenavall to Ulapool. 29km

Last night was surprisingly mild and I had a decent sleep disturbed only by a loud sloshing of someone walking past the tent obviously through a massive puddle. The morning brought very low cloud and with it little chance of a view
towards An Teallach, one of Scotlands finest hills. The path from Shenavall rises steeply straight away and my leaden legs took a while to wake up. It took me over wild moorland, traversing the base of An Teallach before meeting a good track leading me down to the road at Corrie Hailie. The clouds had started to lift by now and some blue sky was piercing through. 1 km along the road I stopped at a bridge for a quick snack before climbing uphill again through a short stretch of woodland before emerging once more on a high moorland path with captivating views back to An Teallach which had shed much of it's cloudy cloak and was now bathed in sunlight. It made me wish I was walking the other direction. This path was one of the wettest I'd encountered (which is saying something on this trail!) and it involved a bit of swamp dodging along the way.

Surveying the Beinn Dearg hills ahead

A very steep mucky descent brought me past a farm and onto the main road at Inverlael. From here the trail offers 2 options - head along the road to Ullapool or dive back into the wilderness along Glen Douchary which leads on to Oykel Bridge. I had planned to meet Claire in Ullapool so a dispiriting 12km trudge along a busy road with no footpath awaited. At least the sun was out. It was a case of head down, podcast on and it would all be over eventually. Ullapool looked very attractive miles away on the shore of Loch Broom, but unfortunately it never seemed to get much closer! After only a couple of hair-raising moments with vehicles whooshing by a little closer to my person than I would have liked, I finally made it into town. I'd arrived a day ahead of schedule and with no accommodation booked for the night I checked into the campsite at the end of town. I now had a couple of rest days ahead of me and was looking forward to exploring the town.

Day 13: Rest day

The first rest day in Ullapool arrived wet, windy and cold so was mostly spent replenishing my energy stores i.e. gorging on food and drink in the various establishments around the town. I also checked into the
Caledonia Hotel for the next 2 nights.

Day 14: Rest day

Not sure I really needed a second rest day here and I was quite ready to recommence my march Capewards but Claire wouldn't arrive until the next morning. I'd had a boat trip booked to the Summer Isles for a couple of hours but this ended up being cancelled leaving me little option but to continue with the "replenishing" :wink: . I did manage to squeeze in a short run up one of the hills overlooking the town to keep the legs fresh.

Continued in part 2!