Wednesday 23rd April 2014 - Kylestrome to Rhiconich. Dep Kylestrome 0920, arrive Rhiconich 1545. Distance 18 miles, time taken 6 hours 25 minutes. OS Landranger maps 15 and 9.
Another fantastic day's walking under friendly, blue skies with some more amazing views. Great views looking back to The Quinag in the morning and later in the day of Arkle. In this genteel weather this is God's own country for walkers. Good track from Kylestrome to Lochmore Lodge, then followed the A838 to Lochstack Lodge. Excellent estate track from Lochstack Lodge to the west side of Arkle. Tough going from there across the moor to Loch a Garbh-bhaid Mor and down the east side of Loch a Garbh-bhaid Mor. The short stretch between Loch a Garbh-bhaid Mor and Loch a Garbh-bhaid Bheag was boggy but once you cross the Garbh Allt you're back on a good path again all the way to Rhiconich.
I drove up from Ullapool and parked in the small car park, just off the A894 at Kylestrome. From here I headed back out onto the main road, turned right and walked up it 50 metres before turning right again along a nice tarmacced track. About 10 minutes along this nice tarmacced road take the path going uphill to the left.
In less than a minute this path splits, take the path that goes to the right and heads uphill.
One advantage of heading uphill was the tremendous panorama it offered looking back over Kylesku to the Quinag.
After about 10 minutes another path heads off to the left, ignore it, stay on the main track.
By 1030, I had a nice view looking east of Loch an Leathiad Bhuain and Loch na Creige Duib.
The path from Kylestrome to this point had been wide and easy to follow, albeit a bit rough and rocky underfoot in places. Nevertheless, it made for quick progress.
Sauntering on, at 1045, I passed the cairn where the path I was walking along met the new hydro track, built as part of the Maldie Hydro scheme.
From the point where the two tracks met, the track improved in that it became a lot smoother underfoot and felt like an Autobahn for walkers.
At 1105 I reached the sheiling at 273385.
At this point, I had a decision to make. Either take the path heading up to the left, over the moor, towards Ben Dreavie or continue on the ever excellent path to Lochmore Lodge. Knowing I had to hitch from Rhiconich back to Kylestrome to get my car,I decided to continue on the path to Lochmore Lodge as I felt this would be faster (and no doubt drier underfoot!) Looking at the map I'm not sure there's a great deal of difference in the respective distances but I felt that the easier going on the path, followed by a walk along the A 838 would make for quicker walking. The theory being that the sooner i got to Rhiconich, the sooner i'd get a lift back to Kylestrome.
This was certainly a good decision in terms of covering ground quickly as the path continued in excellent condition down to the A 838 at Lochmore Lodge. It wasn't all head down and speed along, there were some geat views from the path looking across Loch Stack to Arkle. A fabulous vista.
I reached the road at 1135, turned left along it and headed through Achfary towards Lochstack Lodge. The road is single track, and by implication very quiet, so it was no bother avoiding the few vehicles that came along it. All along the road, I had great views to my right of Loch Stack with Arkle looming high above it.
At 1245, I crossed the good bridge that connects the inhabitants of Lochstack Lodge to the A 838.
50 metres over the bridge, take the track that heads to the right. This track was also in good condition; wide, dry and and easy to follow. It heads east for a short direction before swinging north east and heading towards Arkle.
I've seen worse views! I've never climbed Arkle but on the basis of today's views, it's somewhere I want to return to.
Keep following this still good track towards Arkle. Almost at the foot of Arkle the track turns sharply to the left and starts heading north west.
The track is still obvious and easy to follow.
However from here it begins to get a wee bit more complicated. You get your first view, across the moor, of Loch a Garbh-bhaid Mor and eventually you have to make a decision as to when to leave the comfort of the path and strike off across the moor to the Loch. I ventured up the track for 20-25 minutes,after turning sharply left at the foot of Arkle, before plunging across the moor, which was rough and boggy in places.
I eventually reached the 'sanctuary' of some rocky outcrops which lay above the Loch and which offered fine views down its length towards Rhiconich.
Under today's blue skies, navigation was relatively easy but in mist or snow this could be a challenge.
I meandered from one rocky outcrop to the next down the length of the Loch, eventually dropping down to a faint 'path' which lay closer to the water about 3/4 of the way down the Loch. I thought it had been quite boggy from the Arkle path to here, even via the rocky outcrops, but this next stage was damp! I followed the path, such as it was, to the end of the Loch. if anything the short stretch between Loch a Garbh-bhaid Mor and Loch a Garbh-bhaid Bheag was even boggier, very damp underfoot and this was a dry day following some dry weather. Lord knows what it's like after rain!
I arrived at Loch a Garbh-bhaid Bheag at 1455 and followed the 'path' down its Eastern side. Within a few minutes I encountered today's biggest obstacle; the Garbh Allt. It's too wide to jump where it empties into the Loch and although it was relatively low, it was too deep to cross without taking your boots and socks off. I walked upstream about 30-40 metres and managed, with the aid of my trusty walking pole, to get safely across, without removing my boots, by hopping across via some well positioned stones.
I don't know if someone placed them there or if they were a gift from Nature but either way i was grateful for their presence.
Once across the Garbh Allt, the path soon improves, it becomes more obvious, easier to follow and less boggy. I arrived at an old boat house at 1520.
After the boat house, a good path follows the east (right) bank of the river to Rhiconich.
I arrived at the Rhiconich hotel at 1545. Given I'd made good time, I had hoped to savour a coffee in the hotel but it was closed. Workmen were working inside the hotel - hopefully getting it ready for the tourist season - but it wasn't open for business.
If you're planning on staying at the Rhiconich Hotel, it might be wise to check aforehand , that it's open.
Oh well, the coffee would have to wait.
I made my way onto the side of the road, stuck out my thumb and within 5 minutes got a lift back to Kylestrome, and my car, from a lovely couple on holiday from London. God bless tourists!
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