Phase 2 started with my mate Terry and myself travelling on the M90 bus from Halbeath Park & Ride (Dunfermline) to Inverness and then catching the train to Strathcarron. The weather forecast was not good and thankfully the train arrived on time at 15.20 hrs and we headed for our first night at the Coire Fionnariach bothy.
The aim was to reach Inchnadamph by Tuesday the 27th May.
[b]21st May 2014 (Wednesday) Strathcarron Railway Station - Coire Fionnariach bothy. [/b]
We left Strathcarron Railway Station and headed northwest crossing the bridge over the River Carron. About 100yds past the bridge we turn right and followed the farm road which linked up with the path which runs along the side of the river. We then met up with main A890. We then turn right and commenced for a further 1 Km along the road (be careful as it is a single track road) until crossing the bridge and then turned left to follow the track up the side of the Fionn-abhainn River. Early in this stage you will come to a cattle grid; don’t cross the grid but go down left towards the river to continue on the path.
Toward Coire Foinnaraich
Crossing bridge over the River Coire Foinnaraich
The weather forecast indicated we might get there in the dry and we did, however there was signs that there had been some heavy rain and that led to us having a couple of tricky burns to cross. We had the welcoming calls of the “Cuckoo” as we reached the bothy. The bothy has 4 rooms; 2 up /2 down, and we managed to light a fire to keep us warmed up on our first night. Good start to our hike.
22nd May 2014 (Thursday) Coire Fionnariach bothy – Heights of Kinlochewe
At 8.00 am we left the bothy and early on we passed Clach nan Con-fionn (The Stone of Fingal’s Dog) where the legendary Fionn mac Cumhaill reputedly tethered his hounds while hunting.
We then continued to walk up the glen on a good path passing Loch Coire Fionnariach on our RHS, and then commenced the climb up and through Bealach Ban. However half way up the climb we had our first taste of the rain – so it was on with the rain gear. The path up and through the Bealach is good but the driving rain made it an unpleasant experience.
As you leave the bealach you will find the path disappears as you cross over some rough and boggy ground before it reappears, but it does get better as you descent towards the Ling Hut.
The Ling Hut was pleasant place to take lunch, and there are good spots for wild camping. The descent to the Ling Hut was a real challenge. It was now 13.00hrs and due to the inclement weather we decided to abandon circumventing going round the backside of Beinn Eighe and took to walking the main road to Kinlochewe. We were offered a lift by two gents who we passed us on our descent to Ling Hut, but we politely declined.
Terry bought some soft drinks at the Kinlochewe PO just before it closed at 5.30, and then we checked at the hotel if there was any space at the bunkhouse – but sadly it was full. In the in the hotel bar we met an Aussie couple; they had abandoned the walk due to a combination of the extreme weather and severe blisters!!!
So with no room in the inn we had no option to pick up our rucksacks and head for the Heights of Kinlochewe. We eventually found a nice spot to camp next to the river at approx grid ref.
23rd May 2014 (Friday) Heights of Kinlochewe – Strath na Sealga (Shenavall Bothy)
Due to heavy overnight rain our departed was delayed until 10.00am. The riverside 4 x 4 track is good and takes you up Gleann na Muice with the river on your LHS. The metal sign at the top of the glean is confusing; so ignore its and just keep going straight keeping the river on your LHS. From this point the path does get rougher as you pass the small lochans and boggy as you drop towards Lochan Fada.
We then crossed the Coire Mhic Fhearchair where the path was nonexistent, and as many books advise, make sure you stick to the higher ground as the lower ground is extremely rough and boggy – as we found out. We the crossed the Coire Mhic Fhearchair river just below where the two upper burns meet, where we decided to take a break and have some lunch.
Then picking up the path we descended through Bealch na Croise, but again it was very rough and boggy, especially the last 2km towards Loch an Nid. We the crossed the river near just as it flows near to the loch. We then picked up the path which took us along the east side of the Loch and the banks of Abhainn Loch an Nid river.
At grid ref 090 787 we then turned left to Strath na Sealga with the river on our LHS and followed the track to the Shenavall bothy. The track to Shenavall is ok but rough in places.
There were 15 people in the bothy that night, with most aiming to do the “Fisherfield 6” on the Saturday. Luckily we were not too late in arriving at the bothy and managed to get some floor space in the upper deck for our sleeping arrangements, which after the day we had was a welcomed relief.
There was a young couple from Aberdeen who were also doing the Care Wrath walk. A good amount of whisky and beer was consumed by the “Munro” bashers, and boy were they suffering the next morning. We manage to refrain from all offers...
24th May 2014 (Saturday) Strath na Sealga (Shenavall Bothy) – Inverlael
It was another misty and cold day as we climbed up the very steep path from the bothy, the path was very challenging, wet, boggy (again!!) and slippery.
The path over the top was rough and boggy in many places but eventually after passing the lochan the path meets up with 4x4 track which takes you down to the main road at Corrie Hallie.
At Corrie Hallie we walked along the main road for about a ½ mile to the turn of for Badralloch, and decided to stop for lunch at the bridge crossing the Dundonnell River. For a change the sun comes out for a brief 20 minutes!!!! At long last we could get our wet gear off... The path thereafter through the metal gates and diagonally up the field was very faint but we did manage to find the gate which leads from the wood. Thereafter the path was easy to follow. The descent into Inverlael due to the bad weather was horrible, very wet and boggy.
On reaching the bridge crossing the river we decided we had enough and decided to wild camp next to the river. Just before you cross the river there as an area on the RHS were you have enough room to pitch a tent.
25th May 2014 (Sunday) Inverlael – Knockdamph Bothy
It was a nice morning and we had decided to get up early. A good bowl of porridge and we were off by 7.45am along the main A835 road to the telephone box at Inverlael which marked our turn off to the forest track. On hitting the forest we decided to take the right lower forest 4x4 track up the glen to grid ref 206 856 where we then took the path on our LHS which led us up to the main 4x4 track.
We then followed the track up through the remainder of the forest, and here there are some steep sections We passed through the gate at the end of the forest and continued up to the top of the hillside. The weather was now closing in and it was on with the wet gear again.
We then contoured the hillside following a very faint, horrible and boggy path, where we spotted the cairn which confirmed we were on the right bearing. The route down the hillside was a horrible mess of bog so we kept as high as possible before dropping down to the ruins next to the river.
We had some rest bite from the rain so decided to take some lunch next to the ruins; soup, cheese and biscuits was our norm for lunch. This is also a great place to wild camp if it was needed.
We then crossed the River Douchary and followed the river on the east bank. From here its hard going with rough grass, heather and bog to deal with. It was tough stretch and the rain was on again. We then had to deal with the ravine crossing Allt nan Caorach, and by luck we hit a deer track which led us around and through the ravine. Wild animals always find an easy route. We then climbed up the steep hillside and crossed the moorland to the head of Loch an Daimh, where we picked up the main track which led us to the Knockdamph Bothy. Boys were we knackered.
26th May 2014 (Monday) Knockdamph Bothy – Loch Ailsh (Benmore Lodge)
We woke up to a horrible wet and drizzly day, and sadly I needed to take the bothy spade for a walk. Not good especially as there was four teenagers (3 were girls) on their DoE camped next to the bothy, which meant I had to climb about 300 metres above the bothy to keep out of sight.
With no change in the weather we wondered if we would ever get to Inchnadamph. However we decided to walk to Oykel Bridge and then make a decision whether or not to continue to Loch Ailsh. It was wet and windy when we left the bothy and all the burns crossing the 4x4 track were in full flow which slowed us down. We then had to roll up our trousers to wade across the burn which was about a mile from Duag Bridge; another delay.
As the weather was so bad we stopped at the Schoolhouse Bothy for some soup, cheese and oat biscuits. It is a nice, clean and tidy two roomed bothy but it lacks a fireplace. So again we started looking at our options and suddenly after 30 minutes we started to see breaks in the weather.
Well the weather had dramatically changed in our favour, scattered cloud and some blue sky. So we headed on to Oykel Bridge arriving there about 2pm. As we got to the main junction just near the hotel, we were approach by a cyclist asking what the road conditions were like to Duag Bridge. He also asked in where we were going - this was about to be our lucky day. Dave D (was his name) and 5 mates had hired the cottage at Benmore Lodge and he said if we were going in that direction they would find a space for us at the cottage that evening. He and a mate then cycled off into the distance. We were both flabbergasted at the offer of accommodation and possible a bath!!!
We carried on following the River Oykel which was impressive; passing all the numbered fishing beats on what is one of Scotland’s best salmon rivers. As we reached Salachy the rain started and luck again was with us as the fishing hut there at was unlocked, so we managed to take cover and a coffee/tea break until the rain passed.
The path then along the river was just a boggy mess and we were now getting tired. When we reach the track leading to Benmore Lodge and Loch Ailsh; we were so relieved it had been a long day.
On reaching the cottage hamlet at Benmore Lodge at 8.00pm we were welcomed by Dave. A bigger shock was now in store for us as Dave showed us to a bedroom which had twin beds, with a bath next door and hot running water. Having enjoyed a bath and on settling in we where then fed and watered; we could not believe that some people could be so generous. A great day was finally ended in the evening with Dave and his friends as we listened to many funny stories of their exploits’ throughout the years.
Someone up there was certainly looking after us that day.
27th May 2014 (Tuesday) Loch Ailsh (Benmore Lodge) – Inchnadamph - Ullapool
We woke to a beautiful morning; not a cloud in the sky and Loch Ailsh like a mill pond. At long last we could look forward to a rain free day.
An emergency breakfast and saying our goodbye’s we were on our way by 8.30am. The walk up the east side of the river was most enjoyable but again very boggy.
We then had the steep climb into the entrance of the Bealach Traillgil where we stopped for lunch. The view back down the glen was magnificent.
This is the narrowest gap we had encounter to date on the walk and the descent was probably the most difficult. However the seeing Inchnadamph was a relief.
The path is narrow and rocky and not easy to follow, especially as you drop down over the rocks on the descent. Thereafter the path disappears and again we were faced with more boggy ground to cover. We stayed as much as possible on high ground as we aimed for the River Traligill. The path then along the river was clear but rocky, boggy and hard going.
We where both very glad when we reached the 4x4 track about a mile from Inchnadamph. On reaching Inchnadamph at 4.15pm we stopped at the Youth Hostel to check on bus services. We were again in luck as there was a bus going to Ullapool at 5.30pm. The bus service is run by D&E Coaches Ltd , Inverness-Durness Service 804 – Summer Service (with bicycle trailer) Tele; 01463 222444 We bought some soft drinks and crisps and sat in the hostel bench to rest and wait for the bus.
We were both very tired but exteremely pleased we had reached our goal of Inchnadamph.
We caught the 5.30pm bus and arrived in Ullapool at 6.10pm, and then headed to the camp site to set up for the night. Then it was time for some well deserved fish and chips and a couple of beers.
28th May 2014 (Wednesday) Ullapool – Dunfermline
We were packed up by 8.15 and headed into Ullapool to catch the 9.10 bus to Inverness. We just had enough time to catch a nice hot coffee and bacon roll in a local cafe. We arrived in Inverness and then caught the M90 bus to Halbeath P&R in Dunfermline where my wife picked us up. Home, a shower, a good meal and few beers; it was another great week.
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NB. This board is for reports on multi-day long distance routes - reports on simply long walks should be added to the standard boards.