Pudding Time!

Route: Red Point to Craig

Date walked: 01/05/2011

Time taken: 3 hours

Distance: 7km

Pudding Time!
Redpoint to Craig Bothy

This is something I wrote last year so excuse errors of tense.

The Royal Wedding (God Bless Them :clap: ) provided a great opportunity to get out for an extended spring weekend in Wester Ross. :D This combined with cloudless skies, meant a real feast of walking was there to be had. With this to look forward to, my wife Jill and I were off with only a brief stop to see ‘the dress’ en route. The starter in this gourmet weekend was a fairly gentle leg stretch up the mountain trail at the Ben Eighe National Nature Reserve.
Loch Maree from the Ben Eighe National Nature Reserve
Jill on the Ben Eighe mountain trail
Like all good starters, it showed the quality of what’s on offer without ruining one’s appetite for the forthcoming courses. The main came next day in the form of a really meaty ascent of Slioch. Something beautiful to gaze at and from with no scrimping on the (pro)portions! No-one gets through a course like this and asks for seconds!
Breezy but sunny Slioch summit.

But how do you finish the meal off when so full. A finale of something lighter and more delicate yet pleasing on the eye was called for. That culinary nirvana, that fills the soul and commends itself to the mind was the solution. Having a long association with the area, there are a few niggling walks that should have been attempted long ago that could fill this final craving. The walk from Red Point to The Craig bothy was one such. Still marked with a Youth Hostel red triangle on some maps, this only served to remind me of the many times I considered and rejected it in favour of something else that drew my gaze. However, this time nothing shone more brightly. :shock:
There are various local stories about the bothy at Craig. It functioned as a Youth Hostel from the 1930’s until 2004. Before then it was a home for a local shepherd and a refuge for soldiers suffering from shell shock post WW1. However, its hostel past means it has almost five star bothy status (less running water!). The isolated location added to my love of walks combining a bit history only added to the attraction and the deal was sealed. There is no road on the 7Km walk to Craig so we had anticipated a quiet time of it.
The walk began late afternoon in glorious sunshine where the road ends at Redpoint. A short hop through the farm and we continued down onto the beach toward Eileen Tioram. This walk to the beach is across an area where beach and land are in contest. This is beautifully named ‘machair’ in Gaelic and is a unique and important ecosystem in its own right. The beach itself was almost deserted and this combined a flawless view over to the Isle of Skye and a lowering sun, gave the place a real Mediterranean feel. The sea added to the illusion by wearing a lighter blue mantel. The peaceful, light and easy atmosphere surrounding us, a salve to the previous day’s exertions.
A beach past Redpoint Farm

Further along the beach we came across an abandoned fishing station where the poles once used to dry nets still guarded the buildings like spears. The theme of what once was being the only companion to us and this theme defined much of the walk.
The abandoned fishing station
From here the walk meandered inland into heather sheathed moorland but never far from the sea. The warm weather had dried the land to the point where the grass and heather crackled underfoot and the normal slop through spagnum moss took on the feel of deep pile rug. We soon came across an example of the downside of this weather when we had to traverse more than a kilometre of freshly burnt moorland. We can only hope that the damage to this fragile environment will heal itself quickly.

The walk continued gently along the coast above cliffs near the sea with only the occasional stream to cross, the perfect wind down to the weekend. The rarity of such clear and extensive views really was something to savour. One of our few sightings on the outward leg was beautiful black feral goat who chose to ignore us except to outfox my feeble attempts to take a decent picture. One thing that was on my mind was to try and find a fabled cave which had been used by the people who lived here more than 8000 years ago. A stream near the Craig River being the key access point. With nothing jumping out at me I decided to leave the detailed search until the return leg in the morning.
After a couple of hours we closed on the wooded vale where the Craig River entered the sea.
Approaching the Craig River
Here, the skeletons of a few abandoned houses defiantly faced their fate on the seashore. The path now turned inland parallel to the river before crossing a footbridge close to the bothy. We were priviledged to have the place to ourselves and duely spread ourselves about in the place.
'Home' for the night.
The ghosts of previous occupants never seemed far away. The place was decorated with beautiful Celtic knot work which was sadly fading. We discovered that this was done by a previous hostel warden when we found a note from this fine artist.
Jill with the celtic knotwork
The bothy diary also yielded much about visitors both wacky and inspired. One claimed to go by the name of Craig who claimed conception in the bothy, another claimed the editor of a well known walking magazine had recently inspired them (clearly mad!).
As the sun set we sat down to a meal of couscous and curry washed down with a bottle of okay wine we had brought along to celebrate a long held ambition to be here. A chat and a game of cards by candlelight and it was time to turn in. We chose the wardens ‘suite’ and settled down for the night. With nothing but the sound of the breeze and the permanent residents for company we soon dozed off. Dawn comes early in this part of the world (too early!) and my morning restlessness led me to go exploring around the area. A rusted, horse drawn plough and an area of land that must have taken years of toil to make arable was a reminder of the battle with this land which was ultimately lost. The guilty shadows of older ruined houses cast their shadow nearby, further damning testament to that failure.
Back from my thoughts, I knocked up some porridge for breakfast (what else) and we were on our way. Inside the bothy I found more detailed instructions on the location of my Neolithic cave and this whet my appetite for a final search. The midmorning air was warm and sweet and the views as good if not better than the previous day as we set off back to Redpoint with another abandoned ‘home’ clearly on my mind. The access point for my search for the fabled cave was the stream heading North Eastwards up toward Coire na u Uamha. Jill didnt fancy the bash through the heather and sensibly opted for a spot in the sun. I had the cave ‘on the brain’ and knowing this would be my last chance of finding it, I was off through the scrub looking for it. After about 20 minutes, I struck lucky when I recognised the outline of the large heather strewn rock that served as a roof for the cave. An other-wordly moment occurred when the sun appeared to rise directly over the cave entrance.
Sun rising over the Neolithic cave, spooky!
A grassy mound at the front of the cave was apparently the remains of the midden where these people piled their left-overs. More ghosts of our forebears.
Pictures taken and it was off to meet up with Jill and on our way. Soon after, we met a couple of friendly Englishmen taking the trail all the way to Lower Diabaig. They had travelled a long way, quite possibly prepared for the worst and got the best weather they could have hoped for. These were the first people we had seen since the start of this fantastic walk and I was delighted for them. The sea sparkled in the sun and the views as we headed back North, were extensive and memorable.
The beach on the way back to Redpoint
All too soon it seemed, we were back at the road end at Redpoint.
Job almost done, approaching Redpoint Farm.
A quick shake down of the kit and we were on back in the Badachro Inn enjoying a cold beer and enjoying the excellent food they serve there. I had at last stayed at the Craig bothy and in the process become one of the areas many ghosts.

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Arthurs Eat

Location: Edinburgh
Interests: Reading, wine, whisky, culture, anything to do with the outdoors
Activity: Munro compleatist
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Distance: 55 km

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