Cape Wrath Trail: Inchnadamph to Cape Wrath ( May 2015)

Date walked: 15/05/2015

Time taken: 5 days

Distance: 85km

Inchnadamph to Cape Wrath

14th May 2015 - Bus Travel to Inchnadamph

Well at long last we were looking to complete the Cape Wrath Trail, one of the most demanding hikes in Europe.
So in the morning we had a quick check to confirm we had all the kit and provisions needed before we headed to the Halbeath Park and Ride Bus Station (Near Dunfermline) to catch the various bus services to reach Inchnadamph:-

* CityLink Bus Halbeath Park & Ride to Inverness Dpt: 11.02 Arr: 14.05
* Service 961 Inverness to Ullapool Dpt: 15.00 Arr: 16.20
* Highland Translink Ltd - Service 809 Dpt: 16.40

So we had arrived at Inchnadamph at about 5.30 where we had booked a room at the hotel for the night. We enjoyed a good evening meal and couple of beers to ensure we had a good nights sleep.

Inchadamph Hotel .JPG
Inchnadamph Hotel

15th May 2015 - Inchnadamph to Glencoul Bothy

We left Inchnadamph Hotel at 8.45am after a nice breakfast, and good nights sleep. Out hosts at the hotel were very pleasant and the accommodation was clean and tidy with comfortable beds. We passed the Hostel and started to climb up a well defined path until reaching a small shelter where the path splits (Coordinate 273 239) and took the left fork, skirted the left side of Loch Fleodach and then headed for the Bealach na Uidhe.

Bealach na h-Uidhe.JPG
Bealach na h-Uidhe

Once through the bealach we then crossed over the plateau on extremely rough ground until reaching the lochans at 279 269.

The crossing.JPG
Crossing over the plateau on extremely rough ground

The path runs the runs along the left hand side of the larger lochan and then its the start of the steep decent to the Abhainn an Loch Bhig River. Be aware this decent is extremely torturous and the path is difficult to follow.

The decent

We crossed the river almost immediately and followed a intermittent path on the RHS of the river all the way to the Loch. On reaching the loch we then headed for the bothy.

Loch Beag.JPG
The head of Loch Beag

There was a path but it was difficult to follow so we just followed the shoreline of the loch until reaching a stone dyke, which we climbed over and descended to reach Glencoul Bothy. This had been a real hard day. it was getting cold and rain was heading our way; we were both tired so the decision was to stay the night. We got ourselves settled in and lit a nice warm fire. Our luck was also in as there was a good supply of logs and drift wood in a lean-to at the side of the bothy. Later that evening a young couple joined us, and they couldn't believe their luck as they entered a warm bothy with a nice fire.

Glencoul Bothy.JPG
Loch Glencoul Sunset

16th May Glencoul Bothy to Loch Stack

We woke to a reasonable morning weather wise and manage to set off by 10.00am, a bit of a late start. We left the bothy and crossed the bridge over the River Coul and climbed up a steep good 4x4 track. Looking back at the top of the climb we had a picture card view of where we had come the previous day.

Picture Card View_2.JPG
View of where we had come the previous day & the Bothy

The route over the top is difficult and boggy in places, and then it becomes rocky as you descend through the wood to the shoreline and the sighting of the Glendhu Bothy.. The tide was out so this enabled us to walk part way along the shore. We then we crossed the bridge over the river and on to the bothy, where we stopped for lunch. Just in time to miss a hail storm; the bad weather was starting to close in on us again.

Glendhu Bothy .JPG
Glendhu Bothy (LHS) and the Head of Loch Glendhu

After a nice lunch of cup-a-soup, cheese and biscuits we headed off along the shore of the loch on a good 4x4 track until reaching Maldie Burn, and then followed the 4x4 track up towards Loch an Leathald Bhuain and on towards the Sheiling where the path splits.

Lochan an Leathaid.JPG
The 4x4 track along Loch an Leathaid Bhuain

The weather was deteriorating so common sense prevailed and we agreed to take the path down the side of the Reay Forest and onto the A838 road, rather than attempt the Ben Dreavie route. It was good decision as we were hammered by hail storm just as we reached Achfary (on the A838); it was so bad we had to take shelter ad we also had to deal with the accompanying thunder and lightning. You would have thought it was winter by the covering created by the hail!!!

Anyway it was getting time to find a camping spot to spend the night before the bad weather forecasted hit us. Eventually we reached the head of Loch Stack where we managed to camp next to a small building. We had to endure another horrible night of rain and strong winds; the CWT was really putting us to the test.

Reay Forest.JPG
Reay Forest descent

17th May Loch Stack to Achriesgill Bay (Picnic Site)

Due to the bad weather we only managed to get on our way by 9.00, and we followed a good 4x4 track past Loch Stack Lodge and on toward the base of the mighty Arkle. The famous Irish steeplechase Arkle was named after the Scottish mountain that bordered the Anne Duchess of Westminster’s Sutherland (the owner) estate. Arkle became and is still a national legend in Ireland.

4x4 track towards Arkle.JPG
4x4 Track toward the foot of Arkle

At the foot of Arkle the road turns to the right, and the track is still good at this point. Further along the track we met a couple walking their dog, which at first we though was a cross Labrador come poodle. However we were reliable informed the dog was a Curly Coated Retriever. It is a breed of dog originally bred in England for upland bird and waterfowl hunting. It is the tallest of the retrievers and is easily distinguishable by the mass of tight curls covering its body. Our education for the day!!! We walked for a further 2 kms and headed over buggy ground to Loch a'Garbh-bhaid M'or. Initially the track is difficult to follow but does get clearer as you follow along the side pf the loch. The weather was now nice and we found a spot on the side of the Loch to take some lunch.

The side of the Loch where we had some lunch.

After lunch we continued to walk along the side of the Loch until reaching the Garbit River, which thankfully we managed to wade across without any major issues.

Garbh River.JPG
The Garbh River - a wade was required

The path thereafter towards Rhiconich is much better and improves once reaching the boathouse. After reaching Rhiconich we then followed the main road towards Kinlochbervie eventually stopping at the picnic site at Achriesgill Bay where we camped for the night. Again we had to endure heavy rains in the early evening and overnight.

Achriesgill Bay.JPG
Achriesgill Bay

18th May Achriesgill Bay - Kinlochbervie- Sandwood Bay - Strathchailleach Bothy

At long last we woke to a beautiful morning, and after drying out our tent we headed to Kinlochbervie where we stopped at the Spar and re-stocked our food supplies. They had nice warm pies for sale, and we just had to have one.

Camp Site.JPG
The morning after - our tent site at Achriesgill Bay

Leaving Kinlochbervie we followed the single track road to Blairmore and then took the path to Sandwood Bay. On route we had the pleasure to speak with a crofter at Oldshoremore who was explaining to us why the old crofts had their gable ends facing the sea; it was to provide protection from the prevailing winds. He also asked us if we would be interested in buying some land which he had for sale!!!! Well it was onto Sandwood Bay and the Atlantic Sea, and the views as we dropped down into the bay were stunning. It was here we caught our first sighting of the Cape Wrath Lighthouse.

Sandwood Bay_2.JPG
Out initial sighting of Sandwood Bay

The walk along the beach was breathtaking and after wading the river at the head of bay we stopped for lunch. I decided to go and dip my feet in the Atlantic, which as a big mistake as my toes nearly fell off with the ice cold water.

Sandwood Bay_3.JPG
The walk along Sandwood Bay

Sandwood Bay_4.JPG
Overlooking Sandwood Bay

For once the weather was with us so we sat and enjoyed the sea air and the magical bay for almost 2 hours. Then its was time to head for the Strathchailleach Bothy. The path is faint but it did lead us to the Lochan nan Sat and after crossing the fence we dropped down to the bothy. We were joined later by the two Alan's - Wrexham Alan and Berwick-on-tweed Alan. They were well prepared with wood and coal which they had previous buried somewhere on route to be picked up later. We had a nice warm fire and they kindly asked us to share their Glenmorangie, which we were very happy to do. It was difficult to comprehend how Sandy (James McRory Smith) managed to survive the hostile elements and remoteness of Strathchailleach. Some of his murals are still legible on the bothy walls.

19th May Strathchailleach Bothy - Cape Wrath - Durness - Ullapool

Set off around 8.00 am and with the weather looking a bit better we decided to try and get to Cape Wrath in time to catch the afternoon bus from the lighthouse to the Kyle of Durness. We said our goodbye to the bothy and walked in a northerly direction over rough moorland skirting Loch a Gheodha Ruaidh on our LHS.

The Strath Bothy.JPG
Saying goodbye to Strathchailleach Bothy

Rough trackless moorland_2.JPG
Rough trackless moorland on route to Cape Wrath

Keeping north we then came to the MOD fence which we managed to cross at a style. We had checked previous there were no military activities planned for the week, and no warning flags were flying. We continued over rough trackless moorland until we reached the road that leads to the lighthouse.

We were slightly east of where we should have been and still about 2 miles from the lighthouse. Just when we thought we would get to the lighthouse in the dry we were to endure the last part of the journey facing driving rain and strong winds. As the lighthouse came into view the bus from the Kyle of Durness was passing, and we were told that the bus would be leaving at 13.10hrs and there was space in the bus to accommodate us both. This then gave us enough time to get to the lighthouse, dry off and enjoy cup of coffee and a Tunnock's Tea cake, oh joy !!! Then it was time for the end of hike photo..

Cape Wrath.JPG
The finishing line - The Cape Wrath Lighthouse

We left the lighthouse about 13.45, and the plan was catch the Keodale Ferry and walk to Durness and catch the D&E Coaches Service 804 ( T: 01463 222444) at 15.40 hrs to Ullapool. Unfortunately the lighthouse bus was late in leaving and the journey to the Kyle of Durness took longer than we thought. On reaching the Kyle the tide was out and the crossing round trip was taking about 10/15 mins, and with 12 people on board the bus the ferry had to do three trips to get everyone across the Kyle. It was cold and miserable and as usual we had to be in the last crossing.

The Ferry.JPG
The Koedale Ferry

Leaving the jetty at the Ferry House.JPG
Leaving the Jetty at the Ferry House

We eventually got across to Koeldale at about 14.50hrs. We then marched the 3 miles to the Durness PO in 45 mins, just in time to buy some food and drink from the PO/SPAR. The D&E bus arrived exactly on time and we were on our way to Ullapool arriving at 18.30hrs. Oh joy it was raining again, and we had to take shelter at the Ferry Terminal before heading to the Broomfield Holiday Park to camp for the night. We had a nice shower and then it was off to the Seaforth Restaurant for some excellent fish and chips, and a couple of beers.

Cape Wrath Trail – Epilogue

This is a hard and challenging hike, and each year we had harsh unseasonable weather to endure, with lots of wet, boggy and difficult ground to cover. There are sections which involve hard steep climbs and difficult tricky descents.
Preparation was key on every phase of this hike. We prepared a comprehensive check list of all the items we needed from planning the route, navigation aids i.e. OS Maps/GPS, clothing for all weathers, tent, food, first aid and other equipment. Walking polls are an absolute essential to aid balance and for providing support.

We had a plan for each day and check points on the route where we would agree to make contact with home. Take a note of where all the bothies are located, they can be life savers. You are in some of the remotest areas in the UK and the weather in the Scottish highlands can truly turn nasty at any time.

The scenery is fantastic and you will meet on occasions a fellow hiker who will all tell you “never again” – that’s how challenging the CWT is.

This hike is not for the faint hearted. :)

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Lagrannoch Boy

Activity: Mountaineer
Mountain: Ben Ledi
Place: Mallaig
Gear: Boots
Ideal day out: Epic walk

Munros: 2
Long Distance routes: Cape Wrath Trail   

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