Leaving Chester on 22nd October and returning on 12th November was a round trip of 2,000 miles by car but saw me attend a 60th birthday party, visit and stay with relatives, visit friends, mountain bike in the Cairngorms, get to the top of some twelve mountains and do part of the Sandwood Trail from Blairmore to Cape Wrath and back again.
Weather on the whole was good to me but due to severe winds I had to crawl to the top of two mountains and was in a snow blizzard for an hour or so on another mountain top.
Hotels, Lodges, Inns and Bunkhouses I stayed in all turned out to be good but at this time of year not many visitors are about and in the North I found a lot of hotels/restaurants closed up for the winter.
I spent two days in the Cairngorms staying at Braemar Lodge Hotel where the hosts are just excellent. I cycled as far as White Bridge on Tuesday 26th Oct and then walked into the mountains. On Wednesday 27th I cycled to Derry Lodge and then walked. Alas the tops of the mountains I wanted to do, Monadh Mor 1,113m and A’Choinneach 1,017m, were too far away to be able to return to Braemar in daylight.
Thursday 28th October saw me spending a day in The Highland Wildlife Park in Kingussie to see the Deer Rut, the Amur Tigers, the Polar Bear, the Wolves and other wild animals. If you have not been to the park I would recommend it as it is a great day out.
The mountains of Sutherland were my main challenge and here I managed to do the following over six continuous days of walking:
1. Ben Klibreck 961m
2. Cnoc nan Cuilean 557m
3. Ben Loyal 764m
4. Conival 988m
5. Ben More Assynt 998m
6. Conival (you do it again on the way back!)
7. Beinnan Fhurain 806m
8. Cul Beag 769m
9. Meall Dearg 657m
10. Breabag 815m
11. Glas Bheinn 776m.
My accommodation was at The Crask Inn and Inchnadamph Lodge both being excellent. On the day I got to the top of Breabag I visited the Inchnadamph Bone Caves. Nearly 1,000 fragments of reindeer antler have been found and some of these have been aged at 47,000 years old.
Perhaps the biggest challenge of my holiday was to walk from Blairmore to Cape Wrath Lighthouse and back again on the same day. On Friday 5th November I was wakened at 6am by my cousin Rhoda and after a sumptuous breakfast and flask of soup in my rucksack and other goodies I left Blairmore at 8am and was walking on Sandwood Beach (4.5miles distance) at 9.20am but no mermaids were to be seen!! Crossing the river from Sandwood Loch at the north side of the beach was tricky as this was in spate. A further five rivers had to be crossed and under foot conditions was extremely wet. At 1am I did reach the Lighthouse and it was an immediate turnaround as it had taken me five hours to get there, so it would take another five hours (at least) to get back. By 4.15pm I was back on Sandwood Beach in the darkness. I had again safely crossed all rivers and now there was a recognised rough track back to my car.
Sandwood is a very lonely and eerie place at the best of times and with the ruins of a house said to be haunted I was on my guard for ghosts roaming about in the high reeds. At 4.45pm I was on the hill above the beach and in the distance the Lighthouse was dispatching its strong rays of light. I said goodbye to both and thought to myself perhaps I will never be back again? It was around forty four years since I was last at Sandwood Bay. “Time or tide waits for no man.”
At Loch Mhuilinn at 5.15pm I switched on my head torch and at 6am I was back at my car. What a sense of achievement, I was buzzing. Around twenty four miles was the total distance without a stop!!
On Saturday I was travelling to Shiel Bridge and staying at Kintail Lodge Hotel which was excellent in every way. On Sunday 7th November I visited Eilean Donan Castle at Dornie and went across the bridge from Kyle of Lochalsh to Skye and visited Kyleakin and Broadford. On my way back I went to see the lovely village of Plockton. The challenge on Monday was to do The Saddle 1,010m and perhaps the finest of the Kintail peaks and one of the most magnificent in the Highlands, on the south side of Glen Shiel. It was a windy morning when I left my car at 10am. This got much stronger as I hit the snowline at 11.20am and at 12.20pm on reaching the top of Sgurr na Sgine 946m in very high winds coming in severe gusts, deep snow in places and poor visibility I took the decision to turn back. By 2.15pm I was safely back at my car.
If you are keen to bag a Munro or three you couldn’t find a better area to be in with some thirty Munros being situated within reachable distance from the hotel which has a bunkhouse as well as a trekkers lodge. I will be back to this very special part of Scotland. Knoydart to the south is another area I would love to visit.
I had a wonderful time and I would like to thank all the nice people I met on my travels.
12th November 2010