Friday, 28 October 2011

The Cape Wrath Trail, Tomdoun to Camban Bothy - Day 3 12 April 2010.

The Trail Day 3
Tomdoun to Camban Bothy
Distance 29km Climb 330m
Monday 12th April 2010

A great breakfast at Mike's Tomdoun Hotel, and I started walking very late.  I took the chance and decided to go on Alex's short cut.  This was to take what he said was the old road to Skye.  From the hotel I walked to the junction where the phone box is and turned right to the road that headed North.  The old road takes you through forest before reaching the loch side.  Alex had told me the water level was low enough to cross Loch Loyne.  A number of years ago Scottish Power had built a dam at the end of Loch Loyne and flooded the glen for water power.  This year the water level was low due to the recently mild winters.

When I first saw the loch I thought Alex had made a mistake as the loch looked like it was full of water.  It looked like I had walked an extra 4km to get there, which meant I would have to walk back 4km, a total of 8km.  Not only extra km to walk but time wasted, it would be at least two hours walking just to arrive at the place I had started from.  What a relief, as I got nearer to the loch side I could see the path going across, so fortunately I had nothing to worry about.

There were two bridges one on each side of a small island and although the tarmac was broken and splintered and only rocks remained, with care I got across.  Once over I sat on the far side in warm sunhine and marvelled at the fantastic views, again I thought what a beautiful place, it would have been nice to stay, but the voice in my head would not let me stop too long.  While I sat there I rang Tomdoun Hotel and left a message of thanks for Alex for his short cut, it had saved a lot of time and kilometres.

After crossing the loch I followed the path up a steady climb in a North Westerly direction before following it up and down through beautiful countryside.  One place I had a rest I found an old penny lying in the dust with a date of 1915 on it.  I thought this was funny, years ago a Scotsman, I presumed, will have lost the penny on his way either from or to Skye, and it probably would have been a lot of money then.  Now here I was years later sitting by the side of the road and there it was waiting for me to pick it up.

Arriving at the main A87 road, I turned left towards the Cluanie Inn for some dinner.

I was full to bursting when I started walking again after my meal at the Cluanie Inn.  To rejoin the route I had to back track along the A87 road, and move further East along the road, I passed a prominent forest block on my left and a stream that crossed under the busy road before turning left onto a track, next to Loch Cluanie.  The track travelled up into the wild.  It was a steep track in places heading in an almost Northerly direction, as I climbed the track I could feel the weather becoming colder and colder.  The further up the track I went the more I felt good especially when I saw the large herds of wild deer, the photos do not do them justice.

The track seemed to disappear and I ended up following thin deer tracks in the general direction of my travel, this was in a Northerly direction.  I continued following deer tracks and the contours and stream towards the area of the Camban Bothy.  I finally turned a corner Westerly from where I could see the bothy, it was still away off and there was still a little bit of up and down before I had to cross the stream then head up a slight bank before reaching the Camban Bothy.

The weather had become overcast taking most of the light out of the sky by the time I had arrived at Camban Bothy.  Due to stopping and enjoying the views and deer earlier I was later than I had wanted to be.  My plan was to spend that night at Camban Bothy and I did not want to stop and make camp earlier as I had planned on covering a longer distance the next day.

At Camban Bothy I found other walkers and although they had a fire going I got the impression they did not want to share.  With the light fading I pitched my tent on a flat piece of ground.  This was the first lot of rations I had planned to eat and was looking forward to eating them.  Not only for the food but it would also make my bag a little lighter.

I took my food into the bothy to cook.  I am quite sociable and friendly and if I had been inside first I would have shared, and happy to do so.  However I got the impression I was in the way.  Three of the four lads were not friendly.  So after I cooked my food I returned to my tent and had a good night sleep.

I had walked about 10 and a quarter hours, and covered approx 29km with 330m climb.

More to follow

Boz North
Details correct at time of writing.
Follow link to previous - Day 2 South Laggan Locks to Tomdoun
Follow link to next - Day 4 Camban Bothy to Camas-luinie

Sunday, 16 October 2011

The Cape Wrath Trail, South Laggan Locks to Tomdoun - Day 2 11 April 2010.

The Trail Day 2
South Laggan Locks to Tomdoun
Distance 20.5km
Sunday 11th April 2010

I had a bad nights sleep, I do not know if this was due to the hard push during the day or the noisy boats going up and down the Caledonian Canal.  My tent was well away from the lock gates so I was not chased by the lock keeper.

After packing my kit and eating half the sandwich I walked 2 miles back up the track I walked down late yesterday afternoon, back to the turn for Tomdoun I had seen the previous day.  Short cut huh, what a fool I was, the 10 km was really 10 mile.  This would mean extra walking on top of what I had planned.  Possibly not that bad but what about the terrain?

Looking back down to the Caledonian Canal 

What was up, was up then up some more, what was flat was up and down through and around deep bog.  Travelling in a straight line was impossible what was a distance of 2 - 2.5 km measured on the map along a fence line, when weaving in and about was nearer 4 -6km.

After a steep climb and weaving in and around the bogs I headed down to a stream them up into a wood.  It was very warm again today and I was looking forward to getting into the shade of the trees following the forest tracks.  How disappointed was I after a few km's when I found the trees had been felled and I was back in the sunshine and heat.  As I passed through a farm I saw a couple of lads from the forestry commission and I had to ask why they could not have waited a couple of weeks after I had done my wander before they felled the trees.  I was now on my OS select map Loch Cluanie and I was heading West. I was now in an area where the trees had not been felled and I was once again gratefully in the shade.  The track crossed a couple of tracks and turned to Greenfield.  Where it turned North towards the bridge over Loch Garry.

Anyway I crossed the footbridge over the narrows and could hear people talking, which turned out to be some fishermen.  They sounded odd after spending all day listening to nothing than silence.  The track now joined the road, I turned left, and headed West down the road towards Tomdoun.

As I walked down the road I could hear people firing guns, the shooting fraternity were out on their Sunday afternoon shoot.  Hopefully not hunting Englishmen.  I remembered I had heard shots at the same time the day before.  Then I saw my first deer, magnificent but fortunately no where near the hunters.

When I arrived a the hotel at Tomdoun I saw a fairy.  Was I hallucinating? it was warm and I am sure I must have been dehydrated.  It turned out that it was a stag do and the lads had called in for a drink.  I met Alex a giant of a man from South Africa who was helping out at the hotel.  Sitting outside having a cool well deserved shandy Alex told me of a short cut I could use the next day.  Should I trust him as the last short cut I had taken was anything but.  I was still on track with my plans though.  Alex showed me a place where I could put my tent. As it was dry and sunny I hung my damp kit up to dry it off.

After a short rest I returned to the hotel, for my dinner, where I met Mike the owner and the other guests.  I had my dinner with one of the guests, he was a regular visitor to the Tomdoun Hotel and was very interesting.  The other guests were a couple from Salisbury who were travelling round Scotland looking for places to do a spot of fishing, with a plan of returning to the suitable locations on another holiday.

Mike the owner was brilliant and entertaining.  He was full of interesting local information, he took us outside to hear a snipe's courting call.  Another thing he told us was that the stone that the stag stands on in the famous painting Monarch of the Glen was just down the road on the side of the loch.  It would have been good to stay there a few days but I knew I didn't have the time.

Today I had travelled approx 20.5 km in about 8 hours.

More to follow

Boz North
Details correct at time of writing.
Follow link to previous - Day 1 Fort William to South Laggan Locks
Follow link to next - Day 3 Tomdoun to Camban Bothy

Saturday, 15 October 2011

The Cape Wrath Trail, Fort William to South Laggan Locks - Day 1 10 April 2010.

The Trail Day 1
Fort William to South Laggan Locks
Distance 33.5km
Saturday 10th April 2010

Number 64 on ITV's Britain's Favourite Walks shown in January 2018. Is the Great Glen Way. This is part of the walk.

I had arrived at the Glen Nevis Campsite the previous evening. I had stayed here after completing my West Highland Way in 2009.

I was late getting away from the Glen Nevis Campsite.  I had wanted to be at Fort William train station for 09.00 am for my breakfast but I was running late as it was 10.00 am when I arrived at the train station for my breakfast.  After a big breakfast and ordering a big sandwich to take with me it was 10.40 am when I started on The Cape Wrath Trail.  I had already walked 3.5-4 km to get to the start.  I was not ready for the weather being so hot and took off my big coat before I started.  The route I followed was the Great Glen Way and it is clearly sign posted.

Start of The Cape Wrath Trail
This route took me up by the series of loch gates called The Neptune Staircase.  By the time I stopped for a cup of tea at a cafe next to the Neptune Staircase I had taken off my tracksuit top and bottoms and I was walking in tee shirt and shorts.

Bottom of the Neptune Staircase
I sat on the bank having a quick rest as a boat sailed past, I waved friendly at the crew sitting looking cold and glum but no one waved back.

They don't look happy, do they? 

I passed three other groups of walkers who were doing The Great Glen Way.  The route is well marked and follows the canals and sides of the lochs.  We would pass and cross each other as we took turns walking and resting.  None of them were going as far as South Laggan Locks.  I am not sure but I had a feeling that South Laggan was half way along The Great Glen Way?

I came across some fallen trees lying across the track and I knew one of the group of walkers had passed me and I wondered how they had got through.  On looking right it would have meant a steep climb down, a climb over the branches then probably a steep climb back up to the track.  Looking left it was much the same a steep climb up the bank, then scramble over roots, followed by a climb down the bank back onto the track.  So I looked at the centre, as I weaved my way through the branches I saw a path had been cleared so I was able to walk straight through.  On the other side of the fallen trees I saw one of the other group of walkers, that had previously passed me.  They said they had walked the round the trees and could not believe I had walked through.  I felt so smug.

How do you get through this?
Approaching South Laggan Locks
I got as far as South Laggan Locks, when I saw a sign for The Eagle a floating restaurant and bar.  I saw the sign just as it was getting dark, I dropped my bag on the deck and almost fell down the stairs, startling the people in the bar.  I got there just in time to order some food, Paul and Janet the owners were great.  I am sure Paul was closing his kitchen but kept it open to serve me, the food was good.  I found out that Paul and Janet were originally from Essex, and therefore a long way from home.  As well as ordering a meal, I also ordered a sandwich which I would keep for breakfast.  It was good talking to the other people at the bar.  There were two Yorkshire brickies who were sailing up and down the Caledonia Canal with their families.  They had done the trip before and had enjoyed it so much they were doing it again.  Really nice people and I would have loved to have stayed up and chatting more but I had had a long day with another long day tomorrow.

I pitched my tent near the lock gates with a warning that the lock keeper may get me up early to move on, if I was in the way.  I could see a mark on the ground where the gates would reach so I pitched it outside so I was not in the way of the gates when they opened.

By my reckoning I had traveled approx 33.5km in about 9hrs 15mins.  About two miles prior to reaching South Laggan Locks I saw a sign which I thought said Tomdoon 10km, it looked like a bit of a climb especially with a heavy bag, but if I went that way it would make me half a day ahead of my plan.

More to follow

Boz North
Details correct at time of writing.  
Follow link to next - Day 2 South Laggan Locks to Tomdoun
Follow link to another walk that ended in Fort William WHW 2012
Follow link to another walk that ended in Fort William WHW 2009 

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Cape Wrath Trail (the drive up)

The Drive to Fort William
Friday 9th April 2010

(Note to promote my blog I have set up a Facebook account, if you would like to send me a friends request).

I had decided to drive to Fort William and set up my tent at the Glen Nevis campsite, then take the car to Inverness and leave it at the hotel which I had booked to stay in when I had finished my walk.  The plan was after my walk to meet up with my wife in Inverness and have a few days together.

I have drove to Fort William a number of times as we sometimes stay in a friends croft less than an hour north of Fort William.  So I was happy with the route.  When we go to the croft I normally drive up after work usually late in the day when the traffic is light and we can get a clear run, avoiding any hold up of traffic.  However today after dropping my wife off at her place of work I started North at about 08.00 am.

Scales with no kit
Scales with all my kit
 The journey was slow as I got held up with the traffic almost from the start.  It was as if every red light was against me, every tractor, horse box, caravan, lorry, bus, road works, accident's and the people who insist on driving at 40mph even on 60mph roads were on the road to hold me up.  This meant I was late getting to Fort William.
Just a couple of caravans I got stuck behind
Being late arriving at Fort William I then made the decision instead of stopping at the campsite  I would drive straight through to Inverness.  I was now frightened that if I left my tent and kit in Fort William I may not get back in time and be stuck in Inverness without my gear.

Even so I arrived in Inverness late and missed the bus I had planned to take back to Fort William.  I parked the car at the hotel.  The staff at the hotel were very helpful.  I then walked to the bus station carrying all my kit, it turns out I had nothing to worry about as there were plenty of buses to Fort William.  On the bus the views were stunning, as we passed the Caledonian Canal it looked really good, very calm and peaceful.

When I got back to Fort William I walked to the Glen Nevis campsite, I had stayed there after my West Highland Way and thought it was a good site to stay at.  Attached to the campsite is a bar and restaurant, who do really good food.  After pitching my tent I went to the bar for a meal.  While sitting there with my dinner and a drink a large noisy group came in.  It was obvious from their chat they were part of a group doing the three peaks.  They must have been the driver support for the group as they looked like they had no intention of walking and were laughing at those who were.

Anyway after a couple of shandys I returned to my tent, tucked myself up in my sleeping bag for a good night sleep.

Start my walk tomorrow very excited.

More to follow

Boz North

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Cross Fell - North Pennines 8 Mar 2010

Cross Fell 
North Pennines
Monday 8 March 2010

I had done this walk a number of times, starting from Garrigill and following the Pennine Way South to Cross Fell.  Pulling up in one of the car park spaces opposite the George & Dragon pub I noticed it was boarded up which was a surprise.  When I was younger we used to call in and it was always full of people.  Anyway today I was trying to get some practice in for the Cape Wrath Trail, I was planning on doing, so I had packed my bag with all the kit I thought I would need to get used to carrying it.

A boarded up George & Dragon 
 It was bright and sunny when I picked up my bag and headed down the road past the church along The Pennine Way, towards the track that takes you up the hill towards Cross Fell.  There was no snow in the valley bottom and the track was clear most of the way up.  I liked this track I had always found it steep enough to get the heart pumping and clear my lungs.

View of Cross Fell
As I moved up the track past the second gate the snow was starting to get noticeably deeper and as hard as stone.  In places the snow had formed into chasms where I had to decide to either walk through or around.  Fortunately it held.

As I moved further up where I thought the track was, I was following the fence posts, I knew that I was no longer on the track, but the posts were a good guide.

My bag was heavy and my shoulders ached so I stopped and had a rest.  I had a bar of chocolate which was frozen.  As I looked around the sky was clear and the views were fantastic.  When I started walking again I noticed ski tracks in the snow.  I was well away from my normal route which was along the track to Greg's Hut. This time I had moved well to the East and South and came up the ridge to the spot hight to the top of Cross Fell.  Fortunately the ground was very firm.
Spot Height 893m Just pointing through
I headed down hill following the route stones towards Greg's Hut where I stopped and had a meal.  I always like calling into Greg's Hut and reading about what Greg's friends have done to remember him, amazing really.

Towards Greg's Hut from Cross Fell
It was impossible to find the path due to the snow so I followed the footsteps from previous walkers.  In parts these were deep and it took some effort to make the steps.  Fortunately they were not too far apart but it did take some effort.  In places were there were no footsteps to follow, the snow was hard and it was difficult to get any grip and I was in danger of slipping.  Fortunately I held my grip and reached the relative safety of the fence posts.

As I headed back towards Garagill I noticed a strange natural ice sculpture, it was rather good I thought.

Anyway another good day wandering alone.
Details correct at time of writing

More to follow.

Boz North
Follow the link to my Day 1 on the Cape Wrath Trail.
Follow the link to the time I walked Cross Fell on my Pennine Way Day 10.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

The Cape Wrath Trail (pre the walk)

Pre The Cape Wrath Trail

Note to promote my blog I have set up a Facebook account, if you would like to send me a friends request.

As I was waiting for the train in Fort William following my walk along the West Highland Way I called into the Nevis shop and had a look at the books for my next personal challenge.  My feet were sore, my muscles ached but I was already looking ahead for my next walk.

The walk that caught my eye was in a book called North to The Cape described as a trek from Fort William to Cape Wrath by Denis Brook and Phil Hinchliffe.  If I decide to do this walk I would need to do some serious research.  Listen to me, if I decide to do this walk,  it was as though I had no sooner seen the book than I was committed and my heart was set on doing this trek.  On the internet it is referred to as The Cape Wrath Trail it is approx 202 mile (326 km) depending on the routes and the source you use.  Cape Wrath is described as not the most northerly point on mainland Britain, however it is described as the most northerly point on mainland Britain unreachable by motor transport.  

As with when I did the West Highland Way I was going to plan and organise my own way of doing The Trail.  Anne was not happy for me to go off again on my own however she accepted this was something I needed to do.  As before I was like an excited child, making plans, changing them then going back to the original plan.  I could not think of anything else I couldn't wait to get going.

With access to the internet and my book I had many sources of information on The Cape Wrath Trail. 

I had some things I needed to consider.  In the book it says that when you reach the end you now have the problem of getting away from The Cape.  I looked into places where I could leave the car.

1. Should I leave my car at Fort William? Question how would I get back to Fort William?
2. Should I leave my car at Lairg or Inverness? Question how would I get to the start? The bus would take at least 2 hours.
3. Should I leave my car at Ullapool? Question how would I get to the start and how to get back to Ullapool from the Cape.
4. Leave the car at home and take the train.     

A phone number for bus timings 01971 511343
or on the Internet


O/S 41, 40 (I got years ago), 33, 25, 19, 20, 16, 15, 9 (one of my sons bought me for Fathers Day).  The O/S internet site had a 20% off their custom made maps.  So I ordered four custom made maps that covered the area through OS select, 1. Loch Cluanie, 2. Sgurr a Chaorrac, 3. Inverbroom and 4. Ben More Assynt. 

The Cape Wrath Trail internet site was a good source of information.  It shows diaries from many who have travelled the Trail.  Many travelled along the Great Glen Way then turned North, this is unlike the book which shows a route across the ferry at Loch Linnhe.  Yet something else to think about?  The internet site mentions alternative bus routes, no 919 from Inverness to Fort William.  Another consideration to think about when I decide where I will leave the car.  People had also posted details of places to eat and stay.  

More numbers to note:- 
Ullapool Tourist Information 01854 612135
Durness Tourist Information 01971 511259
Internet site for accommodation in Inverness 

I decided that the route I would take was going to be what I thought would be the best for me from the book and the information on the web sites.

Rough Route Plan (possible places to stop or feed).

Day 1 Fort William to South Laggan
Breakfast - Fort William Railway Station
Lunch - sandwich from Railway Station 
possible places to stay Great Glen Water Park 01809 501383
possible places to stay Dalcomera Girlochy 01397 712778 
Follow link to actual Day 1 Fort William to South Laggan Locks

Day 2 South Laggan to Tomdoun
Lunch - Well of Seven Heads
Evening Meal Tomdoun Hotel 01809 511218 (grid 156 010)
Follow link to actual Day 2 South Laggan Locks to Tomdoun

Day 3 Tomdoun to Camban Bothy
Breakfast - Tomdoun Hotel
Lunch - Cluanie Inn 01320 340238 (grid 077 117) 
Dinner - rations Camban Bothy
Follow link to actual Day 3 Tomdoun to Camban Bothy

Day 4 Camban Bothy to Camus-luinie
Breakfast - rations Camban Bothy
Evening Meal - Whitefalls (grid 947 283)
Follow link to actual Day 4 Camban Bothy to Camus-luinie

Day 5 Camus-luinie to Achnashellach Station
Breakfast Whitefalls
possible places to stay Strath Carran Hotel IV54 8YR
Achnashellach Station cafe 01520 766102
Cromasaig House IV22 2PE 01445 760234
Follow link to actual Day 5 Camus-luinie to Achnashellach

Day 6 Achnashellach Station to Dundonnell
Kinlochewe Hotel 01445 760253
Whistlestop Cafe Old Village Hall 01445 760423
Dundonnell Hotel 01854 633204
Follow link to actual Day 6 Achnashellach to Grid NH 065 675

Day 7 Dundonnell to Knockdamph Bothy
Breakfast - Dundonnell Hotel
possible stop Clachan Farm House IV23 2RZ 01854 655209
Evening Meal - rations Knockdamph Bothy
Follow link to actual Day 7 Grid NH 065 675 to Dundonnell

Day 8 Knockdamph Bothy to Benmore Lodge
Breakfast - rations
Lunch - Oykel Bridge Hotel 01549 441218 enquiries@
Follow link to actual Day 8 Dundonnell to Knockdamph Bothy

Day 9 Benmore Lodge to Inchnadamph Hotel 
Breakfast - rations
Unapool Ho
Newton Hotel 01971 502231
Kylesku Hotel 01971 502003
Inchnadamph Hotel 01571 822202
Follow link to actual Day 9 Knockdamph Bothy to Grid NC 346 184

Day 10 Inchnadamph Hotel to Lochstack Lodge
Breakfast - 
Evening Meal - rations
Follow link to actual Day 10 Grid NC 346 184 to Kylesku

Day 11 Lochstack Lodge to Kinlochbervie
Breakfast - rations
possible stops Rhiconich Hotel 01971 521224
Kinlochbervie Hotel 01971 521275
or Fishermans Mission for Fish Chips
Follow link to actual Day 11 Kylesku to Kinlochbervie  

Day 12 Kinlochbervie
Range info 0800 833300, 01971 511242, 07714 722056
Minibus Mrs I P MacKay 01971 511343
Cape Wrath Ozone Cafe 01971 511314
Follow link to actual Day 12 Kinlochbervie to Cape Wrath 
Follow link to return to Sandwood Bay

Following my walk on the West Highland Way I rewrote my kit list.  I even bought myself some extra bits of kit, something I would not normally do.

Kit List
Spare underpants
Toilet paper
Spare socks
Waterproof trs
Money belt
Sleeping bag
Sticks x 2
Spare t shirt
Bivi bag
Foot powder
Roll matt
Cash card
Flip flops
Jet Boil
First aid kit
Waterproof socks

Tracksuit trousers

Note book

Head ache tablets
Wet wipes

Termis cups x 2
Softy jacket

Spare trousers

More to Follow

Boz North