With the rest day now behind us…
Day 8: Leckmelm to Oykel Bridge
Glad to be making progress north once more we hiked through Strath Nimhe and down to East Rhidorroch Lodge to cross the rickety suspension bridge. All safely over we then negotiated a herd of languid cattle before making for the shores of Loch an Daimh and the Knockdamph bothy. Here we ate lunch, outsmarting the rain this time! A couple of hours later we reached the delightful Schoolhouse at Duag Bridge. A very well kept bothy and a perfect place to blow out a few candles and enjoy Jill’s birthday cake. Just few miles more on good tracks took us to Oykel Bridge.
Here our continuous line is broken in order to avoid a very long road march, most likely taking two days.Day 9: Kylestrome to Achfary
Picking up the trail in Kylestrome on the northern side of the eye-catching Kylesku bridge, we walked and paused in equal measure. The magnificent mountains of Assynt providing spectacular views, made all the more worthy of a photograph by the contrasting light of a heavy-shower day. The rain swept up the sea loch of Glendhu and dark clouds were broken by bands of sunlight. Quinag stood proud over the scene below. We were soon over the top and met by another change in landscape – Ben Stack, Arkle and Foinaven greeting us as we entered the far north west.
Day 10: Achfary to Gualin House
After a relatively short outing yesterday we set out in search of peat hags, steep ground and bog, to remind ourselves not to get too comfortable just yet. Through the perfectly positioned split boulder and up towards the Bealach Horn we went. The clag came in and the drizzle persisted as we passed through at 500m. The descent revealed waterfalls and watercourses marking the grey day with their white streams. We made our way round the rough and boggy shores of Loch Dionard under the magnificent rock face and geological features of Creag Urbhard. From here the last 6 miles were on straightforward estate tracks. Two days to go!
Day 11: Gualin House to Blairmore
We began our penultimate day along The Cape Wrath Trail by facing into the driving rain. Helena and Sue had always been our morning pace setters and there seemed no reason to change this. We tucked in behind hoping they wouldn’t work out our tactics before the rain stopped. Thankfully, that wasn’t long in coming, and brought with it a sighting of a Hen Harrier. The high winds did persist however, and this made for a perfect atmosphere as we left the road and skirted the coastline. Waves crashed high on broken cliffs and clear air gave good views both north and south. The clean sandy beaches tempted Helena to dip her toes in the water before the day was through.
Day 12: Cape Wrath to Blairmore
Our final day was walked in reverse. After days without a ferry service due to the winds we arrived early on the slipway to ensure our passage to Cape Wrath. A bone shaking mini-bus ride to lighthouse, tea in the cafe and photos, and then we began our final miles. After a dry summer the cape itself was in good walking conditon – certainly more so than the knee deep bog I waded through 5 or 6 years previously. We made our lunch stop in a rocky col and the views south to Sandwood Bay and Am Buachaille stretched before us (a clear benefit of walking this section north to south).
On our sunniest day of the whole trek we enjoyed the warmth and the views. But, the pathless route and the river crossings reminded us we weren’t quite finished yet. Reaching Sandwood Bay from a rocky northern vantage point the end certainly felt closer. Here we spent some time taking it all in and it was with difficulty we managed to persuade Emma we were finally leaving the bay and that she would have to come back another time. We finished on good tracks to Blairmore where handshakes, hugs and genuine heart-felt congratulations were exchanged. The beginning at Kinloch Hourn seemed quite distant yet the miles had passed so quickly. This well matched, yet diverse group, had completed the Cape Wrath Trail, very much, together.