Posted by: natsevs | July 21, 2010

Ardintoul to Port Mhealaraigh

I woke up early and didn’t go back to sleep for once. A quick look at the midge situation and I decided to have breakfast inside which consisted of biscuits and a buttery (savoury scottish bread roll) with choc spread. I’d decided to try butteries after seeing them a few times but they are disappointing: basically bad croissants.

A forestry lorry drove right by where i was while I packed away the tent but didn’t say anything to me.  Unusually, I was walking before 9 and came across flat open fields almost immediatelym where it would probably  have been much better and safer to camp  than among woodpiles. The path was meant to go out past the last house but there was no sign of it so I just crossed the river there. Then there was a deer fence in the way which I got past by crawling through a hole in the bottom.

Thankfully the path then stretched out before me surrounded by felled trees. The downside was that the path seemed to climb forever and I was stopping more than usual to deal with it. It then took me through the forest where it was quite dark with the tree dense canopy above, stupidly hot still though and no breeze. It soon got really boggy and I lost my foot once or twice.

At the top, trees were cleared again and I could see across to Ardelve where I would be stopping. Coming down was murder on my knees. I don’t care if that makes me sound middle aged.

At the bottom was a guy and his dog. The dog was terrified of me for some reason and wouldn’t go past me, I had to get right out of the way. I now got onto road which led through several little towns. Around lunchtime, I wandered out onto the rocks and made myself some porridge. From there I reached the loch head, crossed the river and had the delights of the main Skye road for the rest of the day. I was out of water so when I saw a shop at Invershiel I popped in and got an expensive bottle of Lucozade to keep me going. I should have waited because further on was a petrol station. I got some water and a sausage roll there.

I was feeling the walking more than usual, probably due to the late finish the previous day. The sun started coming out in spells and there were lots of people fishing on the rocks by layby’s as cars cained it past me. So when I got to the castle at Dornier and had a little sit. It’s a very pretty castle so I took a few photos along with all the tourists piling off buses. Ardelve was only over the bridge so I headed over and found the campsite.

Once I’d set up I headed back over to Dornie to find the shop. A sign said it had closed at 2pm this Saturday only. Typical. As I’d walked there it made sense to go to the pub, especially as i had hit the 3,500 mile mark that day. I had a beer from the Isle of Skye brewery in preparation for crossing the bridge the next day. I don’t know how strong it was but rather sadly I felt a bit tipsy as I walked back.

Despite the deflating roll matt I was sleeping quite well although I’m sure having a book to read and the beer helped. As I left there was on and off sun but the clouds were definitely threatening rain soon. Initially I was on a little road through Ardelve but soon enough it was all the main road. At Reraig I was able to get to a shop and invest in a steak slice. Coming out of the door the rain had arrived and on came the waterproofs. At Balmacara I took a little road nearer the coast that got further from the main road by heading downwards. Then it stopped going forward and I had to follow it back on myself and uphill to the main road again. I had plenty of time though today as I was booked into a hostel just over the bridge to Skye in Kyleakin. The bridge was soon in view and i reached Kyke of Lochalsh just after midday with the sun shining in a complete weather turnaround. There was a co-op here so I was able stock up properly for the few days ahead. After that it was over the bridge to Skye.

It was windy up there but the views were good and I was looking forward to seeing Skye. Speaking three weeks on I know how misguided that optimism was as you’ll find out. I found the hostel in Kyleakin easily but the reception was closed until 5 and they didn’t even have a tv. It was the day of England Vs Germany. I left my bag and explored the village. Five minutes later I had seen everything.

There was a pub that would be showing the football and the sign promised free halftime pies. I got myslef an ice cream and a paper and found a bench to waste the time until then. The pub wasn’t as bad as expected, obviously they were cheering the Germans but it was all in good spirits. All except one guy who’s mate brought along a Nazi flag. The fellow scots were not impressed let alone anyone else and that was quickly confiscated with a tired expression. I think maybe they were used to and very bored of this particular drunk. After a typical English performance  I checked into the hostel and settled in. I got the impression everyone in there was staff.

I was first up in my dorm so it definitely wasn’t a walker hostel. I had decided to get some washing done so I picked that up from reception and it smelled good. Packing everything took ages but I was away by 10 in shorts and t-shirt. That was an error as almost immediately it started raining and steadily got heavier. As a result I was barely onto the path when I had to stop and get all waterproofed up. The path only goes to the ruined castle so I was soon off it and making my way to the shore.

This is when the Skye experience started. There was a lot of heather and bogs and tussocks making it hard work so I got down onto the rocks. Unfortunately i was forced up pretty soon. The slope was ridiculously steep and the heather was all pointing outward making progress impossible and knackering.

Once up there were holes everywhere so I went back down at the first opportunity, then up again and repeated that a few times. It wasn’t particularly hard, just very very slow and frustrating. There was a big cliff at the loch head so I had to go up. I was already in a bad mood and had fallen over several times so when I got to the head and there was a sheer drop where I needed to get across I was not happy.

I was forced inland until the side was just about manageable and i stumbled down to the stream. I had to walk in it pretty much to get under a deer fence then started along the opposite side. It was already 12 and I was probably no more than a mile from Kyleakin as the crow flies. This side started better as I was able to get along the rocks at the shore. I did however almost head first onto solid rock at one stage which was a slightly scarey moment.

Later I tried to climb up through a thin gully in an outcrop when my feet slipped completely. I was stuck there holding my whole weight on arms that were behind my back and it felt like my chest muscles were being ripped off. Frantically, I found my footing, threw my bags off and was almost sick with the pain. A minute later though I tried again and was up no trouble.

I got to the end and had some lunch expecting the next bit to be easy as the forestry land there had all been felled. It was awful. Managed pine forests completely change the land, it becomes trenches and ridges repeated every meter or so and these were all going across the direction I was going in. Add to that the fact that instead of using the wood, they seemed to have placed it all in lines going down to the sea which were like massive hurdles to climb over every 2m. I was losing it, I wanted comfort and friends and I wanted it now. What I got was bogs and then a stream blocking my way. I fell over in it and lay there getting soaked wanderig why the ‘cough’ I was doing this. I was also constantly asking myself why they had done this, what is the reasoning behind completely ruining a piece of land?

I was not and I am still not a fan of the forestry commision. They are the enemy of the long distance walker. Yeh sometimes they have paths but these either lead to dead ends or go round in a circle so you’re screwed if you want to actually get anywhere. I got out. I found path and headed to Kylerhea, arriving at 4.30. That meant I had done about 10 miles in 6.5 hours. On the way in I got talking to a local out dog walking who was nice at least and quite helpful.

From there a path goes to Kinloch. I set off along that and despite it being boggy and occasionally disappearing it was awesome. I walked until 7.15 to try to make up some of the lost mileage. The map showed more forestry but most of it had been cleared and instead it was open bogland with lots of holes where the peat had been dug out. I set up just outside a part where the forest was still there and got to cooking some grub. There was a breeze at first but that soon stopped and there was a major midge situation. I got followed into my tent by loads but it was nothing compared to outside. They were covering my tent and the noise of them bouncig off it sounded like rain, added to that was the audible buzz of the swarm. I needed a hug.



  1. BIG hug Nat!!!

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