On this series of walks I followed the coast round Wester Ross, an area which has been called the Great Wilderness. A spectacular coastline flowed and curled around rocky bays and headlands, and rose to tussocky heather covered cliffs. Some days the light was luminously clear, the sea turning a deep cobalt blue. Other days the rain poured down for hours on end, visibility was restricted to a few hundred meters and the wind was so strong that I had to walk bent double to make any headway. Inland, a dark brown frowning landscape: row upon row of barren hills and mountains rippling and receding into the distance.
I stayed for a week at the homely and welcoming Youth Hostel at Gairloch and spent one night at the Torridon hostel. At Gairloch I stayed in an eight bed dormitory. Cyclists came and went: there was a big weekend rally nearby which some described as the greatest ride of their lives. I had interesting conversations with Gerry from Liverpool, a keen cyclist. Alan from Bolton was also staying for a week; he was a fellow walker and in the evenings we discussed our daily walks and chatted about the news as reported in his copy of the Times. One night a group of four motor cyclists stayed in the dormitory. They were exceptionally friendly and I enjoyed talking with them. I felt overwhelmed when the leader of the group told me that he “really respected” what I was doing on this coastal walk. One of them said he would read this blog; I do hope he enjoyed it! Sadly I never got to know their names or even where they came from, but next morning we all said goodbye and shook hands with a genuine sincerity.
I spent a couple of days walking round Loch Ewe, an area made famous by the renowned gardens at Inverewe. All around the west side of the loch I came across the ruins and remnants of wartime buildings, storage facilities and gun emplacements. I discovered that it had been in Loch Ewe, during the Second World War, that the vessels of the Arctic Convoys had assembled prior to setting off on their terrible voyages round the North Cape of Norway to Arkangel in Russia. I stayed for a while, looking out to sea, beside a memorial to fallen heroes erected by the survivors of what Churchill described it as “the worst journey in the world”.
On my last day I set off from isolated Redpoint and walked over rough trackless ground for nearly ten miles to a bothy. The door was unlocked and inside it smelt of woodsmoke. Although simple and largely unfurnished I could imagine that were one to arrive at the bothy in a howling gale and driving rain it would have seemed like the most comfortable place in the world, once the candles were alight and the wood burning stove aglow. I walked on along a rough track to the hamlet of Lower Diabaig, at the seaward end of Loch Torridon. From there a long steep road wound up into the hills. From the summit there was a magnificent view over the loch to the sea in one direction and along the entire length of Upper Loch Torridon and the adjacent mountains in the other. I descended, coming eventually to the Youth Hostel in the village of Torridon where I spent the night. Rising early next morning I caught a ride on the School Bus back to Gairloch for breakfast and home.
© Nick Creagh-Osborne and manwalkstheworld.com 2017.