Another glorious morning. This really is astonishing weather for late April and early May. The Kinloch Hourn farm is not the most luxurious bed and breakfast. No electricity after 11.00 when they turn the generator off, and a bit of a fusty bedroom. Three beds though I have it to myself.
But this is a very remote spot, at least for the carless, and I am grateful not to have to sleep out. And Joe does a very decent cooked breakfast.
There is a sign in the bathroom saying that you should not use the water for brushing your teeth because of contamination. Presumably that is what the bottled water in Curlew Cottage was about. Great! The one time I resort to drinking stream water I run straight into notices from the water providers to say that even the treated stuff is dodgy.
Oh well, it has been over 36 hours so I think I am probably OK.
I take a photo of Joe as I leave the farm, well laden with bottled water.
Before I head I take a look at all the cars parked in the car park. Joe was taking the fee from drivers yesterday. Kinloch Hourn is the jumping off point for the hills of roadless Knoydart and I feel a pang of jealousy that I am not going that way.
But there are well over thirty cars and the festival is on on the other side of the mountains, so it might not be such a good place for solitude today as the route that I am taking, at least to begin with.
I backtrack up the road to a small bridge and sign post and take the track across to Kinloch Hourn Lodge. Loch Hourn is spectacularly beautiful this morning.
The pylons marching up the hill look less intimidating too, with it being less hot and me less tired. Still looks like a steep ascent coming but I am quite happy to get it the worst over with while the morning is still reasonably cool.
The track goes up to a fence and high gate that looks like it encloses private grounds. I wonder if the way goes round the coast side and start off that way but there is a woman with two dogs in the garden, so I ask. She tells me that the path goes through the garden and I back track.
“Past the cottage but before the lodge,” she says.
Not only is it clear enough when I get there but there is even a sign post. Private one way Arnisdale the other. I am going to Glenelg, not Arnisdale but the Arnisdale path diverges from mine a few kilometres away.
Any route finding anxieties may be gone but I have other things to worry about. The path snakes up through the woods very steeply. There is something about this whole thing that is strangely reminiscent of the last Kinloch I was at, Kinloch Leven.
Here, as there, the path that leaves ascends steeply through woodland. Here as there, I got glimpses of the bigger track (or in this case road) which I came down the previous day.
But I expect the West Highland Way, today, in a long bank holiday weekend, will be thronged with people. I seem to be the only person going this way, whether to Glenelg or Arnisdadale.
I take a few photos as I grind up through the trees and rhododendrons. It is an excuse to stop and get my breath back as the incline is fairly brutal and I am carrying my two litres of water.
Soon enough the path emerges from the trees and follows the pylons up bare hillside. Now the views back down to the farm and beyond are really fine. And the incline is still steep so I take lots of photos.
Eventually the incline eases though and I find myself on a mini bealach after which my path descends towards a sort of bowl in the hills.
I make a necessary stop in as secluded a place as I can find but there is bugger all cover so I am glad that there is not a soul in sight in any direction.
I am on a sort of parallel track, above another one. I have no idea which is right until mine begins to snake away to the north west and I scramble down to the lower track, which must be the right one.
Now I am past the hill of Carn nan Caorach and views begin to open up to the west, of Loch Hourn and the hills of Knoydart beyond.
I don’t have them for long but while I do they are quite something.
My track takes me down. Losing precious meters of ascent but it cannot be helped. I cross a wooden bidge on which someone has written “hi” in stones, which makes me smile.
I am in a sort of bowl surrounded by hills. My way ahead is easy to discern because of those pylons and they are a useful navigation aid when the tracks become confused as they do several times today.
Still, they are ugly and out of place and I wonder how they came to be situated in such fabulous landscapes.
To my right I get sight of a big mountain and rocky ridge. Yes, that must be the Forcan Ridge on the Saddle, I had been right yesterday. Not that I have climbed it, another failure. Actually strangely similar to this trip, my ex wife and I set out one day that was so hot that we had drunk most of our water before getting to the main ridge and had to bail as there was none to be had.
I wonder how often they get drought and high temperatures around here. Something tells me that it is not that often. Today the grass is mostly straw coloured and dead. The streams are low and flow weak. It is already hot in this windless bowl and it is only mid morning.
The bowl narrows to a birch fringed defile and I find myself following the bed of a half dry river. Then I realise that I am on the wrong side of it. This could be tough to cross in wetter conditions but today it is easy.
I pick up the right path again and follow it though to where I think it should diverge from the Arnisdale track. There is a ruin here, once again not marked on the OS map. I can see the way but no path so make my own route across to the ruin through some boggy ground. Then I find the path.
It must have diverged a little way up from where I left it, because it is a perfectly good landrover track. I press on through some birch woods to a lovely spot by a burn and stop to eat and bathe my feet.
Right after the burn the track gets very steep again and I am grinding uphill in the heat, the cool water on my feet no more than a tantelising memory.
It eases off and now I have a long, straight run through a high glen towards the big barrier of today, the Bealach Aoidhdailean (glad to be typing that not trying to pronounce it!) which as far as I can see must be over 400 metres.
Still, I have already done more than half of that. I am tiring though. Yesterday was supposed to be easy, a stroll along a road. But after the big day before, and with the heat, it still took it out of me.
At last I come to the final haul up the bealach. The path disappears on me completely but the way is obvious enough and would be even if it were not for the ever present pylons. It is steep and very hot and it takes me a while to get to the top, but at last I do it and can see into the next glen of my journey.
I take a break. Another breakfast bar and ration of water, before starting the descent. This is hard. Very steep and still trackless though I can see a path further down the glen.
The problem is my knees which do not like the steepness at all and are telling me this by means of stabbing pains. I should have taken some ibroprofin when I stopped at the top, and decide to do so next time I take a break.
My solitude is interrupted by the clatter of a helicopter and a coastguard helicopter flies overhead.
Once off the steep part, however, I soon find a path and start to make good progress. There is a patch of forestry ahead that gives me something to aim at, and before long I can see the wood of Srath a Chomair in the distance.
I have to round this to gain the track down Gleann Beag which takes me too Glenelg, and so I am very glad to see it indeed.
Less glad to see the sign which claims Glen Beag is still three miles away and Kinloch Hourn is a mere seven back the way that I came. This makes no sense at all to me, not only because it is so different to my own estimate (which is that I am in Glen Beag, or if you only take it from the end of the metalled road, three kilometres at most). Maybe they mean the hamlet of Corrarry.
Still, I am very glad to reach it. I have to follow the river round, gain the new and better track, and then set off westwards again.
And the new track is delightful. Fringed with birches it is lovely to get into their shade and the light greens lift my spirits after so long on the brown monotony of the moorland.
When I do get views through the trees these are fine, too. The long ridge of Creag Bealach na h Oidhche
After an open section with really good views I see a birch wood up ahead. In this evening light the colour of the foliage is absolutely magical and the walk through the woods is lovely.
Alternating fresh birch foliage with beautiful views, on a good path that mostly slopes gently downwards, this is a highpoint of the entire walk. However, it is very, very hot and I am getting very tired, and running out of water.
I am not, however, running out of time. So I do not rush and it is a while before I see the farm at Balvraid in the distance. And then I pass my first broch of the day.
I have been to Glen Beag just once before, with Anna when we visited the two brochs further down the glen on a showery day but we did not come this far up and I did not realise that there was a third one.
Brochs are common enough in the Western Isles and Orkney but I have not run across many on the mainland and it seems very strange that this one small glens should have three in such good repair.
I am excited about something else, however. On that day we left Anna’s car at the lower broch and walked up to the higher one. En route I noticed wild raspberries growing on the banked roadside and we picked some. This led us to come across a group of slow worms entwined in what looked like some sort of slow worm orgy, on some rocks at the side of the road.
I disturbed them in my attempts to get the pefect photo and they disappeared into crevices. But on the way back down the hill after looking at the second broch one had come out again, and also a common lizard.
This seemed amazing to me. I had not even realised that slow worms lived so far north, or lizards for that matter. And to see two sorts of reptile at the same spot in North West Scotland would have been fantastic, even without the amazing slow worm orgy.
So I had hopes of seeing something again as I approached the road. Indeed, I had been looking forward to this stretch for some time. However, in the heat I suddenly realised that the reason that so many reptiles were exposing themselves was that showery day. They would have needed to come out in the intervals of sun, for it was not a hot day, to get going.
In this heat there would be no need for them to bask.
Some cows with calves had parked themselves across the track. They seemed placid enough but after last spring’s encounters I am still a bit wary of them and detour over some churned up ground.
Fortunately the heat has dried it up so this is not a problem. One of the cows stands up to look at me but there is no sign of aggression.
And then I am back on the road.
People start to pass me. In cars, and some on bikes. It is not busy but after the solititude of today’s walk it is nice to see some other people.
The houses by the first broch have grass roofs. Not something that I remember from before. It looks as if some experiment in ecological living is going on.
Predictably the slow worm orgy site is devoid of reptiles. Too hot for them to sun themselves and too hot for me.
I am really tired now and when I get to the lower broch I take the opportunity to sit in the shade of a big tree.
Sitting in the shade is lovely, the weather perfect. But as soon as I am walking in the sun again it is too hot for comfort.
And this road seems to be going on forever. Because the last time I was here I came by car I have a car distance memory lodged in the back of my brain. Whatever the map says, I think it should be five minutes from the broch to Glenelg.
Reality is that I have four or five kilometres to walk still.
I pass a massive sand bank and think I see some sand martins. I keep wondering if that is the last I will see of them and running into a new breeding spot.
But even better, I look down at the river running below the road and see a dipper. Cannot get a decent photo of it, but it is lovely to see it and I hope the low levels of the rivers are not causing it too much of a problem.
And very shortly after that I see, glimpsed through trees, water and land beyond it. That must be the sea and Skye beyond it, surely?
It is. As I get closer it becomes more obvious and then I am out of the trees and can see the Isle of Skye across the water.
A patch of gorse prevents me getting to the shore at first but then it opens up and I take a quick detour. Not only Skye, I can see the hills of Rhum sticking up above the Sleat peninsular.
Not only have I reached Skye but I have got here on an evening of astonishing beauty.
Now I only have one problem as I shuffle into the outskirts of Glenelg. I have neglected to write down the name of the B&B I have booked, or its owner. And as I booked it some weeks ago I cannot remember what it is called. Something familiar sounding in Gaelic is about the best I can do.
And I do remember that the lady who runs it told me I would get to it along this road, after the council vehicals.
I do pass a council gritting lorry. Perhaps that is it? The first house that I come to has a B&B sign. I suppose I will have to ask and risk sounding very stupid.
But on the door is a note for me.
I shower and birdwatch from the window of my room before the landlady gets back. She is from Lewis, from South Lochs, in fact which explains the name of the house and why it sounded familiar.
I hobble into the village for a meal at the Glenelg Hotel and, while I am waiting for my meal look at the Sunday paper. Royal wedding, royal weddng, royal weddng, royal wedding, royal wedding, royal wedding, royal wedding, royal wedding... I just turn the pages until I get to some other news which is on about page 8 or 9.
Clearly the country, or the media at least, has gone right royally insane again. I am so
glad I have been walking this long weekend.