The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Monday 10 May 2010

Day 47 - Sourlies to Kinloch Hourn

Sunday 9 May (0700-1645)
Distance: 16 miles (Tot: 805 miles)
Weather: fair/fine; some sun, some showers.
Number of ticks found crawling over me: dozens
Number of ticks found embedded: 2

If I thought that yesterday was a good day - well, today was good enough to make even the glummest of hillwalkers smile.

And to think it was a day that I thought would be monstrously difficult and on which we would find ourselves stopping short (actually, we have stopped short, but out of choice and circumstance, not due to lack of time or energy).

So, how did this magnificent day pan out?

Well, it started early. As difficult as I believed the day would be, an early start seemed wise, so it was before 6 when I first emerged from the tent. Numbers at Sourlies had swollen after we had gone to bed, so there were 9 tents dotted around, but it was all quiet at that hour and the view out into the loch, with the sun on the furthest hills, was stupendous.

By 7am we were walking, just as the edge of the first shower of the day passed through, and a couple of hours later we found a path (trods had been followed to that point). It seemed likely that we could have joined the path sooner, but although a touch squelchy underfoot, the way we had taken wasn't overly taxing.

Even when we did find the path, we kept losing it, only to rejoin it, look back and see that it had been there all along. By the footprints, we weren't the only ones to have had the same issue!

The real delight came when we climbed out of the valley and hit the path running up to Mam Unndalain.

As is always the case in Scotland, there's no way of knowing whether the black dotted line on the map really will translate to a path on the ground and today I had assumed that we would be pathless for most of the day.

Not only was there a path running up over the pass and into Gleann Unndalain, but it was one of the nicest paths imaginable. The impression I got was that it was an old packhorse road, but it was certainly old and blended very well into its surroundings.

Often clinging to the edge of the hill, it wended its way oh so gently up to our high point of the day of just under 550m.

I already had a grin on my face, and was skipping along, but didn't expect the path to continue down the other side.

It did, and with stunning views opening out over Barrisdale Bay we made our way down to Barrisdale, where we unexpectledly found a bothy (a private one with electric, running water and a toilet!). Mick was all for having lunch there; I thought with such stunning surroundings it would be nice to sit out. Mick pointed out that sitting on a chair at a table would be rather comfortable, so that's what we did. We even brewed up a cup of tea.

By this time our accumulated ascent for the day was standing at 2500' and it was difficult to see how an 8-miles loch-side stroll could add the best part of 1500 more feet to that to take us to Anquet's stats for the day.

The answer was that it was an undulating loch-side path, but once again an absolute delight to walk (even if towards the end I was wondering if the end of the loch would ever come into view!).

The icing on the cake appeared in the shape of a sign saying 'Tea Room' outside of the building opposite the car park at the road-end at Kinloch Hourn. Even better was the sign that said 'Open'.

Little did we know at that point that our day, which had already been magnificent, was going to get a great big, juicy cherry to go on top of the icing.

Sipping our cups of tea, we got chatting to the owner, Joe. We mentioned that we were going to camp somewhere nearby and were told where the local camping spot was and that a £1 charge would be collected by the Stalker. Ideal, we thought, and with our camping area only 100 yards away we tarried quite a while chatting, during which time details of what we were up to came out.

Finally standing up to leave, Joe made us an incredibly kind offer. His B&B was full, but if we wanted, he had a disused annex where we could spend the night.

Oh, big grins all around! The 'annex' is massive (in fact, it's a house) and although long disused (there are gas lights on the walls and an Aga in the kitchen) it will serve us nicely for the night.

The generosity didn't end there. As well as tea and cakes, we were plentifully fed with an evening meal, and in a final act of thoughtful kindness before we turned in for the night, two steaming mugs of hot chocolate were delivered to us. I don't know whether Joe and Isabelle (hope I've got that name right!) can know quite how much their generosity and kindness has touched Mick and I. In return for everything we will be making an appropriate donation to Help for Heroes.

A truly magnificently superb day.

(You may have noted I've added weather and walking times to the stats at the top. On previous walks I've always written the blog and also hand-written a more detailed journal, the latter containing the additional details of start and end times and weather conditions. On this walk the length of our days made me abandon the detailed journal within the first week, but I've still been keeping a note of times and weather each today. It's taken until today for me to realise that rather than noting those items on paper separately, I could just put them on here. The timings are pretty meaningless, as they don't disclose whether faffs and breaks amounted to half an hour in the day or 3 hours, so don't read anything into them.)
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