Lands End to Cape Wrath

      > Introduction
      > Getting Out There
      > 1. Lands End - Bude
      > 2. Bude - Severn Bridge
      > 3. Severn Bridge - Liverpool
      > 4. Liverpool - Arnside
      > 5. Arnside - Carlisle
      > 6. Carlisle - Ardrossan
      > 7. Ardrossan - Oban
      > 8. Oban - Mallaig
      > 9. Mallaig - Badrallach
      > 10. Badrallach-Kinlochbervie
      > 11. Kinlochbervie - Durness
      > Kit List
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Daily Schedule

 

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Lands End to Cape Wrath
 

MALLAIG TO BADRALLACH
Chaffing, more Tai Chi walking, rules for getting lost, loss, Loch Marree, Fisherfield Forest, a hundred days out, six days off

Sunday 25 July                                          

The Chafing Thing.

Of private parts, to be avoided at all costs! In the premier league of non life threatening but disabling conditions for the male and I suspect female walker.

Cost of avoiding not so dear; a tube of Savlon and some foresight. Mindfulness of cleanliness.

Stop right now and apply even if it means digging deep into your pack. Stop now or suffer later.

I flew the bonny boat to Skye this morning, arriving 11.00 odd then took the road north east along the Sound of Sleat, from Armadale past Isleornsay and following it inland at Loch Na Dal. Bright and windy and quite chilly along that shore then up a long drag of a fast holiday road inland with views opening up of those big hills of Skye. The closest I was going to get, hello goodbye.

At 4.30 I left the road to strike north and a bit east to cross to the north coast of the island. Camp down on the shore and ready to pick up the road east round to the Kyle of Lochalsh tomorrow.

So out across Allt Moor over Glac na Luarchrach. From the contours this looked to be a not too steep gentle afternoons moor-land bush-whack, feeling cocky after the hills of Moidart and Morar.

But oh hard hard going relentless open and bleak. 3Ĺ hours to cover maybe 4 miles. Deep grass and sphagnum, every step sinking up to the knee. Feeling I was just getting nowhere. Thankfully dry, winter time I would suspect it would be just out of bounds. Some interesting sudden steep and deep gullies out in the middle making really difficult obstacles so I was well into that angry shout and collapse down in the heather exhausted and frustrated no end in sight kind of grump.

Consumed by this struggle I was aware there was a chafing thing going on but too pre-occupied to stop and dig out the Savlon.

Result; now almost unable to walk and how will it be in the morning? Might as well go home now.

Falling down on one key ďDoing it in styleĒ criteria; Looking after myself.

Personal Admin neglected but this is the first actually serious chafing incident, Landís End to Skye not so bad enjoy it.

Anyway.

Iím camped down on the coast a couple of miles west of the Kyle of Lochalsh, Sgeir Fhearchair. Very spectacular wild and windy, bright and clear. Grass above the rocky shore with sea whipped up by a wind seeming to be coming straight in from the North Atlantic. Cullins and Bla Bheinn on Skye just there to touch and lots of other big fellers on the mainland to the north and east.

Over the bridge and Breakfast in Kyle of Lochalsh the morn.


Night spot 96 on Sky, Sgeir Fhearchair.

 

Monday 26 July

Fascination. 8.30 (20.30), Sitting covered up head to toe. Peering out through head net and completely covered. That is a seething mass on every inch of my person, squashing them on the page as I write. Extra-ordinary.

Iím not being bitten, theyíre not getting through the net so Iíll just sit here and let them do their thing. Buz Aldrin had to trust his space suit; the guys at Cape Canaveral said it would work.

Thinking about exhaustion. How much of this trip have I spent in a state of exhaustion? Stepping on being consumed by every pace being Uh, Uh, Uh, an effort.

Watching my imagination saying;

ďThis isnít good, youíre tired like this now itíll be worse tomorrow. How you going to get over that hill? You havenít been this tired before, youíre slowing down, muscles wasting awayĒ.

All that stuff going on but I somehow and fortunately seem to forget that detail. I can think back and remember days; Oh yeah I was knackered then, walking down from Exmoor to the Quantox, over Beacon Hill past Welshpool, the first day on the Southern Uplands, but I always seem to bounce back and find a spring again and forget how painful it might have been.

Not terminal but always entertaining, so much the focus of this jaunt. Whatís going on with my body, level of energy and drive and that in such a close interaction with my mind and emotional state. A relationship thatís always there of course in the everyday world but out here itís almost all there is and it is taking centre stage.

Across the Skye bridge at 10.00 this morning; 17 miles along roads all day today. The third day that is thinking back, only the third roads all day day of the trip.

All the way to here at the top of Loch Long and it was a struggle. A87 along the north shore of Loch Alsh in the sunshine, a busy road and Skye is clearly a major destination from all over Europe, all coming in along that road.

A good verge for most of it fortunately. A nice wide E.U partnership verge with flat enough grass to get on and try to save my soles (Hallelujah!)

Think they might just make it to the top with about 2mm of tread at the lowest spots.

Wondrous relief to reach Ardelve and get away from the main road.

Onto a winding single track along the north of Loch Long. A beautiful little sea loch, narrow, twisting and turning back and forth to open out in a wide bowl at the top.

Camped on the edge of the salt marsh near Killilan. The mouth of Glen Ling which Iíll head up tomorrow. That is after a lie-in, alarm set for 8.30.

These two days out of Mallaig Ė start of a new passage, itís been a getting along covering ground spell, distracted. Different to those days out of Oban where I got into some lovely wild walking and I think a just being there and accepting state of mind. Here too Ullapool? Maybe itíll be like that again, looking on the map itís in and out and round big hills and water. Waiting to see how it will turn out, what manner of delights will unfold, impatient?

Iím in a thinking ahead phase as well. Meeting Jane and Julian on the north shore of Little Loch Broom. Lovely prospect of a couple of days of rest with friends before the final push to the top.

Cape Wrath by the 20 August? Maybe.

Cape Wrath. Mythical place of the imagination. To have a bleak and barren lump of rock as a destination. What does that mean? How will it be to arrive at such a place? Does it exist? Can this journey have an end?

Flat surface roads today and time to get into more thinking and exploring this body walking.

Making more connections:

With Tai Chi walking wisdom and I was remembering today the thing about having no legs below the knee. Walking along and walking with my knees; each  pace I visualise and put my mind into bringing my knee forward and the rest of my leg is just relaxed and following on and not really there. Strange sensation but actually the truth; nothing below the knee.

Also there are these two overlapping circular energy flows going round,

Iím going clockwise on my left side and anti clockwise right side. Very hard to describe but something like this:

Each side an energetic spinning ball with itís centre just below my naval extending out through my hands and feet to the very reaches of the cosmos, sending energy round on several planes, they seem to be governed by three things:

  • The free turning of my waist to bring my weight over the leading leg as it touches the ground.
  • That emptying into the back foot as it pushes off to send me upwards and forwards. This was the moment I was getting into describing before.
  • The drawing in as always of my stomach, giving a direct experience and sensation of the spinning ball.

Hereís what goes on on the right side anti clockwise and the left side is a mirror image of that.

  • I step out with my left leg and at that moment of transferring my weight forward onto it I empty into my rear right heel for the propulsion, borrowing from the ground. (point A)
  • This sends the circle spinning up to the height of my open palms, from my left foot in and round through my lower abdomen. It reaches through to around my lumbar vertebrae about the time my right leg has swung forward and planted and Iím emptying and pushing off from my left leg.(point B)
  • This provides the boost to send the energy out and round forward to arrive at my left foot as it is swung forward and planted and Iím back where I started.
  • While this is happening Iím turning my waist left to right to bring my weight over the leading / planting leg. At the push off moment (point A) my waist is turned to the left, stomach drawn in.
  • As I move forward over my left foot and my right foot is swinging forward, my waist is turning to the right. This turning to the right will help pull the energy in and through my abdomen.
  • Then at the left foot push off moment (point B), my waist will begin to turn to the left and the energy will be swung round and back (with my right hand if Iím not using a stick) to my planting left foot. 

The same circle is happening clockwise on my left side and they overlap passing in through my waist from opposite directions. They are in fact continuous, only using these push off points as nudges to keep the spin going, like the way you catch the right moment when youíre on a swing to kick your legs in and out and build momentum.

Feet and waist and drawn in stomach working to create a kind of double spinning fusion reactor gyroscope that bowls me along.

If Iím walking without a stick, I can clench my fists and twists my wrists round with the circles and it seems to gather and boost this spinning energy and I can feel the circle become a sphere shining and rolling and I can send it of in all directions. Check it out.

 

Tuesday 27 July


The way through Glen Carron.

Railway track today. Awkward ⅔ sized steps between sleepers but the shortest route between 2 points and a novelty. Another huge open glacial U shaped valley Blackwood to Balnacra rusty rails and old weathered sleepers through the middle of Glen Carron. Bigger and bigger rocky peaks lining up as I headed north west through the valley. On the north side especially, Thuar Tholl with shiny molten lead crowns. What is it that makes them look like that? shiny smooth grey pouring down. Donít suppose Iíll be getting up there to see what it is close up.

Over from Loch Long following the River Ling and solid old tracks into wild country that was clearly once busy with farms and people making their way. Fields returned to moorland and crumbled houses. North over and down to Attadale at the head of Loch Carron by lunchtime, learning about the large scale geological features from an information point looking over to the ?????

Roads and railway lines through the afternoon up to this here particularly midgey spot amongst the trees in the shingley delta at the head of Loch Dughaill. Actually in the garden of a very funky house; turf on the roof, wooden and balconies and big windows extending across and between floors, grand design, Wimpy Home not.

And an of course camp over there if you like welcome from the owner and just exactly probably maybe what I would do if I had moneys. Create and reside in a funky such abode with lots of big windows and chip chop levels within and grass growing on the roof. Why not? Live the life you chose until you find you would rather be living doing something else where so scoot of and do that.

Kinlochew tomorrow. Another supplies parcel, number 9 the penultimate and then into some big hills. Looking at a route out along the north of Loch Marie and over and round to Badlaurach at the mouth of Little Loch Broom. There to connect with John, a friend of JnJ who can ferry me across the loch to Scoraig and maybe put me up.

Over and over again Iím lying in my tent scanning the map picking out these routes, weighing up this or that dotted line, estimating how longs and making those little assessments; yes, looks like thereíll be water there for a night spot and thatís not so far, I could have a shot at bush-waking that.

And what will these places be like, way-points that mark out my route? Kinlochewe, Lochinver (I think) and Kinlochbervie, what kind of places? Shops and beds, DiscothŤques?

Oh goodness I just had a sideways glimpse, light on something that has been consuming large portions of my conscious mind, mainly because it doesnít really matter now cos nearing the end but: should I be (I should be), walking on the verge not the tarmac. Every possible step should be (should; the most internally powerful and malignant word/idea in the human psyche), should be on a soft surface.

Save my boots, save my boots! There is grass or gravel there; use it.

Oh but I actually quite like this flat firm tarmac

Donít be daft, youíre out wild walking; get off the road

But Iím knackered, I just want to troll along

Well that makes you very bad!

Getting into a new game this morning going up the glen along the river Ling:

EAR WALKING

Check out walking with your ears.

Employ a good part of your concentration on the sounds you are hearing.

Give it over to listening.

Donít fall over

Ear Walking stay with it

Then realizing you have no ears

No head no ears

You are all itís all you.

 

Wednesday 28 July

Kinlochewe Hotel

Over the Coulin Pass this morning, up and over from behind Achnashellach station. That is a station that doesnít even have a road going to it. Fantastic. Said goodbye to the two young German guys I had camped with, lovers of wild Scotland who I bumped into last night looking for a camping spot on the shores of Loch Dougail. No (absolutely not allowed) wild camping in Germany so on an aeroplane to Prestwick and a train to this same random Achnashellach station for a week out with the midges.


Company for the night on Loch Dougail.

Up through plantations along a forestry track, over The Coulin pass and it all opens out. Surrounded by venerable serious old gentleman mountains; actually big leaden arm chairs and sofas; actually empty thrones waiting to be occupied, the return of the kings. Walking round and between these fellers who I first became acquainted with trudging up Glen Carron yesterday. The Torridons:

Fuar Tholl, Sgorr Ruadh, Sgurr Dubh and off ahead Beinn Eighe, Liathach, Slioch.

In January, six months ago I sat and looked at a map of Scotland. How can I get up through the west coast? Find a route that makes itís way up and around lochs and mountains.

A small scale road atlas map, no paths marked. I picked out towns and way points; a shop a bed maybe. Kinlochewe; then a place on the map with a post office, now parcel number 9 here I am. Oh my goodness and Iíve walked into a new landscape altogether here, followed the line on the map into some big mountains. This is a new scale. Sheer and grand and more of a mountain range than anything Iíve got into yet.

How on earth did I get here? Step out along the Cornish coast and into these hills. Now ainít that a thing!


Over the Coulin Pass into the Torridons.

Lunch time down along an easy going graded track through what might be called Glen Coulin. Skipping along with Golden Eagle soaring out of groves of Scots Pine open valley and loch forest Scotland beneath towering skyline. Then up from the head of Loch Coulin north to 300 meters across the western shoulder of Carn Dhobmhnuill Mhic a Ghobha. All these Gaelic mountain names, do they have literal translations? I wish I knew what they were. (I wish I could pronounce them).

From there north down towards Kinlochewe.

Warning: Unless the chainsaw boys have been in there since 28/07/05, donít go lightly along that there path. It takes you sweetly tripping gently down into a plantation that is one extreme mess. A twisty quaint path with mossy cairns through the trees for a few hundred yards then BLAM!

The mighty hand of Beinn Eighe did reach over and smote the forest, laying down huge swathes of spruce. All falling northwards and passage for the two legged creature with (or without) heavy pack is denied.

You shall not pass.

An hour or so I scrambled and pushed and climbed and worked hard at not panicking. Stubbornly trying to go on rather than detour, hoping I would get through the fall zone back to the clear path but beginning to imagine myself still struggling through at nightfall, seeing my bed in Kinlochewe disappearing.

There might be another mile of this so stop and think, breath and decide what to do. No going back as I had worked my way through maybe 200 yards of fallen trees all of which now had their tops pointing towards me. No way of returning against the ratchet, so turn left and bush-whack down where I could, eventually breaking into a boggy gully, not planted so lush long wet grass and moss 500 yards to a lower down parallel path, forestry track in fact. Success and at 4.00 I was checking into the Kinlochewe Hotel. A short day with a sting in itís tail.

Balancing available energy: when something like that happens I think my background anxiety is about; well blimey this is going to knacker me out and ruffle my carefully preened feathers and break my rhythm. Iím after adventure and perhaps enjoy adversity but enjoy more the gentle easy path that strolls me through wonderlands. Dwarfed in a complete chaos of fallen twisted trees, no way forward or back and no way of seeing out across it to what the prospects might be: quite scary and a bit too much like life. 

But yesterday a shift: I noticed from the guide map on the back cover of O.S Landranger sheet 25, that from Ullapool to the top is only 2 more maps. Realised this for the first time.

I have a standard rate of crossing a map bottom to top in 3 days. So even if I was to take 5 days on each of these two (numbers15 and 9) leaving Ullapool, I would still be well within my time. I could leave with 15 days to spare, that would be the 5 August, and stroll it.

This is a great relief. It makes this scary wild and overpowering wondrous country a lot less daunting and means I can follow urges to detour and relax.

I also have the very welcome prospect of this contact out at Balduarach, maybe three days from here. I have to ring and make contact with him, gentleman name of John, living in Scouraig and travelling daily to his dyke building back and forth across Little Loch Broom. So 3 wild days out along Loch Maree and across the Fisherfield Forest with some safety and human contact to aim for, fantastic. Then on to Badrallach, Jane and Julian and family arriving on Tuesday. Itís all good.

Omnipotence.

Having control over every thing, having everything sorted and at my fingertips. Of course not true but out here what I donít have control over, it doesnít matter, I can cope with what ever comes along.

Please myself, roll with it, take my time, do what I do and when something gets in my way I go round it.

And this is new. Back home all power is lost to the greater forces of everyday life and work. The Sun rises and sets and I donít really notice my head is full of  resistance. Donít want this, donít like that, how am I going to sort this out and that. Nothing ever absolutely right and straight never absolutely in control. But a simple life and for these days out here, enough time to notice and to feel an inch nearer to all powerful and when Iím tired I know why. This I will miss. Black or white or full colour, seldom grey. 

 

Friday 29 July. Day 100

Gloomy Lunchtime

Looking north west along Loch Maree from a top a wee knoll beneath Slioch and coping with loss.

I sat down a while ago, plonk down on a heathery tussock by the path (resting ritual,) only to find that my trusty sun/rain hat was not strapped in itís usual spot on the side of my pack.  The place where it has resided ready for use since day one, one hundred English Welsh and Scottish summer days ago in Cornwall. That most feared thing has happened. Not there. Obsessively I keep a check on things that might go astray; hat, camera, and harmonica in my shorts pocket. Checks clearly not obsessive enough, omnipotence not extending to preventing inevitable loss and chaos, entropy.

In vain I retraced my path half a mile or so back along the shore of the loch but Iím 5 miles out from Kinlochewe and Iíve been pushing through high vegetation. Walk all that way back?

Let Go.

So we are no longer whole. Everyone is grieving; Tupper Ware box, left and right gaiters, map holder, lucky silver spoon, the whole (hole) family.

Signs of blue sky ahead, I am no longer equipped for the wild country. Rucksack blames itself but it was really my fault, weíre all going to have to get together tonight and look after each other. Again I canít be Robert De Niro in the Deer Hunter; fallible in the water cage, just one shot, no longer the one to hold it all together. No spare boots.

I new that some day we would lose a key member of the family. At last, some day is day 100.


Night spot 100 above Lettererwe on Loch Maree.

Evening time now, camped at 150m. A soft heathery knoll above Letterewe on Loch Maree. Pretty little estate house down below. A different kind of energy to yesterdayís excitement. Still grieving and feeling a little week with a dodgy tummy; hill water yesterday or too much beer and steak pie last night in the Kinlochewe Hotel.

Feeling not so up for the days and nights out across the heather and hills. Low midge resistance and a slight indifference to being up and out.

Yeah Ok, another mountain, very nice.

Is this an inevitable thing? Surely I canít indefinitely be in a state of wide open excitement and awe. This is becoming the normal. Itís hard to accept that.

Also; this will all be over in 2 or 3 weeks!

Ambivalence. I want to be out here for ever but I also want to get there. I love the feeling of doing this; moments of connection when Blimey yes Iím doing something here, living.

But I regret to admit there is a monotony that is maybe beginning to gnaw.

The walking is still great, stepping out oh yes, but the setting up camp and cooking and finding the energy to look after myself, thatís getting harder. Iím thinking more of home. Perhaps I have to be doing that, preparing myself for re-entry.

Keeping on top of it all, you know itís hard

Keeping on top of it all, day in day out

You know itís hard

Nice people this evening down below in Letterewe House. Wanting to hear about what Iím doing, (always good for me, still love to talk about it). Cups of tea and keen to find me a place to camp but they were only renting and the estate people said no. So up the hill I came. High above the Loch with the silent road busy across the other side, all around view but zipped up in tent to dodge the midges. Quite chilly; 55į.

Listening to the radio, to Radio Scotland, ďThe Brand New OpreyĒ country and western show first discovered 5 weeks ago in the rain at Hodden Castle, day 65. Also discovered the Ian Anderson show from 10 till12 every weekday and heís been keeping me company in my tent ever since then, when I stay up to that late hour.

(SUI  and most welcome)

Well itís knowing that your door is always open

and your path is free to walkÖÖ

That keeps you on the back roads by the rivers of my memory

That keeps you ever gentle on my mind.

Old Glen often with me out in these hills and Vivienne.

Now day 100. Isnít it what you would kind of be expecting to experience; some element of monotony at 100 days of walking?

10.15 wind getting up, blowing up the loch from the south east. Iím wondering if this hill top anti midge spot is a little exposed if some weather (not forecasted) comes in.

But Hey! Hilderberg Acto we know she can cope. But let me say; the path out along the north side of Loch Maree, Oh very lovely and easy going. Passing under towering rocky cliffs of Slioch, with Bienns Eighe and Chearcaill looming opposite slowly changing shape as you get  a different angle on them. The loch opening out and  marked on the map as waters 110m deep along there! Deep dark water down down.

Heather now starting to bloom and dry along the paths, over a week since it rained.

stone chats, deep little rocky gullies, waterfalls, stretched out birch woods hanging off. Careful walking though, thick bracken on steep slopes, canít see your footing.

Maybe this stage of indifference and tiredness really. Maybe itís just getting deeper in. I want to get deeper in, go through stuff and find out what itís like to be out here.  Or perhaps Iíve had enough.

 

Saturday 29 July

101

Oh gosh.

After all that whingeing negative stuff last night, (well, thoughtful moment of reflection), itís as if Scotland or I donít know something is listening and just shifts the whole show up a gear.

Tired of mountains and wild places?

Well come along grumpy and get this lot then:

←            →

 

→   BLAM   ←

I spent a lazy morning, sleeping till 9 and hanging around and gazing out over Loch Maree till almost 12. Slowly up and over to the north west of Beinn Lair and down through Baelach Mheinnidh. Passing from one world into the next.

Pausing to say goodbye to the Torridon mountains. Bow and wave and thanks, still so hard to turn my back and walk away from these hills. Out of Bude, goodbye to the Cornish Cliffs, down into Bridgewater, goodbye to the Quantox and Exmoor and all that up and down. Time and again and this morning Beinn Eighe and all his chums, but down to Fionne Loch and round the corner and suddenly I mean really;

Eyes wide open weíre in full on Sci-Fi huge crouching dragons and more grand and imposing serious council of elders and halt there! why have you disturbed our sleep?

Fisherfield Forest. The Plain of Dagorlad and the Slopes of Orodruin where Sauron was over thrown by the hosts of Gil-galad and Elindil. 

Heavy cloud now lifting into evening sun and shadows and I canít take it all in. Camped on a little promontory extending into Fionn Loch (950791). A few heathery feet above rocks and water. A good breeze and quite chilly windy when I arrived at 5.30, now calm and sun bringing them out and squashing all over this page. Still learning to relax, Buz Aldrin protected from seething mass without. They can do me no harm.

Ravens ďGlurkĒ really being Ravens out here, and as I was setting up camp a solitary Black Throated Diver out in the loch was joined by itís mate. A rasping call from way off was answered from the water and he/she came circling swooping in and landed stush and they did a little greeting dance. Their stretch of black water.


Night spot 101 on Fionn Loch in the Fisherfield Forest.

Lovely paths into and around this enormous rocky bowl opening out north west towards the coast. Low sun now sinking down that way. I had this stretch of country or this piece of the map to cross, time to do it before the rendezvous out on the coast.

I thought yeah, bit of wild country, little bit daunting, like having a job to do, spend a few days getting across.

The reality though, map to reality; I just didnít see it in the lines on the map.

Flipping my lid a bit here, Loch turning blue lead, still still little waves chuckle chuckle.

And the clarity of the walking window expanded to the whole moment by moment, hour by hour, day by week rolling on mesmerising activity.

Walk and camp and collect water and cook and find a spot in the heather to crouch and shit and follow the path north and all this contained in each step.

Walking window

Youíre in the walking window

Slow walking window

Slow walking window

So it happens again. This passage, out from Mallaig over to Little Loch Broom and friends. I just didnít know as I walked up the railway through Glen Carron 3(?) days ago. Itís opened up bit by bit, sky and loch and Glen Carron pushing along pre-occupied, a bit flat perhaps these days but today arriving.

Arriving, each time, this is what I was looking for.

Now check this out as well:

At the head of Fionn Loch there is a narrow rock and concrete causeway. It offers a path across a 50 meter span of water separating the main loch from itís upper reaches, becoming Bubh Loch winding in another mile under sheer cliffs. In the middle of the causeway is a gate. No one else out here, big and empty and rocks and me.

I walk down and round the loch heading to cross the causeway and suddenly there on the other side coming from the other direction is a rucksack walking man. (me with hair). We step alone together on to the concrete causeway in the middle of this gargantuan rocky bowl and meet just like that on either side of the closed gate.

Raving about such a coincidence I think I freaked this poor guy out laughing excitement and greetings. He was into it as well I think but in a hurry (run away!), so we talked briefly of weather and mountains and wonderment, Cape Wrath and work on Mondays and he was gone, on on to reach his booked BnB in Poolewe. Some good ways afternoon walking for him, perhaps 10 miles. I think he said he had left Aberdeen at two this morning to get over here and do this Fisherfield Forest walk of a summer weekend.

Now that was one piece of extra-ordinarial timing to meet thus and enough to flip my spaced out mind.

But hey?

So?

2 guys walk the earth and meet at a gate. Two guys pass on the stairs down to the Victoria Line at Finsbury Park tube station. Two guys in the same queue for fish and chips on Stoke Newington Church Street on Tuesday evening?

Leave it alone.

But no. I left Lands End to come to that gate and he left Aberdeen at two in the morning. Big wheel keep on turning.

 

Sunday 30 July

Stand on your head in the heather in the morning.

Huge rocks hanging down into the void, like old Hozomeen, Spidean nan Clach.

All still there yesterday no dream. Still dreaming.

Walking out to the sea. 

Breakfasting late again, looking like no great distance to cover so a slow start waiting for the wind to rise, give voice to the shore of the loch and make it safe to un-zip and get out. Up and away around 11.00 to climb north west to 500meters and the pass over between Beinn a Chaisgein Beag and

Frith-mheallan. Again I just hadnít looked closely at the map. Iíd seen yes; there were going to be some more big fellers round there but I thought Iíd already been to the heart of this country.

By 2.00 I was walking out along the river draining Loch Ghuibhsachain looking back over my shoulder laughing Oh my goodness look at that! An Teallach, Beinn Dearg and the foot hills leading away. Smooth ice rounded rocky waves I donít know and again alive three great days out of Kinlochewe.

Powerful landscape with everything turned way up; grandeur and size rocky-ness open wild and the Atlantic pouring in. At the same time for me at this time benign, benevolent. Great paths and even easy bush-waking; round hills I could zigzag up, heather and grass making low tussocky terraces to traverse back and forth. Weather warmish and windy and grey to bring out the grey Gneiss.

Hills strewn with huge and little statue boulders perching. Dropped by the ice just the other day still there and again struck with the outrageous notion; this here is where Iíve got to (absolutely). Iíve walked and arrived here into these mountains. The path has led me through everything out out out to this spot. North West Scotland and now the heather is starting to bloom. All too much.

Weíre coming down from these mountains

Ooh (Hup yeah)

thatís what weíre doing

Weíre going down now down now down now

Ooh (Hup yeah)

Thatís what weíre doing

So camped tonight on the top of Carn a Bhaid Rabhain 170m half a mile from the sea at the mouth of the Gruinard Valley. Chilly windy meaning no Midge Meringue Sunday. Boots off to ford the Gruinard River this evening and so avoiding meeting the road, three days since I saw a road so why not put it off for another day (or year)?

A Golden Eagle being chased off by a Hen Harrier as I climbed up this hill, Bog Cotton dancing by my tent, view out west, islands to the horizon and I think the lights of what must be Stornaway. This is doing the favourite thing; climbing a hill in the evening to spend the night out on top.

Spoke with John; full signal up there this afternoon. John the next line in this chain of co-incidence and synchronicity leading me out to a wild Scottish peninsular. Plan is to meet him at the Badlaurach slip way tomorrow 1.00pm on the first day of the month of August, and he will ferry me across the mouth of Little Loch Broom and Iíll stay with him until meeting JnJ along the north side of the loch at Badrallach on Tuesday.

Safe and comfortable tonight. 3 days out in the wild knowing Iím down and connecting with people tomorrow.

I saw David Balfour to his kingdom and Alan Breck Stuart off to France last night,

wished them all the joy and good fortune they deserved. Theyíve been adventuring since I left Carlisle, tramping across muir and mountain by night and living a very rude existence. No Special 6 and Hileberg Acto for them, no Chilly Chorizo and Bulgar Supreme with Fennel and Apricots. Just the parritch and the fear of the red coats.

My heart is in the Highlands, where the Aberdeen waters flow

Iím gonna go there

When I feel strong enough to go.

Youíre dead right Bob. This country can take it out of you.

You have to be up for it. You have to gird your loins and open your heart. But Oh it will pay you back.

Texting Monday ward round:

Hi all. Way out on the west coast. 3 days from last road, rocks and sky and the Atlantic and yup, Golden Eagles.

Kwame

Great to hear from you. Hot and steamy in the PICU. All jealous of you being out in the open keeps us sane.

SOME RULES FOR GETTING LOST:

Get into a piece of woodland, somewhere big enough to wander around all afternoon, where you can cover some ground and not worry to much if you get lost, somewhere you can find your way out of again.

A piece of woodland with some up and down topography and a variety of vegetation. Mixed.

Go for a walk with absolutely no destination and direction. Let go of all that to just be walking.

1)     Get into the Walking Window and head off in a straight line until you feel an impulse to deviate. Follow that impulse whatever it might be; that looks interesting over there, that looks easier walking over there, bored with this path, ooh Iíll follow the edge of those gorse bushes, woop, cut down to check out that yew tree, want to get into the sun, across that glade. Anything.

2)     Go straight into the direction of that impulse, no resistance and follow that line until the next impulse arises or;

3)     Any kind of physical obstacle that diverts you off course, go off in the direction that it sends you. Donít argue, donít struggle through that thicket, shoot off at 90į. You are now on a new course.

4)     If you come to an actual trodden path, make an instant decision to cross or join and follow it either way. Donít think or question just find yourself doing it.

Simple rules for getting lost. Letting go, just one foot and another foot, the surface of the earth and your skittering mind.

Try it in the rain blinkered with a hood up and maybe shoulder your pack and do a whole weekend walking round in circles and why not running? Run madly round in circles shouting until youíre completely lost on a Saturday afternoon and eventually get back to the car after itís got dark.

 

Friday morning 5 August


Jane and Julian, Meg and Ryan out side their croft in Badrallach.

Four days now since I came down from those mountains into Badluarach and over to Scoraig.

Sitting now at the door of the croft. Jane and Julianís croft in Badrallach facing south high above the waters of Little Loch Broom.

Mother and father son and daughter out on the water below me; canoes and sails, lines out for mackerel.

August 22 years ago I was last here (actually and precisely half my life ago), top of Sŗil MhÚr opposite with lost summit, dipping down into the racing clouds, rain coming and going. Healthy breeze for sailing boats.

Meeting lots of people the last few days and all that walking seems somewhere else, a long way away. Itís happened each time Iíve stopped for more than a day; still puzzled by that, where does the walk go when I stop? Am I still doing it? is this cheating? How do I get going again?

But being looked after, fantastic and cosy, by people Iíve just descended upon, friends of friends. A phone call: thereís this guy and heís walking up your way, can you give him a boat ride? Feed him and give him a bed?

John and Debbie here and Sue and Gerry. Andy and Sue and Sid and Maggie down in Kintyre. Going out of their way to look after me and now Iím just holidaying with old friends. Eat drink sail walk talk. Am I out walking? I donít know but tomorrow or Sunday Iíll set off again, rucksack together and off into the world but I somehow very quickly left it all behind.

2 weeks odd left walking  -only-  but hey thatís 2 weeks out walking. Nearly there but some deal of land to explore and out there-ness to get into yet.

Not sure how to record these pauses; Bristol, Wales, Culgaith, they seem so separate but Iím sure somehow essential. I doubt if I could have done all this without them; recharging easy time with people I know and interludes to aim for and break it up. Starting off again after each has been strange and hard for a day or two. Tomorrow.
 

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