Follow my progress as I attempt to walk the length of the UK, from Dover to Cape Wrath, wild camping every night. This chapter is the sixth part of the Scottish National Trail, along the Cape Wrath Trail from Kinlochewe to Inchnadamph.
If you’d like to see an overview map of my whole route from Dover to Cape Wrath, it’s here.
Day 46 continued (day 19 of Scottish National Trail): Kinlochewe to Lochan Fada
I’d started walking this morning at Pollan Buidhe, and had reached Kinlochewe with its closed hotel late morning. After commiserating by spending £55 on food in the local shop – mainly on chocolate – I headed on my way again.
The Scottish National Trail route from Kinlochewe takes you on a long walk up the valley to the Heights of Kinlochewe.
This is a nice walk, and then it takes you roughly north up Gleann na Muice. This just gets better and better as you climb. There are massive mountain tops all around, and one of the best views of the trip so far.
Lochan Fada in the sunshine, surrounded by summits, and the clear blue sky setting them off against the water was a sight I won’t forget.
Thankfully there was a good breeze coming off the water so I stopped here for dinner. I met three people who were just packing up, having been camped here for a few days and walking the nearby summits. They recommended camping near the water and the midges were bad just away from it. It was a bit early for me (5.30pm), but I just couldn’t miss the chance of such a perfect spot. Dinner made a nice change from dehydrated meals. I ate the supplies I’d managed to get from the Kinlochewe shop: sausage rolls and a Bombay Bad Boy Pot Noodle for starter, then ham rolls as my main course. Wine and chocolate bars to finish. Delicious.
I was aching a bit, so I was glad I’d stopped early. The breeze kept up in the evening which kept most of the midges away, and it was nice to be able to relax by the water and air my feet. I must have built up some tolerance to the midges, as at about 8pm four other people turned up to camp on the shingle across the way. They were all wearing headnets! I’d tried my Smidge spray and it did help a lot, but not totally.
What a stunning place to go to sleep.
Day 47 (day 20 of Scottish National Trail): Lochan Fada to Loch an Tiompain
I was awake at 5.30am, and realised that another group had arrived last night. They were keener than me at the minute, packed up and away at 6am on the dot.
It was a misty morning (or could easily have been low cloud at this height). I watched it roll in low over Lochan Fada and the surrounding hills last night.
My tent was absolutely plastered with dead midges, to the point where I started wondering how much they weighed. My pack was pretty heavy at this point, with 6 days worth of food in it (well, hopefully it’s enough for 6 days!) I knew I was going to run out of chocolate and wine, but it was heavy. It meant misery later in the walk to save weight now.
I was away by 6.45am. The wind had dropped, so I covered myself, my hat and my headnet in Smidge spray. I even sprayed my backside ready for later. This wild camping lark isn’t all glamorous, and trying to go to the toilet in a storm of midges is NOT fun.
I climbed quickly through the cloud inversion into hot sun and a clear blue sky, with stunning views again.
I stayed high in the valley to miss the peat bogs, which meant an easier walk as I contoured around.
After Bealach na Croise I descended to pick up a path lower down. This gave me amazing views with clouds floating through the steep-sided valley. Next came an easy river crossing and a nice walk past Loch an Nid on a fairly boggy path.
This joined a track to Achneigie, which was a locked building.
Then it was another boggy path all the way to the Shenavall bothy where I stopped for lunch. I dried my tent and ate my lunch of ham, bread rolls and soup. The ham had been in my pack since the shop at Kinlochewe, so I thought I’d better eat it up – especially as the weather had been so hot. I was trying to take it easy, as I really didn’t want to suffer from heat exhaustion. I already felt like I had no energy.
Shenavall is a great bothy in a beautiful location. It has three rooms and when I arrived, two of the rooms had tent inners up in them. I suppose this is to keep the midges off. The third room is the lounge / kitchen, and has no sleeping area. There was also a tent up outside. Everything had been left and I didn’t see any people, so I assumed they were all off walking the Munros or something and basing themselves here.
Once I left the bothy, I noticed that the ground was a lot drier. There perhaps has been less rain here. The midges were still just as bad, though. The climb up from the bothy was really nice, with great views all around. I can definitely see why the Scottish National Trail comes this way. The track was fairly rough stone though, so it was slow going.
My pace was not helped by the weather either, as it was still really hot. The track joined the A832 for a short while, and the turning off the road was a bit tricky to find. Once I found the path, though, I just needed to follow this all the way to Croftown. It was a bit faint in places, but improved as I went on.
At the top of the climb I stopped at the lovely waterfalls for dinner and a lay in the sun. It was a very peaceful place and I didn’t see a soul all the way over. I enjoyed the rest of the wine and a chocolate bar, which I was briefly worried would leave me short for the rest of the way to Cape Wrath, but hey ho. Live for today, go hungry tomorrow.
I camped at 7.30pm at the highest point past Loch an Tiompain, but there wasn’t a breath of wind. I just didn’t have the energy to drop down into the valley, especially as I’d probably have to climb out the other side if I couldn’t find anywhere to camp. The midges drove me straight into the inner and I zipped it up.
Day 48 (day 21 of Scottish National Trail): Loch an Tiompain to Oykel Bridge
I woke at 5.15am with a nice breeze, just enough to keep the midges down. There was a clear blue sky, and some cloud inversion in the valley. The sun wasn’t up yet, so the mountain tops were just silhouettes. It was an amazing view from my sleeping bag.
I was packed up and away at 6.30am. I wanted to make use of the cooler part of the day, and take it easy when it got hot again.
There were nice views down the valley but it was a pretty steep descent into it. The midges were hell here and everyone had headnets on. It was then a short road walk into Inverlael and the turn-off into the woods.
Mountain Rescue and the police were here, and I watched the rescue helicopter go over. I asked if they were training, or if I should look out for anyone, but they just said the situation had been resolved.
It was a steady climb from Inverlael on forest tracks, and then a steep path up to the top for lunch. I was starving, I’d already eaten my two chocolate bar rations for today (my excuse was I should eat them before they melted). I’d also found a Crunchie bar hiding in my pack, and eaten that as well.
The path ended at a big cairn, and from here I headed for a big rock, climbing a bit. There was a second path for a while, but that petered out and I was on my own. I contoured round before dropping to avoid crossing a load of rough ground. It was a lovely day so I had great views, and could see exactly where I wanted to end up.
The river was easy to cross on stepping stones, as it was so low. The major crossing further down was equally low. The last time I’d crossed here (on my Cape Wrath Trail walk in 2016), I was knee deep in fast cold water.
I found it difficult to follow the path by the river on the map through Glen Douchary. It was very intermittent, especially at the end when turning towards Loch an Daimh. I lost the path completely here and just did my own thing.
Once I reached the loch, I didn’t see the point of climbing up to use the track so I made my own way closer to the water.
I stopped in the beautifully-positioned Knockdamph bothy for a second lunch and a rest. I needed a break, as it had been hard work up to this point. Three mountain bikes left the bothy as I arrived, so it was just me and a few sheep.
The bothy is in a stunning setting at the end of the loch with high valley sides front and back. It is in great condition, with a sleeping paltform downstairs, and two double beds and a single upstairs. There’s actually a bed with a mattress, too, although I’m not sure I’d want to sleep on it – it looks well used!
The track from Knockdamph bothy was OK, and so was the river crossing at Abhainn Poiblidh. I was able to cross on stones and keep my feet dry.
I arrived at the School House bothy at 6.45pm. This is a great place to spend the night, as I have before on the Cape Wrath Trail. But I’d now been wild camping for 47 consecutive nights, and I wasn’t going to give up yet! The weather did look like it was going to change, though, with heavy dark clouds ahead. I dried my tent off while I had the chance, as it was damp from the morning and had a million dead midges stuck to it. Has anyone else noticed they stink of fish when they’re wet?
I had a meal in the bothy and left about 7.15pm.
I followed the track to Oykel Bridge, crossed the road, and then camped by the side of the track once I’d run out of daylight.
Day 49 (day 22 of Scottish National Trail): Oykel Bridge to Inchnadamph
I woke to an overcast morning, but dry with a light breeze. It was cooler, thankfully, and my day started with good easy walking on a track by the river. The trees meant I often couldn’t see the river, though. The track ended and a boggy path started. There were better views of the river from here, but you can’t see much of it for looking down all the time, trying to miss the next wet bit.
The path eventually improved and joined a track past Loch Ailsh and Benmore Lodge.
The track then took me along River Oykel, but the track ended and became a path. It wasn’t easy to find, but with patience can be followed all the way to Dubh-Loch Mor under the cliffs of Ben More Assynt.
I stopped for lunch at the waterfalls just before the loch, and panicked because I thought I had lost my snacks bag. It turned out I couldn’t find it because it had got so small. Things are getting interesting when you are counting the number of dehydrated meals you have left, and rationing chocolate bars. At least I’m not quite down to how many bites I’m allowed each day – not yet, anyway.
The climb from the waterfalls was lovely, with views of the loch.
It pays to get this bit right, as there was some steep and rocky ground. Luckily I had good weather and clear visibility, so I could see the potential issues and my route from the other side of the valley. If it was poor weather, you would need to be very careful here as there are some steep drops.
One lesson I did learn here is not to use a thick highlighter pen to mark the route on my paper maps. I need to use a fine-tipped pen, as the thickness of the pen line can include a whole world of hell if you’re in the wrong place. You need to be very accurate marking the route on the map too, as a small difference can put you in real trouble.
On the way down I was happily following a lovely little river, and just remembered to contour around to the track in time.
It was a reasonable path to Inchnadamph from here. When I got there, the hotel was closed to non-residents (Covid).
The midges were also really bad, so I didn’t stop. I carried on up to a very windy camp (but no midges) at a little loch before Loch Fleodach Coire.
I made dinner and ate half a bar of chocolate with my coffee. It was a pleasure eating with my tent doors open, enjoying the view of the loch and mountains with cloud blowing through. I felt very privileged to be in such a remote and beautiful place.
Read the next section of my travels here: Dover to Cape Wrath Chapter 16: The Scottish National Trail (part 7)
Further reading and links:
Scotland End-to-End: Walking the Scottish National Trail by Mountain Media
Scotland End-to-End: Walking the Scottish National Trail – DVD by Mountain Media
Scotland’s 100 Best Walks – Lomond Books
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