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Inchnadamph to Cape Wrath

Follow my progress as I finally finish my walk of the length of the UK, from Dover to Cape Wrath, wild camping every night. This chapter is the seventh and final part of the Scottish National Trail, along the Cape Wrath Trail from Inchnadamph to Cape Wrath itself.

You can read about my preparations for this walk here, chapter one of my walk from Dover here and my full gear list here.

If you’d like to see an overview map of my whole route from Dover to Cape Wrath, it’s here.

Day 50 (day 23 of Scottish National Trail): Inchnadamph to Ben Strome

What is wrong with this country? The wind had been blowing all night, then as soon as I got up to make my breakfast, nothing. Not a breath of wind. The midges were out in force, so I had to have breakfast inside the tent again.

Breakfast with a view

However, by the time I put my boots on the wind had woken up, and so I had no midgey issues packing up and setting off by 7am.

My route took me roughly north. I loved the walk past Loch Fleodach Coire and up through the pass between Glas Bheinn and Beinn Uidhe. There were great views, and the cloud created quite an eerie atmosphere.

The pass between Glas Bheinn and Beinn Uidhe, looking back towards the loch

The descent was interesting through the rocks and past numerous deer, all watching me sceptically. There was a path nearly all the way to the valley floor.

The descent from the pass

There was also an intermittent path all the way past Chual Aluinn waterfall (which wasn’t that impressive after this hot, dry weather), and on to Glencoul bothy.

Chual Aluinn waterfall

Even with the path it was still hard going though. The ground was dry but it was quite undulating – and further than I had thought. The great views over Loch Glencoul to Unapool and Kylesku were ample compensation.

Loch Glencoul

I stopped at the bothy for my first lunch at 11am and I was definitely ready for it. This is a two-room bothy, one room with a sleeping platform and the other with chairs, table and fireplace.

Glencoul Bothy

After lunch, I followed a reasonable track that climbed the hillside quite steeply. It then continued as a path all the way round to Glendhu bothy. It was a little difficult and rough going in places but it gets you there. The views were amazing.

Looking back towards Glencoul Bothy
Loch Glencoul, towards Kylesku

Glendhu bothy is another well-kept and interesting place. It has two rooms downstairs with seating and a fireplace, and two rooms upstairs for sleeping. I met a couple spending time kayaking the lochs with their children, and I had a great chat with them. It sounded like a great holiday.

Glendhu Bothy

The track from Glendhu bothy looks long and boring on the map, but it went quite quickly.

The track from Glendhu bothy

The scenery was interesting and varied, and views opened up as I walked along Loch Glendhu towards Kylestrome. It was a very pretty walk.

The end of Loch Glendhu

The climb out of Kylestrome was steep, but again offered great views back out to sea. However, I could also see rain clouds rolling in over the distant mountains, which added a sense of urgency to my search for a camping spot.

Rain clouds on their way in

I’m not sure if it was luck or skill, but I found a spot up on the top near Ben Strome. I chucked the tent up and filtered some water in double-quick time. Everything got thrown into the inner before I zipped it up, killed all the midges inside as quickly as I could and then the heavens opened. It rained for hours.

Wild camp number 50

I spent a few seconds sorting out my food supply for the rest of the walk – that’s how little I had left. I was down to two coffees, one chocolate bar and one day’s worth of dehydrated meals, but I had at least two days’ walking to Cape Wrath and one day walking back from it. Losing weight was one thing, but I was a bit concerned about my energy levels for the rest of the walk.

Day 51 (day 24 of Scottish National Trail): Ben Strome to Sandwood Bay

I had slept well during the night. The rain had finally stopped, leaving just the sound of a stream trickling past. There was no wind this morning, even though I was camped at 380 metres. That meant breakfast inside my tent again, which was a shame as I could hear some deer outside but I couldn’t go out to see.

I was packed up and away by 7am. It was a great walk over the top to Ben Dreavie, with awesome cloud formations, inversion and views in all directions. There had been no path for some of it though, and it had been rough and slow going.

Views from Ben Dreavie

Eventually I joined a very small path down to the road. This seemed to take longer, and was more uphill, than I had expected.

Following the path down to the A838 road

Once on the road, it was only a short distance to join the track from Lochstack Lodge.

Looking down on the road and Lochstack Lodge

The track wasn’t bad at all, and I followed it for a couple of miles before heading off north-west towards Rhiconich. I was able to keep to higher ground here to avoid the worst of the boggy bits, and it was slow-going in long, clumpy grass.

Rough groundheading towards Rhiconich

A small path did appear when I reached Loch a Garbh-bhaid Mor.

The views definitely made this part of the walk worth it. I was lucky to have sunshine and clear skies as an added bonus too.

Loch a Garbh-bhaid Mor

The river crossing at Garbh Allt was easy on the stepping stones due to the low rainfall recently. However, it can be trouble after heavy rain.

The river crossing at Garbh Allt
Pretty path to Rhiconich

I arrived at Rhiconich Hotel, really looking foward to a proper lunch and a beer or two. But it wasn’t to be. It was 1.50pm and the hotel was shut. I hadn’t had any lunch at all up to this point as I’d been saving myself for the hotel, so I was pretty grumpy by this point. My walk along the road to Kinlochbervie was sluggish to say the least. I had a delve around in my hip belt pockets and found two rather squashed cereal bars, so they cheered me up a bit.

The road to Kinlochbervie. I was grumpy, but it was very beautiful.

Just before Badcall, I found an old school that had been turned into a cafe. It was busy, and the staff told me I would have a long wait for food. I wasn’t bothered about the wait, as it was the chance to sit down that was just as welcome. I ordered fish and chips, a pot of tea and a can of beer. Perhaps the waitress took pity on me, as my beer arrived straight away and my food wasn’t long behind it.

Heading to Kinlochbervie from Badcall

The rest of the road walk to Kinlochbervie was better, as I had cheered up a lot after my meal. The views were pretty good, and I was able to resupply in the Spar shop in the village. Much to my delight, there was also a cafe, so I went in for a large full cooked breakfast. I didn’t tell them about the fish and chips I had eaten only an hour previously.

The cafe in Kinlochbervie (the Spar shop is behind it)

I enjoyed talking to the couple who ran the cafe, and they said that the midges had been worse this year that any they could remember. Oh good.

Kinlochbervie harbour

At 5pm I set off on the road again for Blairmore, and then the track to Sandwood Bay for four miles. I passed a lot of people walking the other way, who had spent the day at the beach. I had definitely had enough by this point, and on any normal day I would have camped long ago. But today was clear, hot and sunny, and so the only place to camp was the beach. Opportunities like this don’t come up very often!

The track to Sandwood Bay

When I finally reached Sandwood, I walked the length of the beach in the sea with my boots off. I set up camp at the far end and watched the sun set over the sea. The visibility was so good that I could even see the Cape Wrath lighthouse in the distance, and the numerous hills I still had to cross in order to reach it.

Sandwood Bay, looking towards Cape Wrath

My camp was in quite an exposed position, so I put rocks on the pegs. There was a forecast of high winds for the next few days, and so I was worried that the nine miles to Cape Wrath the next day might not be as easy as they could have been. Because of the wind, I was not relying on the ferry running (it’s only a rowing boat with an engine tied on the back, after all!) I was therefore planning to walk back to Kinlochbervie, and my wife had arranged transport for me from there.

Wild camp 51 – Sandwood Bay

I was glad I had pushed on to make it to Sandwood Bay. It is a great place to camp, and my resupply meant I could eat as much chocolate and drink as much wine as I liked. I felt I had definitely earned it today.

Sunset over Sandwood Bay

Day 52 (day 25 of Scottish National Trail): Sandwood Bay to Cape Wrath (return)

It had got extremely windy at about 3am, so I’d got dressed and packed some stuff away just in case something broke. I hadn’t tested the tent in strong wind yet, so I was unsure how much it would take. Until I trust my gear, I tend to play it safe. The tent felt solid though, just lots of flapping.

I think I was also keen to get this walk finished, as I was so close to Cape Wrath. I hadn’t slept well and I was worried about my right ankle. As I’d come into Rhiconich the day before I had twisted it. It had become quite painful as I walked to Sandwood Bay in the evening. I was keen to see if it would be OK today. Another lesson learned – don’t rush to the pub!

A VERY early start in howling wind

I set off walking with my head torch on. I’d covered about two miles but the wind was so strong, I had to turn back south to Strathchailleach bothy.

Strathchailleach bothy

When I walked in to the bothy, soaked to the skin, someone already had a pot of water boiling for coffee. He had timed things better than me, and had been out to the Cape the day before. He was on a camping and bothy trip with his daughter, and I had a nice chat with him while I warmed up and he packed up to leave.

Once I’d had my coffee and a meal I felt a bit better, and the rain had stopped. I ate a few extra chocolate biscuits for good measure and decided to have one more go at trying to reach Cape Wrath. The wind was still blowing, but it was much weaker than it had been earlier.

Within an hour, unbelievably, the sun came out and it turned into a beautiful day. I had fantastic views as I walked to Cape Wrath lighthouse, but the ground was boggy and at times there was no sign of a path.

View from the top of Cnoc a Ghiubhais

I had chosen the inland route from Strathchailleach bothy, and because of the clearing weather, I headed for the top of Cnoc a Ghiubhais at 298 metres. This gave me the best views and pictures of the Cape.

The inland route is supposed to be less undulating and easier going, but I’m not sure I agree. I knew from my previous walk of the Cape Wrath Trail that there are often bits of a path on the coastal route, but it’s hard going whichever way you choose. Don’t underestimate this section!

Cape Wrath lighthouse

When I finally reached the lighthouse, I was met with a friendly hello from a lady laying out in the sun. She told me the Ozone Cafe was open if I wanted anything. Stupid question – soup, cheese and pickle sandwiches and a much appreciated cup of tea helped me to celebrate the end of my 52-day walk all the way from Dover. I had finally achieved my goal of walking the length of the country, and wild camping every night.

The Ozone Cafe at Cape Wrath lighthouse
I’d made it!

Feeling pleased with myself was one thing, but I still had the challenge of getting off the Cape. It’s quite a remote place when the minibus and ferry aren’t running. I decided to walk back to Sandwood Bay along the coast for a change, and so I could compare each route. It was easier going with shorter grass, but there’s one particularly steep section into a deep valley followed by a big climb out again. This took time and energy, so both routes have their pros and cons.

The steep section on the coastal route from Cape Wrath to Sandwood Bay

Once I was back at Sandwood Bay, I camped on a lovely piece of grass that had been carefully mown by the sheep. The sheep weren’t too happy I was there, but I had great views out to sea and of the beach below me. The funny thing was that I had no sense of rain coming, but it started as soon as I was sorted. It was just an odd bit of drizzle, so I could still sit with the tent doors open for a view and some fresh air. It didn’t last long, and I was rewarded with a gorgeous sunset over the sea.

My second wild camp at Sandwood Bay

I treated myself to a big chocolate bar that I’d bought in Kinlochbervie, the one with the peel and re-seal packaging. The trouble was, I’d opened it from the wrong end, so I just had to eat all of it.

I fell asleep with the sound of the waves breaking on the beach, and the feeling that I shouldn’t have eaten quite so much chocolate.

Day 53: Sandwood Bay to Kinlochbervie

I had woken up a couple of times in the night thinking my tent was going to blow away, but I managed to get back to sleep by putting my ear plugs in. That did the trick, and I didn’t wake up properly until 7.15am. It was a dry morning, and thankfully a lovely breeze.

I packed up and left at a very leisurely 8.45am. It was a nice walk over the last little hill on to Sandwood Bay itself. I had plenty of time before my transport from Kinlochbervie, so I sat in the sun for a few hours before tackling the long walk back to Kinlochbervie. It was a great place for coffee and more chocolate. Opened the correct way this time. I felt quite spiritual actually, and a really profound sense of peace.

My spot for a good few hours – unil the tide came in!

Whilst I was on the beach, another walker stopped for a chat. He was walking the Cape Wrath Trail but reckoned it had done him in and he was too old for it. I thought he looked in better condition than me. He had been hoping for the minibus off the Cape, and wasn’t looking forward to the walk out.

It was 11am and I had covered a grand distance of a quarter of a mile. Whilst I was enjoying the spiritual thing, at that rate I was going to be late for my taxi. Or I’d get wet feet, as the tide was coming in. I hadn’t been anywhere near the sea when I sat down.

I took my time on the walk back though, as it was the first time I hadn’t been concerned about covering the mileage. It was a treat to be able to just stop and enjoy the views whenever and however often I wanted.

The track to Kinlochbervie

I even had time to walk down to one of the bays on the way, just to have a look. The sea was turquoise against the cliffs and the sand – it was amazing.

Cladach, on the walk back to Kinlochbervie

When I got back to Kinlochbervie I expected to be sat outside the closed cafe, making coffee by myself. This thought was made worse by the fact that as I walked down the hill to the harbour, the heavens absolutely opened. I turned the corner, and there was the cafe, open. You can imagine how pleased I was. I managed to just make it inside before I got totally soaked.

Kinlochbervie

So there it is, my walk from Dover to Cape Wrath. A walk of many challenges: the struggle for water down south; navigational errors on the North Downs Way; finding camp spots on the canals; the noisy slugs and, of course, the epic midges. But I had done it, and I wouldn’t change a single aspect of the route. What an adventure.

Leaving Dover, 52 days ago…
…and arriving at Cape Wrath, having wild camped every night.

I wonder what’s next?

Further reading and links:

My Dover to Cape Wrath gear list

My Dover to Caper Wrath gear review

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

The Cape Wrath Trail (north to south)

Mark Webb – about me

My 11 wild camping rules

Land’s End to John O’Groats, via the three peaks

Scotland’s 100 Best Walks – Lomond Books

Wildwalkinguk is a blog run by myself and my wife in our spare time, and we pay for its running costs ourselves. We do have some Amazon affiliate links and adverts on the site. If you click on these adverts or links and buy what you need (it doesn’t have to be the item we’ve linked to), the company will pay a small commission to us. This money goes towards the costs of hosting the blog. We would be extremely grateful if you could consider using our links when you next need to buy something from our advertisers. Alternatively, you can buy us a coffee here. Thank you so much for your support. Mark and Emma.

32 Replies to “Dover to Cape Wrath Chapter 16: The Scottish National Trail (part 7/7)”

  1. Wonderful journey. I planned to walk the SNT this year, but have opted to cycle tour instead and walk from Lindisfarne to Cape Wrath next spring. Thanks for posting, I can really sense the daily challenges and emotions of the walk and I am enthused even more to head north.

    Expect some posts from me in October on my island hopping expedition with a Thorn Sherpa bicycle (slight worn out).

  2. Great achievement . Followed all your posts . You deserve a rest ! When you
    have time would be interested in your opinion of the Notch Li after
    your many nights of use .

  3. I recognise many places of the Cape Wrath part of your walk! Amazing how different it looks compared with when I walked it last year in the spring. During your walk it was much greener and I love the blooming heather on your pictures! But you paid for it with trillions of midges, heheh! (I have seen none during my walk)

  4. Incredible! Thank you so much for all the tales and photos, the constantly changing views giving plenty of clues as to what you were experiencing. Pleased you succeeded and I don’t need to walk it!

  5. Congratulations on an epic walk! I have followed all your posts over the past two months, Autumn will seem really quiet by comparison. Enjoy your return home to Norfolk and start planning the next trip!

  6. A great achievement Mark, and your inspirational, it’s a gold medal from me. You have a great family backing you so high praise for them. And what next, maybe walk around the coast of the whole of the UK, who knows but what ever you do very good luck, and I will keep a look out for you after you have had a bit of rest, take care👍🏅

  7. Again to ask, after it all are you happy still with your tent? Sorry to focus on that; I’m still trying to make mine work for me.
    It looks like so much of this walk was damp and cold, or with midges. Despite all that you persevered! Amazing photos and stories. I was amused how much you thought about food on your way; and now back to civilization you will have to reduce the eating. That’s as much of a challenge!
    I enjoy your website.

    1. Hi Karen
      Have you got the dyneema Notch and what’s not working well for you with the tent? I still think it’s the best tent I’ve ever used and it made the walk easier. Because it was so easy to put up, take down, plenty of space for it’s light weight and generally live with.
      Fortunately I’ve come back to a lot of work, so unable to carry on over eating. I came home weighing exactly what I did when I set off on the walk.
      Thanks very much for your message.
      Mark

      1. Yes I have the Notch Li. The tent pegs just don’t hold in soft ground, so I have to spend 1/2 hour searching for rocks to hold them. I think in heavy wind, it would collapse entirely.

        1. Hi Karen
          I use the 9″ long MSR Core Stakes either end and on the guylines. I’m going to purchase another set, so I can use 2 x 9″ pegs on the porches as well. I found the 9″ pegs stayed in the ground well but smaller pegs needed rocks on soft ground. I was using 6″ long MSR Carbon Core Stakes for the porches and if it was windy I put 2 pegs in each, in the ground crossed. A couple of times I used rocks as well if it was really windy. I’ve not had a peg pull out but have had one drag a few inches and probably would have come out of the ground if I hadn’t had it angled in over 30 degrees or so.
          I hope that helps but please keep me let me know if you keep having trouble and what pegs you’re using. So I can update my review of the Notch, if people are having issues with it. I do find my Tarptent StratoSpire Li 2 person tent feels better in windy conditions, possibly due to the extra 2 pegging points.
          Many thanks for your message.
          Mark

  8. Hi Mark, what a fantastic long distance walk! Congratulations to you, and thank you so much for sharing your impressions and your beautiful imagery with us! I followed your stages and remembered my walks in Scotland – beautiful. I am Swiss based, and love Scotland for its stunning wide scenery, people and spirit. Next year – if possible – I plan to return again and hike along the Western coast from the South (Torridons) to the North, as far as I’ll get. Thank you once again for letting us be part of your adventures!

  9. Fantasic feat of endurance, congratulations! I’ve enjoyed reading every chapter and a few of your other accounts in between. Enjoy the rest and recovery.

  10. Amazing achievement, well done. I pretty much purchased the Notch Li because of your blog, you should tell Henry he owes you some commission! On that note – what’s the strongest winds you’d say you experienced in the Notch? Understand it wouldn’t be terribly scientific if you didn’t have a wind speed meter, but would be interesting to get your take on it.

    1. Hi Tarptenter
      I had strong enough winds for me to get up at 3am to take the tent down because it was shaking so violently. The tent was still standing fine with all the pegs still in the ground, I did have rocks on them though. I probably needn’t have taken it down but I was keen to get going anyway and I didn’t want to risk damaging the tent. No idea how strong the wind was, sorry. I do recommend using bigger pegs than usual, because there is so few pegging points each has more load on it when it’s windy. The dyneema seems strong enough, as I’ve no signs of damage or stress now I’m home and checked it over.
      Thanks for you message, It’s much appreciated.
      Mark

      1. Thanks for your reply, and I see Karen above also has the same concerns about performance in windy conditions. I personally like my MSR Groundhogs, I use a mixture of those with some 9″ Eastons that came with my SS2. Sometimes the ground is really hard so I bring a Titanium nail to make an entry hole first before I can pound the larger stakes in.

        What do you make of the magnetic tie-backs? I find them essentially useless even in light breezes, and am already thinking about how I can mod the tent to get around this issue.

        The pitchloc corners are also a little weird – the bottom 2 corners of the triangle don’t seem to want to spread out properly and sit on the ground – even with everything tensioned properly, that thin strip of webbing between those 2 corners doesn’t get taut. Do you have the same issue with that?

        1. Hi Tarptenter
          I think reducing your pole length may solve both issues.
          I had the same issue with the pitchloc corners but found that it was because I had the walking poles too long, or the ground had been uneven and raised the pole. Uneven ground and a small difference in the length of the walking poles can make quite a difference to how the tent stands.
          I really like the magnetic tie backs and haven’t had them come undone more than a few times, but I do need to remember to roll the door up tidily and make sure I’ve unzipped it fully for it to hold well. It also helps remembering not to have the walking poles too long so the pitchloc ends are on the ground firmly. I hope this helps and please let me know if you continue to have issues so I can update my review.
          The Notch has it’s quirks but I love it.
          Many thanks.
          Mark

  11. Massive congratulations to you Mark. Many thanks to you and your wife for the blog. I followed you all the way and thoroughly enjoyed reading every post.
    You certainly seems to have done a good job with your kids that they voluntarily (?) join you for sections of the hike! Hope mine will do the same one day.
    Great job!
    Is there a tip jar so that we can buy you a beer?

    1. Hi Graham
      Thank you for your message and offer of a beer, very much appreciated. It helps us pay for the site if next time you need to buy something, if you come back to our site and buy it through our Amazon links. It doesn’t have to be the same product we’ve linked to but we get a small commission.
      As for my kids walking with me, no pressure was put on them. They both stopped walking with me for a few years when they were early teenagers but have both got back into it through their own choice, 18 and 21. My son is currently walking the Snowdonia Way on his own and will hopefully be writing about it to post on our site shortly. There is a down side to this, he’s borrowed all my best kit so I now can’t go away.
      Thanks again
      Mark

  12. Hi Mark
    Congratulations – you lucky duck (I am living in lockdown Melbourne and can’t go anywhere). I too have followed your journey throughout, thanks so much for sharing and was glad to see you finished with some nice weather and most importantly for walkers an open and warm cafe (do you amuse yourself on a long walk with I wonder how long before I start obsessing about what meal I want at the end). The photos of the final stage are particularly beautiful. Did you get bored with the canal walking? I suppose though, the easier? walking in those stages balanced with the tougher terrain at the end. Please keep walking and posting. I need to do lovely long walks by proxy.

  13. Well done Mark, another epic trek. I’ve just come back from doing a 350km circuit of the Lakes outlying fells using my trusty Notch which I’ve had a for quite a few years now so it was interesting to hear about you packing up at 3am in strong winds in case something happened. I had the same experience last week, camped high as the sun set. I’d pitched end-on into a breeze but as the sun set the wind picked up like a freight train and swung 90 degrees hitting the Notch side-on. I honestly thought the tent was going to be ripped apart around me, blowing consistently at at 50-60mph and threatening to send all my kit down the hill to Ullswater. So I quickly packed up and just sat there bracing the windward pole. But it held up OK and no damage at all. The noise and the way the tent sides deformed in though did have me a little worried for a while. Also interesting to hear another comment from a Notch owner about the end struts. I tend to carry four ultralight titanium shepherd’s hook pegs to peg out the bottom of the struts and hold them apart, helps to keep a good taught pitch.

    Once again, a great walk and enjoyed following you week by week.

  14. Hi Mark, I just came across your blog a few days ago and have thoroughly enjoyed reading your whole trip. It makes compelling reading.

    I have done a couple of shorter trips, and would love to be able to do longer ones in the future.

    It’s really interesting hearing about all the challenges you’ve gone through on the way.

    I usually find it hard to sleep when I wild camp alone as I’m anxious about being told to move on or being bothered by people. It’s reassuring to hear that this hardly ever happens on your travels.

    I’m looking forward to reading about your other adventures.
    Take care,
    Karen

    1. Hi Karen – thanks very much for your message, and I’m so glad you have enjoyed reading the blog.

      With regard to anxiety over wild camping, unfortunately it is easier for me as I am a man. When you are wild camping alone as a woman, I’d recommend not looking like you are going to be camping (don’t have your tent on the outside of your pack, for example). Just be careful, camp just before it gets dark and leave just before it gets light. Perhaps gain some confidence first in areas where wild camping is much more accepted – West Highland Way or Skye Trail, for example. Good luck and let me know how you get on. Mark.
      PS- are you in Norfolk too? I just had a look at your blog! Keep in touch.

      1. Hi Mark,
        That sounds like good advice.
        Yes! I’m in Norfolk too 🙂 am excited to do some of the more local longer distance walks before moving further afield.
        Will definitely be blogging about them when I do.
        Thanks for subscribing to my blog, much appreciated, I’m planning to grow the hiking side of it more in the coming months.

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