Monday, January 01, 2007

Walking Into A New Life (Ledmore To Clachtoll).

I started my walk to Sandwood Bay close to a place called “Ledmore Junction”, which is situated about fifteen miles north east of Ullapool. It was only a small place as were most of the places I passed through, quite often there were more letters in the name than there were houses in the village.

As I waved goodbye to my parents I felt this was going to be a greater adventure than even the Pennine Way had been. I immediately felt at home in these surroundings, even though I’d never been here or seen anything like it before. I greatly appreciate the wild places close to where I live, and consider myself quite fortunate, but they are no more than a child’s toy compared to this. This is a real wilderness, it would take me a life time of Saturdays to fully explore this place.
The first part of my walk took me down GlenCanisp, the weather was as beautiful as the scenery, everything was perfect. After only a few minutes walking I came upon my first loch, Cam Loch. From here I could see the mountain called Suilven, which lay in my direction of travel and was really where I wanted to be by lunch time. Before then I’d got to carry on along the shores of Cam Loch, turn north and then cross a ridge to pass Loch an Fada and the mountain of Canisp. Both lay to my right as I walked down the glen eventually reaching Loch na Gainimh, which lies below the towering Suilven. I went to the end of this loch and stopped for lunch.Afterwards I continued along the rough track which was becoming more distinct all the time, to Glencanisp Lodge which stood amongst trees on the banks of Loch Druim Suardalain.

There’s one aspect of walking where I’m really lacking in confidence, and that is when it comes to passing through people property. E.g. farmyards, and gardens etc., Glencanisp Lodge was one of those places. It was a big house with an even bigger garden, not that I paid much attention to either. I passed through the garden and in front of the house looking nowhere but straight ahead and trying without much success to be as small and inconspicuous as possible.

Once through the garden I began to relax again, I was now walking along a tarmac drive, and the air was filled with the scent of flowering Gorse. After a mile the open drive became a walled lane, which led to the small port of Lochinver.

As I walked along the sea front Loch Inver to my left and Lochinver to my right, I realised that for me life could get no better than this. I wanted for nothing – well almost nothing, I did need a couple of postcards, so I popped into a shop and bought a couple.

My present situation of contentment began to go down hill whilst on my way up hill out of Lochinver and it continued to get worse over the next day or so. Soon after leaving Lochinver, and just before the road to Clachtoll a car came up from behind and slowed to a halt alongside.

“where are you going?” asked the man driving the Ford Cortina Estate.

Why couldn’t he have asked me something simple – like who is Jacques Alexandre C’sar Charles?! I could have answered that. But oh no, he had to be difficult and want to know where I was going. How do you tell someone you are heading for Loch Leadhed a’ Bhaile Fhoghair? I did try but by the look on his face I got the impression that he thought I was swearing at him. So not wanting to cause offence I quickly stopped and instead showed him where I was going on my map. He was out of the car and had the back up ready to put my rucksack in before you could say Loch Leadhed a’ Bhaile Fhoghair!

“I’m going that way myself, I’ll give you a ride”, he said.

I don’t know what it is about me when I’m on a long walk, but people continuously seem to take pity on me. Try as I might I couldn’t make this man see that I enjoyed walking up hills with a forty pound pack on a boiling hot day.

“No, it’s alright, I’m on a walking holiday, I’m enjoying myself.” I said.

It was no use, the more I refuse the more he insisted. He was almost begging by the time I agreed to let him take me, this made his day! He told me he used to be a builder from Brighton and that he had moved up to Sutherland to run a guest house and to get away from the rat race.

It was during this part of my journey that I discovered I was something of a novelty in these parts, or at least what I was doing was. He was really interested in my walk so much so that by the time we reached Clachtoll I felt quite a celebrity. Clachtoll was the place where he dropped me off saying – “There, that was better than walking wasn’t it”?

I hadn’t the heart to tell him that is wasn’t.

At Clachtoll there was a camp site which I decided to make use of, it was close to Loch Leadhed a’ Bhaile Fhoghair so it made very little difference t the mileage I would have to do tomorrow.

The owner of the site was very apologetic at having to put me so far away from the toilet block. Once again I felt a certain amount of pity aimed in my direction, after all what does three hundred yards matter when you’ve already walked eighteen miles.
After a meal of Shepherds Pie followed by apples and custard and a mug of tea I decided to explore my surroundings and I discovered beauty at every turn. At one point a beam of multi-coloured light burst through the clouds to target itself on a now distant Lochinver.

It was like something from a sci-fi movie. After a couple of hours wandering and with rain threatening I decided to return to my tent. As I was approaching a green and cream caravan an old lady came towards me, I politely bid her good evening. I was to regret this later for without a doubt I wold have enjoyed the rest of my holiday far more had I completely ignored her. But I didn’t and now I had to pay the price.

After a few minutes idle chit chat the lady asked, “Would you like a cup of coffee?”

Like a fool I replied, “Yes please, as long as it’s no trouble”.

The lady assured me that is wasn’t.

“Come in to my caravan”, said the lady to the walker.

This I did and willingly so. It was like walking in on the ‘Waltons’, you know, the ones from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. There wasn’t as many of them but the welcome was just as warm. They soon had me sat down on one of the beds. I sat drinking coffee whilst we talked about the usual things strangers talk about. As is the case when one id enjoying one’s self the time passes quickly, so before I knew where I was the time had come to say, “goodnight John Boy” or in this case Pearl, Vicki, and Fallon.

I lay in my tent feeling mortally wounded, embedded deep in my heart were three arrows fired from cupids bow.
To be continued below....

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Blogger schaumi said...

once again great photos. i'd love to visit scotland one of these days and walk it.

8:40 AM  
Blogger Imma (a.k.a. ... Alice) said...

Great story, Bob. I'm totally hooked and looking forward to the next installment. Wonderful pictures too.
As I read your words and looked at your pictures, many memories have come galloping into my mind... memories of self and friends riding our horses through very similar country, though no towns or anything like that where we rode. I sure wish I had my digital camera when we were out on those rides. Almost 10 years of total bliss... and now the land belongs to someone that doesn't allow anyone to walk or ride there, and my friends and I no longer have our horses. How I miss those days!!

8:55 PM  
Blogger Jeanette said...

Gday Bob Just popped on computer for a few Minutes Before i go to bed.
Loved the walk I feel I walked every step with you and the beautifull scenery and I didnt tire along the way.Look forward to your next episode and catching up on your posts ive missed. Take Care.Jeanette

I should be back blogging in a few days as ive still go a house full

12:59 PM  
Blogger UKBob said...

Hi Imma, Thanks for joining me, its a shame that one person is allowed to take away all your fun, the world belongs to everyone, when you buy a piece of it shouldn't mean you own it, just that you have bought the right to look after it for everyones pleasure. If I had money to buy land anyone would be allowed on it as long as they respected it. By the way, just so that you understand better, the places I passed through on this walk were no larger than a few dwelling, even the largest was only a small village.

8:29 PM  
Blogger Blackswamp_Girl said...

Wonderful... :) This is a silly thing to fix upon, but I find myself fascinated by Cam. It just amazes me how the green seems to go right to the water's edge, low green grasses all the way, abutting the low blue lake without so much as a ridge of sand or a pile of rocks. That's so different from the lake edges we have here that it looks like something out of a fantasy...

4:01 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

This is looking to be a very picturesque piece of reading! It creates very clear images in my mind...The photos also definitely help.

2:30 AM  
Blogger HORIZON said...

Funny how that bloke only wanted to help you along the way without realising that he was intruding on your walk-lol.
Loved the mountain at the end of the Loch - what a picture! And last but certainly not least- the caravan of Waltons- you gave me a giggle.
Sounds like you had a blast. :)

11:50 AM  
Blogger HORIZON said...

Meant to say- wow- so that's where it all started!
Brilliant. :) l shall read on!

12:00 PM  

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