Day 224: Shieldaig to Craig Bothy
Distance: 20.78 miles
Ascent: 4610 feet
Weather: Overcast, mainly Dry with Some Light Drizzle
Accommodation: Craig Bothy
I actually slept really well last night, and it appeared to have pretty much stopped raining by this morning. I opened my tent flap and was confronted by a black wall of midge, and quickly retreated back into the tent before they noticed me. I packed everything into my bag and then exited as quickly as I could with my rucksack before having to take down the tent with the little blighters being very annoying. Once the tent was packed I was off and going as once you are walking fortunately it appears you are to fast for the midges.
I had one slight issue today, and guess what it may be, food of course. The shop in Shieldaig didn’t open till 9, and the café till 10 but I wanted to leave early so decided to head off straight away just after 7 and hopefully get to Torridon just after 9 where there is a youth hostel and hopefully I could pay them for a breakfast and stock up on supplies there.
The road out of Shieldaig was quiet at this time in morning and the views up the Loch were beautiful, at River Balgy I turned of the road and onto an estate track (signposted as a path which made it even clearer), which winded its way right down to the Loch’s edge at one point before suddenly emerging at the Torridon Hotel. From here you left by a very formal and impressive driveway back onto the road.
It was only a short distance to Torridon Youth Hostel from here, I went in but unfortunately they had finished breakfast but this was no issue as they told me there was a little café/shop at the end of the village which I hadn’t known about. In the hostel they also tried to contact Gairloch Sands Youth Hostel where I am staying tomorrow night, as I had been having issues (partially due to them not answering phone, partially due to phone signal) contacting them to finalise payment for my reservation.
I had a quick bite in the café and got plenty of supplies for today and tomorrow and set off with the weather looking alright but after yesterday I was not getting my hopes up to much. A mixture of road and estate tracks got me to Inveralligin. From here there was a very interesting little path, which must be part of an ancient track over to Alligin.
From Alligin I would be following a path for several miles over to Lower Diabaig but given as today was meant to be after a rest day I had not done my final look through of the day for today. If I had I would have known how up and down this part was going to be. It was an incredible path winding up and over the hills, at one point crossing a small rock slide, but always on a distinct path that was incredibly conceived. I decided to have my lunch at the top of one of these peaks and though I hadn’t noticed any midges since this morning, as soon as I stopped within 30s I was being swarmed by them, so quickly ate food and just carried on even though I wanted a longer break. The path like 2 days ago reached what I though would be a ruin but turned out to be a liveable cottage and someone must live in it or at least use it as a little escape. After this the path became less distinct for a while and I actually briefly went the wrong way before rejoining the correct route and skirting the edges of two small lochs. The path wound over its final peak and from there I had a magnificent view down to Lower Diabaig. I presumed the path would get me down without to much issue, but suddenly the path just started winding almost vertically downwards, I have been thinking but cannot think of a steeper path on the entire walk, and with the rocks a bit wet and me with a heavy pack on I had to be careful and it was very tiring but eventually I was down.
In Lower Diabaig I randomly saw a little sign saying tea and coffee, outside a little house. Due to the midges earlier I decided though I only had 3 miles to go, I would see if it was possible to have a little tea break. As I approached the door a very elderly lady was there, and I wondered if the sign might not be current but she welcomed me into her sitting room, and explained I could have a tea, scone with lemon curd and biscuits for £3, which sounded more than reasonable to me. It was slightly bizarre, but she obviously enjoys doing it, and half way through her daughter arrived and informed me that she believed I was the first person this year who had stopped which surprised me.
Fully replenished I joined another path and this one was far more gentle, in fact it was a lovely path gently undulating over the hills and always very clear. This was actually what I really needed a nice, simplish walk, in the dry to clear my head and allow me to take in the scenery which yesterday I had sort of ignored a little bit.
I finally descended down to Craig Bothy, which looked absolutely lovely. It used to be a youth hostel (strangely as there are no roads for several miles), but the MBA now maintain it as one of their bothies. I thought I may be the only one tonight as it was a Monday, and indeed that turned out to be the case. I very fortunately found a tree that had fallen over and was dead so was able to get some wood quite easily and got the fire going, in fact I didn’t light it well the first time so got all the wood out and started again. I dried any wet gear above the stove and cooked my dinner on top of it. This bothy has one more luxury than normal an actual toilet that you flush using rain water and a bucket.
A really nice day in fact, tougher than expected but also more beautiful. I am really looking forward to getting to my rest day tomorrow afternoon, as my body is very tired. It has actually been a month since my last proper rest day which was in Mallaig, as though I have had some very kind offers and nice locations I have either had to hitch to get internet or be in tent once so not fully restful.