Day 240: Durness to Freisgill

Distance: 24.10 miles

Ascent: 3178 feet

Weather: Sunny Spells, Short Spell of Rain At End

Accommodation: Freisgill Bothy


I had met lots of nice people over my rest day, with a group who had just completed the Cape Wrath trail the first night and a couple of people who were cycling the NC500 in opposite directions on the second night. I had also been given a few bits and bobs that people couldn’t fly home with, including a gas cannister to replace my almost empty one and a dehydrated meal that the man insisted was as good as cooking it yourself at home, but given I normally find dehydrated food disgusting it would be interesting to see what it tasted like.

The weather forecast for today was generally good, though there was rain forecast early this morning till somewhere between 7 & 8, so I decided to try and wait for the rain to stop before leaving. It was a good job I waited as the rain came down heavily shortly after 7 but at about 7:50 after the 3rd or 4th flurry came through the sky looked bluer behind, so I decided to leave as did the cyclists.

After leaving Durness I soon reached Smoo, with its famous cave and I decided I had to descend down to see it, even if it meant an ascent back up after. It is an impressive cave, made a bit tacky by the crappy signs, but the waterfall chamber which was almost completely dark in places was really beautiful. I was glad I had descended down and after walking back up the steep steps I was back on my way.

The sky was blue and today's route is mostly road whereas tomorrow is mostly off piste so I was debating a small extension, maybe about 3 miles, so looked at my map and then saw Freisgill about 3 to 4 miles beyond Hope Bridge and the bloomin word would not stop going around and around in my head ‘Freisgill, Freisgill, Freisgill …..’ and I knew at sometime my mind would recollect something about it. Then after a few minutes it came to me, during planning back in November sometime, when I had been assessing the off piste section to Whiten Head I had stumbled across someone who had walked it (but with no real description of route) but had said they had lunch in Freisgill Bothy. At the time I had thought that could be useful but could find no proper evidence of Freisgill Bothy and whether it was open/useable so had decided to ignore it and assume it didn’t exist as a Bothy. But as it was about the right distance I decided to aim for there and if it was a bothy which I suspected not great but if not, I could pitch my tent behind the ruin or whatever was there.

I passed a bizarelly located zipline across a bay here, the first tacky and pointless tourist attraction I have see in a while before the road started to turn southwest and down Loch Eriboll, which I believe is the deepest loch in all of Scotland. It is also the location where the U-boats surrendered in May 1945 with over 30 U boats finally entering the Loch. In Laid there was a basic, old school tea room run by a lovely elderly gentlemen and I stopped for a wee (as in short not urinating) break.

From here I continued down the road and around the loch head before starting to come back up the other side. This loch is one of the most beautiful I have passed in a while and the weather was playing ball with sunny spells and spectacular clouds. I passed Ard Neakie, which is prevented from being an island by a tombolo (Ed Byers can explain what this is in comment section below) of sand and shingle. It has a house that appears derelict but would make a stunning home or even B&B or bunkhouse and 4 large brick lime kilns that I am sure could also be converted into accommodation. My left calve had begun to get very, very tight today and so tight by this point it was now starting to cause some discomfort in my shin as well. I was having to constantly stretch it to keep it going and will be something I have to take care of over the coming days.

Finally the road headed inland slightly to Hope Bridge where it crossed the River Hope. This was where I had proposed to finish and pitch but as stated earlier I was going to continue on a few miles to Freisgill. I left the main road straight after the bridge and started following a gravel track for a kilometer or so before a short stretch of path took me to Inverhope by the looks of it part of an old croft and the building is not in a bad state but is boarded and padlocked up.

From here it was off piste following the steep slopes and cliffs for the next 3 miles or so. Fortunately there was not too much bracken, and I joined a sheep track almost immediately that carried on for over a mile. Some of the sections were at a very steep angle and others the sheep track was right on the edge of a cliff. After crossing the river Allt an t-Strathain I joined another sheep trail, this time with sheep on it but the weather started to take a bit of turn for the worse with the wind increasing and it beginning to rain moderately hard in small spurts. I picked up my pace as I was less than a kilometer from Freisgill and as I came over the hill there was definitely a well kept building that looked like a bothy but it had sheep fencing in front of it so may be private and locked so I had to wait a bit longer.

I reached the door and it had no lock and I went in and it was indeed a bothy, hooray as the rain literally became super heavy and constant just after I got in the door. It is not a mountain bothy association bothy but in fact maintained by Hope and Melness Farm and volunteers and I am extremely grateful to them as with my calve/shin it would be perfect to allow me to stretch it tonight. Naughtily due to my shin I did not collect any extra wood but there were some old fence posts left in the wood store and I sawed some of them up to have a little fire. I don’t think anyone else will turn up here tonight so going to sleep in the room with the fire as it has got cold overnight here over the last few nights. As I had half expected I picked up signal not long before reaching the bothy as once I got far enough along the headland towards Whiten Head I could actually see Durness where the mast is, so have been able to get this diary out on time.

A good and scenic day, apart from the calve/shin issue but after some stretching hopefully it will have eased of by tomorrow.

charles compton