Day 187: Kingairloch to Leacraithnaich Bothy
Distance: 11.68 miles
Ascent: 1993 feet
Weather: Sunny Spells
Accommodation: Leacraithnaich Bothy
I was slightly worried that Dad would be completely exhausted after the drive yesterday, but he seemed alright in the morning and that was good as today was probably going to be on his limit for walking. Susan cooked us a lovely breakfast and we were then on our way, with a fair amount of cloud cover and a cool breeze making for perfect walking conditions.
We set of down the south side of Loch a Choire following a path that was shown on my map with a grey dashed line, I have found paths marked like this are often historical and can be in various states of disrepair and occasionally covered in vegetation. The first part out to the point where we turned 90 degrees and onto Loch Linnhe was fairly easy, and in fact the track though overgrown continued simply for another kilometer. At this point the track on the map goes uphill and above the lowcliffs, but it was not clear where the track was, so we stuck to the low ground following a mixture of deer trails and rock scrabbles until we reached a long pebble beach. This section was not easy but also not too hard and we both managed it without too much trouble.
Behind this pebble beach is the ruin of Airigh Shamraidh, which yesterday evening I had heard was the ancestral home of the Macleans from 2 Australians staying in the B&B who were ancestors, I took a photo of the ruins for them and carried on.
We had one more headland to get around before reaching the quarry and fortunately we picked up the historical track again which got us to the edge of quarry very easily. And this quarry (Glensanda) is not just any quarry, it is massive and so remote and in fact still the largest granite quarry in Europe. The actual quarry is about 1.5 miles up into the hills and all the granite comes down a massive chute know as the ‘Glory Hole’. There is no road in or out of the quarry and all people and stone have to be transported by boat. I had been told we could walk through in advance but was unsure if the people on site would know this. But of we went passed some massive buildings housing the machinery to break the granite down ready for distribution and then a tractor passed us who radioed through and an escort vehicle turned up to have a quick chat. The guy was very happy for us to walk through and even offered us a lift which I had to decline and my dad being cheeky as always managed to find out there was a canteen and get offered tea and biscuits. So we walked the mile or so to the accommodation block near Glensanda River and had our break in the canteen. We had some tea and chocolate and filled up our water bottles as well as getting a bit of milk for our tea in the morning. If honest this was very fortunate as I knew Dad was getting tired and this break would make a big difference, so I am very grateful to Glensanda Quarry.
After the break we headed up a gravel track up the side of the Glensanda River before I was hoping to join another OS marked grey path. The path did exist and was discernible from the surrounding landscape (though clearly not walked by humans much at all) and we followed it for about 2 kilometres up the hill until I was hoping there would be a fork in the path. There was barely a fork but just enough of a track evident to give me confidence. This path was much more discreet and we actually lost it a couple of times but found our way up to Caol Lochan easy enough, a freshwater loch at the highest point of our path.
This had been quite a long day for my dad (in fact anyone) with not always easy terrain and I could tell the effort had just hit him as up to this point he had been walking quite quickly but suddenly his pace dropped significantly. I just had to get him through the last two miles which were downhill though the ground had become quite uneven by this point. Fortunately, we could now see Loch Tearnait and also the bothy (Leacraithnaich) we would be staying in and after some more effort we made it. My Dad said that today had been his absolute limit, which I had always thought it might be.
We were the only people in the bothy which was in a stunning location above the Loch. The lounge part of the bothy was nice with a good table and benches and a fireplace, but the bed part seemed a bit silly with effort having been made to make a platform but only 2 inches of the ground to sleep on. This is not a dig at the MBA (mountain bothy association) as it is amazing what they do to maintain these bothies and I know they are by design basic but surely either a raised platform at a normal height or even bunk style platform could have been better and would have cost no (or little) more.
There was not much option for wood around here to make a fire (previous users would have used anything near the bothy) but we headed down to the loch not with much confidence and by shear fluke I climbed over a granite embankment and stumbled across a large dry tree stump by the edge of the loch, this would have enough wood for the whole night we would just have to cut it up with the saw in the bothy which we did. With a good fire going and having cooked pasta we were all settled in. Unfortunately, I only had one inflatable mattress which I gave my Dad though he didn’t like it, but we would both be just about comfy enough for the nights sleeping. In fact, Dad decided to sleep on the table right by the fire.
Today was one of those days during planning I had both been very anxious and very excited about. In fact, though tough there were paths or ways through for the whole day and the scenery was simply stunning. It was actually one of my favourite days of the walk so far and once my dad has recovered from the effort I am sure he will look back on it with fondness.