Wednesday 22 July 2015
Clachtoll to Achiltibue, Ross and Cromarty
Port a Bhaigh Campsite, Althandu
Apart from Lossiemouth, today was the first time since my very first morning in Scotland that I woke up to sunshine and some blue sky. What a joy it was. I was up at 6 am and away by 7, before anyone else was up. I decided to go back to Stoer Head and walk to the end as there should be great views.
I started walking at 7.30 and within 15 minutes my waterproof was on and it was raining. Gutted. I did get some views as the rain was on and off, but not as good as it might have been. The path was very boggy and required a lot of nimble footwork to avoid getting very wet feet. It didn’t take long to get to the Old Man of Stoer, and it looked magnificent, I reckon people must come to climb this stack.
On the way back the rain started getting heavier and so by the time I was back at the car I was soaked. (I have discovered my waterproof jacket no longer seems to be waterproof, which is a bit of a pain in this weather.) I could see blue sky further inland but the clouds were moving fast and heavy showers were to be the order of the day.
Heating on full blast I drove to Lochinver looking for coffee. The first thing I found was the Highland Stoneware Pottery Company. They have a workshop in Lochinver (and Ullapool) and it have decorated it with broken pottery that looks amazing.
I found the Lochinver Larder, which serves good coffee (my first one in weeks) and pies. They have a mail order pie business. I ordered a latte and a pear, chocolate and almond pie. It was very nice and I was sorely tempted to buy a savoury pie for later, except that I was intending to go to a nice restaurant for dinner. The rain showers kept coming so I had a cappuccino as well.
Totally wired on coffee I set off when the sun reappeared, along the coast overlooking Enard Bay on one side and several mountains and lochs on the other.
I took the Ullapool road and headed for Stac Pollaidh, a small mountain (612m) that had been recommended by Dave for its good views. Another nice drive to enjoy and this time I could see a lot more as the clouds were much higher. Crossing the River Kircaig took me out of Sutherland and back into Ross and Cromarty.
People who can’t reverse a vehicle should not drive these roads. I caught up with a small fuel tanker (a small one only just fitted on the road and around the bends) and got stuck in a traffic jam. All vehicles that we came across heading towards us had to reverse to suitable passing spaces as there was no way the tanker was reversing. Well we found a driver that couldn’t manage that! I think in the end someone else reversed the car. These roads are fun to drive.
The Stac Polly car park was full so I knew I wasn’t going to be alone. I enjoyed the steep walk up and the views were indeed stunning.
Instead I thought it would be more sensible to scramble/climb down a steep, watery gully. Thankfully I made it in one piece, although I’m not sure about the German couple who were following me! I’ve been checking the news for missing person reports all evening.
The weather is definitely not on my side. Five minutes before I reached the car the heavens opened and I got another soaking. Car heating on full again. The car temperature gauge reached a new high today: it actually went up to 14 degrees, not for long, but it did get up there.
I headed up and over the Rubha Mor and suddenly there were the Summer Isles spread out before me. Wow. The sunshine was coming and going so I had a pretty good view.
This is clearly a touristy area and there are plenty of places offering accommodation. I stopped at the campsite in Althandu, although I was slightly concerned by how exposed it looks considering the high winds forecast to accompany the rain tonight. Oh well, hopefully I’ll survive!
The site has good facilities, including a washing machine, so I took the opportunity to use it. The campsite owns the Fuaran Bar opposite, which did not serve good beer and was full. I drove down the road to Achiltibue for dinner at the Summer Isles Hotel, as recommended by Donna. The restaurants here are not cheap but the seafood is fresh and delicious. I did not go for the seafood platter as I’m not a fan of oysters and rollmops, but the mackerel pate and fish pie were delicious, as was the real ale.
Unlike at home where the decent pubs serve beer and lager is frowned upon, up here the locals drink Tenants lager and the barmaid told me they take the beer off tap in Winter as it’s only drunk by the tourists.