Cape Wrath Trail

Day 10: Achfary - Sandwood Bay

The intent for today was to get Sandwood Bay. I was so excited about this, of all the beautiful places you visit on this trek, Sandwood Bay was the big one for me. I’d seen so many photos and read many accounts of the place and always wanted to see it for myself.

I awoke early with excitement for the day ahead and was fed, watered, packed up and walking by 7am. I went off with some vigour and intent (not least to escape the hordes of midges!) and wasn’t until I’d walked a mile or so down the road that I realised I should have taken the track straight past the front door of the home I had visited the previous evening. Intent on my end destination I decide to just continue along the road to Stack Lodge and continue from there. The detour was no hardship though, with the road making way as it bends around the contours of Loch Stach.

_ _
[Loch Stach]

It took less than hour to get to Stach Lodge where I picked up the trail again. The going fro the next 3 – 4 mile is just as easy on a good track, and although it was certainly evident that the landscape wasn’t as mountainous as much that that had gone before, it certainly didn’t lose any of the wild and remote feeling. The weather was a little cooler this morning than on previous days and as a result the midges were everywhere and although I was wanting to stop for a brew, every attempt was thwarted, and so as a result I made really good progress that morning.

I left the good track when I found the Alltan Riabhach, a small stone cairn marks the way. From here its bog almost all the way to Rhiconich, some 7 miles further. There’s no trail to speak of, but plenty of signs of this section being walked before, I came across several sets of footprints ground into the mud. This is a section where it’s best to find your own way, as you negotiate through the heather, bog, and constant up, downs, and rocks by the loch side. The midges had now been joined by the clegs too, so I still hadn’t had a stop that morning.

[Toward Richonich]

The walk past the two lochs can be as tough as it is annoying. The crossing of the Garbh Allt between the two wasn’t easy either; the water here is quite fast flowing and there’s a fair stretch to cross too. This was also after some excellent weather, so I think this river could cause quite a few problems at any other time.

[Too early for lunch!]

Following a hard slog I made Rhiconich at 11.20. I had hoped to stop here for a wholesome lunch before the long road walk to start the trail for Sandwood. The place was locked up though and a sign outside read ‘Lunches from 12.30’. With waiting for an hour not an option I decided to just keep marching and take a longer stop at Kinlochbervie where I new there was a good shop.

I walked over the road from Rhiconich where there are two buildings: one is a police house, and the other? Well, lets just say it brought a tear of joy to my eye; a public toilet! Anyone reading this passing by that direction should wait until at least mid-Octobr before venturing into the Gents!


Following the unexpected yet pleasurable short stop It’s about a 4 mile walk to Kinlochbervie along the road. I’d decided already that from this point I’d try to hitch as many of the road miles as possible. I wasn’t hopeful though following my failed attempt on the 5 miles to Kylesku. I was more fortunate this time though and got a lift after walking just short of a mile.

The couple that picked me up were lived in Kinlochbervie, they’d retired there a few years earlier from the midlands. Before that though, he’d lived in the north east, in the same town as most of my family. It’s a small world!

The couple were great and really helped me out that day. I’d explained I was hoping to get the Post Bus out the next morning and so we stopped at the Post Office to get a timetable. He also pointed out another bus though, a privately run company who would be leaving the Harbour tomorrow afternoon at 4pm. After that he drove me down to the harbour and showed me an area where I could pay £1 for a shower and wash my clothes in the launderette should I wish. He then took me up to the Spar shop and gave me directions back to the main road. I felt really touched by their help that morning,  not only had they been kind enough to help my feet out, but I also got a tour of the local facilities and had all my questions about public transport answered. As I wrote on an earlier entry, the kindness in these parts never ceases to amaze me.

After filling my bag with the usual pastries, Lucozade and Mars Bars, and my belly with a chicken sanwhich, I set back off on the road. This time for 4 miles to Blairmore. Again, I tried to hitch this section, and my luck was in again after 15 minutes or so of walking. The van that picked me up actually drove several hundred feet past me on the single track road. I assume the milk of human kindness then must have flowed through the heart of the driver as I saw the break, and then the reverse lights come on. It was a family from Wales who were also on their way to Sandwood Bay, and so I got a lift all the way to car park at the start of the trail.

[10 mile to go!]

The two lifts had saved me at least 2 hours and probably closer 3, so I was making great time. It wasn’t long after 1.30pm before I was on the trail and only 4 miles until my stop. The excitement that I’d first felt this morning at the thought of my end destination was now back in full force and I walked the 4 mile to Sandwood in just over an hour. The track to the Bay is a good one, I didn’t particularly enjoy it though, far too intent on ‘getting there’.

When I did get there, it didn’t disappoint. Just as I’d imagined it, there were bright yellow sands and glorious blue water. The surrounding cliffs and the stack of Am Buachaille add a finishing touch to what must be one of the most beautiful places in the UK.  The wonderful setting deserved an excellent pitch to take it all in, and so I set about finding the perfect spot. It took some searching but I eventually settled on the cliffs at the north end of the bay (NC226656). I quickly pitched and with boots off I walked down to the sea and played like a child in the surf and sand. Great memories!

_ _
[Sandwood Bay]

I had a relaxing and thankfully slow evening, the midges weren’t present here. Perhaps they’d allowed me a night off given the sense of occasion I’d felt here!

[Sandwood Bay]

Thoughts quickly turned to the next day though, and how I was to get to Inverness to catch my train. The Post Bus option gave me more time, but it also involved waiting hours for a train in Lairg. It also meant an extra night and day too. The preferable option was to get the tourist bus (or bike bus as it is known locally) the next afternoon. This would take me directly to Inverness and I’d be able to catch the first of two possible trains home the next morning. To do this though it would mean walking about 23 mile before 3pm the next day, as I’d been told that the bus often leaves early and so I wasn’t going to take any chances.

I decided that I’d try to do it, and worked out that if I got started at first light I could possibly make it. I set the alarm for 4am with the intent of walking from 5am. Tomorrow was going to be a big day! I couldn’t quite believe that given my problems and such short days early on in the trek I was still going to complete the trail AND be home on the first train! I felt a huge sense of achievement that night, and with such thrilling surroundings it was a fantastic last evening in the highlands.