Cape Wrath Trail

Day 7: Ullapool - Schoolhouse Bothy (Duag Bridge)

Following yesterday’s mammoth efforts I was now only 1 day behind the fast schedule I’d set myself originally, but today was going to have to be a short one. I’d only brought 1 set of spare clothing as well as waterproofs (which turned out to be a waste of weight!), and both sets were stinking. Stinking so badly in fact, that I could even smell myself when walking, I’d been sweating profusely for 6 days and really needed to do some washing.

I took the opportunity to lie in my sleeping bag a little longer this morning. After a shower I went on the hunt for, and found a laundry room on the campsite and then managed to get the correct change from the campsite fee collector. An hour later I was I was ready in fresh smelling clothes; the simple things often bring the greatest pleasure on treks like this!

I stopped at Tesco on the way out of Ullapool and took the opportunity to laden my shoulders with some more weight in the form of Lucozade, Mars Bars, and a treacle sponge! I was definitely back to myself and the pessimism of the earlier days well behind me. I still wasn’t entirely sure could complete the trek in the given time, but I was certainly going to try.

I left Ullapool just before midday. I had originally set myself the target of Knockdamph bothy, an 11 mile walk and see what the time was and how weary the legs were by then.

After leaving Ullapool I followed Ullapool River toward Loch Achall. The walk isn’t great to be honest with the need to go through a quarry and then following and estate road for the best part 6-7 miles. I’m sure this is a lovely Sunday stroll for many local families, but in comparison to terrain and country I had been walking, this was rather timid and plain. Iain Harper, who runs the excellent blog on walking this way in winter is currently rewriting the North to the Cape book, and I know he is looking for a new route from Ullapool. I think the trail needs it, this section felt no more than a means of connecting Ullapool with Oykel Bridge.

[Walk toward Loch Achall]

I kept a good pace over the rather easy walk toward Knockdamph bothy, stopping only briefly to listen to a grunting noise coming from a little hillock by the roadside. A pig soon ran over, came and sniffed me and then headed off down the road. A very surreal moment.

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[Knockdamph bothy]

I got to Knochdamph at about 3.30 and had a good look around and took advantage of the shade to eat some food and have a coffee. I was tired enough to stop at this point, and the large bothy with 2 large rooms downstairs and a bedroom with 2 beds upstairs is certainly inviting enough, but the thought of sitting bored all night made me push on a little.

[Teahouse bothy]

After a further 4 miles of fairly flat ground on good track I made it to Duag Bridge where I came across the School House Bothy. I hadn’t factored in this as a stop and so it came as a pleasant surprise and ideal opportunity to save the tent for the night. The bothy doesn’t exactly have the grand feel of Knockdamph. It has two rooms, one with table and chairs, and the other with a raised platform and side table. It was on said platform I laid out my sleeping bag and on the desk I laid out my maps. After stuffing my face with the luxuries purchased earlier at Tesco I enjoyed a seat to workout the remaining days and their lengths until Cape Wrath. It wasn’t great and I’d worked out that to finish on time I was going to have to still walk almost 100 mile in 4 days (including the trek back to Kinlochbervie). In complete contrast to the first few days I was now utterly focussed on completing the walk and so scrolled down the targets for the next few days. Tomorrow I would have to walk 23 mile to Inchnadamph, from there another 20 miles to Achfarry, the following day would see a 24 miler to Sandwood Bay, and the final day (all being well!) I would go to Cape Wrath and back to Kinlochbervie, another 24 mile or so. It was clear I still had my work cut out.

I fell asleep quickly that night, but not before placing the bothy spade against the bedroom door just in case someone came in through the night. Paranoia can set in quite easily on long dark nights in the middle of nowhere! And it was the sound of the spade hitting the wooden floor that awoke me not long before midnight. Shocked and slightly dazed I jumped up quite quickly. Fortunately, it wasn’t a werewolf or any other similar type fiend on this occasion, just a couple who’d left work in Perth earlier that evening to come for a weekend of Munro bagging.