A Scottish coast to coast – Evanton to Ullapool pt1

by backpackingbongos

Or 120,000 steps across Scotland…………………………..

The only problem with backpacking in Scotland is the large distances involved with getting there from Nottingham.  We did consider the train but without booking well in advance it was prohibitively expensive, we would also have to stick to set days and times.  We decided to drive up in the campervan and make more of a holiday out of the travelling, splitting the journey into two days.  This meant that our backpacking sacks would only be full of the stuff we needed for the walk and spare clothes etc for the journey could be left in the van.

We left on my birthday and stopped for the night in Thornhill, a village just outside of Stirling.  The following afternoon we arrived at the Blackrock campsite in Evanton where I was able to safely leave the van for the week.

From Evanton to the coast and back – 3.5 miles

That evening we had a quick stroll down to the coast to dip our feet into some salty water to start the walk proper, unencumbered by heavy rucksacks.  A lane leads out of the village and over the A9 where it eventually turned into a path heading for Kiltearn church.  We spent a short time looking around the ruin before heading for the trig at Balconie point.  We got our boots wet and collected some pebbles off the beach to take to the other side of Scotland.  We found another path that led back to the campsite where we sorted our gear and did some final idiot checks (there were two!).

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Map of the route (click to enlarge)

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Day 1 (April 19th) – 11.2 miles with 600m ascent

We woke up early to find that there had been a frost during the night.  The morning soon warmed as we packed up and started the walk towards the Black Rock gorge.  It was a stunning start to the backpack with not a single cloud in the sky, in fact within 10 minutes clothing had to be taken off or readjusted due to the warmth of the sun.  A lovely forest track soon descends towards the river where we could hear a low roaring that sounded like passing traffic.  A bridge took us right over the gorge.

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The gorge is 120ft at its deepest point and is so narrow that the walls almost touch in some places.  You would not want to fall in!  I had wanted to follow the river to where it exits from the loch higher up the valley but we could not find a suitable path.  We therefore climbed up to the minor road and followed it to its end at Eileanach lodge.  This turned out to be no hardship as the views along it were excellent giving us an idea of the scenery to come.

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When we reached the road end for me the walk really started, we were not to touch any more tarmac for over 50 miles.  A short stretch of forestry track soon led us to the south end of Loch Glass.

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For two city boys the scale of the landscape seemed vast and our rucksacks were really really heavy!  We had crammed six days of food and fuel into them and the weight began to take its toll as we walked alongside the loch.  We were soon scouting for a beach to rest and start eating that food.  As with every loch we came to we just had to skim some stones across its surface……………

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Shortly after lunch we were to pass the last people we would see out walking until day 6 when we were just about to approach Ullapool.  The Hills ahead were definitely empty.  After some more marching along the track Wyvis lodge suddenly appeared in all its excessive glory.

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We had a quick scout around and noticed that it even boasted an outside swimming pool over looking the loch.  I have just googled the place and it costs a whopping £4250 per week to stay there!  With the sound of a generator humming in the background we knew someone was home so we continued up the glen to look for somewhere to pitch the tents.  A short distance away and shielded by a small tree covered hill we found an ideal grassy patch.  I did my usual tick test that involved shuffling around on my hands and knees to see if anything attaches itself to me.  Nothing did so we soon had the tents up and the stoves on for a brew.

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It was a little later when I realised that I had not been too thorough when doing my tick test.  The whole area was infested with the little buggers, it was just where I had pitched my tent that seemed to be clear.  A short walk to get water or go to the loo would result in our trousers being covered in them and we had to constantly make sure we were brushing them off.  I really don’t know how some backpackers are happy using a tarp when in the Highlands.  At least in a tent you can seal them out.  When I examined myself later in my tent only one had managed to get its head stuck into my leg – I showed it no mercy!

On the upside there was not one midge to be seen and there was not even a breeze.  To wild camp in the highlands and not be plagued by them is exceptional.  Hopefully it is still too early for them and we won’t see any for the rest of the trip.

Later that evening an estate worker bounced past in his 4×4 and we were worried we would be told off for camping close to the lodge.  We waved and got a friendly wave back so all was well.  Permission to camp received!

We were very contented with life as we retired to our tents that evening after a great first day.

Map of the route (click to enlarge)

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8 Responses to “A Scottish coast to coast – Evanton to Ullapool pt1”

  1. OK I have taken my seat and got out the maps. Looks good so far 🙂

  2. Oh, you’re practically walking through my back garden. I live about 30km away from Evanton as the SSW crow flies. I’ve mountain biked through some of Kildermorie Forest, Strath Vaich, Glen More and Glen Calvie (before Paul Lister built his wolf-retaining fences). I’m looking forward to following the rest of your walk.

  3. Sheila I am very jealous that you live in that part of the world. To have all of that landscape on your doorstep. Maybe I will one day be able to persuade my partner to leave the city behind and move to the highlands……..

    Martin hope that your seat is comfy as there will be plenty more ramblings!

  4. Enjoying the post. Looking forewards to more.

    “I really don’t know how some backpackers are happy using a tarp when in the Highlands.”

    I agree. When I read the details of your trip I would say a tarp is not ideal. You’re out too long and staying too low. They do have a place though. I would and have used a tarp for high level bivvys in the highlands. Get high enough and you won’t have a problem with creepy crawlies. Other people seem to draw a different line.

  5. Dave – maybe higher up I would be willing to give it a go. In fact going to bite the bullet in a month or so and just bivvy out on a mountain top (if the weather is nice!).

  6. Can’t beat it….when the weather is nice! Hope we see a report here.

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