Day 5 (23rd April) – 7 miles with 240m ascent
When I awoke this morning and went outside the bothy, I spotted Richard paddling across the far end of the loch mug in hand. I am not a morning person so I went back inside to make a coffee, then sat outside the bothy to take in the scenery. Todays walk was very easy so there was no rush this morning and we pottered around the bothy for a few hours before setting off just before midday. Today would be slackpacking rather than backpacking!
We followed the track alongside the Corriemulzie river with great views back towards the mountains with Creag an Duine dominating the surrounding peaks.
The track was very easy going and we made fast progress, crossing the ford without any difficulty. We then took a shortcut up the hill side across rough ground to pick up a higher parallel track that eventually leads to Glen Douchary. A narrow path branches off of this and heads towards Ullapool with the only sign post we had seen in the hills on the whole trip. It was good to see that our final destination was in sight.
A narrow but well defined path made a change to the landrover tracks that you now find in the mountains. Fast progress without spoiling the wild landscape we love so much. Landrover tracks seem to be eating into the wilderness these days making the wild places ever more accessible.
Just before dropping down into the next valley I turned around to take in a last close up view of the high peaks. From now on the mountains would be behind us, although the lower hills would be just as wild.
The narrow path disappearing in places stuck high above the Allt nan Caorach, a hidden scenic gem amongst the barren hills.
There was a great looking wild camping spot at the head of the valley but we had only been walking for a couple of hours. There is then a very long narrow lochan along most of its length which I imagine does not get much sunlight. Before dropping down to the shores of Loch an Daimh we had a good glimpse of Glen Achall which would be our final route to the coast tomorrow.
There was a grassy spot at the end of the loch and we sat for a while to eat some food and see who could skim stones the furthest across its surface.
There is a vague path that follows the shore of the loch for half of its length which eventually joins up with the main track from Glen Achall. Whilst walking alongside the loch a jet plane flew silently up the loch towards us seemingly only a few feet above the water. It was only when it passed overhead that the roar from its engines hit us, instinctively making us duck. Our ears were ringing for a while afterwards. We soon spotted the chimney of Knockdamph bothy in the distance and a short while later we rounded a corner and there is was.
It was only just gone 3.00pm and we had finished walking for the day. We had thought about spending the last night wild camping but the weather forecast (kindly supplied by text by my partner) was for rain tonight and the morning. I did not fancy a damp night so decided to stay in the bothy. Richard fancied camping so tried to put his tent up outside but the ground was too hard to get pegs in. A lazy afternoon and evening spent reading and strolling around the bothy, soaking up the atmosphere of its wild location. Most comments in the bothy book were from people walking the Cape Wrath trail from Fort William, something I would love to do one day. As with the other two bothies we had visited on this trip, Knockdamph was very clean and well cared for. Its sad these days that you have to really get away from roads for bothies to be properly respected by visitors. Not one of the 3 bothies we visited had even a scrap of rubbish and there was always dry fuel left for the next visitor. I have visited many bothies on my travels and it always surprises me that people would visit beautiful places, leave piles of rubbish and have a shit right next to the bothy (and reading some reports in bothy books actually inside it) without burying it. Anyway rant over!
Knockdamph has an upstairs bedroom with beds and mattresses which was quite bizarre, not that I fancied sleeping on a musty old mattress. For some reason it made that room feel a little spooky, what with its ancient newspapers lining the ceiling. We decided on the floor downstairs instead.
Map of route (click to enlarge)
Day 6 (24th April) – 12.2 miles with 300m ascent
We had just over 12 miles to walk today before catching a bus from Ullapool to Evanton at 4.30pm. Not knowing how long it would take we decided on a early start.
We emerged from the bothy just after 8.00am into a cloudy and drizzly world with clouds covering the hills, weather that had been thankfully absent during the last week. It was very mild and after only 30 minutes walking we had to stop and take off waterproof trousers as we were getting wetter through sweat than we would through the very fine rain. Within a short space of time our track was descending into Glen Achall where spring had definitely sprung.
The route ahead now was very easy and ground was covered quickly along a well surfaced track. It was such a contrast after the last few days to be walking through a green low level valley. The drizzle became patchier and the skies tried to brighten up.
We were soon reaching Rhidorroch house halfway along Loch Achall where we hit our first bit of tarmac for 5 days. We also passed our first hiker in 5 days but our greetings were totally ignored, welcome back to the real world! We consoled ourselves by a quick rest by the loch to skim a few more stones.
Unaccustomed to traffic we jumped out of our skins when a vehicle approached us from behind further down the road. The final couple of miles of the route were alongside the Ullapool river hidden in a wooded valley between low hills.
A large noisy quarry welcomed us to the outskirts of Ullapool and our rumbling stomachs pulled us across the A835 and along the coastal road into the village. We had managed to cover the 12 miles by 1.00pm which would hopefully mean a chippy would be open. It was and we satisfied our appetites before heading down to the beach near the pier to dip our toes into the sea.
Although it was a short route we were pleased to have made it across and to have been self sufficient for six days. I had left the pebble collected from the coast near Evanton in the van. Richard had carried his across and he left it on the beach, lets hope an east coast pebble left on the west coast does not upset the balance of nature!
After a few hours of kicking our heels in Ullapool we got on a bus and probably stunk it out, six days in the hills does have a downside! Just over 2 hours later we were back where we had started…………………………….
Map of the route (click to enlarge)