Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Coastal Road.Knoydart.Part Two.

I only go up hills if I,m going to find them enjoyable.My feet were still a wee bit tender from an epic a week before when I,d done a long wild walk  near Glasgow on top of blisters and received more blisters.Although they were healing nicely this plus the intense heat and lack of wind in Knoydart on the first two days and the fact I,m not a determined bagger of Corbetts preferring to do a  variety of things outdoors at heights and low levels meant I was not super keen to go up Alex,s hill of choice.
When he said he was quite happy going up it himself as he could set his own pace that let me off the hook to do something I,d always fancied and was more keen on.
There is a tarmac single track road on Knoydart that leaves the village and hugs the coastline and several little bays,passing a scattered collection of ruins,holiday homes and remote crofts before fading out into a rough track then eventually a path to the very last house at Croulin and it was this I wanted to explore by bike.Neither of us had ever been to Inverie before or explored this road  as we,d bagged all the Munro,s in the area separately with other people from Barrisdale and the East.It would also rest my feet and I was hoping for some much needed wind near the coast.(The hill would have been no problem feet wise though if I,d been motivated enough.)
This is the view looking back towards the village from one of the many rollercoaster hills on the road.It was beautiful smooth tarmac but it was so hot the tar was actually starting to melt and form little sweat bubbles on the surface and you could press your fingers into the road and leave an impression.Not often that we got back home we found out a new temperature record that been set for the month of May in Scotland. 29.3 degrees.  Poor Polar bears in the Highland wildlife Park.
It was more up and down than I,d hoped for and hard work in the heat but at least on the downhills a self created breeze gave me some relief.That and sticking my head into the few streams still running.Views over to Skye started to open up and the Cuillin ridge made a splendid backdrop against the road.The number of cars, land rovers and walkers along this road surprised me as I naively thought I,d have it all to myself but I suppose It was perfect weather and almost a hundred people were in the village area itself not counting locals who numbered around 80 in total I,d guess.That,s far more than most remote areas I,ve visited in Scotland and the truth was starting to dawn on me that maybe people wise Knoydart was not going to be as quiet and empty as I,d imagined.
Bla Bheinn From The Road Highpoint near Doune.Although hazy I was able to zoom in and capture this image of one of the finest single mountains in Scotland.
The Cuillin Ridge Itself with  Pinnacle ridge on Sgurr nan Gillean (peak of the young men)showing its serrated profile and the Basteir Tooth sticking out just visible in the middle.I abseiled off one of these mighty overhangs once on Pinnacle ridge into thick mist and had no idea how far the ground was below me.Luckily the rope was just long enough.Also stupidly smashed my ribs up climbing near Am Basteir by falling into a rock wall  while slipping down a chimney and Alex ended up  lying on a board for a spell when we drove ourselves back to Glasgow.Soon healed though. Happy days when we were young and bones had more rubber in them than now.Brings back memories.
There are loads of little bays to visit during this section but you have to go off the tarmac road to visit them and all are downhill then back up again.I explored the first two but here again each had a holiday home tucked away and they didn,t really have the wild empty feel I would have expected. More like an intrusion into someone else,s private kingdom.Other folk seemed to find nothing amiss though so maybe that,s just me or the heat or my expectations of the place were too high.For views and Scenery and a great cycle ride I,d give this tarmac stretch a 7 out of ten.I turned back at Airor which had a nice little bay and a huge ex navy landing craft sitting in it and returned the way I,d come.I too had a cunning plan up my sleeve.

The next morning I accompanied Alex on the bikes over the scorching hot and barren Mam Uidhe track.He was heading for his second Corbett in the area,Beinn Na Caillich, another long hill day while I was intent on cycling the track then path round to Croulin,that fabled spot I,d dreamed of visiting for so long.See....I have motivation.... just towards my own objectives.
Alex,s first view of his hill.Its not as close as it looks from here.Tee hee!
Alex struggling with the heat and incline climbing the Mam Uidhe.

Meanwhile I,d split off and discovered this beautiful pool where I sat in the shade for over an hour and played with the tiny fish,taping my finger on the water surface in imitation of a downed fly  to get them over to where I was sitting.I also prodded my motivational angel to see if he was still alive. He was just alseep,knacked from stuggling to break free of his bonds.
You can see why in warm countries like the Arab states they have taken water gardens to an advanced level of culture and art.In this heat the sheer joy of deep pools and sound of water refreshed me without getting in, just to be near it was a joy.It just reinforced my determination though never to get sucked into lists of things to complete again.I,d rather have a choice of what to do.Cant be arsed angel nodded his little horned head in agreement and lay beside me on the grass.I wondered if Alex was feeling this happy :)
After a spot of second breakfast (Cinnamon spiced sponge slices and  large sticky dates.How appropriate is that! ) I set off  for Inverguseran and the sea.
I don't know what I was expecting here.A spectacular hidden paradise perhaps? It was OK.A perfectly pleasant place to live but if you remove the views over to Skye the coastline here was nothing special though there was a nice raised beach but it had none of the wow factor I,m used to on my travels.No dramatic rock sculptures or photographic highlights.I was slightly disappointed to be honest.3 out of ten scenery wise given the effort involved to reach here.
I was even more disappointed when rolling my bike across the grass near Croulin I discovered I had a puncture in my back wheel.Its always the back wheel!!
On pulling out my repair kit I discovered I had all the gear for a repair except a proper lock spanner for the nuts which were on so tight I couldn,t free them with the pliers on my leatherman knife which usually does the trick.I wasn,t that bothered to be honest.Even here 15 kilometres from the village it didn't feel that remote.More like an episode of Location Location with holiday homes or farms every few kilometres apart.I was walking most of it anyway by this point.Instead of taking that heat soaked bumpy bugger of a road over the hill,which had probably caused the puncture in the first place I opted for the coast road instead.That way I might get a sea breeze and bag the entire lenght of the track.
Around 16 sweaty kilometres later and a good few head duckings in the sea and streams I reached the tent where a very kind fellow camper lent me a decent lock spanner (thank you) to take off and change the inner tube.It was now about 5.00pm. Alex was just back from the hill and said I,d made the right choice as the hill was grim in the heat with little wind even on the heights.We consoled ourselves with a cold can of coke for me and fanta for him which I,d bought in the village in passing.Incidentally,a standard tin of this varied in price from £1 pound in the post office shop to £1.50 in the pub.In all I spent £12 just on cans over 3 days as there was no big 2 litre bottles here.I also drank gallons of water of course from the tap and streams.If you are coming here in a heatwave though might be an idea to bring any Juice with you if you can carry it.


Carol said...

Hmmmm - it doesn't sound much of a wilderness! I'd have been disappointed if I'd left my bike to descend to those secluded-looking bays and been met with holiday homes and the like too!

Interesting to see that coast road though. That pool you found looked gorgeous.

blueskyscotland said...

We found out Later it was 85 degrees going over that pass.Far Too warm with nil breeze.Maybe that affected my mood.