view over Reykjavik in winter
view over Reykjavik in winter
  • Capes of Wrath
    • 10/10/2013
Leaving the hostel at Kinlochewe I felt revitalized, and the 600m climb out of the blocks flew by.
Reaching the beleach (pass) was another one of those jaw dropping "wow" moments, at the sudden revelation of a landscape of high ridges, steep valleys and ridiculous waterfalls.
Once again, the photos probably won't do it justice, but it was one of those places where I stood taking hundreds of pictures of the same view just because it deserved it.
Stopped for a cheese sandwich within sight of three different types of equally beautiful waterfall, which would have all been surrounded by tourists if this place was even remotely accessible!
Then onwards on a boggy non path to the head of the loch. Finally a climb over the headland for the downside of the day, a three mile descent splashing along stream beds!
Then a windy night in the bothy at Glendhu.

Next day started on a good 4x4 track and I took the wimpy route alternatives for the rest of the day to give my feet a break from sogginess.
This choice was rewarded by a close sight of two eagles soaring above the valley and landing in s nearby tree.
Ended the day camping by the pub at Riconich.

Day End-1
Rainy start on the roads towards Kinlochbervie, stopping at the famous London Stores, which sells everything but its piled up to the rafters and hanging from the ceiling!
Treated myself to a pub burger lunch and then phoned the M.O.D again, to discover that their bombardment of Cape Wrath had been delayed until Wednesday 7am, so I had 36 hours remaining to get up there and get out again.
I should explain that Cape Wrath and its lighthouse are rendered a virtual island by the firing range and lack of road access, tourists usually visit by taking a ferry across Kyle of Durness and then a minibus up a 12 mile 4x4 track.
But that was not my way in.
First I had to march off through worsening rain and fog to Sandwood Bay, a beautiful mile long beach of golden sand with dramatic cliffs and stacks, backed by dunes and a great big loch.
Again, if this was in Cornwall it would be a tourist honeypot disaster, but being so isolated it is serene and majestic.
It even stopped raining whilst I was there, although my joy was soon cut short when I reached the stream flowing out from the loch to the sea, described in my guidebook as "no problem" but due to the recent rain, now a 20m wide, shin deep torrent at the best, and a dangerous looking rapids in other places.
I manned up and waded out at the shallowest part using both walking poles to help balance.
The flow wasn't as strong as I'd feared, but the bottom was all slippy rounded stones, and it was 20m wide!
Anyway, safely across and then two miles of trackless wet more to the bothy at Strathellighhhxh.
This bothy was inhabited by a recluse nicknamed "Sandy" who made the 20+ mile round trip across the moors once a week to collect his pension and buy supplies.
He painted the inside of the bothy with various landscapes and people, and his existence been romanticised in several publications as the last person in Britain living without electricity and plumbing etc.
However the bloke I spoke to in town described him as a pest who was always drunk on his home distilled alcohol and didn't appreciate the help people gave him.
And the fire place was closed off due to a damaged chimney, gutted - still, drier than outside!

Day 15
Still, no point drying out socks as the final day would start with wading through the stream outside the bothy; fortunately the water level having dropped slightly overnight.
Whilst soaking boots and socks don't sound like an advantage, once you know you can't get any wetter you stop worrying about taking detours around puddles and burns, which considering I had 7 miles of open moorland to cross, meant I got on at a good pace.
It was misty, and I resorted to following the plot on my gps rather than compass bearings, which felt like a bit of a cheat but whatever, I had a deadline.
I arrived at the lighthouse at about noon, and as advertised, the "Ozone" cafe was open - (its open 24/7 365), and the bloke popped out and gave me a hot chocolate.
Feels a bit bizarre to turn up at the most remote corner of the country and have someone waiting there with hot drinks, but very grateful for it!
As I left the cafe I saw to my horror that the red flags were now flying on the range!
Was I trapped? would I be shelled or shot at? No, they were just being put up in readiness for the next day, quite a task actually to drive round all the flagpoles in one is those 8 wheel off-road Argo buggies that all the estates up here use.
So I bossed it down the good track out of the firing range to the ferry landing - obviously no ferries running so another 5 miles over wet boggy moorland giving some symmetry to the day.
A windy chilly night to camp as well, waking up to hailstones bouncing in under the flysheet!
But a massive sense of achievement and satisfaction of having completed the UK's toughest trail, and capturing some of the spirit which I feel the Pennine Way has lost since its paving!
Now to raise some energy again for the final week of mainly road walking across the north coast to JoG..


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