Home » Hiking » 2014 Scotland Trip » NW walk Day 8 (Tuesday) – Kearvaig to Durness (~25 km walked)

NW walk Day 8 (Tuesday) – Kearvaig to Durness (~25 km walked)

I had a really good sleep and it was lovely to be able to get up and walk around in the morning! Normally in the tent getting dressed and packing up was all done sitting down and there was never much hanging around once I was up and about outside the tent. There were even some deer on the hill outside my window!

The view out my window thismorning. There are deer on the hill, although you probably can't see them.

The view out my window thismorning. There are deer on the hill, although you probably can’t see them.

I had a very leisurely pack up, including a quick clean up and sweep out of my side of the bothy. Everyone else was still asleep (or at least in their beds) except for one of the kayakers, who I waved to as I headed across the hill towards the cliffs on the coast.

Looking back at the bothy and various tents.

Looking back at the bothy and various tents and kayaks.

These are the highest cliffs in mainland Britain. They are pretty awesome. There was one section that was incredibly smooth – like a huge slab had broken clean off!

Very smooth and sheer . . but no big piles of rocks at the bottom??

Very smooth and sheer . . but no big piles of rocks at the bottom??

Other bits were very jagged, or had cut deep back into the shoreline.

Impressive cliffs. (The highest ones are those really sheer vertical ones near the back I think)

Impressive cliffs. (The highest ones are those really sheer vertical ones near the back I think)

There were hundreds of birds (mainly gulls, but some fulmars and other things), often nesting in the cliffs.

Seabirds nesting on the cliffs (still haven't found my British Wildlife book so I'm not identifying them properly for you!)

Seabirds nesting on the cliffs (still haven’t found my British Wildlife book so I’m not identifying them properly for you!)

There is a wall along the edge of the cliff. I walked on the cliff side for most of it, but it got a bit narrow for me in some bits!

A very narrow gap to walk between the cliffs and the wall!

A very narrow gap to walk between the cliffs and the wall!

There were also sections were the wall looked like it used to continue straight across what was now a crevasse. Evidence that the cliffs are not too permanent!(They are mainly sandstone I think).

Did the wall used to go across this gap?

Did the wall used to go across this gap?

I also found a cigarette lighter right on the very edge of the cliff. It was a bit rusty, but still worked. Your guess is as good as mine as to why someone put it there.

The cigarette lighter I found.

The cigarette lighter I found.

The other great thing about the cliffs, beside the views and general excitement of being up high, was that it was not at all boggy near the edges!

Right next to the cliffs is firm ground. A couple of metres away is . . . bog!

Right next to the cliffs is firm ground. A couple of metres away is . . . bog!

I followed the cliffs around the coast until I got past the highest ones then cut back downwards towards the road. It was a bit boggy in patches. OK, more than a bit!! It was still not too bad because, as mentioned yesterday, everything had dried out a lot, but would’ve been almost impassable if it had been raining I think. It did rain a little thismorning, but just a very light shower.

I walked down the road to a small building, at “Inshore”. As I was approaching a guy walked out the door with a big gun! He saw me, said something about “tourist” then went back inside. A couple of other guys came out and we had a chat. I thought they were military, but found out later they were stalkers.

Inshore. See the guy at the door . . . with the gun!

Inshore. See the guy at the door . . . with the gun!

From Inshore I headed south to the biggest hill in the immediate area, Fashven. The easiest way up Fashven is to come up the ridge from the south-east. I was currently due north of it. The area around here was really boggy. Not all big black bog, but all wet and squelchy with lots of streams running through it. I was not interested in walking several kilometres through this stuff. I haven’t mentioned it much recently, but this stuff is still really hard walking. Not as hard as Glen Roy, but still much harder than walking across a field or through the bush back home. I was also a lot more comfortable with the Highlands terrain and had started looking at hills recently and thinking “oh, I’m pretty sure I could get up that bit too”. Fashven is a reasonably small hill so I decided it was a good opportunity to put my judgement to the test. So, I went due south and headed up the most direct, and really really steep, bit!

I was aiming for the scree section where the arrow is. Much steeper than it looks!!

I was aiming for the scree section where the arrow is. Much steeper than it looks!!

Oh so steep . . . . and oh so long! I had to stop and rest several times before I even got to the steep rocky bit. Going up the last bit, the scree got a little bit slippery so I decided to go up the rocky steeps to my right. Again, these were steeper than they looked. So steep in fact that I was practically climbing, with hand holds and toe holds up an almost vertical rock face with my pack dragging me backwards off the rock face! It also still had lots of bits of loose rock. I knocked a rock off part way up and I think it bounced down about 30m before it stopped! I decided that this was not a good idea, so made for a shallower section of slope and eventually got to the top of the ‘cliff’. Sadly it was still a few hundred metres of surprisingly steep walking (with several rest stops) to the summit! OK, so that was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Definitely doable, but hard!

Looking down from the top of the steep bit of Fashven (not the actual summit). Inshore is on the far left, about halfway up the photo.

Looking down from the top of the steep bit of Fashven (not the actual summit). Inshore is on the far left, next to the loch.

The summit was not that interesting – big and wide, so not good for views. Plus, the weather was coming in (hazy, low cloud and rain), which ruined the views even more. It was also very very windy up there, so quite cold.

I headed back down the much gentler eastern ridge. Again though, I didn’t want a long walk through the bog so headed north sooner than I should’ve and ended up having to butterfly my way down (flit from side to side) off several outcrops. I was having fun though!

I saw a stalker coming up towards me, and had a chat with him when we met in the middle. Apparently two stags had been watching me from above as I was coming down. There was also a bunch of hinds on one of the other hills. He lent me his binoculars to have a look but they were so far away I still couldn’t make them out. He said there are also eagles nesting on the Fashven, but he hadn’t seen them lift off when I came down so we didn’t see them.

The stalker (full 30x zoom and cropped)

The stalker (full 30x zoom and cropped)

After he checked which way I was going so “he wouldn’t get in my way” (I was more worried about it being the other way around!), we parted ways. It was quite tricky getting off the hill because I still wasn’t clear of the outcrops and had to pick my way around quite a few, with some short precarious sections of descent. Then it was back to the road. The bogs were not too bad for the most part.

On this section I also came across an interesting selection of military debris and more signs warning me to “not touch any military debris as it may blow up and kill you”. Yes, that’s actually what it said!

I walked east along the road back towards the ferry to Durness and flagged the bus down as it came past. Luckily there was one seat left!! This meant I could get the 2pm ferry, rather than walking out and not getting home until after 5pm. Just so you know, the ferry is not a ferry in the traditional sense. It is more a dinghy!

The "ferry"!

The “ferry”! (across the Kyle of Durness)

I chatted to a couple of the tourists, who later offered me a lift back into town. I declined however as I wanted to walk along the coastal path down the Kyle to Faraid Head then back into town. One of the other tourists walked with me. Actually he asked if I knew the way to which I replied “no, not really, but I think there’s a path and it’s just up the coast anyway. Pretty sure I can find it”. He was English, holidaying (by public transport) around Scotland “before they become independent”. Not sure what difference that would’ve made to him being able to holiday here?

The walk was much longer than I thought but was an interesting mix of grass, cliffs, rocks and good views. The “path” through the grass sections was interesting. It was not really a path, . . you just kind of picked a section through the grass that went the way you wanted and looked slightly more bent than the other bits!

Some of the less thick grass to walk through.

Some of the less thick grass to walk through.

At the beach in Balnakeil Bay I got to catch up with my kayakers again. One of them at least. The other had gone to hitchhike back to where they’d left a bike, so he could ride back to where they’d left the car, at the start of their kayak trip. It was good to see that they’d arrived safely anyway. (And yes, I did email them yesterday and they’ve replied with some stunning pictures of the lighthouse and cliffs from sea level!)

From here I walked back into town. It’s quite a long walk (about a mile) and I had messaged Scott to see if he wanted to pick me up. I got to his sister’s place so dropped in there before I saw him. It turns out that he had been there too, but had gone to pick me up . . . but couldn’t find me because I’d said I was walking UP the Kyle (as in upstream) when I was actually walking downstream (or in my mind “up” as in “north”!).

Once he got back they surprised me with cake and presents for my birthday, which was so delightful and heartwarming. Later I went home and had an amazing long, luxurious bath, then Scott took me out for a big (and yummy) dinner at the Oasis. It was a really lovely way to spend a birthday.

Yes, I’ve gone nuts with the photos today and completely blown my limit. But, this was my birthday, and it’s almost my last post of the holiday so I’m feeling a bit indulgent. Plus, this way you can appreciate how restrained I was for all the other posts!

Route_Fashven

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2 Comments

  1. annathrax says:

    Awesome stuff!! Not so sure about walking around men with guns. Lol

    • Helen says:

      It was a bit funny . . . although no stranger than walking around Paris or London with guards with automatic weapons! They were all very polite.

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