The box with all my hiking gear in it arrived today!
As well as meaning I now have a lot more warm clothes to wear, it also means we could finally go for a “proper” walk. It was a lovely day – mostly sunny, dry and relatively warm (8 C), so perfect for a walk. We headed up to the bealach (pass) between Beinn Ceannabeinne (ben kenn-a-bayn) and Meall Meadhonach (haven’t learnt this one yet, but something like “meyowl mea-ernurch”?). I had decided to ease into things, not actually going all the way up a hill. There is also a nice path that goes up there (I learnt on my last trip that walking off-track in Scotland makes things approximately 10x harder). Apparently it used to be a commonly used crofter’s (small scale farmer) path from Durness to Laid. On the way home, we turned right just after Beinn Ceannabeine and came back along the track towards the Smoo Cave Hotel. This cuts uncomfortably close to someone’s house, but it is marked on all the walking books so I assume it’s OK.
We had an interesting encounter with some local sheep on the way down the main road (an A road). They were being herded up the road straight towards us. Luckily the shepherdess came over the hill on a quad bike first and warned me to get Merlin under control, and luckily he came back, even with a flock of sheep running at him. The sheep then proceeded to walk right up to both of us! Maybe they thought Merlin was on their side? Having some understanding of sheep, we stood very still while the two border collie sheepdogs did their work and eventually pushed the sheep on around us. Having stood calmly through this, Merlin THEN went nuts! He went on the lead soon anyway as the first field we had to walk through had sheep all over the road and we’re not quite ready for that yet. We followed the track from near the Village Hall towards Loch Meadaidh (m’dee), then turned left towards the bealach. It was wonderful to be out here again. There were some wee burns (streams) burbling past enthusiastically (it has been a bit wet the past few days) and those beautiful, nobbly, wild, NW Scotland hills that I love so much. Only 10 minutes from town and you couldn’t see any civilisation other than the muddy track I was walking on and the only sounds were the burns, the wind and the occasional bird. Oh, and a big red dog bounding and splashing across the landscape.
I have been up this way before last year but never all the way. Last time I turned and went up Beinn Ceannabeinne before the top of the bealach. It was DEFINITELY worth walking all the way this time. It took a long time to get to the top of the saddle, with a lot of false tops, and the edge always seeming to be just a bit further away. When I got there though, it was unmistakeable . . . and breathtaking. The view suddenly opened up into panorama of snow-capped mountains with Loch Eriboll glistening in the foreground.
We saw a few small birds, a couple of red deer and some large clumps of what I assume were frog eggs in some puddles on the road.
Merlin had an absolutely fantastic time and, despite disappearing from time to time, always came back when I called him. He really does fit in well up here . . . . other than the fact that it took about 10 minutes to wash all the mud out of him when we got back!