(Left click images to zoom in, use browser return arrow to go back)
Our “stravaiging” (see post #255) continued onwards from Glencoe, with a diversion over to Skye and the Cuillins (see post #252) followed by Torridon, but it was soon time for another bothy visit. The main contender was what is probably one of the best-appointed and most luxurious bothies in Scotland, the former youth hostel on the coast near Torridon, and known simply as Craig Bothy.
Craig Bothy is 4kms from Daibaig near Torridon and 8kms from Redpoint near Gairloch. At a distance of 18kms, ‘near Gairloch’ shouldn’t be taken too literally and the walk from Torridon to Daibaig isn’t exactly a short stroll, so it appears that the ‘youth’ of a bygone age were hardier walkers than those of today. All of which probably explains why Craig is no longer a youth hostel.
Mind you, neither Chris or I were much inclined to follow the classic but lengthy walking trip from Torridon to Redpoint (and beyond) via Craig, so a ‘creative’ use of the narrow roads was on the cards. ‘Plan A’ had been to drive to Daibaig and to walk the shorter distance to the bothy and to return the same way, but a look at the map indicated some steep bits – good old Google confirmed that part of the road was possibly the steepest section of public road in the UK.
I’m normally up for a motoring challenge, but the problem with driving a 3.5 tonne camper, 6 metres long and 2.2 metres wide, along roads not much wider than the van, is that many drivers today simply don’t have a clue how to drive. More importantly, many of them don’t appreciate the issues of driving a big, heavy vehicle on narrow roads, and whilst I was happy to ‘give it a go’ if the road was quiet, the prospect of reversing some distance for some numpty blocking the road didn’t appeal. Time for ‘Plan B’!
‘Plan B’ was simple – round from Torridon towards Gairloch, then along the narrow coastal road to Redpoint. This meant a longer walk in to the bothy with more height gain, but at a total of 16kms there and back, it was going to be quite do-able – coastal walks can often catch out unprepared hikers, who imagine that walking by the coast is going to be fairly flat, as in reality, the ups and downs of a coastal path soon add up to the equivalent of a decent mountain day.
Setting out from Redpoint, we had great views out to Skye, with the Cuillins the most obvious feature. Leaving farmland behind us, we passed the old fishing station and headed out on a thin path above the boulders. Then, as we gained a bit of height, the path settled down into something more path-like. Quite often the slope below us would roll straight down to the sea, and a casual trip or stumble could easily have developed into a roll down to the water – not a good idea!
In true coastal-path style, we ended up dropping down to stream crossings before gaining height again. The coastline is straight as an arrow on the approach to the outflow of the Craig River, so it was quite easy to guestimate how far we had to go. We turned the corner to head alongside the river, and the ground immediately became more lumpy and bumpy – before long, Chris decided she had put up with enough lumpy and bumpy and decided to take a break while I carried on to visit the bothy.
On the map, the bridge across Craig River leading to the bothy was so close that I thought I should try to persuade Chris to carry on, but in reality it seemed to take longer. When I finally arrived, I found a substantial building – I’m guessing that building materials and supplies probably came in by boat because it wouldn’t have been much fun carrying in cement, furniture, pans and a woodburning stove on either coastal path. The inside was as impressive as outside, with solid furniture and even a bed, true luxury! One of the most interesting features though is a Celtic mural painted on the wall by one of the previous hostel wardens.
I had a good wander around the building before heading back to Chris, who was sitting enjoying the warm weather. Out came the stove and brew kit, and we had our lunch sitting in the sun, before retracing our steps to Redpoint. We found a nearby parking spot for the camper, with great views out to sea, and as a final treat we watched the sun setting over Skye, accompanied with a wee dram – what a great way to end a day!
Text and images © Paul Shorrock, except the images tagged IM (Ibn Musa), NB (Nigel Brown) and PM (Peter Moore) which are taken from the Geograph Project and are reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence.