A lovely night’s sleep. It’s pre-dawn and through the Velux windows, you can see the outline of a mountain peak opposite. Eventually I wander downstairs to watch the sunrise in the sun room. After being cooped up in the car for the last couple of days, we fancy a walk and decide to walk to Diabaig, some 4 miles northwest of our house.
We cross the bridge over our little river, pass some houses and find the footpath, climbing high above the loch. We contour along, with beautiful far reaching views. The sun is out and bathing the whole area in glorious colours. We come across a deer proof fence with a gate and next to it, a sanitising station – a dispenser tacked to a post – and polite notice to use it. We stopped and stared, looking around us in bewilderment- what a bizarre thing to come across in the middle of nowhere – it wasn’t exactly heaving with hikers. During the week, we kept coming across these sanitiser stations on isolated spots and just shook our heads – the world had just got madder. So we carried on for a couple of miles until we came across where the path started to narrow as it went through heather, but on a rather steep slope. I’m not a huge fan of such paths since slipping on a narrow scree path about 30 years ago and now my fears rear up again. The path is only about 18 inches wide, slopes at an angle and is breaking away in parts. The heather on my right is coming over the path, pushing me nearer the edge – I’m just not liking the steepness and start to lose confidence big time and freeze. There are no other options: either carrying on or aborting the walk. But hubby has an idea and scrabbles up into the heather above, looking for another route – he calls me up. There’s not a path, but it strangely feels a lot safer – I hunker down into the vegetation and crawl along. Being physically lower, being able to grab onto something and surrounded by thick heather makes me happier for the moment. We scud along until this route starts getting steep itself and we decide to slide down back to the original path which has improved immensely and my fear recedes, though my legs are like jelly. I feel rather daft for making such a fuss, but it’s a such overwhelming fear that I can’t explain nor get over. But now we’re on better footing and we make good speed.
We head around the peninsula, the loch widening and Shieldaig on the other side hoves in view. The Isle of Skye peeks over too. The landscape is grassy interspersed with outcrops of rock, very boggy in places – you have to watch your footing all the time. Sometimes it’s rock, other times gravel or soft mud. We clamber up and down , stopping to look at the ever changing vista. Our pace has slowed and its hard going. We pass a couple of small tarns and finally, through a gap, we can see Diabaig, nestling far below. We seem so high, but the village so close. We start dropping down gently through the ferns and grass. We meet a couple and their very energetic Spaniel coming up, the dog darting here and there. We briefly chat and pass pleasantries – the chap warns us of a steep drop and I hear the back of the conversation – “it’s not too bad, about 6 metres…..” That didn’t sound encouraging.
On the way over, we have managed to book at the Gille Brigdhe, a small pub cum restaurant for 1.30. (You have to book in advance for everything at the moment). We reckon we can make it. But suddenly the path starts going up again, then dropping and up again over these rocky buttresses. Will we ever get to that road way down there? Suddenly the path turns and plummets down a steep stairway of rock. A slow case of dropping down carefully (in my case, mainly on my bum). It twists and turns, finally ending at a gate of a deer proof fence. We start to walk into a woodland, which is better news and come across the final obstacle. A drop of about 4 feet, across a large boulder with a thick rope tied to it to help walkers either pull themselves up the rock or to slide down. This was the six metres that our man had mentioned – we had had images of having to abseil down it, but in the end we kind of slid down it in an anticlimactic way after spending 20 minutes on our approach to it, scaring ourselves.
Finally we drop onto level ground and pop out of the woods, across the bridge and tarmac! Now to find the pub – we walk pass some houses and voila, there it is and it’s 1.29pm precisely. We ring the bell to summon our host, put on our masks until we’ve sat down and order pints of beer to celebrate our safe arrival. Sat in the garden, we look out to sea and with our binoculars, look for wildlife. A sea eagle had swooped over the trees whilst we were in the woods, so we were on the look out for him. We spotted our first seal too.
The food was wonderful at the Gille Brigdhe – roast dinner and a vegetarian lasagne, followed by apple pie and custard and coffee. We had to restore our energy for the walk back! We had decided to walk back along the road, but looking at the map, the road took us out wide in the opposite direction and snaked its way high up the hillside. However, we discovered a nifty shortcut that chopped a huge chunk off. It was steady pull up through woodland following a little bubbling stream, before bobbing out on the high moor and the tarmac road. It was nice to be able to stroll along and admire the scenery without fear of tripping up, but we could see the ribbon of road disappearing into vanishing points. It had now clouded over, but was still pleasant. We spot a large bird sitting on the electricity poles and try to identify it. It keeps flying off, landing further along so we spend a lot of time stalking this poor bird which takes our mind off the road. It’s cruelly deceiving as the road keeps veering off and plunging into a dip, and snaking needlessly, adding on extra metres. It’s a bit dispiriting really. We finally come to the conclusion that the bird is a Buzzard as it flies off into the distance. We hike up this steep incline and drop back into Loch Torridon and towards our cottage which boosts our spirits, but there’s still a way to go. We start to drop down, and stop by a car where someone is sketching on a nearby bench. There’s one of those monuments made of stone with a metal plinth marking all the local landmarks and we are studying this, when the artist calls over to us. It’s our Spaniel lady and her husband again. Would we like a lift? We hesitate slightly – is it cheating? It’s not that far? We take up her offer, but sit with our masks on and all the windows open on the short journey. The little brown spaniel in on the back seat and happily snuggles us to us – eventually curling up on hubby’s lap. We want to take her home! The couple, god bless them, drop us near our cottage and we wave goodbye to them – they’ve have sheared a good hour off our walk back. Road walking is quite tedious and hard on the feet. We were very grateful.
We get in and have showers and a welcoming hot cup of tea. We’ve done just over 11 miles of walking, not on the easiest of terrain and so feeling quite pleased with ourselves. Happily knackered, we curl up on the sofa, but one of our friends says it’s a good night for a possible sighting of the Northern Lights. So, in the darkness, we pad out and stand in the garden looking for the green glow. The moon is out again, lighting everything up. We spend a good 20 minutes out there until the chill forces us in. Anyway, a ruddy great Munro is obscuring our view of the northern horizon, so we call it a night. We head to bed suitably tired after a very enjoyable first day.