Looking back at Maol-bhuidie in the rain.

Cape Wrath Trail: Day 4 – Maol-bhuidhe to Beinn Eighe

I awoke later than usual, finding it rather tempting to stay indoors and in my sleeping bag. Still, that river wasn’t going to cross itself, and I made my way to the top of the loch which, according to some information I found in the bothy, was supposedly the best place to cross it. It was a little bit deeper than I’d have liked, but aside from a wobbly moment near the far side it was uneventful. Buoyed by another successful river crossing, I yomped along for the next kilometre before realising quite how tough this section was.

I’d noted this bothy as one of the more remote places on my trip and the next couple of hours highlighted why. There was no path and it was hard going in the bog. I slipped and smashed my wrist against a rock. I was left with a small scratch and what would be a bit of bruising, but was otherwise fine. Unfortunately I’d also broken the buckle on my watch strap. This was less good. At least I hadn’t lost my watch; it had GPS magic on it for emergencies. Once more I found myself cursing myself in the rain. This place was hard, but had it not been for the rain I would have stopped and taken pictures of some of the most inspiring wilderness I have come across – the wide expanse of heather and bog with the lonely bothy overlooking the loch. Instead I trudged, not always appreciating where I was.

After a while I found a track back towards civilisation. I say I found a track, my thoughts on what constitutes a path in the wilderness has altered considerably over the course of the last few days. What I had found were two intermittent sections of flattened grass through the bog. That was much better than no tracks through heather.

It felt to me like someone had once thought to join Bendronaig Lodge that I was walking towards, with Iron Lodge from yesterday, going via Maol-bhuidhe. In both directions it seemed that they had got halfway before thinking “sod this for a game of soldiers” leaving the bothy wild and remote.

That said, I turned around the corner to find Bendronaig Lodge surrounded by construction vehicles. My best guess was that they were building hydroelectric power here. And instead of my path I found maintenance road. It ploughed through Attadale forest leaving great lumps of heather, peat and rock piled up on either side. So much for untouchable wilderness. In the pouring rain I missed my turn off and found myself committed to following the road.

It seemed most likely that the road would lead me to Attadale. Although not the end of the world, it would add at least another 6 km to the end of my journey. This had been another tough morning.

As I approached Attadale a train went by. I wondered if the friendly train nerds from the first day were on it. That would have been an odd coincidence. I marched along the road towards Strathcarron, having decided that despite the clearing rain I would stop in the hotel for lunch. What was meant to be a 16 kilometre morning had turned into being around 23.5 kilometres.

I made it to the hotel just in time for lunch. I ordered a tea, a glass of coke and a burger and chips. The food was polished off far too quickly, yet I was still too late to follow it up with an order of fish and chips.

Powered by chips and optimism I made my way along the river to Coulags where I found more hydroelectric construction works going on. Here, at least, they had adequately signposted the changes, and the path was good making this one of the easiest stretches so far.

Coming in the opposite direction was a group of drenched ladies, so I knew what I was going to find in the next glen. As I climbed up the rain reached me. Up seemed to go on forever and the rain seemed to keep falling. The tracks became streams and once down came I got misplaced. It took me a while to find where I should have been, but even once I had found my way, down seemed to go on forever. The dark clouds diminishing the amount of useful light I had left. To make matters worse, my knee was now grumbling on every step down.

I came across a stag the Ling Hut, just across the road from Beinn Eighe. The stag watched me carefully before moving on. The hut stayed where it was. With my knee grumbling and light beginning to fade I decided that here was the place I would camp. The hut itself was technically only for British Mountaineering Club members, but it had been left unlocked. I briefly considered sleeping inside, but decided against it. Being in my tent would allow me to get an earlier start in the morning, and if anyone did happen to come along, it was far easier to apologise for putting my tent up somewhere that I shouldn’t than to justify squatting in their little house.

It wasn’t my earliest night to stop and fall asleep, but I had stopped sooner than I had hoped. I fell asleep once more to the sound of the rain.


Looking back at Maol-bhuidie in the rain.

Today I learnt: That I know nothing. I have friends who can tell me about the flora and the fauna, those who can tell me the composition and age of the rocks underfoot. I have friends who could tell me my exact bearing and how many minutes until my next turn. I can tell you none of these things. I am simply an idiot with a rucksack meandering in a roughly northwards direction.

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