Achilitibuie to Strathcanaird. 10 Miles.

August 18, 2007

NEW : See my campaign to establish a National Coastal Path here

I caught the bus that ran from Ullapool to Achiltibuie which was where my walk would start. I was apprehensive about today’s walk as looking at the O.S map the path seemed to hug the sides of a very steep cliff face which led up from the sea to the Ben More Coigach mountain. The contour lines on the map were so bunched together that I was wondering what kind of path could be carved out of the steep gradient.

Fortunately when I left Achiltibuie the weather had improved from the previous couple of days and I enjoyed the initial section along passed the remote youth hostel at Achiltibuie and on to the start of the “Postie’s path”. This was so named because it was the route the postman would use to walk from Ullapool to deliver the mail to Achiltibuie. It wasnt until the 60’s that a half decent tarmac road was built north of Ullapool.

“Ben Mor Coigach, traditionally known as ‘the Rock’,
slopes steeply down to the sea, apparently cutting off
the Coigach peninsula from the outside world. Until the
20th century people came and went either by boat or by
taking one of the rough paths that went ‘through the
Rock’. This was the local highway, regularly walked until
superseded by the road which was not tarmaced until
the 1960’s.
In the 1860’s a regular postal service began to bring the
mail from Ullapool to Rhu by ‘taking the Rock’. The
contract was awarded to Kenneth McLennan of
Blairbuie and it remained in his family for more than 50
years. As Postman he walked to Ullapool twice a week
for 2/3d a time, a journey that could be made in a day
during the summer. In the 1870’s a school was opened in
Achduart and the school board built a path from
Coulnacraig to Achduart for the children. This path is
now referred to as the Postie’s Path and was repaired in
2004 for the benefit of visitors and the community.
Improvements were made to the lower path in 2004 to
make it easier to follow. However it retains the
character and difficulties of a mountain path”

As I ventured out along the path, it was very slow going as the heavy rain caused a lot of the path to be very peaty and I was constantly getting bogged down and watching my step. The path did cling to the side of the cliff edge and at one or two points care had to be taken as a slip would have been meant a drop into the sea below and me being washed up in Sandwood bay a few days later. Nevertheless, the path had been maintained and work done on it at least from Coigach to Geodagh Mor after which it was much rougher. I fell on my arse once or twice and cursed the black stinking peat that clung to my shoes and my feet were soaking by this time too. The route led up the deep crevasse of the Grabh Allt burn and not as it was shown on the map, and that probably added 45 minutes at least to my journey. After this point the route ran across bare rock in places, and I was glad i had my gps with me. That was until the batteries drained completely and I was left high and dry. It was a stupid oversight on my part not to make sure I had a spare battery and I cursed myself at making such a fundamental mistake. Fortunately by this time I knew I hadnt far to go to get off the side of the mountain AND the weather conditions were good, but had those two factors been different I could easily have landed myself in soapy bubble. As it happened I did lose the path and only managed to rejoin it by carefully scrambling down the terraced edges where I could see it threading its way below. Eventually I walked the remaining miles to Strathcanaird where I had left the van. That was the most difficult walk so far, surpassing the slog across the moors at Cape Wrath, and if truth be told I was relieved at the end of the day to get that section over.

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