Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Scotland, 2014. Achmelvic, Day 3.

 Woke early to a beautiful morning this morning and we were away relatively early after breakfast to head even further north to walk to Sandwood Bay from Blaimore.  The road took us alongside Loch Assynt and then north through Kylesku and Scourie, before eventually turning off the main road to Durness and John O’ Groats towards Kinlochbervie and then again on the single track road through Oldshoremore to Blaimore.  The views south from here to Handa Island were fabulous: cliffs, beaches, breaking waves and the swirl of tidal currents.   We quickly parked up, donned packs and set off across the moors to Sandwood.  The 4 ½ mile path, undulating, but never hard going, passed by several lochans and gave extensive views to Foinavon before rounding a shoulder and suddenly giving a view down into Sandwood Loch, surprisingly in quite a deep valley.  Shortly afterwards we could see vertiginous cliffs heading towards Cape Wrath, the air misty with sea spray.  Soon the bay itself came into view below us; a mile long crescent of pristine beach backed by extensive sand dunes.  Before we could actually see the beach we knew we had arrived as we became away of the distant roar of the surf.  Our path led us steeply down and then through the dunes and onto the beach itself which we had virtually to ourselves; not many people make the effort to walk over  4 miles for a paddle.  To left and right were high craggy cliffs and at the southern tip of the bay towered the finger-like bastion of the sea stack Am Buachaille.  In front of us the pounding surf and calmer sea beyond.  The colours would have well graced an artist’s palette: inky blue, turquoise and jade green as the waves curled over to crash in on themselves and then the gleaming white of the surf as it pounded onto the creamy sand; the sky a clear cerulean blue and the beach backed by grey, green marram grass. Always on the horizon was a smudge of grey; sea mist I wondered?  I was fascinated by the way the waves, once broken rush up the beach in a sheet of white foam and then recede with a sibilant hiss.  The steepness of the beach meant there was a strong backwash and we could hear the constant rumble as sand and pebbles were pulled back and reclaimed by the sea.  Not a place for a safe swim or paddle; the domain of the wet-suited, experienced surfer.  We enjoyed a wonderful couple of hours, here revelling in the sights, sounds and smells of the bay, drawing and taking photographs.  All too soon it was time to make our way back with the westerly sun lighting up the flow country and mountains beyond.  The whole of this area is owned and protected by the John Muir Trust who look after some of the finest wild areas in the UK.  At Sandwood much of the land is farmed by traditional crafting techniques.  Just before reaching the car we met a couple intending to wild camp in the bay, carrying, not only large packs of camping gear, but a surf board and wet suits as well.  Magic!!  Following a quick visit and more photographs at Oldshoremore beach we began the journey home stopping off for a drink at the Kylesku Hotel.  The light was amazing and the mountain and coastal views just stunning.
Once back at the van it was time for a hasty one pot corn-beef hash and then the day was capped beautifully with the most wonderful dark star lit sky with the Milky Way arching clearly right overhead.  We even had a satellite and a shooting star.

What a day!!!

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