Who: Self, Stuart
When: 26 December 2015
Weather: overcast and windy
Why: why not?
Distance: 9 miles
Time: 3 hours in total, including about half an hour on the beach
Christmas 2015 was a bit different for us. Instead of spending it at home in Bromley or with family, we had hatched a plan to spend it in the far North of Scotland, specifically in the cottage in Ullapool that we had stayed in before, which boasted glorious views of Loch Broom. Although we packed the winter walking gear, we had no real expectation of doing any serious hill walking given a pretty rubbish weather forecast not to mention the seriously short hours of daylight. Plus, we were both knackered after a very busy time at work and quite frankly needed a rest. We spent a fair bit of time chilling and pottering about, on occasion getting up to stunning views from the cottage which would all too soon be followed by torrential rain and howling gales. We did manage to get out and about a bit, including a nice drive up the coast to Gruinard Beach which we had been to before and liked, with some excellent moody views. However, that day was followed by some heavy dumps of snow on the mountains and that combined with forecasts promising whiteout and strong winds meant that we gave up any idea of getting out into the hills.
However, the Boxing Day forecast offered a bit of hope we might get a walk of some sort done. The wind was still too strong to head up high, but the forecast suggested that the very far north (i.e. Sutherland) might escape the worst of the rain that was predicted to come in. We had never been to Sandwood Bay despite several stays in Ullapool and one in Tongue and it seemed as though this would be a good time to rectify that. We left the house at about 9.20 and after a clear run through stunning scenery up the West Coast we were parked up at the very windy and remote parking space for the bay, geared up and off for 11.
There isn’t much really to say about the walk in. The condition of the path is excellent and it winds through some truly bleak and remote country past some fairly large lochs. A couple of these have outflows which need to be crossed on stepping stones, which we had been a bit worried about given the amount of rain there had been. However, there were no issues whatsoever.
With the wind being strong even at not far above sea level it made sense to push the pace and it wasn’t much over an hour of walking before the sweep of Sandwood Bay came into view, together with the remote country and ruins behind it which must once have formed a small crofting community by Sandwood Loch.
We dropped down over dunes to the very windy bay and wandered around watching the waves crash on the shore, taking in the views over to the sea stack Am Buachaille, which were pretty spectacular.
It was too cold to hang about for too long though, so after about half an hour we beat a retreat back over the dunes and up the excellent constructed path through what Stuart refers to as MAMBA territory (short for miles and miles of b*gger all). We got back to the car at 2pm and about 10 minutes later it started to rain – lightly at first but by the time we got back to Ullapool it was heavy and had apparently been raining most of the afternoon. We were leaving Ullapool in the morning, so a few post walk drinks were had in the Arch pub followed by the Ceilidh Place.
All in all although this walk did not involve a hill it was a nice way to round off the year in some truly remote country. However even though our pace was pretty good I was conscious of having done zero exercise in the last few months and there will be a fair bit of work to do in the New Year… time to go back to the gym, given that there is nothing resembling any decent hills in Kent!