The Great British Walk

A personal record of my three month walk of the full length of Great Britain from north to south with written journal and photographs. Tracklogs for GPS units and for use with Google Earth are available for download for each stage.


Stage 15: Invershiel to Cluanie Inn

Statistics and Files
Start: Invershiel Finish: Cluanie Inn Distance: 12.4 miles (20.0 km)
Time: 5-7 hours Climbing: 578 metres Rating: Hard
GPX Route File Google Earth File About Kintail
Statistics
Start: Invershiel Finish: Cluanie Inn
Distance: 12.4 miles (20.0 km) Time: 5-7 hours
Climbing: 578 metres Rating: Hard
GPX Route File Google Earth File
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map (1:25,000)

Summary

Not one to look back on with fond memories. The route was simple enough, just follow the road east from Invershiel to Loch Cluanie. Had I the energy or the inclination I would have traversed the Five Sisters of Kintail but I was tired from recent days exertions, I was carrying weight and I sought the easiest route from A to B. The views from the road were as good as from height at times with Sgurr na Forcan and the Forcan Ridge being one highlight and Claunie Forest being another. However and to my misfortune my choice of road walking caused injury which was to take days to recover from.

(Note: My walk of the Cape Wrath Trail was a part of my Great British Walk from the north coast of Scotland to south coast of England)

Stage Report

Today was straightforward in navigation terms as I followed the A87 all the way as it cut through Glen Sheil from north west to south east. It was not straightforward in terms of walking though. Yesterday I had started to experience pain in my heels and feet. Today the pain turned from irritating to excruciating.

Local inhabitants at KintailLocal inhabitants at Kintail
Kintail Lodge Hotel and Loch DuichKintail Lodge Hotel and Loch Duich

It all started so well as a good nights sleep at Kintail Lodge Hotel followed by a hearty breakfast saw me revived from the three days of hard walking since leaving Kinlochewe. Or so I thought. I should have realised the accumulated impact of the three hard back to back days of walking was more debilitating than I had imagined when I had struggled to get out of bed. Nevertheless after pacing a few tentative steps in my boots I did not feel that bad when I left the hotel and headed to the village of Sheil Bridge, the gateway to my route through the valley. In the village I called in at the newsagents and bought a Sunday Times. I crammed it into my backpack, looking forward to a good read of what was happening in the world in the evening.

Allt Undalain at Shiel BridgeAllt Undalain at Shiel Bridge
Memorial to Donald Campbell at Shiel BridgeMemorial to Donald Campbell at Shiel Bridge

I had 12 miles to cover to reach Cluanie Inn and I made a good pace for the first two hours as I walked on the grassed roadside verge beside the Old Military Road which is now the A87. I remained in good spirits as I walked on the roadside bolstered with striking views of the Five Sisters of Kintail range to my left and to equally interesting mountains in Glensheil Forest to my right. My feet were not bothering me at all and I continued on eating up the ground as I began the ascent to the Glen Sheil pass.

Old Military Road, Glen ShielOld Military Road, Glen Shiel
Five Sisters of KintailFive Sisters of Kintail

I continued to climb steadily along the roadside. It was a pleasant Sunday morning. Not too much traffic interrupted my progress and there were long spells when I did not see a vehicle at all. I continued to feel good and with little bother from my feet I picked up the pace. I was enjoying myself as much as I could walking on a roadside. The views to the mountains on either side of me continued to bring enjoyment. Flowering gorse beside the road and on the slopes leading down to River Shiel which was on my left brought contrasting colour to the greens of the trees and grasses and grey of native rock.

Glen ShielGlen Shiel
Site of Battle of Glenshiel 1719Site of Battle of Glenshiel 1719

One pleasant distraction during my progress along the road to Glen Shiel Pass was a chat with a gentleman called David who was preparing to climb some of the very interesting mountains on the west side of Glen Sheil. His objective was the Saddle and Forcan Ridge. With a trig pillar to reach at 1,100 metres he was aiming high. For me my attainment of just 286 metres at the head of Glen Shiel Pass was enough.

Sgurr na Forcan and the Forcan RidgeSgurr na Forcan and the Forcan Ridge
Peace on the battlegroundPeace on the battleground

Soon after my meeting with David I ascended gently to the site of the Battle of Glen Sheil in 1719. There is a lovely old bridge stranded from the main road at the site and it was there I decided to stop for lunch. I had walked almost half of my distance for the day in two hours. I felt pleased with that. I was in a very picturesque place with an old bridge to sit beside, craggy mountains above, river running through and with all those accompaniments I took a break for lunch. I cooked, ate, relaxed and stayed a full half hour before deciding to resume my walk. Then it hit me.

River ShielRiver Shiel
Five Sisters of Kintail seen from Eas-nan-Arm BridgeFive Sisters of Kintail seen from Eas-nan-Arm Bridge

I struggled to get going after lunch. I really did struggle. I had arrived at the old bridge in what I imagined was good health but it was a cruel deception. My feet had been deceiving me and by allowing me to increase the pace on the walk over tarmac up the pass they had dealt me a wicked blow. The soles of my feet were now so painful every time I placed them on the ground. My heels, particularly the right one, were also acting as if on fire with each tread I took an extreme effort. It took me what seemed like an age to walk from the old bridge to Eas-nan-arm Bridge, a distance of about 50 metres. I could not get going and sat on the bridge in despair. Even the particularly lovely view to the Five Sisters of Kintail from Eas-nan-Arm Bridge offered no easing of the agony I was now suffering. My feet positively throbbed.

Waterfall on the developing River ShielWaterfall on the developing River Shiel
Abnach ChrithAbnach Chrith

After some time of cussing and feeling sorry for myself I managed to get going again. I hobbled on from Eas-nan-Arm Bridge along the roadside at a fraction of the pace I had before I had stopped for lunch. I was regretting stopping at all. The walking was agony and the hobble soon turned into a limp. I could hardly put weight on my right heel and that disability further compounded the aching in my left foot. I struggled on.

Despite my discomfort I took pleasure in the views around me. After another hour of languid walking I left the head of Glensheil Pass behind me and as I crossed into Claunie Forest I clapped eyes on more mountains to my right. I was captivated by them. Like Blencathra in the Lake District, only much larger, the range was headed by a series of parallel access ridges to the north side. High point is Abnach Chrith at 1021 metres making it a big mountain. Huge coires guarded it with the parallel ridges or druims as they are called making for inviting access routes. It is a mountain I would love to explore, another highlight of my journey. It guided me to Claunie so I am grateful for it distracting my attention.

Five Sisters of Kintail seen from Cluanie InnFive Sisters of Kintail seen from Cluanie Inn
Cluanie InnCluanie Inn

While enjoying the ecstasy of the mountain views and suffering the agony of my distressed feet and after what seemed another age I approached my home for the night. Claunie Inn, whitewashed white was a relief to see. As soon as I had managed to limp to the hotel and book in I limped that little that bit further to my room while trying not to alarm the receptionist about the state of my health! In the confines of my privacy I was heartened to find a jacuzzi. In fact my room was very palatial, just what I had craved. As quickly as I could I deposited myself into the deep jacuzzi which I had brimmed as full of water as hot as my body could take. My feet cried in whoops of relief. I hoped they could recover sufficiently enough to survive the challenging day ahead of me.


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