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Scotland has the Wilderness Walking wow-factor: Cape Wrath and the North West Highlands

Posted on Jul 09, 2010 by Wilderness

Just back from a wonderful wilderness walking trip in the most north westerly corner of the mainland Highlands, and although we didn’t make Cape Wrath, due to windy weather, it made no real difference as the surrounding areas were equally incredible!    We were captivated by how spectacular the land and seascapes were; we had never seen anything like it – rugged, raw and staggeringly beautiful.   As we weaved our way to Kinlochbervie, archipelagos islands dotted the coastline and lochans pitted the majestic hills, we had a real sense of reaching the end of the earth, such was the remoteness.

Since we arrived a day before the rest of the group, so we spent our first day exploring the Durness area.   We explored Smoo Cave, which is the largest and most dramatic coastline cave in Britain.  Set in limestone cliffs, the cave is host to a stunning internal waterfall and makes for a great photo. We then stopped of at the legendary Coca Mountain in Balanakeil Craft Village to taste the artisan fresh chocolate truffles and the famous ‘Best’ hot chocolate which I can safely say knocked cocoa dust of any other one I have had.

Feeling energized after our choco sugar rush we went off to explore Balnakeil Bay.  Neither of us had ever experienced such a pristine beach, white sands and turquoise sea, you could almost mistake yourself for being in the Caribbean.  The sand dunes lived up to their extraordinary description, like the beach we felt as if we had been transported to a faraway land.  The wind was blowing hard and to stop the sand from stinging our faces, and worse – getting in our eyes, we donned sunglasses, hats and midge nets – which worked an absolute treat – in fact this was the only time we used them.  In our attire we felt as if we were in Star Wars; Return of the Jedi navigating ourselves through imperial sand dunes.  We certainly felt we had earned our 3-course dinner by the end of it!

Later we joined the rest of the group and, after introductions, we went for a short evening walk on a beach near Kinlochbervie before coming back for dinner at Old School House, where we were also staying.  Just as the landscape was regal, the meals were too – we ate like Kings and Queens enjoying everything from locally caught shrimps to venison stews, and home-made sticky toffee pudding to a cheese board of epic portions! The food was fantastic throughout, as was the host Alan.  His passion for cooking and food shone through and each dish delivered was as memorable as the last.

The next day, we headed to the remote Sandwood Bay, one of the things that makes it so special, is the fact that it is secluded and can only be reached by a good wilderness hike.  On the way there, we walked along the coastline and did not meet one, single person on route, that said, on the way back we walked the more popular route and bumped into a few folk. As we walked via the cliffs, the wind was blowing hard carrying sleet rain with it, however, it was a wonderful feeling to battle the elements in such exposed surroundings. Miraculously as we reached Sandwood Bay the sun came out and we saw the beach and the infamous sea stack Am Buachaille, The Herdsman in all its glory. Wow!

On the next day, and final day, we set of to Handa Island a Scottish Wildlife Trust Reserve (SWT), being an avid wildlife lover I was so excited by the prospect of all the wonderful birdlife which inhabits this sacred place.  I was not disappointed in the slightest, we saw guillemots, kittiwake – which were just sensational in flight, Bonxie, Fulmar, Razorbill and everyone’s favourite the puffins.  Handa is a truly unique island as is its history; the island was actually given to Dr Jean Balfour as a wedding present!  Like Sandwood Bay, Handa is a must-visit.  After Handa, we were dropped off, by boat, at Tarbet again and enjoyed some wilderness walking though the moors and hills to Scourie.  Despite the weather being a little rough the walk was well worth it, as we came down the final hill the scenery opened up and once again we were blown away be the views revealed.

We had a fantastic few days, aside from the wonderful wilderness walking and mesmerizing scenery, we had good food, a great guide – thanks Lorraine, and marvelous company.  The rest of the group were brilliant fun, very easy going, and we were sad to leave.  I am still buzzing days after my trip, not only do I feel exhilarated but even more patriotic – this is what I love about Scotland there are so many places to explore and each one seems better than the last.

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