Author Topic: Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail  (Read 10945 times)


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Re: Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #45 on: 11:49:04, 11/10/20 »
Great! Your pictures look so familiar!  Afro

Your camp at River Douchary looks like about the same spot where I pitched my tent last year. It was lovely! Although I woke up with a dusting of snow on my tent (early spring).
My travel and walking reports:


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Re: Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #46 on: 17:43:27, 11/10/20 »
Day Fourteen
‘The deeper the solitude the less the sense of loneliness, and the nearer you are to friends”
And, indeed we were!

I think you’ll agree, there’s something so special about waking up in the wilderness, but even more special, is Ian’s new super waterproof tent (aka space dome), the raindrops just run off. It’s completely dry to pack – no separating the inner & outer, easy to pack & easier to put up next time. Whoa! - A result, albeit an expensive one!
I could sense wildlife around and decided to explore, way off ‘path’, to Ian’s dismay  :P

Ian enticed me back with my breakfast stop.  O0
In the next photo, I'm not sure if Ian is miffed at me or mystified by the way ahead, most likely just lost!   :-\

I did my best ‘stand and point in the direction of movement’  ;)

Turned out the movement was 3 ladies coming down from ascending Ben More – total respect as that would have been tough up there in these rain clouds.
We should have stayed behind & followed them as Ian made a few dodgy navigation decisions as we both got wet crossing the burn flowing out the Lochan then attempting to contour another loch (Gorm Loch Mor) high up, though it did give us lovely views, ..  of the ladies going the right way, way below.

The Loch, with its shifting light, atmospheric, hypnotic, such a dreamy sensation.

I succumbed to temptation and paddled.

The ladies, that had passed us, due to Ian’s navigational error, took the path West, back to Inchnadamph.
Alone once more in the wilds, we headed north, pathless & getting tough – Ian dug deep in his bag for an another appropriate snack - Hard Bar

He gave me none, not that I need toughening up!  8)
I wondered if there’s a snack called ‘Right Path’ - I’d pay good money!  ;D
Credit where credit’s due, Ian stayed focused and we toughed it out through bogs and over a broad pass for what felt like more than 3kms before passing another loch.
I sprinted ahead when I spotted a fellow Trail hiker … and caught up with ‘Beef Jerky man, his friend and an ‘Aussie/German couple’, well, we could hardly miss them in their fluorescent pack covers.
Nice to have company.
Nicer to have treats!

Found this weird circular earth shape – anyone know what this is?

5kms of easier tracks to Glencoul bothy – small clean bothy with two rooms, fire & dry wood.  :)
Just the six of us – perfect end to a bit of a wild wet wayward day in the wilderness.

 (taken next morning – Gencoul bothy is the building behind)

Good luck on your next adventure
Ian & Zen


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Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #47 on: 21:23:53, 11/10/20 »
Day Fifteen
The 3 pairs of us departed Gencoul bothy at differing times.
After Ian’s navigation muck-ups yesterday, I took it on and guided us up and around Aird da Loch peninsula … the faint path soon disappeared.
“Disappeared? … you lost it, Zen”    :tickedoff:
So, I took Ian on my own scenic loch view route, until he got nervous about the edge.
Still we did get a great loch view with Glendu Bothy.

My breakfast was served at the footbridge at the end of the loch.
We then popped into Glendu Bothy (furthest left building) – same layout as Glencoul, with 2 rooms, but not as clean –
before continuing on a 4x4 track along the loch edge and quickly passed the German/Aussie couple, to be alone on the trail ahead.

Looking back

From the loch, the trail winds upwards to Ben Dreavie, the only peak on the trail with fab 360° views, the Atlantic, Arkle, Quinag and dark mysterious Ben Stack to the North.

View towards Kylesku

passing Loch an Leathaid Bhuain

Zen with looming Ben Stack

On top of 'flat - 2 peaked' Ben Dreavie

I think Ian revels in the challenge of navigating trackless terrain, especially with a change of direction.
With me, it fills me with in trepidation.   :(

From Ben Dreavie we have to go North, but North lies a steep drop, so Ian shared his plan . .
“Okay Zen, we hang a left here, wander down safely, maybe not quite all the way, for about 2km, then hang a right for a km or so, head between a couple of weird shaped lochs and find a path of sorts....Easy”
Scary navigation – Welcome to my world!
‘Do stuff that excites you, that scares you, the only things you’ll regret, are the things you never did!’
We peered over the crags to survey the scene, a landscape peppered with dozens upon dozens of lochs, and you know when we’re down below, we’ll have no idea which loch is which…
So, there was Ian, oblivious to the fact that lochs can change shape, scanning the shapes and trying to match them to the ones on his map… I know, scarier.
When Ian says “Te amo”, it’s endearing.
When he’s repeating it, like it’s the last time ever …. I get worried!  :o
We negotiated the tricky descent, slogged north-ish through bogs, dissected a couple of odd lochans and stumbled upon a path, the correct one as well – Miraculous.
Not sure who was more surprised, Ian or me.  :D
‘Life is full of challenges. Once you truly accept this, the challenge become easier’
Rain was on its way. I could smell it.
The undulating path was trouble-free and suddenly the perfect lochside wild camping spot presented itself, a bit below, off path, but worth the slippery way down.

Loch na Seilge
I crashed whilst Ian set up the tent, super-fast.

“Great beach spot Ian, but not wanting to grumble, not quite the beach camp I was wishing for on my list”
“Don’t worry Zen, I’ve got that wish well covered”
“Ooh, can’t wait!”
Good luck on your next adventure
Ian & Zen


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Re: Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #48 on: 07:52:07, 12/10/20 »
Lovely stuff. Not far to go now!

I walked around Loch Glendhu and Loch Glencoul many years ago, we cut across the high land between the heads of the two lochs rather than try to follow the shore, and enjoyed a wild camp in Glencoul before returning to Kylesku via Eas a Chual Aluinn and the plateau above.
WildAboutWalking - Join me on my walks through the wilder parts of Britain


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Re: Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #49 on: 08:54:40, 12/10/20 »
Wonderful read

Do you really have your own, personal sleeping bag, Zen?
So many paths yet to walk, so little time left


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Re: Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #50 on: 09:03:49, 12/10/20 »
Zen you are such a poser!
RIP William.


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Re: Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #51 on: 11:29:21, 12/10/20 »
Wonderful reports and photos as always - but I'm a bit worried about the rucksack apparently perched on the edge of a steep slope above a loch  :o  please no more 'cliff-hangers'!


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Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #52 on: 20:19:23, 12/10/20 »
Zen you are such a poser!
"I know I am"  :coolsmiley: :smitten:
Good luck on your next adventure
Ian & Zen


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Re: Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #53 on: 20:21:42, 12/10/20 »
Wonderful read

Do you really have your own, personal sleeping bag, Zen?
No, I just steal Ian's.
He used to have one with a zip, which I could get inside, but replaced it without one so I just wrap myself in it now."
Good luck on your next adventure
Ian & Zen


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Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #54 on: 21:19:53, 12/10/20 »
Day Sixteen
The weather - misty, rainy & damp was the polar opposite of our mood – fresh, sunny & bright.
We climbed back to the path and ventured down to cross the road to Lochstack Lodge

I tugged at Ian to take the stepping stones but he won the tug of war and we crossed the bridge. Boring!  :(
An easy eerily silent wander up a dirt track was abruptly ended when Ian signalled off, almost at 90° into the marshy, dew-dripping knee-high grass.
“Have we gone wrong, Ian . . again?”
“No, but keep your eyes out for a loch – when we hit it, we go North”
Surely we cannot fail to hit a loch…then again, we are talking about Ian here. I was nervous …experience tells me to be nervous.
Loch was huge. I wish he wouldn’t do that, it was unmissable.
The path North was not, so I took the lead. Healthier for my mental wellbeing, that way!

We got excited about the reputedly hazardous river crossing ahead (Garbh Allt), as hadn’t had one for a while, alas it was disappointingly easy.
Says a lot about how far we’ve come from the beginning of the trail that we’re despondent and not relieved at a low-level river crossing.
Moreover, we were enjoying 5km of pleasant bog strolling in the drizzle all the way to the bridge at Rhinconich

We sheltered outside Rhinconich Hotel. Beef jerky man and his friend caught us up for a chat, and continued on. Beef jerky or not, I was pleased we were staying here. The notice on the hotel entrance ‘Open at 3pm’ was a bit discerning as it was only 12.30pm. A few phone calls & knocks and they opened up for us. Double delight as we had packages of goodies waiting.
I’d missed & really needed an afternoon siesta, nearly as much as a shower for Ian. Relief all round.  :D
The hotel was busy, but I made myself comfy, squeezing into a corner, whilst Ian chatted to the owner. The hotel was one of three packages we were unable to pick up in 2018. He said he shared it out with the guests, who had a mass scramble to grab the freebies – some lucky mutt in the local police station had my fav trekking dog food and treats.
Good luck on your next adventure
Ian & Zen


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Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #55 on: 22:42:20, 12/10/20 »
Day Seventeen
Yummy bacon & sausages for breakfast   :smitten:  – took my mind off the horrendous weather outside.
I could sense we were nearing the end, two maybe three days. Ian always plans a fabulous finish – think Europaweg (Chamonix to Zermatt), Cheviots (Pennine Way) & Seven Sisters (South Downs Way) – the excitement was bubbling!
Like the other amazing finales, each one involved hard graft - The Cape Wrath Trail wasn’t going to lay it on a plate.
Horizontal rain was hard. Cafés on route, emblazoned with signs ‘’No dogs inside’ was harder to take.
We plodded on to London Stores, a Cape Wrath Trail institution.
Ian escaped inside, having a sheltered laugh with the locals, leaving me outside, dripping, soaking, alone with the swirling rain for annoying company – I don’t think I’ve forgiven him to this day!

Fortunately, the locals took pity on me, rewarding my resilience with a few cheesy treats, which eased the loneliness, if not the discomfort.
One whispered, profoundly to me, “The weather may be crap here, but you really can’t beat the hospitality.”   :)
So perfect considering our mishaps on the Trail.
Even though London Stores is crammed floor to ceiling with almost everything imaginable, to rub salt into my psychological wounds, Ian only bought chocolate.
“You’ve got loads of treats from the packages, Zen – stop looking hard done by” 
From the London Stores, you have a couple of options, head 50m back down the road and then off into rough, trackless wilderness for a tough going 11km with a bothy for shelter half way – sounded like the perfect adventure, so it was perplexing that Ian decided against it, continuing along the road to Kinlochbervie.
We found a dog friendly hotel bar, open – a thankful respite out of the elements, and my usual breakfast, but almost a catastrophe – an equipment failure.

“Zen, your water bowl will have to double up as your food bowl”
“I can live with that”
We actually rested for nearly an hour. Ian had a huge pot of tea which resulted in him p*ss*ng more than the clouds over the next couple of hours.

Scattered houses became sparser, until there were none and we left civilisation behind and ventured down a sodden, muddy path northward, undulating over peat moorland. It was good to be in the wilds once more.
“Hey Zen, this land is owned by The John Muir Trust – Have you got any great quotes?”
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks”  John Muir

“Ian, that looks like a grand place to stay/camp, just the two of us?”
“Depends, it’s abandoned, but the ghost of a shipwrecked mariner knocks at the window on stormy nights. Fancy it?”
“No thanks”   :crazy2:    The night ahead looked anything but calm.
‘Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away’

Maybe it’s the endurance of the trail, the collision of highlands fresh rain with salty sea air, the Atlantic translucent crashing waves, hugged with, entrapped by towering surrounding crags and a fresh water lake, wild thick heavy weather-beaten dunes, the expanse of soft sand, the isolation, the sheer spelling binding enchanting beauty, or maybe it’s all of these – Sandwood Bay is incredibly mesmerising.
(no apologises for the amount of photos)

We stood awe struck, love at first sight.
"Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass but learning to dance in the rain"
We set off, jogging, side-stepping each other, swapping the lead, spurting down the grassy slopes, Zen four-pawed powering up the dunes, caressing the curves, kissing the tops, hearts pumping, in unison two buddies giggling on endorphins, rain showered, hot, sweating from sun trapped heat, bursting onto the empty beach. Euphorically loving it.
Ian dumped the backpack and we ran and ran, everywhere, anywhere, delirious to our heart’s content.


If Ian had for one milli-second thought not to wild-camp in the dunes and continue to the bothy (2km away), one glance at the swollen river crossing extinguished it. Just as well, as we both probably smelt pretty foul!

With white noise of nearby waves breaking and a new package of goodies, we had a luscious meal, sheltered amongst the dunes, with the tent door poled out giving unforgettable views and memories.

We had an uncomfortable night as I got sick – bad river water I reckon – and I had to wake Ian a few times to take me out.
“Sorry, Ian”
“That’s okay Zen, every time I was able to re-experience the Sandwood Bay magic”  :smitten:
Wild camping, on the beach, calming, soothing, so therapeutic.
So much more than a tick off my wish list.
Good luck on your next adventure
Ian & Zen


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Re: Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #56 on: 08:17:44, 13/10/20 »
Just caught up with your last few adventures Zen - wonderful stuff.  Glad you loved Sandwood, my Daisy and Penny had a fantastic time there a couple of weeks ago.  Looks like Ian has come good.


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Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #57 on: 12:59:18, 17/10/20 »
Day Eighteen - Final Day
Ding-a-ling, ding-a-ling
The last day bell always fills me with mixed feelings – elation & melancholy. 
I don’t think I’m alone in this.
The rain had ceased, so it was an alfresco breakfast to beat all.
Now, for that turbulent river crossing…
Yes, secretly I was wishing for a swinging suspension bridge, but don't tell Ian.
Ian scouted the best route and opted for the shallowest, slowest current, but widest part.
I reluctantly followed behind. It was fresh, rocky and fast. When he’d reached half-way he glanced back, to see me disappointedly, shivering back on the beach.
“Zen, got cold feet?”
He definitely had, even more so as he had to come back for me. Now strapped to Ian we edged cautiously across, until after the midpoint when I made a dash for the other side, dragging Ian with me.

Wake up shake

After yesterday’s arrival at Sandwood Bay, you’d be wrong in thinking the last day would be an anti-climax, as everything truly fabulous about the Cape Wrath Trail is encapsulated in this final day.
Virtually all is over beautiful pathless undulating moorland, littered with dark peat & bogs, wild Atlantic views, a tricky, potentially dangerous river crossing, an MOD firing zone and a bothy with a unique fascinating history.
The remoteness is intoxicating, intensified with the knowledge that very few folk venture this far north.
If you had no interest in visiting Strathchailleach bothy, then you could hug high above the Atlantic cliffs and head in a straight line North to Cape Wrath Lighthouse, though after such a sustained rain storm the river would be raging and impossible to cross at the point it descends in to the Atlantic. Best avoided after yesterday sustained deluge.
Ian wanted to see Strathchailleach bothy, anyway so we climbed over the ridge heading roughly North East, though I reckon Ian just headed up any which way, just to see what was over the other side.

Once over the ridge, Sandwood Bay sadly disappeared from view and we slogged it out across the empty trackless moors.
I do not know how Ian did it, but we miraculously hit a fence, much taller than me with a style!
“I’ve no idea either, Zen, just lucky I guess”
This was wonderous trekking – definitely gave me a spring in my step.

Strathchailleach bothy, with no road or trail access is as remote as they come. It was home to James McRory-Smith, a hermit for 40 years. It’s thankful to the Bothy Association that you can stay and make sense of his life in his atmospheric paintings adorning the walls.
The irony of it all lingered on me whilst I browsed, that in life he wished to be anonymous, yet in death he’s better known than most.
It would make for an eerie place to stay the night.
Some of James's finger painting:

Ian dallied over where to cross the river, Strath Chaillach before deciding on pausing midway on an river island and then scrambling up the opposite bank.
Open country, meandering and freedom at it’s best, as we made a general aim for the saddle of the hills ahead.

“Hey, Zen how are we doing on your wish list?”
‘Wish list:
Long sun-drenched days
Freedom forests to run in
Fresh streams and rivers to quench thirst
Cooling snow for massages
Remote hut stays
Wild camps everywhere - hills, lochs, rivers, sandy beaches with ace views of course
My fav trekking food and treats
Fab surprise reward at end, and a ...
Hot b*tch to play with and fall in love with’
“Almost complete, reward at end & find a mate!”
“I know we’ve had some luck, but getting lucky, I reckon that’ll be tough.
I know you are not fussy, and swing both ways, but I don’t recall us meeting a single dog.”
“Oh, how about at the Lighthouse café?”
“Only cats"
“Ah, I don’t swing that far!”  :D
Soon after a bracing paddle across Kesgaig River we encounter the huge MOD fence, but no style, only barbed wire.
Beef Jerky Man had rung ahead a couple days ago to check there was no military action - confirmed with no red flag flying, though I had read that they sometimes forget to take them down.  :o
I got lifted over and dropped on the other side, not so very gracious, but effective. Ian squeezed through the barbed wire.
“Now Zen, if you see any odd shaped objects, don’t paw, lick or eat them. Got it!
 “Got it!”
For once I felt comfortable letting Ian lead the way, with me taking the same steps.
We contoured left and then right around the slopes of a few hills. Over the peat bogs, suddenly the peat bog gave way, and Ian tumbled down.  In a flash I’d pounced on him, wet nosed butted him with a saliva filled facial lick.  ;D
“Yuk! Zennn!”
“That’ll teach you, not to lose concentration!”
“Good to see you’re looking out for me Zen.”  O0
I could now see the sea on both sides, West and now East, as we headed North. The end was nigh.
Even Ian could hardly go wrong from here!
After a couple of kms we stumbled on a 4x4 track and even though I could sense enlightenment was just around the corner, we stopped for a small bite of lunch.
A moment for contemplation to let it all soak in - the experience of whole journey that had got us this far, before the elation of finishing.
“Ian, what will you do if the last mini-bus passes us now, knowing we haven’t made it or seen the lighthouse?”
“We let it go…and continue on and then walk to the Kearvaig bothy…10km away!”
Not sure if either of us really fancied another 10km!
'Naked I’ve walked, fur tingling with the breeze, paws scarred by jagged rocks, massaged by smooth pebbles, caressed by wild heather, exfoliated & cleansed in bogs. Soreness prevails, but without pain there is no feeling.'
We had joked why would you want to walk the Trail, North to South, with Fort William your final goal instead of Sandwood Bay & the Cape Wrath Lighthouse. Not much of an aim to keep you motivated, through the wind, rain & bogs.
Upon arriving at Cape Wrath, the bleakish place I’ve possibly ever visited, Fort William sounded attractive.
Cape Wrath’s ugliness just reminded us of how beautiful the whole Trail is, and all the motivation you’ll ever need.
The journey IS the destination!
“A difficult road, leads to a beautiful destination”
Saying that, the full Scottish breakfast at Ozone café is amazzzzzing!    A worthy treat for finishing  O0
First sight …Yes, I was first there!

Would you Adam & Eve it….?   Zen found love …

Wet, tired & pleased to have finished  :)

Fortunately, James the mini-bus driver was doing a few extra runs, and we got a seat on the next one to the jetty to cross the Kyle of Durness to Keodale, where a kind fellow passenger dropped Ian and I off in Durness. Thanks  O0

Cool - a ferry to start and one to finish

We rested in a delightful B&B and celebrated in the local.
The next day Ian surprised me by taking me across the top of Scotland to Dunnet Head, the most northerly point of mainland Scotland, which was fitting as I’ve also been to Land’s End.
“From this angle I can see Old Man of Hoy, the whole of Scotland & England all the way to our flat in Brighton!”
Final pose  :coolsmiley:

Zen at Dunnet Head

“So Zen, which part was your favourite? – the first part: drizzle, atmospheric moorlands and lochs, isolation, troublesome river crossings, falls & heartbreak, or the second part: blissful sun drenched long days, bright moorlands and expansive glens, stupendous wild camps, trekking friends & spicy beef jerky?”
“A tough one, but if I had to decide, the first part …. the true challenging Highlands!”
“So much of who we are, is where we have been & what we’ve experienced!”
"Thanks Ian for bringing me along."  :angel:
"Couldn't have done it without you!"  :smitten:

I hope you have enjoyed my trip report.
 Zen  :)
Good luck on your next adventure
Ian & Zen


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Re: Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #58 on: 13:05:12, 17/10/20 »
Certainly did enjoy your trip reports, Zen. Thank you for posting.  O0
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Re: Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #59 on: 13:10:05, 17/10/20 »
Fantastic journey, very dog...ged to finish!  O0


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