Micro Adventures - Climbing Suilven and exploring the local area including the fabulous Bone Caves

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As the saying goes "While the cats away, the mice will play", the cat being my Girlfriend Tori and the mice being myself and Doofy! Due to a fairly early start on the Saturday morning we thought it would be wise for Doofy to stay over on the Friday night, also so i could cast an eye over the essential gear he was packing for our adventure, well lack of essential gear I should say. The plan was to visit a number of cool places on the way and finish the day off with a walk and camp at the summit of Suilven. To see the video click the link Micro Adventures - Climbing Suilven and exploring the local area including the fabulous Bone Caves
Photo credit: Discovering Britain

For this adventure we had packed items such as: a Caricook stove, survival bags, sleeping bags, compass, tent and a bottle of Glenmorangie whisky 😋. Another item which i will be carrying on my adventures from now on is the brilliantly written 'Wild Guide: Scotland' you can also click on the link if you would like to find out more on the book or make a purchase, i think i paid around £16.99 from Waterstones and it really was a worthy purchase.

We set off on our adventure at approx 08:00 on the Saturday morning and our first stop would be at Costa coffee in Inverness to purchase a couple of takeaway cappuccinos. After travelling 35 miles North West from Inverness we came across our first stop which was actually an unplanned one at Loch Glascarnoch Dam, by the Alltguish Inn. We made the short walk across the dam and climbed down to the lochs side, there wasn't much to see here, so we took a couple of photos and then set off back to the car, not exactly a tourist attraction but we thought it was worth a quick look, even just to stretch our legs for 15 minutes.  

Next stop and the first planned one was that of Corrieshalloch Gorge, this was a further 10 miles along the road from the Loch, unknowing to me it would be very easy to pass the turn off if you were not paying attention to the signs, luckily for us Doofy was😲! After performing a small U-turn we were back on the correct route. Approaching the carpark there were a lot of vehicles, mainly motorbikes mounted by middle aged German men. 

After parking up we set off on the short walk down towards the gorge, when we arrived the first thing we saw was a suspension bridge which crossed the gorge and had great views to a waterfall and the River Droma below. The river flows through a mile long box canyon and is named after the Gaelic for 'ugly hollow', however, this couldn't be further from the truth of this National Nature Reserve. The suspension bridge was built by John Fowler, the pioneering engineer responsible for the world’s first underground railway and joint chief engineer on the iconic Forth Railway Bridge.

Unfortunately for us, we had to wait our turn to go onto the bridge as there was a sign stressing that no more than 6 people to be on the bridge at any time, at this point there were at least 10 Germans on the bridge ignoring those very instructions! Once we finally managed to get onto the bridge we took a few photos and then set off to the other side and carried on down the path to an extended viewing platform which overhung the gorge and offered brilliant views of the suspension bridge, waterfall and gorge. Due to the thousands of midges feasting on our flesh and the ever increasing German presence, we soon set off back to the car. Not that i have anything against Germans, but when they start to outnumber the midge population then it is time to move on.

Continuing on our journey the next stop would be 12 miles away and was the town of Ullapool, here we had a short wander and ended up in a small cafe for some lunch. Being in front of Doofy as we entered the cafe, I led us to a table and placed my camera and some other items on the table presuming Doofy would keep an eye on the items, before turning to place my order. After ordering a chicken burger and chips I turned round to find someone sitting at our table, this was not Doofy, I politely explained this table was taken and believed Doofy would be joining me any second, as I was explaining this i caught glimpse of Doofy perched on a seat at a completely different table! After finishing our lunch we travelled another 25 miles to Ardvreck Castle on the shores of Loch Assynt. The views on this drive were nothing short of spectacular and we were somewhat held up with multiple stops to gaze at the scenery. 

Ardvreck Castle was built by the Clan McLeod in the 16th century and would act as a good defensive site at the North Eastern side of the loch. The castle is easily seen from the road side but it is highly recommended that the short stroll across for a closer inspection is completed.

Before going over to the castle there are a few notice boards explaining a bit about the history of the castle and such likes, this was an interesting read before venturing across to the castle itself, the castle offers some quirky little areas and interesting angles for photo opportunities, although some gentle climbing is necessary to appreciate all the areas available. The wind at the castle was only describable as "hurricane-like", we were now thinking that camping on the summit of Suilven was probably not advisable nor possible! The thought of our tent being blown away either before pitching or with us in it and landing in a loch several miles away was now starting to run through my head.

Arguably one of the most beautiful beaches on mainland Scotland was to be our next destination, Achmelvich Beach. By this point, we had a few sightings of Suilven, an imposing presence within this area's landscape. This part of the journey was 13 miles in total, although once you turn off by Lochinver, the road gets very narrow and slow moving, we were even held up briefly by half a dozen sheep at one point. Arriving at the car park you will see Achmelvich Beach Youth Hostel close by, I haven't stayed here myself but heard it was a fine hostel. There's around a 5 minute walk from the car park to the beach itself, we did notice a path off to the right where some other tourists were walking but we carried on straight ahead to the beach. We were welcomed with yet some more strong wind in our faces and the pleasant sight of the whitest of sand I had seen for a long time, the water was clear and mainly turquoise in colour, like something from a Caribbean island, yet we were still in Scotland, the cold wind and cloud in the sky were a constant reminder. 

The picture below showing Suilven in the background, no matter where you are you always feel that Suilven has it's eye on you! We spent quite a while walking on the beach and climbing the rocks surrounding the sands, the sun did make a very brief appearance, for all of maybe 30 seconds and it really did emphasise the beauty of Achmelvich Beach. It was a pity that the sun never lasted and the sea was bloody freezing, as we would of both loved a swim but it wasn't to be.

It was now about 15:15 pm so we decided to return to the car and make the journey to Glencanisp Lodge. I had read that it is worthwhile driving to the lodge and parking the car in the grounds of the lodge, this would cut a couple of miles off the trip and after climbing Suilven it would be a welcome bonus. Once we had parked up we got all of our gear out the boot and set off towards the lodge. After around 15 minutes of walking we noticed the dark clouds were close behind us, they seemed to be travelling in the same direction as us, well of course they were it's bloody Scotland! The rain had started, but it was only light and nothing to worry about, after around 45 minutes of walking time and 3.8km along the track we reached Suileag Bothy, keep an eye out for a track bearing to the left as you need to take this if you wish to visit the bothy.

We arrived at the bothy just in time to avoid the downpour and by christ, it was a downpour! The views of Suilven were breathtaking although limited due to the low lying clouds.

Entering the bothy we presumed we would be alone, but there is an older gentleman set up in the corner lying down in his waterproofs, we never actually got to know his name but we knew he was from Bournemouth, so we will just call him "Bernard" from Bournemouth. We chatted with Bernard for around 15 minutes and he explained he "had been out here for a week fishing as the lochs are some of the best in the UK, if not Europe" yet we saw no fish, smelt no fish or were offered no fish! Maybe Bernard had eaten it all as the weather was too bad to go fishing. After chatting for a while we headed through to the other part of the bothy and set up for the night, 5 minutes into blowing our airbeds up, Bernard appeared and chatted at us, (not with us) for around half an hour, then he decided to "have an early night". By this point, we had the fire burning, the whisky out and the caricook stove heating up for our tinned sausage and bean mix Doofy had bought from the Tesco in Ullapool. With the rain now rattling off the bothy's tin roof like a sentry gun firing at a tank, it just added to the atmosphere of a night out in the wilds staying in a bothy in the Scottish Highlands.
A short while after the bottle of whisky had been devoured we settled down for the night, although we had the fire roaring most of the evening it soon became bloody baltic as we both woke up on different occasions realising this!

The morning was upon us and the low-lying clouds had lifted but it still wasn't a good day by any stretch of the imagination, but fortunately, we could now see Suilven again. The first task of the day was to make the coffee, I made the short journey across to the burn to collect some water for boiling, I then set up the stove and started to boil the water. As the water was boiling I made the start to pack away all my gear, then as I turned to check on the water I see Doofy throwing in the coffee to the pan! Now I am sure it will still taste fine, although maybe a little burnt, but it just has me asking myself the question....."Does he put coffee into his kettle while he boils the water at home?"  Once we had finished our coffee, had a bite to eat and packed away all our gear we headed for the exit, Bernard was in the middle of shaving in the room next to us 🤔! We headed over and presented him with a Tesco bag full of leftover ingredients which we were not going to need for the rest of out trip, he accepted the bag like a kid getting a selection box on Christmas day. We made our way to the door and Bernard followed us out, his face still with bits of shaving foam on it and his razor in hand, telling us about the weather and how we needed to take our time as the weather was going to be "pretty fair". We said our goodbyes and made our way towards Suilven.

10 minutes along the track we were starting to think how hard a climb it would be with all the gear on our back, so we took a calculated risk and hid our rucksacks behind a rock off track and covered it in heather, of course we made sure we carried the essentials on us like the car keys (incase our bag was robbed), map, camera, GoPro, survival bag, food etc. The rain had now started and Bernard's words of "pretty fair" seemed far from being true.... The moral of the story......"Never trust an Englishman predicting the Scottish weather!" After walking 2.5km from the bothy and 6.1km overall. We were now at the stage of turning right and heading directly towards Suilven.

Passing a small digger and several bulk bags filled with rocks for path repairs we were slowly edging closer to the foot of Suilven. Half way up a small steep hill Doofy decided he was needing to "lighten the load", so he veered off to the side of the track and squatted down to "lay a "brown one". Not an unusual thing to do whilst out in the wilds overnight I suppose, so I decided to go sit on a stone by the track at a distance not to encroach on his privacy, although I had not taken the wind direction into consideration and the position I had taken to protect Doofy's privacy had immediately seemed grossly inadequate 😷😷😷!

Moving forward from that horrific experience we were now approaching the foot of Suilven, having walked 4.6km since the bothy and a total of 8.3km, we were now at an elevation of 283m and just beginning the hard work of the ascent. As we moved closer to the top of the hill the hiking became more of a climb, with steeper and tougher sections becoming more frequent, Doofy's head for heights was starting to be questioned. Another 1km of hard going hiking and we had finally reached the lowest point of the "top of the hill", by this I mean we had reached a flat area on the ridge of the hill and now would make our journey across the hill whilst still ascending but at a much gentler rate, we were now at an elevation of 558m, 5km from the bothy and a total of 9.4km of walking distance. There was not a huge amount of "safe areas" on the hill and was still quite windy with low visibility in parts, this culminated in Doofy starting to feel a bit dizzy and panicky at how he was going to descend some of the tricky parts which we had recently navigated. We took this opportunity to sit down for lunch by a dry stone dyke, yes a dry stone dyke was up here, I have tried to google the reason behind this dyke but was not able to come away with a credible explanation.

Unfortunately, Doofy was feeling rather queasy and couldn't manage his lunch. I quickly had a bite to eat then made my way towards the summit of the hill. First up was a steep climb over what I would describe as a mini hill on top of the hill, once I reached the top,  I walked across the flat area and reached an area that required me to climb down followed by a steep climb up yet another mini hill. The wind had really picked up by this point and the mini hill was starting to disappear, so I sat down and waited to see if the hill would reappear, after 5 minutes or more I decided to backtrack and join Doofy for our descent. I had reached a highest elevation of 600m and at a total distance of 9.6km and 2hr 14min of moving time!
If you look closely you will see Doofy in the gap at the wall 😆
The walk back started off quite tricky until we navigated our way to the foot of the hill, then a repeat of the track we had earlier walked and collecting our belongings as we put in a shift to get back to Glencanisp Lodge and the car. When We did finally arrive at the car, we had a moving time of 4hr 24min and a total of 19.5km walked. Our elapsed time (total time) was 20hr and 59min. Before we drove off we decided to make a quick trip to the "honesty shop" close to the car park, as we entered Doofy had read the menu on the wall and after checking his pockets for money requested £1 for a tin of juice, I had about £2.10 in change so i bought us a tin each. As I drank my juice and browsed the various items for sale such as t-shirts and other bits of memorabilia, I turned round to see Doofy making himself a coffee, now I know he had no change and I only had about £2.10 in change and of which £2 was already spent and I was fairly sure an honesty shop would not have card facilities.

David: "Doofy what you doing?" 

Doofy: "Oh I thought the coffee was free of charge"

David: "It's a bloody shop, of course it's not free"

 We then both look up at the various menus and price lists on the wall......


By this point, it was too late to return the coffee and he would have to live with the label of "an honest thief" forever more!

We then headed for a pub in Lochinver, both ordering and devouring a plate of fish and chips and yes this time Doofy did pay for it. After our bellies were sufficiently full we started on our route home but with a further two stops to be made. The first was the Bone Caves around 4km South of Inchnadamph. After parking up we started the 2km walk towards the caves, first passing a lovely wee waterfall and then winding our way through the limestone valley and reaching the caves around 25 minutes later. There are 4 caves to explore and there is plenty of room for a good few people to go in at once, a torch for exploring is recommended. There is a small hole which connects two of the caves, children and possibly smaller adults could squeeze through this gap, although a quick wave from cave to cave is recommended.

The "Bone Caves" are named after the huge amount of bones excavated from them, these include wildcat, lynx, bear reindeer and even a human skull! Click on the link above to read more about these findings. Returning to the car once again, we had one more stop and this was Lael Forest Garden. Here there are over 200 different species of tree growing, which can be seen by various short walks around the gardens, but more excitingly another waterfall was close by.

After spending 10 minutes close to the waterfall we decided to call it a day and head for home. Both shattered from a long but very enjoyable adventure.

To see the video clich the link below:

Micro Adventures - Climbing Suilven and exploring the local area including the fabulous Bone Caves

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