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" Scotland - 4 - Sands Bay and Toscaig"
Date & start time: Tues/Wed/Thurs, 20-22nd September 2016.
Location of Start : Sands Bay ( NG 712 400 ) and Toscaig ( NG 714 390 )
Stayed at : Cruinn-leum Roundhouse, Toscaig, Applecross. Scotland, UK.
Places visited : Clachan Heritage Centre, Sands Bay and walks around Toscaig.
Walk details : A drive then local walks.
With : Ann and our dogs, Harry and Dylan.
Weather : Changeable with lovely sunshine on two of the days.
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One morning I took Dylan out for an early walk to explore the hillside behind the house.
The purpose was not to spend lots of time or cover lots of distance,
but just to get up higher to enjoy the view this fine morning.
Out of the gate and pick a route up the hillside
following a trackless route up through the moorland vegetation and rock outcrops.
Looking south past the occasional tree . . . a birch indicative of poor soils and basic nutrition.
Another oak gives an indication of the direction of the prevailing winds.
The western views this fine morning were good
as I changed the lens to get a photo of Dun Caan on Raasay with its similar landscape.
At the tip of Raasay there is a small sea passage before the Island of Rona continues on north.
This side is the deep Inner Sound, the other is the Sound of Raasay.
The light on the northern tip of Rona.
Just the northern tip of the Outer Hebrides then the next real landfall is the North Pole !
Top dog . . . on the high point overlooking the villages of Culduie, Camusterrach, Cumusteel
and the harbour where we started our walk to Airde Baine and the otters.
- - - o o o - - -
Another morning the weather wasn't so good so we started our day with a visit to Clachan,
on the opposite of the bay from the village of Applecross.
It has an old church, built on the site of an earlier chapel and before that, a monastery.
Local information tells us it was founded by the Irish monk Maelrhubha AD 641 (he gave his name to Loch Maree)
and is the second most important religious site in Scotland after Iona.
There's also a fine Heritage Centre where we enjoyed some time looking at the exhibits and reading the information.
In the dome, a model of the old monastic settlement and behind the chair, a replica coracle.
It was only in 1979 that the road around the northern shore of the Applecross Peninsular was built.
Until then the only way into the area was by boat or by driving the 2000 ft road pass over the Bealach na Bà,
an old drovers road, often closed in winter.
As we drive up the road we can look back at the southern half of the peninsular over the wide Applecross Bay.
The road rounds the first corner and we see the naval buildings and the beach at the appropriately named Sands Bay.
[ The very deep waters of the Inner Sound are apparently very good for testing military sonar systems.]
Why this area should gather so much sand when all around is rocky is no doubt a quirk of the geology.
Nevertheless the name is most appropriate.
Chance for the dogs and ourselves to get out for a stroll on the beach.
The conical hill is presumably Bla Bheinn in the Cuillins, as seen over the island of Scalpay.
Dylan " taking the air ".
Harry "taking the water".
Is this my better side ?
The strong afternoon sunshine reflects on the small stream that crosses the sands
as we make our way back up the beach.
The coastal road climbs quite high above the rock outcrop.
We didn't realise why until we saw the wind-blown sand half way up the cliffs below.
- - - o o o - - -
On the way back we call in at the campsite in Applecross Village.
We stayed here many years ago, Ann on a camping holiday (before the new road was built),
and then both of us, with the caravan and the children, on our holiday in 1996.
I remember the flat field of the site but the trees have grown and the pods are new.
However at the top of the rise, the ancient broch still exists though no great height of stone walls remain.
It was excavated a few years back by the Channel 4 Time Team for their archaeological television programme.
You can just make out the circular nature of the foundations
but most of the stone would has been removed, most likely for the early houses and farm buildings built close to the site.
Two such early buildings have been restored at the top of the farm road.
These "Hebridean Barns" would probably have had thatched roofs in their day but they show how advanced the farm was in early days.
One has wicker panels to keep out the worst of the weather
yet they allow the contents of the barn to have a supply of fresh air to stop the produce inside going stale.
They have restored what were thought to be grain storage pits. The far one had been dug out much deeper in later times
for the storage of modern silage (cut green grass) rather than the traditional dried hay.
Continuing the history theme, they have built an early "iron age" thatched round-house near the broch.
The thatcher's art was well displayed in the structure of the roof.
Time to head back to our round house by the shore in Toscaig.
- - - o o o - - -
An artistic sign on a local house in Toscaig . . . sorry no translation available.
A flock of pigeons . . . the number of birds was a surprise.
A busy smallholding on the upper road in Toscaig.
Dylan and I climbed high on the moorland this day . . .
but the "going was soft" as they say . . . wet and boggy in the hollows . . . and not easy walking.
We ended up crossing the seaweed and sands at the head of the harbour
and collecting a few large mussels off the rocks on the way across.
Over the other side from the pier was another inlet . . . great potential for more otters . . .
. . . but nothing seen today apart from this rather nice house.
Back up the road to home . . . and not a thing passed us on the way.
- - - o o o - - -
Another morning and the sun is shining.
[ The round house also has a turf-roofed outhouse with laundry and deep freeze if needed.]
Perhaps time to sit on the garden chairs ?
Ann and Harry joined us on the walk this time.
The "standing ducks" on the small holding on the upper road.
The combined paths to the abandoned villages of Uags and Airigh Drishaig leave Toscaig via the bridge.
They are two and a half or four miles of tough walking, not forgetting the walk back of course.
We'll just stay local today . . . as we start out along the path a short way.
Taking a different line to the harbour this time.
Rock outcrops, heather and bog . . . a very Scottish combination.
This path brought us over to the cliff above the head of the beach.
There was a sighting of a heron standing next to the river.
Unfortunately there was no sighting of a way down to the beach here . . . so we back-tracked on our route.
One of our evening meals was my Toscaig Mussels washed down with a glass of classy "Côtes du Somerset".
However, on our last evening in Applecross we returned to the Walled Garden for a rather special meal out.
We booked a table for two . . . but were upgraded to a table for four with two settings . . .
The smaller table was just too small for our "Seafood Platter"
Lobster, prawns, hot squat lobster, smoked and fresh salmon, mussels, cod in batter, scallops, salad and bread . . . .
all that after a lovely crab bisque (soup) to start . . . what a superb way to end our week at Cruinn-leum Roundhouse.
- - - o o o - - -
Technical note: Pictures taken with either Ann's new Panasonic Lumix Tz60 Compact, or my Panasonic Gx8 Compact System Camera.
Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.
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Previous walk - 19th September 2016 - 3. Airde Baine
A previous time in the area - 8th to 18th May 2015 - Durness and Northern Scotland
Next Walk - 23rd September 5. North to Gairloch