Hiking the Hebridean Way – Part 6

This is part of the travel journal I wrote while walking the Hebridean Way in 2022. If you want to see all the Hebridean Way posts, you can find them here.

Day 11 Tarbert to Kinloch in Sun and Wind

Photos of the day: https://photos.app.goo.gl/RK1gLcHEZWadKR4w7

Today, I have a short day ahead of me, only 15 km to the Scaladale Center in Ardvourlie, and it’s supposed to be really sunny in the afternoon. That feels a bit silly, so I look at the route and think that the taxi can probably pick me up a bit further along the way since the path runs along the route to my next B&B. Let’s see how that works out.

I say goodbye to Hotel Hebrides and Tarbert – a very nice place. The dinner at the hotel wasn’t the best, nor was the beer, but the breakfast and the room were really good. It’s still cloudy, and the occasional shower threatens, but I don’t feel like hanging around Tarbert for another hour, so I set off at 10 am, heading east out of town towards North Harris. Lewis and Harris are a strange combination of islands. You’d think the narrow point at Tarbert would be the border between Lewis and Harris, but that’s not the case. The peninsula south of Tarbert is South Harris, the hills north of it are North Harris, and only beyond that does Lewis begin.

Heading into the hills from Tarbert.

After a short stretch on the main road, the Hebridean Way turns north along Loch Lacasdail, and for once, I see two hikers with large daypacks ahead of me. When I finally catch up to them, I see a familiar face: Janna, the German hiker I met two days ago in Horgabost. And her companion is also from home: Helena. Both are from Frankfurt, as it turns out, and met by chance along the way. What a small world it is. We walk together for a while, talking about the hardships of the rain and stormy days. They’ve had it much harder than I have, since they are camping and carrying at least 15-16 kg on their backs. They have my utmost respect.

That’s a much heavier backpack than mine.
That’s more like it!

The sun finally comes out as promised, but it remains very windy, almost as stormy as last week. As I look around, I see Helena’s rain cover being ripped from her backpack and flying over the moor. I practically write it off, but she – by this point a good 200 meters behind Janna and me – courageously runs after it and manages to catch it. After we’ve conquered the next climb after the loch, the two take a break in a welcome bus stop, but I’m not in the mood for a break yet and say goodbye for now.

Alone, I continue up the highest hill of the day, but only with a gentle incline. On the other side more magnificent views await me under racing clouds. I descend to Loch Shiphoirt/Seaforth, which extends deep into the island’s interior. And there lies Ardvourlie and the Scaladale Center, a sort of hostel for youth clubs. It’s not even 2 pm yet, I won’t be being picked up until 5, and the weather is great. So I only take a short break here – the center is open, but no one is there – and check the map. Ahead of me lies a section on the main road, followed by a climb up Griamascleit Hill, which supposedly offers more great views. After that, the trail goes back to the road, where there’s a parking lot that should be a great pickup spot. And if I can’t get a phone signal, I can always make it back. So off I go!

Lots of water rushing down from the hills.
Ghostly woods of the Aline Community Woodland

The road here is the main connection between Tarbert and Stornoway, so there’s quite a bit of traffic. But the shoulders are wide, and usually there’s a parallel path I can use. With the wind at my back, I make good progress and reach the Aline Community Woodland which surrounds Griamascleit Hill. This was a spruce plantation by the Forestry Commission – I encounter them on every trip to Scotland – that wasn’t very successful. The Pine Beauty Moth found the monoculture quite tasty and destroyed much of the stock. The FC handed over the project, and a community project (the Aline Community) took over to plant more native trees. The whole thing seems to be recovering, and there are great trails and boardwalks to explore the area.

Griamascleit Hill.
I love me a boardwalk.

The path takes me up Griamascleit, and the views are indeed stunning. As is the wind, which barely lets me stand upright on the summit. I can’t linger in this, so I wander back down, where the trees provide shelter from the wind. There’s also cell service here, and I can let Harry know where to find me today. No problem at all. I have a good hour to spare, during which I explore a small boardwalk loop and rest in the sun, sheltered from the wind. A wonderful end to the hike.

View from Griamascleit Hill.

It’s Harry’s colleague from Quickcabs who picks me up today, and it’s not far to Kinloch House B&B. There, a wonderful large old house with high, spacious rooms and self-sanded wooden floors awaits me (oh, how I appreciate that). Sandy, the owner, seems a bit chaotic and informs me that he had to rearrange things. I’ll only be here tonight and move to Clearview B&B nearby tomorrow. Okay, no problem, though it’s a bit of a shame because my room is really great. But he drives me over to the Balallan Bistro, where his son has opened a café/restaurant/bistro to cater to the guests of the surrounding B&Bs for dinner. It has apparently become a hit, as there are no other dining options here. The bistro doesn’t look 100% professional yet, and the food doesn’t reach star quality, but my fish & chips are better than those at the Hotel Hebrides the day before yesterday. Sandy picks me up again and generously offers me a 14-year-old Glenmorangie by the fire in the sitting room, where a cozy fire is burning in the fireplace. Very considerate!

The day’s track.

The only downside is that I seem to have left my power adapter at the Hotel Hebrides this morning. I can charge my phone with my power bank, but my computer won’t last forever, even in power-saving mode. Let’s see if I can somehow get it back, or find a replacement in Stornoway on Monday. If reports go missing until then, you’ll know why!

Day 12 – Aline Community Woodland to Balallan with Good Company and Good Conversations

Photos of the Day: https://photos.app.goo.gl/aBgmxc5a1WHyonCQA

Actually, I have plenty of time this morning from the 8:00 breakfast until I’m picked up at 9:30 to be brought to my starting point, but the company is so good that it becomes a bit tight, and I have to hurry to pack my stuff. Here at Kinloch House B&B, I have the met Joanna and Simon, an English couple – perhaps a little older than me – who gave up their Hebridean Way hike two days ago due to the weather and Joanna’s problems with her knee. Now, they are driving around by car. Like me, they will be moving to Clearview B&B this evening, and like me, they are a bit sad because Kinloch House is very nice, and our host Sandy is a bubbling fountain of stories and information about the islands. With great difficulty, I have to tear myself away from his tales about the Crofting Laws and the development on Lewis to pack my backpack in time. I make plans with Joanna and Simon, also well-traveled with many stories, to meet for dinner at Balallan Bistro, and then Harry’s colleague arrives with the QuickCab at the door.

Aline Community Woodland

Today’s hike will be short since I walked further than planned yesterday, and Clearview is also two miles closer than Kinloch House. I’ll have to add these two miles to tomorrow’s route, but that won’t be a problem.

From the Aline Community Woodland Car Park, the path follows the boardwalk for a short distance and then leads down to the next village (I’m using the term very generously here), parallel to the road but not on it. The weather is a bit cloudier than yesterday but not as stormy, and several showers pass south of me without personally bothering me. Just right!

I’m just happy that it’s not raining.

At the entrance to Arivruaich, the Hebridean Way turns north off the road and begins to wind through the moor around a few small lochs. The path is mostly a peat road again, but it has significantly sunken back into the moor. In parts, it is easier to walk parallel to it in the moor than on the path itself. Nevertheless, I make good progress and quickly cover the first half of the day’s stage with 7km. In the lee of a slope, I meet Janna, who is taking a break here. Where is Helena? Well, her tent was apparently blown away during the night, and Janna only found a note in the morning (they had camped together shortly after Griamascleit) that she had already set off again in the early morning hours.

View across the moor.
Resting sheep

Together, we continue through the moor, and although the views are not as spectacular as yesterday, the landscape is beautiful with the changing sun, clouds, and occasional raindrops. Too quickly, the path turns back towards the road and reaches Balallan, where my B&B is located. It is still before 2 pm, clearly too early to check into the B&B. So, I accompany Janna to the Bistro, where lunch is served until 3 pm. Although I don’t need lunch, they also make a delicious coffee, and the time flies by with pleasant conversation. After studying, Janna traveled the world for a year (with Work & Travel in Australia), and just before the pandemic, she took another long break and has already been to many places (more than me, although she is 20 years younger). We talk about Australia, New Zealand, South America, Canada, and all the beautiful places in the world that can be hiked.

Clearview B&B

At 3 pm, the Bistro closes until the evening, and I head to the B&B while Janna wants to continue a bit further to walk to Stornoway in one go tomorrow. We’ll see if we meet again. Clearview is quite different from Kinloch House. A gray bungalow with a very classic B&B interior, including floral wallpaper, a tiny bathroom, and puzzles framed as pictures on the wall. Norman (no, I don’t think “Bates”) and Irene run it but are much more reserved than Sandy. It’s not entirely fair because everything is okay, but it’s easy to feel a bit disappointed after Kinloch House.

It was a fairly short walk today.

I sort the photos of the day (significantly fewer than usual because there wasn’t much excitement), read a bit, and then go back to the Bistro for dinner with Joanna and Simon, who have also arrived by now. Today is truly a day of good company and excellent conversations! It’s nice to hear that the two of them are also staying in Stornoway, like me, at the Hebridean Guest House. So, we will see each other a few more times. We spend a cozy evening with seafood pasta (Joanna and me) and fish & chips (Simon) until it’s time to return to Clearview. They disappear into their room, while I plant myself in the sitting room for a while to write my journal.

Tomorrow, I will set off from here, 20km to Achadh Mhór, the penultimate day on the actual Hebridean Way. The end is drawing near!

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