Cape Wrath Trail, 9 – 20 June 2022


In June 2022 I walked the Cape Wrath Trail. It rained every single day; meanwhile southern England was at the start of what would be the hottest period in UK meteorological history. This is my journal, more or less verbatim from that trip.

The Journal

Thursday 9 June 2022, Fort William – Corryhully Bothy (NM 91301 84387)

Palaver over the last couple of days. I was due to fly on Tuesday 07 June at 1040, but Easyjet cancelled and I rescheduled to Wednesday at 1440. The net result was to lose two days of walking, as I only reached Fort William yesterday at 2015, and the only way to get to the start of the walk (500m by sea) would have been a complicated hitch-hike of 20km. I decided not worth it and unlikely to succeed, so walked out of FW and camped.

Today I took the boat across the bay at 0800. There were two crew. I was the only passenger. The fee was £2. It looked like there was only one person on the return trip too. I had anticipated there might be hoards of CWT’ers, all young, multi-lingual and excitable. But no, just me. Pretty easy day – about 10km by the sea loch, walking on a road. A few cars, but pleasant. Rhododendrons in their glory: weeds here, of course. Then turn west to follow the Cona river for maybe 12-13km all along good quality 4WD track, before turning north and finally hitting the boggy ground in the short climb over to Glenfinnan. The Glen Cona was pleasant easy going, but proper Scottish landscape, that I’ve come for. I skipped through the honeypot at Glenfinnan sharpish. Although I took in the monument and the viaduct (not a patch on Ribblehead). The guide says 34.3km to Glenfinnan and about 4km further to the bothy. But easy walking – I was here by 1700, so 9 hours all told.

I’m alone here currently, although there is someone else’s kit. Bothy is sort of clean, but lots of wood debris and broken furniture. I guess if filled with muddy, steaming hikers any frills would be ruined. But it does strike one that not much effort could make it much more cosy. Still absolutely can’t complain. It’s dry. So far the midges remain outside and (uniquely?) this bothy has electricity. So lights and the facility to charge my phone.

Friday 10 June 2022, Corryhully Bothy – Sourlies Bothy (NM 86740 95061)

Today’s walk was effectively: follow river up to a saddle, follow river going down the other side. Repeat. Squalls all day, sometimes pretty heavy. I’m walking in just running-shorts, which so far has worked. If I can keep my torso warm, my legs are fine. Working muscles can look after themselves. Scenery is utterly spectacular. Proper rocky Scottish crags and mountains. Light constantly changing as squalls blow over. I can bear the rain so long as there are breaks. I alternate wet and dry through the day.

Last night shared large bothy with a Canadian couple. It was nice to be able to move around whilst it rained outside. Tonight’s bothy is much smaller and we’re cramped with one other solo walker plus a family of four.

I arrived here at 3pm, having started out about 0830. It’s an idyllic location by a sea-loch, utterly cut off from roads. I debated about going on, but it would have been a four hour haul (perhaps a bit less – we’ll see tomorrow) to the next bothy. At the time the bursts of heavy rain were still coming in, although they since seem to have stopped. Probably good to have a relatively easy day now. I can push on later in the trip. Maybe 25km today.

Lots of cooking going on in here, including one guy using solid fuel (wax). Plus fire. Hope we don’t get CO poisoning – I’ll contrive to open the door shortly.

Saturday 11 June 2022, Corryhully bothy – Just out of Kinloch Hourn (NG 94886 07290)

Probably walked about 27km today, though not sure. Steady walk up the glen following river. Everything in spate after all the rain, so fording streams took a bit of planning and care. You quickly stop avoiding puddles or water pools – after wading through knee-high streams, who cares? Wearing shorts seems smart – nothing to get flappy wet, and bare legs dry quickly. Over a saddle and down to Barisdale, where I ate lunch in the bothy. The route to Kinloch Hourn looks a doddle on the map – following the shore of the sea-loch. It’s anything but! Like a tough coastal path, lots of ups and downs and clingy sodden vegetation. Slow progress.

The rain was intermittent this morning, but non-stop since lunch and continues now. My uberlite use of a bin bag as a dry-sack was a bit of a failure. Only one small hole, but the water found a way in. Thankfully only my inflatable pillow seems wet. But my backpack, clothes I was wearing and me are utterly soaked through. Again what seems a super coat fails in these conditions. Shit really. Just about got up the tent and so far seems good inside. I’m in woods that are attached to some estate and I’ve pitched on what looks like a path. I’m hoping the rain keeps any folk away. It’s also in the middle of nowhere. I’ll have to decide tomorrow whether to pause at Shiel Bridge (eg at Youth Hostel) or crack on to a bothy that’s probably 20km further on. Must say, the rain is getting wearisome. No midges though. If this rain persists, I’ll need to rethink.

Sunday 12 June 2022, Kinloch Hourn – Loch na Leitreach (NH 01782 27661)

I did have a plan to get to a bothy, but I knew that was the best part of two hours further and it was by now 1845. There were obvious camp spots by the loch, so I switched to plan B and stopped. I’d been walking since 0815, and I’d promised myself before I started that I wouldn’t do these real long days. The thing was – is – that everything is damp now, and I figured four walls and a roof preferable. I guess I can manage the night and maybe one or two more, but it gets tiresome with everything sodden.

It’s set to rain (“light showers”) all week. The showers are intermittent and the cloud base stays high, so no walking in mist so far. I think I’ll try hereon to stay in shelters if I can and accept the variable cost (ie nil in bothy, £££! for B&B).

Scenery remains just fabulous. Not experienced any walk like this in terms of continuous wonderful mountains. The CWT basically avoids the tops (unlike Cambrian Way) and involves walking up a glen to a saddle, cross saddle, walk down next glen. All completely remote. No farms, no livestock, no people.

I realised that yesterday, after I left the bothy, I didn’t see a single person all day. Not one. Even at a distance.

Reached Spiel Bridge at lunchtime, which is first opportunity to restock on the route: 3½ days in. Having started with way too much food, I was pretty good today at keeping purchases modest.

Falls of Glomach spectacular. Requires a hell of an effort to reach them – there’s no easy route. With so much rainfall, particularly powerful and potent. Maybe 31km today.

Monday 13 June 2022, Loch na Leitreach – Coire Fionnarich Bothy (NG 95004 47983)

Incredibly long day. Didn’t reach here till 1945, having started at 0845. I’m underestimating both distance and time it will take. Started well enough with a good track most of the way to Maol Bhuidhe Bothy. This took me nearly three hours – so good job I didn’t attempt it last night. Lovely little bothy – quite in the middle of nowhere. You’d need to carry a bag of coal with you if you stayed in winter – but would be worth it.

The weather turned as I left, and deluge hit for a couple of hours. The path after this bothy is non-existent and is through a bog. I later discovered that the “official” route has changed. Having reached Bendronaig lodge some time after 1400 – utterly drenched – I decided to follow the longer forestry paths to Attadale and then the road to Strathcarron. Possibly as mistake – it added a significant distance – but I couldn’t face plodding through more bog and mire. So easily over 40km today. Not all productive. I was incredibly weary over last few km. One other person – Catherine – who is nearly finished walking from Lands End to Cape Wrath. Oddly, the only walker I passed today was walking from John O’Groats to Lands End (“JOGLE”) – not quite sure why he’s so far west, nor so slow – he said he was two weeks in. But puts a few aches and pains on a two week walk into perspective.

What do I think about when walking? Not much! Lots of ear-worms – usually tracks recently re-heard on Sounds of the 70s. Lots of planning about the walk itself, down to when will I take the next break, what’s my schedule today, etc. I try not to dwell on recriminations and regrets regarding life and career. Not worth the angst – although at times I indulge them.

Tuesday 14 June 2022 Coire Fionnarich Bothy – Kinlochewe campsite (NH 02641 61993)

£13 for shower, water and proper loos. Otherwise a nondescript site – mainly for caravans. Another long day, starting at 0900 but only finishing at 1900. About 30km, maybe a bit less. Main effort around Beinn Eighe for much of the way pathless. Again raining on and off all day, but somehow tolerable as the rain never too heavy, and you know it’s going to stop sometime. The hills are misty and murky, gloomy and looming, fading and reappearing. In Southern Britain there is a heat-warning!

I walked with Catherine for most of the day and with an odd Dutchman – a second Daniel – for some of the time. Daniel insisted on taking his shoes off to cross streams, which delayed him no end. In the back of beyond, Catherine nobly wanted to ensure we all crossed the biggest river safely, but after this I was in no mood to hang around and, it seems eventually, neither was Catherine. We plodded on ahead. I was lucky to have her with me, because she first heard and then pointed out a Golden Eagle flying close by. The first I’ve ever seen.

Wednesday 15 June 2022, Kinlochewe campsite – Shenavall Bothy (NH 06548 80976)

First day without rain. Well, it stopped by 0800 and only resumed at 1800, so good walking. An easier day with a straight-forward first section following 4WD paths up into the glen. Got tricker as I climbed the flanks of Meall Garbh where what seemed to be a good footpath turned out to be a slightly wrong direction, so west about 600m of track. Coming down to the glen Alt Cul Doireachan was also tricky and took longer than I hoped. So for a relatively “easy” day, still quite a lot of walking: 27km took from 1000 to 1730. Planning BIG MILES tomorrow, maybe 36km. But may have to fall short if it takes too long.

Thursday 16 June 2022, Shenavall Bothy – Knockdamph Bothy (NH 28600 95409)

Walked at least 1500m of ascent in the 38km distance today! First part to Inverlael was on good paths / tracks with a steep initial ascent and then a sharp descent at the end down to the A-road at Inverlael. Second part from there to here was much rougher. An initial switch-back path through forestry and then a tough old climb to around 520m. No paths on the tops, although thankfully able to make good progress over the hillsides. Day bright, dry and clear, and about 14-16C, so fair temperature for walking. I read there’s a heat-wave in southern Britain currently – warnings and so on. Not here – proper Scottish here. Somewhat contrary to my normal habits I listened to radio downloads this afternoon. Firstly “Sounds of the 70s” and then “In Our Time”. It was certainly distracting from the efforts of walking. Rather enjoyable, in fact. I shall forever associate The Great Irish Potato Famine with hacking across a trackless Scottish hillside.

I’m the only one here in this bothy. First time I’ve had a place to myself (now 2035, so doubt anyone will turn up). There’s another bothy about 7km further on, which is the more interesting School House Bothy. I imagine folk starting their day at Ullapool or Invergael would aim for that one.

Bothies are a great institution, and I think I’ll join the MBA by way of repayment for the number of stays I’ve had this trip. They are isolated and without amenities and clearly have to be maintained on a shoestring. Also, they are likely to be used by muddy, sodden people, so can’t have too much adornment. But nevertheless I’ve seen a few where one thinks that not much additional effort would render the place considerably nicer. Firstly getting some slightly better furniture than school cast-outs. Secondly, getting rid of any crap that’s lying about. This one has two double beds: but these are not a good use of space, and frankly look disgusting – bare floor would be better. The fire-place here, as in others, is poorly constructed. I saw a real gem earlier in the walk, so clearly making the place really attractive is not impossible.

I’m aware that I absolutely stink! Really it’s my clothes – and of these just my under layer shirt and Gore mid-layer. I’m luxuriating at Oykel Bridge hotel tomorrow, and I’ll see if I can wash some kit on the sly. I read in the log book that it’s 72miles to go. I reckon 120km.

Need to check Cape Wrath firing times!

Friday 17 June 2022, Knockdamph Bothy – Oykel Bridge Hotel (well, hostel bit, but still cost £45) NC 38445 00916

Easy day. Would have been 13km, but I left my socks at the bothy and had to retrace my steps, so adding 3km – hey ho! Stopped for lunch at School House Bothy – which is pretty and perfect in itself – elegant, clean, distinctive. Unfortunately, rather small and seemingly accessible by car (albeit with 5km on tracks). Also an obvious target if starting from Ullapool. So I suspect often full. I enjoyed being alone last night, although I slept poorly: unable to get comfortable on my mattress. I think a real high-quality one may be the next purchase.

The hotel is geared towards fishing (and possibly hunting). Offering a gastronomic extravaganza of five course meal to those who’ve been out all day on the river. I’m planning to sample the bar meals. Hopefully reasonably priced.

I’d planned for some time to be here tonight as today, Friday, was forecast heavy rain. By yesterday this had diminished to light rain, and in fact today has been by some margin the best so far – sunny with blue skies and fluffy white clouds. Now it’s tomorrow that is forecast wind and rain. But I wonder if the exceptionally hot weather down in south Britain is making the weather up here a bit less easy to predict. I’m hoping they’ve got it wrong!

I’m considering another BIG DAY tomorrow, possibly 42km to Glen Coul Bothy. I can make a call at 30km, at Inchdamph.

Just completed Raynor Wynn’s latest book. Really a love-story with her slowly dying husband. Touching in places, but eventually a bit tedious and overwritten. Like a contribution to an Adult Education evening class in creative writing. Expressive, but needing a brutally good editor. Trading off the back of The Salt Path.

Saturday 18 June 2022 Oykel Bridge Hotel – Glencoul Bothy (NC 27043 30370)

Reckon about 45km (with detour to Inchnadamph hostel) and 1350m ascent. Took over 11 hours. The section from Inchnadamph to here was tough going. Mostly with a path but requiring attention and care. The first bit from Oykel Bridge to Inchnadamph I motored in 7 hours (30km). So the last 15km took a long time.

I had a weather-eye out all day as the forecast was for showers, but with 45mph winds. I was hit by a shower early in the day when still at a low level. It was qualitatively different from previously experienced rain, being cold and driven. Last night the met-office forecast was an “experienced” temperature of -5C (ie with wind-chill). I couldn’t believe it at the time, but after that first blast, I could see what was meant. Without trousers I figured I might have to turn back if it hit again. Luckily it never did until right at the end of the day.

Scenery, particularly after Inchnadamph, was awesome. Just brutal craggy wilderness. Wild, untameable, itself.

Picked up my food parcel at Inchnadamph hostel. Lovely proprietor, who gave me a cup of tea whilst we chatted for a while.

Coming into the bothy (about an hour away) I caught up with a Dutch woman who was clearly labouring. She looks a good deal older than me and had obviously found the route and the challenging conditions pretty draining. She’d broken a walking-pole. I offered her mine, but she declined. I left her and pushed on, slightly worried that if she didn’t reach the bothy I’d have to go out and get her. Luckily she arrived about ¾ of an hour after me.

Also here is a party of about 10 middle-aged women on a kayaking trip. They are with a leader. But two of them had capsized and been in the water for a while. They were cold, but not hypothermic. Nevertheless, at their request I made up the fire and found some more wood. Although I don’t suppose using the bothy was part of the plan initially, it seems it was the contingency. Somewhat against the code really: a commercial group, large numbers. Really though, madness for amateurs to have been kayaking today: 45mph winds not at all compatible.

Sunday 19 June 2022, Glencoul Bothy – Rhiconnach (NC 25504 52118)

Another big day – 37km. I’ve been chased inside the tent by midges. Whacked.

Monday 20 June 2022 Rhiconnach – Kearvig Bothy (NC 29254 72727)

First section to Sandwood Bay relatively easy. Long road walk through various hamlets. Notable all the industrial / vehicle debris and junk lying about: old cars, farming machinery, etc. People stop seeing these eye-sores when they are passed everyday. After this, 4WD track to the beach. I got annoyed at the time it was taking and the route march. But the second half was much tougher: another cross country hack over featureless, pathless moor. Took a long time. The Cape itself was deserted, being late when I got there. Most of the day a fearsome wind blowing from the SW, which became tedious after a while. I resorted to music on the headphones to keep my spirits up. After the Cape another 8km to the bothy, which I bombed – buffeted by the winds.

Found myself getting annoyed at the weather and the lack of paths. Basically at Scotland in general. Tomorrow is solstice. It’s blowing a gale outside and perhaps 10 – 12C. It has rained every single day of the walk, although thankfully not heavily on most days. Also the very high winds have mostly not carried rain (although sometimes drizzle), so bearable. I think without waterproof leggings I might have been in trouble had there been wind/cold/rain combined.

Table of progress

DayDate (June 2022)Walk (km)Camp spot / BothyGR
1Thu 0938.4Corryhully BothyNM 91301 84387
2Fri 1024.2Sourlies BothyNM 86740 95061
3Sat 1126.0Kinloch HournNG 94886 07290
4Sun 1235.1Loch na LeitreachNH 01782 27661
5Mon 1342.0Coire Fionnarich BothyNG 95004 47983
6Tue 1428.2Kinlochewe campsiteNH 02641 61993
7Wed 1527.2Shenavall BothyNH 06548 80976
8Thu 1638.3Knockdamph BothyNH 28600 95389
9Fri 1713.3 + 2Oykel Bridge HotelNC 38445 00916
10Sat 1842.8Glencoul BothyNC 27043 30370
11Sun 1936.9RhiconnachNC 25504 52118
12Mon 2029.1+ 8.36Kearvig BothyNC 29254 72727

Aftermath and some observations

OK, so I was a bit grumpy when I wrote that last entry at Kearvig. I walked the last three days really hard. I spent a rest day at Kearvig, mostly by myself. I’d sort of intended to have a swim in the sea, but feeling spent and with the temperature being 12C and windy, I couldn’t bring myself to take the plunge. The winds kept up the following day, which meant the ferry wasn’t running, thus necessitating a walk all the way to Durness. This turned out not too bad, as the tide was out so I was able to cross the sands in the estuary, although still required wading through thigh-high water in the river. Great to reach the Youth Hostel and showers and warmth and food and bed.

I can’t recommend the walk too highly. It is absolutely fantastic – as attested by the numerous folk who’ve completed this. Any one embarking on this adventure has to start with Iain Harper’s web-site, which has most of the information needed in one place: . There are many other websites that have additional information, for example:

I won’t repeat the cautions and advice you’ll get on more authoritative sites. You do need to take care on this one, and whether it was wise for me to walk it alone could be debated (although not by me). I’d make the point that with some planning and willingness to accept variable days, you could do this walk staying in MBA bothies, the odd SYHA or independent hostel, and maybe a B&B here and there. A tent certainly gives you options and security. But the temptation is there to dispense with the weight and aim to have a roof over your head every night. You’d just need to have a clear idea of escape routes, if things go wrong.