Shieldaig part 2

After our second night in Sheildaig, which was rather quieter than the first, the morning was bright with more showery rain forecast later in the day.

Bims and I explored the surroundings –

a slight untidiness

in the non-garden –

a little every-day strangeness

abandoned objects blown in

that I savoured and photographed to use in paintings.

We drove back inland along Loch Torridan and up the narrow one track A896 to the Coulin estate for our next walk, parking on a layby below the Beinn Eighe National park.

On the way these great scorched looking cliff-like slopes hovered above us, with streams pouring off down what look like vertical clefts in the rocks.

Facing them are hills that look as if they are made of white quartzite, silicaceous rock made of incredibly ancient beach sand; Liathach, with its two Munros, and a scary spine on the edge of a massive deep corrie between them. I found a video of the traverse here, with awe-inspiring views  of the Torridans, if you are minded to look at such things.

Our walk was to take us around Loch Clair and Loch Coulin. The showery weather meant that most of those Munroes were shrouded in cloud, sometimes black clouds coming over them, but we barely got more than sprinkled on down in the valley.

These Highland rivers have great bridges that look rustic and chunky yet their grey bare wood blends in with the landscape. We crossed three on this walk.

We had good solid tarmac to walk on for the first part of this, then we were soon tucked into sheltering slopes and woodland, continuing on the minor road as it skirted the edge of Loch Clair. Across the water Sgùrr Dubh could be seen straight ahead and the white flank of mighty Liathach behind to the right.

Then we were out on more open moorland, often with tiny streams we had to cross. Presumably this gate once had deer fence on each side of it, protecting sitka plantation which was to the left of us. The path was still a made one, with small stone hardcore.

One of the streams, between tussocky grass and heather.

Round the head of Loch Coulin, looking back towards the A896, hills obscured by the showers.

The first of two holiday lets we walked past. what an experience that would be. Provided it wasn’t midgey weather.

Another of these great bridge structures at the head of the loch, in a gusty shower.

It crosses this wide river bed.

Then we approach another, bigger holiday place.

Sleeps eight. It’s a shooting estate, the shooting culling the deer to stop so much over grazing, so no doubt shooting people use these cottages.

Now we have the wind behind us, turning back towards the A896. Rather more comfortable walking with the wet not in your face.

And into woodland where the deer and the sheep are excluded –

woodland restoration is great for everything, including the sports fishing.

The loch shores don’t have much woodland on them

some scattered trees

some not native

some really old and gnarly.

And all the birch twigs dark red …

Through a gate and into some proper regenerated Old Caledonian type woodland.

More shelter from the weather too.

Here’s the heart of the estate, Coulin Lodge, with its green painted slatted deer larders beside the track. (Behind me in this)

Another wooden bridge to cross

and we decided to stop for our coffee and snacks

on the edge of the loch with a good view of that impressive bridge and the hill

and a rainbow, which basically we were seeing all the way back to the car.

More wet ears, poor Bims.

So back to Sheildaig via the Torridan village general store for a few things – a good little shop with a café and a book shelf, and some fancy local whiskies and gins, which Lucy bought some bottles of to take home. And yes, well we did have gin and tonic that evening. And cake after our lunch. We hunkered down because it started blowing a hooley and pelting with rain which basically went on all night and until about 8 on Thursday morning.

And a bit of painting after lunch, the view from the window above the kitchen sink.

Of the surprising old trailer on blocks next to the house. Compared to the smartly done up house, this seemed rather odd, and it’s been there for a while as you can see it on Google Earth. Anyway, it made something rather more edgy and interesting than the usual views to paint.

Thursday morning and very sadly we had to leave, but had a walk planned a bit north of Aviemore, off the A9 on the way home.

It turned out to be a walk of extraordinary bridges, at Carrbridge. This is an old packhorse bridge, we have one locally in Ceres, on a rather smaller scale. The mechanics of archbuilding keep it intact. It’s also known as Coffin Bridge,  built in 1717 to allow funeral processions to reach Duthil Church by crossing the River Dulnain. The parapets were washed away in the 19th century. And it is Scotland’s oldest known stone bridge, says Wikepedia.

A well supported riverside walk started us off.

and a smaller, suspension version of those big bridges we had used the day before.

This one had a definite bounce to it, and Bims was a bit suspicious of things moving under her feet.

A handsome lodge, so well set off by those trees.

Then we came off the metalled road at east Sluggan

Through woodland and wetland

and some great individual trees on the way

to Sluggan bridge, another semi-circular arch, this one of c. 75′ span. Built in the18th century, replacing the previous General Wade (highland military road bulder) 2-arch bridge destroyed by a flood.

Kept in repair with safety barriers and gates.

Then it started to rain so we headed for this ruined cottage to eat our sandwiches.

Here the path turned off the main trackway through birchwoods full of heather and moss, and juniper bushes, then some plantations which sadly had been harvested – it always seems so grim, all the cut roots and other unwanted wood, bleached and lying about in disorder. The through a gate to this next obstacle, a small ford with stepping stones. One being quite wobbly it made crossing dry-footed quite difficult – I put a foot in the water. On getting to the other side I found Bims following me on the stones instead of paddling as Nonna had done.

She has got quite handy at such things as cattle grids.

Then a Scottish blackface ewe popped out of the juniper bushes and made both dogs very excited, I am afraid neither of them realises sheep are not legitimate prey.

Where this little stream runs is a small area of trees and scrub sheltering many creatures no doubt.

We found several more blackface sheep sheltering from the wind behind juniper bushes, some of which were huge.

the walk brought us back to the broad river Dulnain

and the last bridge of this walk.

Back on the road and glimpses of the snowy Cairngorms and I think, the huge U-shaped valley of the Lairig Ghu rising above amongst the hills. Impossible to photograph from a moving car (on the A9) with screens of trees along the road, this was my best shot, it was very much more stunning than this.

Lots of wintry weather driving back through the mountains, but at home the sun was out.






  1. Quite a travelogue! A lovely description of your brief holiday – thank you. I wish I’d been there with you! xx

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