Travel Diaries: Scotland Tour – Hiking in the wild North West

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Today we are pulling on our hiking gear and setting out for a trek along the river. Our cottage is a former hunting lodge. A map on the wall shows an old stag stalking route that leads out towards the sea loch, with a note saying we are welcome to use it as a footpath.

The river valley channels a fierce breeze coming down off the mountains, pushing us along the path, whistling in our ears. Dark blue waves of water follow one after another.

A glance back and we can just make out the roof of our little holiday home, peeking out from the trees.

The gap between the two distant crags leads out from the sea loch to the Atlantic Ocean, where dolphins can be sometimes spotted. Across the water, mountains slope steeply upwards and a winding road leads away to Kinlochbervie. To our left, treacherous grassy tufts of peat bogs and silt. We hold the hands of our little ones tightly.

The land flattens here and we feel the full force of the winds. We have to shout to hear each other and even then our voices seem to quickly drift away.

Picking our way across the slippery seaweed, we spot a tiny bothy with a smokeless chimney and set out to investigate.

The small building is shuttered and unoccupied. Whilst one of my sons is planning where his vegetable plot would be if we lived here, my husband and the other boys have run down to the shingle beach together.

As I get closer I can faintly hear the giggling of my youngest son, as great gusts of wind inflate the arms of his coat.

Our second son is now searching for a small stone to take home, to remember the holiday by. It now sits in pride of place at the top of our stream in the garden, which is a tiny replica of this very river. We wonder what is over the ridge to our left and decide to climb up the rocks to see.

To our delight, it is a large stretch of water, much calmer than the swift river. The sun emerges from the clouds and each ripple in the loch suddenly glistens with the bright light, shimmering as they flow towards us.

We climb up onto the rocks to rest. My daughter is fast asleep in her carrier, despite the gales. My husband climbs the short drop down to the beach, too high for our children to safely follow. Meanwhile, our youngest son wants to scale the rocks at speed. I dig my walking boots in to anchor myself as he tugs me upwards.

After a lovely picnic, we start to head back, taking the slightly more sheltered, higher route, away from the shore. The footing turns out to be more waterlogged than it looks and it is easy to sink in by half a foot with each step, muddy water threatening to ooze into our boots. The trick is to walk very fast with light footsteps before that can happen.

We are afforded a stunning view of the distant Ben Stack on our return journey, silhouetted against a pristine blue sky.

Since we are on an estate and not a public footpath, I wonder how close the next nearest person to us might be.

As we crest a rugged outcrop, there is our little cottage by the river again.

Knowing we are nearly back, we are able to take lots of time to pause and admire the view that surrounds us. If you look hard enough, everywhere seems to offer a little path, beckoning you to explore further.

One final corner. A path leads to the top of this hill – though that is for another time. We are certain we will return here soon.

Across the river is the little bank in front of the house, filled with trees that the children have been running through and climbing…

… and here is the familiar bridge and its rapids, where a favourite toy was rescued just days ago.

My baby daughter is now sleeping at a really unhelpful sideways angle that makes climbing a little difficult. When I catch up with the other, I find my eldest son and his younger brother, leant with their heads together, resting. I manage to sneak a photo before they notice me and spring up ready to go.

Tomorrow we will leave our cottage in the North West of Scotland and drive south to Edinburgh. We have booked to stay in an historic building on one of the city’s busiest streets … it is going to be quite the culture shock.

A short video, so that you can see how breezy it was and how fast the water was moving, as the photographs look deceptively calm and sunny – enjoy.

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