Cape Wrath – 31/08/18 to 02/09/19
After work on the Friday evening I chucked my bike on the roof of my car and took the long drive up to Durness. Arriving late in the evening, I met up with my biking buddy, Jack Kirkbride.
Early the next morning we were up and brewing a nice cuppa ready for the day ahead. The weather was a little overcast, but the water was still. We got the bikes packed up and headed out to the pickup point for the ferry.
At 9am, the wee boat turned up and helped us load the bikes for the short crossing.
Once on the other side of the water, the midges instantly swarmed on us like a cloud, so the decision was promptly made to get under way and out from the swarms of nibblers.
As soon as you start from the Durness side, you are straight into a steep climb. There is no escaping it I’m afraid! Thankfully the track has been partially tarmacked thanks to a heavy MOD presence in the area. As we climbed away from the coast and inland, the midges dissipated and gave way to some light drizzle. I could imagine the views would be stunning had the cloud not been so low.
There ware many stops along the way to take in the sites of the MOD buildings and abandoned homes. The tracks were quite reasonable and the climbs all doable at a casual pace. The further on we progressed, the more the bad weather came in. The drizzle turned into rain and we were both getting fairly soaked by this point. We decided to take a breather and check our map. Surely the turn onto the path that would lead us down to Kearvaig Bothy was close!
Damn! We must have missed it a while back. Whilst keeping our heads down and riding against the driving rain, we managed to go straight past the track. Never mind – Crack on to Cape Wrath lighthouse for a cup of coffee and a nice hot lunch was the decision made at that point.
Within a couple of miles, a strange building appeared through the mist in the distance. Hallelujah! It was Cape Wrath (Scotland’s most Northernly point on the mainland) and the remote café was open for business (as it is 24 hours a day 365 days a year)
After a hot brew and a hearty meal of beans on toast, I enquired to the keeper “how do you get all your supplies out here?” It turns out that they get helicoptered in a couple of times a year!
Feeling refreshed we took a few tourist pics and cracked on back along the route we had came back towards the bothy at Kearvaig. This time there was no missing the track.
As you descend the track, the stunning views of the bothy open up with an expanse of golden sanded beach wrapped up out the harsh winds by towering cliffs and hills all around. Stunning.
The bothy is known as one of the best in Scotland. It has seen tragedy in its past and its remoteness gives you a sense of tranquillity beyond anything frequently experienced before.
We had a quick explore of the bothy first, and then chose the left-hand portion of the building to call home for the night. This part is a single room separate from the rest of the bothy with a sleeping platform for two or three and its own fire place.
The wet clothes were promptly hung on the dryer and a quick walk down to the beach was next on the agenda to collect any driftwood for the fire that night.
Once back at the bothy, we made a brew and climbed into our sleeping bags to warm up.
I awoke a couple of hours later and found that I had drifted off (as had Jack).
The evening was now rolling in, so we brought the bikes in (that salty air won’t do my bike any favours overnight) and got a fire set. Dinner was a one pot masterpiece of chicken curry and rice. Yum.
As the night rolled on, we kept the fire going with driftwood and some slow burning firelogs.
What a place. Just the faint sound of the sea and wind and the crackling of the fire. It didn’t take long to drift off that night!
I awoke early next day. We had a ferry to catch, so had a fairly strict time plan to keep to.
When we stepped outside, it was wonderful to find that the clouds and dull weather had all dissipated overnight. Blue skies and warm sunshine had come out to see us off!
The ride back to the ferry was just stunning. The jackets were packed away, and shorts were called for now. This time, we finally got to see all those spectacular sceneries. After what seemed like a short ride, we arrived back in time for the ferry and were in Durness for a stop at the famous Coco Mountain café for one of the most amazing hot chocolates you will ever experience. Trust me. Try one.
The bikes were soon back on the roof and we started the long drive back home to Grantown.
Visiting Kearvaig and Cape Wrath had been on my bucket list for a long time. I didn’t know what to expect. I have heard stories that the sense of remoteness and isolation make you think about life a little more poetically. It didn’t fail to live up to its expectations.
On the way home, we both made a promise that we would be back again the following year. I really hope you will join us.
Words and pictures – David Borthwick