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Old 14-01-2016, 04:13 PM   #41
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Something Outside the tent is growling part 2.

After I finished the Great Glen Way I stayed in Inverness for a couple of nights. There's a campsite within 30 minutes walk of the city centre so everything was handy enough.
I got the bus out to Ben Wyvis and climbed it, getting the train back. But my feet were itchy for more trail time. It didn't feel right to be staying at the same place two nights in a row.
The day after Ben Wyvis I got the train from Inverness north to Lairg. The plan was to stay in Lairg for a night and then hike to the north coast doing Ben Klibreck on the way.
Lairg is small but almost perfectly formed. It has a campsite at the top of the main street, with a diner attached that does great trail food like baked potatoes, scrambled eggs and all the things you hanker for when you are forcing noodles down your throat when wild camping.
There's also a hotel with a bar. I spent the evening there talking with staff and locals and was briefed on the best way to get up Ben Klibreck. There was a post bus at 10 the next morning that would take me to the Crask Inn where I could stay the night before climbing the hill.
At around quarter to one the next afternoon I left Lairg after having a 'brunch' of chips and tea at a cafe. I seemed to have a slightly sore head and all plans of getting a post bus were dashed. But hey it had been a good night.
One last thing about Lairg. If you ever go there by public transport, the train station is a forty-five minute walk from the village along a race-track with no pavement on either side. Take care!
So I set off northwards, for a 13 mile walk to the Crask Inn, along a single track road with the boggy moors of Sutherland on either side.
My plan was I wouldn't hitchhike but if a car stopped for me I would take a lift. Nobody stopped.
I got to the Crask Inn and the kind owners let me put my tent up in their front garden and wouldn't take any camping fee from me. I had a lovely evening there. It really is one of the last true inns in Scotland, if not the last and with the owners retiring soon it will be sadly missed.


So anyway on with the story and hurry up and get to the growly monster bit...
I pushed on north the next morning and found Ben Klibreck to be a bit daunting at first. It was shrouded in cloud down to about 500 metres.
I climbed up slowly and after following a scary traverse path enjoyed climbing up through the broken stones to the summit where little birds flitted around me. The only living things I was to see all the way up or down.
As I came down the hill the cloud started to clear and I could see north to the last range of mountains before the coast.


I continued northwards, the village of Altnaharra was about 8 miles up the road and I got there just as the local hotel started doing food, which was lucky as I was hungry and needed a pint.
I asked the landlady if there was anywhere local I could camp and she said "Just follow the road, up the hill, keep on going, a bit more, are you away yet? , just a few miles more, and you can camp there."
Well it wasn't quite that bad, but I guess she didn't want me camping in the village and I didn't want to bother anyone anyway.
I ended up about a mile and a half north in some rough pasture, near the road along Loch Naver.
Well I say rough pasture. It had a fence along the road side with a space where a gate could go and there were a few grassy bits in between all the lumpy grass things. I decided to pitch my tent in a nice grassy spot, that turned out to be the where the local bog monster liked to come to scream and roar in the moonlight.
Once again the midges plagued me. 2015 wasn't a bad year up until the very mild and warm September when they attacked with vigour, furiously making up for all those hikers and tourists they hadn't bitten earlier on in the year when it was cold and pissing down.
I had eaten a veggie lasagne in the hotel so I didn't need food and several billion midges were having a festival in the apron of my tent anyway.
In my haste to pitch the tent in their midst I had thrown down my walking poles on the other side of the tent from the opening and if something like, oh I don't know, maybe a massive and bad monster came along at night, I would have nothing to defend myself with, unless I rigged up my camping stove like some kind of McGyver like flamethrower.
So it got dark pretty quickly and exhausted I settled down for the night and drifted off to sleep.
ROOAAR ROOAAR ROOAR
Fooking hell what was that?
Something incredibly large was outside the tent. Cthulu maybe? I was exhausted and anything seemed possible.
ROOOAAR ROOAR
I lay there and thought. It's okay it will go away soon.
ROOAR ! ROOAAAR !
This went on for quite sometime. I had zipped up my sleeping bag and pulled my hat over my head but this disguise as a pile of smelly old hiking gear didn't seem to work.
I began to try and work out what it was. I thought it's okay it's probably only an enraged red deer stag. A really big one. But a little voice in my head kept saying, "It's a bull and you are going to die !"
I decided to pull myself together. I sat up , put on my headtorch and shouted "Get tae fuck!"
which as it turns out was a bad idea.
ROOAR ! ROOAR! FOOKIN ROOAAR!
I got dressed hurriedly. Looked at the camping gas cannister, thought about the end of Jaws and thought, nah.
Still the thing roared on. I wanted to get out the tent and chase it away, but maybe seeing a human form suddenly would panic it and I would get gored.
With my poles on the other side of the tent I didn't know what to do.
Funnily enough in the midst of all this, the thing that stopped me from going out was the midge rock concert in the apron of my tent. My head torch was driving them nuts and they were trying to chew their way into my bit of the tent. I had already ceded the apron to them and now they wanted it all!
The roaring continued and I decided on the best course of action.
I was going to read my book until it went away.
So there I was , reading 'Wild' by Jay Griffith, which I heartily recommend whilst this behemoth outside screamed at the moon.
I don't know when I fell asleep. The monster kept roaring for hours but gradually seemed to be inching away. In the morning the world seemed a normal place. Midges, grassy lumps, me , my tent, but the monster was gone.
That was the last time I wild camped. I moved on northwards to the coast.
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"I know corries in Argyll that whisper silken to the wind with juicy grasses. Corries where the deer love to prance deep in the cool dew and the beasts of far-off woods come in bands at their seasons and together rejoice." from John Splendid by Neil Munro
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Old 20-01-2016, 06:58 AM   #42
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Hi Old Stag. New member here.

Im planning to backpack the Scottish highlands from April to October. I'm completely new to all us this, but deep inside me I know I need to do this. These 6 months will consist of sightseeing, working out, being at one with nature & yoga/meditation. As I said before, something deep inside me is telling me I need to do this to improve my state of mind - even if it means giving up my flat.

I'm planning on starting at Milngavie & complete the West Highland Way, taking my time to climb any mountains/munroes on the way or just take in the views in general. From there, I just plan on getting maps & trying to explore ever possible place I can. I'm especially keen on getting to Alchmelvich & Sandwood Bay Beaches. They look awesome.

I'll be camping outdoors at all time, picking up food from any little towns that I can drop into.

I don't want to drag this on. What I'm wanting to know is: 1. Is 6 months enough to take in all of the highlands? Even worse, I don't want to explore all of the highlands in a couple of months, leaving me a few months with no new places to explore. 2. Has anyone here done anything similar? Is it possible?

Thanks a lot.
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Old 21-01-2016, 10:23 AM   #43
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The guys on Walkhighlands have given you some decent advice and a couple of them who have done this might be worth pm'ing.
I'll try to keep it brief just now and fill in gaps they have missed feel free to ask any questions.
Food- Fresh fruit and veg will be a bit tough at times to source and cook. But on a six month trip you can't live on mars bars, dried pasta and noodles. Well you could but who would want to? I would recommend using village pubs and hotels for a decent prepared meal once in a while, it helps morale.

Shelter- Don't scrimp when it comes to buying a tent. £120 will get you a decent one or two man tent. You will need to buy a new one at some point.
My tent from last year lasted well for about 40 or 50 nights but wear and tear takes its toll.

Knowledge- Local knowledge is great to have, like when someone tells you a bridge is down or a farmer sells his own fresh veg. But beware knowledge given in good faith that is actually garbage. An example of this would be someone telling you it takes 4 hours to cross a mountain range when it takes around 10. People generally don't have a clue about mileage either.
Don't be scared to speak to other hikers as they are a great source of knowledge.

Bothies - Always hang up your food. If you share a bothy with surly ignorant people one night don't let it put you off using them again. Most folks are fine and many times you will get a bothy, or a room in one, to yourself which would be ideal for yoga practice.

Ticks - Take a pair of sharp tweezers with you and stay out of bracken as much as you can.

Midges- Smidge works well in conjunction with a headnet. This makes putting the tent up and down much easier when plagued by them.

Navigation- OS maps and compass essential.

Morale - For me dry socks and an ipod along with food are enough. Sometimes a night in a bed to dry out your gear or wash it will get morale back during a rainy week. Morale is one of the most important things to the long distance hiker.

Sandwood Bay - My favourite place in the world. September is a pretty magical time for a visit, but once you have been there, you will want to go back, time and time again.

edit: one more thing

River Crossings - A lot of Highland rivers can be just babbling streams at times, but after rain it's a different story. I would really recommend a pair of walking poles and a pair of plastic Crocs for crossings. You don't want to fall and hit your head on your own when crossing a river. The poles are also great for taking the strain off your knees when ascending or descending and the crocs will be great bothy slippers and dry out really quickly.
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Old 21-01-2016, 02:39 PM   #44
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What an interesting thread

My other-half and I will be re-locating up north of Scotland (from central) in a few months. We'll be working to pay for bills and food, but the rest of our time will be spent picking up basic outdoor skills, climbing skills, purchasing climbing/camping gear etc.. Our working hours are minimal so the majority of our time can be spent learning, walking and exploring the Highlands. I can't get away from the city quick enough!

The advice given here has been quite handy, thank you
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Old 21-01-2016, 03:07 PM   #45
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Originally Posted by old_stag View Post
The guys on Walkhighlands have given you some decent advice and a couple of them who have done this might be worth pm'ing.
I'll try to keep it brief just now and fill in gaps they have missed feel free to ask any questions.
Food- Fresh fruit and veg will be a bit tough at times to source and cook. But on a six month trip you can't live on mars bars, dried pasta and noodles. Well you could but who would want to? I would recommend using village pubs and hotels for a decent prepared meal once in a while, it helps morale.

Shelter- Don't scrimp when it comes to buying a tent. £120 will get you a decent one or two man tent. You will need to buy a new one at some point.
My tent from last year lasted well for about 40 or 50 nights but wear and tear takes its toll.

Knowledge- Local knowledge is great to have, like when someone tells you a bridge is down or a farmer sells his own fresh veg. But beware knowledge given in good faith that is actually garbage. An example of this would be someone telling you it takes 4 hours to cross a mountain range when it takes around 10. People generally don't have a clue about mileage either.
Don't be scared to speak to other hikers as they are a great source of knowledge.

Bothies - Always hang up your food. If you share a bothy with surly ignorant people one night don't let it put you off using them again. Most folks are fine and many times you will get a bothy, or a room in one, to yourself which would be ideal for yoga practice.

Ticks - Take a pair of sharp tweezers with you and stay out of bracken as much as you can.

Midges- Smidge works well in conjunction with a headnet. This makes putting the tent up and down much easier when plagued by them.

Navigation- OS maps and compass essential.

Morale - For me dry socks and an ipod along with food are enough. Sometimes a night in a bed to dry out your gear or wash it will get morale back during a rainy week. Morale is one of the most important things to the long distance hiker.

Sandwood Bay - My favourite place in the world. September is a pretty magical time for a visit, but once you have been there, you will want to go back, time and time again.
Great stuff. Thanks for taking the time to type all of this. All your tips are noted, I assure you.

Sandwood Bay looks quite the spectacle. As does Alchmelvich & Clachtoll Beach. I thought turquoise coloured waters was restricted to the Carribean Ha!

I would love to reach those places in the warm summer months.
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Old 28-01-2016, 04:47 PM   #46
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@ OldStag... Have you figured out what beast was roaring outside your tent? And do you think it's the same type creature that was screaming when you stayed on the edge of the haunted forest?

I wonder what local ghost stories have been passed down in those areas.

Your posts are great.
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Old 29-01-2016, 08:29 AM   #47
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@ OldStag... Have you figured out what beast was roaring outside your tent? And do you think it's the same type creature that was screaming when you stayed on the edge of the haunted forest?

I wonder what local ghost stories have been passed down in those areas.

Your posts are great.
I think the roarer was a red deer stag. It did have a kind of canine growl at the end of each roar/bark which kind of unsettled me.
The screamer I think was a red deer too, although I have since heard that wild boar have been spotted in the area.
I got audio footage of the roarer although it sounds pathetic when I play it back, more like a puppy outside the tent. Maybe I should stick it up on Youtube for an ID.
A lot of the old ghost stories and folk tales from up there have been lost since the Highland Clearances when whole townships were forcibly evicted for sheep grazing, but I do have a book called The Gaelic Otherworld. It was written by a man called J.G. Campbell who travelled throughout the Highlands asking old folks to recall tales so they he could write them down and preserve them. I'll need to dig it out sometime.
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Old 29-01-2016, 07:00 PM   #48
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Ooh I've heard boar before, very likely. Although I was hoping for a displaced spirit or phantom from history. Must be the romantic side of me lol.

I'd give anything to be able to trek the highlands.

The Gaelic Otherworld is available on Amazon. Not quite 30 American. Acquisition may be in my future.

Keep up with your campfire stories. I can't be the only one who 's reading them...
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Old 29-01-2016, 09:56 PM   #49
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Ooh I've heard boar before, very likely. Although I was hoping for a displaced spirit or phantom from history. Must be the romantic side of me lol.

I'd give anything to be able to trek the highlands.

The Gaelic Otherworld is available on Amazon. Not quite 30 American. Acquisition may be in my future.

Keep up with your campfire stories. I can't be the only one who 's reading them...
For sure .

Oldstag is an amazing storyteller, i was hoping for tale of displaced spirits as well.

Although it wouldn't be cool for a lone traveller to encounter one and he's very brave to trek on his own
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Old 29-01-2016, 11:18 PM   #50
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Although it wouldn't be cool for a lone traveller to encounter one and he's very brave to trek on his own
That's what's so cool about it. He faces the demons in this world, AND the one beyond the veil, on his own terms. No fear.

Hahahaa we shall make this man a legend.
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Old 29-01-2016, 11:29 PM   #51
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That's what's so cool about it. He faces the demons in this world, AND the one beyond the veil, on his own terms. No fear.

Hahahaa we shall make this man a legend.
Indeed.


He could be our official story teller and hopefully encourage others to gather round the campfire and tell their stories.


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Old 11-02-2016, 07:37 PM   #52
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Now you can relive the full horror watching the clip of the Beast of Altnaharra on YouTube.
Let me try and link to it anyway.
The noises are at about 0.17 seconds and 1.55 seconds.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylhZq-cUcBw
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Old 12-02-2016, 02:47 PM   #53
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Winter isn't over so the tent is staying in the cupboard for now, but I've managed to get out for a few day hikes in the last few weeks.
This week I went to Loch Ard in the Trossachs, scouting out wild camping spots and, more importantly getting back to nature.


There wasn't much nature about though. A lone crow, a few finches and a few ducks and swans were all I saw. Spring is coming soon though now and the forests,lochs and glens will come alive again.


Towering over the Loch Ard forest was the shapely eastern face of Ben Lomond, still resplendent in winter white.
It was good to get out of the city for a while. Getting out into the woods makes me feel human again.
Peace.
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"I know corries in Argyll that whisper silken to the wind with juicy grasses. Corries where the deer love to prance deep in the cool dew and the beasts of far-off woods come in bands at their seasons and together rejoice." from John Splendid by Neil Munro
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Old 12-02-2016, 06:35 PM   #54
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If what I'm hearing is right (I'm in a noisy place atm) there seems to be breathing associated with it. Ill have another listen at home.

We had a light dusting this morning. Can't paddle this time of year, so on days off work I sometimes scout locations to put my kayak in. I've rustic camped a few times on extended trips, but haven't encounted anything paranormal.

Yet. Haha.
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Old 13-02-2016, 04:46 PM   #55
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I've got a lot of admiration for kayakers. It must be quite liberating to just push off and travel the waterways. You get to see the same places from a different perspective too.
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"I know corries in Argyll that whisper silken to the wind with juicy grasses. Corries where the deer love to prance deep in the cool dew and the beasts of far-off woods come in bands at their seasons and together rejoice." from John Splendid by Neil Munro
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Old 13-02-2016, 09:17 PM   #56
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I've got a lot of admiration for kayakers. It must be quite liberating to just push off and travel the waterways. You get to see the same places from a different perspective too.
An afternoon paddle for me is like a soul vacation.

As an older (or middle aged ) woman who prefers paddling solo, I've seen some really remote, spectacular scenery that's practically in my back yard, but few will ever see it, because you can't drive or walk in. The wildlife too. I don't do anything beyond my skill level, but there are some spots in my area that are rather rocky and fun, usually springtime when the waters up. A little challenge every now and then is good for us.
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Old 19-02-2016, 02:50 PM   #57
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A Haunted Bothy
Part One - Getting There

It was September 2013. I had spent two nights at the utterly magical Sandwood Bay in the far North-West of Scotland and now my wanderlust pulled me northwards to Cape Wrath the most North-Westerly point of the British mainland.
There were no paths as such. This was wild country. Described in early maps simply as "Where wolves dwell". Still I pulled up steeply from Sandwood into the bleak moorland that comprises the Cape Wrath Area.
Looking back from on high. Sandwood, what can I say? , true beauty lies there.


It wasn't a long distance in miles to the Cape, but it was a full day, crossing boglands and being amazed at cliff-top views. A couple of hours after leaving Sandwood I arrived at Strathchailleach Bothy.
This remote cottage was home to a man called James McRory Smith for over thirty years. I won't tell his story here, but I will show you his art. He painted inside the cottage, and this is a picture of the kitchen.

I have been here a few times and had nothing but good vibes from the bothy and general area. In short, go there.
It had been great weather up until now but as the terrain got tougher, the weather got worse. I would end up being soaked and buffeted by high winds for the second part of my journey.
I kept close to the cliff edges...mesmerised. This is incredible country.


From those cliff-top views, a steep descent followed into a boggy area that was fenced off by the Ministry of Defence, as the whole Cape is a bombing area.
I got down and into the bog and up into the next hill range. The wind and rain were really battering me now and I was stumbling along with laces untied, my usual sign of being too over-tired to think straight.
As things worsened I decided not to head for Cape Wrath lightouse but for Kearvaig Bothy, on the north coast about two hours walk east of the lighthouse.
Once or twice I thought I saw the bothy. The first time it was a burnt out army personnel carrier used for target practice, the second a a sentry box. Of course due to my tiredness I saw what I wanted from my map rather than reading it correctly.
Eventually I stumbled out onto the single track road that cuts across the Cape. I have to admit I bent down and kissed it, as I was so glad to get out of the boggy moorlands surrounding it.
I turned right and followed the military road. Eventually or so it seemed I came to the turn down to Kearvaig Bothy.
As I walked down the steep track to the bothy, tired and emotional, I couldn't help but notice that there were a lot of footprints leading down there, but only seemed to be one set leading back up....
Finally utterly exhausted the bothy came in sight..

As I stumbled down the track, a door in the bothy opened, and a wizened older man in full camouflage gear shouted at me in a very strong Eastern European accent, "Tea will be ready in five miuntes!"
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Old 20-02-2016, 03:55 AM   #58
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Love it Stag.

That mans art has a haunting surrealist feel to it. Course I'm not seeing them up close in person.
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Old 03-03-2016, 11:41 PM   #59
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Love your posts Old Stag. I bought a few things today: a camera, a Ferro rod, a water filter, new sleeping bag, head light, & Ray Mears best selling book "Essential Bushcraft". I can't wait to try them out.
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Old 05-03-2016, 07:14 AM   #60
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Love your posts Old Stag. I bought a few things today: a camera, a Ferro rod, a water filter, new sleeping bag, head light, & Ray Mears best selling book "Essential Bushcraft". I can't wait to try them out.
Good stuff! I've not tried a water filter yet, as I'm usually camping where it's not needed. Highland stream-water tastes so good, it puts the stuff that comes out of the tap or bottles to shame.
I've been meaning to buy a 4 season sleeping bag for a while, but If I procrastinate for just a few more weeks, I should be able to get by on my 3 and 2 season bags again this year.
Looking forward to seeing some pictures from your trips on this thread!
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