Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Kiltarlity to Muir of Ord

The Post Office at Kiltarity
We were away from Woodlands Guest House early, and able to check in to our rooms at the Ord House Hotel before our taxi picked us up to drive back to Kiltarlity. We started our walk at about 11:15 – a lot earlier than if we’d organised transport ourselves with cars at either end. And taxis up here seem to be very reasonably priced.

The first part of the walk involved retracing the route taken by the taxi, along the B road that skirts the Beaufort Castle estate and crosses the River Beauly at Black Bridge. I remembered this exact point from 45 years ago, when Susan and I had visited the bridge and the power station above it, and watched fishers below and salmon themselves being raised through a lift within the power station dam.

The River Beauly at Black Bridge
There were fishers here again today, and I spoke to a woman who was carrying her rod back across the bridge, complaining about the difficulty of casting with the current wind strength. No fish today, but the previous day had produced a number. This is one of the very best (and most expensive) beats of salmon fishing in all of Scotland.

Kilmorack Cemetary
After crossing the river we went a few hundred yards up the major road to Cannich, and then struck off to the North at Kilmorack. The next part of the walk – and about two thirds of the total – was on minor roads between Kilmorack and Muir of Ord, passing to the West of Beauly. This is a strange area of tiny fields, typical of crofting country to which the tenants were relocated during the Highland Clearances. But the buildings are mostly modern – so the original crofts must have been replaced over the years, and the whole area has been transformed from one of poverty to what feels like a middle class enclave. There was building going on, and nearly everything looked very smart and well maintained.

There is a series of largely parallel roads as you go up the hillside, with the top road at the 170m level just below the forestry. Much of this has now been felled, and up here it seems that they’ve actually grubbed out the roots and levelled the ground, so presumably gentrification is continuing. There are certainly splendid views across to the Beauly Firth and the Black Isle.

The hills before Muir of Ord - 
with the Firth of Beauly in the distance
We stopped for lunch at the high point of the road, where someone had conveniently built a stone wall at the ideal height for sitting. At least today’s lunch stop was dry. Then it was a winding road down to Muir of Ord, past more evidence of gentrification – a field of Shetland ponies, someone having new windows fitted, several smart new houses. This is a part of Scotland I had never visited before. The coastal strip is flat and fertile, and the towns almost join one another – Beauly, then Muir of Ord, and on the Conon Bridge and Dingwall. The roads seem pretty busy, and there are industrial estates and distilleries and all sorts of other businesses.

The ubiquitous gorse
The final bit of the day’s walk involved going along roads that were essentially three sides of a square. The fourth would have been quicker, directly to the hotel, but it proved not to be as straightforward as I had hoped. The wooded area marked on the map as Birch Wood was recently clear-felled, and there was no obvious route across it.

We arrived back at a little before 3:30, with Alan and Rosemary planning to visit the Ord distillery next door, and me to await Susan’s arrival. That turned out to be later than anticipated, because Easyjet had to eject a drunk from the flight before it could leave – so eventually it had left Gatwick at the time it had originally been scheduled to arrive in Inverness.

Cool but bright for most of the day, though with occasional showers. 9-13C. 15.6 km, 294 m of ascents and 268 m of descents. All on minor roads.

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