Seeking Sanctuary in A’ Chomraich

Seeking Sanctuary in A’ Chomraich

It was appropriate that while the country struggles to come to terms with the cost of living crisis, and the government tries its best to justify tax cuts for rich people at the same time, Paul and I decided to escape to Applecross for three days exploring in the wilds.

The Gaelic for Applecross is A’ Chomraich, which means The Sanctuary. And what a glorious sanctuary it would prove to be.

Our entry to Applecross was to drive the Bealach na Ba, one of the most picturesque and dramatic roads in the country.

The sun that shone on the way up the corrie road had been totally obscured by the cloud by the time we reached the top of the pass and parked for a wander up Sgurr a Chaorachain. The cloud followed us, blown at high speed by the wind, as we stepped along the start of the ridge. Glimpses of what was to be found on either side were short.

The wind was really blowing. The rain was falling. When the cloud did clear, our eyes were spoiled for choice on all sides. A long, clear sunny spell gave us the chance to enjoy the majesty of our surroundings without clouds and our rain hoods blocking 50% of the views.

As the next heavy rain spell came over, we were back at the car just in time and continued our drive over the other side of the pass to reach the village of Applecross. Some tea and sticky buns were devoured as we looked over the Inner Sound to Raasay and it’s flat top high point, Dun Caan.

Down the coast at Toscaig Pier, the heavy rain continued to come and go between the sunny spells, giving us a years worth of panoramas in a very short time as we packed our bags with all sorts of goodies.

Our walk to Uags bothy, where we planned to stay for a couple of days, was about 5km, although we’d read mixed reports about what the path was like. Turns out it was pretty boggy most of the way.

But the views were amazing with Rassay, the Crowlin Islands and the Cuillin all seemingly within touching distance. We could also see clouds and their rain showers as they were blown across land and sea.

The bothy came into sight and we were incredibly pleased after our hill in the morning and our trek across the Bog of Eternal Stench with heavy bags.

What a beautiful situation Uags bothy sits in. A sheltered bay with a fairly flat grass area sitting to the front over the burn, the bothy is just a few metres from the sea at high tide.

Another ruined cottage and some outbuildings are just up the hill.

The rest of our daylight was spent exploring our immediate surrounds and sitting at the bench admiring the nearby islands with cups of tea and Jammie Dodgers, and then a dram.

Musical fairies have gifted the bothy a guitar and a bongo drum so it would have wrong to not have created some musical interludes, between snacks.

Day two and three weather was expected to be much wetter than day one. But we woke up to bright skies and headed out to explore the wider area. In Gaelic the area is call Na h-Uamhagan, The Caves. And with lots of other references to caves on our maps, we were surely destined find some alternate shelters.

On our maps there was a coastal path marked to Airigh-Drishaig. The path proved to be less of a path and more of an deer track which came and went over the next couple of kilometres.

The criss cross of deer paths across the bog was fascinating and useful. Paul and I used the paths while marvelling at the deers ability to move so quickly across this style of terrain. We moved over towards the top of the cliffs at the seas edge and decided to head back towards the bothy and search out some sea caves. We quickly found some places where we could safely get down to the waters edge.

You can spot Paul in the next picture if you look carefully.

So many barnacles and mussels and holes to explore.

In some of the caves we found what looked like scorching and smoke marks on the ceiling and walls. Maybe where the crofters had hunkered down with their animals in difficult weather?

Earlier we had found evidence of the crofters using the natural landscape to create shielings or pens for their sheep by using cliff or rock edges as part of the wall. Here’s another example.

We found a number of other caves, some pretty small and wet and maybe not that impressive. Others were larger and dry with lots of protections from the elements. The name Na h-Uamhagan is definitely well deserved.

Daylight was starting to fade and so we headed back to the bothy and enjoyed our tea, a fire and some whisky.

Day three was our day to head home. Breakfast was had, tidying up of the bothy was completed and bags were packed.

We headed back over the bog to Toscaig Pier and back to reality to find Kwasi Kwarteng sacked as Chancellor and Liz Truss in even bigger trouble with her own MPs. Our sanctuary at Uags had been the perfect getaway. It had been warm and fun and safe and protected us from the outside world. I’m willing to wager Liz Truss wishes she had been there with us.

And the film is this way… ⬇️

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