Scotland: Spectacular scenery and falling into swamps

Where we went
Through Glen Affric, past Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhoin, along the River Affic and into Glen Kintail, finally arriving to camp in the small village of Morvich, on the west coast.

Notable things we taught Finn
To say “Aye aye” when he’s on the trail-a-bike and ready to start pedalling. Was occasionally replaced with “Argh maties” when he was feeling piratical.

The story of the day
An amazing epic day, that started with a tremendous night filled with sleep, sleep and more sleep. Hurrah for sleep, it makes everything better. We breakfasted at the campground cafe, Finn spent more time hanging out with his campground friend, and we eventually set off. Early mornings were not going to be a feature of this trip.

To get into Glen Affric we had to follow the road for a while, but it was narrow and quiet. Then we were onto hikers double track, through mossy open rolling forest, along the shores of Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhoin, past viewpoints, along the River Affric, gradually into the wide and open Glen Affric, gorgeous, quiet and green.

Eventually, the trail started to narrow. And become less rideable. Up until the hostel it’s not so bad, but past there things started to become a little epic (at least for us with the fully loaded trail-a-bike setup). Epic and beautiful! But epic.

The drainage bars along the trail were stones set in the trail, with a gap between them just wide enough that you couldn’t easily ride a loaded bike over it, particularly the trail-a-bike. So Alex would stop, Finn would get off, Alex would lift the bike over, everyone would get back on, and they would ride the 20 metres to the next one. Alright, it wasn’t quite that bad. Most of the time.

The bike then hike a bike went on and on. We were ok. Cadbury’s Crunchie slabs of chocolate are delicious, and I deeply lament the fact they’re not available in Canada. We had plenty of food, and camping gear. We were ok. We pushed on. Still hiking our bikes. Beautiful trail continued. We couldn’t be angry with it, it was too beautiful, and the weather was amazing.

Past the bothy, the terrain was rolling and slow. Then, as Alex got off to push the bike and a half over a stream, Finn tried to cross unaided. The problem with Scottish streams is that they’re surrounded by bog. And Finn hadn’t yet learnt how to differentiate between bog and solid ground. He went straight into the bog, half way up to his knees. Alex started yelling at him: “Go back! Go back! Go back!” Finn stumbled forward, crying hysterically, submerged in mud and looking as if he was about to fall over entirely at any second.

He made it to the other side. Minus one shoe.

After the initial calming, I quickly retrieved the shoe, which thankfully hadn’t been claimed by the bog. We dealt with the mud (for reference, by removing socks, putting on new socks, putting plastic bags over the top, then inserting plastic bagged feet into muddy shoes, because we didn’t have any spare ones for him). Then there was chocolate and everything was fine again.

Gradually, the trail started to trend downwards. I had fun riding a descent, then watching waterfalls as the menfolk picked their way down cautiously on foot. From there we could see sea level, and we slowly made our way down to it.

The drainage bars continued, the trail narrow. Then I fell into a swamp. It was getting late, I was tired, I tried to ride over a drainage bar without putting in the appropriate amount of effort into actually getting across the gap, resulting in hitting the far side wrong, and my bike and me falling down the hill. Into the boggy swampy wetness that most of Scotland seems to consist of when you’re not on a miraculously dry trail. I got myself back onto the trail and started laughing hysterically.

Then, finally, Alex dropped to his knees to give thanks as a clear and unimpeded dirt road appeared before us. It had some sheep and cattle on it.

The highland cattle have impressive horns, but were placid and uninterested us and our bikes.

Through farmland, we cruised into Morvich just as the sun started to set. We were already on the other side of the country, the sea was just there. Sort of.

We cooked dinner eventually. After the first attempt was knocked over, thankfully the second attempt was more successful as otherwise it could have been a hungry and cranky night.

Distance: 49.5km
Elevation gain: 700m
Location: Cannich to Morvich, via Glen Affric
Number of people we saw out on the trail all day: 14 (one solo biker, 12 hikers, 1 lady chopping wood at the hostel hut)

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