274. Coldbackie to Hope Bridge

As the southern part of the UK braced itself for a heatwave I headed north to Sutherland to continue walking along its northern coast. I had managed to book a B&B, at an affordable rate, in Thurso for 3 nights giving me four days of walking. I had calculated I would still not reach John O’Groats on this trip, but at least I would be heading south down the Scottish East coast on my next trip to the far north. The logistics of the four days was quite complex, having to change direction of walking and using buses and my bike.

I drove up the previous day and just about reached Tongue before I pulled over for the night and slept in the back of the car. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to bring my thermal air bed, which made for a slightly uncomfortable night. As the Summer Solstice had only recently passed it remained very light and hardly got dark at all.

The following day I drove to a small pull-in just north of Hope Bridge and got on my bike. The road was very quiet when I set off towards Coldbackie. I had chosen to cycle in this direction because most of the cycling was to be downhill. I left my cycle in Coldbackie and started walking back up the A836. About a mile from Tongue I turned off down a narrow road which took me down to the shoreline of The Kyle of Tongue. The road continued back onto the A836 and then onto the impressive Tongue Bridge, which was basically a barrage or causeway, with a bridge at the far end, allowing the sea to enter further into The Kyle estuary. I leftthe main road, which had been very quiet, and taken a minor narrow road out to the hamlets of Melness, Midtown, Skinnet, Talmine, Achnahuaigh and East Strathan. The high position of the road offered brilliant views across Tongue Bay out to the uninhabited Rabbit Islands. With not a single car passing me I left the public road at Achiniver and took to a rough track that climbed onto the open moor. The track soon ended at Loch na h-Uamhachd and I set a compass bearing for Loch nan Aighean across open moorland. The going, although wet in a few places, was not difficult especially with the short vegetation. I was heading towards Whiten Head walking over the North-West shoulder of Ben Hutig (408m), which I had thought about climbing, but this would have extended the day somewhat. In the far distance I could make out the small forestry plantations close to the A836 where I had left my car that morning. Between me and it was a number of miles of gently rolling terrain, boggy in places, with numerous streams to cross. I set another bearing for the forestry and proceeded over boggy terrain. In what seemed like an age I finally reached the A836 a few hundred metres away from my car. Looking back at my route I could see that the cloud had come down and Ben Hutig was now in cloud.

I now had the long drive over the Thurso and my Airbnb for the next three nights.

On the A836 crossing the Tongue causeway
Looking out towards The Rabbit Islands
Achininver Beach
Looking back to Strath Melness with Ben Loyal in the background
Loch na h-Uamhacdh
Heading towards Whiten Head with Durness and Faraid Head in the hazy far distance
On the NW shoulder of Ben Hutig
Looking back eastwards towards The Rabbit Islands
Looking westwards towards Durness
Heading south over gently rolling grass and bog

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:


Distance today = 19 miles

Total distance = 4,967 miles



3 thoughts on “274. Coldbackie to Hope Bridge”

  1. I’m impressed you took a route over the open countryside. I’m afraid I wimped out of that and stuck to the A836 (and parts of the old route of the road). Actually I did this as two separate walks, an “up and back” walk along the coast to Achininver (and back along the road) and then an up and back walk between Hope and the viewpoint on the Tongue causeway. I decided not to risk the open land north of the A836 as there were no paths or tracks marked on the map. Looks like I missed out on some nice scenery though.


  2. Hi Jon, I think it’s really important to do what you are comfortable with and not take risks. I’ve been doing this for over 45 years, climbing all the Munro’s, Corbetts and many Graham’s etc.. and so don’t think twice. I’m proabaly more paranoid about getting ticks! I’m not really sure about what walking kit you use. I use craghopper trousers, a cheapy fleece and Bridgedale socks. I also spray all my outer clothing with EX4 an insect repellent for fabrics, that actually kills the beasties as it contains Permithrin. However, I’ve discovered recently that Craghoppers do a range of clothes that have this protection built into them, this range of clothing is called Nosilife and I ‘ve just ordered some of their kit recently. With a fair bit of the West Coast still to do I thought you might be interested.
    Looking forward to your retropective write-ups and the fact that you will soon be enetering Scotland.


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