Day 111, 112. Tues & Wed, 18th & 19th July. Poolewe to Torridon.
My unplanned day off in Poolewe was spent mostly eating !!! Normally, if I have a decent meal in the evening, I crack on in the morning and won't eat until 11am, combining breakfast with lunch saving time and money. I had a good sized dinner in the Poolewe hotel on Sunday night but woke up on Monday absolutely starving. I wandered into the village to check out the two cafes and ended up in the Pool House Historic Home Cafe which was recommended by the staff at the campsite. What a fascinating little place, the building was originally a Clan Mackenzie house dating back to the early 1800's. It was visited by Winston Churchill in 1939 and was subsequently requisitioned by The Royal Navy to become the command headquarters for both the Russian Arctic and North Atlantic Convoys, both of which harboured in the nearby Loch Ewe.
In 1943, the War Office became increasingly concerned about the failure rate of young, immature would-be officers in training so Lt. Col The Lord Rowallan M.C was appointed commandant of a brand new unit called The Highland Fieldcraft Training Centre... a nice catchy title but more importantly, simple... it was to train potential Army Officers don't forget !!! I jest of course, these were young, keen men with bags of potential but in serious need of developing some initiative and leadership capabilities. You don't have to try too hard to imagine how tough the training must have been for these guys, in the winter, in the highlands, with the crap kit they were issued back then... it must have been brutal but clearly the initiative worked, many of these men went on to lead units in successful campaigns all over the world. In fact, so moved I was to learn their story, I've adopted their moto for the remainder of my walk. 'Air Adhart Gu Buaidh'. 'Bash on Regardless', although I've added my own JNCO's trained initiative to the motto which perhaps they never considered, 'unless the pub is open' !! 'Nisi si taberna apertum'...
that borstal education clearly wasn't wasted on me... 🙄
To conclude my lesson for the day, in 1976, the H.F.T.C was reborn when the Army approached Lord Rowallan for advice. Clearly a new generation of these numpty 'Ruperts' were getting into the Army but many couldn't 'lead' a dog around the garden unassisted and most junior soldiers wouldn't follow one out of curiousity... as a consequence, The Rowallan Company was formed at The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst based on the original concepts. Indeed, in 1980, The Navy also realised that their junior officers could use a bit of extra character building training so they formed The Troubridge Division at The Royal Naval College in Dartmouth. You'll notice which service of our armed forces is missing here and if you've ever had the pleasure of meeting an RAF officer... 😳 enough said... 🤣
Anyway, moving swiftly on... my walk wasn't the most interesting, I could have walked up the other side of Loch Ewe to Cove, interestingly, where there was a detachment of Royal Engineers stationed during WW2 but the headland around to Melvaig has no marked paths or roads and I'm not playing that game again... so, I stayed on the roads cutting across, eventually getting back onto the coast and down to Gairloch.
I wasn't complaining, the road was a small quiet backroad which eventually led to a dead end so I was free to bimble along listening to my latest audiobook without fear of getting run over by a car or motorbike coming flying around a blind bend. More another day on the fascinating books I've been listening to and how some of them are helping me to unpick the fog that has repeatedly caused my mental well-being to deteriorate.
By early evening and after walking just over 21 miles, I reached the end of the road at Red Point, found a flat piece of ground and for a pleasant change to my normal wild camping experience, I cooked and ate alfresco while watching the sun slowly sink into the sea. No rain, no midges and pleasantly warm enough to sit outside... 😁 loverly... 😎
Red Point around to Diabaig was simple enough following the coast. There was no road and although there was a path marked on the map, there were plenty of dry trails to follow the coastline. Upon reaching Lower Diabaig, the fun really began, through the dear gates and onto the road and the climbs and decents began and they were severe... 🥵
After just under 20 miles and over 2000 feet elevation gains, I'll not lie to you, I staggered into Torridon, sweaty, shattered and hungry. I knew there was a Youth Hostel but I'd also been told that there was a camping ground behind it that was free for tents. When I got there, I learnt that the camping ground was actually council run, it had nothing to do with the youth hostel. There was a toilet block with a single shower in the gents which was also free. I pitched up and headed for the shower, while waiting for a Polish family to process through I washed my underwear and shirt in the sink which got me into the block and enabled me to jump the queue before the German family !!!
Result... that meant I could sit in the hostel with a cold beer while charging my gear for a while before getting back to my tent to get some food on. It was gone 9pm so I was gratefull for the breif encounter I'd had on the campsite in Poolewe where a fellow Freemason and ex copper had given me some police boil in the bag rations... no need for a burner or microwave, clever stuff...
The heat generated by cooking process and by my body heat in the tent helping to dry my clothes ready for the off in the morning. Two free nights camping in a row, we like free... 👍😉