Like most visitors to the far north-west of mainland Scotland, I guess, the great Loch Eriboll - arguably one of Scotland's most enigmatic sea lochs - has erstwhile featured as a rather extensive (c10 mile long) watery backdrop to the approach to Durness, the town (in season at least) a bustling focal point for those enjoying the superb coastal scenery this exquisite corner of Sutherland has to offer. In abundance.
This year, however, I manage to infuse a degree of structure to my wide-eyed wanderings, somehow finding myself in the position to allocate a full day to traverse the A838 between Tongue and the southern extremity of The Kyle of Durness... the proviso that I camp at the latter notwithstanding. Furthermore, in stark contrast to my last venture two years back, the generally inclement Scottish weather is anything but, a golden glow announcing a more-or-less cloudless dawn at my camp near Loch Hakel, what vapour there is smothering Ben Loyal, the mountain appearing as if immersed in whipped cream. So, following a glorious diversion along the eastern shore of Loch Hope, an almost impossibly blue Loch Eriboll beckons beyond Ard Neackie as the A838 swings south. Hey, it would be rude not to stop this time, particularly seeing as the chances of encountering such conditions again are pretty slim, it has to be said.
Passing Eilean Choraidh - apparently used by the Norse of yore as a burial ground (it appears 'Loch Eriboll' is derived from the Norse meaning “home on a gravely beach”) - I park beneath the imposingly rocky flank of Creag na Faoilinn overlooking the loch to the south. Unlike eagle-eyed TMA-er Carl, I can't positively identify the cairn from roadside, so head for the eastern side of Lochan Havurn, before veering to the right. The going is rough - very much so - with intermittent bog to make things more, er, interesting. In retrospect it's no doubt easier to approach via the house at Foulin (there's a souterrain to see nearby as well, if that's your bag). But there you are... whatever route is taken the cairn, upon arrival, will be found to be a beauty of the type.
Small, but perfectly formed... and, as far I could tell, apparently inviolate (?)... this is an excellent, unassuming monument. The setting is exquisite for a lowland cairn (let's face it, it can't really get any lower), the vast expanse of Loch Eriboll, stretching away to the northern horizon, contrasting vividly with the towering crags of Creag na Faoilinn to landward. Hey, if visiting punters can manage to vacate their Bronze Age perch there's even a personal beach close at hand. As it is I prefer the former, an ideal spot to relax, drink coffee and chuckle at the antics of the numerous 'themed tourer groups' (Porsches, Harley Davidsons, brand new, shiny 4x4s etc) passing by in convoy upon the A838, the relative proximity of the road somewhat paradoxically accentuating the splendid isolation of the monument. Such is the idyllic perfection of the scene it almost beggars belief to recall that Eilean Choraidh was used as a target practice proxy for the infamous German battleship Tirpitz during the war... and that Loch Eriboll has been a surrogate home for Royal Navy - as well as Merchant Navy - groups on numerous occasions, thanks to the deepness of its water.
Such is the vibe I could've stayed all day... but there is so much more to see beyond Durness. Yeah, tell me about it.
Posted by GLADMAN
18th December 2016ce
Edited 19th December 2016ce