Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Burma Road to Tamnabhaigh

The long and winding road to Tamnabhaigh is an 8-mile endurance test. But it is worth it. It was hacked out of the hills and bogs between Uig and Tamnabhaigh in the late 1990s to ease the access to Tamnabhaigh Lodge. If this road exisited 100 years ago there would still be communities at Tamnabhaigh, Ceann Chuisil, and Aird Bheg.

GoogleEarth view of the Tamnabhaigh track
From the Uig road the track starts as an easy, level walk. The three hills of Tarain, Tathabhal, and Teinneasabhal, which guard the high pass of Raonasgail, can be seen off in the distance.

Tarain, Tathabhal, and Teinneasabhal in the distance
The track seems to go on and on as it winds its way south, and after a mile you pass the road quarry. If your vehicle can take the rocky track, you might be able to drive this far and leave the car at the quarry. But I don't recommend it, as the track is very rough, especially after any heavy rainfall.

A short way beyond the quarry you will reach the locked gate. It's in a strategic spot; in other words there's no way to drive around it.

The Gate -1
The Gate -2
As you continue along the track you will notice a thick cable running along the roadside. This is probably the world's longest extension cord, which connects to Tamnabhaigh Lodge at the end of the track.
The extension cord
The track seems to take an eternity to reach the pass as it undulates around several lochs and bogs.

The track goes on and on and on and on....
After an hour or so you reach Loch Raonasgail, and the switchbacks up to the pass come into view.

Loch Raonasgail and the hill pass
Starting up the pass
I've walked this road four times now, and it does not get any easier with repetition. Last time I made the walk I had to detour around a couple of heavy duty vehicles being operated by two fellows rebuilding a patch of track that had washed out in a recent rainstorm. The rubble from the washout was threatening a nearby salmon spawning stream. 

Roadworks - 1
Roadworks - 2
Once the pass is reached wide views of Loch Cheann Chuisil and Loch Tamnabhaigh open up. At this point you can choose to leave the track and walk east through some amazing open countryside, or loop to the northeast to conquer the summits of Tarain, Tathabhal, and Teinneasabhal.

Loch Cheann Chuisil
Along the Shore of Loch Cheann Chuisil
After traversing the east shore of Loch Cheann Chuisil the road comes to an end at Tamnabhaigh Lodge. 

The Lodge
Just before the lodge you pass the old keeper's house, which is still in good shape.

Old keeper's house at Tamnabhaigh
From the end of the track you cross the green grass in front of the lodge to reach the footbridge over the Tamnabhaigh River. (In the four times I've passed by the lodge no one has ever been home.) Vague paths can be seen on the far side of the bridge which peter out after a few hundred feet. And from there on it's just bogs, rocks and heather. That said, this little bridge is not a bridge to nowhere. It is a bridge to some amazing walks; make your way south to the 12-chambered beehive of Aird Mhor, or west to the ancient settlement of Aird Bheg, or east to the summit of Beinn Ishobhal, and then on to Crola and Kinlochresort. I will be making my fifth trek through this area in May, and I hope to camp for the night in the shielings of Fidigidh or Loch na Craobhaig. 

The bridge to...

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