Tuesday, October 23, 2018

A Night in Crolà - 8 Years On

Eight years had passed since I last spent a night in Crolà - one of my favourite places in the Hebrides - and so this August I decided to stay there again. Crolà lies at the head of Loch Reasort, a difficult five mile hike from the nearest road. When I camped there in 2010 (see chapter 22 of Skye & Tiree to the Outer Isles), it was a sunny summer day. I was not so lucky with the weather this time.

Crolà - 2010
I reached Crolà last August after visiting the Clàr Mòr beehive cells described in the last post. From Clàr Mòr I carried on for another mile south to pay a visit to the Clàr Beag beehives, an amazing place I'd only visited once before, way back in 1998.

From Clàr Beag a descent along the banks of Abhainn a’ Chlàir Bhig led to the ruin of Tota Choinnich. (See chapter 17, Skye & Tiree to the Outer Isles, for the story of Tota Choinnich.)

Tota Choinnich
At Tota Choinnich the Clàr Beag stream joins the Abhainn Mhòr Ceann Reasoirt; a substantial river that is not easy to cross after any significant rainfall, which there had been all week. Fortunately, I didn’t have to cross it, and so I continued along its north bank for a half mile to the old lodge at Kinresort.

Approaching Kinresort from the east
The lodge at Kinresort is not a place you can count on for shelter out in the back of beyond, as they’ve gone to a lot of trouble to prevent anyone from getting in. A place more heavily defended from bog-weary intruders would be hard to find; most of the doors and windows are securely covered with padlocked wrinkly-tin shutters; and those not so covered are tightly blockaded with stone.

Kinresort Lodge - 2018
The old lodge looks a lot different than when I first passed through here in 1998.

Kinresort Lodge - 1998
It started to rain again as I made my way along the north shore of Loch Reasort. Only one more obstacle lay between me and Crolà: the Abhainn Leatha. The stream was in heavy spate, which forced me to climb to find a fording place. A hundred metres up the hillside the stream split to flow around a small island. On each side of the island flowed a narrow stretch of cascading water that I could cross. It was there that, tired, and in a hurry to set up camp, I made a mistake, My boot slipped off a boulder and plunged into the stream; cold water flooding into it. Cursing myself for the mistake, I continued across the stream, and then descended to the shore and the ruin of the postman’s house at Crolà.

Crola - 2018
I was not too happy when I saw a large, rusting barrel lying next to the house. I had rolled that damn thing far away when I'd cleaned up the flotsam littering the site in 2010. But the sea had rolled it back, along with even more flotsam.

Before the clean-up in 2010

After the clean-up in 2010
The junk is back in 2018
The rain had decreased to a light drizzle as I pitched the tent. Unlike the previous night in Glen Shanndaig there were no midges; a light breeze off Loch Reasort kept them away. Before sliding into the sleeping bag I stuffed my boots with newspaper. They were a bit soggy after two days of hiking over wet terrain and my earlier misstep crossing the stream.

I woke at midnight to the sound of a deer barking as it was taking a drink at the nearby stream - I barked back and it ran away. I am used to nights not being very dark this time of year in the Hebrides (early August); but with the heavy cloud cover it was pitch black when I stepped out at 2am to take care of business. I was asleep again in an instant. Lapping surf, and the pitter-patter of rain on a tent, are the best sleep-aids in the world.

It was still raining at 7am. When I crawled out of the tent I was happy to discover the midges were still missing in action. It was a gray, breezy morning, with on and off rain sweeping in from the Atlantic.

I shook off as much water as I could from the tent before rolling it up and strapping it to the pack. The time had come to face the streams and bogs once again; to plow through thick heather and tall, wet bracken. It was time to head north to Morsgail. Halfway there I came across the first of forty old friends. Those old friends are the Postman's Stones, which guide the walker across the bogs between Morsgail and Kinresort. I was done navigating, it was time to follow the stones. I would reach the Morsgail road an hour later.

One of the postman's stones

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