Caves, Bridges and Sloping Sunsets…

Having left our overnight mooring (after another, inevitable, run along the beach for Jack) we briefly stopped at Smoo Caves to admire the underground waterfall (Scotland has A LOT of waterfalls!) before turning south at Durness to start heading down the scenic west coast bit.

Underground waterfall at Smoo Caves
Underground waterfall at Smoo Caves

Although the trip so far had given us some memorable views, nothing could prepare us for the sheer jaw-dropping beauty that lay ahead, and I can see now why those who have gone before favour completing the trip in an anti-clockwise direction to keep building the scenic magnificence around every turn.

As this part of the adventure was primarily a driving one, stops along the way, and therefore photographs, were few, but one place at which we definitely wanted to pause was the iconic Kylesku Bridge which crosses the Loch a’ Chàirn Bhàin (Caolas Cumhann) – and no, I’ve no idea how to pronounce it either!

The iconic Kylesku Bridge
The iconic Kylesku Bridge

The bridge is iconic because, unlike other similar structures which use basic engineering, economic and physical principles to cross a gap in the shortest possible distance – i.e. a straight line – the Kylesku Bridge continues the curvature of the road at both ends by beautifully arcing horizontally across the Loch.

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Wilma crossing the bridge

It came as no surprise therefore to find that the civil engineers behind the bridge were none other than the Danish firm of Ove Arup and Partners, they of Sydney Opera House fame who stepped in to make the world famous landmark actually happen.

Fellow Dane Jørn Utzon was the architect who had won the design competition for the new opera house by wowing the judges with what amounted to little more than a sketch showing the amazing sail-like structures which appeared radically different when compared with the more traditional cubist designs. The trouble was that Jørn had given little, if any, thought as to how these structures could actually, physically be constructed – an omission that ultimately had him removed from the project.

Into the breach stepped Ove Arup who, after many years of consultations with both Jørn and the client and no doubt much late-night head-scratching, modified the design slightly to produce something that was actually feasible to construct and thus become the renowned iconic masterpiece it is today.

Designing the Kylesku Bridge therefore was probably done one Friday night as he was heading out of the office, but nevertheless it’s still an amazing structure.

Onwards from here and passing through Drumbeg, Clashnessie and Stoer we arrived at what was to become the stop for the night and another wildcamp overlooking the rhino-hornesque Suilven mountain flanked by Canisp to the east and Cul Mor to the west, the trio making a very impressive backdrop.

Once again Scotland set itself apart by providing a carpark actually inviting people to camp overnight with a small box under the sign for donations if you felt like contributing anything. We did, with pleasure. It’s little things like this that make you feel so welcome here and, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s because you don’t feel that you’re being blatantly ripped-off everywhere that you feel more inclined to spend money locally. Are you listening every single English council in the land?!?

The only slight downside with the carpark was that getting the van level was nigh-on impossible (which probably explains why we were the only ones there) but after 40 minutes of trying every which way we eventually settled on a spot where the wine glasses didn’t fall over and we could actually walk from one end to the other without the aid of ropes and crampons.

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Our wild camp spot for the night – deceptively not very level!

That done, we settled back to watch Suilven and her sisters consumed by the sunset; another fantastically memorable day drawing to a close.

Canisp, Suilven and Cul Mor at sunset
Canisp, Suilven and Cul Mor at sunset

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