The Sutherland Trail: Day One. Tongue to Loch Hope.
Day 1 Tongue to Loch Hope
Distance: 11.5 miles / 18.4 km
Total ascent: 1643 feet / 501 metres
Time: 4hrs 45min
Average heart rate: 114
Calories burned: 2156
On the post bus to Tongue i met a lovely old couple who told me that in countries outwith the western world a man's age is determined not in years but in how active he remained. Buoyed by this i contemplated that would make me at least 29 after completing the Sutherland Trail in five days. As of yet there are no official start/end signs on the Sutherland Trail but the royal mail post bus driver that drove me into Tongue told me that there are plans to have official start/end signs for the trail at Tongue post office. So, from there I followed the B road all the way along to Kinloch where I had to start paying close attention to the map. I suggest to the people of Tongue a couple of way markers around here pointing people to the moine path would help a lot. If the mist was in i'd imagine finding the moine path to be quite difficult. Without these it was a matter of following the road till I got to a point where an abandoned house/bothy came into view up on the hill to my left. I carried on past the house on a land rover track, then within a minute took a faint path on my right up to the crest of the hill. Pay attention here for in the summer there is a good chance you could walk right by this path as it was overgrown with ferns when i walked it. Bridge at start / end of moine path Once I found this quite precarious looking wooden bridge i knew i was on the Moine path proper. Best idea here is too take a bearing, especially if in mist, as the path again does become hard to follow at times. Its then just a straightforward hike across the plateau with Ben Loyal off on the left to the rear, and Ben Hope coming into view in front. Up on the plateau that the Moine path cuts across i now felt in the wilds proper with raw beauty, solitude, the tang of fresh air on my nostrils, and rugged mountains in view. The pleasant bird song that accompanied me along the minor road from Tongue to Kinloch had now petered out to the shirl of an occasional moorland bird. The sunshine had also gone, and the landscape was now cloaked in an thick atmosphere more typical of a highland region. Stripping it all away As a Christian the solitude from being in the wilds is invaluable. For me exposing myself to the elements for a little while gets rid of all the stuff we get bogged down with in the course of our modern day western lives. I'm blessed to live in Scotland where i can do this quite easily. At times i find myself in some desolate place with no energy left, starting to feel quite small, with doubts begining to build in my head. But it's in these situations, when i push on, i experience a presence that is so subtle and yet wonderfully satisfying. It's in these moments i know my God is with me. It's a feeling of protection and confidence that, devastatingly, starts ebbing away from us the moment our childhood ends. "Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it."
Jesus Christ. Luke 18:15-17
I'm not saying that you have to go out to the wilds to experience God's presence. But i believe it can help. God desires a relationship with us now, we are not supposed to wait until we leave this world. It's available to everyone through his son Jesus Christ. campThe Moine path took me down into the colourful Strath More Glen. Here I picked out a small beach on the shore of Loch Hope as the perfect wild camping spot for my first night on the trail proper. Sleeping out on your own can be unnerving. Especially in the remote western highlands. Where the black silhouette's of the surrounding mountains are always imposing. It feels like giants are watching my every step. Like I am intruding on their ancient territory. But i get round it by not looking up too often and go into auto pilot setting up my tent, eating, writing up some notes, reading and waiting for sleep to come. Tip - When wild camping take a good set of comfortable eye blinkers and good set of ear plugs to ensure a good kip. In the long summer days with early sunrises these two bits of kit are essential to ensure restful sleep. I use Bio Ears silicone earplugs which can be bought in Boots. They are very effective at blocking out any early morning bird song, or blooterd Glaswegians back home. Summary Getting from Tongue to Kinloch is a breeze along tarmac roads. Finding the Moine path from Kinloch is tricky and in the mist it would be quite tough. So be prepared to put navigation skills to good use. Once a rickety wooden bridge is found take a bearing to Strath More Glen, as path does become obscure at points. Terrain wise the Moine path itself was in good nick when i crossed it. But that was after a period of very dry weather. After some rain i'd imagine it would be boggy to very boggy. Other than that this section is on a minor road. Tongue to Loch Hope Map Use controls to zoom in/out and move around. The green line is a guide to direction of travel. See main map page for more detailed map

Paul Stewart is Loved by Jesus Christ.

He is employed as a Web Developer and Corporal in the British Territorial Army where he has been Mountain Leader Trained.

A lover of the outdoors he is available as a summer mountain guide in the Scottish Highlands.













www.sutherland-trail.info. © 2011.
Website by www.stewart-web.co.uk