Failure and Success: A Walk down to Charles Clarke's House at the bottom of Loch Glendhu.

12thJuly, 2022. 

I have just returned from a trip to the far north of Scotland. The purpose was a field trip to the Stack of Glencoul, which is found in the vicinity of Kylesku, and is a key geological site in the saga of the Highlands Controversy.

(Left) This was the view of the Stack in the afternoon.

(Right) Unfortunately, this was the view when the group met at 10.00 in the morning:

Oh dear! Sadly, the decision was made to postpone the expedition, and most of the group headed off to another geological site nearby, which was at sea level.

I, on the other hand, had another idea. I have always been struck by William Daniell's description of visiting the family of Charles Clarke, who lived in 'Glendhu', at the bottom of Loch Glendhu (see my book, The Immeasurable Wilds, chapter 6). He described the site as "rightly called Glendhu, or the dark glen," noting that the sun would scarcely be seen in summer, whilst in winter "they are doomed to receive little more than an alternation of twilight and darkness." He feared, therefore, that he would find a gloomy household to match the surroundings, but far from it: he found there a lively family who enjoyed books, music, and conversation, and he was entertained most agreeably.

I had always wanted to visit the site of his house, which is marked on the Ordnance Survey map at the far end of Loch Glendhu. Here was the perfect opportunity. A track leads all the way down the loch, so there would be little danger of getting lost.

A slightly formidable gate bars the way at the start of the walk (OS 217345), but the side gate is not locked, and when the tarmac road leads into a rougher track, a signpost points the way encouragingly.

At Kylesku, Loch Glendhu forms the upper branch of a double loch, the other portion which points in a more southerly direction being Loch Glencoul.

Looking down Loch Glencoul, conditions were still clearly damp and misty, though the rain had stopped. There was evidence of the mussel farm (right) - they are grown on ropes - but little sign of Quinag, the mountain that should have been towering over the scene.

The distance down the loch is some 4 miles.

Left. Looking back up to Kylesku, with Quinag still in cloud.

Right. Once the track descends to the shore of the loch, views of the site of Clarke's house can be seen.

There are three buildings on the site, none of them, I believe, the actual house in which the Clarkes lived. What is now the bothy looks as if it is the oldest building.

Looking back from the bottom of the loch up towards Kylesku, the remoteness of the site is apparent. It is indeed a wonderfully romantic situation.

It is a site in the midst of some of the most remarkable geology in the British Isles. A distinctive band of quartzite rock descends diagonally above it. The rock above this quartzite is gneiss, which has been pushed over the sedimentary layers by the massive force of the Glencoul Thrust

It is a geology befitting this wild scene.

The weather improved as the afternoon wore on, the cloud swirling around the summits of Quinag. Even the Stack of Glencoul (right) began to put in an appearance.

As I left, the sun caught the band of quartzite. Kylesku , with its double lochs and remarkable geology, is a truly magic spot in the north-west Highlands.