The Western Isles – Or There And Back Again XVI

By Bernie Bell

Inchnadamph – Hotel and Caves

We stayed at the Inchnadamph Hotel, not to be confused with the Inchnadamph Hostel, just along the road.  The hotel was a coaching inn, and the old building is still in there, somewhere!  It’s claim to fame is that our old friends Mr Peach and Mr Horne stayed  there with a group of geologists, while investigating the nearby Inchnadamph Bone Caves.  The hotel still has the visitor book from 1912, with their signatures in it, and Richard, the owner, let me take a photo of the relevant page,

Inchnadamph hotel visitor book B Bellbringing history right into the dining room of the hotel, where these folk will have had their dinners, as we did.

I didn’t used to understand autograph collectors, but, when faced with the signatures of Mr. Peach and Mr. Horne, I can see how looking at someone’s writing, knowing that they held a pen in their hand, and wrote those words, which are right there, in front of you, does bring the person somehow closer to you.  I was very pleased to be allowed to see this book – this little piece of history, which also connects Knockan Crag, where we walked on the way to the Western Isles, with the Bone Caves, which we were intending to visit the next day, on the way back from the Western Isles.  Mr Peach and Mr Horne did ground-breaking work ( no pun intended!), shining a light on some geological mysteries, and making new discoveries.

And now back to the hotel!  It’s a very homely, welcoming place.  The evening we arrived, we walked into the bar to find …dogs!  It’s dog-friendly, the abode of walkers and fishers, who often have their dogs with them.  We’re dog-friendly, too, and were delighted to meet with a mixed assortment  – a short-haired retriever, a border terrier, a chocolate lab, a collie, and the owners own dog, a Samoyed/Husky cross.  All being very well-behaved and sociable. One thing I will mention about the bar is…..NO TELLY!  Everywhere you go, these days, there are tellies, often set on a news channel.  The last thing I want when out for an evening, or on my holidays,  is the ******* news!  This isn’t escapism, it’s self-preservation – a need for peace, and even detachment, sometimes.

It was a huge relief to sit be able to sit in the bar of an hotel, with no telly, no music – just people, chatting, exchanging the days doings and discussing all sorts, and of course …the dogs!

The food was gorgeous, cooked by Jaimie, the other half of the couple who own the hotel.  We both had poached salmon in some kind of herby butter, which was delicious, and Richard could tell us that it was from a supplier in Ullapool, so, probably from the Western Isles, not some far-flung place, and frozen who knows how long ago.

I’d thoroughly recommend the Inchnadamph Hotel. Jaimie and Richard get it right- just what you need when travelling. They even do packed lunches for the walkers and fishers, and, probably, for anyone setting off on their further travels.

And, in the morning, from the breakfast-room window, we watched swallows, lots of swallows, swooping around outside – the first ones we’d seen, this year.  Also from the breakfast-room, you get  this view

View from Inchnadaph Hotel B BellWhich includes, on the low hill just across, a monument to Mr Peach & Mr Horne.

And so, on to the Inchnadamph Bone Caves.   I call them the Bear Caves, because I’m a bear. You can park in a small car park, which is marked on the OS map, and, as you set off up the glen, you are met by a lively waterfall and pool.

Waterfall Bone Caves Assynt, B Bell.jpg

The river is generally lively here, with a number of small falls and pools, including one which appears to spring from the hillside, because that is what it does!  The limestone rock means  that water travels through the hills, and appears and disappears, quite suddenly.  As you walk along the path and encounter this pool, you realise that it isn’t a pool in the river, it’s just, suddenly – there, and the river flows from it.  A wonderful place.

wide falls Bone Caves Assynt B Bell

You then carry on up the glen, keeping to the left of what is now a dry river bed (possibly not, in wet weather?), and the scenery really starts to make its presence felt.

View up the glen Bone Caves Assynt B Bell

Stay to the left of the dry river bed and you will see the bone/bear caves to your right, at the top of a steep slope

Bone Caves Assynt B Bell

Eventually , you will come to a point where a clear path takes you diagonally up to the path which goes along in front of the caves.

path to Bone Caves Assynt B Bell

This path is marked by a wooden post, so the way to go, is clear enough.

I looked at the path ahead, and knew I wouldn’t manage it.  So, Mike carried on, and I sat for a while, looking about me, and there is much to see.  I did a 360 degree ‘scan’ of my surroundings – slowly, taking it all in.  Calms the soul.

I then set off back down the way we had come, intending to meet Mike on the way back from his excursion to the caves, which is what happened.  Another walk where a person can manage what they can, then stop and turn back if needed, but very much enjoy what they did manage.

Mike had taken some close-ups of the caves

Visiting the Bear Caves is grand, it a grand thing to do.  Even though I couldn’t  get to the actual caves –  the walk up the glen, the sight of caves, and the thought of the folk camping there, long ago, was…………….grand!  Looking up or down the valley, it won’t look a lot different to how it did then – maybe more wooded then – but the same basic landscape.  A GRAND place to be.

view from the Bone Caves Assynt M Bell

You can find the other articles in this series by using our search button. Bernie Bell has also written a series of walks on Orkney. 


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