When I was 5 my teacher, Miss Jones, called the whole class, “My children.”
One day, Mark Havercroft asked her, “Miss Jones, are these really all your children?”
It was with a similar naivety that I said to Judy, the proprietor of the Applecross Inn, “Isn’t it amazing that you have all these locals turning up every night?”
Applecross – being in the middle of nowhere – doesn’t really have locals.
“These aren’t locals,” she smiled,”some of them are folk who come back once or twice a year…a few workmen…”
And then it dawned on me, I wasn’t the only one who’d been made to feel do welcome – it was everyone.
I’d walked into the bay – stunning doesn’t quite cover it – to be met with a guy from Leicester – we exchanged stories of ticks – he mentioned a pub in the village and i was off like a fat bloke pulling a heavy trailer with a rucksack….
Before I got there I was met with a cherry,”Good afternoon,” from the son of a family I’d met on the road – we chatted – he told me how he’d been coming to Applecross since he was in the womb and how his dad had proposed to his mum on…that mountain over there….
I must be getting on a bit, I looked at him and his sister and thought,”Their parents must be so proud….”
I got to the pub – checked my contingency fund….about £80.. I had no clean clothes and all my batteries had been used up…
“”How much for a bed?”
“I’ll do it for £45…” she took me upstairs…”would you like a bath…?”
I tried not to sound desperate,”Oh my God, yes please…”
Bathed, refreshed and wearing my least smelly of my smelly clothes I wandered down to the bar. I craved lager shandy.
Judy and I got chatting, she’s from Huddersfield – she came up 23 years ago and hasn’t looked back. She is great at what she does – a remote pub with local atmosphere and…great food…
Cue Jim – Jim had chatted to me on my way in. He was really interested and moved by the walk a mile thing. He is ex-forces, and has been involved with ‘Help for Heroes’. A great listener, he asked why…I told him a little of my own mental health thing, my career in social work and the like…
“Would you like something to eat?” I had been planning on cooking up some supernoodles with the kettle in the room…
“Er…yes…that would be great…”
He got me the fish and chips – fantastic…I went mad and had another shandy.
“We’re going to have a whip-round for you – and a raffle…” Judy told me.
I was taking a day off walking the following day to get the full benefit of the 27 baths I’d had. So it was agreed that the raffle for her donated bottle of Famous Grouse would be drawn the following night at 9.
The kindness of strangers…
I got up the following morning – I felt great – legs still a bit creaky, but pretty good.
At breakfast I met Jim, his wife Ali (excuse any spelling there) and their lovely 4 year old boy, Ollie.
They were so enthusiastic and friendly.
They vanished to prepare for their day of walking and fishing and I asked about laundry. This was done by the in-house laundryman, George, with a 2 hour turnaround from manky to clean and dry.
I went down to pay.
“No charge,” Judy said simply.
This had been a significant amount of comfort and pampering – for no charge.
I would be camping nearby – so we agreed that I’d come back for the raffle for 9.
I had a relaxed day and came back to the pub at 7 – still feeling clean in my recently washed clothes.
I had money to buy tea – so I indulged in a Thai chicken curry.
I chatted to folk as they came in – the atmosphere was delightful – as Judy did the hard (ish) friendly sell of the raffle tickets.
£157! Is what she raised – £157! The contingency fund was looking pretty healthy to say the least…
But Judy wasn’t done yet… I told her that I was going over the “Big Hill” to Loch Carron the next day. Judy arranged for Hubert to be given a lift to her friend Viv at the Kishorn Fish Bar so I didn’t need to pull him up, or get run over by him on the way down from the highest road in the UK.
I got chatting to a couple of guys – Craig and Jamie – they’d grown up together and met up a couple of times a year to go on scary walks along ridges and the like – oh, and to get pissed.
Far be it for me to say,”A big boy made me do it,” but suffice is it to say that Craig ensured that we had several, including a whiskey, for the road….
I giggled as I slalomed up to my tent…what a great night…what a great place…what great people…
I awoke with a start realising that me, Darth II and Hubert had to be somewhere.
We got to the Inn – where I saw Judy and her sister – I had no idea how to begin to thank them – so, in time honoured tradition, I threw my arms around them.
As I walked away, I thought to myself it’s little wonder that the Applecross in has won the best pub in Scotland award for 2012.
The road over this particular Big Hill is crazy – it’s a single track road which zigs and zags from one false summit to the next. Many folk on the road asked if I wanted a lift – but small slow steps were the order of the day as I walked up through the clouds.
It was a little sad that, at the top, there was little to see. It was misty – there was some snow – but not much else. I smiled as I remembered speaking to the barman – who also drives the snow plough – the previous night. He’d said that the ice had been so thick and er…skiddy…he’d had to used the blade of his snow plough as a brake to stop him from….
Then he said,”Look, there’s a submarine,” and I turned round to see a submarine emerging from the waters of the Inner Sound. Amazing.
I went over the summit and was presented with a road that could be best described as hilarious. It’s like a cross between the cresta run and the Italian Job as it veers and swerves its way down the mountain.
I’ll admit the descent was sore on the feet – but so worth it.
I got to the bottom to rejoin the main road I’d left at Shieldaig – by keeping it coastal I’d walked 40 miles instead of 8 – but…wow.
I got to the Kishorn Seafood bar to be met with the friendly face of Viv as she confirmed that she did, in fact, have Hubert. I got chatting to a couple at another table, Eileen and Brian who live in Wemyss Bay just to the south west of Glasgow.
“You must come and stay with us,” they jointly smiled.
So addresses and phone numbers were exchanged. What a hoot!
They left and I tried to pay – Viv explained that I wouldn’t be paying and that was her donation.
She told me that she’d had a brush with depression in the past and that it had been well managed with medication.
I asked her if she knew of any good camping spots – which is where I am now – on the banks of Loch Kishorn, listening to wind and the rain, the call of buzzards, the chatter of sparrows and the distant bleat of recalcitrant sheep.
What a few days.
Walk a mile max
Walk a mile