Church Path to Scourie
Start location: Scourie (NC 155 449)
End location: Tarbet (NC 163 489)
Geographical area: Sutherland
Path Type: Rural Path, Coffin Road
Path distance: 4km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians
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There are two possible start points at Scourie; at NC155450, at the gate to Scourie Lodge Hotel where there is a sign "Footpath to Tarbet". That track runs along outside a high wall at the edge of a meadow to join the road from the other start point at the War Memorial (NC158471). The route passes through an old steading, passes an unlocked gate to cross a pasture on an engineered track to a gate and stile at the edge of the improved land (NC160453).
At this point there is a cairn and a sign "Footpath to Tarbet". The one confusing part of the route starts here. The next 'mark' is NC159453, which is about 30 metres NW of the cairn. This is a cross-roads of tracks, animal and human. The busier tracks are the animal tracks and may mislead northbound walkers. The true route departs on a bearing of 16o magnetic. The track uphill is marked by a series of vertical stone slabs about one metre in height at intervals of about thirty metres. (Following the more westerly paths misleads one down to the wall of the improved land).
The route passes east of a sheep fank at about NC158454, being still marked by vertical slabs, rising to an old fence with the old gate posts standing (NC158456). Adjacent, with the trace of a path leading to it, is a fine viewpoint overlooking Scourie, an evident picnic spot. From here onwards, the route is well defined apart from a few wet spots where walkers have spread out in search of drier lines. There are many small cairns. At NC158466 the small cairn will help the southbound walker to find the start of the line up the steepish ascent.
The route passes small lochans, yields glimpses of the coast and of Handa Island, crosses somewhat boggy stretches, goes through heather and bracken, and has short passages over rock outcrops. At NC162478 the route passes the remains of an iron gate. At NC162481 the destination, Tarbet Bay, comes into view, but first the track descends into a wide-ish valley and crosses a burn at NC164484 and rises again. A marker is a derelict green tank on a saddle at NC 165486 from where the Tarbet houses are in view.
The track descends on a bearing of about 70o to a wooden gate in a fine dyke where there is a sign "Footpath to Scourie". At the beach below is another sign "Footpath to Scourie". For the southbound walker, the start of the route can be seen from the telephone box as an ascending line running right to left across the steep grassy face.
There is considerable parking at Tarbet, but it may be full due to visitors to the nature reserve on Handa Island. There is a lay-by on the main road at the Scourie War Memorial.
OS Landranger 9 (Cape Wrath)
The 1st Edition 6" OS Sutherland Sheet XXX 1878 shows this route exactly as it is at present, except for the line of the final descent to Tarbet Pier, which may have been deviated to accommodate a house. The track used to continue to Fanagmore over the Bealach Tharbait, only becoming a metalled road in 1960. Although at an elevation of 50m, it had been used as a 'portage' to avoid a dangerous stretch of coast, according to the School of Scottish Studies.
Nowadays tourists are the main users of the track, but before the road system in this area was developed in the 20th century many walked from Tarbet and Fanagmore to church in Scourie and back again every Sunday. It is also said to have been used when someone died in Ardmore - the coffin being brought across the water to Foindle, then over the hill to Tarbert and thence to Scourie. People from that area are still buried in Scourie today.