After paddling from the bothy back down Loch Glendhu and past the hotel, the Kylesku Bridge comes suddenly into view as a corner is turned. The ebb tidal stream had just started in my favour and I had a gentle push into the narrows (Kylesku is Caolas Cumhann or Cumhang - the narrow strait).
Can a thing of concrete be beautiful when placed into a landscape like that of Sutherland? I would say that in this case, it most certainly can; and that actually for me this is the most beautiful bridge anywhere......
Seen from drectly up the narrows it certainly looks slender and perhaps graceful, but from this angle the bridge hides its true nature until the last moment.
Passing underneath shows the graceful arc of the deck which forms a single sweep across the Kyle, but even here the best view is denied. For that, and to understand the designers (Ove Arup Partners) vision, you have to see it from above. The graceful arc compements the setting perfectly; any straight-line industrial style bridge like the one at Ballachulish would have spoilt this spot. Both the designers and Highland Council, for whom it was built, deserve huge credit for their vision increating something truly beautiful.
Work began on the bridge in 1978 and it was opened by HM Queen Elizabeth in 1984. It is 275 metres long and carries a continuous box girder section deck 24 metres above the water of the kyle. The bridge replaced a ferry service here, one of the two final vessels on the service, the Maid of Kylesku. was simply beached at the north side of the kyle, the other vessel, Maid of Glencoul, remains in service as a relief vessel on the Corran ferry on Loch Linnhe.
My own favourite view of the bridge is from high up on Sail Garbh of Quinag, where the fit into the landscape is even more striking - I've no good images of this view; surely a reason to climb the hill again?!
Heading out of the narrows and into Loch a' Chairn Bhain (loch of the white cairn) another stunningly beautiful view opens up, this time the natural beauty of Quinag. Really a mini range of hills with three Corbett summits (those hills between 2500 and 3000ft with a 500ft drop all round). The most striking and obvious is Sail Garbh (rough heel) which gives the whole hill its name of Quinag - the milk stoup- as it's said to resemble a milking pail.
With this view for company and a gentle wind and tide behind me, the paddle towards the mouth of the loch and the sea beyond seemed effortless.....