Yesterday, I ended my walk at a place called Kilmaluaig, and today my first task is to get back there. But there are only two buses a day on this route, and it’s a Saturday. That means there is no early school bus, and the first bus doesn’t run until noon.
So, I get to have a lie-in, and decide to spend the rest of my free morning in Tarbert. Looking forward to it.
It’s the late May bank-holiday weekend, and Tarbert is crowded! I should have expected it, but it comes as a shock, because I’m used to having the place to myself. I can’t find anywhere to park and so, feeling dispirited, I continue driving along the Lochgilphead road, and then along a beautiful single-track road to the village of Achahoish, from where I’m going to catch the bus.
I reach Achahoish (yes, it does sound like a sneeze) nearly two hours early, park my car on a narrow verge next to the bus stop, pull out a book to read, and wait.
Unfortunately, on a Saturday, the bus doesn’t actually go as far as Kilmaluaig, but stops two miles short, in a place called Ormsary. And Ormsary turns out to be, basically, a large farm down a dusty track. Oh dear! I ask the driver to drop me off back on the main road and I walk the extra two miles up to Kilmaluaig.
You require an OS map and a nose for detection to realise the place in the photo above is, I think, where the Kilmaluaig bus would actually stop if it was running. In fact, the sign on the road says Druimdrishaig! (Working out rural Scottish bus routes is far from easy.)
Anyway, this is where I ended yesterday’s walk, and now I can start today’s walk. I turn round and begin to walk back along the road. It’s very pleasant, with great views of the sea… no, of Loch Caolisport… in Scotland every body of water is called a Loch, including estuaries. Love this road. Very little traffic.
There are people ‘wild camping’ down by the shore. Well, can you call this wild camping so close to a road? Spot the tent.
That’s one of the great things about Scotland. You can camp, within reason, almost anywhere. And here’s another tent.
My feet are sore from all the tarmac walking I’ve been doing recently. A large blister has developed deep under the ball of my right foot – too deep to reach with a needle, so I can’t burst it. Every step is uncomfortable.
The road really is lovely. And the weather is perfect. I try to walk without limping.
Another coastal walker (Andy Phillips) asked me if I’d seen any scarecrows on my walks recently. Apparently he saw loads of them, dotted around the verges in Argyll. I hadn’t seen any but… but now I pass this cheeky little fellow stuck in a tree.
Onwards. A few houses line the road, but mainly this is empty countryside, with grass fields and patches of woodland.
Here’s a stretch of sandy beach. I’m tempted to walk along the sand, but I check my map and the way ahead seems blocked.
And there are some hostile signs on the gates – “fishing strictly preserved” – so I stay on the tarmac.
(Why “preserved” rather than the more usual “reserved”? Odd choice of words.)
I see a little spit of land jutting out into the loch, and a boat house. Decide I’m definitely going to walk along there…
… but discover I’m not allowed to. This part of the shore belongs to Hendrix Genetics – a sinister Frankenstein-sounding name I’d noticed while riding on the bus earlier – but it turns out to be nothing more exciting than a fish farm.
On the other side of the road is one of those atmospheric little ‘burial grounds’. A beautiful little cemetery surrounded by trees and bluebells.
A sign on the gate indicates that among the tombstones is a “Commonwealth War Grave”. Not graves. Just one grave.
A foreign soldier buried in a foreign land, surrounded by foreign graves. Seems lonely.
I’m staying in a self-catering place in the middle of nowhere, and – apart from the bus driver – have spoken to nobody all day. So I feel a sense of connection to this lonely grave.
Further along the road I spot a couple of walkers, and begin looking forward to having a short conversation, but they head off the road and up the track towards Ormsary. The man seems to be limping. I wonder if he has a blister too?
Beyond the fish farm is a beach. Oooh. That beach looks lovely. I’m definitely going to walk along the sand and give my poor foot a rest from the tarmac.
I’m not the only one enjoying the sands. There are a couple of families and a group of teenagers setting up for a picnic. Apparently pupils of Achahoish Primary School try to keep this beach tidy.
Great job, kids. It’s completely free of litter.
While I’m admiring the beach, a sports car zooms to a halt beside me and a man jumps out, while his male companion sits and grips the steering wheel. I think the man might be going to ask me the way to somewhere… but he’s only stopped to snap a couple of photographs of the beach.
‘Lovely day,’ I say, but he replies with grunts, leaps back into the car, and they shoot off again. Such a hurry. Walking, I decide, is the only way to truly appreciate the coastline.
I walk to the far end of the beach and sit on a rock. Time for lunch.
After eating, I take a self-portrait. (Note to self: get a haircut booked!)
I can’t see an easy way off the beach at this end, so I walk back to where I left the road, and hit the tarmac again.
Oh, what’s that among the rocks and trees? Snow White and her seven dwarves. I guess it beats having garden gnomes.
(Yes, there really are seven dwarves, one is hidden just out of the shot!)
The road climbs up a slope away from the beach. Cows with young calves sit and relax in the sunshine. They look peaceful, but I’m glad they’re on the other side of the fence.
At the top of the slope is a pretty cottage, and a man in full protective gear is strimming the verge. He looks very professional but, since it’s a Saturday, I suspect he isn’t a council worker. He finds time to exchange a cheery “hello”.
Onwards. The road gently twists, following the slope above the shore.
And then I’m heading down again towards the water.
Here’s another glorious beach, with more cars parked along the verge, including a camper van. A group of teenagers are sitting on the sand. A few people strolling. Hardly crowded.
Sadly the sunshine fades, and the photographs I take of this area really don’t do it justice. It’s beautiful.
This is the top of the loch. The names on the map are sometimes in English, sometimes in Gaelic, and this place is called Ceann Loch Caolisport.
[Ceann, I later learn, means the end or top of something.]
Here’s a little school. Achahoish Primary School, even though it’s a couple of miles out of Achahoish. Ah, this is the school whose pupils help keep the beaches tidy.
A father and his tiny daughter are paddling far out on the sands. I think of my blister and wonder if the water is soothingly cool. Tempting…
… no. I haven’t got a towel, and wet sand inside my sock would do my blister no favours at all! Onwards.
Now I’ve reached the top of the loch, and the road swings away from the shore, following a valley. Down it dips, towards a river – Baranlongart Burn.
Over the bridge and up the other side. Oh dear. My foot is really, really hurting now.
I pass through an area of felled trees. This is hard going, as my blister fills my mind, and the view is not particularly interesting. When I hear the bus rumbling up behind me, I’m tempted to put my hand out and hail it to stop… but, no, I’d only have to come back and finish this section another time.
The bus disappears up the hill. It’s the second and last bus of the day. There won’t be another one until Tuesday.
Interestingly, on the short bus ride from Achahoish to Ormsary, the bus driver kept stopping to drop off newspapers to various people waiting beside the road. I guess this area is too rural to feature a normal paper-boy route.
I’m going downhill again. The road winds through a valley, lined with warning signs about forestry operations.
No sign of any activity, just a few idle machines standing on the slopes. It is Saturday, after all.
I reach the point where I’ve parked my car, and the start of the dead-end road into Achahoish. “No through road to Castle Sween,” says the sign. I have no idea where Castle Sween is, but presumably sometimes a car is incorrectly instructed to come this way by its sat nav.
I was planning walk a little further. Yes, I was actually planning to drive to the end of this dead-end road, offload The Monster (the heaviest folding bike in the universe), drive back to this junction, walk back to the end of the road, and ride The Monster back to my car.
I can’t face it. My foot is hurting and I am definitely walking with a limp. If I drive back to Tarbert I might be able to make it to the chemist shop before it closes, buy some more blister plasters, buy some more hay fever medication, and then have an early meal.
But, I’ve only walked 8 miles. What a wimp!
In the end, I limp half a mile down the road and into Achahoish. There’s nothing much here. A phone box…
… and a church. Next to the church is a large car park.
Now, one of the problems I’m having is finding safe places to park along these narrow, single-track roads. But THIS would be a great place to park my car tomorrow. It’s an omen. A sign.
Time to stop walking. I limp back to my car. It doesn’t occur to me, until much later, that tomorrow is a Sunday and the church car park might be full… so many of my plans have gone wrong this trip… I decide not to worry about it now.
I find a place to park in Tarbert, and buy some hay fever medications. They don’t have any blister plasters – DISASTER! – but the pharmacist sells me some padded adhesive dressings that apparently you can cut to size. Oh dear. Will I be able to walk tomorrow?
Miles walked today = 9 miles
Total around coast = 3,758 miles