I catch the bus from Bellanoch and, as usual, I’m the only passenger. The driver recognises me from yesterday. “I’m not going to Achnamara today,” he says. I explain that’s OK, because I want to be dropped off at the Barnluasgan monument. He’s not sure where I mean, but says he’ll drop me off wherever I want.
So, I choose to get off at the Forestry Commission car park, the place where I saw the camper van yesterday.
The bus driver thinks I’m going for a walk through the forest but, in fact, I must follow the B8025 as it runs down the east coast of the next peninsula. Unfortunately, there’s no alternative track.
Luckily traffic is light – much lighter than yesterday. It’s nearly 10am, and I must have missed the rush hour. Also, as the road gets narrower, so the cars are forced to drop their speed.
It seems a long road. On and on. I meet the bus coming back, and I’m sure the driver must think it’s odd to see me marching down the hot road, instead of wandering through the cool paths in the forest.
There is nothing much around, just an occasional building, but no village until I get to Tayvallich.
There have been a few occasions on my coastal walk when I’ve asked myself why I’m doing this. This is one of them. I’m walking along a road, without the sea in sight, and it’s been a real struggle over the past few days to (1) find places to stay, (2) find any form of helpful public transport, (3) find a path or track to take me off the tarmac.
I’m hot. And I still have my blister. Yes, why am I doing this?
Well, today I have no choice but to finish the walk I’ve planned and get back to my car. Except… except I could catch the next bus when it comes up from Tayvallich… yes, I could do that.
There’s a sea loch just over to my left, screened by trees, called Caol Scotnish. The only people who get to enjoy the view are those who have residences bordering the water, even though some of the residences look rather impermanent.
Ah, finally, the road begins to run close to the shore. This is better. I start to cheer up, but only slightly.
A motorbike overtakes me. I envy his speed and his freedom. Everything is so much slower on foot, and so much more difficult!
A couple of miles or so later, and I come to a little area of parkland, where I spot some information boards. A family group have stopped their car and are reading the boards.
When they’ve finished, I go and take a look. The boards talk about the ancient woodland in this area, and mention a pink coral-type seaweed, called maerl, that grows in the sea loch.
I sit beside the water, eat a snack and have a rest, and stare at the water. It’s a weird orange colour in places, but I can’t convince myself I can see any maerl.
Onwards. The houses grow more numerous. I must be approaching Tayvallich. Then the road bends round a corner.. and there it is. Beautiful.
Looking at Scottish OS maps, you can never tell exactly what you’re going to find. Some places – such as Barnluasgan – consist of a single cottage and an old memorial. Tayvallich is a proper village. Well, a coastal resort, really.
It’s like a different world. There’s a pub and a café. There are people in kayaks. People walking along the road. People sitting in gardens eating their lunch. And a couple of men doing yoga on the grass verge.
It’s a little early for the pub, so I head for the café. It’s popular, and sits right next to the slipway which you can use if you want, but are encouraged to pay a voluntary donation. It’s also the departure point for a passenger ferry over to Jura.
Jura? That island has been my companion (off and on) for many days now. I’m tempted to go and take a closer look… but tempted only for a moment. I’ve still got many miles to walk to get back to my car.
So, instead of taking the ferry, I go to the café, where I sit inside because it’s too hot to sit in the sun. There’s a long wait to be served, during which I ponder my choices.
I could walk further down the peninsula, because the road carries on for another four miles or more, and ends up crossing a bridge over to the Island of Danna. But the road is a dead-end, and I would simply have to turn round and retrace my steps, so – following my rules – I don’t have to do this. In fact, continuing to the end of the peninsula would make today’s walk almost unbearably long.
Missing out a section of coast always makes me feel terribly guilty. But, today, I decide to stick to my original plan and cut across to Carsaig instead.
I feel much better after a rest and some proper food. While walking along the lane to Carsaig, I meet the bus again. And I remember how I was half-planning to catch it back to my car… what a wimp! Onwards.
Carsaig is beautiful. A car park, a few houses scattered about, and a lovely beach with shallow water. And what incredible views over to Jura!
At the end of the beach is a little jetty, and activity around some of the boats. So idyllic, and lovely to see people enjoying this beautiful weather.
From Carsaig, I’m heading northwards along forest tracks. I’ve really, really been looking forward to this part of my walk. Finally, I can get off the tarmac and follow some proper paths.
This must be the right way. A homemade sign says “Doune Fort” (no idea where that is) and, more importantly, “Crinan Harbour 4 miles”. That’s my next destination.
The track turns out to be a disappointment. I was expecting a forest path, but it is really just an unpaved road, winding past the driveways to houses, holiday homes, and farms.
As I get further up, the buildings peter out. I’m walking along a shallow valley, surrounded by trees. The surface is rough gravel – only marginally better than walking on tarmac – and the ridges on either side keep out any breeze. It’s hot!
And, unfortunately, I’m not in sight of the sea, which is just off to my left, somewhere, over a ridge. What a shame.
I find a side track, and follow it hoping to get closer to the shore. Yes, that’s a wonderful view, but it’s the nearest I get.
The side track is an old green lane – perhaps the original route up this side of the peninsula – and I enjoy a few minutes of pleasant walking on a grassy surface, with bluebells and rhododendrons for company.
The lane curves around, past the grounds of a grand house, and then… oh dear… I’m back on the main track again.
In some places, the ridge to my left has been logged and cleared of trees. I’m tempted to scramble up and try to walk closer to the shore, but the ground is rough and covered in felled trunks and exposed roots. Too difficult (and dangerous) for me to tackle.
So I stick to the track. It goes on forever. What did that signpost say? 4 miles? I’m sure I’ve walked further than that already. And it’s so HOT! Unfortunately, the track itself is in the full sun. There’s not a breath of breeze. And the only shade is filled with dancing midges.
I lather myself in sunblock and keep going. And keep going.
It’s one of those walks where you convince yourself at each rise that you’ve reached the top of the hill, and you never have. There’s always another rise in front, or another curve in the road, or a dip before another hill…
Will this track never end? It’s almost unbearably hot!
And then, suddenly, I’ve reached the top of a rise, turned a corner, and find myself at a place called Ardnoe Point. “Between land and sea” says an information board.
Wow! This is fantastic. What a view!
The climb up that long, hot valley was worth it. Wonderful!
I crawl under the picnic bench (the only shady place around!) for a rest and a long drink. Then, when I’ve got some energy back, I climb out, brush the spiders off, and take a self-portrait.
I’ve no idea what I’m looking at, because the hills I see in the distance are well off my current OS map. Might that be the Isle of Mull?
I look further round to my right. That’s Loch Crinan and, on the other side, is the shore of the mainland where I’ll be walking tomorrow. Oh, and look at the castle.. I check my map… Duntrune Castle.
While I’m admiring a view, a couple of German walkers arrive. They’re the first proper hikers I’ve seen all day. They place a pair of sunglasses on the picnic table and explain they found them on the track – at least, I think that’s what they said. Their English is nearly as bad as my German.
After they’ve gone, I linger for a few more minutes. After such a long and tiring walk, I really deserve to enjoy this view.
Then, onwards, it’s time to go on down to Crinan Harbour.
[To be continued…]