I leave the pub and cross over the road to a café, where I order tea and cake. By the time I set off for the rest of my walk, it’s the end of the school day, and the primary school is buzzing as parents arrive to collect their children.
It’s wonderful to see a thriving village school. So many small coastal places in England and Wales have become ghost towns – with empty holiday homes and no facilities – it’s good to see this place is very much alive.
A sign tells me to “Beware of Hedgehogs”. I have a momentary mental image of giant, killer hedgehogs…
…but I assume they mean I should try not to run them over.
Ardfern lies on a peninsula with Loch Craignish on one side and the Sound of Jura on the other. If I was to walk to the end – Craignish Point – I would add another 5 miles to my walk and then, because the road is a dead-end road, I would have to turn round and retrace my steps.
I’ve decided, therefore, not to go to the end of the peninsula, but to cut across to Craobh Haven on the other side. (Of course, I’ve agonised over this decision.)
My walk takes me past the school, and then along a quiet residential road. The houses peter out, and the road gradually becomes more and more rural.
I meet a lady walking her dog, and check I’m on the right road for Craobh Haven. She, as so many people do, tells me of an alternative walking route, which sounds lovely but would not take me anywhere near the coast.
Onwards. A stone by the road has a message for me. “SLOW.” No need to say this. I’m already walking at a snail’s pace.
The road becomes a narrow track and climbs steadily. Through gaps in the trees, I can see the views across the valley are wonderful.
As I climb higher, the landscape opens up. Below is a mix of native woodland and plantation firs, with bare hills in the distance. There’s not a house or tarmac road in sight, and once again I’m struck by the sheer size and emptiness of Scotland.
Further along the track I come to a small quarry with neat piles of rocks and gravel. I’m not sure if it is still operational, because the only machinery I can see is one old rusty tractor.
I’m going downhill now. A van comes past, throwing up dust in its wake, and I remember that the bus for Ardfern can’t use the main road (because of the road works near the school) so passengers must travel along this track in a minibus. It would be quite a bumpy ride!
Lower down I go, and now trees surround the track. I walk past jumbled piles of wood. The logs aren’t stacked neatly, as they usually are in a commercial forestry operation.
Below the track is a large house. I check my map. Lunga. It’s pretty impressive.
Nearby I hear loud music blaring. Not Scottish folk music, but American country and western tunes. This seems strange, until I spot a horse corral below me with some riders dressed in cowboy hats.
A sign tells me this is Lunga Riding Stables.
A good-looking young man in a straw hat is walking up the hill towards me. He stops and says he likes my hat. “It’s got a certain gravity about it,” he says. “It’s a hat that makes a statement.” I’m wearing my new broad-brimmed, leather, Australian bush hat, and am both pleased he noticed the hat, and embarrassed to feel myself blushing.
I may have turned into a dotty old woman, but a compliment from a young man can still cheer me up, even if it’s only my hat he seems to fancy.
Beyond the riding stables the track has become a proper tarmac road, and I’m looking across a lovely stretch of water. What are all those islands and promontories?
The Scottish coastline is so chaotic, I’m often confused as to what exactly I’m looking at. I think I can see the islands of Shuna and Luing, and maybe the distant high land is the Isle of Mull? I’m too tired to work it all out.
Onwards, along the road. Road? Actually, I wasn’t expecting to find a proper road here, as my map doesn’t show one until I get to Craobh Haven.
I’d been looking forward to reaching Craobh Haven, but it turns out to be rather disappointing. Basically, the place consists of a new development of houses, a large car park, and a huge marina full of yachts. It’s a strangely soulless place.
The rows of painted houses are designed to look sweetly attractive, but instead just look twee and artificial. I was half-hoping I might be able to park The Beast here for the night, but the large car park doesn’t seem inviting and, anyway, there are signs forbidding overnight camping.
I decide I don’t really like Craobh Haven, and I don’t stop for a drink in the pub as I planned to do.
From Craobh Haven, the road heads up inland to join the A816, but the map shows there might be track running closer to the coast. Ah. Here it is.
I walk around the edge of a boat yard, past some holiday cottages, and then the track becomes a wide road of rough gravel. It looks newly built, but I’m not sure what its purpose is. There is fly tipping on the verges, and an abandoned flatbed trailer.
Oh, dear. It’s not exactly the scenic seaside stroll I was hoping for.
But, a few hundred yards later, things improve. There’s a nice view across the water… I check my map… I think that white building must be the hotel at Arduaine. My lovely new Beast is parked somewhere along the road over there.
Here’s an interesting caravan half-hidden among the trees. Makes a change from all the battered vans I’ve come across, because this one looks fresh, clean and beautiful. Love the shape of the curved roof and the wooden walls.
A little further along, I pass a derelict shack. This looks like a “man cave”. Maybe it’s used as a base for fishing, but I can’t imagine anyone actually sleeps here.
I reach a couple of cottages, and now my gravel track narrows, and becomes a sweet little lane. This is better.
I walk through a patch of woodland and then across open fields. The main road is just ahead.
I’m walking close to an area of mud and marsh. The tide is in. Gentle waves ruffle the seaweed, and a heron picks its way through the shallow water. In the distance are hills (or mountains)… that must be Mull, or it might be the mainland… I really don’t know.
I must stop trying to label the places I see, because I’m driving myself crazy. I should just relax and just enjoy the views.
Soon I’m back on the A816. Traffic is infrequent, but speedy, and I must keep my wits about me and my ears tuned.
From time to time I have to leap up onto the verge to escape from oncoming traffic. A group of cows in a nearby field watch my antics with interest. Hang on… are those cows? Or young bulls?
The road curves round, and now I’m walking northwards towards Arduaine. The Beast is parked in a layby just off the road, and I’m pleased when I reach the parking spot.
When I left him there this morning the layby was empty. Now he has company – a pair of vans and a mobile home. Oh, no!
A man and a woman are smoking outside the mobile home. Meanwhile, a couple of young men are climbing over the rocky shore below the parking area, with fishing rods in their hands.
I had decided to camp here, but I feel uneasy setting up the Beast for the night with all these people around. No. It’s far too crowded. I drive on and find the next parking layby is empty. What a relief. This is where I settle for the night.
Miles walked today = 12 miles (not including an extra mile to catch the bus!)
Total around coast = 3,828 miles
Bonus photograph of The Beast, taken yesterday evening in the car park of Carnassarie Castle where I spent the first night with him. (The folding chair is brand new, and an unnecessary luxury, because the midges make it impossible to sit out in the evening.)