It’s Saturday, and there’s a limited bus service. I park in a village called Kilninver and catch the bus from there to Kilmelford. I’m the only passenger. The bus driver tells me how a section of this road (the busy A816) collapsed recently, and talks about the chaos it caused.
Kilmelford is not a large village, but it has a shop and a pub, and – most importantly – a bus stop.
Today – and I feel very bad about this – I’m breaking my rules by not starting my walk at the exact point where the last one finished. In fact, I’m leaving a 4.5 mile gap. Why? Because today I want to follow a long semi-circular loop around the coast, and I can only do this using the bus. Tomorrow is Sunday, which means no buses.
I console myself by vowing that tomorrow I’ll go back and fill in the missing gap, using the Monster bike to get me back to my starting point. (I’m beginning to accept that the logistical difficulties involved in walking the coast of Scotland means I sometimes have to make compromises!)
Anyway, I must get on with today’s walk. At the southern end of Kilmelford a minor road forks off and runs along the coast, following the shoreline of Loch Melfort. I’m really looking forward to this section. Here’s the turn off.
I walk past the village hall and a fire station. The fire station is pretty impressive, given the size of Kilmelford.
The road is narrow, single-track, and “unsuitable for long vehicles and caravans”. Good. This means I meet several cars and the occasional tractor, but traffic is forced to travel slowly and there are no huge lorries.
Unfortunately, it’s another dull day, and my photographs don’t really do this pretty loch justice. It’s wonderful to be walking so close to the shore.
I pass a marker stone, and assume it’s a milestone. But the carved letters are confusing… is it a memorial stone for someone called H.W. Mark? Then I work out that “H.W. MARK” means high water mark.
Crikey. That means this little road would have been well and truly flooded.
There are several nice houses and cottages along this section of road, but after a mile the buildings peter out.
What’s this leaning against a fence? A headless man? No, a strange, raised basket growing… maybe, strawberries? Hard to tell.
Farther along, and a rusting tractor catches my eye. I stop to take several photographs, as I like the medley of colours.
Onwards. My view of the sea is temporarily obstructed by woodland, but it’s still a delightful road.
I reach a bridge, and am greeted by two competing sets of signs. I can turn right into Melfort village. Or I can turn left and visit Melfort pier and harbour.
I’m turning left, anyway, to continue along the shore of Loch Melfort, but now I’m looking forward to seeing the pier and harbour.
There is virtually no traffic along this little road. A loud revving sound startles me, but it’s only a man on a quad bike.
Melfort Pier is a bitter disappointment. “Private! Keep out.” Apparently the pier and harbour are for “Residents and Guests” only. I wonder whether I could call myself a guest and risk a trespass attempt… but the yellow CCTV sticker puts me off.
Well, that inviting sign at the bridge was very misleading!
Nearby is an old red telephone box, with a rather scary gnome peering out. Or is it Big Ears from the Noddy books?
Anyway, the fake cheeriness of this image is directly contradicted by the accompanying signs. Apparently no cars are allowed, neither are children, and dogs are barely tolerated.
Hmmm. Of course, reading about all the things I’m not allowed to do makes me immediately want to do them. Unfortunately (or perhaps, fortunately) I don’t have a car, or a child, or a dog handy.
Onwards, along the road. The bluebells have long since faded, but I love the bright yellow of the flag irises.
Ah, here’s a view of the forbidden pier. I stop to take a photograph. It doesn’t look very appealing, anyway.
I’m rounding a little bay at the top of Loch Melfort, and someone is building a little house close to the water. What a lovely spot.
In a field to my right I spot movement. A deer. Is it a red deer? Looks too small. Maybe a roe deer?
Apparently there are 4 different types of deer in Scotland, but I have no idea how you know which is which.
I spot a sign on a gate. “Native woodland restoration project…” How wonderful.
I was worried I would find nothing but empty moors and soulless pine plantations in Scotland, and so I’ve been delighted to see how much natural woodland still exists in this area.
The road climbs higher, and I get some great views down Loch Melfort. Shame about the lingering haze, which makes it difficult to take decent photographs.
Love this woodland. A wonderful mix of old and new. Ash, oak and plenty of birches. Beautiful. And, wow, the sun is beginning to break through.
The road climbs higher, and I begin to sweat. Time to take off my jacket and put on some sun block. Yes, it’s going to be beautiful day after all.
Oh, what a view. That’s Eilean Coltair below, with a little fish farm beside it. The surface of Loch Melfort is as smooth and clear as a mirror.
This is turning into a perfect day and a perfect walk. The road is barely more than a track, with grass growing in the middle.
A sign tells me that Degnish is 1 mile away. Degnish? I didn’t think there was anything down this road.
A quick check of my map… ah, Degnish is a small place. Might be a single house or maybe a farm. I’ll never find out, because I’m going to turn off just before I get there.
Here’s a bench. I stop for a rest and a snack. It’s 12:30, but still feels too early for lunch.
The bench is a handy place to rest my camera and take a self-portrait.
Just beyond here is a track leading off the road. I’m surprised to see it’s signposted. To Ardmaddy. Where’s that? I pull out the map. Ah… a castle and a bay! Sounds promising. I’ve no idea where Bealach Gaoithe is.. oh, hang on, it’s a valley between the hills.
I would love, of course, to follow the coast all the way round to Ardmaddy. But the ground is too rough and trackless, so I’m following this route a mile or two inland instead.
It’s a long climb up the side of a hill called Dun Crutagain. Somewhere near here is a money tree. Andy Phillips, who walked this section a few years ago, told me to watch out for it.
I keep an eye out for likely trees, but there are none up here, just a few bushes.
There are some great views down to Loch Melfort. I’ve come about 6 miles, but still have a long way to go. Onwards.
I’m hot and tired, and pleased to see I’m close to the top of the climb. Where’s that money tree? Still no sign of it.
Over the other side of the hill, and the track goes gently downhill. I’m walking through a wide, open valley. A plateau really. High above sea level. Not a tree in sight.
Over the brow of another hill, and I can see the sea ahead. That’s weird. It looks a long way away. In fact, much too far away. Have I got lost somehow?
Feeling rather worried, I sit on a soft tussock of grass and pull out my map. Oh, the view is misleading. The piece of land in front of the water is, in fact, an island called Seil. Between here and Seil is a narrow strip of water – Seil Sound – but that’s invisible from this viewpoint.
Mystery solved. And I’m very relieved to confirm that I’m not lost after all. But that brief flurry of worry has made me hungry. I pull out my snack box. Time for lunch.
[To be continued…]