Today is Sunday, and there are no buses running. And, today I must go back and fill in the gap – the section I missed out yesterday – between Arduaine and Kilmelford. Basically, it’s a 5 mile trudge along the A816.
Between gaps in the trees I can look across the water to a series of islands. Check my map. Oh, those are actually the Inner Hebrides – I didn’t realise. That flat island is Shuna. The hill behind is another island, Luing.
(So much for my resolution to give up labelling landmarks… I just can’t help it!)
Here’s a nice modern house overlooking the water. Love the huge windows. What a great view.
I’m surprised to find several newish houses along the road, along with building plots for sale, but I wonder who really wants to live out here?
I know it’s beautiful, but there’s not much industry around. Where do people work? Hope all the new builds are not going to be holiday lets. That’s a sure way of killing a place.
Arduaine is a promontory of land, with a hotel which declares it has “the finest views on the west coast”. I don’t go down to look at the hotel, but I can see the viewpoint through the trees.
Hmm. Not as good as the view above Crinan at Ardnoe Point. But not bad.
There’s a selection of cars and vans parked in a layby, which seems a bit weird because there’s nothing around and no sign of the drivers. From their roof-racks, I guess they’ve been carrying kayaks or canoes. Perhaps they’re out on the water?
Now I pass another layby, separated from the road by a screen of trees. This is where I camped in the van last night.
There’s no shortage of scenic spots in Scotland, but finding a nice flat space where you can safely park is not easy. You want to be off the road, but not on a verge that’s too soft or has too much of a slope. And not near people’s houses. And not obstructing access to a driveway or farm track. It’s turning out to be a bit of a challenge.
Tonight, I’m going to drive to the tip of the Ardfern peninsula, and park there for the night.
What are those creatures in that field? Sheep with long necks? No. Llamas, maybe. Or alpacas.
This section of road runs close to Loch Melfort. A boat chugs across the water, making a wide sweep around the tanks of a fish farm.
One thing I wasn’t really expecting in Scotland is the sheer number of fish farms. I guess all that salmon we eat has to come from somewhere.
I have mixed feelings about farming fish. On the one hand, it seems right that we care for the stocks of fish and replace the ones we eat. On the other hand, I know fish are often rammed together in the tanks, and suffer from pests and disease. Some people claim that fish don’t feel pain and aren’t distressed by being kept in overcrowded pens. Find that hard to believe.
I look over the water at the slopes where I walked yesterday. Loch Melfort is very lovely.
In a field, I see a woman dressed in a weird mesh hoodie, bending over and harvesting something. She sees me watching and waves. I ask her what she’s picking and she explains she’s pulling up docks before the hay is cut. Apparently the dock plants ruin the bales.
She looks at my bare arms and asks me how I’m coping with the midges, and so I suddenly realise that her weird mesh outfit is designed to protect against midge attacks.
Actually, so far, I’ve not had a problem with midges. I avoid them as much as possible, of course. For example, I don’t sit outside in the evening and I spray the van before I settle down for the night. During the day, luckily, my combination of sun block and Smidge seems to keep them away. Just occasionally, I’ll get a bite in my hairline, or on my ankle, where obviously I haven’t smeared either sun block or Smidge.
Off to my right are wide views across open landscape, with only a few farm buildings in sight, and a row of tall hills beyond.
I’m nearing the apex of Loch Melfort, and walk past the Kilmelford Yacht Haven, where there’s a collection of sailing ships moored.
Now I’m approaching the turn-off to Melfort. A misleading sign encourages you to visit Melfort Pier and Harbour – places where, as I discovered yesterday, visitors are definitely NOT welcome!
I leave the main road and go to retrieve the Monster bike, which I’ve parked behind the village hall.
I wasn’t looking forward to the bike ride back, but it turns out to be surprisingly easy. It’s only 10:30 on a Sunday morning, and there is little traffic around – which was my main worry.
It was only a short walk this morning, but I decide to enjoy the rest of the day by doing some sightseeing. I drive back to Ardfern, and follow the road along the edge of Loch Craignish.
The road is single carriage and very narrow. At one point, I meet a car coming towards me. We’re both probably equidistant from a passing space, but the male driver is clearly NOT going to reverse and glares at me, while creeping forwards until he is nearly touching my front bumper. Oh dear.
After my disastrous off-roading experience on the Mull of Kintyre, I’ve taken Tony and Brian’s advice and spent some time practicing driving backwards in the Beast. I put the gear into reverse and inch backwards… and make it into a passing bay safely. As the man drives past, I can see him rolling his eyes, as if thinking, “what took you so long?” Well, if you’re so clever, you should have been the one reversing, I say, but only in my head.
I reach the end of the peninsula, where there’s a parking spot marked on my map. It’s a beautiful spot. I was hoping to stay the night here, but there are signs saying “no overnight occupancy”. Disappointing.
Anyway, I spend the rest of the afternoon here, walking up a hill to admire the view, and then walking down to Craignish Point. And I take some wonderful views over the islands of the Inner Hebrides.
In the evening, I drive into Oban and find a campsite for the night. It’s the first time the Beast has been in proper campsite, and he seems pleased about the electrical hookup, while I can replenish my water tank, and – best of all – have a shower.
Walked today = 4.5 miles (and cycled)
Total around coast = 3,846.5 miles