Although being forced to walk inland has been rather irritating, I’m grateful to be off the horrible A816, and glad to have discovered the beautiful Loch Nell. I prop my camera on a gate post and take a self-portrait.
There are a few houses around the shores of the loch. Nice place to live. I spot a little yellow sports car, and love the number plate. Yes, looks like a lot of FUN to drive.
The road climbs above the Loch, and begins to swing inland. Trees provide some welcome shade.
The house ahead is called Killiechoinich (I think) and I’m hoping to pick up a track somewhere close to this point. With luck, the track should take me around the slopes of a hill, through a forest, and down to Oban. I just need to find it…
Yes. Here it is. The gateposts are interesting and old. The gate is tied with a metal chain, but it easily unclips. I’m surprised to see an official “Passing Place” sign, just inside the gate.
The sign seems a little unnecessary. I guess the track is used by farm vehicles, but I find it hard to believe many other vehicles would drive along here.
The track doubles back on the road, climbing higher around the slope of a hill called Cnoc Mor. The views from up here are staggering.
I keep stopping to take photographs of the scenery. Sometimes the sheer space and beauty of the Scottish countryside is almost overwhelming.
The track cuts across open slopes, and I can see there’s a pine forest ahead. Wondering how far I have yet to go, I pause to check my map, and realise there is a “cup marked rock” somewhere nearby.
I’ve seen plenty of these marked rocks featured on the OS maps, but I’ve not actually spotted one in real life – not while I’ve been hiking in Scotland, anyway. So this seems too good an opportunity to miss.
I drop my rucksack on the track, and head off down the slope to find the rock. The ground is rough, and there are a number of stones scattered randomly around. Which one is it? None of them have any markings that I can see.
Oh, this group looks promising…
… yes, this must be it. I can see a definite something carved into the stone surface of one of the stones. (Although, I must say, if I wasn’t actively searching for an ancient symbol, I wouldn’t really have noticed it.)
Having worked hard to find the rock, I feel reluctant to leave it. Run a hand over the surface, feel the furry coating of lichen, trace the grooved marks beneath. Wonder what moved some ancient ancestor to cut this shape here, in this place. What rituals were involved? What mystical and magical beliefs?
But then I’m seized by an irrational fear.
I’ve left my rucksack on the track. It contains my water and food, my phone and – most importantly – the keys to my lovely Beast. If someone was to pick it up and taken it… oh, no, what if I lost my stuff?
Anxiously, I look back up the slope. The track is invisible from down here. What’s happened to my rucksack? I must find it. Stumbling over the rough ground, I hurry back through grass and ferns… oh, what a relief…
My rucksack is safe and sound, and sitting exactly where I’ve left it.
But now I can’t believe I was worried. Who could possibly have picked up my pack? There’s absolutely nobody else up here. What an idiot I was for panicking!
Onwards, along the track. Below is a marshy-looking area. Lochan a Bhuig Bhith, according to my map.
I’m approaching the forest and, as I enter the shade of the trees, I feel a sudden sharp pain. Instinctively, I slap my arm. Oh no! A horse fly!
Hope I got it before it had time to inject me with any of its nasty anticoagulating gunk.
I stop and search around in the bottom of my rucksack. Here’s the Smidge… but I’m already covered in that, and it didn’t deter the horse fly. Ah.. here’s some Jungle Formula insect repellent. Good.
I add a layer of insecticide to the layer of Smidge, which sits on top of a layer of sunblock. Hope that does the trick.
Onwards, into the forest.
I don’t usually enjoy walking through pine forests – too dark and barren. But, apart from worrying about horse flies, I really enjoy this section of the walk. Love the way the light filters through the branches.
My narrow track soon joins a rough forestry road, and I’m surprised to see a car coming towards me. Where is it going? Down to Loch Nell?
A few minutes later, I’m overtaken by the car coming back. Perhaps they’re lost?
I reach an area of logged woodland, where my forestry track joins another, even wider track. What does this warning sign at the junction say?
Ah. Road ahead closed. Well, you couldn’t say that car wasn’t warned.
(This is the sort of sign that would have thrown me into a state of anxiety if I was walking the other way, but I now simply feel smug because I safely negotiated a section of road that may, or may not, have been officially closed!)
There’s water to my right. Check my map. Lochan Eileen. Lochan means a small loch, and Eileen means an island. So this is a small loch with an island in it, I guess.
The pine trees have thinned, and been replaced by natural woodland. And the verges are lined with summer flowers. Foxgloves, buttercups, flowering rhododendron bushes, and even some lingering blue bells.
There is quite a network of tracks through the forest. I hear the car again, coming up behind me. They really are lost!
I come to another junction. Decision time. If I continue straight ahead, I would soon reach a minor road. But if I turn left along a narrower path. I should be able to get down to Oban through the trees.
The path is lined with ferns, and drops down through the woodland. Good choice, I think to myself. This is much better than walking along a road.
I just have one niggling worry. I know there’s a railway line ahead, and have no idea if I can get across it. But the path seems clear and well-trodden. It can’t be a dead-end. No, it must lead somewhere.
Yes, it joins a wider track, and there’s a proper crossing over the railway line.
I continue downhill, and reach a small parking area. Hmm. Could be a good place to stay the night… if I wasn’t already booked into a campsite on the other side of Oban.
(I’ve discovered “wild” camping – if you can call it “wild” in a campervan – is somewhat addictive!)
Now I join a road, and then a larger road with residential developments. Luckily traffic is light.
Footsteps behind me – and I turn expecting a fellow walker. Oh, it’s a lady going shopping. She’s walking faster than me and, despite wearing fashionable boots, soon overtakes.
I really am a very, very sloooow walker!
I’m on the outskirts of Oban, and this area is called Glencruitten. To my left is a golf course. They’re everywhere in Scotland, but I haven’t seen one for a while.
I’m amused by the Night Golf sign. One thing I’ve learnt from sleeping in The Beast, is that midsummer nights never get truly dark at this latitude. But then I read the date on the sign. 18th November!
I walk past a series of shed-like buildings, and am surprised to see a sign suggesting one of the buildings is a centre for multiple sclerosis. Hmm. Doesn’t look very promising.
Onwards. The houses are becoming more numerous and the road a little busier. I must have nearly reached Oban.
After the isolation of the last few miles, it is always a shock to be thrust into the hurly-burly of a busy town. I wasn’t expecting Oban to be so large. Or so full of people!
I walk along the waterside for a while. There are people carrying rucksacks, people with shopping bags, cars everywhere, and different languages being spoken. I’m almost overwhelmed by the bustle and noise…
… and then realise I’m going the wrong way for the campsite. I turn round. Ahead is a quay and the ferry port where the ferries leave for the Hebridean islands – and that ‘s the main reason why Oban is so busy.
What’s the pub across on the quayside? A Wetherspoons? I didn’t realise there was one so far north!
The are many reasons I love Wetherspoons. They’re cheap. They don’t have music blaring or TV screens. They’re often sited in historic and interesting buildings, and each one has a unique carpet. And – best of all – they serve food ALL DAY LONG.
I go into the Spoons, and order a steak and chips. And a glass of cider. Lovely. It’s only 4pm. The women on the table next to me are having tea and cakes, and whisky!
After a good meal, I leave the pub and head westwards. The road system on this side of Oban has changed, and neither my OS map nor my Garmin shows the new roads. But the campsite owner said there was a walking-route and short-cut into Oban, and it should be somewhere around here.
I walk through Tesco’s car park, and then go the wrong way down a side road. I retrace my steps and eventually find myself in a rather ugly industrial park.
Is this the right way? I follow the road over the railway line.
And then turn left along a dead-end road. Is this really the right way? The road sign appears to have a small walking figure in the corner… but it might just be a random daub of paint. Oh well. I’ll keep going and see if I can get through.
I’ve left the main part of Oban behind. There are scattered houses along the road, and then I’m walking along the side of a steep hill, with modern buildings below me. There’s a black cat ahead. Must be lucky.
Round the corner, and I discover the road really is a dead-end, but only for traffic. Walkers and cyclists can easily get through.
Now I’m back on the approach road to the campsite – and I recognise the route from my drive here yesterday. Below is an extensive area of new housing, with wide new access roads, none of which are shown on my map.
I climb higher up the hill. There’s more new building here, too.
And then the road narrows into a single-track lane, and runs along the side of a lovely valley. Below are sheep fields. Ahead is the sea – the Sound of Kerrera.
I’m passed by a jogger with a dog. The bustle of Oban is far behind. This is a different world.
And here’s the campsite, and my faithful Beast is waiting for me.
Although wild camping is wonderful, I’m really enjoying access to hot showers, proper toilets, and electricity. There are plenty of buses in and out of Oban and I don’t really need to drive tomorrow. So I decide I can let the Beast have a couple of days rest, and we’ll stay here another night.
High points = Discovering beautiful Loch Nell, and finding a cup-marked rock.
Low points = Walking along the horrible A816.
Midge bites = 0
Horsefly bites = 1
Miles walked today = 14 miles
Total around coast = 3,860.5 miles
Route: (black in morning, red in afternoon)