The bus takes a confusing route into Connel. Convinced we’re about to bypass the town altogether, I panic – and get off several stops too early, so I must walk nearly a mile to reach the place where I ended my last walk.
Despite the dismal weather, the Falls of Lora look impressive today. Yes, there’s definitely lots of white water flowing under the bridge.
I do love bridges, but have to admit that the Connel Bridge isn’t exactly beautiful. Why such a long, flat, central span? And, bizarrely, the bridge only carries a single-track road, which means that traffic has to queue with traffic-lights at either end. Why so narrow?
The pavements are narrow too, and the whole structure shakes under the wheels of heavy vans and lorries, so the crossing is rather nerve wracking. But one of the advantages of the traffic-light system is the blessed gaps in the traffic.
I linger in the centre of the bridge and take plenty of photographs.
Yes, the Falls of Lora are impressive. It really does look as though there is a waterfall in the middle of the sea loch. Well, maybe not exactly a waterfall – but definitely a stretch of rapids.
During a gap in the traffic, I cross the road and look over the other side of the bridge. The water towards the sea is calm and flat. Far more peaceful over here.
I walk back over to the other side of the bridge, and stare at the falls for a while. A ridge of rocks causes the white water to form, but there is a strong impression of differing water levels.
Must be even more dramatic during the high tides of spring or autumn, or after a storm surge. Perhaps I’ll come back one day… perhaps.
Onwards. Safely over the bridge, I take the first turning left off the main road, and walk through a residential area of North Connel.
At the end of the road, I’m hoping to pick up a footpath… ah, yes, there it is. And, through a gate I spot what looks like a runway. Ah, finally, I’ve found Oban airport.
The path follows the perimeter fence around the edge of the airport. Signs on another gate tell me to clean up after my dog. And, apparently, litter-lout fishermen are spoiling this area of the coast too.
(Ironically, I have to carefully step over a pile of dog poo in order to take the above photo. It was deposited on the path, less than two feet away from a bin!)
I’m walking through a narrow alleyway of gorse bushes. To my left is the shore. To my right is the airport.
I find a gap in the bushes, and stop to take some photographs. So, that’s the airport? Well, I’m not sure if it really is an airport. More like an airfield. It’s tiny.
The path swings around, and now I’m walking along the shore of Ardmucknish Bay. I meet a couple of dog walkers, but otherwise have the place to myself. It’s great to be back by the coast again.
A buzzing noise makes me look around. A helicopter is arriving at the airport. There is no other sign of activity.
Sometimes I walk along the beach, but the shingle makes a difficult walking surface, and so I keep returning to the footpath.
At the far end of the bay is a caravan park. I had half-contemplated staying here tonight, in The Beast, before my journey home tomorrow. But I’ve already had two nights in a campsite, and I think it’s time for some more wild camping. (I’m worried I might grow soft if I spend every night on a site!)
On the other side of the park, I pick up a cycle/walking route. It takes me away from the shore, but it’s very pleasant among the trees.
The cycle path briefly joins the main road, before branching off again. None of these cycle routes were shown on my map, so I’m surprised to find them, but pleased too. Great to be away from the traffic.
It begins to rain. Hard. I stop and quickly stow my camera away, wrap my phone in plastic, pull on waterproofs, and cover my rucksack. The weather has been very kind recently, and I’d forgotten how horrible it is to walk in the rain.
The village of Benderloch is just to my right, and here I reach a junction in the cycle route. The rain has eased slightly, and I risk pulling out my camera and taking a quick photo. My plan was to turn left at this point, and follow a series of paths and minor roads, making a loop around the next peninsula, before returning to Benderloch…
… but, the afternoon forecast is for heavy rain. I can see the car park in Benderloch, just through the trees, and there’s The Beast waiting for me.
The temptation to stay dry and go home becomes just too strong. I’ve been walking for 5 days, and away from home for 5 nights. It’s been my first time in a camper van and it’s been fun. Why ruin the last day by getting thoroughly soaked?
I have a brief, internal argument with myself, and then head towards The Beast. Hello, faithful friend, it’s time to go home.
Footnotes: Later, I learnt why the Connel Bridge has such a long central span. This was in order to avoid having to place supporting piers in the strong tidal current that flows out of the Loch of Etive.
I also learnt that the bridge is narrow because, when it was opened in 1903, it was originally a railway bridge.
Miles walked today = 4
Total distance around coast = 3,876 miles