372am Benderloch

It was the 21st June, and the longest day of the year, when I set off on the long drive back up to Scotland. I was on a lonely stretch of the A85, and only a couple of hours away from my destination, when I came across a motorcyclist in a ditch. The accident had only just happened.

Of course, I stopped. With no equipment, there is a limit to what a doctor can do when faced with an injured German man who can’t speak English. Luckily, apart from fractured ribs and a possible fractured upper arm, he didn’t appear to have any life threatening injuries. In fact, my biggest task was keeping well-meaning first-aiders from making things worse.

Eventually an ambulance and a helicopter arrived on the scene. There was some confusion as to whether to transport the injured man by road or by air, and I took the opportunity to slip away. I had been there for nearly 3 hours.

By the time I arrived in Benderloch it was gone 10pm and nearly dark. So, I made camp in a car park in the middle of the village – not an ideal spot, but I was too tired to find somewhere better.

01 The Beast in Benderloch, Ruth's coastal walk

At this latitude, the shortest night only lasts a few hours. By 4am it is bright daylight, and by 5am the dog walkers are out. So, I start my day’s walk at 7am – a very early hour for me (I’m not a morning person!) – and follow signs to the “Beach”.

02 signs to the beach, Benderloch, Ruth's coastal walk in Scotland

I walk along paths and minor roads until I reach the shore. This beach has no name on my map, but is apparently called Tralee Beach.

03 Tralee Beach sign, Ruth's coastal walk in Scotland

Tralee Beach overlooks Ardmucknish Bay and, on this beautifully clear morning, I can see all the way across the Bay, and out to the islands of the Inner Hebrides.

04 view over Ardmuchnish Bay, Ruth's coastal walk in Scotland

The beach itself is mainly shingle, with heaps of decaying seaweed. Not easy underfoot, and it takes me some time to make my way to the top of the bay. On the other side is a rather grand building – Lochnell House.

05 Tralee Beach, Benderloch, Ruth's coastal walk in Scotland

As the tide goes out, a strip of sand appears below the shingle. I lay the first footprints of the day along the shore, and turn back to take photographs of my tracks. (This never stops being a thrill!)

06 footprints in the sand, Tralee Beach, Ruth's coastal walk in Scotland

Above the beach is an area of coarse grass, and beyond that is a ridge of dunes. I’m a little confused, because my map indicates there should be a road here, along with a couple of caravan parks.

07 dunes, Tralee Beach, Benderloch, Ruth's coastal walk in Scotland

I walk through the grass and climb up the dunes to check out the landscape. Oh yes, there’s the road, and one of the caravan sites.

holiday parks.jpg

At the end of the beach is a low, raised headland. According to the Core Paths map, there should be a path over this headland, but all I can see are rocks. Ah, there’s a gap. Is that the path?

08 Ard Bhatan, Tralee Beach, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

It might be the path, or it might not, but I scramble up anyway, and reach the top. Here I find a track, leading to a deserted car park with a couple of ugly portacabins, and a pretty viewing area with seats.

Someone got here first. He is taking photographs across the bay.

09 taking photographs over Ardmucknish Bay, Ruth's coastal walk in Scotland

I wait for him to move on, and then sit down and have a late breakfast… well, an early breakfast really. It’s not yet 8:00 am!

I was hoping to walk around the headland following the shore, but the route is barred by a fence.

10 Locknell House, Ruth's coastal walk in Scotland

So I head back along the track, and find a path leading off to the left. This takes me through a lovely wooded area, Tralee Woodland.

11 Tralee Woodland, Ruth's coastal walk in Scotland

I walk past a lake dotted with waterlilies, and make my way back down to the shore. Now I’m standing on the edge of a marshy estuary. My map shows a track crossing via a ford… but I can see no sign of it.

12 ford crossing, Ruth's coastal walk in Scotland

After stomping around in the marsh for a few minutes, I give up, and return to solid ground. I follow a track, and then a road, and walk through a residential area.

13 road walking to Baravullin, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

This part of Benderloch is a mix of farmland and rather posh houses. Beside the driveway to a farm I spot a little cupboard, almost hidden behind a bush. I don’t want any free range eggs, but what else is in here…?

14 Kintaline farm and roadside kiosk, Ruth's coastal walk in Scotland

Ah. Peanuts, bird seed, and… chocolate rum and raisin fudge! Just what I need.

15 rum and raisin fudge, Ruth's coastal walk in Scotland

There’s a price list in the honesty box, but it does not mention fudge. I struggle with my conscience. How much is a small bag of fudge worth? Someone before me wrote in the notebook and left £1 for the fudge. I think that’s a bit mean, and I leave £1.50.

The fudge is delicious, and gives me a sugar high. Actually, I really need this energy boost. I didn’t get much sleep last night, and after such a long journey, followed by an early morning, I’m feeling a little jet lagged.

I reach a minor road. I intended to turn down here, to reach the area on the other side of the invisible ford, and then to walk through the grounds of Lochnell House. But, now I hesitate. The road goes down to a peninsula and is a dead-end.

16 dead end to Shenavallie, Ruth's coastal walkaround Scotland

According to my rules, I don’t have to walk down a peninsula served by a dead-end road. And Lochnell looks like a grand estate, where there might be fences and ‘private’ signs… or fields of cows.

What should I do?

In the end, I don’t turn off, but continue on along the road. Past a field of donkeys standing around a dead horse… a dead horse?

17 field and dead horse, Ruth's coastal walkaround Scotland

Oh no. A dead horse? I stop. Oh, thank goodness, the horse isn’t dead after all. I can see its chest moving. Whew!

Onwards. I reach a crossroads. The next left turn goes to the Isle of Eriska (lovely name), and it is also a dead-end…

18 turn to the Isle of Eriska, Ruth's coastal walkaround Scotland

… but somewhere down here is a Core Path. And that path should form a nice circuit, going through woodland, and bringing me back along a road by the shore.

The road to the Isle of Eriska is long and straight, with a right-angled kink in the middle. Very quiet. Just a few cars pass by.

19 long road to Isle of Eriska, Ruth's coastal walkaround Scotland

I would like to walk off the road, but there is no easy route. Lochnell Estate owns much of the land around here, and it doesn’t look as if they encourage visitors. “No Public Access except by prior arrangement.” So much for Scotland’s famous Right to Roam.

20 deer culling, Lochnell Estate, Ruth's coastal walkaround Scotland

The sight of these unfriendly signs makes me glad I didn’t try to find my way through the grounds of Lochnell House.

One thing that really irritates me about such signs is the euphemisms. “Deer culling in progress all year round.” Hah! I think you really mean “Deer hunting in progress all year round.” At least they don’t try to make out it’s a “nature reserve”, which is another favourite non-truth sign used by landowners.

Near the end of the road is a little car park for Shian Wood. This is where the Core Path starts.

21 Shian Wood wildlife reserve, Ruth's coastal walkaround Scotland

The car park is empty. I stop to look at the map. Oh, I really do like this sign. “Resemble not the slimy snails, That with their filth record their trails…”

21 xSlimy Snails sign, Ruth's coastal walkaround Scotland

It’s rather a long-winded way of saying “take your rubbish home”, but it makes me smile.

The view from the car park is wonderful. I check my map. That’s another estuary, Loch Creran, below me. Tomorrow, if all goes well, I’ll be walking along the shore over on the far side.

22 view over Loch Creran, Ruth's coastal walkaround Scotland

I make a mental note of this beautiful place, because it would be a good spot to spend the night in the Beast. I really don’t want to camp in the middle of the village again.

Onwards. I follow the path and head into Shian Wood.

23 woodland walk, Ruth's coastal walkaround Scotland

There is a well signed trail through the wood. In places there is a choice of forks – you can take the long route or the short route. I, of course, always take the long route.

Wow. The sight of a fallen tree is awe-inspiring. Such a huge network of roots anchoring the trunk into the earth, and yet the tree still manages to tumble. I wonder what storm brought it down? Or maybe it was just old?

24 uprooted tree, Shian Wood, Ruth Livingstone

In places the path has been diverted due to soil erosion. The earth is dry at the moment – it’s been a dry summer so far – but a series of wooden boardwalks would carry me above any muddy patches.

25 board walk, Shian Wood, Ruth's coastal walkaround Scotland

I follow the “long route” and begin to wonder why I haven’t reached the road yet. It should be just below me, somewhere.

Oh, here is another fallen tree. Look at that huge tangle of roots. Just like the other one I passed earlier. Oh, no, hang on…

26 familiar sight, Ruth's coastal walkaround Scotland

… it’s the same tree I passed earlier! Oh dear. This is weird. I’m going round in circles.

[to be continued]

Route this morning:


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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23 Responses to 372am Benderloch

  1. Eunice says:

    A gorgeous view from Tralee beach and I love the ‘slimy snails’ poem 🙂 The fallen tree reminds me of a similar-looking one in a wood near where my friend lives, it came down during a storm in February this year.

  2. Mike Norman says:

    The coast will always be there (barring a bit of global warming). Well done for holding the fort until the cavalry arrived.

  3. Oh no! At least we do know you escaped and are not still wandering in circles. I second your comments about landowners.

  4. It's Her Van says:

    You always find THE BEST places to hike and explore.😄

  5. I particularly relate to the thrill of leaving footprints in the sand! It’s as near to the edge of the coast as you can get without getting wet – assuming you’ve got the tides right.
    If you go to my blog – https://still0england.com – and click on “menu” then “contacts”, I have a similar picture trying to leave evidence of my visit. But we know the next tide washes it all away!
    Keep going.
    Right now I’m static, sheltering from the predicted high winds due to buffet Anglesey.

    All the best – Bob McIntyre

    • Hi Bob. Ooooh, I love your blog. (Would have left a comment, but couldn’t work out how to.) Yes, there is something very special about leaving the only footprints along a patch of beach 😀

      • That probably explains why no one else leaves comments either!
        Is that good or bad?

        • Depends. I like having conversations with people via the blog, and people add useful information about the places I’ve been, or the places I’m just about to visit. I do get the odd unpleasant comment too, which I usually just delete (I’ve only had 2 nasty comments in 8 years of blogging!)

      • Jayne Hill says:

        Morning Bob, Ruth is (as always) quite right and your blog is delightful. Many congratulations for an amazing achievement. But there does not seem to be any means of saying “hello” – there must be some Comment widget that could be added, otherwise I’d not be wittering away at Ruth’s! If I can be so bold, an ‘archive’ gadget would be great too, because at present it only seems possibly to continually scroll down, and down, and down . . .

        • So sorry- only just seen this! I’m not fully in control of my blog sometimes it takes over. I’m not sure how I lost the comment facility. It does seem a bit rude to be using Ruth’s blog to communicate with others. I agree with your archive comments too! I would if I could. It takes so much out of me walking then blogging I haven’t got energy left to do anything technical with my presentation.
          All the best Bob

  6. John Bainbridge says:

    The Lochnell sign may be illegal depending on the circumstances. Worth reporting, though there are exemptions for deer culling on limited days. Loved the shots of Benderloch – a place where I’ve often stayed.

  7. Karen White says:

    Thank goodness you were able to stop and help the biker. Your good deed for the day!
    Re deer hunting or culling: obviously they do hunt deer in Scotland but I’m sure culling is necessary too, it certainly is in the New Forest. Deer are prolific breeders and without a natural predator the numbers would quickly rise to a population size that was unsustainable for the forest to support. Too many deer on the forest would mean many would be likely to die of starvation in a cold winter. I believe that up to 25% of adult deer are culled each year.The deer are also very destructive, stripping the bark from young trees and ‘fraying’ their antlers against the bark – a practice which severely damages or even kills the tree.
    The notice you saw denying public access may be illegal – but I wouldn’t want to risk walking anywhere that deer culling might be going on.

  8. jcombe says:

    Thanks for the link to the Argyll and Bute core paths map, a very useful resource. I’ve got so used to being in the Highland Council area (with their hopeless map) that I had forgotten to see if Argyll and Bute have a better map! The Highland Council one is just a PDF map of a few areas and a few paths in each of those areas and the PDFs seems to be permanently under review. Many paths not covered at all and many of the so called paths are merely stretches of road with a pavement!

    It has literally taken me years to walk through the Highland Council area – the area covered by this Council stretches all the rest of the way up the west and north coast and right around to the Moray area, east of Inverness on the east coast. Their core path map website is https://www.highland.gov.uk/info/1225/countryside_farming_and_wildlife/161/outdoor_access/4 if you haven’t seen it already (but as I said, pretty hopeless).

  9. jcombe says:

    I did this walk today but in the other direction. I walked out to Eriska and found a path around most of the edge of the island. According to the signs it is a hotel, spa and gold course however I didn’t even see the hotel or get told off as wasn’t sure if it was private, but a lovely walk. I then headed out to the beach at Shennavallie which was a mixture of rock, mud and sand. Then I hoped to explore more of this peninsula but as you feared it’s full of private signs, quoting the Scottish access rights to respect privacy and not follow the tracks. The only one not so signed is the on to the ford. On that side it is more obvious with some wood visible but still a shoes and socks off job and quite muddy. So I crossed but as you say no sign from the other side so I made bmy way to the edge of the woodland and turned right. Since the tide was out, I was able to walk around the headland and up to the view point with seats where you had breakfast. Then I walked along the beach, this one had cows wandering along it! A lovely walk but a bit of a shame I could not get to more of the peninsula.

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