I am reassured to see a local man waiting for the bus. But he asks me if the bus is really running, and tells me he doesn’t normally catch public transport. We wait with growing unease. This is supposed to be the school bus, but there are no children waiting. Oh dear.
The bus is due to arrive at eight minutes past eight. At exactly seven minutes past eight, several school children come running out of nearby houses, pulling on jackets and slinging rucksacks over their shoulders.
The bus arrives a minute later. Wow! Talk about split-second timing.
It’s a quiet journey. The children are still half-asleep. I guess they might be going on to Oban, but I get off at the Barcaldine bus stop.
Now, according to my rules, I should really follow the road, as it provides the closest route to the shore. But everything is travelling at high speed, and the pavement comes to an end just outside Barcaldine. So, instead, I stick to the Caledonia cycle/walking path.
This meanders inland, but is a very pleasant route, passing through Barcaldine along quiet roads.
I notice something odd. Oak leaves growing out of what looks like a silver birch. Maybe young oak trees have silver coloured bark? (I make a mental note: I really must find out more about trees.)
I love the simplicity of this signpost. I don’t need to worry about the speed limit of 10mph. My walking speed rarely exceeds 2.5mph. North or south? I’m going north, of course.
Barcaldine is surrounded by forests, but there is farmland close to the village. In a nearby field, a group of cows are lying down.
I pass an old walled garden, with a camp site inside. I’d read about this site on the web, and had half-considered staying here. It’s a pleasant setting, but my wild-camp last night had a much better view.
The next patch of woodland comes as a surprise, because it hosts a grove of Douglas firs. An information board tells me how Lord Sutherland imported these trees from North America.
The trees are 150 years old, but still nowhere near fully grown. It’s hard to capture their height in a photo… but they are truly impressive.
There’s a car parking area inside the grove, and I wonder about camping here tonight, with these enormous trees for companions. But I decide midges could be a problem because there are few breezes in this sheltered space.
I really enjoy walking through Sutherland’s Grove. There is something magical about these stately trees. I can see numerous walking tracks running through the surrounding forest… but I mustn’t get sidetracked… now, where’s the Caledonia Way gone?
I pick up the cycle track again but, sadly, it soon joins the A828. Only for a brief spell, before it turns off to the right once more.
You can tell this used to be an old railway track I walk through an impressive cutting in the rock…
…and then through areas of woodland. It really is a wonderful route, although I’m a little frustrated at not being able to follow the shore more closely. I get occasional glimpses of Loch Creran through the trees.
And so, eventually, I reach Creagan Bridge. Remnants of an old railway viaduct are still visible in the water, but the old crossing has been replaced by a modern road bridge.
The bridge is starkly functional, but the views are terrific. I spend some time taking photographs and looking up to towards the top of Loch Creran, which is circled by a minor road. That looks like a beautiful drive.
Onwards, along the A828, and I reach the Creagan Inn. It promises to serve food all day. Much too early for lunch, but I make a mental note. It would make a good place to stop for an evening meal.
I walk past a holiday park with a small site for touring vans. This is another place I could stay but, although the site is on the banks of the loch, it seems quite close to the main road. I watch as one of the caravans opens its door, and a trio of enormous dogs come leaping out.
Hmm. I like dogs. But do I really want to sleep close to a pack?
Beyond here, the cycle path leaves the road and takes a parallel course. The verges are bright with daisies and other summer flowers.
A couple of touring bikes overtake me. This cycle path continues all the way to Appin and beyond, but I’m going to turn off down a minor road to the left, and follow the shore around to a place called Port Appin.
Here’s the turnoff. The road is very narrow, very straight, and virtually traffic free.
I can just about see the water of Loch Creran. It’s over there, beyond the fields and behind a screen of trees. A sweet smell attracts my nose. Ah, honeysuckle.
It’s a seven mile hike along here to Port Appin. Normally, I dislike road walking, but this is really very pleasant. Love the summer flowers, the beautiful meadows, and the occasional pretty cottage.
I leave the fields behind, and walk through forests. At one point, in a place called Rudhagarbh Wood (what a name! sounds like a cough and a spit), I stop and sit on a log and have a rest and a snack.
I daren’t stop still for too long, because the midges are dancing in the shade under the trees. Must keep moving.
After three miles, the road runs close to the shore again. I look across the water, and recognise the woods where I got lost yesterday. And those are the houses I admired so much along the shore road.
With my camera on full zoom, I can even see Barcaldine Castle. It looks impressive.
And there is the fish farm. A fishing boat is doing something… what? I don’t know.
Further along, and I can see the long pier that stretches out into the loch, the one I think was carrying a conveyor belt. Today there is a ship at the end of the pier. I wonder if it’s offloading fish?
I’m tempted to leave the road, and walk through the fields that border the water. But then I see a very large highland cow. Actually, I think it’s a highland bull.
I stick to the road, as it curves away from the shore again.
The views inland are wonderful. I think that peak in the distance is called Beinn Donn. It looks like a mountain but, at only 473 metres, it’s only a hill.
I’ve reached an area called North Shian. Although the countryside inland is relatively empty, there are a surprising number of houses along the coast. And some new buildings are going up.
Beyond this new building, on the other side of the loch, is the slipway at South Shian, where I stood yesterday. According to another coastal walker, Ju (aka The Helpful Mammal), a ferry used to run between South Shian and North Shian. Sadly, the service stopped many years ago.
Now, I must stop gazing across the loch and get on with today’s walk. I’ve still got two or three miles to walk before I get to Port Appin.
[to be continued…]
Route so far today: