I catch the bus to Appin, and get off at the now familiar bus stop. From here it’s just a short walk down the road to rejoin the cycle way.
This vehicle, parked in yard, seems to have a message for me. “NO…LIFE.LIVEIT.” Huh? I have no idea what that means.
Here’s the cycle way. I’m now retracing the last mile of yesterday’s walk, and that feels a little frustrating. It’s a dull day too. I put my head down and get on with it.
Ah, a sign about route 78. I must have missed that yesterday. I stop to read the information…
…and confirm I can follow the cycle path all the way to Fort William. There is only one section still missing, where you must join the main road for 2-3 miles. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to tackle that road section later today.
Onwards, past the primary school. Yesterday there were children playing here, but today is Saturday, and the playground is empty.
The cycle path is busier than yesterday. I think of my husband, who loves cycling, and could follow this route all the way to Inverness, if he wanted to.
But cycle paths are often a little boring for walkers, because they run flat and straight. So, I entertain myself by taking photos of wild flowers along the verge. Love these cheeky daisies.
I reach the turn off to the Jubilee Bridge. Really, today’s walk begins properly here, because I’m now entering new territory. I’m not the only person out walking this morning. A couple stride purposefully past me.
I really am the slowest walker in the universe.
A little further on, and I get a good view of the Jubilee bridge. It’s a fine structure, and I’m glad they restored it.
Hello, horse. You’re very beautiful.
I come to a semicircular stone wall with a bench inside, and am intrigued to see there are a number of inscribed discs set among the stones. Apparently, the phrases are taken from poems written by local children. What a nice idea!
“The sun shines.” Well, sometimes, maybe, but not today.
“The sky is blue.” Ditto. Today it’s very definitely grey.
“Waves glide and the water flows.” Yes. Nothing stops the tides.
“The wind soothes.” Ah, that’s a nice phrase, and unusual because usually the wind “howls” or “rages”, but here it has been given a benign function.
Onwards. Further along the cycle track I come across a row of recycling bins. From the poetic, to the mundane! Well, I guess they had to put them somewhere.
Much of this cycle way follows the route of an old train track, and I soon come across a disused station platform. The station used to link Appin with Oban, but closed in 1966. Shame. The platform is now being used to store building materials.
Further along, and I get a great view of Castle Stalker. There’s a boat house and a little jetty here, and I guess you can get to the castle by boat. (Except at low tide when, according to Peter Caton, you can wade across.)
Despite my rule forbidding me to think too far ahead, I have been worrying about how I will cope with walking along the far shore of Loch Linnhe. There’s a long stretch over there without any road access, although my map shows numerous tracks. But, I believe you can’t walk through that area because of the quarry…
I take a photo with my camera on full zoom and, yes, there really is a huge quarry over there.
Onwards. I continue along the cycle track, and am soon rounding a corner.
I’ve reached a promontory known as The Knap. I was going to try to follow the shore around this section, but am put off by the industrial yards. Look at that huge crane.
I come across an old boat, with a hull that looks too rusty to be restored. I wonder how long the old thing has been out of the water? Do love the colours though – that bright blue zings against the orange rust. So, of course, I must stop and take photographs.
I’ve reached Dallens Bay and the Sound of Shuna. Here the cycleway widens out into a narrow lane, with parked cars and a huddle of huts. This is Linnhe Marina. In the water, numerous boats are making use of the shelter formed by Shuna Island, which lies just offshore.
A friendly dog comes running out from one of the huts, and nuzzles up against my legs. He (or she) looks like a cross between a springer spaniel and a Labrador. Hello. I stop to pet it. Love dogs.
It’s only after I’ve walked away, that I realise something wet and gooey is running down my legs. The dog has drooled all over my trousers. Well, I hope it’s only drool!
I reach a small layby, where a row of cars and camper vans are parked above a rocky beach.
I’m hungry, and clamber down to sit on a rock near the water. Time for lunch. And I manage to take a self-portrait.
The next section of the cycle path is very pretty, because it runs beside the edge of the loch. Perfect. Just a shame about the dull weather.
For the next few miles, the cycle route plays piggyback with the road, sometimes running along the shore, sometimes alongside the road itself…
… and sometimes along a minor road through a forested area, just inland. It makes an easy walking surface, despite having to dodge the occasional cyclist.
The only frustration about the inland section is the lack of sea views. Just occasionally I get glimpses of the loch through the trees. Wow, it looks wild over there.
This smallholding catches my eye, along with a series of warning signs about red lights? “WHEN RED LIGHT SHOWS, WAIT HERE.” What red lights? Where are they?
Then I realise the landowner has repaired holes in his fence with salvaged material from elsewhere, including these red-light road signs! Hope they weren’t important.
Onwards. The cycle path meanders along beside the road.
I’ve become used to photographing landscapes on my walks, but now I don’t have any sea views, and I’m surrounded by trees. So, there is little in the way of open countryside to capture. Never mind. It’s late June, and a great time of year for wild flowers.
Here’s a beautiful flag iris.
And here’s a collection of
hollyhocks (oops, wrong flower!) foxgloves. The stems are so laden down by heavy buds, they hang sideways.
More cyclists overtake me. Couples enjoying their weekend together.
Then, through a gap in the foliage, I spot a sign on the road below me. “Welcome to the Highlands.”
The Highlands! I’m here at last. I walk back and then forwards again, crossing and re-crossing the invisible boundary. Now I feel I’m really, truly, properly in Scotland – and am filled with a thrill of achievement, accompanied by an even stronger thrill of terror.
I began walking the coast eight years ago, and started with the flat shoreline of East Anglia. Right from the beginning, people kept asking me how I would cope with the Scottish Highlands. I kept telling myself not to worry about… they were hundreds of miles away, and many years ahead.
Now I’m here. The Highlands! I take a deep breath. Even the air smells different… I take another breath. Yes, it really does smell different. And not in a good way.
Uh, oh. A dead deer.
A dead deer isn’t a great start. Maybe it’s an omen? A warning of dangers to come? I walk around the carcass, and try not to worry about the wild country ahead of me.
[To be continued…]
The strange semi-circular stone bench was an arts project. You can read about the project here: The Sheep Fenke at Appin.
Route so far today: