[Note: This walk took place on the 24th June 2018. Apologies for the delay in writing it up!]
It was a relief to spend the night in a camp site, to have access to a power hookup, to have an unlimited supply of water, and to enjoy a warm shower. I think The Beast enjoyed it too.
Today is a Sunday and there are no buses running, and so I’ve decided to do a circular walk. I can follow a path running close to the shore (if my map is correct) for a few miles, before looping back along a cycle route to return to the campsite.
Before I leave, I check in with the lady who owns the site and book a second night. She is getting out her wellies, which seems a bit odd as the weather is sunny and the ground is dry. She explains they’re raising funds for the local school and are having a fete and a duck race. She has volunteered to run along the stream and retrieve the ducks at the end of the race. That’s why she needs the wellies!
I decide to avoid the A828 as much as possible today, and head off down the cycle route.
Someone has carved characters out of a fallen tree trunk. A banjo player. A winking owl? Obviously the wood carver has a sense of humour, and the funny creatures make me smile.
I meet a few walkers and cyclists. It’s such a beautiful day and unusually warm for Scotland. Everyone is making the most of the sunshine.
I pass a table and a bag of plastic ducks. A nearby board asks people to choose a duck and promises prizes if your duck wins.
I would have liked to sponsor a duck – of course – but the table is unmanned and I don’t have time to wait around.
The cycle track leads back to the A828, where I cross over. Over the road is the school, with bunting dangling and people beginning to set up the fund-raising fete.
Again, I would like to support the local school and spend some money at the fete. But it hasn’t got going yet, so I continue on my walk. Past the school, I head down a quiet little road that runs towards the shore.
I reach Cuil Bay. A magical place. The water is a deep blue and there are mountains rimming the far shore.
A few cars are parked along the shore road, and people are enjoying the beach. A mix of pebbles and sand. What a beautiful spot.
I hear a honking sound, and manage to catch a small flight of geese as they fly low over the water.
Further along the beach, I spot a number of small camper vans parked along the shore road. I’m almost sorry I booked into the campsite for a further night. This would be a fantastic place to stop.
At the end of the beach is a memorial seat. It is inscribed in memory of Harry and Marie Livingstone. Livingstone? It’s unusual to see my surname carved on a bench, and I feel sad at the thought of my own mortality. Such a shame life is so short.
The public road curves inland to feed a few scattered houses. But I continue along the shore, following a track that winds through a cluster of trees…
… and passes a small hut (a fishing shack?), where a man is unloading his van.
I feel a moment of anxiety. Will I be challenged and asked why I’m walking along this track? No. This is Scotland, and the man gives me a vague wave and continues with his unpacking.
Beyond the hut, the track deteriorates and becomes boggy. Soon it will peter out altogether and I must find my way across open land to pick up a path that should run higher up the slope. Of course, as I’ve discovered, paths marked on Scottish OS maps don’t always turn out to be real paths on the ground. I cross my fingers and set off.
I’m nervous about making my way over trackless land, but it turns out to be easy. I do spot some cows, but they are far away and don’t bother me. (Maybe these are the ‘disinterested cows’ mentioned by The Helpful Mammal in my previous post?)
Ah, here’s the path. So, yes, it definitely does exist, although in places it looks more like a stream than a path!
In one of the more watery sections of the path, I come across a large dragonfly. I stop and try to focus my camera, but the darn thing won’t stay still and pose for a shot. So I only manage a few blurry images.
And then something odd happens. The dragonfly hovers in front of my knees like a mini helicopter, and makes charging motions towards my ankles. Swooping low, he slaps his tail on the water, before rising up and attacking my knees again.
After a few minutes of stand-off, and more tail slapping, the dragonfly seems to lose interest in my legs, and charges off to buzz around in some nearby bushes.
Weird. Definitely that insect seems to be in a belligerent mood… no idea why. My walking trousers are a dirty black, and I certainly don’t look like another dragonfly.
The path takes me into woodland. I was looking forward to this section, but it turns out to be very tricky. In the shade of the trees, there is far more water around, deep in places along the path, and creating slippery mud on either side. I slip and slither my way forward, grateful for my poles.
I’m wearing my Australian bush hat, and soon discover the downside to having a large brim shielding my vision. Clunk. I hit my head on a low hanging branch. And a bit further on… crash! I hit my head on another one.
Wondering how many bruises I’ve picked up, I’m pleased to come out of the woods.
I have a wonderful view up Loch Linnhe. Through that narrow gap, dead ahead in the photo below, the loch runs all the way up to Fort William. Guarding the narrow strait is a small, squat lighthouse…
… and later, checking my next OS map, I realise this is where the Corran ferry runs. The lighthouse sits on Corran Point. I will be catching that ferry in a couple of days’ time.
My path has joined an obvious track. There is farmland below and woodland to my right. I pass a house. Is this Ardsheal Farm? If so, it’s in the wrong place according to my map.
But what a wonderful place to have a farm. Look at those views over Loch Linnhe!
I walk past more houses, some newly renovated and obviously marketed as holiday homes. One of these is named ‘Ardsheal Farm’, but clearly isn’t a working farmhouse any more.
I meet nobody. My track has become a definite road and I lose sight of the water for a while.
What is this tucked among the roots of an old sycamore. A piece of litter?
Ah. No. It’s a little fairy door. Complete with hinges and a golden catch. I open it, of course…
…but there’s nothing on the other side. Just damp moss and earth. What was I expecting? A fairy’s sitting room?
Signs have warned me about construction traffic. Now I meet a huge machine. It’s parked and they are doing something to the telegraph pole – or is it an electricity pole? The workmen stop the machine to let me through, so I hurry past and don’t take a proper look.
According to my map, I’m now approaching the drive to Ardsheal House, which is marked as a hotel. It is 1pm, and I’m hoping to stop here for some lunch… but I soon realise Ardsheal House is no longer a hotel.
I’m disappointed. No lunch for me, then. Ah well, onwards.
The road is bordered by a wall on one side, and a wooded slope on the other. To my left is Loch Linnhe, to my right is the slope of Ardsheal Hill.
I stop and look back along the shore towards Ardsheal House. What a beautiful beach! Below me, just out of sight in the photo below, a young couple are sitting on the sand and sunbathing.
The road is confined now, as it winds between the sea and the slopes of Ardsheal Hill. I’m hungry, and looking for somewhere to sit so I can eat my snacks. I spot a sunny spot on the wall (straight ahead in the photo below) and sit on the stones for a while.
Further along, and the road curves around the base of the hill, heading down towards Kentallen Bay. It’s a sheltered spot. White houses line the far shore (along the A828), and boats are moored on the calm water.
I pass another holiday home, and some gateposts with a sign informing me the road is private. I spot a large rock in the field to my right, and stop to balance the camera on it. Time for a self-portrait.
You can see that, despite the warmth of the day, I’m wearing a long-sleeved top for midge-protection purposes. Actually, I haven’t encountered any serious midge problems yet. I make sure I’m safe inside The Beast before the sunlight fades, and I’ve only picked up a few random bites.
My little lane reaches the A828. I really don’t want to walk along this road today – with no pavement or safe walking route. From my map, I know the Caledonian Way cycle track runs somewhere just above the road. The track is invisible from down here, but I cross over the tarmac, climb over a fence, and scramble up a steep slope…
… and find the cycle track.
It’s an easy two-mile walk back to the camp site. When I arrive, I see a crowd of yellow ducks spread out on the grass.
The lady owner waves to me. She is sitting outside with some friends and they are busy counting piles of money. Clearly the fundraising duck race was a great success!
Miles walked today = 8 miles (in a circle!)
Total distance around coast = 3,918 miles
Low points = hitting my head on the trees
High points = the amazing views over Loch Linnhe, and meeting the belligerent dragonfly.