[Note: this walk took place on the 28th June 2018]
Last night I camped with The Beast on a track just off the main road. No view of Ben Nevis this time, but a splendid view over Loch Linnhe. There isn’t room for my bike in the van with the bed pulled out, so the bike has to sleep outside. I think this puts it in a bad mood for the rest of the day.
There are no buses on the route I’m following today, so I drive to the midway point of my planned walk, park the van, and pull out the bike. It’s horribly heavy and, as usual, gives me a fight as I struggle to unfold it. (There’s lots of reasons why I call it The Monster!)
It’s another warm, sunny day, and I’m prepared for everything. I’ve got water, insect repellent, sun screen, and midge protectant. What could possibly go wrong?
It takes me just over an hour to cycle the 6.5 miles back to my starting point. I’m never going to win awards for speedy cycling! To be fair, I do have to push The Monster for the last couple of miles, because the slope is too steep for the wretched thing to manage. I’ll really have to teach this bike how to climb hills.
When I reach my starting point, I throw the bike into a ditch…
… and stop for a minute or two to take a few last photographs of the view from the top of the hill. There’s Ben Nevis again. I’m going to lose sight of him soon, so this might be the last photo I take of that wonderful old-volcano mountain.
I slap on some more sun block, and then I set off on my walk back along the road. It’s a steady downhill slope from here, so easy walking. I’m a mile or so inland of the coast, and I can see the road curving ahead, and swinging around a pretty little lake. Lochan Doire, according to my map.
A signpost says it’s 24 miles to Lochaline. That’s definitely too far for me to manage in one day. I won’t get to Lochaline until tomorrow.
Onwards, and I make rapid progress. Round a curve, and there’s another little loch below me. Lochan na Criche
My road crosses a bridge over a river. This bridge brings water down from the high ground and feeds into Lochan na Criche. But, wow, the riverbed is nearly dry.
I pass a forested area surrounded by a deer fence. At first I think the fence is designed to keep deer in, but then I notice the size of the trees. They’re very young. And I realise the fence is there to keep the deer out, and to let the young trees grow.
Excellent. Once Great Britain was covered in forests, but now much of our green space seems to be taken over by marshes, moorlands, or grazing pastures, and we really do need more trees.
My quiet road continues winding downwards in a series of gentle curves. Round another bend and – oh – the sea. I’ll be down there soon. A signpost warns me not to go over 10 mph because of the skid risk. No chance of that!
On the way up this road earlier, on my bike, I decided to leave one of my water bottles here to pick up later. I did this to reduce weight in my backpack. and also to prevent myself from guzzling all my water before I started the walk. It is a hot day.
Now… where did I leave the bottle? Close to the signpost, hidden in the bracken… almost too well hidden. Ah, finally, there it is.
Past another forested area, protected with another deer fence. The stiles are very substantial.
Now, signs on the road warn me of roadworks. Yes, there is a gang of workmen busily resurfacing the tarmac somewhere ahead. I passed them once in my car driving down here, and then again on my bike coming back up. Each time, they had to stop work and move their vehicle over to the side to let me get through.
Now they’re going to have to stop work again, and this time I’m on foot. I wonder if they’ll recognise me – the isn’t much traffic, so they probably will – and maybe they’ll wonder what I’ve done, first with my car, and then with my bike.
No sign of the workmen yet, and I’ve nearly reached the shore. The sun is bright in my eyes, making photography a little difficult, but the view across Loch Linnhe is superb.
A few hundred yards further, and I meet a little calf. Very odd. It just stands in the road and doesn’t move when I approach. Then I realise it has a broken leg and can barely limp along. Oh dear! Poor thing. Was it hit by a car?
I met another calf with a broken leg about a year ago, near Kirkcudbright, and suffered terrible guilt because I didn’t turn back to seek help for it. So, I’m determined not to make that mistake again.
There are no farms nearby, but there is a cottage further along the road, and I spot someone sitting in the garden. I head down the driveway.
The man in the garden is on holiday, and is only renting the cottage, but he tells me the farm is a just ahead. I hurry on to get help for the calf.
Ah, here is the roadworks lorry. It’s parked, with plenty of space for me to get by. I guess the workers have stopped for a break. Don’t blame them. It’s hot.
Across a little bridge, and I spot the farm. Good. Now I can tell them about the injured calf.
It takes me a while to attract the farmer’s attention. He is rounding up sheep with another man and a sheepdog.
“Excuse me. There’s an injured calf just down the road,” I tell them. “I think it might have been hit by a car.”
“No,” he says, looking irritated. “It was born with bad legs. It’s fine.”
“Oh,” I say.
Well, now I do feel a bit foolish. But if I hadn’t gone to ask for help I would have been filled with guilt, and I would have worried about the calf all day.
I walk past an outdoor centre. A net stretches across the grass, and beyond that is some sort of obstacle course. I don’t see anybody using the facilities, but what a fantastic place for a child to come for an outdoor adventure.
Onwards. The road is quiet. The sun is hot. I’m about to start along a wild and beautiful section, and I’ve been looking forward to this all morning.
The views across Loch Linnhe are stunning. I look back up towards the indentation in the coast where the Ballachulish bridge crosses the mouth of Loch Leven, with Glencoe behind. Soon I’ll lose sight of those landmarks, but I’ve hiked along the coast over there and it’s all familiar territory.
I can remember walking along the shore near Appin, and staring across Loch Linnhe to this far side, and to the high wooded slopes that border this shore. It looked so wild and remote – I felt panicky at the thought of what lay ahead. Now, here I am, walking along this beautiful road underneath these slopes, and I’m fine.
There’s a campervan ahead. What a great view they have.
Oh, and further along, another van. Well, this one is more of a motorhome.
Uh oh. Cattle. All across the road, on both sides, and with young calves. They weren’t here earlier. I walk slowly and carefully, avoiding eye contact. I wonder if the young calf with the bad leg belongs to this herd? In which case, they seem to have deserted him/her.
I get past the cows without incident and, when I’m a safe distance away, turn around to take some photographs. Funny how cattle never look scary in the photos!
There are sheep walking all over the road too. Hello sheep. I’m definitely not scared of you.
I stop and sit on some stones. It’s time for a rest and a snack. Oh, that view! I realise I can still see Ben Nevis, and probably Glen Coe too, although that mountain is less immediately recognisable to me. Maybe this will be my last view of Ben Nevis.
Onwards. I pass a third motorhome. The third in three miles. Pfff! The place is positively crowded. And this couple know how to camp in style. They’ve got a gazebo tent set up.
The gazebo has netting, and I guess this is to keep the midges away. I’ve not really had any trouble with midges during the day – they don’t like the sun – but they do come out in the evening. So, I guess a netted tent is a good idea.
The road becomes very narrow and winds around the bottom of rocky cliffs. It’s very attractive, and very unnerving to drive along here, as passing places are few and far between. And very narrow. (You can see a ‘passing place’ in the photo below.)
Signs warn me of falling rocks, and I can’t help looking up. Yes, this is a tricky road and I would hate to meet another car. Not only would it be difficult to reverse along such a narrow, twisting road, but you could get squashed by rocks in the process.
The road curves round a bend, and Glen Galmadale comes into sight. This is, I think, all part of the huge estate of Kingairloch and all owned by the same family. Most of the houses and cottages I’ve seen are holiday lets.
I’ve left the beast parked here in a little car park at the bottom of Glen Galmadale Kingairloch may be a privately owned estate, but they seem very welcoming to visitors.
I’m only half way through today’s walk and it’s nearly 2pm. Time for lunch, which I eat in the van. After that I must drive back along that narrow winding road and go and pick up the horrible Monster bike. I’ll need it for the next part of my walk.
Miles walked this morning = 6.5 miles
Total around coast = 3,953.0