[This walk took place on Thursday, 28th March 2019]
I park next to the shed by the slipway in Drimnin. It’s a dull day, but the forecast promises it will cheer up later. Fingers crossed.
Today I’m following a track to the westernmost tip of the Morvern Peninsula, and round to a place called Doirlinn. Or it might be Doirlin, or even Dorlin. As usual, the same place appears to have multiple name variations.
Anyway, the signpost tells me it’s only 6 miles away, although I must “Take care” because I’m entering “remote, sparsely-populated, potentially dangerous mountain country”.
The first section of the day’s walk doesn’t seem dangerous. I follow a private road – a wide gravel track – through the grounds of Drimnin house. The speed limit is only 10mph, but I have no fear of exceeding it as I plod slowly uphill.
The track bifurcates, with the left branch leading to the house, but I take the right branch which climbs further up the hill towards the Ncn’ean whisky distillery.
I gather you can visit the distillery, and the waitress at the pub told me I was welcome to pop in for a cup of tea and/or a whisky tasting, but also suggested you need to make an appointment. Needless to say, I haven’t made an appointment. Anyway, it’s really too early for either whisky tasting or a cup of tea.
A barrel in the grass tells me I’m ‘NEARLY THERE’.
I pass the driveway to the distillery car park. Ncn’ean is a newish organic distillery, yet to produce its first bottles of whisky, and appears to be housed in some functional-looking green sheds.
I carry on up the hill. A footpath sign suggests a deviation down to the left, and I’m tempted, because this path would take me closer to the coast. But my map indicates that the path is a dead-end, so I stick to the track.
It’s unseasonably warm for March. In England the daffodils have come out early and are nearly over, but in Scotland they are still in full bloom. Love their cheerful yellow faces.
The same waitress who recommended the distillery visit has also warned me about a gate ahead. When she last walked this route, she discovered a herd of cattle had congregated around the gate, blocking her route. She’d had to follow the fence for some distance before she found a way to cross through.
Well, here’s the gate. But no sign of cattle. Thank goodness!
I do find some deer on the other side of the gate. They flee up the hill, racing away at great speed. I pull out my camera, but only manage to catch a shaky shot of their disappearing backsides.
It’s a pleasant walk, with a great view down over the Sound of Mull. That’s the end of the Isle of Mull, with the white dot of the Rubha nan Gall lighthouse. Across the straight is another headland… I check my map…
… oh, that’s the Ardnamurchan Peninsula. I feel a twinge of excitement. One day, I’ll be walking to that far point, and what a waypoint that will be! It’s the westernmost tip of mainland Britain.
Oh, no, here are the cows. Luckily they are some distance away from the track, and I don’t have to pass close to them.
Onwards. I’m heading in a northerly direction with the Ardnamurchan peninsula ahead. That looks like a big mountain.
(Later, I check the map, and realise the big “mountain” is Ben Hiant. At 528 metres, Ben Hiant is under the magic 600 metres and so is not, technically, a mountain. It seems huge because its slopes rise directly up from sea level.)
The track has regular mile markers. They seem to point in the wrong direction. Drimnin is actually to the right, and Dorlin (or Doirlinn, or Doirlin) is actually to the left. Bit confusing.
Onwards. The landscape is open and, to be honest, rather bleak and boring. I’m quite excited when I spot something bright ahead along the track.
Oh, it’s only some bags filled with building material. Wonder what they’re doing here?
At least the view across to Mull is interesting. There is Tobermory, with its brightly coloured houses, although everything looks dull in this murky weather. Just a few patches of sunlight manage to find their way through the clouds, and slowly move across the island like spotlights.
The track curves inland, following the boundary of a pine wood. (Later, I realise I could have continued straight ahead along a muddy trail towards Auliston Point, and seen the ruins of the settlement made desolate in the land clearances of the 19th Century. I don’t realise this until it’s too late.)
Beyond the wood, the landscape is open once more, with a great view over the Ardnamurchan Peninsula. And here is the reason for the clearances and the reason why the landscape is so empty. Lots of sheep.
I find another mile marker, lying at a drunken angle, and I’m surprised to discover I’ve covered less than three miles – seems longer – and I’ve still got four miles to go before I reach Dorlin/Doirlinn.
The bleakness of this open landscape makes the walk seem longer than it really is. And the constant wind, pushing at my back, is tiring rather than helpful. So it’s a relief to come across the occasional little stream, and the odd tree.
Here’s a silver birch, clinging on to the side of the track. I’ve been surprised to discover that these pretty trees are incredibly hardy, and are one of the few species that seem to thrive in inhospitable places.
But mainly I walk through a treeless desert. Spectacular, in its own way, but somewhat intimidating. I’m achingly aware of my isolation and loneliness in such a vast and unforgiving landscape.
After climbing steadily, the track curves around a series of bends and the land drops away.
Wow! What a tremendous view. Those must be the islands of Oronsay and Carna, with the mountains of Ardnamurchan beyond.
I stop for a drink and a snack, but don’t dare stop still for too long. The cold wind blowing at my back is energy-sapping, and it’s easy to get chilled.
Time for a quick self-portrait. What a wonderful place.
I pass the remnants of old buildings. Check my map. Sornagan, another abandoned settlement.
This landscape is so empty and barren, it’s hard to imagine there were once communities living here.
Down goes the track, winding around the steep slopes of a hill. Grass growing in the centre.
Over a wooden bridge. It looks somewhat rickety, but actually has a name on my map. Drumbuie Bridge.
I’m walking down by the shore now, and around the edge of a pebbly cove. The pointed headland is called Rubha na h-Oitire, according to my map, and I realise this water is no longer the Sound of Mull, but Loch Sunart.
I pass a small sailing boat, sad and abandoned among the weeds. It has an improbably impressive name – ‘Hercules’ – painted in curly script on its hull.
Here’s another pebbly cove, and this one has a jetty. I wonder if ‘Hercules’ was once launched from here. The jetty looks a little worse for wear.
The track leads to a place called Druimbuidhe. It appears to consist of a single farmhouse, and the track passes straight through the grounds.
Among the outhouses is a blue Land Rover, with “VOTE for SALLY” written in bright red letters across the driver’s door.
Ah, Sally. I believe a lady called Sally lives in that isolated house, and even runs a B&B, although I’m not sure how many would-be visitors make it this far down the track. I’d been advised to knock on her door and she would invite me in for a cup of tea. But, of course, I chickened out.
Beyond Sally’s house, the track dwindles to a rough path. It passes through a marshy area, past the headland of Rubha na h-Eaglaise (wow, these names seem wildly foreign!) and then runs along the shore.
Ahead is the island of Oronsay. Bit confusing, because there are several islands called Oronsay in Scotland. Just as the same place can have several different names, they often call several different places the same name!
This Oronsay is now uninhabited, as the result of the awful 19th century clearances, and is joined to the mainland by a small isthmus – dead ahead in the photo below.
My track curves round, past the isthmus, climbs up a slope, and then drops down to a building. I can see chimneys ahead, and I’m worried I might end up in the garden of somebody’s home…
… but when I reach the building, I realise it has long been abandoned. How sad it looks.
I believe there was once a ferry here, linking Morven to Glenborrodale on the Ardnamurchan peninsula, and this building was an inn. The place seems so isolated and lonely now, it’s hard to imagine it was once a thriving ferry crossing.
This is the end of the track and, surprisingly, someone has set up a picnic bench overlooking the water. I stop for a drink and a snack lunch. What a view! Shame the weather is too dull for decent photography.
I was half-hoping to find a path beyond the track, where I could carry on my walk along the shore. I know several coasters have manged to get through this section in the past, but I can’t see an obvious way. If I stick to the water’s edge, I end up scrambling over slippery rocks. But the ground above the shore is boggy and overgrown, and difficult underfoot.
After dithering about, and making several aborted attempts to find a route through the undergrowth, I give up.
Time to turn round and head back to my car.
Miles walked today = 14 miles, but only 7 in the right direction
Total around the coast = 4,011.5 miles
This route description on the Heritage Paths site gives some background information about the area, and a moving description by the victim of one of the forced clearances. Hard to imagine the inhumanity of the landowners of that period.