[This walk took place on the 30th March 2019]
This morning, I hiked 8 miles along a track over the hills, and now a signpost tells me where I’ve been. Scottish Woodlands, Glencripesdale. Love the weathered look.
I’ve also just eaten my picnic lunch while perched uncomfortably among dripping trees to escape a blowing gale – but now the weather suddenly changes again. Hello, sunshine! And the wind has dropped too.
I’m anticipating a lovely, easy walk this afternoon. This track runs close to the shore, and all I have to do is follow it round to Laudale House and my car.
Across the water, I watch a single sailing boat gliding along the other side of Loch Sunart.
It’s still only March, but I thought I would see more ships out on the water on this fine Saturday afternoon.
A mile or so later, I reach a small collection of cottages and shacks. Oh! Wasn’t expecting to come across any buildings until I reach Laudale House.
Check my map. Yes, the place even has a name. Cames Salach. All the buildings look deserted, so maybe they are holiday lets belonging to the estate?
Near the buildings, a patch of cropped grass leads down to the water’s edge, where I spot a stone cairn. I head down to take a look.
Among the stones are several carved plaques. I read the names. Wilson, Dick and Dot. O’Connor, Rosie, Ian, Robert, Eric.
Hmm. Are they memorial stones? I’m not sure, because there are no dates, no little messages, and no evidence of flowers or anything else left around the cairn. It’s a mystery.
I set off down the track again. I know I should be enjoying this section of the walk, but I’m feeling quite fatigued, and very aware of how much further I have to go. Head down and march onwards.
The scenery isn’t as dramatic as on my forestry route over the hills, but it’s very pleasant. There’s a steep wooded slope to my right, down which little streams tumble…
… while to my left, through an screen of trees, I catch great views across the loch. I keep checking my map to identify the few places I see on the far shore. That’s Salen. One day, soon, I’ll be walking along there.
But first, I have to finish today’s walk and get to the end of this track. Will it ever end? The rough gravel is beginning to trouble my tired feet. Ow. I pick my way carefully, trying to avoid the larger and sharper stones.
Finally, the shore begins to curve, and I know I’ve nearly reached the northernmost point of the Morvern Peninsula – called Rubha Aird Earnaich – and, roughly, the 3/4 mark of today’s walk.
Disappointingly, the track swings inland just short of the shore.
I stop and look at the uneven land that lies between me and the point… and decide I’m too tired to scramble across all those moss-covered tree trunks and rocks. Instead, to mark the occasion, I sit down on a patch of grass, for a rest and a snack.
I don’t dare stop for too long. We’ve just passed the Spring Equinox, but I don’t want to be caught out after dark. It’s 4 o’clock already, and the sun sets in 3 hours time. Onwards.
Now I’m walking in the shadow on the northern side of the hills. It’s chilly, and I’m glad I’m wearing several layers and a warm jacket.
To my left, I pass a series of small islands, only some of which are named on my map. Sgeir an t-Seangain, and then Eilean mo Shlinneag. Such exotic names.
Onwards. The trees are beginning to thin out and I’m worrying about the time. It’s nearly 5pm. Will this track ever end?
Just look at those views! The low sun makes the landscape glow with drama. I think that high peak is Beinn Resipol, and the most westerly of Scotland’s mountains.
The track climbs, and swings round to head in a southwesterly direction. I can see right down Loch Sunart .
Now I’m heading down towards a little bay – Camas na h-Airbhe – where a large ship appears to be anchored. Weird. I wasn’t expecting to find a harbour here. Oh, look at those circular structures in the water close by. Of course, it’s a fish farm.
As I get close to the fish farm, a sign warns me not to approach machinery without making sure the operator has seen me. Am I looking out for forestry machines? Or fish farm machines? I don’t know, but there are no machines in sight.
I take a photograph through the gate of the fish farm. The ship looks wonderful in the low light of the evening sun – dramatically lit up.
Onwards, past the farm (another Marine Harvest operation), and I reach a section where the slopes have been extensively logged. What a mess. What a shame.
Further along, another track runs down the slope to join mine. The sign is (from my point of view) facing the wrong direction, and I assume it’s just another forestry track…
…until I read the signs. Oh. It’s the alternative route over the hills to Kinlochteagus. And, according to another sign, it’s a ‘Heritage Path’ and the Bunavullin Coffin Road.
Ah, the old Bunavullin Coffin (and Post) Road. I remember seeing the other end of this route waymarked back in February when I walked to Drimnin, and was trying to work out a circular route to Doirlinn.
I’m walking along the edge of some open land now, through a section populated by some grand old trees. It feels like ancient parkland. I’m glad these magnificent trees have escaped the logging machines.
To my right is an open space, with a hut on stilts. The sun is very low now, and the hut is deep in the dark shade cast by the hills behind, so I take a truly terrible photograph of the structure.
At first I think it’s a fire-watch tower, but the viewpoints are tiny slits, so maybe it’s a bird hide.
I startle a group of deer, and manage a blurry shot as they run away across the field.
Oh, maybe the tower is a hunter’s hide? Poor deer. I hope not.
A little further on, I see a house perched on a slope through the trees. Looks too small for Laudale House.
Check my map. No, Laudale House is still a mile away. Onwards.
My track crosses a little bridge over Laudale River, and then swings down to run alongside the river, and then close to the shore.
Loch Sunart looks beautiful. The sun is very low now, giving the landscape a golden glow, and the loch takes on the blue of a Mediterranean sea.
Round a corner and, finally, I’m approaching Laudale House.
A new building takes me by surprise. All timber, and glass, catching the rays of the setting sun, and with a stunning view along Loch Sunart. It will make a fantastic residence for somebody.
I’m surprised to see a new building in this undeveloped area, and wonder about planning regulations in Scotland… but my map suggests it’s the old Boat House. Hmm. Clearly the old Boat House is no longer intended for boats.
Laudale House is in the shade of the hills, and I don’t manage take any decent photographs.
A sign asks walkers to respect the privacy of residents and use the shoreline for access. I suspect they’re holiday makers, rather than permanent residents, but am happy to respect their privacy…
… although that means I invade the privacy of some other residents. These deer seem startled to see a walker emerging in the evening gloom.
They leap off, running back to the track and then, elegantly, hurdling the fence around the house, where they congregate on the lawn.
I stomp across the marshy shore area to bypass the house, and then have to wade across a small stream to get back to the track. Don’t mind getting my boots wet (again) because I’m so near the end of my walk. But why not supply a bridge for considerate walkers? A plank would do.
The track is now a tarmac road.
I startle more deer on the road. They hurdle the fence and, safely behind the wire, keep a watchful eye on my progress.
I reach a widened area of tarmac, and a set of signs standing with their backs to me. Looking on their other sides, I’m informed this is a turning space, and I’ve reached the end of the public road (or, in my case, the beginning of the public road).
Good. My car is just round the next bend.
The last part of any walk is always the longest. But the road is beautiful, and the light is gorgeous. I keep stopping to take photographs.
My car isn’t just round the next bend. Nor round the next one. Nor round the one after that. Until, finally, much further along than I realised, here it is!
It’s 6.45 and the sun has just set. I’m really relieved I’ve finished my walk before dark – although I knew I would have an additional hour or so of twilight walking after sunset, and I’d brought my torch… just in case.
I’m also relieved for another reason. The kind taxi man (Ewen), who picked me up from here this morning, told me he lives just across the loch and pointed out his house. So, I know he could probably see my car from his windows and, if I hadn’t returned before dark, he might have been worried about me.
Anyway, I’m proud of myself. I’ve managed the logistics of a difficult section. I’ve walked a long distance, across an uncertain route, and in complete isolation. (In fact, I’ve met nobody since the farmer this morning who told me to watch out for the “seagulls”.) I’ve scaled deer fences and waded streams. I’ve seen a sea eagle.
Oh, my goodness. I feel like a proper walker.
Miles walked this afternoon = 10
Total today = 18 miles
Total distance around the coast = 4,041.5 miles
You can read more about the Bunavullin Coffin/Postal Road on the Heritage Paths site.
Route: morning in black, afternoon in red