[This walk was completed on the 31st March 2019]
Over breakfast in my hotel, I joke with a couple of other residents about how much I hate my Monster of a bicycle. It’s been sitting in the back of my car for the past few days, hitching a free ride. Now it’s time to get the blasted thing out and put it to use.
I wobble down 6 miles of road and reach the lonely spot where I ended yesterday’s walk.
Actually, I have to confess, I enjoyed the cycle ride to get here. Feeling a sudden surge of affection, I decide to lock the bike up, rather than leave it unchained in the vague hope that someone might steal it.
It’s a glorious sunny Sunday morning. Not a breath of wind and Loch Sunart is as flat as a mirror. I look across at the pretty white house on the opposite side, and think of my kind taxi driver who drove miles and miles to take me to Kinlochteagus yesterday. I think that might be his house.
I set off walking along the twisty dead-end road that leads from the Laudale House estate. It’s in deep shade at the moment, but still a beautiful road to walk along.
Not so beautiful to drive along, because there are few passing places and reversing a car between those rocky walls would be a nightmare.
Rounding a headland, I look back across Loch Sunart to the Boat House. What a fantastic view. I didn’t really notice the nearby island yesterday. Check my map. Eileen Mor.
Onwards. The road rises slightly, and a yellow grit box reminds me that not all days in Scotland are as beautiful as this one.
From higher ground I get another good view across the loch. Oh, look at that cottage. Perhaps that is where the taxi driver lives?
Onwards, and the views are glorious. I make slow progress as I keep stopping to take photographs. Looks like another fish farm below me, but no circles, just linear lines of buoys. Maybe it’s a shellfish farm?
The road dips again, and I cross over a little river. Liddesdale Burn. The water is sparklingly clear and I wonder if it might be safe to drink. It must have come straight off the high hills behind me.
I walk past Liddesdale cottage. Looks deserted and the bare lawns around it suggest it’s another holiday let.
I meet my first car of the day, from the Laudale House estate, I think. Now the road begins to gently climb and I know I’m about to join the A884.
I stop for a drink and a rest, and pose for a self-portrait.
I reach the A road. A footpath sign tells me the walk back to Kinlochteagus is, apparently, only 12 miles. Hmm. Not the way I’ve come – actually more like 20 miles if you follow the coast.
The A884 was very quiet when I cycled along it this morning. Now the traffic is beginning to build up. All relative of course. I’m talking about 1 vehicle every 2 minutes or so. Most of the time the road is empty.
I cross over another little river. Allt na H-Airigh. No idea how you pronounce it. Do you sound that H- before the Airigh?
With no wind to ruffle the water of Loch Sunart, the reflections on the loch are perfect and pure. This creates a striking visual illusion in the photographs I take. The water apparently disappears in the view below.
And this floating raft looks like a strange spaceship hovering in air.
Looking down the loch, I can see the village of Strontian. That’s where I’m staying, and it’s my destination for today’s walk.
More traffic whizzes past. The narrowness of the road means I have to step onto the verge each time to allow the cars to go past. Some drivers slow down in a very considerate manner. Others don’t seem to understand the perils of overtaking a pedestrian at 50mph!
I’m not the only one in danger from speeding drivers. This poor bird came to a gory end.
Falling rocks, warns this sign. I’m walking beside a steep wooded slope, and the road is in shadow. Once out of the sun, I feel the chill.
Ah. Primroses! What pretty little flowers. They cling to the rocky walls – bright spots among the ferns and ivy – and I can’t help stopping to take more photographs.
The perfect reflection across the loch is disturbed by a series of ripples in the water below me. At first I can’t see the source of the ripples. Maybe it’s a diving bird? I stop to watch if it will resurface.
Oh, it’s a seal. No, wait a moment. The body is too sleek and lithe for a seal. It’s a sea otter! Quickly I swing my camera up and manage a quick shot, before the otter dives again.
I hang around for a while, waiting for it to resurface. How long can otters hold their breath? Sadly, I don’t have much patience and after what seems like ages (in reality, about two minutes) I move on.
There’s Strontian across the water. And the larger white building is the hotel where I’m staying.
A few hundred yards further along the road, and I notice a wake in the water. It’s the sea otter, again. Swimming close to the shore.
He (or she) seems to be following me down the road. In reality, I think we’re simple keeping pace with each other, as he/she swims along the loch, coming up for the occasional breath of air.
I try to take more photographs of the otter, but only end up capturing a series of ripples.
As I near the end of the loch, I lose sight of the otter. I guess the little creature has turned round and is heading home.
I cross over another stream. Allt na Cloiche.
Look at the large mountain at the end of the loch. I check my OS map, but I’m near the top of the sheet, and the mountain is off the page.
[Later, I check the OS map online, and I think the mountain might be Sgurr Dhomhnuill. At 888 metres, it’s the highest among a series of high peaks.]
It’s half twelve, and time for lunch. The soft moss on the bank looks inviting, but I remember my wet bottom yesterday, and the sponge-like effect of Scottish vegetation. So, I find a rock instead.
British apples are the best in the world, and my favourite healthy lunch-time snack. I eat one first, before moving on to the chocolate bars!
While I’m eating, a jogger runs past along the road. He looks hot, despite the cool air, and I’m glad I’m not pounding along the tarmac.
After lunch, I carry on down the road, which swings around the top of the loch and then crosses the valley, over a stretch of marshland, via a raised causeway.
I turn round to look at the road sign as I pass it, and see the familiar names – Lochaline and Drimnin – and my heart gives a little tug. “Welcome to Morvern,” the sign says. That means I’m now actually leaving Morvern.
It’s taken me a long time to get round the peninsula. At times, I’ve been intensely frustrated by the lack of buses, the scarcity of roads, and the absence of defined footpaths. But it’s been a wonderful place, with fantastic scenery, and I’m sad to leave.
At the end of the causeway is the bridge across the Carnock River, and here I join the main road from Corran- the A861 – and head towards Strontian. This road is much busier, but it has two lanes, and a wide grass verge, and actually feels safer than the narrower road I’ve just left.
Heading west, and with the afternoon sun bright in my eyes, photography is difficult. There are some sailing boats moored off the shore, the first I’ve seen all day, but none actually in use.
I’m overtaken by a cyclist who is casually pedalling with one hand in the pocket of his jeans. My cycle rides never seem so easy. And here is the jogger again, running back. Wonder where he’s been?
Perhaps I should have taken up running instead of walking? I would make such faster progress round the coast. But then I remember how much I hate running, and how much I love my meandering walking treks.
The road narrows to single carriageway, and a sign reminds me that strontium, the metal element, is named after Strontian, the village, because it was first discovered near here.
Dimly, I seem to remember having fun with strontium in chemistry class. Didn’t it burst into flames, or something, as soon as you took it out of its container?
I cross a cattle grid. There’s a little jetty nearby, and on a slipway a group of young people are getting into kayaks. They seem a bit reluctant.
In a little paddock I see the tiniest horse I’ve ever seen. Lower than my waist. How sweet. He comes towards me hoping, maybe, I’ve got a treat for him. Sorry, I’ve already eaten my one and only apple.
The road curves around a rocky outcrop. Fixed to the walls are a trio of poppy wreaths. Why here?
I look up and see there is a memorial perched high on the rock above. After I round the corner, I turn back to take a photograph. A striking place to place a monument.
I’m approaching the village of Strontian now. A sign warns me there is no footway for 1/2 mile. Why warn us now? There’s been no footway for miles and miles and miles!
On a bend in the road is the village shop.
It is one of those Scottish ‘sell everything’ shops, and a delicious coffee smell hangs in the air. Oh, I could murder a good cup of coffee.
The shop also provides a self-service petrol pump – one of the few in the area. It must be one of the most scenic fuel stops in Britain.
Just beyond the shop is my hotel. It’s only been a short walk today, because I thought I might need to recover from my mammoth 18 mile trek yesterday. In fact, I’m feeling fit and could walk further… but it will be nice just to sit here and enjoy the sun.
Before I can relax, I must go back and pick up the Monster bike.
I’m not looking forward to the drive, but make it down the narrow, twisty road without once meeting a car and having to stop and reverse – whew – and find the bike waiting exactly where I left it.
All my affectionate feelings for the bike soon vanish.The thing is, as usual, difficult to fold up and covers me in oil. It’s also extremely heavy to heave into the car boot.
I really, really, must get a better bike.
Before I set off back to Strontian, I take a photo of the twisty road. It’s beautifully lit by the afternoon sun, and such a joy to drive along… as long as you don’t meet anything coming the other way.
On my return, I visit the village shop and buy a takeaway cup of coffee. Then I sit in the sun outside the hotel, overlooking the water, and chat to an old boy who lives locally. It’s warm in the sun, and we both agree Loch Sunart is truly beautiful.
High point = spotting the sea otter
Here is more information about the metal, strontium. It does burn in air!
Miles walked today = 6.5 miles
Miles cycled today = 6.5 miles too
Total distance around coast = 4,048 miles