389 pm Glenmore to Kilchoan

[This walk was completed on the 12th April 2019]

I spot a group of people walking up the hill above me, and I decide to leave the road and take the path. Those other people must be seasoned walkers and they must know the way. All I have to do is follow them.

It’s a steep climb and I stop, several times, to have a rest admire the view. If I had stayed on the road, I would have walked along the western shore of Loch Mudle. From up here, I get a good view right across the Ardnamurchan Peninsula, over Loch Mudle, and to the sea beyond.

After climbing higher, I check my Garmin, and realise I’m not on the right track. The path on the ground is taking me southwards and up towards the peak of Ben Hiant, but the path on the map runs in a westerly direction over lower slopes.

I backtrack and stumble across a trackless area, hoping to pick up the lower route. But there is no sign of a path, and all I can do is use my Garmin to navigate.

Oh, I can see an indentation running along the slope of the hill. Is that the path?

Yes it is. I think. Where have the other walkers gone?

I look back and see a group of people making their way along the high ridge above me. Two adults and a couple of children. Children? And I thought I was following ‘seasoned walkers’! They haven’t had time to get to the peak of Ben Hiant, so they must have turned back.

I continue along what has become a definite path and soon lose sight of the other walkers. The ground is irregular, full of hummocks of raised land. There’s Ben Hiant, off to my left.

Ahead I can see the edge of a pine forest. I check my map. Yes, I’m heading for the gap between that hill and the forest. The hill is not as high as Ben Hiant, but has an impressive Gaelic name – Beinn na h-Urchrach.

As I get closer to the forest, I startle some deer. Manage to catch a blurry shot as they streak away.

There is no sign of human habitation in sight. The morning sunshine has gone, and there’s a cool breeze blowing. My path disappears again, the ground becomes boggy, and there are a couple of streams to wade across. I wish I had my walking pole with me.

I’m climbing a gentle slope, keeping the forest on my right. Despite the emptiness of the landscape, I’m trying to stay confident. With my Garmin and my map, surely it is almost impossible to get lost?

Close to the forest fence, I spot some bones. The remains of a deer. Why did it die? The nearby fence gives a possible clue. The wire rises higher in this area, for some reason, and the upper strands are bent and twisted.

I think the poor thing tried to leap over this section, caught a leg in the fence and fell. Maybe it broke a limb and died in pain, or – worse still – maybe it was caught, dangling, until it died of shock? How horrible. Doesn’t bear thinking about.

Feel a rush of anger about fences in general. I guess this barrier is there to protect the forest from the deer, but the fence hasn’t been maintained properly. The wires have rusted and some are missing. It doesn’t serve any useful purpose now, apart from acting as a cruel trap for wildlife.

Onwards, and I come to a smaller fence and a gate. Check my map. Yes, the path goes through this gate, but…

The gate has come adrift from its supporting fence posts. It hasn’t fallen over because it is firmly wedged into the ground, which means I can’t open it. I try to climb over, put one tentative foot on a rusty bar – but the gate offers no support and wobbles alarmingly. Oh dear.

While I’m wondering what to do, I sit down and have a quick drink and a snack. And take a self portrait.

In the end, I realise I can’t climb over the gate, and I must climb over the wire fence instead. It has, unfortunately, a strand of barbed wire running along the top. Why? Hate barbed wire – so unnecessary.

I manage to clamber over with only a few snags in my trousers.

Reach the brow of the slope, and am rewarded by a view down to Kilchoan. Still looks so far away.

Now I make rapid progress down the hill. The ground is irregular, but fairly dry underfoot. I’m feeling cheerful because the most daunting part of the walk is behind me…

… Or, maybe, not! Here’s another fence. A great barrier that stretches as far as I can see. Oh dear.

This one is high (to keep deer out or in?) and the supporting poles are… well, not exactly supporting. They’re loose and splintered, and offer no support when I try to climb over. I walk up and down, looking for a section where I can get a firmer toe-hold in the fence, but can’t find anywhere safe enough to trust my weight.

I look to the right, but the fence continues unbroken over the brow of a hill. I look to the left, and spot a distant gate. Oh, good! So I follow the fence down the hill, wading across a stream, to reach the gate…

…only to discover it’s another wobbly gate. Almost as bad as the first one! I manage to haul myself over, while the whole thing shakes and shudders beneath me.

On the other side, I check my Garmin and realise I’ve strayed too far to the south. I head back towards where the path should be running, scattering sheep as I go, and discover there’s another gate I could have used – one that opens and shuts properly.

If only I’d turned right instead of left when I came to that stupid fence!

Now, I can see a vague track in the grass, and I follow it down the hill. There’s Kilchoan ahead. Getting nearer.

I pass the remains of a ruined building. It’s only just gone midday, but I had a very early start this morning. Time to stop and eat some of my lunch. I’ll save the rest until I reach the sea.

At the bottom of the field, I join a farmer’s track, pass through several more gates, and walk alongside another high fence.

I’m feeling relaxed now. This track meanders around, but it should take me back to the main road and then it’s only another couple of miles to Kilchoan.

Cross over the Allt Choire Mhuilinn, where the river tumbles under the bridge in a series of small waterfalls. Love these pretty Scottish rivers.

Past a stack of plastic-sheathed bales. Silage, I think. Despite the terrible state of the fences, this farm really does have a neat pile here.

And then, hello tarmac, I’m back on the main road to Kilchoan.

I make rapid progress, despite having to step aside for the occasional passing car. Traffic has picked up since I drove through the sunrise this morning, although you still can’t exactly call it a busy road!

The landscape around me is open grassland and gorse. Oh, look, a post office van. I really love spotting these cheerful little vehicles.

To my right, the hills have pockmarked surfaces, and I pass stacks of logs waiting to be collected. Try to imagine these bare hills covered in trees.

There is always a section of a day’s walk that seems unduly long, and this road does seem to go on for ever. I’m getting fed up with watching out for cars, some of which speed past me with little regard for my safety.

Ah, finally, I’m approaching Kilchoan.

Actually, the sign is a little premature. It’s another mile or so before I reach the turning off to the ferry port, and the main part of the village is still ahead.

Although it’s a dead-end road, I’ve already decided to walk down to the ferry. It seems a good place to end today’s walk. And I plan to sit and eat the rest of my lunch there.

The road to the ferry takes me past a neat little building. The sign tells me it’s a college. A college? The smallest college I’ve ever seen.

Further along there are a group of newish houses. This would be a nice walk, if it wasn’t for a gale that’s started up and is blowing in my face, making every step hard going. Oh, and everything smells of manure, for some reason.

The road reaches the shore and curves around, passing a coastguard station. It’s great to be by the water again. But why does everything stink?

Ah, there is the cause of the smell. Poor old cows. Not much grass to be seen, you’re practically on the beach. No wonder you stick close to your food trough.

But, despite the stink, this view is lovely. Fingers of rock stretch out into a sea of green and indigo, while waves splash white against dark stone. And there’s even a castle across the bay.

The road ends at the ferry port, where a couple of vehicles are waiting for the next crossing to Tobermory.

The port turns out to be a big disappointment. No benches to sit on (don’t they cater for foot passengers?) When I head towards what looks like a bus shelter, it turns out to be a fuel store.

The wind is chilly and it’s too cold to hang around. Back up the road I go, blown along by the gale, to where my car is parked in a layby.

I drive back to the amazing viewpoint overlooking Camas nan Geall and Ben Hiant. Here, to my surprise, there is a decent phone signal, and I catch up with family messages, listen to the car radio, and eat the rest of my lunch.

High point: walking the ‘short cut’ over the lower slopes of Ben Hiant.
Low points: wobbly fences, and the disappointingly walker-unfriendly ferry port.

Miles walked today = 11 miles
Total around coast = 4,081 miles

Route: first part in black, second part in red

About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
This entry was posted in 22 Highlands and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to 389 pm Glenmore to Kilchoan

  1. Pam Ley says:

    The section across the top with those high barriers, would have had me a bit concerned, even with a Garmin. You’re sounding confident and positive Ruth, well done!

  2. Russell White says:

    Hi again Ruth – what stunning views – off Piste as it were, and the photography is stunning.
    Can I ask what Garmin are you using, I’ve been toying with buying one but would like a viewpoint from somebody who is using it for the “real outdoors”.
    Keep on keeping on –

    • Hi Russell. I have the Oregon 600, which is great for walking. It comes with a scrolling touch screen. I still like my paper maps for route planning, but with the Garmin I always know where I actually am. You can now buy 700 and 800 models which have additional features such as wireless connectivity. And you can buy versions with a built in camera, but I don’t know how good the camera is. The biggest expense, after buying the Garmin, is buying the map cards. The preloaded maps in mine are pretty useless, but I have OS maps 1:50,000 (Landranger series) covering the whole of mainland Britain, which came on a map card as part of a special deal when I bought my Garmin.

  3. jude says:

    Hello Ruth – always look forward to your posts, You inspired my own less grand adventure to walk along the South Coast. Keep going.

  4. I, too, find it very important when hill walking to “admire the view” frequently(!) It’s lucky the views tend to be so good.

    It’s impressive how much more confidence you have now, in contrast to some of your earlier posts. I’m not sure I’d be as brave out in the wilds of Scotland with not many signs of people around! Although since I’ve been doing longer walks, I’m more confident using map/compass/GPS and don’t worry about getting lost. A part of me thinks this confidence might be ill-placed, but so far…

    • Yes. Admiring the view is a very important part of any walking experience 😄 As long as I can see some landmarks, and have my Garmin, I’m reasonably confident about navigating. What really worries me is the unpredictability of the terrain, and coming across horrible fences!

  5. Jacquie says:

    I also admire your confidence. I’ve just got Viewranger on my phone and I know it’s good but find still it hard to trust to it completely.
    Those deer fences do rather contradict the freedom to roam ethos in Scotland.

    • Jacquie, I guess you download the maps to Viewranger in advance? Mobile reception is very patchy in this part of Scotland, so I can’t use online maps. Also, I find my battery runs down so quickly, I’m nervous about relying on my iPhone. I gather other brands of smartphone have longer battery lives.

  6. Russell White says:

    Hi Ruth
    Thanks for that Garmin feedback, it’s very kind of you to take the time and go into that detail. So far on most of the SWCP I’ve only taken a map and compass, but there’s a techy Gnome tapping me on the shoulder to go electronic, we’ll see what happens. I’m doing St Ives to Lands End next, and as that’s quite sparse I’ll maybe give it a go then – Cheers

  7. Chris Elliott says:

    Hi Ruth – well done indeed. When I did this section I regret that I followed the road as I had been put off by David Cotton’s blog and experience of the deer fences. Obviously I should have persevered as you did. The only plus for me was I saw my first sea eagle when doing the road. Damn – I wish I had gone your way!!! C’est la vie….

  8. owdjockey says:

    Hi Ruth, the primary purpose of deer fences are to keep deer on the Estate, they can have other purposes such as protecting forestry plantations, residential properties etc…
    Ben Hiant is quite a low lying hill and does not require a great deal of effort to climb, particularly if you had already followed the road to its highest point. A fantastic viewpoint for the whole of Ardnamurchan Peninsula. I spent two nights at the Camas nan Geall viewpoint sleeping in the back of the car. This was in October, 2017 and I awoke about 02:00 and looked outside and saw the best ever Milky Way…amazing

    • I’ve decided I’m not a fan of deer fences.

      I loved that viewpoint too, Alan. I’d decided it was too cold to bring my camper van on this trip, but if I had travelled with the van, I would certainly have parked it overnight at Camas nan Geall.

  9. Karen White says:

    I would have gone flat on my face trying to get over those fences! I am very envious of owdjockey seeing the Milky Way, the sky near me has too much light pollution for proper star gazing. Though I do enjoy watching the ISS fly pasts it’s not quite the same. 😀

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