[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