390am Kilchoan to Portuairk

[This walk was completed on the 13th April 2019]

It’s a beautiful, bright morning. I drive back to Kilchoan and heave my Monster of a bike out of the boot. It’s going to be a long walk today, but my bike will help to shorten the final leg of my journey.

I set off, pushing the bike. Yes, pushing it, because I must WALK this first section and riding the Monster would be cheating!

See one of those circular mirrors at the end of a drive, and can’t resist a cheeky self-portrait.

Kilchoan is really spread out, with houses strung at intervals along 3 or 4 miles of road. I pass a tea shop (closed) and a craft shop (also closed). Then past the war memorial.

Beyond the next bend is the junction for Portuairk, Sanna, and the famous lighthouse at Ardnamurchan Point. I turn up this road.

Past a few houses, a farm, some self-catering cottages, and finally I leave Kilchoan behind.

I prop the Monster bike against a heap of stones at the side of the road. I even lock it up. Must be getting fond of the horrible thing.

At this point, the road forks. The left fork leads to Portuairk, and that’s the way I’m heading. Later, if all goes well, I’ll be returning down the right fork.

At the crossroads is a strange collection of facilities. A fire station, a recycling station, and various portacabins of uncertain function. All a bit scruffy.

Onwards, the road to Portuairk climbs gently. The wind is behind me, and I’m blown along, making rapid progress.

To my right is a cemetery surrounded by a fence and a hedge. What a lonely place for a graveyard. Plenty of room, I notice. Look at all that green space.

Wonder how many people die every year in Kilchoan?

The road continues, curving and rising, and falling again, through a landscape of grass and thorny shrubs. I pass a deep-blue loch, with a surface ruffled by the wind, and surrounded by a fringe of dancing grasses. Lochan na Crannaig. (Love the word ‘lochan’.)

I’m startled when a car toots its horn right behind me, and I jump aside. The driver and his passenger wave at me, looking somewhat apologetic. I smile and wave back. With the wind howling around my ears, I just didn’t hear them coming!

Now I’m walking up a shallow valley, along which the wind sweeps. Luckily it’s behind me and pushing me along. What an empty landscape.

The road swings round a corner. I reach the first building I’ve seen since leaving the crossroads. ‘Sonachan Hotel’ says my map. I was half-hoping to stop here for a cup of tea, but the hotel is no longer functioning as a hotel.

It looks empty and partially derelict, but not completely abandoned. Maybe it’s being converted into residential accommodation?

To my right is an area of allotments, and a shed that hosts the ‘Community Garden Shop’. Maybe there’ll be cakes… I peep inside.

Sadly, only a few wilted greens. Ah, well. Never mind. Onwards.

The road twists and dips. There is woodland on my left, and I pass a signpost for a walking route on my right, but I’m not certain where it leads, and I stick to the tarmac. The road rises again. Ahead is a place callled Achosnich. Sounds like a sneeze!

At Achosnich the road forks again. Portuairk is straight ahead, but the left turn leads to the Ardnamurchan Point lighthouse. I hesitate. Should I go down to the lighthouse, or not? It’s at least a three mile hike (certainly not two miles as the sign says!) After reaching the lighthouse, I would need to turn round and come back.

Six miles of additional walking… hmm. I might be able to continue around to Portuairk by the shore – which would reduce the distance. The map does show a possible track, but it appears to come to a dead end.

I’m tired. The wind is fierce. I stand aside to let a tractor rumble past.

According to my rules, I don’t have to walk down dead-end roads. And I certainly don’t want to walk further than I must. But I don’t want to miss out the lighthouse either, because it’s the most westerly point on mainland Britain and an important waypoint.

I stand aside again, as the tractor returns. The farmer gives me strange looks. I really, must make up my mind.

So, coward that I am, I decide to bypass the lighthouse and continue straight on to Portuairk.

Over the next hill, and there’s the sea ahead. The sea! Not a loch. Real sea! Onwards.

The road begins to dip down to the shore, and at the top of the slope is a ‘visitors car park’. It’s empty, apart from a rusty old drum and a two-wheel trailer.

Nearby, on a bend in the road, is a bench. I sit down and stare at the view. Look at that white sand. The bright blue sea. Those distant mountains are not on my map. What are they?

I spend some time just sitting and looking. Is this the famous Sanna beach? It’s beautiful. And in the bright sunlight, it looks almost tropical. All we need is a few palm trees.

The wind drops as I head down the road. It’s been blowing from the south, and I expected it to be replaced by a sea breeze, but it is surprisingly calm down here. Such a relief to be out of the gale.

Of course I must walk along the sands. So clean, despite the little rivers that empty into the sea.

Sit on a rock and study my map again. That land over there must be one of the Hebridean islands. Rum, maybe, with the mountains. Perhaps with flat little Muck in front of it. I think.

I give up trying to work out the landmarks, and just sit and enjoy the view.

Sitting still has made me realise how chilly the air is. The wind might have gone, the view might be tropical, but I’m glad I’m wearing my winter coat and woolly hat.

This is Sanna Bay, but I haven’t yet reached Sanna Beach. Onwards. There should be path along the shore here somewhere. Where is it?


[To be continued]

Route so far today:


About Ruth Livingstone

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

5 Responses to 390am Kilchoan to Portuairk

  1. Burntweenie says:

    Hi Ruth. Those large mountains out to sea are on Skye – the lighthouse museum keeper (Private Fraser’s long lost brother, and I mean that as a compliment) is very informative. I can’t believe you went to Ardnamurchan and didn’t go to the most Westerly point! I’ve been following you for years on here, but never commented. Fantastic blog and superb effort – keep it up!

    • Hi there, Burntweenie, and thank you. I thought it might be Skye, but wasn’t sure. You’ll be pleased to know that I did return to the lighthouse the next day – of course, I had to go there! Thank you for your kind words about my blog.

  2. Chris Elliott says:

    Thank goodness you went back Ruth. I hope you found the path too that goes to Sanna. Not done lightly to criticise but how could you not go to the most westerly point? It may be a hideous lighthouse to look at but it is just so iconic. Please promise me you won’t miss out on other iconic spots. I know it is not easy being self supported but we are all egging you on so keep it up! The good days far out number the tough ones. All the best.

    • Thanks for the encouragement Chris. I do find Scotland quite a challenge for a timid walker like myself. I’m also feeling more relaxed about bending my own rules and doing things out of order.

  3. Chris Elliott says:

    Ruth – you are not a TIMID walker!!! What you are doing is amazing. We all make up our own rules and rules are made for breaking. However you do it what you have done is incredible. It is a huge commitment which is why so few people have done it. Don’t denigrate your self in any way as you don’t deserve it and its not true!!!

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