396am Arivegaig (Kentra Bay) to Ardtoe

[This walk was completed on the 8th May 2019]

I drive back to Arivegaig, on the edge of Kentra Bay, and park at the end of the public road. It’s a beautiful day, and I’m the only person here.

I walk up the road. Someone is gardening outside a nearby house, and I’m watched by her lively dog. Think he wants to join me on my walk.

A metal machine – a quad bike, I think – is perched on a large rock overlooking the road. There is no advertising sign attached and it doesn’t seem to serve any useful purpose, so a bit of a mystery as to what it’s doing here.

I remember the abandoned motor scooter I saw yesterday, and wonder if it will meet a similar fate.

The road I’m following continues straight across a low-lying basin of land. This is Kentra Moss.

My route bypasses Arivegaig, a surprisingly large collection of rather nice houses, mostly situated along a lane off to my left.

Near the end of Kentra Moss, I see a man digging with a spade. At first I think he is creating a drainage ditch, but then I realise he is digging up neat slabs of peat. A quad bike with a blue container is parked nearby.

I wonder if he has special commoner-rights to cut peat here. It seems a back-breaking way to collect fuel.

The road begins to rise – a very gentle slope – out of the flatness of the Moss.

Ahead is the junction with the B8044. I could turn right at this point, and head towards Acharacle (a choice well within my rules) and then walk straight up the road to cross over the Shiel River at Shiel Bridge…

… but I’ve decided to turn left instead, and walk down the dead-end road to Ardtoe. Why? Because it’s the last finger of this lovely area, the last piece of Ardnamurchan, before I leave the peninsula behind for good.

The B8044 road, I have to confess, doesn’t look very inviting. It runs in a lazy curve across the edge of Kentra Moss, single track, and with enough traffic to be irritating.

Ahead is another settlement, Kentra. It seems prosperous, with widely spaced houses and well maintained gardens, and the usual ‘improvement’ work going on.

A noisy machine suggests roadworks ahead, but it turns out to be a machine for shredding logs. Oh dear, they are cutting down a row of trees.

Sheep graze on the lawn of one of the bungalows. Are they allowed there? And I’m struck by the fact the sheep are almost all black, while the lambs show a mix of black or white fleeces.

It’s rare to see black sheep. I guess they must be a special Scottish breed. Maybe Hebridean? But, if so, why the white lambs? Maybe a cross breed?

A post office van pulls up. I’ve said it many times before, but I do love seeing these cheerful red vans, especially when walking in remote areas with scattered populations. They’re a symbol of our interconnection as a nation. A link that binds us all together.

Onwards. I leave the houses of Kentra behind, and now the road is running closer to the water. I’m approaching the northernmost end of Kentra Bay.

The land on either side is mainly flat and boggy, apart from the occasional raised hummock of rocks. One particular rocky prominence catches my eye, because it appears to have a signpost on top.

Of course, I can’t resist, and must climb the hillock to find out what the signpost says.

I scramble to the top, and discover that whatever notices the wooden posts once displayed, they’re no longer there. Anyway, the views over Kentra Bay are great. It looks so much better in sunshine, and with its muddy floor covered by the blue water of a high tide.

I look at the wooded sloped across on the western bank, and remember how I fought my way along that overgrown track in the drizzle yesterday. It all seemed so difficult. What a difference the sun makes!

Kentra Bay is almost entirely enclosed by land, with only a narrow exit at it’s northern end. I look ahead. That’s my next destination, a small hamlet called… I check my map… Gobshealach.

Gobshealach? What an awful name? Sounds like a rude word, something you would call someone you didn’t like. “You gobshealach!”

I climb down off the raised knoll, and say hello to a couple of black sheep. Yes, you definitely look like Hebridean sheep. But what happened to your lamb?

I reach a junction where a minor road turns off to somewhere called Newton, and there, in the middle of nowhere, is a red telephone box.

It looks derelict, with many of its glass panes shattered. I open the door and lift the receiver… oh, yes, it still works. What a surprise!

Gobshealach consists of a tiny group of houses, and the obligatory static home. There are so many of these scattered around the Scottish coastline. What purpose do they serve? Holiday homes? Cheap cottages for estate workers? This one looks quite new and neat.

The road climbs, and I’m pleased to be leaving the flat Moss behind. (I know these old bog lands are supposed to be wonderful special places, teeming with interesting flora and fauna, but I find them dead boring and definitely not my favourite landscape).

At the top of the hill, I leave the road and climb up onto some rocks to get a better view of the water below me. This is the narrow exit channel, where Kentra Bay flows out and into the sea.

The road winds through trees – a rich mix of oaks and birches – up and down and round. I relax and really enjoy this section.

A great rumbling noise behind me, and I step off the road to make way for a dustbin lorry. It’s a huge beast on such a narrow road.

Down to the shore again, and the road curves past a jetty, where a collection of small boats are moored.

Up a hill and through a cutting in the rocks – whether this is a natural pass or a man made one, I can’t tell.

To my right, the bank is an ugly mass of dried mud, devoid of vegetation. What happened? Maybe there was a landslide and maybe debris from the road was dumped here?

But nature is fighting back. Shoots of bracken have begun to reclaim the mud. Their green stems look deceptively thin, but have knifed through the dried surface – stretching tall and uncurling brilliant green fronds at their tips.

Further along and I see a building with a board outside suggesting ice cream for sale. My heart lifts. A café!

No such luck. What a disappointment. It’s only a private house with a property-owner who likes displaying signs.

Sadly, I fail to appreciate the humour. There’s no ice cream for sale here, then? Certainly there’s no railway station anywhere near here, no beachfront car park, and no monster midge either.

I walk on, past a few more scattered properties. This one has a lovely sloping garden, with a lilypond, and grass blue-drifted with bluebells.

A little further, I come across a large painted stone beside the road. AH! There really is a Monster Midge, after all!

It’s too early for midges at the moment, but I’ve generally had very little trouble with the pesky things. During the midge season I cover myself in Smidge  and it really does seems to work. I’ve had very few bites.

The road skirts around an area of high ground, Torr Luinngeanach, and then curves down towards the shore. That’s Ardtoe ahead.

I can’t get over how white the sands are in this part of Scotland, and the water is very clear too. What a perfect little beach.

Ardtoe consists of an odd mix of pretty cottages, tin huts, old boats, and static caravans. I continue along the road until it comes to a dead end at a fish farm.

Luckily, the fish tanks are situated within an inland pool rather than in the sea. This means the beach at the end of the road is unspoilt.

The pretty cove is dotted with rocky outcrops surrounded by calm water. Apart from some fishing boats pulled up at one end, the expanse of sand is empty. Beautiful.

I climb onto some rocks. It’s time for an early lunch break, and I just sit and admire this  wonderful view across the little bay.

It’s quite a noisy place, unfortunately, filled with droning noises from machinery on the fish farm.

Later, I clamber round into the next cove, and take a self-portrait.

Then it’s time to retrace my steps along the road. I’m about to leave Ardnamurchan behind. I’m heading for Shiel Bridge.

[To be continued…]

Route this morning:

About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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9 Responses to 396am Arivegaig (Kentra Bay) to Ardtoe

  1. Russell White says:

    Hi Ruth – it’s great to get another update as I’m stuck indoors in heatwave, and in Hertfordshire (My Cornish trip had to be put on hold because of Stuff ) I am itching to get back to the coast so it’s a real tonic to read the latest update from your travels – You know I’m sure that dog recognised you – he’s probably a Blog Follower too. Good Luck as ever…

    • Hi Russell. It’s terribly hot up here in Manchester too at the moment. Sorry to hear you’ve had to postpone your trip to Cornwall, and hope the Stuff sorts itself out soon.

  2. From previous experience, I suspect some of the static caravans next to houses might be where the family lives in the summer while they rent the house out or run it as a B&B. We’ve stayed in places where we’ve wondered where on earth the hosts slept till we saw the caravan round the back.

    We were staying up near Plockton last week. I kept an eye open for you, but I suspect if this was May you are way past there now.

  3. Chris Elliott says:

    Hi Ruth – I suspect the sheep were Shetland. I asked a farmer about them when I saw them for the first time near the Ardnamurchan lighthouse. They come in all colours black white and brown and combinations thereof. Hence the white lambs. Glad you like the postie vans. I was picked up and given a lift back to my car near Southend near Machrihannish when I was pondering how on earth to get back to my car one day. He was so nice – I think posties are great! Unfortunately they are not all as kind – another postie refused me a lift in the pouring rain when at Kinlochteacuis when I decided I could not face another wet night camping en route to Glencripesdale and I decided to walk back to Lochaline.

    • Hi Chris. Ah, Shetland sheep. That explains all the odd colour combinations. Yes, love spotting post vans. I gather there was once a thriving post-bus transport system in Scotland, but that’s sadly stopped now, presumably for elf and safety reasons.

  4. Eunice says:

    Just catching up with you again Ruth. Gorgeous views on this post – not keen on the monster midge but I do love the little black and white lamb 🙂

  5. Karen White says:

    What a beautiful stretch of coast. Lovely photos of the bays. Those adult sheep are fabulous but you’re right, the lambs don’t looks as if they belong.

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