[This walk was completed on the 19th May 2019]
I’ve returned to Scotland after only a week at home, because the weather forecast looked set relatively fair. I start my walk from the point I ended last time – the car park by St Finan’s church.
Sadly, the forecast turns out to be overly optimistic. It’s a dull and drizzly morning and, for the first time on a walk, I’m plagued by midges. They swarm into the car as soon as I open the door, and pester me while I try to find my can of Smidge, which (of course) is buried right at the very bottom of my rucksack.
Have to confess, I’m not in the best of moods. Finding somewhere to stay is difficult in this part of Scotland. In fact, my hotel was the most expensive place I’ve ever booked on my trip around the coast, and I was looking forward to some luxury. But, although my room has a gorgeous view, the room itself is spartan and the hotel is very basic in the amenities it offers. Breakfast was a disappointing, lukewarm buffet. No choice of bread – only white toast. No fresh fruit.
Most of my route today will be along the A861 and I’m not really looking forward to it either. Oh well, come on Ruth. Onwards.
I soon come to a place where there’s a monument and a couple of information boards beside the road. One board explains that here seven beech trees were planted to commemorate Prince Charles’s companions during his abortive attempt to claim the throne. The companions were known as The Seven Men of Moidart.
Apparently the first trees were planted in the 19th century and have since died. Seven replacement saplings did not flourish either (this seems to sum up the whole Bonnie Prince Charley campaign). More recently, the board tells me, new saplings have been planted ‘at right angles’ to the original line of trees.
I stare at the trees growing in the marshy soil below the road. It’s difficult to tell which 7 trees are the commemorative beeches. Maybe they’re the ones growing in a line at right angles to the road? But I can’t count seven of them.
Feeling vaguely dissatisfied with the incompleteness of this arrangement, I continue on down the road. A row of cottages look like holiday homes.
Nearby, a white pigeon sits on the windowsill of a shed, watching my progress. At least the blue shed and the bright kayaks add some colour to the dullness of the scene across Loch Moidart.
Further along, a boat lies on the shingle. Despite the rusty hull, the deck looks well-cared for. Wonder what the purpose of the vessel is? Maybe it’s something to do with fish farms, although I haven’t seen any on Loch Moidart so far.
I walk past the remains of a pier. How sad it looks. The stone slipway is fine, but the wooden section is completely decayed and broken.
The Seven Men of Moidart are mentioned on my OS map, along with the pier. ‘Kinlochmoidart Pier (disused)’. And there’s a cave mentioned too… ah, yes, there it is, set into the steep slope on the other side of the road.
There hasn’t been much traffic along the road so far, but the few cars that pass me have roared along at speed. So I’m pleased to spot a path off to the right. This is shown on my map, and I know it climbs up the slope and runs parallel with the road for a mile or so, before coming down again to rejoin the A861.
It will only be a short detour, but it’s good to be off the tarmac and away from the traffic. I climb the hill, following the narrow path as it winds between the trees.
There’s a good view from up here – or, rather, it would be a good view if the weather was decent. I stop to take a few photographs of Loch Moidart, remembering the Silver Walk along the other side of the water.
Well, this walk is very pretty too. Lots of silver birches, and still some bluebells in the shade of the trees. Although the path seems to enjoy going up and down like a rollercoaster, so it turns out to be much tougher than I imagined it would be.
I come to another high point, where the path seems to pass through a narrow rocky valley. There’s something quite magical about this section. The silver-barked trees have old, twisting trunks, while the rocks drip with ferns and moss. I could imagine fairies meeting here.
Now the path dips down, falling away in a route that becomes steeper and steeper, until I’m slipping and sliding down a chute of shale. Heading down towards the road.
I emerge out of the trees, and onto a bracken-covered platform of land. Below is a steep drop down to the road. Too steep to walk down, too overgrown to climb down easily. This can’t be right?
Push ahead through the bracken, to pick up what seems to be the remnants of the trail – almost completely obscured by dripping foliage – and find a gentler way down to the road.
I join the road at a spot where a poor deer has come to a sticky end. It’s a reminder of how dangerous the road can be to wildlife.
Onwards. Dodging the occasional vehicle. I make rapid progress. Past Kyleswood and Kylesbeg and Kylesmore. (I wonder who was this person called Kyle?).
The road has left the banks of Loch Moidart behind and is turning northwards. With the mist and drizzle, there is little opportunity to take any decent photographs, so I resort to snapping pics of the warning signs along the road. Watch out for falling rocks.
Tumbling rocks must be a real problem. Further along there is a section where a series of cones and wire fencing seem to be holding back the cliff. Really? What protection would the fencing offer if a decent-sized rock came hurtling down?
I begin to climb a hill, huffing and puffing as the road gets steeper. Near the top is a monument. If it wasn’t so muddy, I’d have climbed up to have a better look. It’s not marked on my map, but I would imagine it’s a war memorial.
Near the top of the hill, a couple of cyclists overtake me. They’ve done well to stay on their bikes during the steep climb.
I remember I’m going to have to cycle back to my car, and begin to dread the return journey. Cycling in the dry is bad enough… but cycling in this weather is just, plain miserable.
Coming down the hill, I spot the beginning of another path off to my right. This follows the river valley, running parallel to and just below the road. It would provide an alternative to the tarmac for another mile or two.
Looks muddy. And the valley would be even muddier. I hesitate, pulling my winter coat around me and thinking of the options. No, I’ll stick to the road. (a) it runs closer to the coast anyway and (b) it’s not muddy.
Onwards. Going gently downhill now. Through the drizzle, I can see water ahead. That’s not Loch Moidart, which is behind me now. I’m too wet and miserable to check my map, but I know Arisaig is over in that direction. Good. I seem to be making progress.
I pass a sign that says ‘Glenuig’ and go past a few houses perched above me on the slopes to my left. Round a bend, and I spot some buildings below. ‘No footway’ says a warning sign. There’s been no footway for miles and miles. Why mention it now?
I reach the centre of Glenuig, if you can call it a centre. Like many of these Scottish villages, it’s really just a collection of scattered houses along a road. I was heartened to see a village shop but, sadly, it turns out to be a community-run shop with erratic opening hours and is closed. The blue building next to it is a museum, and is also closed.
Next to the museum is a pretty looking bus stop. It is decorated in the same colour scheme as the shop, so I guess the ‘community’ has supplied the paint. It even has hanging baskets.
A minor road branches off to the left, to a place called Smirisary. I have left my bike along this road, and it’s time to go and collect it.
But first I’m going to stop for a drink and a meal at the pub. Glenuig Inn. Looks lovely, glowing like a beacon of comfort, offering warmth and dryness. I’m already planning my lunch… a cheering lasagna (I hope it’s on the menu) and a nice glass of cider.
There’s a fantastic collection of Austin Healeys lined up in a neat row outside the pub. How lovely. Shame about the weather – they’ve got their hoods up and their rain-covers on.
Pleased to be out of the rain, I perch on a bar stool, and try to order. But the place is CLOSED. Apparently the pub only opens in the evening now. It’s only open this lunchtime for the Austin Healey rally – a private function. They won’t even serve me a cider!
I feel like crying.
The bar lady obviously feels sorry for me, as I stand there dripping and miserable, and offers to refill my water bottles. I don’t need WATER! I’m surrounded by the stuff.
Outside I go, into the drizzle. Glenuig might be a pretty place on a sunny day. Today, it just looks dismal.
A shut shop, a shut museum, and now a shut pub. This day just gets worse and worse.
I march onwards towards Smirisary. But decide not to go to the end of the road. I was planning to walk further, but I’m just too tired, too miserable, and too wet.
At least nobody has stolen my monster of a bike. It’s cunningly hidden behind that tree.
Miles walked today = 5.5 miles
Total around Britain = 4,164.5 miles