401am Glenuig to Roshven

I’m back in Glenuig, where I plan to leave my car near the bus stop. The shop and museum are both still closed this morning.

And the Glenuig Inn is closed too. This really is a sleepy place! Well, at least it’s not raining today.

I set off along the A 861, towards Lochailort. There’s a woman walking towards me along the road (she is in the red jacket in the photo below.)

A post office van comes past and toots at her. Rude, I think, until I realise she’s walking erratically. Staggering. ‘Excuse me,’ she calls in a midlands accent, and crosses over to my side of the road. ‘Is there a shop round here?’

I explain the village shop is a community shop and is closed at the moment. It might open this afternoon, but the sign on the door suggests that will only happen if there is a volunteer available to fill the shift. While I’m explaining all this, her eyes glaze over. ‘I’m thirsty. I’ve been walking all night.’

I offer her my spare water, and urge her to finish the bottle. Where has she come from? Skye, she tells me. She got the ferry to Mallaig yesterday. She’s planning to walk to Kilchoan and catch the ferry back to Skye. Do I know how far it is to Kilchoan?

Kilhoan? I think for a moment. The village at the far end of the Ardnamurchan Peninsula? It does have a ferry, but I’m not sure if it goes to Skye. Anyway, it’s miles away. She’ll never get there today. I suggest she could walk to Acharacle and catch a bus. Her phone is out of charge, so I check the bus times on my phone. Lucky to have a signal.

For a long-distance walker, she seems very vague about destinations and timings. She’s wearing good quality shoes, but is only carrying a duffle bag which is draped across her body.

She decides to go to the pub. It offers rooms for the night too, she tells me, and she might stay there. I gently explain the pub is closed at midday and all the rooms are likely to be full (I know this because I had no luck when I tried to book a room there for myself).

Unable to believe the pub is closed, she decides to set off towards it. I offer her a lift in my car – it’s only a couple hundred yards, but she looks exhausted.

The Glenuig Inn is, of course, firmly shut. She slumps down on a picnic bench outside and tells me she’ll be fine. She can’t walk any further and she’ll just wait for them to open. I have a brief wrestle with my conscience. I could give her a lift to Kilchoan, but I would have to waste a day of walking. And, if I got her to Kilchoan, what would I do with her then? I’m pretty sure there is no ferry back to Skye from there.

At least she is stopping at the pub and will be safe here. The landlord will have to look after her.

Feeling guilty, I drive the car back to the parking area by the shop, but then decide I can’t leave her thirsty and hungry. So I go back to the pub to give her an apple and some of my snacks, and a bottle of lemonade . She’s still sitting at the picnic table, asleep with her head in her hands. I wake her up, leave her the food and lemonade, wish her good luck, and set off again.

When I look back across Glenuig Bay, she has disappeared from the picnic table. I worry about her for the rest of the day.

 

Glenuig Bay is much prettier this morning. The tide is in, and although there are plenty of clouds in the sky, the air is clear and the view across the loch is lovely. Fishermen are setting out to board one of their boats.

On a nearby jetty, a man is clearing seaweed from the slipway. He doesn’t have a brush, but is just kicking the weed into the water. The process seems to take a long time and looks rather risky.

Onwards along the road. The view is wonderful. Look, there’s an island – Rum, I think – with Skye behind it. I try not to think of the woman I’ve left behind at the pub.

I pass a couple of static homes, crouching in the bracken just off the road. These tin huts are such a common site around the Scottish coast. I can’t work out if they are rented by holiday makers, or owned as a second home. Maybe a mixture of the two.

There’s some rather good graffiti painted on a rock. I’m sure I’ve seen that screaming face before though… yes, was it in Anglesey? Or Arran? Can’t remember.

The road runs close to the shore at this point. Look at those low-hanging clouds. I really hope it doesn’t rain today.

Now, twisting away from the coast, and rising up, the road passes through a cutting in the rock. Very dramatic.

Back by the shore, I’m walking eastwards, have left the open sea behind, and have lost sight of Skye and the other islands. This stretch of water is Loch Ailort, and I’m following it to it’s head, to a place called – very logically – Lochailort.

I pass a collection of static caravans. It’s a nice place to stay in, I suppose, among the trees and at the foot of the hills.

There are a few caravans on the other side of the road too, near the water, although these are proper caravans, not statics.

The shore below the road is indented and rocky. The high hills across the other side of the loch must be… I check my map… a place called Ardnish. Empty countryside with no roads and just one single track giving access to the far shore.

Onwards. The road bends around between outcrops of rocks, while the clouds hang ominously over the higher ground above. Here’s a couple of cyclists coming up the road towards me, and making good progress against the gradient. (I would be walking and pushing the Monster at this point!)

What is this? A sheep jumping on a rock? I turn back to have another look. Oh… it’s a statue, marking a driveway to some house or cottage. There’s a bicycle propped up beside it too, with the name of the property attached to the front basket.  ‘Where do you live?’ ‘The house with the sheep outside. You can’t miss it.’

A sign warns me about deer on the road, but I haven’t seen any deer today. I cross over a river – the An Garbh Allt.  How do you pronounce that? These Gaelic names seem to rattle uncomfortably at the back of my throat.

Oh, what a pretty waterfall. So many of these roadside falls in Scotland, you almost take them for granted.

There are houses perched on the slopes above the road, including new buildings. I must be approaching Roshven.

Yes, there are houses on my left too, and here’s a sign for Roshven. I know the bus stops here, so I’m expecting a proper little village, and I’m looking forward to the chance to get off the main road and walk through the village street.

From the high ground there’s a great view over Loch Ailort and a pretty little island. Take another glance at my map. That’s Eileen nam Bairneach.

A little lane leads off to the left, and I head down through the trees. I walk past a few turnings, and have to step into the ditch to avoid being run over by a little red post office van. (I wonder if it’s the same van that nearly ran over that woman earlier?)

I reach the shore, where there’s a green space, a marque, and an avenue of trees running towards what looks like a grand house.

Uh, oh. This looks like a private drive. Yes, there’s the ‘Private’ sign.

According to my map, this avenue should link up with other tracks, and I should be able to walk right through the village of Roshven. I hesitate. Perhaps I should just be bold and march up the driveway and find a way through.

But I spot someone gardening nearby, and a woman is leading her dog down one of the garden paths…

I turn back, walk back up the slope, and rejoin the road. How disappointing. Never mind. I’ll take the next turning off to the left.

But there is no road off to the left, only a series of private driveways and a lot of fencing.

When I see a sign for Roshven Farm, I realise I’ve nearly reached the end of the ‘village’. Not a village at all, really, just a collection of scattered houses in the grounds of a private estate. How disappointing.

A bevy of cyclists whizz pas me. Yes, it’s easy going downhill. They must be a touring group, because they’re carrying laden saddle packs.

Opposite Roshven Farm is a rather odd, box-like building. At first I think it might be a substantial bus stop, but the sign explains its the Roshven Hydroelectric Scheme.

Nearby is a track leading up the slope to my right, with another sign explaining access rights to the Moidart Hills. I’d like to be heading up there into the hills – I’m rather sick of tarmac – but I need to keep on track for Lochailort, where later this afternoon I must catch the one-and-only bus back to my car.

I reach Roshven Burial Ground. I was hoping I might find a bench here and somewhere to sit to eat my lunch. The burial ground is marked on my map, but I wasn’t expecting to see a sign staying it’s a ‘Private’ burial ground.

Roshven really is a very unfriendly place.

Onwards, along the road, which now runs close to the shore. I pass a cottage which seems to be a holiday let, and then I spot a jetty below me. Good, somewhere to sit and eat my lunch. After fighting my way through a fence, I climb down the little slope to the shore.

What a peaceful place and what a great view.

I realise I haven’t got much water because I gave my spare bottle away earlier. Oh, dear, I must try not to worry about that confused woman walker. Time to enjoy my lunch.


Route so far today:


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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11 Responses to 401am Glenuig to Roshven

  1. James says:

    Your walk has made me realise what a complicated venture it is around the Scottish highlands. Well done It makes me wonder whether all the round the Britain walkers do the same route Regards James

    • Hi James. I think every walker tackles it in a slightly different way. Quintin Lake, for example, seems to have hiked over rough country to stay close to the shore, and he wild camps too, but he doesn’t publish his route so it’s hard to follow in his footsteps. Helen Krasner, one of the first women to walk around the coast, skipped part of the west coast of mainland Scotland and went up through Skye instead. I’ve learnt there is no right or wrong way of doing it 😀

    • Chris Elliott says:

      Hi James – I completed my walk around Britain earlier this month. From Glenuig I just followed the road all the way up to Lochailot. i then continued to follow the road all the way until approaching Arisaig when I left the road to go through a private Estate. I think a lot of coastal walkers use David Cotton’s excellent blog as a starting point and then work at improving on it. He did the coast in 2002 / 2003 and much has changed since then. If you need any help on routes in Scotland maybe ask Ruth for my email address as I would gladly help. I walked this stretch in 2017.

  2. owdjockey says:

    Hi Ruth, hmm yes very strange and worrying at the same time. Yes the Kilchoan ferry only goes to Tobermory on Mull.
    My advice would have been for her to retrace her steps the 7 to 8 miles back down the road to Inverailort just on the A830, where the railway station is and catch a train back to Mallaig. If she was that fatigued I would have probably felt obliged to give her a lift. Hopefully she was ok.

    • If I had managed to get any sense out of her, I would have driven her to where she needed to go. But I couldn’t believe Kilchoan was her real destination, or that she really intended to go back to Skye, and was worried about being stuck with her forever! Now I’ve travelled further up the coast, I wonder if she got confused with the Kilchoan estate on Knoydart. If she’d walked through Knoydart, and up the coast to Glenelg, she could have caught a ferry back over to Skye from there. (Of course, I didn’t know this at the time I met her.)

  3. Robin Massey says:

    Hi Ruth, thanks again for the time and energy you put into the photos and and text – let alone the walking itself! Good of you to look after that confused woman – I’m confident the pub/community would take on the next step of helping her.
    It is a bit of a let down to not find shops etc. open – just when some little indulgence wouldn’t go astray!

    • Hi Robin. Yes, I’m sure the people at the pub would have helped her. She seemed so vague when I met her, but maybe with some rest, food and rehydration she would have been able to talk about her plans in a more sensible manner.

  4. bowkersblog says:

    i’m quite certain the Glenuig pub landlord would NOT have helped her: he doesn’t do social pleasantries, which is the reason it was shut. Roshven is in fact an extremely friendly place; and a decent map would take you from Glenuig to Lochailort by the old post track, avoiding us. Life in the Highlands is different to England; the Scottish Freedom to Roam means that ‘private’ signs normally only apply to vehicles – but being an experience walker you’d know that. Wouldn’t you?

    • Poor lady. I wonder what happened to her. I’m sure Roshven is a friendly place when you live there or know people who live there. It just doesn’t seem friendly to walkers who don’t know whether the ‘private’ signs refer to a private house, a private garden, or a track which you can walk freely on. As you can probably guess – I know nothing!

  5. Ken says:

    i’m quite certain the Glenuig pub landlord would NOT have helped her: he doesn’t do social pleasantries, which is the reason it was shut. Roshven is in fact an extremely friendly place; and a decent map would take you from Glenuig to Lochailort by the old post track, avoiding us. Life in the Highlands is different to England; the Scottish Freedom to Roam means that ‘private’ signs normally only apply to vehicles – but being an experienced walker you’d know that. Wouldn’t you?

  6. Karen White says:

    Poor woman but at least you did what you could. Dehydration could have accounted for her confusion.

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