[This walk was completed on the 20th May 2019]
At first I think this roadside sign is warning me about cows, then I realise it’s a warning about sheep, and I relax. (Actually, I think the picture looks more like a little Scotty dog!)
The road curves close to, and then meanders away from, the coast. It’s easy walking, traffic is light, and it’s a very pretty route. Wonder what that row of cones is doing here?
Now, back near the shore, in a nearby layby, I come across a number of parked cars. One is surrounded by camping and (I think) kayaking equipment.
I’m getting close to the top of the loch. The tide is low, and the shore is covered in seaweed and rocks. A nearby island looks to be connected to the mainland. Sheltered from the open sea, it would be a fun place to kayak.
There are some tall, dark hills ahead. They’re off my current OS map, but I think they’re part of the high range of hills that lie between here and Loch Morar.
I cross over a little river (Alisary Burn, I think), and reach a place where an old concrete slipway reaches down into the water. Movement catches my eye. A couple of geese are leading their brood of goslings down the slipway. Ahhh.
[Later, I check the RSPB website. Think these are Greylag geese.]
The road continues. A few cars whizz past. And a few cyclists too.
I’m glad I’m catching the bus back to my car, and not having to use the Monster bike today. Look forward to a relaxing journey back to Glenuig. Wonder if that lost woman walker will still be sitting there… oh dear, I’m still worrying about her.
The top of Loch Ailort is really beautiful. The sun plays tag across the hills on the opposite shore, and I love the string of pretty little islands that lie in the middle of the loch. With brown skirts covered in seaweed, contrasting white rocks above, and topped with a green icing of grass and shrubs, they look as if they’re floating on the water.
I check my watch, knowing I mustn’t miss the bus from Lochailort. Oh good, there’s plenty of time, so I can stop and take far too many photographs. What a wonderful way to end this section of the walk.
Round a curve in the shore, through a cutting of rocks, and there’s a fish farm ahead.
It’s a large affair, and seems busy. Usually the farms seem deserted, apart from the odd ship moving about. But, here I see a row of orange-jacketed men are doing something to the netting around each pen.
At the entrance to the farm (it’s another Marine Harvest facility), I stop to take a self portrait in a handy mirror. Goodness, I look fat!
In the first few months of my marital troubles I couldn’t eat or sleep properly, and I lost quite a lot of weight. More recently I’ve been binging on chocolate and cake – comfort eating – and have put back some pounds. The convex mirror, of course, makes me look far fatter than I really am, but it’s still a little shock to see this rotund version of myself.
Mental note: must eat better food and less of it.
I walk past another little jetty. The sign saying Loch Duart is a little misleading. This is Loch Ailort, isn’t it? I check my map, just to make sure.
[Later I look up Loch Duart, and discover it’s in the far northwest of Scotland, not far from Cape Wrath.]
At the top of the loch is a row of long, thin structures, reaching out into the water. They look like the teeth of a giant comb, but seem to contain a series of narrow cages, and I reckon this must be a shellfish farm of some sort.
The road curves away from the shore. Here, the surrounding verges are bright with rhododendrons. I know these are invasive plants, and we should really be digging them up, but I do love them. So cheerful and pretty.
Up on a mound above the road sits a strange stone cairn. I think it’s another war memorial, but it looks a little rough, so I climb up the grassy bank to read the inscription. It’s actually a memorial to a Mrs Cameron Head of Inverailort, who died in 1994 and was, apparently, ‘a friend to all’.
A little further along the road is a grand structure. I check my map. Oh, this is Inverailort Castle – a great country house.
Oh dear, it looks deserted and seems to be well on the way to becoming a ruin. How sad. There are ferns growing on the window sills.
I walk past the house, following the final section of the A861 as it curves up a hill, crossing over the River Ailort.
A plaque on the bridge informs me the bridge was opened in 1966 as part of the new highway linking Lochailort to Kinlochmoidart. Only 50 years old, this road is still just a youngster!
I puff up the final few metres to the reach the end of the road, at its T junction with the A830.
If I turned left here, I would be heading straight towards Arisaig and, beyond that, Mallaig. (For a moment, I remember that confused woman walker again. She must have walked along here during the dawn light this morning. What on earth was she doing walking through the night?)
I’m not turning left today. Instead, I turn right to find the bus stop. Oh, that’s handy, it’s right next to a pub – the Lochailort Inn.
The pub is shut of course, but a sign on the door suggests it opens at 4pm. How very civilised. Only 20 mins to wait.
Across the road is a rather sad looking shack. I cross over to look at the sign in the window, expecting it to be a village hall, but it turns out to be a little church.
I walk further down the road, check the phone box, but it has been decommissioned, and then head up to look at the railway station, which lies just above the road.
As I reach the platform, a train thunders past. And I mean, it really thunders past, with steam and fire. It doesn’t stop at the station, and I swing up my camera just in time.
A steam train? I thought this was a mainline railway station? How odd.
I walk back up towards the pub. Two post office vans have pulled onto the pavement just beside the phone box. Usually I love seeing these cheerful red vans, but today I’m a little irritated because I have to cross the road to get past them safely.
The vans have their back doors open (reminds me a little of two mating insects!) and I spot their respective posties are in the process of exchanging letter and packages.
Back at the pub, I’m the only customer. I sit outside with 1/2 pint of cider (bliss) and watch the traffic passing back and forth along the A830. A busy road, and one I must walk along tomorrow. Oh dear, I’m worrying about that already.
The one-and-only-bus-of-the-day arrives, just a few minutes late. It’s actually a full size coach, and is positively crowded – I wasn’t expecting that – with backpackers and holidaymakers.
I get off the bus at Glenuig. Before I get into my car, I look back along the lane towards the Glenuig Inn. I’m half expecting to see my red-jacketed friend from this morning still sitting outside, but she’s disappeared. Wonder where she is and hope she’s alright.
Back in the comfort (relatively) of my overpriced hotel, I’m still wondering about her. My room might be basic, but it has a fantastic view. Sunset over Rum.
Mrs Cameron Head turns out to have been an extraordinary woman. Good to see she was recognised after her death. You can read about her here: Obituary in the Independent
Highlights of the day: finding an open pub!
Miles walked today = 9.5 miles
Total distance around Britain = 4,174 miles