401pm Roshven to Lochailort

[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!)

31 weird sheep sign, Ruth walking up Loch Ailort, Scotland

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?

32 line of cones, Ruth walking up Loch Ailort, Scotland

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.

33 fishing trip

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.

34 islands, Ruth walking up Loch Ailort, Scotland

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.

35 bridge over Alisary Burn, Ruth walking up Loch Ailort, Scotland

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.

geese and goslings Loch Ailort, Ruth Livingstone

[Later, I check the RSPB website. Think these are Greylag geese.]

The road continues. A few cars whizz past. And a few cyclists too.

36 lone cyclist, Ruth walking up Loch Ailort, Scotland

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.

37 Eilean Dubh, Ruth walking up Loch Ailort, Scotland

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.

39 dramatic landscape, Ruth walking up Loch Ailort, Scotland

Round a curve in the shore, through a cutting of rocks, and there’s a fish farm ahead.

40 fishfarm ahead, Ruth walking up Loch Ailort, Scotland

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.

41 fishfarm, Ruth walking up Loch Ailort, Scotland

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!

42 self-portrait in mirror, Ruth walking up Loch Ailort, Scotland

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.

43 mysterious jetty, Ruth walking up Loch Ailort, Scotland

[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.

44 weird structures, Ruth walking up Loch Ailort, Scotland

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.

45 approaching Inverailort, Ruth walking up Loch Ailort, Scotland

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’.

46 memorial to Mrs Cameron Head, Ruth walking up Loch Ailort, Scotland

A little further along the road is a grand structure. I check my map. Oh, this is Inverailort Castle – a great country house.

47 Inverailort Castle, Ruth walking up Loch Ailort, Scotland

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.

48 ruined Inverailort Castle, Ruth walking up Loch Ailort, Scotland

I walk past the house, following the final section of the A861 as it curves up a hill, crossing over the River Ailort.

49 River Ailort and bridge, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland

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.

50 junction with A830 to Mallaig, Ruth walking up Loch Ailort, Scotland

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.

51 LochAilort Inn, Ruth walking in Scotland

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.

52 Lochailort church, Ruth walking around Scotland

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.

53 Lochailort road, postbox and bus stop, Ruth walking around Scotland

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.

54 steam strain rushing through station, Ruth in LochAilort, Scotland

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.

55 post office vans, Lochailort, Ruth hiking in Scotland

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.

56 Sunset over Rum, Ruth hiking around the coast of Scotland

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


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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22 Responses to 401pm Roshven to Lochailort

  1. Robin Lucas says:

    It is a mainline railway, and the steam train is known as “The Jacobite”. It runs daily, morning and afternoon throughout the summer, Fort William to Mallaig and back. It is one of the great steam railway journeys in the world!
    Thank goodness you found a pub that was prepared to serve you! That other place has reviews on Tripadvisor – 61 in the category “Poor or Terrible!” although some reviews are more positive. They make for an interesting read!

  2. owdjockey says:

    Hi Ruth, the steam train is The Jacobite, which makes a number of daily journeys between Fort William and Mallaig. That engine looks abit like the Lancashire Fusilier which I have seen a number of times over the years.

  3. Eunice says:

    Glad you finally found a pub that was open 🙂 Not sure if that loco was the Jacobite or another but the Jacobite itself was used as the Hogwart’s Express in Harry Potter, it goes across the Glenfinnan Viaduct in the film.

  4. JayP says:

    Hi Ruth,
    Yet another interesting leg of your journey. You were quick off the mark to capture that steam train, I’m sure I’d still have been working out which way round the camera should be!

    The first Commando unit was formed in the castle during the war. Mrs Cameron-Head seems to have been a force in the land – that fifty-year old road is down to her lobbying.
    After Mrs C-H’s death, her companion and general factotum Barbara Mackintosh stayed on in Inverailort Castle until she died in 2015, so presumably that’s when the house fell empty. Such a shame.
    Barbara Mackintosh’s obituary is here:
    (I only know this now, thanks to your post and a quick internet search. You’re educational as well as entertaining!)

    • When I saw the memorial to Mrs C-H, I dismissed it as being another vanity project by wealthy landowners, but she turns out to have been a really good lady. Her companion sounds very interesting too. So sad to see their house turning into a ruin.

  5. Brian Williamson says:

    Still reading this Ruth, Mr. Williamson Dover
    Even if I just go down to The Lizard in Cornwall, a few times a year (I once posted you about Bumble Rock, remember!)
    Good luck from Dover!

  6. Di Iles says:

    Gorgeous pictures Ruth! Been on that steam train. It’s a splendid journey!

  7. Ross says:

    Lovely story beautiful pictures glorious scenery enjoyed . I have been on that train what can I say fantastic

  8. lizziwake says:

    You’re having to do an awful lot of road walking. I hope it’s not flaying your feet as much as the Wales roads did mine!

  9. Conker says:

    How frustrating not to know whether the lady was ok.

  10. Karen White says:

    I also found the obituary to Barbara Mackintosh nad was going to add a link then saw one had already been posted. It does seem strange that the house has fallen into such neglect so quickly after Barbara Mackintosh’s death – just four years ago. Sad, too, and it’s quite surprising that it hasn’t been taken ove by the National Trust or another similar organisation.
    Anyway, this was a beautiful walk and the views of Loch Ailort are wonderful.

  11. jcombe says:

    I did this walk yesterday and it’s much the same other than the tide was higher so I didn’t see those structures in the water. I stuck to the main road not bothering with the lane at Roshven, though I didn’t see any geese. Inverailort Castle is still derelict just as you saw it, though the plants in the window seem to have been tidied up a little or perhaps they just die back for winter. I gather it used to even house a small post office and think has been left like that since the previous owner died. There are some “urban exploration” type videos of it on youtube if you are curious.

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