[This walk was completed on the 21st May 2019]
I walk through trees, sometimes in shade, sometimes in sunshine. Glad to be off the road, this is a wonderful track. The woods look old, although there are signs of recent logging activity.
The route takes me through an area of open land, where the trees are smaller, less established. Grazing fields are fenced off. Still no sign of cows.
Here’s a feeding trough for cattle. Empty, but it would be at this time of year when the grass is growing well.
Now I enter a wooded valley. There’s a pretty stream to my right – the Allt Achadh na Toine – and a steep bank to my left.
And then, suddenly, near the end of the wooded section, I spot the cows. They’re congregated on the track and blocking the exit gate. Oh, no! Young calves with them. There’s no room to manoeuvre around the group in this narrow section.
A couple of the beasts begin to amble towards me, and start bellowing to their friends.
I walk back up the track, looking to see if I can cross the stream at any point, but the water is flowing fast (we’ve had a lot of rain) and the stones look too slippery.
I walk back down again, hoping the cows have moved. But, no, they’re still there. In fact, they’re heading in my direction – they’re walking towards me. Probably think I have food.
Maybe I’m going to have to retrace my steps, all the way back for two or three miles, and walk to Arisaig along the road? Or should I wade across the stream and try to find a way round through the thick woodland on the other side?
The cows are definitely heading my way. I turn round and retreat up the track. Then an idea strikes me. They’re after food, and will probably make their way back to the troughs. All I need to do is find a place to hide until they go past.
The stream doesn’t offer any cover, so I climb the steep slope, slipping on the soft ground and getting my hands and knees covered in mud. The ground is too steep to stand upright, so I wedge myself behind a tree trunk. And wait. And wait. And wait some more.
The midges dance around my face. I can’t let go of the trunk to apply more Smidge, so just hope I’ve put enough of the stuff on earlier.
I hear the bellowing getting nearer. Ah, here they are. Ambling along and in no hurry. I hold my breath and grip the trunk tighter.
It takes a long time for the cows to pass beneath me. Some even stop for snacks on the way, munching the grass as if they had all the time in the world.
Just when I think they’ve all gone past, another couple amble along. Finally, two little calves make up the rear. I wait some more… just in case their mum is coming up behind.
A couple of minutes go by. No more cattle appear. By this time my arms are aching from clinging to the tree, and my knees are stiff from bracing against the slope. Carefully, I let go and begin the muddy slide down towards the track, trying to keep as quiet as I can because I don’t know how far the cows have got.
Safely back on the track, it occurs to me that if any cows stayed behind I will be well and truly trapped, with cows in front and cows to the rear. So, I’m full of anxiety as I hurry down towards the gate.
Whew. They’ve all gone. And a trio of young men are walking towards the gate from the other side. If only they’d come sooner, they could have shooed the cows away. Or maybe they would have started a stampede!
I smile at the young men, but they’re engrossed in conversation and appear to be lugging fishing gear. Should I warn them about the cows? Too late, the moment has passed.
The track continues on through open fields, filled with more cattle and sheep. These cows keep their distance.
This appears to be ancient parkland. Look at that old tree. A horse chestnut with huge branches, so heavy that they’ve bowed over and hang close to the ground. Magnificent.
Further along, someone has planted new trees along the side of the track. There will be a fine avenue here one day. More horse chestnuts, and some beeches too, I think.
A bevy of naughty little lambs are playing among some fallen branches. They’re young enough to still look cute, but old enough to be cheekily self-confident.
I come to a crossroads in the track, with a couple of cottages nearby, then pass over a cattle grid. The track here is more defined, cars must drive along it to get to the cottages.
Now I come to the end of the track, and there’s the public road ahead.
I’m on a narrow lane which winds next to the coast, taking me up to Arisaig. There are quite a number of residential houses hidden in the woodland, and so I meet several cars.
Ah, look at that field full of bluebells. They look like native flowers, but it is surprising to see them growing so profusely in an open meadow – they prefer to hide among the trees. I’m too tired to examine the flowers closely, but I suspect they’ve cross-pollinated with Spanish bluebells.
I follow the road for a mile or so. There’s Arisaig, just across this little bay. Shame the tide is out, because it would look much nicer surrounded by water.
I enter the outskirts of Arisaig, walking past the medical centre and the Land Sea & Islands Centre, which functions as a visitors’ centre.
Ahead of me walk three men who have just waded across the muddy shore, presumably coming back from a boating trip.
Arisaig is small but bustling. It has cafes, a pub, a shop, and public toilets, and I meet more tourists here than I’ve met in any of my walks around Morvern and Ardnamurchan.
I think overnight campers have created a problem for local residents. Here’s a very polite notice: “Please: no big campervans!”
Yes. It must be very irritating to have your lovely sea view blocked by a metal wall!
I walk past a row of parked cars, and a strange modern-looking memorial, which I assume is a war memorial. [Later I learn it’s a Czech memorial for personnel serving in the Special Operations Executive during WW2.]
My car is parked near the end of the street. There was nobody here at 9am when I arrived here to catch the train to Lochailort. Now, the place is positively crowded.
It’s been an excellent day of walking. I’ve survived a close encounter with a herd of cattle, and outwitted them using strategy and cunning. I’ve caught a train and avoided using my Monster of a bike. I’ve made great progress and managed to walk over 10 miles for the first time in ages. Yes, it’s been an excellent day.
Miles walked today = 11 miles
Total around Britain = 4,185 miles
Route: (morning in black, afternoon in red)