402pm Lochailort to Arisaig

[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.

41 woodland walk on track, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

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.

42 parkland and trees, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

Here’s a feeding trough for cattle. Empty, but it would be at this time of year when the grass is growing well.

43 cattle troughs, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

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.

44 narrow valley and stream, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

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.

45 cattle guarding the gate, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

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.

46 sitting in a tree at the cow-herd pass, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

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.

47 cows below me, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

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.

48 cows taking their time, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

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.

49 little calves, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

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!

50 cow-free gate, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

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.

51 open fields and cattle in the distance, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

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.

52 old horsechestnut tree, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

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.

53 newly planted avenue, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

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.

54 cheeky lambs, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

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.

55 public road, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

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.

56 Loch nan Ceall, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

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.

57 bluebell field and ships, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

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.

58 Arisaig with the tide out, Ruth walking around Scotland

I enter the outskirts of Arisaig, walking past the medical centre and the Land Sea & Islands Centre, which functions as a visitors’ centre.

59 land sea and Islands centre, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

Ahead of me walk three men who have just waded across the muddy shore, presumably coming back from a boating trip.

60 coming in from the sea, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

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!”

61 no big campervans, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

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.]

62 Polish memorial, Ruth walking to Arisaig, Scotland

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.

63 ca rpark, Arisaig, Ruth Livingstone

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.

You can read more about the war memorial here: Czech Memorial site
I found out more about the Special Operations Executive in this excellent essay: Tracking down Britain’s secret SOE

Miles walked today = 11 miles
Total around Britain = 4,185 miles

Route: (morning in black, afternoon in red)

About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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21 Responses to 402pm Lochailort to Arisaig

  1. Rita Bower says:

    Well done Ruth – especially on your cunning plan to avoid the cows! Glad you had a great day’s walking.

  2. Twm says:

    Here’s an interesting statistic: More walkers are killed by cows than by bulls or any other large animal. 74 people in the last 15 years to be precise. It’s wise to avoid them if you can!

  3. Eunice says:

    A great way of avoiding the cows 🙂 The war memorial is certainly strange but it’s good to see that Arisaig is looking as nice as I remember it – even the house with the blue dustbin still has a blue fence and gate 🙂

  4. Earthoak says:

    I was gripped by your escape from the cows! Sounds like it was a good day all in all – well done.

  5. Chris Elliott says:

    Must have been nerve wracking for you. It is never worth taking risks. Beautiful sights will always be there to return to another day. Your preservation is always the most important thing. it is never worth compromising on it. Well done.

  6. We were in that area at about the same time and it was the profusion of native bluebells which struck us most, more delicate and deeper blue than the European versions we usually see.

  7. Hi Ruth, and well done again. I used a similar ruse when walking from Skipton to Grassington, recently. A field divided off by a barbed wire fence, with a narrow metal gate in it for humans. It was filled with sheep and calves, the latter upon seeing me, all hurried to crowd around the gate, blocking my way, and jostling to get closer. I thought ‘this is a problem’ then noticed that the fence ran down to a corner of the field where the feeding troughs were, so I walked slowly along the side of the fence, and the cows all followed me. Once at the troughs, they all crowded around them, trying to get at the (non-existent) food. At which point I walked briskly back to the gate and across the field before they could catch on.
    In my experience, calves, and cows that rarely encounter people/walkers, associate us with food, so get excited and come towards you; frightening when alone, and dangerous if you have a dog with you. Those on tourist tracks are more blasé about our passage, and tend to take less interest.
    It’s also partly our own reactions to them though – as a child I walked through a field filled with cows every day to get to school. And never had any issues. We’d even play in the field, chase the cows, and never once struck us that there was any danger, and nothing ever happened. It’s only later in life it seems troubling. Or maybe cows have just become more vicious.

    • Great minds, Mike 😄 I do think cattle have become more aggressive. Maybe it’s the fact we’ve switched most of our beef herds from native breeds to continental breeds. Maybe it’s because intensive farming has led to less human contact and/or more stressed cows, Or perhaps we are just more aware of the dangers.

  8. Mike Norman says:

    I’m similarly very wary of the cows thing, but having read the paper today I now realise I’ve had it all wrong. In an article on “Gong Therapy” other “alternative wellbeing” trends were mentioned including “cow cuddling”. There’s a farm in New York state where you can pay the equivalent of £255 for 90 minutes cuddling a cow to relieve stress. It seems to me that that would just be paying £225 to induce stress but no, apparently “cows can sense if you are happy or sad and respond to that without judgement”. So the message is: embrace the cow (literally!).

  9. Di says:

    I’m utterly terrified of cows Ruth! On a recent 15 mile strenuous walk on the Wales coast path I was about 1/4 mile from my finishing point when I was blocked by a huge herd of cows all huddled round the gate, with no way round them and foolish to attempt pushing through the herd, I was forced to turn back walking another 4 miles to the nearest village, an exhausting 19 miles in the end. So glad your plan worked Ruth.

    • I think it’s entirely logical to be terrified by cows, Di, especially when they’re in a big group. Sorry to hear your walk was extended, that’s the last thing you need at the end of a long hike ☹️

  10. deevmom says:

    Well done to outsmart the cows. A few years ago my husband and I were hiking in Nova Scotia, an out an back hike along a river. We were 1/4 mile from the parking lot, on the way back when 3 moose blocked the narrow path. It was breeding season and one of the cows got her hackles up, ready to charge us. We hid behind some trees, waiting for them to leave. They never did. It was dusk and we had already passed a black bear about a mile back. We had to backtrack, cross a bridge that led to a golf course and walk a few holes of golf back to the road and the parking lot. A 7 mile hike turned into about 10 or so.

  11. Karen White says:

    Great strategy to avoid the cows. I won’t be first in the queue to ‘cuddle a cow’ either. Now if it was a tiger………….but that’s another story. 😀
    A lovely walk, and Arisaig does look pretty.

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