403pm Back of Keppoch to Morar

I walk along the road from the farm, through an area with a strange name – it’s called Back of Keppoch – past campsites and new buildings, until I reach the B8008. Here I turn left and continue northwards, walking against a stiff breeze and following the road across a stretch of flat land.

At this point I’m about 1/2 a mile inland from the sea, and surrounded by fields. Plenty of cows… oh, hang on, that’s not a cow. That’s a bull! Glad I’m on this side of the fence.

I cross a bridge over a little estuary. What beautiful horses. Love their markings.

A cyclist comes up behind me, head down and battling against the wind. He stops at the bridge. At first, I think he might be stopping for a chat – but, no, he is stopping to persuade a little frog to hop across the road and gain the safety of the grassy verge.

This seems to be a thriving area, with plenty of new buildings in various stages of development. And, along with new buildings, comes a proliferation of ‘Private Roads’.

Just beyond the bridge, I reach a track which should take me to the shore. Another prominent ‘Private Road’ sign is a bit off putting, especially as I’m feeling bruised after my encounter with the unfriendly farmer earlier. But I decide to ignore the sign. I’m not driving along the road, after all, I’m just walking.

I follow the track through a campsite of caravans, and reach the beach without being challenged. Ah, how lovely. The coastline here is a wild jumble of sand and rocks, indented with numerous small bays. It gives the impression of emptiness and isolation…

… but, to my right, the shore is lined by caravans and campsites.

It’s a beautiful place to spend a holiday, and I don’t begrudge the campers their wonderful pitches, but it does make walking this section of the coast rather a challenge. I walk around this lovely sandy bay, and am faced with more private signs when I reach the opposite side.

Trying to avoid trespassing, I stick to the beach, but soon run out of sand. Can I make it past this rocky outcrop without getting my feet wet? The tide is visibly retreating, and I wait for a lull in the waves before splashing past the obstruction.

But I soon come to a spot where the water is too deep to cross without getting my socks wet. I don’t mind wet feet at the end of the walk, but it’s cold today, and I still have some miles to go.

To my right, a pipe snakes down from the holiday park above. I hate to think what the pipe might be carrying down into the sea, but it provides a handy route upwards and off the beach.

I climb up the slope carefully – the stones are slippery beneath my boots – emerge between a couple of caravan, and then follow a track through the site. At the exit, a plethora of signs are nailed to the fence, telling me the site is for ‘Residents Only’. Well, it’s too late to worry about that now, I’m already on the way out of here!

I rejoin the B8008 for a brief stretch. Round a bend and, oh, what a lovely view! I keep saying that today… this really is a beautiful area.

Look at that pale sand! I leave the road and climb down a path to regain the shore.

This is lovely. The retreating tide has left large open areas of sand between islands of rock. I know there are more campsites immediately to my right, but down on the sand I seem to be completely on my own.

Look back at the tracks left by my footprints. It really is so very satisfying to lay the first set of prints on a clean-washed beach!

The sand comes to an end. Unable to make forward progress – because of water and rocks – I climb up a flight of stone steps and follow a track through yet another caravan park…

… and rejoin the road for a brief period, before reaching a wide curve of beach. Here the road runs beside the shore, where several vehicles are parked close to a golf course. I head down off the tarmac to walk along the sand again.

I’m not alone. There are several dog walkers and couples out for a stroll. This man stands and contemplates the view…

… yes, it really is stunning. The sand is pale between the multicoloured rocks, the sea is a beautiful patchwork of blues and greens, while the islands of Eigg and Rum make a great backdrop.

A sign tells me this is ‘Traigh Beaches Picnic Area’, but there are no picnic tables to sit on. So, I walk out to a small promontory, shrug off my rucksack, and perch on a rock. It’s well past lunch time, but I was waiting until I found somewhere decent to sit. This table for one has a perfect view.

The light keeps changing, and I take dozens of photographs.

After a lengthy break, I pick up my ruck sack again. Looking to the north, I can see darker clouds massing. Time to get going. I walk along the final stretch of beach…

… and rejoin the B8008. It crosses over a little river and curves away from the shore.

I walk past the entrance to another campsite, watch a group of mischievous sheep playing among some trees, and reach a place called Glenancross. This is another scattered collection of houses, without any apparent focal point to the village.

The road dips and rises again. The fields are full of horses, and I see signs advertising the Silver Sands Trekking Centre. It seems a prosperous area, with renovated cottages and smart new buildings. Love this modern house.

About a mile beyond Glenancross, the road bends around to the right and I begin to catch glimpses of Morar Bay below.

I reach an empty carpark, with open public toilets – unexpected because they’re not marked on my map. A nearby sign invites me to a chocolate bear hunt. Oh yes, I would hunt for chocolate bears if I could… but sadly the sign is out of date. The bear hunt took place on Easter Day. I’m sure all the chocolates have been found!

Next to the sign is a path. Despite the absence of waymarks, I’m pretty hopeful this will lead down to the beaches that line Morar Bay… and yes, I soon arrive down on the sand.

The white building on the opposite shore looks familiar. It’s my hotel – horribly overpriced, but conveniently situated close to the railway station, and with a great view.

I walk along the shore and soon reach the top of the bay, where the A830 crosses over the water via a rather ugly road bridge.

Rejoining the B8008, I climb the slope to reach the A road. Luckily there’s a cycle way, so I don’t have to dodge traffic, and I soon come to my turnoff to Morar.

I turn down the quiet road, pass over the river and under the railway line, and then stop for a while to watch the water rushing out from Loch Morar, seemingly in a great hurry to reach Morar Bay and the coast.

I climb the hill towards Morar, walking past the memorial cross, past the place where I’ve parked my car (my expensive hotel is having a new coat of paint, and I can’t use the hotel car park), and then cross over the railway line.

I’ve come full circle. There’s Morar station where I caught the train this morning.

It’s been a good day, despite my various problems with private land and despite the poor weather. The views have been excellent and I’ve managed to take some great photographs. Best of all, I seem to be finally making progress up the coast.

Tomorrow I should reach Mallaig – another milestone on my journey around the edge of Scotland.

Miles walked today = 11.5 miles
Total around coast = 4,196.5 miles

Route (morning black, afternoon red)

About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
This entry was posted in 22 Highlands and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to 403pm Back of Keppoch to Morar

  1. Really enjoy reading you posts. I try to remember where I was on the date, now I’ve “caught up” with you. May was quite mild south of the border, but June was a little wetter. I was out walking St Cuthberts Way in heavy rain, so interested to see where you were during that 🙂

  2. Maura says:

    That was a beautiful day! I enjoyed your description. I’m glad that you’ve had few problems with the local land owners. That was too bad about the cranky farmer the day before. The UK hiking trails appear to be so much safer than our hiking trails in the U.S. I had wondered if you had run into any threatening situations along the way, besides the killer cows. In the U.S., a single woman walking alone, especially in non-populated areas could easily run into dangerous situations. We continue to have problems with bears and mountain lions (along with the odd threatening guy now and then) on hiking trails and in campsites. Most women hikers I know in California, Oregon and Washington, avoid walking alone.

    • Hi Maura. Wow! Bears and mountain lions?! No, we have nothing like that in the UK, and my main challenges are cows and sometimes ferocious farm dogs. As for being worried about threatening people, that never really crosses my mind when I’m walking through very rural areas. I do feel sometimes uneasy when on the edges of a town, in the semi built-up industrial areas, for example. It’s a shame that so many women are nervous of walking alone, because there are plenty of advantages to solitary hikes. I’ve written a guest blog post about this on another site: http://travellinglines.com/women-walk-alone/

      • Maura says:

        That was a great post on traveling alone!. Thanks for sharing it. I have been a solo traveler for the last 8 years and have really enjoyed my solo hikes and vacations for the same reasons you mentioned in your post. I do notice more of my surroundings when I am alone. I also love being able to change direction on a trip, something I often do now. I have noticed, when traveling in England on my own, that strangers would start up far more conversations with me than when I was with my husband or friends. My big worry about walking alone continues to be concern about getting lost. I should practice with maps and gps more often. Easier to do in the UK (far more short distance hiking trails) than in the U.S.

        • Yes, I’ve noticed people are more likely to strike up conversations if you are alone. Do you know about Ordnance Survey Explorer maps, Maura? They’re very detailed. Best in the world!

          • Maura says:

            Yes, I bought one when I was in the Cotswolds in 2015. I found it very difficult to follow, but that is no reflection on the map, only my map reading skills! With the map, I got lost and got my boots stuck, ankle deep in the mud, only 5 minutes from town. I did have a good laugh at myself! Next year, 2020m I may try to stay for a few months in different parts of the UK and use the trains and buses to the start of hiking trails. I hope you get a chance to come to the U.S someday, to hike and see our lovely National Parks. Lots of great trails and scenery here, from Hawaii to Maine.

  3. jcombe says:

    This looks a lovely part of the coast with some beautiful beaches and nice views out to sea too. I always think it is quite special when you can make out something on the horizon too.

    I’m interested to see how you are going to tackle the coast beyond Mallaig. I have a plan but not sure how practical it will turn out to be in practice.

    • Writing up the next sections now, Jon. I know a few walkers have skipped over Knoydart and walked up through Skye instead.

      • jcombe says:

        My provisional plan for Knoydart is (though I’ll likely do these walks in the reverse order from the below).

        Day1: Morar – Bracornia – Tarbet. Then take the ferry back to Mallaig. It runs at 15:30 only (and you have to telephone the day before, see https://westernislescruises.co.uk/knoydart-ferry-timetable/)
        Day 2: Inverie – Carnoch – Finiskaig – Kylesmorar – Tarbet. This is the tricky one over which I have the most doubts as it is long and the last part has no path so I’m hoping to make my own way over the shore. I know Alan Palin went over the mountains which is another option, Then I need to get to Tarbet in time to get the 15:30 ferry back (either to Inverie or Mallaig, not sure where I’ll stay yet). Also some doubts about the bridge Alan showed it had been removed due to being dangerous and he had to ford the river. Not sure if that is sitll the case or if it has been replaced.
        Day 3 : Inverie – Scottas – Sandaig – Airor – Inverguseran – Inverie (back on the track inland). Possibly with a diversion up to Croulin and back if I have time along the path,
        Day 4 : Inverie – Loch an Dubh-Lochain – Ambraigh or Barisdale then return the same way.
        Day 5 : The end of the road at the head of Loch Beag (near Kinloch Hourn) to Barisdale and back the same way (joining up with wherever I get to on day 4).
        Day 6 : The end of the road at the head of Loch Beag (near Kinloch Hourn) to Corran (at the other end of a road) and back the same way.

        Then back to roads/paths for the rest of the walks onwards (either as there and back walks, circular walks or a bus/ferry if I can find any).

        I might possibly be able to combine one or two of these days to avoid a “there and back” walk if I can find a taxi to take me to the end of some of the dead-end roads. Day 2 is the one that bothers me since I don’t know how long it will take and how hard the terrain will be and if I miss the one-per-day ferry i’m stuck. Also no mobile signal is quite likely so won’t be able to alert the ferrymen either. A tricky one!

        I might also change day 2 and stay over in the bothy at Barisdale or take a tent and camp. As I said not completely finalised yet!

        Not sure if I will stay in Mallaig and travel back and forth on the ferry each day to Inverie for the walks starting/ending there or stay in Inverie. However not going to attempt this until next year now.

        • More ambitious than me, Jon, but a good plan. I think your Day 2 is the most challenging – and I knew I wouldn’t be able to walk that stretch. The good news: the bridge has been replaced: https://www.tgomagazine.co.uk/news/new-carnach-bridge-opened-after-2017-closure/
          Also, there is a bunkhouse in Inverie, if that helps with your walking plans, and you can book a bed online.

        • John Bates says:

          Your day 2 certainly looks tough if you have to get to Tarbet by15-30. There’s a brief account of walking the S shore of Loch Nevis in Hamish Brown’s ‘The Great Walking Adventure’ in which he says it took 5 hrs, though his group would have been carrying big packs. Back in 1986 I walked over from Inverie to Sourlies in a bit under that, also carrying plenty. One alternative would be to stay at the MBA bothy at Sourlies, which would give you 2 quite reasonable days. It’s often busy but I’d be surprised if you didn’t get at least a bit of floor space. You could then take your time on the tricky bit. Choose a settled forecast though, Knoydart is dangerous in wet weather. The Finiskaig river could certainly be a problem, and maybe even the streams coming down from the watershed on the Loch Nevis part of the route. Years ago it used to be possible to get a boatman to drop you off at the head of the loch, maybe another option? Best wishes whatever you decide on.

        • Hi Jon, again. Just found a blog written by a man who walked this section in the opposite direction. Well, he seems to have walked along the shore of Loch Nevis from Sourlies to just beyond Tarbet, and then cut across to Loch Morar. He found it tough! https://abolasabout.wordpress.com/2018/03/15/sourlies-bothy/

  4. june thompson says:

    Ruth – why have you abandoned your camper van?

    • Hi June. It was May when I did this walk, and I knew the weather would be dodgy. In fact, it was chilly during the day and pretty cold at night. So I thought I would go for the ‘luxury’ hotel option instead. Don’t worry, I haven’t abandoned my beautiful Beast 😀

  5. Karen White says:

    Glorious views (and photos)!

  6. R Webb says:

    Keep dog on a lead and shut gates notices are your friends – they only appear where walkers are expected.

  7. jcombe says:

    I think again we followed much the same route but in reverse. It’s an absolutely gorgeous area, so many wonderful beaches and good paths. The motor homes and campers are certainly making a nuisance of themselves here parking all over the verges. I saw several signs saying that the beach is not a campsite and to use one of the 8(!) campsites along the road.

    The campsite you followed down to the beach now had a prominent “SIte Closed” sign but also another saying you could walk through on a path to the beach. The site you exited from saying there was no access to the beach. Coming from the other way I didn’t even get that far before being accosted by Mrs Angry Campsite owner. She told me that I was now at the end of the public road and it was not permitted to walk through on the path ahead (that clearly went to the beach, which she claimed is a private beach) or through the campsite because it was all a “Private Garden” and the right to roam doesn’t extend to private gardens. Well she is right that the right to roam does exclude private gardens but clearly a campsite open to the public cannot be a private garden but she still insisted that it was a “private garden on which we let people camp”. Not sure I could get through anyway I decided to head back to the road to avoid any further arguments. (I checked and she had turned me back before I’d even got to the end of the public road as I see from Google Streetview that is an “end of public road” sign at the end, I hadn’t yet got to).

    • It’s strange that the only unfriendly landowners I’ve met in Scotland so far were around Arisaig. I guess it’s because it’s such a touristy area and they are fed up with people wandering across their land. Shame.

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