408 Kinlochhourn to Glen Arnisdale

[This walk was completed on the 16th June, 2019]

Just up the road from my B&B at Lochhournhead, a track leads off to the left and crosses over the Lochourn River. A signpost tells me that Corran is only 9 miles away. It may only be 9 miles by foot, but it’s a good 70 miles if you have to drive round by road!

I walk along the track, which takes me first across the flat fields of the Kinloch Hourn Estate, and later should take me up and over the hills.

It’s so peaceful here. Last night, from my bedroom window, I watched deer grazing in this valley. This morning, the deer are gone, and are replaced by a group of white horses.

My track is also the route of the Cape Wrath trail. A wooden bench overlooks the fields and I wonder how many tired hikers have stopped to rest here.

The gate to the Kinloch Hourn Estate is closed, but a helpful sign reassures me that, yes, the footpath really does go through here. You can camp in a nearby field too. I think I saw tents here the other day, but there are none this morning.

The driveway through the estate is lined by trees, included some magnificent Scots Pines.

I pass the Stalker’s Cottage, and am intrigued by the homemade ‘Public Telephone’ sign beside the wall. Look around, but can’t see a phone box. Then I realise the wooden door (on the far right of the photo below) leads into the telephone kiosk.

Beyond the cottage, further signs point me down a path along the side of a house, and I join a track behind the buildings. Over a bridge and into the trees.

The track climbs steadily, and grows steeper and steeper. Tony (my host at the B&B) warned me it was steep climb up here. It certainly is. Love the tall, old pines.

Eventually, the track flattens somewhat, and I see a gate ahead.

At the gate, I leave the old pine forest and here my track joins another track. I head further up the hill. I’m walking through a steep sided valley, lined with younger trees – mainly silver birches.

As I climb higher, I keep stopping to look down at the views over Kinlochhourn. There’s my B&B, Lochhournhead, below, and the looping river.

The track grows steeper again. This morning, Tony told me the route was fairly straightforward, because all I had to do was follow the pylons. I see what he means now. I’m nearly at the top of the hill, and here they are – the pylons.

I was sure I was nearly at the top of the hill but, like so many hills, when you think you’ve reached the top, you discover you haven’t quite reached it yet. There’s another climb in front of me.

Finally, I’m at the top, and I stop to look back down the way I’ve come. What a view! Shame the light has become very dull – another cloudy day – and not good for photography.

It gets darker still, and begins to rain. I sit down on a rock and pull on my waterproof trousers. Of course, as soon as I’ve got them on, it stops raining! So I sit down again and take them off. Time for a self portrait. Behind me is the valley I’m heading into.

As I set off downhill, the weather continues to improve, the clouds lift higher, and the sun even comes out in brief flashes. Ahead of me, the pylons march, and the track divides into two. Which branch shall I take?

As is so common on these Scottish footpaths, there are no signs to guide me. I suspect both tracks are heading in the same direction, but I stick to the higher trail.

Oh, this walk is lovely. But how empty the landscape seems. My map marks the slopes to my right as ‘Kinlochhourn Forest’. But, with so few trees, I don’t think I would call this a ‘forest’ exactly.

I’m walking about a mile inland of Loch Hourn, and along a valley that runs roughly parallel with the loch. It’s a nice surprise when I come past a mass of hills – and discover I can look down into the loch. What a dramatic view! I really do love Loch Hourn.

My track descends deeper into the valley, and I soon lose sight of the water.

I’m glad the route is clear and easy to follow. Now, I’m walking beside a little river – called Allt a Chadha, I think. Very pretty, with clear water bubbling over rocks and the occasional series of small waterfalls. Beside me, on my right, march the pylons.

The track crosses the river via a wooden bridge, where a few silver birches huddle by the water.

My path climbs higher and, when I come over the brow of another rise, I see a dark pool of water to the side of the track. Wasn’t expecting this… but it is marked on my map. Lochan Torr a Choit. The mountains behind are further away than they look, and are actually on the other side of Loch Hourn, in Knoydart.

I thought I was supposed to be heading down a river valley which would, eventually, lead into another valley – Glen Arnisdale. But the topography is confusing. My track seems to meander aimlessly up and down slopes. I’ve lost sight of the valley, and of the river, and I’ve also lost sight of the pylons.

Check my Garmin to reassure myself I’m still on the right route. Yes, I think I am. Onwards.

Over the brow of another rise and, what a relief, I get a much clearer view of the lay out of the landscape. Now I really am heading down into the valley. And there are the pylons again – hello old friends.

The track meanders gently downwards, and then drops steeply down towards the river.

I walk along the side of the river. The track disappears from view, seeming to end at the water. That’s strange. I thought I had to cross over this river, but it seems I’m on the right side of it after all, because here’s a clear path to follow.

Further along, my path turns muddy, and then fizzles out completely. I stumble along the bank for a while, but the river drops down and narrows, becoming a fast-flowing torrent beneath steep banks… this can’t be right!

Check my map. Yes, I do need to cross the river. Strange. I didn’t notice a ford, and there certainly wasn’t a bridge.

I retrace my steps. No, I can’t see an obvious crossing place, and the river is quite wide. Shallow, but without obvious ford or stepping stones. What shall I do?

After dithering about, retracing my steps several times, I realise I’m not going to find an easy crossing place and I’ll just have to wade across. If I move quickly, perhaps I won’t get too wet. Wish I’d brought my waterproof socks.

Uh, oh. The water is cold, and floods in over the top of my boots, of course.

I reach the opposite bank and take a photo of my soggy feet.

There is a vague track along this side of the river. Very vague. Just a couple of tyre treads mark the route through longish grass. But at least the bank on this side is flatter.

I head further away from the water, where the ground is not so muddy.

Haven’t gone far when I see two male hikers ahead, walking close to the river. I head back towards the water, hoping to intercept their progress and exchange a few words. One sees me and raises his hand in a half-hearted greeting, the other strides on oblivious to my presence. They’ve gone past by the time I reach the bank.

They looked tired and I wonder where they’re heading. The Cape Wrath Trail veered off to the north some time ago. Are they going to pick up the trail, or are they heading south to Kinlochhourn?

I come to the place where my valley flattens out. Somewhere, soon, I need to turn to the west and head down another valley, Gleann Dubh Lochain. I’ve been rather worried about missing this junction but, in fact, the track reappears and the route seems clear.

Two rivers are about to merge. My river, the Abhainn Ghleann Dubh Lochain, joins up with a river that has come down from the north west – the Allt an Tomain Odhair (crikey, what mouthfulls – they really do need to find some shorter names!).  And just before the junction there should be a bridge…

Oh, yes, there’s the bridge.

I think I spot a footpath sign nailed to a tree by the bridge, but it turns out to be a warning sign. “Cross bridge at your own risk. Strictly no horses.”

I’m not sure of the need for such a sign. The bridge looks more substantial than many I’ve come across recently. Luckily, I’m not riding a horse.

I cross the bridge – which is nice and solid – and go a little way down the track. I was planning to turn round here… but the valley ahead looks very inviting.

It’s only 12:30 pm. I could certainly walk further – maybe even all the way to Corran, where I’ve booked myself into a cottage for a few days.

I sit on a rock, take off my wet boots and wet socks, and leave them to steam gently in the sunshine. While I eat my lunch, I contemplate my options. It just seems a bit too far to walk all the way to Corran and back today – a trek of 18 miles. Although it’s early, I need to drive my car around to Corran – 70 miles – and I’ve no idea how difficult the road might be… yes, it’s definitely time to turn back.

The walk back is straightforward. I still can’t find any shallow place to cross the river, and have to wade across again, getting my nearly-dry feet soaked again. After that, all I have to do is follow the pylons.

As I’m coming down through the Kinloch Hourn Estate, it begins to rain. Just a few hundred yards from my B&B, I meet a young woman carrying a large pack. She has a dog with her, which she is attaching to her belt with a lead. We stop for a brief chat. She is hiking the Cape Wrath Trail, has stopped for tea and cake at my B&B, but is hoping to make it further along before she camps for the night. For a moment, I envy her. Wish I was a proper hiker too.

Later, as I drive to Corran through the spitting rain, I think of her marching on through the wilderness. And, later, when I’m warm in my cottage and can hear the rain hammering down outside, I think of her camping out somewhere in the wind and the wet. Really do admire the true adventurers. But I’m so glad I’m warm and dry tonight.

Miles walked today = 10.5 miles
Total distance around the coast of Britain = 4,252 miles


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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13 Responses to 408 Kinlochhourn to Glen Arnisdale

  1. There really isn’t any other way across that stream than simply splashing across it. Early OS maps show a footbridge but it’s long gone.

  2. Chris Elliott says:

    I was interested to hear you took the right hand track at the top of the steep climb. I took the left hand track and always had the pylons on my right. They obviously did both end up in the same place! I always carry plastic sandals with me and a small towel to dry my feet for river crossings. When I came to the river you crossed I couldn’t be bothered to put my sandals on and just waded across. Some Germans saw me and said ‘don’t you have sandals’ and I said ‘yes’ to which they replied – ‘we are always so lazy and don’t put our sandals on!’ I then spent longer drying my feet and socks than it would have taken me to put my sandals on in the first place!! If you are interested there are several burns you have to wade across on the east coast of Scotland where you might find sandals useful. Can I ask you a photographic question? You are always so good at doing ‘selfies’. Do you use a small tripod or do you rest your camera on your daypack? Thanks Chris

    • Hi Chris. I came back along the other track. There wasn’t much difference in the two routes, and they soon joined up, as you say. I really should carry sandals – I actually bought some plastic ones for wading, as I think somebody (maybe you!) had suggested this in the past. Of course, I didn’t have them with me 😀

      I’m not really good at doing selfies, and often retake the photo several times to get it right, and even then it’s invariably wonky, so I have to rotate the image (on my PC) when I get home. Recently, I found a little bendy tripod among my late father’s old photos. Been using that recently with good results. It’s a bit like these gorilla tripods https://joby.com/uk-en/gorillapod-flexible-camera-tripods/ but very small and light.

  3. Robin says:

    There is no need to get your feet and boots wet!! Just carry a few supermarket “bag for life” (which they replace for free!) You can put a foot in each bag to cross a shallow river, using the handles to keep them up. Then once across, just give them a shake before putting them away!

  4. I’d agree with Robin’s suggestion also – although you lose some grip, so never use for crossing a fast flowing river or one with a rocky bed (although I don’t think you should wade across those sorts of rivers in any footwear!)

    What sort of waterproof socks do you have? I have Sealskinz (gloves and socks) and they’ve both failed me – the gloves in driving rain which seems to get through the wool; and the socks just because it was very wet. I’ve now gone for cheaper waterproof gloves with a coating, and carry spare socks.

  5. Karen White says:

    You ARE a proper hiker and an adventurer! You make my life seem very tame indeed.

  6. jcombe says:

    Wow this is a brilliant walk isn’t it? I did it today but walked from Kinlochhourn to Corran and back again. That drive into Kinlochhourn feels like you driving to the end of the world. 22 miles of dead-end single track road – must be some sort of record and the very steep descent at the end where you reach the first buildings for about 10 miles is interesting (very glad no one was coming the other way)! Sadly the B&B you stayed at is closed this year but at least the car park is still open.

    A shame about the pylons but otherwise outstanding scenery. Crossing the river was difficult as it was knee deep at the deepest point and fast flowing. Like you I didn’t bother taking off my shoes (or rolling up my trousers) so got wet feet and trousers. Was quite hard to cross as couldn’t really see the bottom and there was quite a lot of force from the water. Other than at Corran I only saw one other person, walking a dog and staying at one of the houses at Kinlochhourn. I did wonder if it was likely quicker to walk between Corran than to drive! I know it’s 70 miles but over half of that will be along narrow twisty single-track roads so you’re not going to be going very fast!

    The path was mostly pretty good but like you I was puzzled by the tyre tracks to be seen for pretty much the whole way. The looked pretty fresh but how on earth would you get a vehicle up there? The track is way too steep and uneven I would have thought!

    • Yes, it’s a fabulous walk. Glad you enjoyed it, and glad you survived the river crossing – which sounds deeper and more dangerous than when I did it. It did take a long time to drive round to Corran – an hour to get up that single track road from Kinlochhourn, and then 30 mins or so on the main road, and then nearly an hour along the road from Shiel Bridge through to Corran – so nearly 3 hours if I remember correctly.
      Sorry to hear the B&B was closed. They nearly didn’t open in 2019 too, because a landslip had closed that road and they couldn’t get there to open up after the winter break. It’s a very isolated area, with a fragile infrastructure. As for the tyre tracks, I did see a guy in a quad bike coming up from Kinlochhourn on my return journey, but the tracks looked wider. Must be made by a 4×4 off-roader.

  7. groundn says:

    Hi Ruth.
    I just pushed my fully loaded touring bike over this route, leaving Kinlochhourn at about 3pm ,the first 2 to 3 miles were a killer having to unload my bike, push it a few hundred mtrs then come back for the panniers ,after camping out on the hills overnight I finaly made it to Corran by 11 the next morning.Without doubt the most physically demanding task I have ever undertaken but worth every step. Camping out the next night on the Sandaig islands with four curlews and the aura of Gavin Maxwell was an experience I will never forget.

    • Oh wow! How on earth did you get your bike up there?! Well done indeed. And camping on Maxwell’s islands must have been a wonderful experience. Yes, you’ll never forget it, I’m sure. Thank you for commenting and telling us about your adventure.

  8. Pingback: 366. Kinloch Hourn to Corran (and return) | Round the Island

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