[This walk was completed on the 17th June, 2019]
Last night I drove round to Corran, on the shore of Loch Hourn, where I’m staying in a cottage. This morning, I wake to rain falling in sheets from a menacing sky. Luckily, I’ve brought a good book to read and I make myself cosy on the sofa. Around 3pm, the rain eases to a dull drizzle. Come on – I mustn’t waste the whole day.
Grab my umbrella, and head out.
It’s a wet slog up Glen Arnisdale to reach the bridge and the point where I stopped yesterday’s walk. The sign reminds me I must cross at my own risk and strictly without a horse.
I sneak my camera out of my back pack, and, under the cover of my umbrella, take a series of damp photos. Look at that low-lying cloud. Shame I can’t see the views. Oh, well, this is typical Scottish summer weather, I suppose.
Back down the track, glad the drizzle seems to be drying up, I soon reach the murky waters of Dubh Lochain. The Black Loch. Quite a common name for lochs in Scotland, it seems. Yes, it is a very dark loch, apart from the paler rusty-coloured weed growing at the far end.
Dubh Lochain is divided into two halves by a little dam and a short river. At the moment, the water is falling, fast and furious, gushing over the wall of the dam.
My track continues along the bottom of the northern slope of the valley – Gleann Dubh Lochain – to reach the second part of the loch.
The glen acts as a natural basin, collecting the water falling on the surrounding mountains, and channelling it down towards Glen Arnisdale. From here the water will move onwards along the Arnisdale River, empty into Loch Hourn, pass out through the Sound of Sleat, until, eventually, it joins the great mass of water that forms the Atlantic Ocean.
I think of all the water that must have fallen this morning, and of how it finds its way, by one route or another, back down to the oceans.
And then I think of how the oceans lose their water by slow evaporation, forming the clouds that drift across the mountains, and empty their load as rain, that falls back down into the loch, that runs back down through the river, that joins the ocean again… and I feel dizzy thinking of the endless cycle of geological life and the interconnectedness of all things.
Time for a self-portrait.
At the bottom of the second part of Dubh Lochain is another dam and another waterfall. By now, the drizzle has stopped, and so I take a lot of photographs of the falls. This second set of falls is higher and narrower, and creates a dramatic cascade.
Now I’m following the River Arnisdale, which runs in a narrow valley between steeply-sloping walls.
When I walked up here earlier, I was a little worried that the rain would cause the water to rise and cut me off, because the path is on a low bed of stones and runs very close to the water’s edge. But I needn’t have worried. The route remains dry.
A hundred yards, or so, along the river, I come to another bridge. This one, too, has a warning sign about using it at my own risk and not taking my horse across. (Although, if I did have a horse, I don’t know how else I could cross the river.)
The bridge looks quite sturdy, so I’m not sure why there is such a stern warning sign. Perhaps a poor horse rider once had a nasty accident here?
Nearby, a pile of old planks are piled on the grass. Looks like the bridge has been repaired recently and some of the wood has been replaced.
Beyond the bridge, the track continues on down the valley, through a sloping grassy area, dotted with scattered rocks and trees.
I am surrounded by the sound of rushing water. Not only is there the noisy river on my right, but little streams fall down rocky chutes and swoosh across my path.
When the landscape opens up, I can see I’m walking along the southern slope of a broad river valley. This is Glen Arnisdale. Despite the murky weather, it is very beautiful.
Oh look! I can see right down the glen to the sea. Well, not actually the open sea. That’s Loch Hourn down there.
I reach a section where the track descends steeply towards the base of the glen. The surface is covered in uneven rocks of various sizes, which slip and slide beneath my weight. In places, I have to ford little streams, their water adding to the treachery of the slope.
Coming up here earlier was hard work. Going down is even harder, as I’m very nervous about falling. I pick my way carefully, using my umbrella to test the stones before trusting my weight. It’s a slow process.
Everywhere, there is water. Here’s another pretty waterfall, tumbling down the rocks above the track, and spreading a stream across the path.
Down goes the track, in a series of hairpin bends. The trees are thicker here, green and dripping, and, in the dull light, almost claustrophobic.
I reach the bottom of the valley, and here the path runs – wide and clear – just above the river.
Now the valley opens out into a broad water meadow. The river has snaked over to run along the far side, under cover of screen of trees.
Earlier, I saw cows in the water meadows. Now there is evidence they’ve been on my track too – cow pats. Hard to tell how old this one is, because it’s been kept soft in the rain, but I think fairly recent.
I round a corner and – oh, no! Cattle! They’ve congregated close to my intended route and, further along, I can see they have invaded the track itself.
They’re Highland cattle, quite small and usually very placid in temperament, I know. But there are a lot of them, and they have very young calves in their midst.
I really don’t want to walk through a large herd of cows with young calves.
So, I decide to head across the meadow and walk close to the river, giving the herd a wide berth. I can walk screened by the trees over there. A safer option, I think.
Of course the meadows are very muddy and waterlogged, with multiple small channels threading down towards the river.
I splosh through water and mud, and reach the safety of the trees… and then I see movement. Two young calves rise to their feet and shift uneasily. Looks like they are trying to hide behind the tree trunks.
I can’t help being amused. Reminds me of my granddaughter, who at not-yet-two is equally bad at playing hide and seek. But then I glance across the fields and notice several of the adult cows are looking my way.
I realise the mums think they have left their calves in a safe place, and I’ve stumbled across their hidden babies entirely by accident.
Quickly, I make my way deeper into the trees and move away from the area where the calves are standing. Then follows an awkward scramble along the banks of the river, which is very boggy and full of rotten roots, waterfilled holes, and long spiky grass.
Takes me ages to fight my way along, and then back up towards the track.
Whew. At least I’ve bypassed the cattle, who are watching me warily, no doubt wondering how I’ve suddenly appeared over here.
With the cows safely behind me, I can relax and enjoy the rest of the walk. The clouds are lifting too – I can even see the tops of the surrounding hills.
I pass another bridge, with another ‘at your own risk and strictly no horses’ sign. But I don’t need to cross over this one, because I’m returning to Corran and sticking to the south side of the Arnisdale River.
My track dwindles into a path, and follows the river bank for a short while…
… before heading away from the water, where the landscape opens out into grassland. My path swings in a long curve, following a ridge to skirt around the edge of the water meadows.
I cross a little stream via some stepping stones, and then pass through a gate and into another huge meadow. The clouds float low over the hills nearby but, overhead, the sun is trying to come out.
The path becomes a little indistinct, with multiple possible routes across the grass. Sunlight is breaking through, and the meadows glow in the soft light. Then I spot a little footpath marker – the first one I’ve seen for ages.
Oh, blue sky above me. How wonderful! I’m glad I dragged myself out on this walk, after all. I make the most of the good light, and take photos of some of the ruined buildings in the fields.
This was once an old shed, I think. It is littered with the rusty remnants of old machinery and strips of corrugated metal.
I look back towards Glen Arnisdale, where the clouds still linger and that hill looks very black in contrast to the fresh green of the grass around me.
[Check my map later, and realise that ‘hill’ in the photo above is, in fact, a small mountain. Beinn Clachach, at 618 meters.]
I’m walking through a grassy basin, and can’t see much ahead, but those white cottages poking out over the rise must be part of Corran. The mountain beyond is topped by cloud, but cradles a hollowed out basin, and looks vaguely familiar… oh, yes, I think that’s Beinn na Caillich – over on Knoydart.
Follow my path, now clear again, as it runs beside the river. That bridge ahead is the road bridge into Corran.
I pass through a gate, and now I’m walking down a wide track, with the white cottages of Corran straight in front of me.
A footpath sign points back the way I’ve come. Kinloch Hourn, only 9 miles away on foot.
I remember driving here from Kinloch Hourn yesterday. I came the most direct route I could, but it was almost a complete 70 mile circle by road – driving up through Shiel Bridge, over the high pass in the mountains, down to Glenelg, and then along the twisty coast road through Arnisdale to Corran.
Check my watch. It’s 7’45pm. Corran looks lovely in the slanting light of the evening sun. There’s nothing much here, of course, just a series of tracks linking groups of small cottages. There’s a little café at the far end, the Tea Hut, but it is sadly closed in the evening.
My cottage is down a narrow lane, where my car barely fits between stone walls. I booked it through Air B&B, and it’s very comfortable, if slightly shabby.
Glad I managed to do some walking today, although my progress seems to be painfully slow. But it’s good to be back inside my cosy home. (I remember the young woman with her dog, walking the Cape Wrath Trail and carrying her tent on her back, and wonder if she has survived a night and day of rain and wind.)
Tomorrow more rain is forecast… we’ll see if I manage to get out at all.
High points: Waterfalls and solitude. And being bathed in lovely sunshine at the end of the walk.
Low point: Squelching through the water meadows to avoid the Highland cattle.
Miles walked today = 8.5 miles (there and back)
Total distance around coast = 4,260.5 miles