[This walk took place on the 18th June, 2019]
Corran is a little hamlet on the banks of Loch Hourn, situated at the end of the road that runs down the coast of the Glenelg peninsula. The tracks among the cottages are unsurfaced and accessed by a narrow bridge, so visitors are encouraged to park just outside Corran, beside the visitor’s centre at the end of the public road.
It’s another dull and rainy day. I spend the morning sheltering in my cottage, only venturing out when the worst of the weather eases. It’s 11:30am and, according to the forecast, I have a window of a few hours before the rain starts up again.
That’s Knoydart, across there, on the other side of Loch Hourn. Much is made of Knoydart being “Britain’s last wilderness”, so I’m surprised to see a little house at the bottom of the dark slopes. There’s no road access to that area, but I guess you can get there by boat.
Right on cue, a little motor boat appears and streaks across the waters of the loch.
My plan today is to walk to Arnisdale and then follow the road for a few miles further, before turning back. I’ve decided not to use my bike, partly because I’m worried about the steepness of the road (marked by chevrons on my OS map) and partly because I’m worried about cycling in the rain with poor visibility and wet brakes.
The coast road, somewhat surprisingly, takes me inland initially, and runs straight as a ruler towards the cloudy mass of Beinn Sgritheall. At 970 meters, it’s definitely a mountain and the tallest peak on this side of Loch Hourn. I’m sure it would look very impressive… if only I could see more than a few 100 yards up the slopes.
The road does a little dog-leg dance, and takes me back towards the shore. Despite the dullness of the day, I’m enjoying this walk. The landscape has a just-washed look, and tall pink
hollyhocks foxgloves make splashes of colour beside the road.
After a couple of days tramping through inland valleys, it’s good to be beside the water again. My road curves gently round a bay, and there’s the village of Arnisdale ahead.
I walk under the canopy of a stately row of old chestnut trees. Little dinghies are pulled up on the beach, and the verges of the road are dotted with trailers, fishing equipment, and a collection landrovers and pickup trucks.
I immediately like Arnisdale. It seems to be a proper village – a proper community of local people who actually live here all year round. One of the vehicles belongs to the ranger service of the National Trust for Scotland, while another belongs to a salmon fishing company, MOWI.
I pass a collection of buoys on the grass. One is bright yellow with the word DOCTOR written on its side. I’ve heard of flying doctors, but perhaps this is a doctor who visits by boat? I wonder if he or she does house visits to the isolated cottages scattered along the loch.
Out in the bay, I spot a small boat. White cabin and deck, with a blue hull. It looks very much like the small boat that came to pick me up from Kinlochhourn a few days ago. Is it Peter’s little ferry?
I walk past a little post office (only open three afternoons a week) and reach the end of the village, where a cottage is undergoing renovations. Turn and look back along the shore, and decide – yes – I very much like Arnisdale.
It begins to drizzle with rain. I’m tempted to turn back, but I’ve barely covered a mile today, and so I decide to continue on a little further. Beyond Arnisdale, the road climbs a hill and curls around the side of a rocky slope.
Below the road, the ground falls down to the shore and to Eilean Tioram, a tidal island. I wondered whether Peter Caton had visited the place. (Peter visited 43 of the tidal islands around the UK and wrote about them in his book, No Boat Required.) The name ‘Tioram’ sounds familiar…
… and then I remember visiting Castle Tioram, the ruined fortress which sits on its own rocky island just off the shore of Loch Moidart. [Later, I discover that tioram means dry, when translated into English from Scottish Gaelic.]
Interesting how many place names are repeated in Scotland. Corran, for example, is both the name of the small hamlet I’m staying in today, and the place near Fort William where the ferry crosses over Loch Linnhe.
The drizzle eases off. I look over the water at Knoydart, where the sun is falling in patches on the slopes above the loch, and take photos with my lens on full zoom. There’s another building – in fact, a collection of buildings – lying on the flat land beside the shore.
Maybe there’s a road over there, after all? I check my map. No sign of a road, not even a track. I guess you can only get there by boat. I wonder if Peter is the only ferry man around, and whether he is kept busy? Or do the people who stay in these isolated places have their own boats?
I’ve reached the top of the rise, and the road swings around a curve, giving me a view of the shore ahead. Love the wooded slopes and the pretty islands sitting in the water. Shame the weather is so dull. I’m sure this would look spectacular in the sunshine.
I walk a little further down the road. Although I’m still close to the shore, my view of Loch Hourn is screened by a strip of woodland. To my right, the grassy slope rises in a series of curves and hummocks, pierced by outcrops of rocks.
A constant sound of running water along this section. After so much rain, half the hillside seems to have turned into a stream. The rocks beside the road glisten with mini-waterfalls.
Another rise in the road, and I come to an area of flattened ground, covered by patches of tarmac and rough gravel. There is no ‘carpark’ sign, but this is first spot I’ve seen where I could leave my car, and I decide it would be a good place to start my next walk.
I stand in the flattened area and look up towards the top of Loch Hourn, where more clouds are gathering. Bands of rain sweep in misty curtains across the loch.
I was planning to walk a little further, but I can see the rain is coming my way. And I’ve found a good spot for the car tomorrow. Time to turn back.
It stays dry for my return journey and, as I approach Corran along the straight-as-a-ruler piece of road, I see a couple walking along the tarmac ahead of me. Can’t resist taking their photo.
I always feel a twinge of longing when I see a couple walking together, but I have to remind myself that I have walked most of the coast entirely on my own, and I really do prefer walking in my own time and at my own pace.
But, maybe a walking partner would have encouraged me to walk further today? Yesterday, I only managed 4 miles (in a forward direction), and a mere 5 miles the day before (again, if I only count forward motion). Today I’ve covered a measly 4 miles in total, and only 2 in the right direction.
That’s 11 miles of actual progress in three days! I’ll never get to Cape Wrath at this rate. The weather isn’t helping – I do hate the rain and find it difficult to motivate myself on dull days. But, tomorrow, come rain or storm, I MUST DO BETTER.
To cheer myself up, I pop into the Tea Hut in Corran, and treat myself to a proper cooked meal. Then a buy a large slice of cake to take out, which I eat later in my cottage, sitting in front of the open fire with a large glass of whisky.
Things I discovered today:
- Arnisdale is beautiful.
- Scotland is cold enough for open fires, even in June.
- Whisky and cake go together suprisingly well.
Miles walked today = 4 miles
Total distance around coast = 4,264.5 miles