[This walk took place on the 6th July, 2019]
I try not to feel too angry about the pub being closed because of a wedding, and I continue to walk along the road through Glenelg, passing the village shop. A notice in the window catches my attention…
… “Missing tortoise”. Oh dear. Poor creature. It’s been missing for a couple of weeks. I hope it’s OK.
A little further along the road is the Glenelg community centre. I know there is a café inside which has a good reputation, so I’m looking forward to enjoying a decent lunch.
But, oh no, the café is closed too – for a “Private Function”. It’s probably hosting an event connected to the same wedding as the pub! I’m pretty disappointed because, of course, there is no other café or pub in Glenelg.
What if I had walked 20 miles across Knoydart, or even further along the Cape Wrath Trail, and after days of wild camping in the rain I was relying on Glenelg facilities to recover and to get a decent meal? With nothing else around for miles, you would think the village would feel it had to offer something for genuine hikers and campers.
I get myself worked up with real indignation on behalf of the tired, wet, and cold long-distance walker – a walker who, of course, exists entirely in my imagination.
Then I remember there is another café a few miles away at the ferry terminal. In fact, I’ve parked my van right outside it. Good. I’ll probably arrive too late for lunch, but at least I can enjoy a nice cup of tea and maybe a piece of cake too.
Just beyond the community centre, I turn off the road to walk along a track.
The track is signposted to Galltair, and cuts out a triangle of road-walking. It runs along the edge of a marshy area of Glenelg Bay, where sheep are grazing beside pools of water. I forget my bad-temper about the closed pub and the closed café. This is lovely.
The track gives access to a number of residential buildings. Another lovely place to live, although I wonder if the residents worry about global warming and rising sea levels. They seem to have little protection from an advancing tide.
The track ends at a property called Barracks Cottage, but the footpath continues onwards. Someone has put up a helpful sign pointing out the correct way forward – although the path looks pretty obvious to me.
On the gatepost of Barracks Cottage is another sign – this one is about the missing tortoise which, apparently, has “run off”, and offers a reward for his or her safe return. I’m not sure how fast a tortoise can run, or how far it can get in two weeks, but I decide to keep my eyes open.
Looking across the gardens of the cottage, I can see the remains of a large, ruined building. It’s almost lost among the trees, some of which seem to be growing out of the structure itself. At first, I think I’m looking at the ruins of an abandoned country house…
… but when I check my map, I see this is the “Remains of Bernera Barracks”. Because much of the walls are still standing, I assume the barracks probably dates from the late 19th century. It seems an odd place to have sited such a substantial military building.
The footpath is lovely. I cross a bridge over a little water course, and follow the path across water meadows where sheep graze and flowers bob among the grasses.
At the far end of the meadows is Glenmore river, easily crossed by another footbridge. Attached to the bridge is another sign about the missing tortoise. Oh dear, I have been keeping an eye out, but I haven’t seen any sign of the creature.
I stop on the bridge and look down the river. It takes a lazy, meandering route towards the sea. If fact, so meandering, that at this point it’s actually running parallel to the shore, and not towards it.
On the other side of the river, I reach Galltair, which turns out to be a nothing much – just a row of traditional white cottages – and here I rejoin the road.
Looking back across the water meadows, I get an even better view of the ruined barracks. Once it must have been a large and imposing building.
Onwards, along the road. It curves round to the right, bypassing a farm building. Someone has put up another sign. “Ferry” with an arrow pointing straight ahead.
I wonder how many people ended up driving down to the farm instead of continuing along to the ferry port.
The road skirts a wide, flat area of grass, and I pass another one of those mysterious static caravans. So many of these dotted around the coastline of Scotland and in various states of decay. Who lives in them?
There’s a beach ahead. This must be one of the sandy areas I saw earlier today, from the hills above Glenelg Bay. I’d almost forgotten about the beaches.
A track leads off the road, and down to a grassy parking area. I decide to head down the track and walk along the shore. It will be good to be walking close to the sea again.
The red sign at the entrance to the car park has a list of dos and don’ts. I get the impression that wild campers have created a bit of a nuisance here in the past. But there’s nobody around today.
It’s not the nicest of beaches, to be honest, with muddy sand and a slimy area of weed before you reach the sea. So, I don’t try to go down to the water, but walk along the pebbles at the top of the beach…
… until I come to a little stream that cuts across the shore. It’s just a bit too deep to wade through without getting wet feet, and so I turn inland to walk up to the road bridge.
Rejoining the road, I cross the bridge, and pass a footpath sign that points down a track to my right. “Ardintoul Bay (non coastal route).” Oh, yes! Tomorrow I will be heading through Ardintoul Bay, but not today, and I won’t be following this track anyway, because I will be following the coastal route instead.
Seeing the sign has given me a sense of relief and optimism. I should pass through Ardintoul and reach Shiel Bridge tomorrow, and most of the walk will be off road, for a change. After many days of short walks and poor progress, I really seem to be getting somewhere at last. I’m looking forward to tomorrow already.
[Actually, my planned walk for tomorrow is destined to go horribly wrong. But, of course, I don’t know that today.]
I walk past another beach car park. This is much busier, perhaps because the sand is nicer along this part of the beach. There are several vehicles parked, and someone has set up a small tent on the foreshore. Out on the sands, a group of people are sitting in a row of deck chairs, just a few feet away from the water.
I walk slowly along the road, enjoying the open views across Glenelg Bay. Over there, at the end of the far shore, are the Sandaig Islands. They look a long way away now.
After the beach, the road begins to climb. The slope is steep, and I stop to catch my breath and to look back down along the sands. The deck chairs are still there. I wonder if the tide is coming in or out?
The road turns sharply right, and continues to rise, curving gently around the headland. The view is changing. Now I can look over to Skye and see the little settlement of Kylerhea.
(Rather sadly, every time I see the name “Kylerhea”, I think of diarrhoea! Not fair. I’m sure it’s a beautiful place.)
I stop to take some last photographs looking down the Sound of Sleat, towards Sandaig. The blue line of land beyond the islands is… I check my Garmin… well, it must be Knoydart.
The road rises a little more. I must be nearly at the ferry now. When I drove along here earlier, I got the impression the road would never end.
This passing-place sign is peppered with holes. Looks like someone has taken a shotgun to it.
And then I’m over the rise and looking across to Skye and the ferry slipway over on the opposite shore. No sign of the ferry.
I follow my road down to where it will end at the slipway on this side of the water. My lovely Beast is waiting for me in the car park and I’m pleased to see him. I’m tired and hungry so, before I drive back to Sandaig to pick up my Scooty bike, I plan to stop at the café for tea and cake.
As I approach the car park, I see another footpath sign for Ardintoul Bay. Yes, tomorrow I’ll walk along that footpath, through Ardintoul, past Totaig, and then along the shore road until I reach Shiel Bridge. That will mark the end of my trek around the Glenelg Peninsula.
First, the café… I’ve already decided on chocolate cake, if they have any… when I realise the place is closed too. Oh, no! Really?! Is nowhere open today? I almost feel like crying.
I walk back to the road and wonder if it’s worth obeying the sign and heading down to the lighthouse near the slipway. It’s only a hundred yards or so to the end of the road, but it’s a steep descent (which means a steep climb up again) and what are the chances of finding the lighthouse shop is closed too?
Feeling tired and hungry, I perch on a rock and pull out my snacks. From here I can see the ferry loading up below. It only takes 6 cars, maximum. Hardly seems worth running the thing.
But, I’m about to discover the Kylerhea Ferry is very interesting indeed and certainly worth preserving. More to follow.
Later I look up Bernera Barracks and discover it is older than I realised. You can read about the history of the barracks on the Undiscovered Scotland site.
Miles walked today = 10 miles (plus 6 miles on my electric Scooty)
Total distance around Britain = 4,279.5 miles
Route: (Sandaig visit in black, morning route in green, afternoon route in red)