Stage 116, 5th July: Tayvallich to Ardfern
I am beginning to find that everything and anything, however small or large, dwells on my mind considerably. With all this time to think, my mind is beginning to play a few tricks and the boredom of walking hour after hour can be exceptionally mind numbing. So after a dreadful lack of sleep, I stepped out expecting rain, feeling very low and deeply dreading a day full of desolate thoughts. And sure enough they found me.
Even though I was now purposely heading North for what felt like the first time in ages, the forest walk seemed increasingly drab and oppressive. So when I came across a staged wooden platform through the trees to a willow arch and a big outcrop of rock – it seemed a little apt that I had apparently found a path to nowhere, either that or a ritual site for a bizarre coven.
Having had a an increasing number of down moments recently, an up moment was overdue and it came at Ardnoe Point where not only did my phone jump back into life after two days without a signal, but the scenery shouted a hello too, with a spectacular view across Loch Crinan and Craignish to the Firth or Lorne and the Gulf of Corryvreckan.
With my mind full of swirling thoughts, I carried on a little aimlessly and missed my turning down to Crinan. I back-tracked a good half a mile to find the little turning down a steep winding cliff path and was rewarded with the Crinan Canal and a basin full of yachts. From here I trailed along lanes and tracks to Carnassarie Castle and up to the joys of walking alongside the A816 till I was just short of Ardfern where Simon was parked up in a lay-by. The few miles of the A816 was tame compared to previous A roads, but my wits still had to be sharp. Fortunately they now were.
Stage 117, 6th July: Ardfern to Degnish
It was all beginning to sound a bit familiar as I dropped down the lane through Ardfern alongside the West shore of Loch Craignish. I seemed to be crawling northwards and westwards by rounding one peninsula after another, all of which were beginning to look very similar. All were pretty and sported occasional villages full of renovated, extended and newly built ‘architect’ designed houses, yacht filled harbours and expensive 4x4s cruising the lanes. But none seemed to strike me as having anything remarkably different from the last. It felt a bit like suburbia in the wilderness and the monotony was beginning to get to me.
I longed for ventures and adventures across country with open views and when they happened it raised my spirit and alleviated the boredom of lanes and dangerous A roads round and around the forest edged lochs. Today gave me a nicely marked path to head along North and up the West side of my latest peninsula through the Craignish Estate. However, this marked path on the map wasn’t even visible on the ground and instead comprised thick, deep bracken now well over head height. I ended up literally wading through with the bracken tying itself in knots around my thighs as I pushed through and peered over the foliage to get sight of my next visible goal. Progress was slow and I was beginning to wonder whether the next few miles with no map marked path at all might be a bit of a route planning error. But unlike the Ardpatrick adventure of a few days ago, this time the tables turned and I had a well-worn trail all the way up to Meml and – guess what – its neat little marina full of yachts and the accompanying neat almost twee rows of recently built cottages trying hard to resemble an old fishing village but looking more akin to toy town.
Eventually I made my way back on to the A816 and this time I truly regretted it. No longer were people rolling along gently and giving way like they were yesterday. This time many of them seemed to be lost in their own little world. I had to look each driver squarely in the eyes to see if they had clocked me. Many hadn’t and I counted five cars cutting it a little too fine for my liking. Six miles of it was enough for anyone and I met Simon at the side-road junction to Melfort where he joined me for the last four and a half miles of lane walking along the shore of Loch Melfort for an off-grid overnight stop near Degnish. This was a beautiful place to stop with big sky views across the water from high up on the cliff. It was great to chat with home from the wilds of a remote cliff top with not a soul for miles.
Stage 118, 7th July: Degnish to Sound of Kerrera nr Oban
What? Another peninsula? Surely not!
I headed further up the hillside along a rough track and back on myself with formidable intent to avoid the showers forecast for the day. After a brief raised voice chat with a shepherd standing with his dogs at the top of a nearby hill my shower avoidance failed and I took shelter under a tree while the worst of it passed.
Coming off the hill on the other side of the peninsula was a disappointment and all too soon I was on the lanes and back on the A816 again. After my experience of yesterday I really didn’t want this road and I would have happily walked three miles off-road to avoid one mile on it. So that is exactly what I did.
I found a nice marked loop of track on my map and followed it. Though distant loch or sea views were absent, it took me down through woodland, up through more woodland and twisted and turned its way around the hillside as if trying to do its level best to entertain me. It succeeded. So when I returned to the road, I found another loop and took it too. Not woodland this time but farmland and at last it brought me out on the outskirts of Oban and hopefully the end of this repetitive sequence of small peninsulas. I was glad to see something new even if it was the edge of a town. I barely skirted Oban and would leave that treat for tomorrow as I headed for camp opposite the Isle of Kerrera.
It had warmed up significantly after the showers of earlier so I felt a treat was well deserved, particularly when its a 51st birthday treat. So Simon and I indulged ourselves with a succulent Double Caramel Magnum. The birthday edition ice cream was apt even if Magnums are 26 years younger than me.