Stage 122, 13th July: Onich to Kingairloch
Since I started this journey I have always viewed the Corran Ferry across Loch Linnhe as my mental halfway point. I have always thought of it as the crossing over to paradise, the real wilderness of West Scotland and a very special place. However, in truth it wasn’t quite halfway and anyway I couldn’t be sure exactly where that point would be until the very end and I possessed the final mileage total. But my estimate said that it would be somewhere around here and the 2,500 mile mark was only a day away, so for now the Corran Ferry was as good as halfway.
As I walked away from the ferry along the quiet road towards Morvern and Ardnamurchan I thought it was the ideal time to try out my birthday present from home which had arrived via Sue and Diesy yesterday. I really could have done with an iPod over the last few weeks as the boredom had set in and my portable digital radio had failed to keep enough of a signal to effectively listen to the cricket. So to get one preloaded with some of my old albums was a genuine treat only matched by the cards accompanying it from Kate and the girls. The little ‘red cross’ parcel definitely gave me a real and very timely boost. Add to that all the birthday wishes I received electronically from family and friends (I have never received as many birthday wishes as I did on facebook) and you can probably imagine that the world was feeling pretty damn good.
Today was all road walking, but it didn’t bother me as the weather was cool, the traffic was nil and I had Led Zeppelin on the iPod to apparently hasten my speed to 6km/hr (as observed by Kate on viewing my Buddy Beacon). Apparently whilst listening to Coldplay it was a mere 5km/hr, but that might be something to do with Chris Martin’s propensity to wail a little too much sometimes.
The roadside sign told me that Kilchoan (at the West end of Ardnamurchan) was 44 miles away. To me it was still a full week and well over a hundred miles. I had Morvern to go around first, so I disappeared off left and South again for Kingairloch and a night ‘off-grid’ in the hills alongside Loch Uisge. The one down side about arriving in this stunning part of the world was that the midge count had noticeably climbed. Not that it was unbearable, but definitely irritating and certainly itchy. My comparison of midge repellent products could begin in earnest.
Stage 123, 14th July: Kingairloch to Fiunary
The new iPod had to be quickly abandoned today. Within minutes of setting off, the rain came in over my shoulder and slowly grew in intensity. I had changed my route as I couldn’t be sure that the map marked path taking me around the huge quarry at Glensanda was truly passable. I was sure that if they had any health and safety excuse for keeping walkers away they would use it and I didn’t fancy gambling a possible backtrack of five or six miles, particularly on a wet day. So instead it was waterproofs on, kit in a dry bag, hat on and head down to just get on with it.
Scottish rain is incredibly searching, in my opinion – much more so than English or Welsh. Eventually water gets in everywhere and my boots were soon swamped again as my socks successfully wicked water down into them probably because I had maybe foolishly decided to dispense with the claggy overtrousers. Occasionally the rain would ease and offer a little false hope before returning to lash it down again. It was pretty much all road, including the fearsome sounding A884 which was actually a single track road with barely a car once every ten minutes.
I would have loved to have taken some photos, but I wasn’t going to test the electrical circuitry of my camera with this variety of wet stuff. So Kinlochaline Castle, tucked into the woods with its turrets and slated spires was missed, as were the pure white heaps of sand affronting the sand mine at Lochaline and Loch Aline itself. So I was a little disappointed that Morvern had underplayed itself today, even if it was entirely the fault of the weather. At least the camp site at Fiunary made up for it. Their generosity and friendliness kept Sue and I talking and I would love to have spent more time at their idyllic hideaway.
Stage 124, 15th July: Fiunary to Kinlochteacuis
The rain had cleared leaving me with sunny spells to start the day with a lane walk following an ancient mourners route. The lane took me across to Drimnin looking over the Sound of Mull and around the Wishing Stone which apparently grants a wish to anyone who can pass through the big hole in the rock without touching it. I elected to forsake the opportunity of a wish as I reckoned the alternative was probably a broken limb or fractured skull for anyone attempting the trick.
I was soon up into the tracks and hills around the Drimnin Estate where the views just got better and better with every foot of ascent. At one point with Mull to my left I could clearly see Tobermory and its yacht filled harbour and as my eyes swept right West Ardnamurchan sat in a light haze with the village of Kilchoan and its mountain neighbour Ben Hiant, clearly on show. I knew it was a view the camera could never replicate, but I had to at least give it a try.
I even found what I thought would make a truly stupendous building plot and just had to share it with home. My enthusiasm was probably misplaced as the likelihood of buying from the estate, securing remote access and then getting planning permission might not be an easy proposition. But sometimes it’s nice to dream. Nonetheless a local shepherd with two collies in baskets on his quad bike told me of an old ruin that might be a better prospect around the corner. He also nonchalantly mentioned his internet skills. Times have certainly changed for the shepherd.
I followed the old road (track) to Doirlinn. The views were now over Loch Sunart towards East Ardnamurchan and the islands of Oronsay and Carna, but they were equally awe-inspiring.
The old mile posts were still in excellent condition and grandly counted down my progress to what I thought might be a hidden ancient conurbation of great importance. When I arrived at the track end I was greeted by a single ramshackle cottage with its saggy roof and partly furnished rooms. I felt a little robbed. But with the track now gone, I headed off through the bracken and boggy woodland which slowly morphed into a path (yet to be discovered by the chaps at the Ordnance Survey) and eventually the path became a forest track. I met up with Sue and Diesy for a walk back to Snickers and in doing so we startled a lovely stag who watched us carefully as Diesy strained at his lead for a chase.
For me this was a walk to rival the best so far and definitely one to be recommended.