387. Sanna to Achateny (and back)

July 2021

This walk along the north coast of the Ardnamurchan peninsula was another awkward walk to plan. Sanna is at the end of a dead-end single track road and Achateny is part way along another dead-end single track road. A path sort of links them and takes a more direct route than the roads as to drive between them is around 12 miles. So I again opted for another there and back walk.

There was nowhere obvious to park at Achateny when I was there on my previous walk but a car park marked at the end of the road at Sanna, so I opted to head to Sanna. I was staying in Shielfoot, not far as the crow flies but it takes over an hour to drive round to Sanna as road classification on the Ardnamurchan peninsula largely seems meaningless. A road, B road or unclassified, they are all the same – single track with passing places (and often hilly and twisty too) so progress is slow.

I am planning to follow a path that runs from about 1 1/2 miles south of Sanna off the road that serves it, which heads towards and then along the coast to Fascadale to rejoin roads then along the road to Achateny. I wondered if it might be possible to park at the point the path leaves the road as that would save a bit of driving. The good news was it was. The bad news was it wasn’t. I’ll explain. There is a small parking area, so it is possible to park there. The bad news for me was that it was full of overnighting motorhomes so there was no space. Therefore I continued on to Sanna. Fortunately here there is a fairly large car park that still had plenty of space.

Sanna is a rather pretty place with several beaches. I knew however my next walk would also bring me here and today I was a bit worried about how long the path would take as I never know how good or bad paths on Scotland are. Some are excellent. Some don’t exist at all! So I opted to defer an explore of Sanna for another day. There was another reason too, the weather forecast was for heavy rain all day. Fortunately for me it wasn’t raining yet but I wanted to get going in the hope I could get much (or perhaps all) of the walk done in the dry.

Sanna

Therefore I immediately set off back along the road. The road is remote and empty, sometimes with grass growing down the middle.

The road near Achnaha

After about a mile I reach the only other settlement along the road, Achnaha. There isn’t a lot to it, a dozen or so houses scattered beside the road is all there is. I continued along the road, with some sheep that seemed to be posing for a photograph, so I obliged.

Near Glendrian

Soon it was time to leave the road and I was back at the small parking area. Fortunately the path was obvious as it was a car-wide earth track heading away from the road.

Near Glendrian

I continued up it soon coming to a gate. Here a sign informed me that I was about a mile away from an abandoned crofting township called Glendrian. Unlike many local villages, Glendrian was not not subject to the highland clearances but simply declined away to nothing. In 1861 the population was 47. However from then on the population began to decline. By 1901 it had dropped to 11 in 3 houses. By the 1920s this had dropped to two households but both left by 1941, leaving the village abandoned, as it has remained ever since.

Near Glendrian

Although the map showed this as a path it was actually a track all the way to the village. Just before it there is a ford (not marked as such on the map) over a small burn. Fortunately for me this was easy to cross with some stepping stones to allow me to cross and reach the abandoned village.

The houses were now roofless but otherwise in surprisingly good condition. They looked to still be used by a local crofter for storage etc and equipment for grazing sheep, as there were many grazing nearby (though also a dead sheep in one of the abandoned houses, so I didn’t linger there).

Near Glendrian

The remains of the village of Glendrian

The remains of the village of Glendrian

The remains of the village of Glendrian

Beyond the village the path narrowed from a track to a path, sometimes difficult to see.

Near Glendrian

Near Glendrian

At one marshy area I initially lost the path but soon realised my mistake and found it again. After that I never lost it entirely but it was hard to spot in places. It briefly headed down inland to run beside another stream to finally near the coast. Here there is another ford after which the path splits with a small dead-end part going to a beach at Port Eigin-aig.

I don’t know if it was ever used as a port, but it was a pebble beach with rocks either side and today at least fairly sheltered. I used the opportunity to stop for a mid-morning snack and drink (after getting Lyme disease last year I am reluctant to sit down on grassy area, so preferred to wait until I got to the beach).

Port Eigin-aig

It looked like there was rain out to sea but fortunately for me it was still dry here, albeit overcast. On the way back I found the junction, or where it should be, but initially struggled to find the onward path to Fascadale. There was a lot of bracken but I soon found the onward path.

Initially the path wasn’t too bad but after about a mile I reached the area around Lochan Dubh where it became very marshy so I soon had wet feet.

Near Fascadale

Near Fascadale

Unusually I soon met a group of walkers coming the other way (most footpaths in northern Scotland seem to be little used). They were heading for Glendrian and wanted to know how long it would take. I told them it had taken me an hour and 45 minutes. They didn’t seem to put off by this and continued but I realised a few minutes later my timings had included the walk to the beach and back and a sit down there and if they went direct it was probably nearer an hour. Unfortunately it was too late for me to tell them that now. I passed the remains of a bridge over one part of a boggy area, but all that remained was part of the support on one side.

Remains of a bridge

From the loch the path undulated a bit and soon I was at Fascadale, but I didn’t see it until I was almost there due to it being in a valley. The path down to the beach was steep and quite tricky but soon I made it to the beach. Flushed with success I decided to celebrate with lunch here. The rain still hadn’t started but the wind was picking up so I found a fairly sheltered area at the eastern end of the beach to have lunch, where I was out of the wind.

Port Eigin-aig

Port Eigin-aig

Port Eigin-aig

Port Eigin-aig

After lunch I continued from the beach to the road and follow the road through Fascadale. Fascadale is a tiny place about half a dozen houses and the one nearest the beach was having a lot of work done, with builders hammering away as I passed.

Port Eigin-aig

Fascadale

From here it was about a mile walk along the road to Achateny where I got to on my previous walk, so I could ensure I joined it up. The land beside the road was not especially interesting, being fairly flat with marshes on either side so I was glad of the firm footing of the road.

Near Achateny

Near Achateny

I continued along the road to the point I had got to yesterday (when coming from the other direction). There isn’t a lot to Achateny either, just a large farm really. Having joined up my walks it was time to head back.

Achateny

The road near Achateny

I soon got back to the beach at Fascadale and stopped for my final refreshment stop. I soon felt spots of rain which quickly turned to drizzle so I didn’t linger, keen to get back before I got too wet. I should have paid more attention on the way down as on the ground were a number of paths and I wasn’t sure which was the right one, it seemed easier to find the right way on the way down. I checked my GPS and discovered I was a little of course, but not drastically so soon followed that to be back on the correct path and soon there was only one route on the ground anyway as I reached the top of the hill.

Fascadale

The rain got harder, soon turning from drizzle to heavier rain and then became quite heavy (this is also a reason there are no more photos today). I soon met the same group I had seen earlier now on the way back. They confirmed they had got to Glendrian and enjoyed their visit, so I was pleased I hadn’t put them off with my dodgy timings and apologised that I probably told them it took longer than it did but they told me it was about right, so that was good. Well the adults told me they had enjoyed it. From their faces, I’m not sure the couple of teenagers with them had!

Unfortunately the now heavy rain soon turned torrential and soon the water had penetrated my jacket so I was soon also getting wet. My feet were wet too, so I kept my pace up in order to keep warm.

The rain had further consequences, tending to flow along the lowest area of ground which mostly seemed to be the path. It now had a couple of inches of water flowing over it in places and it was quite incredible to see the difference compared with my outward route in such a short time. Having said that with now sodden feet anyway I didn’t bother with avoiding the boggy or flooded areas on the way back because it was all like that now.

It felt that the rain had got heavier to make up for it’s late start! I was pleased when Glendrian came into view. Not far to the road now, where at least my feet and shoes had a chance to start drying out a bit!

There was a lot more water here too. Where it had been all grass earlier several streams had now erupted flowing over the grass, perhaps as much as a couple of inches deep in places, even causing a small waterfall and some large flooded areas. The heavy rain that had been coming down had now saturated all the ground. Again it was surprising to see the transformation from a few hours ago.

I was pleased to now reach the track and continue ahead to the ford. I now realised I had a problem. Potentially a big problem. The stream was much deeper than when I was here earlier. The stepping stones were now under a foot or so of water with a large amount of river to step over to even get to the first one because it was now much wider as well as deeper. I was obviously going to get very wet feet.

I made it over to get both feet on the first one. However the force of the water was a real surprise. Although only about a foot deep it was flowing very fast and I didn’t feel confident I could step over to the next, submerged stepping stone, as when I tried to move my feet the force of water soon moved them from where I was trying to step and this one was deeper underwater. If I missed the stepping stone the water either side was much deeper and there was a big risk I could fall in. I felt that the water was flowing fast enough that if that happened I could be in real trouble, I’m not sure I’d have been able to stop myself being washed down it. It wasn’t that it was that deep, but the speed it was flowing and the force this causes.

What had earlier been interesting to see the change in the landscape was now turning a little scary. and I was shocked at the change to this burn in a short time. The power of nature was clear to see and I had to be careful.

I left the stream trying to find somewhere else to cross. A farmer had a sort of compound and I wondered if I might find something there to help me across, but no. However walking around a field I did find beside the burn a log. I tried to put it over the river, but it wasn’t quite long enough and when I put it in the water the force pulled it out my hand and it flowed off down the stream!

I was beginning to panic a bit now. I decided it was best to go back to the ford, I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as I thought, I convinced myself. However it looked like it had already got a little deeper. I started to cross again, but again didn’t feel I had confidence I could make it across without falling in the river and retreated once more.

What was I going to do now? It was pouring with rain. There was no mobile signal. I tried to check the map – I always carry a paper map due to unreliability of phone signals and the fact it makes it easier to see a wider area than on a small phone screen. However in this rain I couldn’t look for longer than a few seconds or it would turn into papier-mache. What I was trying to see is how far up the river it was to it’s source. I knew I’d be able to cross there, but couldn’t really see it. I decided instead to just follow the river upstream hoping it would get narrower to the point I could cross, then had back to the ford to rejoin the track.

I set off doing that but was dismayed that it soon headed into a steeper valley with rocks on either side. This made the water flow still faster and with a big drop on either side just to get down to it (and no stepping stones). I continued but I couldn’t see where the water came out of the valley and it was very tough terrain underfoot. I wasn’t going to be able to cross here and I didn’t know how far upstream I’d have to go.

Again I convinced myself the ford can’t have been too bad. It must be better than this surely? So I headed back AGAIN but once more it looked a little deeper and I didn’t feel confident of making it across safely.

I was in a bit of a mess. I wasn’t in serious danger because given the terrain I had followed from Fascadale I didn’t think any of the little streams or boggy areas would have become so deep that I couldn’t make it back to the road there and safety, but my car would be in Sanna. Assuming I could get to the road I could follow the road back to Sanna. The problem is that was around 12 miles! On top of the distance I had already covered (and would have to cover to get back to the road). There are no buses and with no phone signal no possibility to call for a taxi either, not that I think there are any on Ardnamurchan anyway. So I’d likely not get back until late into the evening or perhaps the early hours, with nothing to eat. I could try and thumb a lift but I’m not sure a soaking wet and bedraggled walker was something many people would want in their clean dry cars!

What else could I do? I thought about it for a few minutes and then decided I’d try to follow the burn down stream instead. I know rivers tend to get wider as they near the sea, but perhaps that would also make the water slower and shallower and so make it easier to cross? The map showed it got wider and reached the coast at Sanna, but there was also a bridge marked there so that should be an option (assuming it still exists). So that was what I decided to do.

I struggled along the near waist high grass and bog beside the river down stream for what felt like about half an hour though was probably less, watched by bemused sheep. There was nowhere safe to cross and it was getting wider but then just as I was panicking a bit more I found a possible solution.

A high fence. Normally I curse these fences, they are usually topped by barbed wire but here the farmer had also continued the fence across the burn. Presumably this was a deer fence and went across the rive too because deer have no qualms about swimming if needed. However along the bottom where it went in the river it was supported by a couple of sturdy looking wooden poles though they were also about an inch or two underwater now! But I could inch my way along these, holding onto the wire fence attached to them for support.

Fortunately for me that was what I managed to do. I was glad not to fall in because it was still deep and fast flowing here, but at last I had made it back onto the side of the river near to the road. That was a great relief! I now made my way back along the rough ground on the other side of the river to rejoin the track. I was now shaking a bit, I don’t think so much from the cold but adrenaline after getting into a panic over getting over the river, which I’d finally done.

Fortunately the track was down hill all the way now with no more water to cross (other than many puddles) and I was soon approaching the road. One of the motor-homes that was there this morning was still there, I wondered if they had even left that spot all day. Though given the weather perhaps they had the right idea, it was likely warm and cosy in there!

The rain continued heavily as I followed the road back to my car at Sanna and I was glad to get back to somewhere dry and back to safety.

So this walk hadn’t exactly gone to plan! I had made it safely to my destination and back again in the end but I needed to be more careful about walking in such conditions in future. The rain had been forecast (albeit starting earlier than it did) and I knew that so it wasn’t like it was a surprise, but I had been shocked at how quickly it can transform a fairly benign landscape into something quite dangerous in a short space of time. On many previous trips I have abandoned my plans for a day of walking when faced with similar weather.  I hadn’t this time perhaps because there weren’t really any “indoor attractions” or castles etc to visit in the area instead. Another aspect was with all the Covid restricitons stopping me getting to the coast for much of 2020 (and early in 2021) I was even more determined to make all the time I had there count and not waste it sitting around for a day reading etc (which I could do at home) just because it was raining. But I must consider abandoning walks in these kinds of conditions in future, at least when walking on remote paths in areas with no phone signal, where I don’t really have the option of cutting the walk short or getting help. If I do walk in weather like this again it would be sensible to at least do a walk on or close to roads so I have the option of getting back to the road and relative safety.

Happily the weather forecast for tomorrow was better so I hoped that turned out to be accurate. This is also one of the reasons I plan to do most of my walks in the Scottish highlands in spring, summer or autumn in the hope of avoiding the worst of the weather, but that plan hadn’t worked out so well today.

There is no public transport access anywhere on this walk. There is a daily bus (except Sunday) along the B8007, but it is several miles walk from there north along roads to Achateny or Sanna.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link.

Someone recently left a comment mentioning that my routes can be hard to follow because there isn’t a map. The reason for this is I often don’t have a GPS track of the whole route and the Ordnance Survey tend to be very protective about copyright if you try to include one of their maps and I find Google Maps not too useful when off roads. But I had a go at drawing my route for this walk onto OpenStreet map so lets see how that works out.

Sanna to Achateny map

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386. Achateny to Ockle

July 2021

This was a rather bitty walk of two halves which I did in the afternoon after the Shielfoot circular walk. This is because my next walk is to head east from Sanna to meet up with this walk and I wanted to cut the mileage of that walk. This walk is entirely on road as a dead-end road comes up from the B8007 along the south side of the Ardnamurchan peninsula, heading north, and splits in two, in a sort of Y-shape with the west part heading to Fascadale and the east part to Ockle and I planned to walk much of this road today.

Having found earlier in the day that it was possible to park in Ockle after lunch I drove there. From where I was staying in Shielfoot, Ockle was less than 10 miles away but the road route is very long (about 25 miles) and it took about an hour with all but about a mile of it on single track and hilly roads, with many pot holes.

I parked at the very end of the road at Ockle where there was a little parking area at the left just after the river. From here I set up the folding bike I had in the car and attempted to cycle to Kilmory. Unfortunately I hadn’t used the bike since my last trip of 2020 to Scotland, back in October the previous year. I gave it a quick look over and it looked in order before I put it in the bike checking the pedals moved the wheels, the brakes were working and the tyres inflated. Unfortunately what I did not do was actually take it for a quick ride or check the gears.

At the first hill I changed down the lowest gear no problem. But after that the gear lever did nothing apart from click when I attempted to change up. Perhaps the fix was simple but I couldn’t be bothered to stop and look so had to make do with only using the lowest gear. It did save me time but I’m not sure how much. I took the road down to Kilmorie and left the bike nearer the end than I realised, just leaning against a fence. I was fed up with it and couldn’t be bothered to lock it up.

Near Kilmory

My plan now was first to head west, making my own way along the shore to the beach at Port Ban. I continued down the road looking for a track to the left that I wanted to follow down to the beach. But very soon the road just split to two houses with a turning area. The end of the road – I had gone further than I realised on the bike and missed the turn. So I pushed the bike back up until I found the track I wanted to follow. I was pleased to see this was signed as giving access to the beach as I hoped – an encouraging sign.

Path to the beach at Kilmory

Following the track I soon came across a couple walking a dog by a bridge over a stream. The bridge looked very dilapidated, sagging in the middle and they were standing beside the other side of the river. There are only a few stones I can step on to cross the river so I do that but meanwhile the other couple cross on the bridge without problem. I guess stronger than it looked!

The path soon descended to the back of the beach where there was some more people on the beach, I was surprised how many (perhaps 7 or 8) given there was no where to park and no cars parked other than at the houses. Perhaps the residents enjoying “their” beach?

Beach near Kilmory

Beach near Kilmory

I followed the beach left and at the end a family were playing in the sand I had to almost step on (but just got around) their towel to get onto the rocks beyond. I followed the rocks and grass until I came across a fence. Frustrating. What this is for I don’t know and I wondered if it was to keep animals or humans out. It literally went to the end finishing on a low rock with the sea a couple of feet below. I managed, just to get round by swinging round the last fence post and soon found a better route the other side. For a while it was good but then came down to a boggy area where I had to keep crossing streams. There were also many sheep here. I struggled to cross a wider partly dried up channel as when nearly across it always became boggy.

Port Ban

Having made it over at perhaps the 3rd or 4th attempt once over I saw a man walking towards me the other side holding something up (I soon realised a fishing rod having initially worried it might be a gun). He called out to me “what are you doing” as I approached which was not the most welcoming greeting. I wondered if he may be the land owner that put that fence up and so annoyed I had made it round it! However when I said I was walking around the coast he soon relaxed becoming friendly, commenting on the weather and scenery. So I took the opportunity to ask, as I suspected, if I could get around to the road. He confirmed I could. I was going to follow up to the road and come back the same way. However with the possibility the tide would come in, making my route around that fence impossible and the possibility of meeting the man again who might question why I’m coming back I decided it was probably sensible to return on the road. Though further I doubt it would take any longer anyway because the road is much easier to walk on than a boggy marsh!

Port Ban

I continued on the beach to approach a stream, well more a river. Impossible to cross without taking my shoes off so I followed it’s left side close to the fence squeezed between this and the stream but it soon came out onto the track just past a house. I followed the track towards a farm, with sheep all over the track. As I did so a car was coming along the track. How typical that the people that live at the house would have to come back for the few minutes I was walking on it. I hoped they weren’t going to tell me off so I stood aside as the car approached but the look they gave me as they passed suggested I was very much not welcome, but at least they didn’t stop to ask why I was here.

Near Achateny

Onwards the track continued to a farm so I followed this and at some point here it becomes the public road.

The road near Achateny

I hoped before it crossed the river to take a track on the left up to Branault a bit of a short cut but it was behind a tall (over head-height) fence and the fence continued above the gate. I could not open the gate and beyond it were cattle feeders and it was very muddy so I decided to take the slightly longer route around on the road instead. I had wondered if I might be able to pick up this track just before crossing the river but the fence on the left continued even over the side of the bridge!

Near Achateny

At the far end at the road junction I saw some other walkers who were coming towards me, perhaps heading for one of these nice beaches. I now followed the road up to the junction and then took the other fork of the road, towards Ockle. This soon crossed the river (Achateny Water) on a modern bridge, with an older bridge alongside it and followed the road onwards to Branault as it gently climbs. I continued through Branault. I had meant to look out for the other end of the track I tried to follow earlier but now I had passed the point it was meant to join the road and had forgotten, so I guess it wasn’t very obvious at this end, either.

I continued to the junction for Kilmory and then continued ahead to reach my bike.

Near Kilmory

I now turned around and pushed it back up the road back to the junction and dumped it in the grass beside the junction, to make it easier to collect later (as I could avoid having to make a U-turn in my car).

Back at the junction I took the branch of the road to Ockle. This soon climbed I had gained enough height to give me a wonderful view over to the coast and the Small Isles beyond. Just past this point I came across an walled graveyard called Cill Mhairi which was not near a church (though I later found out a private house nearby was once the church).

Cill Mhairi near Kilmory

Cill Mhairi near Kilmory

The road continued uphill passing a hill called Dun Mor and descended down and back up.

Near Ockle

Near Ockle

I wasn’t really following the map in detail here since I knew I just had to keep going to the end of the road at Ockle now, with no more junctions to negotiate.

Near Ockle

Near Ockle

I was surprised therefore to soon see Ockle ahead, I thought I had further still to go.

Near Ockle

Traffic was light in the whole time from the junction only one car and a motorbike had passed me, but now a car was heading out of Ockle, the first that had passed me the whole way.

I continued down to my car in the small car park at Ockle. I was glad to have been able to complete the extra mileage today as it would make my walk tomorrow shorter. There was another reason for wanting to do it today as the weather forecast for tomorrow was rain all day so I wanted to cover more miles today whilst it was dry.

This had been a short but pleasant walk. Despite being mostly a road walk from the map I had had a couple off road adventures to take a more coastal route and discover some lovely beaches. Although not right along the coast for the latter part of the walk this was more than compensated for by the wonderful views I had out to sea and to the small isles.

There is no public transport access for this walk, the nearest bus runs along the B8007 where there is a daily service between Fort William and Kilchoan which will stop at the junction with the road to Ockle and Fascadale:-

Shiel Buses route 507 : Kilchoan – Kilmory – Ardsliginish – Ardnamurchan Distillery – Laga Bay – Salen – Acharacle – Strontian – Clovullin – Ardgour – Corran (via ferry) – Fort William. One bus per day each way Monday – Saturday.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link.

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385. Arivegaig to Ockle (and back)

May 2021

This walk I actually did a few months earlier than the previous walk I wrote up, as I had had to skip ahead and do this walk when I hadn’t originally planned to.

The previous day I had driven up from my home in Surrey to Mallaig, a long day of driving. My original plan, made about a week before I set off was to do the walk between Mallaig and Morar or Arisaig today. It was a Sunday and no buses serve Mallaig on a Sunday, however there was a train service scheduled, so I could walk to Morar or Arisaig and then take the train back to Mallaig, so I wouldn’t need to drive at at all today. However when I came to check the train times a couple of days ago, all the trains on Sunday had disappeared. Checking the ScotRail website I discovered there was, once again, some kind of industrial dispute. This means the train guards, or possibly drivers, or possibly both were refusing to work on Sundays (I believe because they wanted to be paid more to work on Sundays).

That meant I had to change my plans for the day. The walks I had planned for this trip were generally using public transport and those that weren’t were typically expected to be a less than full day walk. So looking ahead at my planned walks I wanted to find an all day walk that was either a circular or there and back. I hadn’t, at the time, worked out the route I later did as my last walk (a circular from Shielfoot) so this was the next I knew would not require the use of a train or bus, to walk from Arivegaig to Ockle.

The reason for this is that Arivegaig is at the end of a dead-end unclassified road. Ockle is also at the end of another dead-end unclassified road. Neither is served by a bus route. To drive between them is 25 miles. Even if I cycled that, that was too much distance to cover on top of the walk (not to mention the time taken to drive back to retrieve my bike at the end), so the most practical options was to do this as a there and back walk along these tracks and paths. If that proved too much I could tackle it as two there and back walks, starting from either end with the aim of meeting in the middle.

Now I had a plan for the day I set off on the drive to Arivegaig. It took a bit over an hour and I was headed for the car park at Arivegaig. Unfortunately when I arrived here it was full. I was rather irritated by this, as my plans were not going well. There is a beach along the path I’m following called Singing Sands and this is the car park for it. There was a clear sign saying “No Overnight Parking” and it was about 9:30am on a Sunday. I doubted all these vehicles had arrived this morning and suspected most had parked overnight. There was just room to squeeze my car in between two other cars but it was so tight it was impossible for me to open the door on either side, I would have had to get out of the boot! The owners of the vehicles either side would not thank me for parking there (though you could have got another 3 or 4 cars in the car park if the vehicles had parked a bit closer together). On the other side of the track was an area free from grass that headed down to the marshy water. I could park there, but reeds washed up suggested the water does sometimes come up over this land so it wasn’t a good idea. Annoyingly, beyond the car park was a gate on the track and beyond that another large it was possible to park (and indeed one car was there), but the gate was locked.

I therefore had to find somewhere else to park. I didn’t know if you could park in Ockle and it would probably take an hour to get there on the narrow single-track roads. Heading back along the road around half a mile further back there was a junction where a road goes north to the main area of houses in Arivegaig whilst to the south there is a track down to Acharacle. At the top of this track was a post box and beyond that a gravel area where there was room to park about 3 cars. There were already 2 cars here (one just arrived, as the owner was setting up a bike), so I got the last space here, which was a relief. It would make for an extra mile to walk today but at least now I could get started (this is why I also didn’t go all the way down this road on my last walk, Shielfoot Circuar because I had already walked it on this walk, which I had actually done earlier).

This meant first I had to walk back along the road to the car park. I was lucky not to have arrived any later as a few vehicles passed me on this road, coming from behind then appearing again a few minutes later coming back towards me, I suspect like me hoping to park in the car park and finding it full.

Road near Arivegaig

The road was very straight and soon I was back at the car park, but this time on foot. The car park is right next to the water of Kentra Bay, a large bay that is a mixture of mud and sand. It looked like it was pretty much high tide and was very beautiful. These areas of marshy land are usually so much prettier when the tide is in!

Kentra Bay

Kentra Bay

I headed through the locked gate beyond the car park and continued on the track, which was a car wide gravel track, clearly used by vehicles on a semi-regular basis at least. The track follows the south edge of Kentra Bay and runs right along the coast.

Kentra Bay

Kentra Bay

Kentra Bay

I can see back to the houses of Arivegaig, where I walked last time. There are also a couple of small tidal islands in the bay, though they have just trees on them.

Near Gorteneorn

After about a mile a ford was marked on the map, so I was pleased to discover that there is now a bridge, so I don’t have to get wet feet. In fact there are the remains of another bridge close by which I suspect was a footbridge, presumably not maintained now there is a road bridge.

Gorteneorn

A short distance ahead the path unfortunately leaves the waters edge to run through the woodland.  I considered trying to find a route closer to the shore, but the the trees are conifers and quite dense, so it would be very tough so I opt to stick with the path. A hand-written and faded sign confirms this is the right way, To the beach and Ockle it confirms. Good to know I can definitely get through to Ockle!

Path to Ockle and Singing Sands

The path climbed a bit through the woodland and I soon came to an odd abandoned structure.

Kentra Bay

Remains of Eden camera gantry

This it turns out is the remains of a camera rig which was used to film the 2016 Channel 4 reality TV program called Eden where the participants were tasked with creating a community here from scratch and filmed whilst doing so. I never watched it or had even heard of it before and I don’t think many people did since only the first 5 episodes were broadcast before transmission ceased due to low ratings. (I didn’t know this at the time, I found it out from another blog, though I cannot remember whose now, so apologies for not giving credit).

The track was a lovely path through the pine woodland, sometimes quite sandy.

Arivegaig to Ockle path

As I neared the western end of the woodland the path forks and the route to my right is confirmed as to the beach. It’s only a short diversion and this is meant to be a coast walk after all so I take it.

As I approach a sign warns “Unexploded Munitions” and goes on to warn this area was formerly MOD property and items of explosives are sometimes found. I hope I don’t find any today!

Path to SInging Sands

I soon reach this lovely beach. A good sandy beach called Singing Sands, it is so called because of the noise the sand makes as you walk on it.

Singing Sands

Singing Sands

Singing Sands

The water is shallow and out to sea are fine views of the Small Isles and Skye beyond.

Singing Sands

Singing Sands

I take my shoes and socks off and walk in the waters edge the length of the beach. I haven’t gone far, but it’s still wonderfully refreshing.

Singing Sands

Singing Sands

I am far from the only one here however. At the back of the beach are about a dozen tents, a few with barbecues going. I suspect most of the cars in the car park belong to the people here and most of them have been camping here overnight, there are also dogs running about barking, so it’s not as peaceful as I hoped.

Singing Sands

Singing Sands

Singing Sands

I don’t have loads of time, so soon it’s time to continue.

Singing Sands

I returned from the beach to the main track and turn right, to continue west. The path crosses a stream and then rises steeply and this part of the track is clearly less used than further east. Nearing the top of a surprisingly steep climb suddenly dogs come running towards me barking and jumping around my feet, which takes me by surprise. They turn out to belong to a couple jogging who don’t acknowledge me and run straight past, but soon the dogs follow them and leave me alone again, which is a relief.

The track soon  narrows to a path and passes a small lochan.

Lochan na Glaice

Lochan na Glaice

Beyond this the path is still fairly obvious fortunately and soon begins to climb for a while but then descends into a boggy and flat valley, but at the end of the valley continues to climb again.

Near Singing Sands

At a junction of tracks another track goes to the right, to Acarsaid Bheag, according to the map. A faded hand-made signs warns this is a dead end and the route to the left is the one I want for Ockle, so that is the way I go.

Junction near Singing Sands

This continues to climb and is quite hard work but I’m rewarded for my efforts but a wonderful view over to the Small Isles and Skye and back where I have come. This is a wild, remote and beautiful area and my enjoyment is increased because of the lovely spring weather today.

Near Singing Sands

Near Ockle

The Small Isles near Ockle

The Small Isles near Ockle

The Small Isles near Ockle

Having climbed steeply there is now a fairly steep descent down to a valley (Allt Eilagadale).

Allt Ellagadale

However the path upwards is still quite obvious and I can soon see the track marked on the map to Ockle.

Near Ockle

The path descends down to a junction on this track where a sign confirms the way I’ve come as to Gortenfern and the track ahead to Ockle but marks the track ahead as “Private” too Eilagadale. I can see the private route is a dead-end anyway so I continue on the track to Ockle.

Track junction near Ockle

Allt Ockle at Ockle

This is now a car-wide track and I can follow it gently down hill. Although not right on the coast the track is high up enough I still get wonderful views of the coast.

Near Ockle

Near Ockle

There are a few houses along the track and soon it passes a small, unnamed lochan. A short distance ahead it comes to a junction where I can turn left for Ockle and continue to cross a bridge over the Allt Ockle that flows to the sea here.

Allt Ockle at Ockle

Allt Ockle at Ockle

Once over this I am back on the public road. I am pleased to find there is also a car park here (though not marked on my map), which will likely prove useful for a future walk (and does at least confirm I could have parked here this morning if I had to).

This is as far as I’m going west today so now it’s time to head back, but first I stop for lunch. I sit on one of the rocks beside the water, where it is peaceful and I can avoid sitting on damp grass.

The coast near Ockle

Kentra Bay

After lunch it was time to head back. I wasn’t sure what condition this path was going to be in, but it had proven to be pretty good, meaning I had made fairly good time. So this time when I got back to the junction that was signed as a dead end to Acarsaid Bheag I decided to follow it. I know it’s a dead end and almost 2 miles long, so if I get to the end I’ll add another 4 miles, but it does look to go to the coast so it seems a shame to miss it out.

It takes me past another beautiful little lochan (again, unnamed).

The shore at Arcasaid Mor

Lochan na Glaice

The coast near Arivegaig

View to the small isles and Skye

The track continued heading gently (mostly) downhill towards the shore. I was disappointed on nearing the shore to come across a fence, topped with barbed wire (don’t the farmers of Scotland love barbed wire?!) There was a gate, but that also had the wire fence going above it and it too had been topped with barbed wire. Whoever owns this land doesn’t like people walking on it, despite the right to roam. Fortunately others had clearly been here before me and the section of fence and barbed wire on top of the gate had been bent down, so I was able to climb over the gate.

Gate at Arcasaid Mor

I was then at least able to get onto some rocks and down to the shore. I did at least want to get back to the shore before I headed back. I stopped to sit on the rocks, enjoy the view and have a drink.

The shore at Arcasaid Mor

The shore at Arcasaid Mor

I decided not to carry on as I’d reached my objective of getting to the shore and whoever owned this land clearly didn’t want people walking on it and the map suggested there were buildings at the end of the track, so it’s quite possible someone lives here.

I therefore headed back to the junction where I’d left the main track and re-traced my steps back to Gorternfern. The sun was out and the sun lower and the landscape was particularly beautiful in the low evening light.

Kentra Bay

On getting back to the shore, the view over Kentra Bay  was quite different to this morning as now the tide had gone out, revealing the mud and sand suggested by the map. Still a nice view, but not as pretty as when it was filled with water.

Kentra Bay

Kentra Bay

I continued on the track to the road and onwards back to my car.

Near Arivegaig

Kentra Bay

This had been a really lovely walk. A good path the whole way, nice beaches, stunning views and fine weather. What more could I ask for? I was also pleased to have made it to Ockle and back without problems and in a single day, as I had wondered if this walk might have to be done in 2 days.

There is no public transport to this walk, the nearest is in Acharacle.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link.

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384. Shielfoot Circular via Shiel Bridge

July 2021

For reasons I explained in my last post, I’m staying in a caravan in the grounds of a croft at the far end of the road in the small village of Shielfoot. I’m going to start my walk from here since a walk down the dead-end road on which Shielfoot is located brings me to Shiel Bridge, which I crossed on my last walk, to get over the river Shiel.

My next walk (which I had actually already done), would be a there and back walk from Arivegaig to Ockle, so this walk was a circular walk to fill in the gap between these two walks. Walking the north coast of the Ardnamurchan peninsula was proving to be logistically quite a challenge because most of the settlements are at the end of dead-end roads with no bus on them!

I did this on my first full day as I had had a long drive the previous day from home (over 550 miles) so today I wouldn’t need to drive anywhere. I was also hoping for better weather. On the 10 hour+ drive yesterday it had only not been raining for 90 minutes of it (and I had been stuck for a while on the A82 when a trailer being towed by a car had overturned in deep surface water from the heavy rain, blocking the road – ironically, it was carrying a boat!).

After breakfast I set off, first following the minor road along the west side of the river Shiel, which connects Shielfoot with Shiel Bridge on the A861. This is a very quiet road as it only serves a few houses, something I was grateful for when driving along here for the first time yesterday, as it’s a narrow single-track road.

The view from the road is wonderful with the fairly steep-sided river banks lined with trees, with some rocks poking out of the top as the cliffs became sheer, whilst the river itself was shallow but fast flowing.

The River Shiel

The River Shiel

The River Shiel

In places the river became very wide, slowing the flow of water so that it was almost like a mirror.

The River Shiel

The River Shiel

As I neared Shiel Bridge there were some shingle islands, one of which I spotted a heron on.

The River Shiel

The River Shiel

As the road made for easy walking I was soon back at the road junction, to join up with my last walk and now turned right on the road towards Acharacle.

A861 Shielfoot junction

I only had to follow this road for about 300 metres and like the minor road to Shielfoot it was also single track with passing places. I then turned right onto the B8044.

A861 B8044 junction

I’m quite surprised this road, which only serves a couple of tiny villages is classified as a B-road but then every road seems to be exactly the same on this peninsula, single track with passing places, so it doesn’t seem to make any difference!

There are 3 minor dead-end roads off the B8044 and I will be following all of them, as all of them head to the coast. A short distance along the road I passed a doctors surgery, a surprise in such a remote place, opposite Lochan a’ Churraidh. A sign requested motorists to drive carefully because of red squirrels in the area, but sadly I didn’t see any, though I do spot another heron fishing on the far side of the lochan.

Lochan a'Churraidh

Lochan a'Churraidh

In around half a mile, it’s time to take the first junction off this road to Arivegaig.

Arivegaig junction

This is a dead-end road about a mile long. I’d actually already driven along it to do my next walk (to write up), which I’d actually already done. I followed this road to the point I had begun that walk, giving fine views over the marshy low-lying landscape.

Near Kentra

On reaching the point I had walked from before I re-traced my steps a little way along the road, then took another dead-end road off this which serves a few houses (un-named on the map) and at the end headed beside the fence over the marsh towards a house marked as Raelands on the map and when I met their fence I followed that north east to the road.

Kentra Bay

Kentra Bay

Kentra Bay

Kentra Bay

Unfortunately the fence didn’t exactly follow the line marked on the map and I had to go a bit further out. Still I made it almost to the road, but here there was a gate that was so over-grown I could only see the top part of it. I headed towards it through the very tall undergrowth only to get a wet foot just a metre or so before the road when I stepped into a boggy area I couldn’t see. I should have stuck to the road! Still I had reached the road now and saves about 3/4 of a mile of walking, but not sure I saved any time!

I then turned left onto the road, the B8044 again and followed it through Kentra and onwards. It climbed up a bit around Gobshealach and I got some nice views here.

Telephone box at Newton of Ardtoe junction

Kentra Bay

Kentra Bay

Kentra Bay

I continued to where it stopped being a B-road and became unclassified. However the road continues for around 3/4 of a mile to Ardtoe, which I planned to follow. However there was a jetty here and with no boats moored at the end of the jetty or along it, I decided to stop here for a quick snack and rest as I could get off the road and hence away from the traffic. Or so I thought. I had taken one bite when a van with a trailer came along the road, then turned and began reversing down this slipway. So much for my peaceful place to stop, so I abandoned my break and continued walking instead.

Kentra Bay

Kentra Bay

The now unclassified road climbed steeply approaching the hill of Torr Luinngeanach and here I was met with a terrifying sight – the Monster Midge!

The Monster Midge

Well it amused me anyway and midges are indeed a problem in the highlands of Scotland but I hadn’t been troubled by any on this walk yet.

Having made it safely past the Monster Midge, I was surprised at the amount of traffic on the road now given it only went to a tiny village. However I soon realised why as at the end of the road is a camp site and car park. The car park is a gravel area fenced off area beside the road with an honsety payment of £1. The reason for this is there are a couple of lovely beaches here.

The first of these is a small sandy cove. The signs here suggested the road beyond this point is private (not according to the map it isn’t) but I knew it led to another couple of beaches so continued along it.

Ardtoe

Ardtoe

This lead to a wonderful beach and was by the standards of northern Scotland quite busy with about 15 people on the beach. I could see why, it is a lovely sheltered spot with plenty of sand.

Beach at Ardtoe

The beach was thin but long.

Beach at Ardtoe

At the end of the road there is a fish farm and I followed a path over a gate and then along a dam that I presume was built by the fish farm for some reason (perhaps to create the lake behind for fish to grow up in).

Beach at Ardtoe

Once over the dam I continued over the rough rocks on a path that was a dead end. I had to head back and now follow another path down to the beach level over some mud, to make it to the second part of the beach. There were others here and I wondered if there was an easier way to get to it that I had missed. (I later realised they had probably walked through the shallow water).

Beach at Ardtoe

Beach at Ardtoe

Beach at Ardtoe

Ahead was the rough area of moorland Carn Mor, but with no paths or roads I decided against trying to walk all around this, as I could see it would be hard.  Instead I decided to head along the neck of the peninsula towards Newtown, which is at the end of another dead-end road off this road. Rather than head back along the road this would be a shorter route.

As usual it took longer than expected. There was only a sort-of path that sometimes disappeared and meant I had to re-trace my steps and use the GPS to make sure I was going the right way. There were quite a few deer to be seen though and some lovely views.

Near Ardtoe

I expect the deer had made the track I was attempting to follow. At the top of the hill I was pleased to now see Newtown below me.

Near Ardtoe

I made for the right hand side of the most southerly building in the village intending to follow a track marked on the map that would take me to the road. However it was fenced off. I could climb the fence but something about it didn’t look very friendly. There wee lots of vans and wrecked cars around the area, so I decided to keep outside of the fence and follow the marshy path beside the fence, but still had to climb another fence at the end to get back onto the road.

Near Ardtoe

Now at Newton of Ardtoe I had almost finished the loop, I was only about half a mile from Shielfoot where I was staying, but again over the marsh. To walk around on the road was about 2 1/2 miles, so I decided to head over the marsh.

Near Ardtoe

This proved a little tricky, as it was full of tall grasses meaning you can’t easily see where you are putting each foot and there are many boggy areas. I made it almost to the road and caravan I was staying in with dry feet until just a short distance from the road I put one foot into a wet area.Doh! Still I was nearly back and could soon change my socks. Once onto the road I turned left and through the gate into the croft where the caravan I was staying in was located.

Shielfoot

This had been a very enjoyable walk and it was so nice to be back on the coast after a couple of months from my last trip. I was pleased to have been able to find routes over the open land to connect together the many dead-end roads as otherwise it would have been a bit of a frustrating walk with much back-tracking, even if it did get me wet feet. The river Shiel in particular is very beautiful and I was looking forward to seeing more of the peninsula in the coming days.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk.

This is a circular walk so there is no need for any public transport to get back to the start. If you are travelling to the walk by public transport there are two bus routes that serve Archaracle, a which is a few minutes walk south from the B044 and A861 junction on the walk, see below for details:-

Shiel Buses route 502 : Fort William – Drumsallie – Glenfinnan – Lochailort – Roshven (Farm) – Glenuig – Kinlochmoidart – Langal – Acharacle – Salen. One bus per day each way, Monday – Saturday only. No service on Sunday. On Thursday only there is an additional bus that runs only between Acharacle and Lochailort, connecting with another bus from there onto Fort William.

Shiel Buses route 507 : Kilchoan – Kilmory – Ardsliginish – Ardnamurchan Distillery – Laga Bay – Salen – Acharacle – Strontian – Clovullin – Ardgour – Corran (via ferry) – Fort William. One bus per day each way Monday – Saturday.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link.

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A change of (accommodation) plan

May 2021

At the end of my week long coastal walking trip in May 2021 I had another week booked later in the year, staying at the same hotel in Mallaig (The West Highland Hotel). However when I got home, after some thought, I did something previously unthinkable to me. I cancelled it.

Previously most of my trips that involved an overnight stay I would usually book to stay in a hotel. But during 2020 and 2021 the experience of staying in a hotel was not what it it was. Much of this of course was due to Government imposed Covid restrictions.

As soon as you enter any hotel you must wear a mask, which feels to me like saying if you really will insist on breathing in our hotel, then you must wear a mask so you don’t poison everyone. Keep away from staff and other guests, so you don’t poison them. We won’t clean your room because it’s too dangerous for our staff to enter it after you have been breathing in there. You must fill in a form for breakfast each day, so we can seat your far away from anyone else in case you poison them. You cannot go up to the bar in case you breathe over the bar staff. I’m not singling out this particular hotel for this, all are like this in Scotland, due to Government rules.

You get the picture. The lack of cleaning also means that you end up with damp towels and run out of tea and coffee on the first day, so have to go to reception to get more (where there is always a queue). Likewise the tiny bottles of shampoo last only a day or two, so you have to queue up for more (if they know you are staying for a week why can’t they at least put a weeks worth of supplies in the room?). In addition the bins aren’t emptied, the bed won’t be made and so on. Of course I’m used to doing these things when at home, but it’s nice to be lazy and have someone else do it when away from home, but of course that isn’t allowed any more.

However most hotels aren’t offering a discount, despite the greatly reduced level of service they are offering. Eating has become a particular problem. You must book a time slot each day for breakfast (which means standing in a socially-distanced queue at reception to fill in the form) and the time you want might not be available (which can be a big problem when trying to catch an infrequent bus or ferry). If you don’t book an evening meal a day or two in advance, you will probably be out of luck and if you do, you have to make sure you are back in time (not always easy when I sometimes don’t even know if the route I am planning to follow will be possible when setting out on a walk).

Even eating out is difficult. Most restaurants are operating at greatly reduced capacity so again require booking days in advance. You must provide contact details, which puts you at risk of having to “self isolate” too. If you go to a take-away you will have to stand outside, no matter what the weather, to wait for your food and find somewhere to eat it once you get it (most hotels don’t like you eating takeaways in the room), quite possibly with no cutlery.

Even buying food for lunch in Mallaig was a problem. There is only one supermarket, the Co-Op. This is still operating a traffic light system which, if it deems there are too many people in the shop, won’t open the door causing a queue outside. Oddly I’ve not come across this anywhere else. All the food shops I use at home had largely stopped having queues outside after about 6 weeks after the first lockdown and I’d never seen any with traffic lights on the door. The system didn’t even seem to work properly, as I observed a member of CalMac staff walk up to the door expecting it to open. When it didn’t, he thumped on the glass and shouted “Oi” and when a member of staff came over said “why isn’t the door opening, there is hardly anyone in there”. This prompted them to reset the system and let him in (perhaps in hindsight I should have tried that approach, though it certainly seemed rude!)

In short I was fed up of paying a lot of money to a hotel, getting a much reduced service and finding I felt anything but welcome there. In fact, I felt like despite paying a lot of money my presence was, just, barely, being tolerated. This had been the case for a number of recent trips to Scotland and I had had enough of it. Each time I had booked I had expected the restrictions would have long since ended by the time I came to stay (remember “3 weeks to flatten the curve” etc). But each time they hadn’t and there didn’t seem to be an end in sight.

So I decided to try and find some self catering accommodation instead. I’d have to cook meals myself and perhaps clean too but at least I knew I’d be able to get something to eat (without having to stand in the rain). I wouldn’t have to keep away from other people, or wear a mask, or provide contact details for “Track and Trace” (or whatever it was called in Scotland), each time I went to a pub or restaurant. I could eat when I wanted, without having to book or stand in the rain. It would be cheaper too.

The difficultly I had was that so many self-catering properties had restrictions that meant if you were not able to stay after making the booking even if know fault of your own (like Government restrictions), you typically had to forfeit a deposit or pay for the 1st night (or sometimes more). I didn’t see why I should be out of pocket if it wasn’t legally possible for me to stay anyway. However after a bit of searching I came across somewhere that didn’t insist on keeping money if you were forced to cancel

What I had found was a static caravan. Yes I know I have been critical on this blog many times of how ugly static caravans are (which is true), but this wasn’t a sprawling site with many hundreds of caravans, it was a croft with a couple of caravans. It was located in the tiny village of Shielfoot (at the very end of the road), which would be much better placed for my next trip as it was on the Ardnamurchan peninsula (it was already becoming quite a long journey from Mallaig and was getting longer with each walk). The owners promised a full refund if you had to cancel which was certainly appealing given how many trips I’d been forced to cancel (and often have issues getting a refund) due to lockdown and other restrictions.

So I went ahead and booked it. I had booked through Air BnB and as the date of my stay approached the owners got in touch and I paid the rest of the balance now it looked like I was going to be able to stay. The owners told me they would now be away on the date I arrived, but that they would put my name in the window of the caravan I had been allocated, leave the door unlocked and the key on the dining table inside. Things were certainly laid back!

I drove up from home (over 550 miles) stopping at Fort William to get supplies for the week, as there is no shop nearby to Shielfoot and the nearest is not open long hours. I found the caravan OK and here it is.

IMG_3285

It might not be a very glamorous place to stay, but it served my needs fine. There was everything I needed, hot water, a shower, gas cooker with oven, microwave, toaster, kettle and so on and it all worked fine. The only minor issue I had was the bathroom could be a little chilly first thing in the morning (there was no heating in that room) but soon got warm once I got the shower going. There was also no mobile signal and no Wifi, though for the most part it was actually quite nice being out of touch for much of the time, I just had to make sure I found a suitable lunch spot on my walks where I could get online if needed and save any relevant web pages (like bus timetables) so I could check them later to plan each days walking.

This is where my next walk started from as the Ardnamurchan peninsula is quite remote and the north coast in particular is quite tricky to plan as there is no road along the north coast, just a few dead-end roads that serves the small settlements on the north coast, none of which have any bus services. So to walk the north coast of the peninsula I was going to have to do some there and back or circular walks and perhaps use the folding bike I have with me too for some of them to get back to my start point. A walk starting from the caravan at Shielfoot would be the first such walk I decided to make this a separate post as the introduction was becoming to the next walk was becoming so long I don’t think anyone would have read down far enough to the point I actually started walking!

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383. Acharacle to Roshven Farm

May 2021

Today I had what promised to be quite a varied walk and my first on the peninsula known as Ardnamurchan, a fairly sparsely populated but very beautiful area. Both ends of the walk are on the A861 and there is a bus running along this road, but only once per day. The morning service (going north) is very early, so I’d have to miss breakfast at the hotel to catch it. Therefore I opted for the afternoon service, which means I need to time this walk carefully to finish at Roshven Farm (where I got to last time) in time for the bus and without a long wait too.

I drove down from Mallaig where I was staying and parked in Acharacle, in a side road near the church and fire station, as the main road is single track with passing places most of the way through the village.

Acharacle is probably the largest settlement in the area, though it is a small, spread out village, but it has a shop (with post office), a school, a couple of churches, a fire station and public toilets. I first head north along the A861 but fortunately there is a pavement most of the way, though once past the turning for the school it fizzles out and the road narrows to single track.

It’s a short distance ahead to Shiel Bridge, where a narrow bridge crosses the river Shiel.

The River Shiel near Acharacle

It is quite a wide, but shallow river. It is a short river that connects Loch Shiel inland with the sea loch of Loch Moidart. The river itself is only about two miles long, between these two lochs.

The River Shiel near Acharacle

Once over the bridge, the road turns sharply left but I only have another 300 metres or so to go before I can leave the main road and turn onto a minor road.

Achracle

The map doesn’t show any real settlement along this road, just a few scattered houses, but the road sign tells me it goes to Dorlin. The Ordnance Survey map I’m using doesn’t show anywhere called that, but it does have Cul Doirlinn marked on the map (note different spelling). Place names in the Highlands of Scotland can be confusing!

This road runs along the east side of the river Shiel and although a dead end road a path is marked on the map (called the Silver Walk) that continues around the coast for about a mile before coming to an abrupt halt. Knowing paths in Scotland I would have expected this to be true, but having read Ruths’ blog prior to this walk, she had found out that an information board showed the path actually ran through, to rejoin the road. But like me she assumed from the OS map that it wouldn’t. Like her, I share the frustration about the maps Ordnance Survey maps in Scotland that can be quite misleading. Fortunately I could learn from her experience and knew from it that in fact the path does go right through to the A861 at Ardmolich, proving a coast path for this section, so that is the way I was going to go.

The road initially runs right beside the river and it is very picturesque.

The River Shiel near Acharacle

The river is quite wide but clearly also very shallow, with many shingle banks between channels of water.

The River Shiel near Acharacle

The River Shiel near Acharacle

The River Shiel near Acharacle

The road soon turns a little inland to go the landward side of a large hill, Torr Mor. There are some houses marked on the coastal side of this, at it’s north end along another track or private road but the map suggests this track doesn’t come all the way to the road here but fortunately it does. So I follow that to make a more coastal route, initially an earth track it soon becomes a tarmac road and offers a wonderful view back to the river. It is a really pretty spot.

Path near Acharacle

The River Shiel

Now on the tarmac road I pass a small jetty marked on the map and I am amused by this TV satellite dish mounted on a rock.

The River Shiel

The River Shiel watches Sky TV

However I can see a wire trailing over the grass to a house a bit away so I presume there is no terrestrial TV signal and even a satellite dish must be carefully positioned to get a signal.

Ahead I soon have a most wonderful view – a beautiful castle ahead, with the mountains (perhaps Beinn a Bhaillidh?) behind it in lovely sunshine.

The River Shiel and Loch Moidart

This is a stunning place. Soon back on the public road again after the track it goes the landward side of another small hill Cnoc a Chrochaidh to then return to the shore as the river reaches it ends and opens up to a wide sand and mud bay.

The River Shiel and Loch Moidart

The River Shiel and Loch Moidart

There is a small beach ahead and the ruined castle, Castle Tioram, which is on a tidal island with a causeway.

Castle Tioram

Fortunately for me the tide is out, so I can go and take a closer look (I do like a good castle).

The River Shiel

There seems to be some doubt about it’s exact age, with different sources suggesting either 12th, 13th or 14th Century. It was inhabited for a time but I’m unclear when that stopped being the case and it’s now in ruins. It was open to the public but was closed in 1998 on safety grounds and part of the walls suffered a partial collapse in 2000. It is in private ownership and the owner did announce plans to restore the castle which would have included public access and a museum and whilst this got planning permission, as it is a scheduled ancient monument, Historic Scotland also had to approve this but refused, which was upheld at a public inquiry. So it continues to decay which is a shame.

Castle Tioram

This meant I couldn’t go inside, but I could go over the causeway to the island and climb up and walk round most of the outer walls and peer inside. It was very overgrown inside and it’s a shame to see it neglected like this.

Castle Tioram

Still the higher vantage point of the castle gave me an even more wonderful view over the sand and mud bay here and back along the river. This is a beautiful spot and you can see why the castle would have been built here to protect access to the river and the large Loch Shiel inland.

Loch Moidart

Loch Moidart

Having finished exploring as much of the castle as I could I returned from the causeway and found the information board about the Silver Walk which confirmed what Ruth had found that the path is clearly marked as going all the way through to the main road, so I was pleased to confirm that was indeed the case.

The Silver Walk

I look back at the castle and then set off on the Silver Walk.

Castle Tioram

From other walks I had heard this wasn’t an easy path. So it turned out to be, quite steep in places, a few bits of rock scrambling and a number of fallen trees to negotiate along the way. Progress was therefore slow but more than made up for by the wonderful views.

Loch Moidart, The Silver Walk

In places the path has been cut into the rock, right on the edge of the loch and is also covered at high tide. I wasn’t aware of this when setting off, so fortunately for me it was low tide (as I had also been able to visit the castle) so had no problems getting through.

Loch Moidart, The Silver Walk

Loch Moidart is beautiful and this path undulates along the south shore giving beautiful views, sometimes through the trees of the loch.

Loch Moidart, The Silver Walk

Loch Moidart, The Silver Walk

Loch Moidart, The Silver Walk

There are a couple of islands in the loch and a brief section of the path goes slightly inland, the landward side of Torr Port a Bhata. Along this path I meet a group of walkers coming the other way. It is quite common on my coastal walks to meet no people at all, but I am re-assured by people coming the other way that I can get through so I am grateful to see them (they are the same people I saw on my walk to Peanmeanach, which I did a few days later).

Loch Moidart, The Silver Walk

Loch Moidart, The Silver Walk

Loch Moidart, The Silver Walk

The loch is soon visibly narrowing as I am nearing the head of the loch.

Loch Moidart, The Silver Walk

The Silver Walk

The Silver Walk

As I approach the woodland of Ardmolich Woodland I seen an ominous sign warning that the path is closed ahead I think due to forestry works. That is frustrating and indeed I soon see the padlocked gate that I should be able to walk through along with warnings signs not to go further.

The Silver Walk

Fortunately it’s not a dead end and a diversion route has been created so I can still get through. This is actually closer to the coast than the official path and the notice tells me to follow the orange-topped posts.

You can see one here (and another in the distance near the water). Checking the map it looks like the diversion might actually be a little closer to the coast than the official path so perhaps it has worked in my favour.

The Silver Walk

Fortunately these posts have been put up at such regular intervals I can always see the next one ahead which is just as well as for much of the way there is no visible path on the ground at all and I must pick my way over often marshy ground to get to the next post.

The Silver Walk

The Silver Walk

The Silver Walk

Near the end, this does bring me back to the official route just before it emerges onto the road. I’m now back on the A861. This part of the walk took me quite a bit longer than I thought it might but I don’t regret it for a minute. It was a stunning walk with beautiful scenery and with so much of my coastal walk in Scotland being on roads it feels like quite a treat to have a proper off-road coastal path to follow.

Now back on the A861 the road narrows to cross over a bridge over the River Moidart which flows into Loch Moidart (this always makes me wonder, is the river named after the loch, or the loch after the river?!)

Bridge over the river Moidart

The river is another quite wide but shallow river with many rocks and stones poking up above the water. Again it looks stunning in the sunshine.

River Moidart

I continued on the road and am now off Ardnamurchan, at least until my next walk (where I resume from Acharacle) and now in an area called Moidart. Soon along the road is a little car park where a circular walk called the Princes Walk is signed. However the coastal part of that is along the road I am already following and the rest further inland so I ignore it and keep to the road.

The road soon takes me past Low Farm which clearly is also used for timber production. Either that or they have a really big open fire to feed!

Farm beside the A861

Here there is the Seven Men of Moidart which an information sign tells me about. This commemorates Charles Edward Stuart who was the grandson of James VII and II who had lost the throne to William of Orange. He landed here with 7 companions and was part of the Jacobites who defeated Government forces at Falkirk. He was pursued as he headed back north by the Duke of Cumberland and the Jacobites were defeated in 1746. This made Charles a fugitive with a bounty of £30,000 placed on his head. He managed to escape on a French ship, escaping to Exile for the rest of his life. Charles 7 companions are commemorated here by 7 beech trees, planted in the early 19th Century. Due to storm damage, 7 saplings were again planted in 1988 but did not survive so a further 7 were planted in 2002. Whether these survive remains to be seen!

The road then continued and soon widened back to have a lane for each direction and passed a few houses one of which must have been a mill at some point judging by the old mill stones outside.

Old mill beside the A861

Loch Moidart

The map shows an old pier, now disused and indeed it was in poor condition and obviously not used anymore though I think it may once have been used by a ferry before the bridge was built.

Loch Moidart

Loch Moidart

Loch Moidart

Glen Uig

The traffic is faster now there is a lane for each direction of traffic but at least there is a bit of a verge and I soon spot another memorial, I think a World War II memorial, on cliffs just above the road.

War memorial beside the A861

The road soon turns inland and begins to climb steeply so I get quite hot, but there are wonderful views at the top.

Near Glenuig

I can now see Loch Ailort ahead of me and soon Glenuig, where both me and the road are headed next.

Approaching Glenuig

The road then soon begins to descend steeply down towards this village. A road sign warns “No footway for 800 yards”. These sort of signs puzzle me, there has been no footway for the last several miles, so why the warning now? Presumably because approaching a village there are more likely to be pedestrians in the road? I don’t know.

Glenuig is a small village, but it has a shop (which I believe is volunteer run) which was open, a small museum which was closed and a pub that if I remember rightly was closed due to Covid restrictions, but I believe had fairly recently changed hands and was now open for longer hours again (well, when the Government allowed them to open at all, that is).

Glenuig

Here I headed down onto the shingle beach to sit for a (very) late lunch break, now I was able to get off the road (which is why I hadn’t stopped before).

Glenuig

Glenuig

It was nice to have a rest, but I hadn’t been checking the time and suddenly noticed how much time was getting on, it was a lot later than I had thought. The Silver Walk had taken a lot longer than expected. I had planned to explore a short dead-end road heading west from Glenelg, which looked like it briefly ran along the coast, but I had to abandon that plan now that time was against me.

In fact I realised I had 5km to go and only a couple of minutes over an hour to do it in before the bus was due. I didn’t want to miss the bus but I also didn’t want to leave a gap (I generally estimate about 4km an hour if on a road or good path, so I’d need to beat that to get the bus).

So unfortunately the next part turned into a bit of a route march along the road. Still the road ran right along the coast and at a low level so I had stunning views.

Loch Ailort

I passed the jetty marked on the map that looked as if it might be used for some small-scale fishing judging by the lobster pots.

Loch Ailort

Isle of Eigg

Loch Ailort

The road also past a few rocky little beaches and at one point looked like it might run along reclaimed land with man-made rock armour right beside the road and a small grass verge on top of it.

Loch Ailort

Loch Ailort

The light was lovely too now as I rounded the corner, heading towardsd the head of Loch Ailort. Ahead I could see a tiny dusting of snow still on the mountain ahead.

Loch Ailort

Loch Ailort

It was stunning, but now there were intermittent trees beside the road that sometimes blocked the view. Sometimes, the gaps in the trees had been blocked by motor homes taking advantage of the best place to see the view, so I had to go beside them to get a photo.

Loch Ailort

What a difference the weather makes though. My last walk along the loch-side was pleasant but in the glorious sunshine it looked even more beautiful.

Loch Ailort, looking east

Loch Ailort

I had to keep a close eye on the time now to decide whether to wait for the bus earlier along the road or if I had time to continue to Roshven Farm and wait there.

The A861

Fortunately with fast walking I had made up enough time I was now confident I could get to Roshven Farm before the bus, though not by all that much! I passed this modern house with a sheep mounted on some rocks as the entrance to their drive!

The A861

I soon reached the sign welcoming me to Roshven. Nearly there!

The A861

I could see the houses and farm buildings below to my left through the woodland. There are various tracks marked and if I wasn’t so pushed for time I might have seen if I could find a more coastal route along some of them, but as it was I couldn’t afford to try this only to hit a dead-end and have to come back as then I’d miss the bus.

Near Roshven

Fortunately I soon reached the bridge by the entrance to the farm, which I had reached on my previous walk, so I hadn’t ended up leaving a gap, which was excellent.

Roshven Farm

Just time to put my camera and map in my bag and have a drink before the bus came. Like yesterday it was a coach, with the same driver. This time fortunately she did stop here (having not done so when I wanted to get off yesterday). I bought a single to Acharacle and this time there were no other passengers. I got off by the shop in Achracle and walked back to my car.

What a wonderful walk this had been. The beautiful sunny weather certainly helped but there was a tremendous variety of scenery to enjoy, a lovely (though tough) path right along the coast (the Silver Walk) and a tidal island with a castle to explore. Even the sections on the main road were far better than I expected as traffic wasn’t particularly busy and the views stunning.

That evening too I was treated to a magnificent sunset which I could see through my hotel window in Mallaig. A lovely way to end a very enjoyable day.

Sunset over Mallaig

Sunset over Mallaig

Sunset over Mallaig

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-

Shiel Buses route 502 : Fort William – Drumsallie – Glenfinnan – Lochailort – Roshven (Farm) – Glenuig – Kinlochmoidart – Langal – Acharacle – Salen. One bus per day each way, Monday – Saturday only. No service on Sunday. It takes a little under 30 minutes to travel between Acharacle and Roshven Farm.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link.

Posted in Argyll, Inverness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

382. Roshven Farm to Lochailort

May 2021

This morning I had done the walk over the Ardnish peninsula to Peanmeanach and my plan for this afternoon was to continue south from Lochailort, having now filled the two gaps I left when I walked from Arisaig to Lochailort.

The walk this morning (which had stretched into the afternoon) had taken longer than expected as the path was harder than I had expected and I had also taken a wrong turning and had to back-track. As a result my walk this afternoon was shorter than planned.

I ended my last walk at Lochailort, which has the luxury of a railway station. However from there the railway line heads inland, so the train isn’t useful for this walk, which is along the A861, which runs on the south side of Loch Ailort. It is not a busy road (it goes down to a single-track road with passing places further south), but it does at least have a bus route along it, albeit one that only runs once per day.

In the afternoon the bus runs south along this road. Therefore my plan is to drive to somewhere along the A861 south of Lochailort and walk back up to Lochailort (to join up with my previous walk) in time to catch the bus back to my start point. Although buses in the Highlands of Scotland generally will stop anywhere it’s safe (and in any case, there are very few formal bus stops) I would prefer to get on at somewhere listed as a stop in the timetable given that if the bus sails straight past me without stopping I’ll be stuck! (Taxis are not easy to come by in this area, either).

Given the time of day I decide that I can only go as far as Roshven Farm. This is only around 3 1/2 miles south of Lochailort but the bus timetable does list “Roshven (Farm)” as a stopping point so I know it’s a good place to get the bus back to.

I set off from the layby on the A830 where I had parked for the walk to Peanmeanach and then at Lochailort turn right onto the A861. As I’m driving along I’m also looking for places to park. This is an A-road with a 60mph speed limit so parking in the road itself isn’t a good idea. I’m looking for a parking area or layby. I drive as far as Roshven Farm in the hope it is possible to park there but I’m not really happy to leave my car there in the road and anywhere else risks blocking access. So I continue down the road towards Glenuig. I feel like I’m going too far and haven’t found a space so I turn around. Eventually I manage to find a gravel layby  beside the road at approximately grid reference NM735787. It is almost a mile from Roshven Farm but it’s the best I’m going to do and time is ticking away whilst I drive back and forth along the road!

My plan is still to get off the bus at Roshven Farm and instead I’ll cover that mile when I get off the bus, back to my car. So, at las,t I’m ready to begin!

The parking area offers a stunning view across Loch Ailort to the Ardnish peninsula, whilst on this side of the loch are a couple of little islets.

Loch Ailort

A clearing ahead offers a better view up to the head of the loch, where I am heading, whilst in the other direction I can see to the mouth of the loch and an island beyond. Eilean nan Gobhar perhaps?

Loch Ailort

Loch Ailort

I’m now rounding the corner, losing the view out to sea as the loch narrows. There is no pavement and the traffic is fast however which limits the amount of attention I can pay to the view. The road soon runs right along the shore with a shingle beach to my left, which gives me the opportunity to get off the road for a minute and enjoy the view.

Loch Ailort

There is a small boat tide up here so this is clearly used by someone as a point to access the loch. A small car park is marked on the road seems to be used by the owners of the boat, as there are more small boats tied up here and some sort of equipment in the edge of the water. Fishing or something else? I’m not sure.

Loch Ailort

Loch Ailort

Continuing on the loch side along the road I can see the end of the loch ahead, getting gradually nearer and the beautiful hills of Ardnish and the surrounds beside it.

Loch Ailort

It is a wild and remote place on the other side of the loch and I’m glad I didn’t try and forge my own route, I think it would have made for exceptionally slow progress.

Loch Ailort

Loch Ailort

Soon I am approaching a fish farm. The only clue on the map is “jetty”, though I often wonder why these aren’t shown on the map since they seem to have (semi?) permanent structures in the water and so would be useful to be shown. However the name on the side of a van parked in the car park beside the building amuses me!

Fish farm beside Loch Ailort

I have more fine views of this wild and beautiful loch as I continue north and soon pass an unusual structure.

Loch Ailort

Memorial near Inverailort Castle

It turns out to be a memorial for Mrs Cameron-Head of Lochailort who I believe lived in the nearby Inverailort Castle and died in 1994. It looks a bit like an old kiln to me!

Soon I pass the castle itself, which is in a sad and sorry state, with many boarded up windows.

The derelict Inverailort Castle

Mrs Cameron-Head was the widow of Francis Cameron-Head, who died in 1957 and she continued to live in the castle until her death. Her companion, Barbara Mackintosh who had worked for the family continued to live in the castle until she died in 2015, which means it can’t have been abandoned all that long, though I believe much of the building was derelict by then and only a small part was inhabitable. For a time she even ran a post office from the building, but it has all gone now. Reports from 2009 suggest the building then was in a dreadful state, with parts abandoned and dry rot making floors unsafe. It clearly hasn’t been repaired since then and it is a shame to see it now – I hope it can be saved.

Beside the road I was now nearing the head of the loch, with salt marsh forming in the calmer waters of the head of the loch.

Loch Ailort

As is often the case with road walking the walk has taken less time than expected. I can see I have only a few hundred metres left to reach the pub at Lochailort and about 30 minutes in which to do it. So I find a place I can sit off the road beside the bridge in order to have a rest off the road.

The River Ailort

The River Ailort

The River Ailort

This is the river Ailort and is shallow but quite fast-flowing. It is a relaxing spot to sit for a while. After a nice rest I continue up the road to the road junction. I wait beside the hotel at the junction for it’s car park, which again seems deserted but there is a bus shelter, which is a good sign. I suppose if I had walked straight here I could see if it was open and gone in there, but it’s too late now. A few minutes later than scheduled I see a full-size coach with the name of the bus company Shiel Buses. This must be the bus, but I wasn’t expecting a full size coach.

I flag it down and yes it is indeed the bus. There is only one other passenger. I ask for a ticket for Roshven Farm and ask the driver to stop there for me, which she agrees to do. I sat on the right so as to enjoy the view of the coast. As the bus approaches, I spot my car still safely parked where I left it. As we are approaching the farm I walk to the front to ask the driver again to stop when we get to the farm, which she says she will but then drives straight past it without stopping! I have to ask again “can you stop please” and she responds “What, here?!” in surprise. I confirm yes and she stops, having now overshot the farm by a few hundred metres. I am not sure why she didn’t stop at the farm, but it extends my walk slightly and I am little irritated by it.

Soon I reach the farm and it’s sign.

Roshven Farm

I’ll end my next walk here, with my plan to use the same bus to get back to my start point, wherever that might me. Now I need to walk back to my car to fill the gap between the farm and where I parked. I cross the Irine Burn via the bridge with some of the farm buildings visible around.

Irine Burn, Roshven

Although the road is a little inland from the coast here the land is flat, so I still have a stunning view across the loch. I’m amused passing this road sign – rhinos ahead? (I assume someone has “amended” the sign).

Loch Ailort

Loch Ailort

Near Roshven Farm

There are intermittent views through the trees of the loch until I reach my car in the gravel layby a little further up the road and the end of this short walk.

Despite only being a short walk this was a good walk with fine views of the coast of Ardnish across the loch almost throughout. Although on a main road traffic was fairly light although I still had to focus on the road and traffic rather than the scenery more than I would have liked.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-

Shiel Buses route 502 : Fort William – Drumsallie – Glenfinnan – Lochailort – Roshven (Farm) – Glenuig – Kinlochmoidart – Langal – Acharacle – Salen. One bus per day each way, Monday – Saturday only. No service on Sunday. It takes 8 minutes to travel between Lochailort and Roshven Farm.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link.

Posted in Inverness | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

381. Ardnish and Peanmeanach

May 2021

On a previous day I had walked from Arisaig to Lochailort. For much of that walk I stuck to the A830 road which runs along the coast. However there is a small peninsula, Ardnish, which the road does not go round and so I bypassed it on that walk, as I stuck to the road. This was largely due to my need to get to Lochailort station before the last train back to Arisaig.

Today I’m going to explore Ardnish, to fill in the gap I left on that previous walk. A path runs from the A830 across the peninsula to the shore at a place called Peanmeanach, where there used to be a bothy (it’s now private). This will therefore be a there and back walk along this path as there was no other paths from the beach and the terrain looked too tough to try and find my own route.

I am staying in Mallaig so it’s a short drive down the A830 and there is a handy layby you can park right where the path begins.

When I park here there is no one else parked there. The sign for the start of the path is clear, even if the distance isn’t. Part of it seems to have been rubbed off the sign (leaving just the 1/2 mile at the end). Underneath has been scratched 3 1/2m (and to the left of that “Fuck That”, presumably by someone not too keen on walking!). I suspect the sign originally said 2 1/2 miles and has been “amended” to be 3 1/2 miles, which looking at the map seems more accurate.

Path to Peanmeanach

Sadly another sign warns that the bothy at Peanmeanach is permanently closed. It actually does still exist but has been refurbished into essentially basic self-catering accommodation that needs to be pre-booked and paid for, so not really a bothy anymore. I believe this was at least in part as a result of users of the bothy cutting branches off trees to use (or I suspect attempt to use) as firewood. A shame, but I’m not planning an overnight stay so it doesn’t cause me any problem.

There is a clear, but slightly overgrown path that leads me away from the road and passes Loch Dubh, which is squeezed in between the road and the railway line. It is quite a sizeable loch, but looks pretty shallow, as I can see the stones at the bottom.

Loch Dubh

Beyond the loch is a concrete bridge over the railway line. It looks a bit like a small road bridge but it’s a narrow path (with trees either side) on both sides of the bridge. I am amused to note it therefore has a notice about not using vehicles above a certain weight on the bridge. I can’t see how it would even be possible to get a vehicle here (except perhaps by helicopter) let alone one heavy enough to exceed the weight limit on the bridge!

The West Highland Line near Lochailort

Beyond the railway line the woodland opens out to moorland where a clear (but wet) path reveals itself. Well at least the way is clear. I soon come to a part where the path begins to climb into light woodland and the rain continues, giving a lovely rainbow.

Ardnish

Ardnish

Ardnish

However the path gets steeper and steeper and narrower and narrower. I continue ahead, the route onward only ever seems to be visible a few metres ahead but if I walk a few metres then I see more of the path ahead.

Loch nan Uamh

That continues until it goes on a very steep camber and then the ground ahead is very steep. I stop here, this can’t be right, surely?

I have to stop at get my GPS out. When it finally gets a signal it confirms my suspicion. I’ve somehow gone wrong. What I’m on isn’t the official path, perhaps a sheep path or perhaps a path where other walkers have done exactly what I’ve just done! Initially I try to get back on track by getting up the slope but it’s too steep and I’m going to fall if I try it. So I have to backtrack a bit to where it’s less steep and then follow the co-ordinates on the GPS until I’m back where the path should be and indeed is. Not sure how or where I managed to go wrong, but I’m glad to be back on track now.

The path now soon begins to descend, latterly more steeply with the beach ahead, then goes through some thick grass to reach the shore. I’ve made it at last!

The path to The beach at Peanmeanach

There is a ruined building here, as well as the bothy.

Ruined building at The beach at Peanmeanach

The beach is, as I’d hoped, lovely a sandy beach with stunning views and a nice flat area of grass behind.

Peanmeanach beach

Peanmeanach beach

I found some wood pressed up at the back of the beach by this grass, which I can sit on for an early lunch to keep dry, as the ground is wet from all the earlier rain.

Peanmeanach beach

Behind I can see the now former bothy.

Former Peanmeanach bothy

It has a very solid metal door and a notice not to attempt to enter, that it’s now closed as a public bothy and hopes to re-open later as a private bothy, after some refurbishment. A real shame and I do wonder how many would be prepared to pay to stay here in such a remote location with basic facilities like this (there is no electricity or water). There are also large metal shutters that can go over the windows but they are open today so I wonder if work is going to take place today.

The beach at Peanmeanach

The beach at Peanmeanach

After a relaxing break on the beach, it is time to head back.

Path to Peanmeanach

I go back the same way but hope this time I can manage to keep on the correct path. I do and this time do spot the point I went wrong. Briefly the path splits and the one I took is slightly more obvious, for about 1 metre and then the correct route is more obvious again. I guess I didn’t notice this second (correct) path at the junction perhaps assuming because the map showed only one path, there would be only one path and no need to follow the map too closely! Well I was wrong about that.

Path to Peanmeanach

Path to Peanmeanach

Fortunately on the way back the weather is much improved. The rain has stopped, the cloud lifted and as I get nearer the road and railway (and higher) it starts to get sunny.

Ardnish

Path to Peanmeanach

The views are quite stunning especially around Loch Doire a’ Ghearrain, where I can see the loch and the snow covered mountains beyond. I was surprised to see as much snow around, given it’s May now, but I guess it must have been a cold winter in this part of Scotland.

Loch Doire a' Ghearrain, Ardnish

Loch Doire a' Ghearrain, Ardnish

Loch Doire a' Ghearrain, Ardnish

Ardnish

Once past the loch the path heads further north, close to the coast of Loch Beag and I get lovely views of this loch, the cloud now burning off to give clearer blue sky. It is turning into a lovely day.

Loch Beag

Loch Beag

The views are stunning and I stop a few times just to look at the view and watch the ever changing scene, as the cloud moves across, lighting up some parts of the loch and not others.

Loch Beag

Loch Beag

The path to Peanmeanach

Loch Beag

As I’m nearing the road I pass some other walkers, the first I’ve seen all day. To my embarrassment they recognise me, but I don’t recognise them. It turns out we passed each other on another walk earlier in the week (but one I’ve not yet written up) further south along the coast and they recognise me from that. I can at least give them a bit of guidance on the way ahead (don’t take the path I did!) and hope they have a lovely walk.

I soon reach the crossing of the railway and a short distance further on I emerge at the road. Now several cars are parked in the lay-by probably those of the group of walkers I just passed.

I’m very glad I opted to take this walk. Despite getting lost (largely my own fault) this was a lovely path over stunning scenery and it packed in a huge variety in a short distance, with coast, mountains, woodland and loch-side walking. The beach at the end was as nice as I hoped. It was just a shame the bothy is not really open as a bothy any more, though I was only likely to use it to shelter briefly if there was heavy rain (or perhaps have lunch in) anyway, so it wasn’t a big problem.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-

Shiel Buses routes 505, 500 and 534 : Mallaig – Morar – Back of Keppoch – Arisaig – Lochailort – Glenfinnan – Drumsallie – Fassfern – Fort William. 4 buses per day Monday – Friday and one per day on Saturday. No service on Sunday. The buses will stop at the layby for the path to Peanmeanach if you ask.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link.

Posted in Inverness | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

380. Druimindarroch

May 2021

This was my last day and I had to drive 550 miles home, so really I should be getting on with going home. But I didn’t want to go home, I enjoy my trips to walk the coast of Scotland hugely and wasn’t quite ready to declare this trip finished.

When I walked the section of coast between Arisaig and Lochailort earlier on this trip I’d missed a couple of dead-end roads and paths I could have followed, due to wanting to get to Lochailort before the last train. Before I went home today I wanted to fill the shortest of those gaps by following the dead-end road off the A830 to Druimindarroch (from near Borrodale). This looked to take me down to a shingle beach so I knew it wasn’t just going to be a road walk.

I checked out of my hotel in Mallaig and drove the short distance down to Druimindarroch. I parked at the top of the road just by the A830 junction as the road was wide enough here (it soon narrows to single track). Actually there are 3 roads here, one becomes a private road to Arisaig House and the other heads west to the coast just south of Arisaig and becomes a track (which I had already followed).

I continued on the public road which passed a terrace of cottages and then narrowed to a single track road through woodland. The road descends through woodland and soon emerges giving me a wonderful view over Loch Nan Umah and the various little headlands and islets.

The road to Druimindarroch

The road took me down to the coast at Saideal Druim an Daraich. I was soon alongside the beach but it is mostly shingle, rocks and sea weed.

Near Druimindarroch

The road ahead continued to what I think is the only house beyond this point so I crossed the beach at the back. This turned out to be a bit muddy but I made it across without sinking into it.

Near Druimindarroch

Now the sensible thing to do would be to turn back now and go home, but I wasn’t quite done yet. On the other side of the beach I was pleased to find a track and began to follow it, expecting to find a left turn, as the map showed a path. But I realised I was heading to a dead-end of a boat house at the end of a narrow spit of land.

Near Druimindarroch

Re-tracing my steps I made my own way of the bracken and heather into the next little bay. Here I could see a jetty and checking the map it has the text “jetty” but doesn’t show the actual jetty! I wondered what it had been used for. I made my way down to and across this beach and then followed the track inland from the jetty.

Near Druimindarroch

Near Druimindarroch

Near Druimindarroch

Again the map showed here another path would soon appear on my right to take me down to the next beach. There was again no sign of the path despite back tracking so I made my own way again over the bracken, rocks and heather to end up above the next beach.

Near Borrodale

This was actually a sizeable beach and even had a little sand at the shore. Being above the beach it was tricky to get down to with a bit of rock climbing to get down but I soon made it down onto the sand and pebble beach.

The beach at Borrodale

The beach at Borrodale

I followed the beach to the line of trees inland where the map shows a track beside the Borrodale Burn. Rather than head back the way I came I hoped to follow this back up to a track by Borrodale House and back to the road to make a short circular walk.

I headed up the grass at the back of the beach to a gate in the fence. I could see this had a notice on it so was pleased to see when I got closer it was an instruction to keep dogs on a lead and not “Private” or similar. I was pleased as despite the right to roam in Scotland it doesn’t stop some landowners making things difficult or discouraging it.

I soon found a car wide track along the side of fields with the stream out of site the other side of the trees. I could soon see the impressive Arisaig House on some cliffs above these fields. It is impressive and I later wondered what it is used for.

Arisaig House

A quick Google suggests it is (or was?) being used as a hotel / bed and breakfast but is now on the market for offers over 2 ¼ million! Mind you according to the “blurb” the sale does also include 5 further “estate cottages” giving a total of 38 bedrooms. I suppose in that context the price is rather more reasonable (though still somewhat beyond my price range!).

The meadows here were full of sheep and as I was heading north I saw a vehicle at the gate. This always makes me jumpy in case I’m about to get the landowner asking what I’m doing here (or trying to claim it’s a garden for the house, despite being full of sheep). They enter the field but fortunately drive diagonally away from me and ignore me, so that was good. At the end I go through the gate and pick up the drive from Arisaig House to pass Borrodale House. Another impressive though smaller house this one is apparently a holiday let now!

At the end of the drive I’m back on the public road and follow this back the short distance to the A830. Here I turn left and follow the A830 back to the junction and my car. Fortunately, the A830 has a combined pavement and cycle path so I don’t need to traffic dodge. Then it was time for the long drive home.

My journey home didn’t go too badly other than getting stuck in traffic on the M6 (not unusual) so I opted to pay the premium to use the M6 toll road. This was clear however I then just got stuck in traffic to get onto the M42 so I’m not sure it saved me any time. However this was my first trip of the year and I knew I’d be back soon.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk. There are no buses to Druimindarroch but buses do run along the A830 and will stop at the junction for Druimindarroch.

Shiel Buses routes 505, 500 and 534 : Mallaig – Morar – Back of Keppoch – Arisaig – Lochailort – Glenfinnan – Drumsallie – Fassfern – Fort William. 4 buses per day Monday – Friday and one per day on Saturday. No service on Sunday.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link.

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Coastal Cruising: Cruising along the coast of Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and Dorset

September 2022

Whilst this website is mostly about walking, today I’m going to make an exception. Seeing the coast from the sea gives a whole new perspective. You see the cliffs you were walking on top of you sometimes see bays and beaches you cannot legally get to on foot (perhaps because of no footpaths) and you get to see the incredible variety of scenery and how quickly it can change.

There are various companies running boat trips on parts of the UK Coast but sadly there isn’t a boat service along most of it, making this tricky unless you have access to your own boat (I don’t) and know how to drive a boat (I also don’t). Sadly nothing like the Hurtigruten service that Norway enjoys exists in Britain.

However there is a boat that does occasional trips along the coast of Britain and that is the Waverley. Waverley is a paddle steamer that entered service in 1947, operated by the London and North Eastern Railway she operated as passenger ferry, operating services in the Firth of Clyde. The ferry service was later nationalised and eventually became Caledonian MacBrayne (or CalMac) the company which today still runs most of the ferries in Scotland, including the majority of routes on the Firth of Clyde. Waverley was withdrawn from service by CalMac in 1973. There was growing demand for cars to be able to travel on the ferries and Waverley was a passenger vehicle. In addition more modern boats offered more efficient propulsion, so she was considered outdated and expensive to operate and taken out of service.

This was not the end for Waverley however. She was purchased for £1 by the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society with the aim of restoring her and operating trips around the coast. This seemed a very ambitious aim. However successful fundraising meant Waverley was restored and began a series of trips around the British coast less than 2 years later. With a few breaks for repairs (often extensive, taking a year or more) Waverley has continued in this role ever since and is now the oldest sea-going paddle steamer still in operating in the world and is celebrating 75 years this year.

The Waverley Excursions website shows details of the trips Waverley is operating in 2022 and the fares and you can book tickets on the website. It is also possible to buy tickets on board on the day if space is available (tickets are only actually checked on getting off the boat, not when you get on).

She was taken out of service in 2019 for a boiler replacement, which was carried out over the following winter and could only operate in a limited capacity in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid restrictions. However in 2022 Waverley has resumed the tradition of leaving her native waters of the Firth of Clyde for a couple of months of the year to operate cruises on other parts of the British coast too.

In 2022 this includes a couple of weeks on the south coast and the Thames estuary. I was aware of Waverley and had seen her before and had vague plans that it was something I’d like to do one day. However coming across a leaflet I discovered I was actually free on of the weekends Waverley would be on the south coast operating a cruise from Southampton to Lulworth Cove and back. The price was £55, not cheap, but not crazy expensive either. So I thought I’d book and have a day cruising the coast of Hampshire, The Isle of Wight and Dorset. I was a little irritated to discover on booking there was also a mandatory fuel supplement of £4 (this sort of practice annoys me, just include it in the ticket). However given the trip took 10 hours in total I still thought this was good value for money, especially on reading the leaflet that came with the tickets and discovering that when running at normal cruising speed it costs £12 a minute to operate Waverley!

Fortunately on the day the weather forecast was good so I was somewhat dismayed to open my bedroom curtains to a misty grey, drizzly morning. I had originally planned to travel on the train to Southampton (which would allow me to have a drink or two on board), but weekend engineering works meant no trains at all from my local station and I’d have to endure nearly an hour on a “rail replacement” bus just to get to Basingstoke. So I abandoned that plan and drove instead, it took me under an hour to reach a car park near Southampton Central station.

Mystery surrounded the departure point in Southampton when I booked. The leaflet simply said the departure point in Southampton would be advised shortly before departure and to check the website. In fact I got an email stating that there would be a bus departing Southampton Central station 20 minutes before Waverley was due to depart (which was 10am) which would take us to the port.

Arriving in time the buses were already there. I wondered if Waverley would depart from the town quay or perhaps the cruise terminal? No. It turned out she would be departing from about the grottiest bit of Southampton Docks, around derelict buildings and waste ground about a mile from the station. Still it was an opportunity to see parts of the dock not normally accessible to the public (most of the roads through the docks are private and gated). The departure point was in fact right next to the container port. Southampton is a major port, for cruise ships, ferries, container ships and more.

The plan for the day is that Waverley would sail to Lulworth Cove stopping at Yarmouth and Swanage on the way and the same again on the way back. As I was on the first bus from Southampton I took the opportunity to have a  look around the ship before it got too busy.

Heading below deck there is this is a corridor that goes either side of the engines.

Waverley

I was pleasantly surprised you can walk through here and view the engine (and feel the heat from it). In fact the only toilets on board are down here and the metal area on the floor is where the shaft for the paddle wheels comes out from the engine. The engine is a triple-expansion steam engine giving 2100hp.

The engine, Waverley

The engine, Waverley

Engine room, Waverley

I later took a video of this in operating which is quite an impressive sight.

Upstairs was a restaurant (where I had lunch), which serves hot meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) as well as sandwiches, cakes and so on.

Restaurant, Waverley

I also found this lovely old poster of the Firth of Clyde where Waverley has operated for most of her life.

Map of the Firth of Clyde

It was fun to trace out the parts I have walked already!

There is also a bar

The bar on Waverley

With another small “snug” lower down. On deck is a viewing area for when the weather is not so good (as you see, it was not getting much use today as the weather was good).

Lounge on board Waverley

The view from where Waverley birthed was not too scenic!

Waverley

However on deck you could see all the lovely wooden panneling, which I’m sure must take a lot of looking after.

Waverley

Further down Southampton Water could be seen several cruise ships. These would all depart today as they had gone when we came back.

Waverley at Southampton

Whilst on the other side of Waverley was a huge container ship and it was interesting to watch the cranes unloading the containers.

Southampton Container port

Soon it was time to depart. Waverley is not the most manoeuvrable of vessels by modern standards (the paddle wheels on either side cannot operate at different speeds for example) and so has a large turning circle. This meant a tug was needed to get out of the birth (though this was the only time on the whole trip a tug was used).

Waverley departing Southampton

Looking down Southampton Water I could already see the Solent ahead and the Isle of Wight beyond.

Southampton Water

Soon we passed the Queen Mary 2, soon to depart on a voyage to New York. It looked like the lifeboats were being tested before departure. She had left by the time we returned to Southampton 10 hours later.

Queen Mary, Southampton

Queen Mary, Southampton

Next to it was a smaller cruise ship, Balmoral.

Queen Mary, Southampton

I’m not sure where this ship was going, but it had also left by the time we got to Southampton.

Lastly was a huge cruise ship, Anthem of the Seas. Given the name of the company I assume it was going to somewhere in the carribean.

Southampton Water

I don’t like cruise ships so large, it’s like a floating town! I did wonder how long it would take to get on and off the boat at each port. I don’t think I’d enjoy a trip on such a large boat.

Further down we passed the Town Quay. Here ferry services run to Cowes (both East and West) on the Isle of Wight and across Southampton Water to Hythe. There was one of the Ref Funnel ferries just arriving as we passed.

Red Funnel, Southampton

Southampton Water

Beyond the town quay was a huge car-carrying ferry.

Southampton Water

Southampton port is used to import cars from abroad and presumably there was many on board this ferry, which we saw departing on the way back. In fact it soon became apparent that Waverley liked to sound her whistle at passing vessels, most of whom responded in kind.

Looking back, Southampton was soon receding into the distance.

Waverley

We soon rounded the corner, out of Southampton Water and into the Solent, passing Calshot.

Calshot

This was one of the attractions for me of this trip. Much of the coast of the New Forest is sadly private and out of bounds to walkers and I remember having to walk on roads a mile or so inland, so now I could see parts of the coast I couldn’t walk before, albeit from a distance (we were much closer to the coast of the Isle of Wight).

Calshot

Beyind the beach huts can be seen the towers of Fawley Refinery, a large oil refinery along part of Southampton Water.

Fawley

There used to be a power station here too, but it was demolished a few years ago. I soon spotted somewhere I did recognise, Lepe.

Lepe

It’s about the only beach on the New Forest coast and is a country park with large car park, so populate with visitors.

Looking the other way was the yachting centre of Cowes on the Isle of Wight, famed for Cowes Week.

Near Fawley

Now I was enjoying views of parts of the coast I’ve not been able to walk. Much of it was wooded, as you might expect given the name (New Forest), but dotted with some large houses.

Near Fawley

Near Fawley

Near Fawley

I think this is Bucklers Hard, at the mouth of the Beauiue river.

Near Fawley

The refinery at Fawley was still very much in evidence, though.

Near Fawley

Continuing west I could enjoy more views of the otherwise inaccessible coast.

The New Forest coast

The New Forest coast

Lymington soon came into view. This is the main town on the coast at the south west corner of the New Forest. Another popular sailing and yachting centre, ferries also operate from here to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight. The distance between Lymington and Yarmouth is only around 3 miles. For this, for foot passengers alone (it’s MUCH more expensive to take a car) the ferry company Wightlink currently charge £19.40 for a day return (and more for a period return). Given the distance I had already travelled on Waverley the fare of £59 was looking very reasonable (and you could pay less if you only went Southampton to Yarmouth). It is crazy how expensive the ferries are to the Isle of Wight and it is said that it is the most expensive ferry crossing per mile in the world (I haven’t verified this, but can well believe it). By way of comparison perhaps this is why I always find the ferries in Scotland to be cheap, as this is what I’m often comparing with!

The New Forest coast

Soon I could see Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight ahead, and here is one of the ferries in the port.

Yarmouth

Yarmouth

I was expecting us to dock at Yarmouth. I know that Waverley doesn’t use the ferry terminal but is meant to dock at the end of Yarmouth Pier. Yet we sailed straight passed! I wondered if no one was scheduled to get on or off here, so we had simply skipped the stop?

Anyway beyond Yarmouth, here is Fort Victoria named after Queen Victoria, who loved the island.

Yarmouth

A little further along the coast is Fort Albert, named of course after Queen Victoria’s husband and beyond can be seen the famous white chalk stacks of the Needles at the western tip of the island.

Fort Albert and the Needles

On the mainland there are fine views of Hurst Castle and the lighthouse. The oldest parts of the castle date from the time of Henry VIII and it is built at the end of a narrow shingle spit. Unfortunately it’s exposed location was to be the downfall when part of the wall collapsed a couple of years ago in a storm and is now being repaired. You can see the missing part of the wall on my photo below (and the extensive rock armour put in front of the castle walls to try to protect it). At the time this part of the castle wall was unprotected and the sea came up to the walls at high tide. English Heritage was aware of this, but was too slow to act and it was undermined and collapsed.

Hurst Castle

Anyway the mystrey was soon solved as Waverley began to turn to head back to Yarmouth. I’m not sure why she over shot (the same happened on the return journey) so I assume it was intentional.

There was quite a crowd on the pie!

Yarmouth Pier

Piers like this were of course originally built for steamers like Waverley to use. Many fell into disrepair when they ceased and modern ferries, being mostly roll on, roll off ferries need dedicated docks, not piers. So it must be a challenge to find suitable piers to dock at. I know for example Waverley used to serve Bournemouth Pier, but neglect of the pier by the Council there means the landing stage at the end of the pier is now so badly deteriorated it is unsafe to use, so Waverley no longer stops in Bournemouth.

Yarmouth Pier was itself extensively restored, I think around the millennium and there are the names of people that contributed money printed on the planks along the pier. Today there was a huge crowd gathered. Some were due to board Waverley, some meeting passengers on board and many just to watch. A gate had been put in to keep the public back from the end of the pier and there were quite a few staff members at the end of the pier.

Yarmouth Pier

Crowds on Yarmouth Pier

It turns out Waverley docking is quite a spectacle, with several ropes needing to be thrown to staff on the pier (some of which missed and had to be hauled in and thrown again) and tied up then pulleys on board the ship pull it gradually closer until the gang-plank can be put out for passengers to get on and off.

Soon this was done and passengers could get on. In general more got on than off but we also had some musicians playing violins and guitar who had I believe been involved in a folk festival and were given permission by the crew on the ship to play on the outer deck as we crossed over to Dorset, which added a nice atmosphere. It was a pleasant warm day, a little over 20 degrees and calm so it was nice to be able to spend most of the crossing on the deck without being cold.

Now back on the move, we passed Hurst Castle once more.

Hurst Castle

Hurst Castle

Fort Albert

Now the captain took us in close to the spectacular Needles at the west side of the island. Fortunately weather conditions were calm enough to allow this, as the Needles are often very windy. In fact in Storm Eunice in February this year (2022) a wind speed of 122mph was recorded here, the highest ever recorded in England.

I also got to see Fort Albert from the coast side (it’s much more attractive this side than the landward side).

Fort Albert

Beyond it was the famous beach of Alum Bay, known for it’s coloured sands.

Alum Bay

Alum Bay

Now it was time for a closer look at the Needles.

The Needles

The Needles

The Needles

The Needles

Waverley soon picked up speed as we left. The next port of call was Swanage Pier. Here too are white chalk cliffs and millions of years ago the chalk cliffs were joined to the Isle of Wight and the Solent a river, but eventually the water broke through making the Isle of Wight an island. Now we were heading directly for Swanage, though this did mean being further out to sea, views of the coast were a little more limited.

I used this opportunity to have a roast lunch from the restaurant. Somewhere we crossed to Dorset and here I could now make out Hengistbury Head at the eastern end of Poole Bay, behind which is Christchurch Harbour.

Hengistbury Head

Behind, the Isle of Wight is gradually receding into the distance. (The flag was flying at half mast due to the sad death of Queen Elizabeth II a few days before).

Departing the needles

Ahead, the chalk cliffs at Swanage can already be seen.

Waverley near Bournemouth

In the distance to my right I can also see Bournemouth (where Waverley used to stop).

Bournemouth

After lunch, the coast of Dorset was now far closer.

Approaching Swanage.

There are now more chalk stacks, these known as Old Harry Rocks and mark the start of the World Heritage Jurassic Coast, which includes all the coast west from here as far as Orcombe Point near Exmouth in Devon.

Ballard Down and Old Harry

Ballard Down and Old Harry

Rounding the corner we were now entering Swanage bay. It’s a pretty town in a beautiful location with the rolling Purbeck Hills behind the town (which you can follow for a few miles to Corfe Castle).

Swanage

Swanage Bay

Waverley was docking at Swanage Pier. I come to Swanage several times a year (and spent a few days staying in the town over New Year this year) and I have never seen so many people on the pier!

Crowded Swanage pier

I think you have to pay to access the pier and if I remember rightly it was also restored about 20 years or so ago.

Crowded Swanage pier

Once again the docking process was fun to watch and this time the staff catching the ropes were on the lower deck (you can see their High-Vis jackets on the photo above) so the public could still use all the top level. Again the docking was quite fun with ropes being thrown (some missing) before eventually being tied securely.

More people got off here than got on as the company was also offering the possibility of a trip on the Swanage Steam Railway up to Corfe Castle and back, to rejoin Waverley for the return journey. I guess the prospect of travelling on a steam power boat and train on the same day was too much for many to resist!

Swanage Bay

Soon we were on our way and this was the part I was looking forward to the most. This part of the coast is one of the most spectacular in Britain (and the world) and now I got to see it up close from the sea, which I’ve never done before.

Departing Swanage

Rounding the corner at Peveril Point the fast-flowing tide was in our favour and Waverley reached a speed of 17 knots.

Now rounding the corner these flats on the edge of Swanage certainly look vulnerable, with a large cliff fall just below them.

Durlston Head

Durlston Castle soon came into view. After many years in dereliction this was restored and re-opened a few years ago and is now the cafe and visitor centre for Durlston Country Park.

Durlston Castle

This whole area, Purbeck, is famed for it’s high quality stone which has built or clad many buildings all over the world and of course as a result there are many quarries to be seen on this part of the coast.

Ahead now I could see the lighthouse at Anvil Point.

Durlston Lighthouse

Below it, you can see the evidence of old quarries. Heading a little further along I got a view from a different angle.

Durlston Lighthouse

To the bottom right you can see the Tilly Whim caves, caves created by old quarrying. Many years ago (I think before I was even born) these were open to the public as a visitor attraction (my dad remembers visiting it), but have of course since been closed as too dangerous.

Above the two white posts are the first of two mile markers, which have been used to measure ships speed (the idea being when the two posts line up you start timing and there are another two posts a mile west, so when you line up with those, a mile has been travelled).

Durlston Head

Heading west from Durlston is now a coast of many quarries. None are in use any more, but the remains can clearly be seen and you can walk in the caves at some of them.

Durlston Head

Near Worth Matravers

Near Worth Matravers

Near Worth Matravers

One thing I hadn’t realised you’d be able to see is the village of Worth Matrevers, you an see it above the cliffs above, it’s just over a mile inland so I hadn’t realised it could be seen from the coast (you can’t see it from the coast path).

Near Worth Matravers

Waverley had now reached St Aldhelm’s Head, with spectacular high clfifs.

St Aldhelm's Head

Beyond it I remember a long haul down and then straight back up on the coast path, so it was nice to see it from the sea where I didn’t have to go so much effort!

St Aldhelm's Head

Beyond is Chapman’s Pool a beautiful place quite similar to Lulworth Cove but with grey clay soil rather than chalk and far fewer people (there is no car park close by and access is difficult, though not impossible).

It actually doesn’t look anything like as spectacular from the sea as from the coast path.

Chapman's Pool

To the west is Houns-tout cliff and it’s a long haul up on the coast path!

Chapman's Pool

West of here the geology changes again as we approach Kimmeridge with the famous ledges in the cliffs very visible.

Near Kimmeridge Bay

Near Kimmeridge Bay

Kimmeridge Bay

Soon Kimmeridge Bay itself came into view.

Kimmeridge Bay

The tower here, Clavell Tower was move back stone-by-stone a few years ago and is now a holiday cottage. The road down to the beach is private and is a toll road.

Near Worbarrow Bay

West of here the cliffs become even more spectacular. The forces that shaped them must have been incredible and here are two distinct layers of very different rock, almost like the ones on top have been built on top (though of course, it is entirely natural).

Near Worbarrow Bay

Near Worbarrow Bay

Near Worbarrow Bay

We have now entered the Lulworth Ranges. The army use of this land is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it has kept it from development. A curse because it is mostly only accessible to the public at weekends as a consequence and I suspect Waverley can only sail here at weekends when the range is not in use as the Danger Area spreads out to sea.

One of the most impressive beaches in this area is Worbarrow Bay which we were now passing.

Arish Mell

It doesn’t look as good from the sea as from the coast path, actually.

Heading west we passed some more remote beaches, Arish Mell and Mupe Bay (the former still inaccessible to the public, though many climb over the fence anyway).

Mupe Bay

There are rock stacks off Mupe Bay and it was lovely to see them from the other side.

Mupe Bay

Mupe Bay

Now we had reached Lulworth Cove and the end of the Lulworth Ranges.

Lulworth Cove

The cove is beautiful but does get very crowded in the summer. Boat trips do operate from there and there is a small jetty on the beach. I did wonder if we were going to head into the cove, but it was soon clear that Waverley is too big to be able to get into the cove, so this is as close as we can get.

Now this was advertised as the turning point, where Waverley would turn and begin the journey back to Southampton. Fortunately we had made good time so the captain opted to continue a little further, to Durdle Door. I was very pleased about this!

Here is Stair Hole and the busy path up to Durdle Door an be seen on the cliffs behind.

Lulworth Cove

Stair Hole, Lulworth Cove

Lulworth Cove

Now we got to see Durdle Door from the back, which I’ve never done before.

Durdle Door from behind

Durdle Door from behind

The captain explained it has been called the dragon and from here I can really see it, like a dragon with the left end of the door being it’s head, drinking from the water. I hadn’t heard of this before, but it certainly does look like that.

A sight seeing boat also headed out to see Waverley.

Durdle Door

Now sadly, it was time to head back.

White Nothe

Out to sea, the Isle of Portland can be seen. I’d love to have continued on a bit further but sadly that wasn’t possible. I did wonder if Waverley could dock at Weymouth (then you could return to Southampton by train) but if it can, it wasn’t going to do so this year.

The Isle of Portland

Here inside can be seen the original plaque from when the ship was built on the Clyde in Glasgow, 75 years ago.

Waverley, built in 1947 and still in use

The ship yard where she was built no longer exists. A&J Inglis was taken over by Harland and Wolff who later closed the yard on the Clyde (though they are still a large ship builder in Belfast).

Man O War Bay

The boat headed back a little further out, but it was nice to see a slightly different view.

Arish Mell

Worbarrow Bay

Near Kimmeridge

St Aldhelm's Head

Soon we were back to Swanage Bay.

Old Harry Rocks

After docking again at Swanage, Waverley continued east towards Yarmouth.

Here is Milford on Sea.

Milford on Sea

Many people were still on deck enjoying the views, just like me.

Waverley

Waverley

This time the captain took as in closer to the Dorset shore, so here is a closer view of Milford on Sea.

Milford on Sea

Then we had a run alongside the spectacular Hurst Spit, which stretches for about a mile.

Hurst Spit

Hurst Castle

Hurst Castle

Beyond Hurst Castle we were now approaching Yarmouth once more. Again we seemed to “over-shoot” and then turn back, I’m not sure why. Now it was into the evening, there were fewer people on the pier, I think mostly just passengers.

Waverley approaches Yarmouth Pier

Yarmouth Pier

The ferry passengers also got a good view and we could exchange waves with the passengers on the deck of Wight Light.

Wightlink at Yarmouth

Leaving Yarmouth the sun was now getting low, but it was still pleasantly warm.

Waverley

Waverley

P/S Waverley

Continuing east from Yarmouth we were soon nearing Southampton Water as the sun now began to set.

Sunset over Southampton Water

Sunset over Southampton Water

Here you can see Calshot as the sun is setting.

Sunset over Fawley

There is a castle here and the long low building was used as a Sea Plane base during World War II whilst the control tower like structure is now used by the National Coast Watch.

Here is the sunset over Fawley Refinery.

Sunset over Fawley

On the east side of Southampton Water I spotted the Royal Victoria Country Park (not all of Southampton Water is industrial).

The Royal Victoria Country Park

Southampton Docks

Dusk was turning to night as Waverley headed further up Southampton Water to the container port and her berth for the night.

Southampton Docks

It was interesting to see the change, now it was getting dark.

Southampton Docks

Now all the cruise ships that were here this morning had all gone.

Southampton Docks

Waverley didn’t need tugs to birth and sadly now the trip was at an end. Of course one issue about spending the entire day on the boat is I never actually get to photograph the ship herself, so this is about the best I could do in the dark from the rather grotty berth in Southampton.

The Waverley at Southampton

The Waverley at Southampton

Having disembarked it was now time to take the bus back to the station where I had a couple of minutes walk back to the car park for the drive home, though it took less than an hour for me to drive home.

What a fantastic trip it had been. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was so glad I had chosen to come on it. It was wonderful to see such spectacular bits of the coast up close. I’m very grateful for the charity that operates Waverley and all her staff. I can’t begin to imagine the difficulties in operating a 75-year old steam ship with hundreds of passengers aboard when she was designed at a very different time. To keep it going for so long is a remarkable achievement and I hope Waverley will continue to be able to sail around the coast of Britain for very many more years.

In fact I enjoyed it so much I plan to take another trip next year if the dates work for me. Waverley normally operates a cruising season during the summer months only. For much of that time she operates around Glasgow but generally travels away from the area for a couple of months. I have it from the crew that the intention next year is she will spend some time on the coast around the Bristol Channel, so I hope to be able to take a trip there if this turns out to be the case.

All in all it was a wonderful trip on a beautiful (and very well maintained boat) with good facilities and friendly crew. I thought it was actually very good value for 10 hours cruising the water of the south coast. The only negative comments I had heard is warnings that the ship can get unpleasantly over-crowded. Given the cost to operate Waverley it is understandably the charity that does so wants to get many paying passengers on board as it would otherwise be un-economic even as a charity to do these trips. However whilst it was busy at no point did I think it was over-crowded. There was always space on deck to enjoy the view or sit down and I there always seemed to be seats free inside too, so I had no issues with the number of people on board and it was a pleasant atmosphere with everyone appearing to enjoy themselves.

Details of the trips Waverley is running can be found on the website – Waverley Excursions. For 2022 Waverley is operating on the South Coast until 21st September, then running cruises in London (including passing through Tower Bridge) and the Thames Estuary from the 23rd September until the 9th October and then for a final weekend of the season back on the Clyde near Glasgow from the 15th October. Hopefully the schedule for 2023 will be announced soon.

Posted in Dorset, Hampshire, Isle of Wight | 2 Comments