For this walk I was staying in Fort William, so it was quite a long drive north to Glenelg, as I after leaving the A87 at Shiel Bridge the road was then almost entirely single-track, going over the Ratagan pass and descending slowly into Glenelg. I continued on to the village hall and parked in the layby in front of it. It has taken me around 1 hour 45 minutes to drive here, longer than I thought.
Last time I was here all was quiet and the hall was closed. Today it is a hive of activity with a lot of people coming and going from the hall, I am not sure what is happening but it seems to be attracting a lot of people. My plan now is to cycle to Corran and then walk back and I have my folding bike in the back of my car for this purpose. I set this up and begin the cycle ride. Looking at the map there are two chevron symbols (used to indicate steep hills), but both are downwards, so I am hoping for an easy ride.
Things start out well enough but it soon gets much tougher. Round to Eilanreach things are good enough, but then the road climbs and climbs and climbs. I quickly have to get off and end up pushing the bike a little over a mile to the top of the road. It is very tiring. Now a bit of flat and a brief downhill but soon it’s uphill again to Upper Sandaig (I guess the clue is in the first word of the name). Eventually the road goes down again and I can pick up some speed. However it’s a folding bike and it quickly starts to feel unstable if I get up speed so I have to keep the speed a bit in check with the brakes, which is a shame. I hoped the downhill would last as far as Arnisdale, but it doesn’t.
When the road starts to climb again I get off and stop to check the map. I have been going an hour already and I expected the cycle ride to be finished in no more than an hour. I am still further than I hoped, it’s just started raining (again) and I am awfully tempted to chuck the bike in a bush (this is how I’m feeling about cycling it now!) and walking to the end of the road and back rather than continue with the cycling. However I decided to stop for a rest for a few minutes before getting reluctantly back in the saddle. It is a long push up the hill before the final steep descent into Arnisdale.
The descent into Arnisdale is steep but the road once there is flat. A women is walking in the road so I move to the right to pass here but then she looks round, sees me behind and moves out in front of me, so I have to move even further to the right. It is very odd, is she deliberately trying to get me to hit her? Or doesn’t like cyclists so trying to annoy me? She doesn’t say anything as I pass but I’m rather irritated by her actions and the pettiness of it. It is a road after all, I could understand her irritation if I was cycling (illegally) on the pavement (not that there is one).
I continue on the pretty road through the village and then the dog-leg bend and the final part of the road around to Corran. The cycling has taken me 90 minutes and I’m exhausted! I lock the bike to the sign telling me I have reached the end of the public road.
There is probably no need to lock it at all, but since there is something the right size to lock it to I might as well (and it saves me carrying the lock around, too!). I can’t be bothered to carry my helmet either so I just clip that to the frame – you’d have to be pretty desperate to steal someone else’s’ cycle helmet I feel.
Most of the village is actually located beyond the end of the public road. The road, now private, continues on a bridge over the River Arnisdale. This river only begins a few miles to the east but already it is a wide rushing river which certainly needs a bridge.
Beyond the bridge is a cluster of cottages running alongside the river to the shore. There is actually a path along the coast south of Corran which runs for a little over 2 miles before coming to an abrupt end. When I planned this walk I thought I might have time (and energy) to walk it there and back before beginning the walk back to Glenelg. However after the tiring cycle ride and the long drive I don’t have the time or energy. Instead I plan to come back and do it another time. On the plus side I hear it’s rather pretty reaching a few small islands in Loch Hourn so that is something to savour for another day.
The bridge marks the start of a number of paths which are marked with a sign post.
The one I’m interested in is the path to Kinloch Hourn which the sign tells me is 9 miles away. I plan to do that walk tomorrow but I’ll have to do double that as I intend to walk it there and back in the same day, but at least the sign confirms the path exists (well actually it doesn’t, but it does confirm that it *should* exist!).
Now it’s time to begin today’s walk. From the end of the road about 100 metres or so brings me to a car park and the building at the other end of this small car park also houses a toilet and a visitor centre, but the latter is closed due to Covid, like most of Scotland. The shingle beach is just behind the car park.
A little beyond the visitor centre the road leaves the coast and runs north about 100 metres east of the shore. I soon pass the track that serves an isolated house, marked a private. This seems to join up with the track to Kinloch Hourn so I’m surprised to see both the private sign and lack of footpath sign as I had assumed this was a path. The road continues past a farm and a couple of cottages beyond, probably originally farm workers cottages but now I suspect holiday lets.
Beyond this the road runs beside a high dry stone wall hiding a building I later see is a large white building set in extensive grounds. There are no signs to say what it is but it looks to me like it was once a hotel.
In fact I later found out that this is Arnisdale House and was built for Valentine Fleming, the father of James Bond author Ian Fleming. I remember seeing another house lived in by Ian Fleming way down on the Kent coast at St Margaret’s Bay. I can’t find any evidence of it ever being a hotel so not sure who owns it now and what it’s used for. Although I have only been walking a short while the longer than expected drive and cycle ride mean that it’s lunch time – and I’m hungry! So I sit down on the beach nearby for lunch. Sadly it starts to rain (albeit lightly) about 2 minutes after I start, but I finish lunch anyway.
The rain gets harder as I enter the village of Arnisdale. This is the biggest settlement on the walk today and it is very very beautiful, even though I’m not seeing it at it’s best in the pouring rain.
The road through the village is lined by trees for much of it’s length with a grass strip to the left of the road and the beach beyond, though the grass strip is often littered with abandoned boats, fishing equipment or cars. There is a small jetty and I wondered if boat trips go from here but a sign tells me it’s owned by a fish farm and private and to use is it “at your own risk”.
The rain soon eases and I have wonderful views out into Camas Ban and Loch Hourn.
There aren’t many facilities in the village, but there is a Post Office which opens for 3 afternoons a week. It looks like a private house and I only notice it because of the (out-dated version) of the Post Office logo displayed on the fence beside the road.
I’ve now reached the end of the village and on the left is the island of Eilean Tioram. This is a tidal island but it’s tiny and I can see it all from the road so I don’t bother to go out to it. As I knew from my cycle ride earlier, I now have a very steep hill to tackle.
I huff and puff my way up it and as soon as I reach the top, the road descends again, now into a bay called Camas Driseach according to my map.
It is rather pretty and although the road is a bit back from the cliff top it’s close enough I can see the coast all around. This includes the other side of the loch on which is the remote Knoydart peninsula which I’ll soon reach. This huge roadless peninsula is often called the last true wilderness in Britain. It promises to be both beautiful and tough.
The road climbs up with some woodland on the left and then descends to the hamlet of Rarsaidh. This seems to consist of a single house! Perhaps it was once larger. The road is now climbing again intermittently through woodland.
Though there are no buildings on Knoydart there is a large boat (and some smaller ones) which I can see is a fish farm (not marked on the map). Out in the loch is another island, Eilean Rarsaidh and a smaller Eilean a Chuilinn. Once level with this the road now climbs up through coniferous woodland and unfortunately turns a bit away from the coast.
The woodland continues for a little over a mile and the road climbs almost continually through it.
Finally I leave the woodland and am rewarded with wonderful views with Sandaig Islands ahead in the distance and fine views over to Knoydart.
I’m also lucky in that after all the rain the sun has come through, giving a beautiful light.
I’ve now rounded the corner and left Loch Hourn and am now alongside the Sound of Sleat which separates the Isle of Skye from the mainland, so I’m now looking over to Skye. Although not as remote as Knoydart it looks very similar with few buildings or roads to be seen.
The map suggests the area ahead is mostly woodland. My eyes suggest otherwise and it seems much of the woodland has been felled but the map not updated to reflect this.
In some cases the felling seems to be very recent and a path that directs me inland to Woodland Walks is blocked off with hazard tape due to the works and a Forest Operations sign. Down to the left another path is signed off to Sandaig. This one is not blocked with hazard tape but I can see some trees have been recently cleared alongside. I am a bit reluctant to try a dead-end path so I decide to stick to the road (it’s only later I found out that this was the home of Gavin Maxwell who wrote Ring of Bright Water about his life here with pet otters). It certainly sounds like it’s worth a visit and in hindsight I regret not going down to explore this path and Sandaig.
Onwards for today and the road soon climbs again and I am overlooking the bay at Eilanreach where I have a really stunning view.
You can’t stop to appreciate views like this in a car so it’s nice to be able to take the time and enjoy the fruits of my labour up here! Now it is downhill all the way as the road descends down to Eilanreach. At the bottom the path runs alongside a damp looking meadow and enters the village. There is a large house on the left, again probably another hunting lodge and a mixture of small and larger houses on the right. It is a very well kept little village.
The road then crosses the river that flows through Glen Beag on my right, which I remember being the destination of another footpath I saw signed at Corran.
Once over the bridge there is a dead-end road on the right which runs for a few miles along the Glen before coming to an end. Here sure enough is the sign post confirming it’s 10 miles to Corran. I am wondering if I have walked more or less than that along the road and try to find the path but I can’t find a through route to Corran marked on the map just various paths that all seem to come dead-ends. Very odd.
Although the road is a dead end I am surprised to see there is a brewery down the road but the sign says “Beer 3km”. I like beer, but 3km (and another 3km back) is a bit much to add onto my walk so I continue on the main route, turning left onto the “main” road once over the river.
The road now is mercifully flat, as I remember from my cycle ride earlier. Soon I am entering Glenelg, which is the largest place on this peninsula. It’s quite a long thin village which stretches for about ¾ of a mile along the road.
As I enter the village I’m a bit surprised to find a bus coming. The only bus I am aware of on this road runs on a Friday only and must be pre-booked. However I soon realise it’s a school bus (presumably a private service) and it clearly doesn’t go to Corran and back because 5 minutes later it comes back past me going the other way.
Glenelg is beautiful with fine views of the hills and mountains of the Isle of Skye on the other side of the loch now catching the late afternoon sunshine.
I followed the road beside the loch passing a jetty and reaching the sizeable war memorial.
It is a surprisingly large memorial for such a small place. Rounding the corner with the war memorial I am now approaching the centre of the village with a wonderful view of Glenelg Bay on the left with lovely reflections in the calm waters.
Now it was just a short walk past the church and Glenelg Inn back to my car at the village hall, which was now locked up and quiet. Now around 5pm I now had to drive back to Corran to collect my bike.
That took about half an hour. I turned in the turning circle and stopped my car beside the road a few metres ahead, so I didn’t have to move the bike far. As I was approaching my bike and the end of the road a resident in the house right behind the sign (who was in the garden) said hello and then asked me if that was my car (well yes, you just saw me get out of it) and then told me “you can’t park there”. Sigh. I wasn’t parking there I had stopped to pick up my bike but on pointing this out (and unlocking it) and pointing out I wasn’t parking just stopped to collect the bike the tone now changed and she told me about how they have problems with people parking in the turning circle even though there is a car park about 50 metres further up the road. I sympathised but noted a car, I suspect belonging to the lady I was talking too, was parked in the turning area and with cones placed beside it. I suspect she was “enforcing” different rules for herself than other people!
Anyway bike retrieved and loaded into the car it was now time for the long drive back to Fort William which took around 2 hours as much of the road is hilly and single track. However I was pleased to be able to complete most of it (and the narrow parts) in daylight.
Back in Fort William I had managed to book a coveted “time slot” for dinner (albeit later than I’d like) in the Brewers Fayre pub next door to the hotel so I actually had a proper hot meal, the first time on this trip!
I didn’t enjoy the cycle ride to start this walk, which wore me out, but other than that it was a wonderful walk. It might all have been on roads but there wasn’t much traffic and the views from the road were stunning. Arnisdale was also beautiful and I hope to be able to come back to explore the coast south from there and also Sandaig in future.
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-
McRae Kintail route 712 Corran to Kyle of Lochalsh: Corran (Friday only) – Arnisdale (Friday only) – Glenelg – Glenmore – Ratagan – Shiel Bridge – Inverinate – Dornie – Reraig – Balmacara – Kyle of Lochalsh – Badicaul (Friday only) – Erbusaig (Friday only) – Drumbuie (Friday only) – Duirnish (Friday only) – Plockton (Friday only).
The section of the bus route between Corran and Glenelg runs only on Fridays and only by request. You need to request by calling 01599 511384 before 9pm the previous evening.
Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link.