365. Corran to Loch Hourn Islands (Eilean a’Gharb-lain)

September 2021

Last year I had walked from Kinloch Hourn at the head of Loch Hourn to Corran (a walk I have yet to write up). However the closest path to the coast that links these two places goes through Glen Arnisdale. Given the toughness of the terrain and the distance I need to cover I stuck to this path rather than try to find my own route closer to the coast, as there isn’t a path most of the way.

However there is a dead-end path that goes some of that way and last year I had missed that out. As I had come back to visit Sandaig in the morning I thought I’d head a bit further down the coast back to Corran and walk that path too.

The path runs for approximately 2 miles out along the northern coast of Loch Hourn and ends at a little island called Eilean a’Gharb-lain according to the Ordnance Survey map (actually there are several islands close by, but this is the largest). I am not sure why the path ends here or what it was created for (perhaps there used to be a settlement here), but the map suggests it certainly is a dead-end.

I drove down the coast from Sandaig to Corran. There is a car park and visitor centre at Corran but as was the case last year too, the visitor centre is closed (but the toilets are open this year). I headed down to the beach to enjoy the view over to the remote Knoydart peninsula.

Corran

Beach at Corran

Inland I could see the weather was going to be mixed, since there was a heavy shower but where I was it was still sunny, which had created a nice double rainbow. Anyway, it was time to get going.

Corran

Although the public road ends at Corran on the north side of the River Arnisdale, the majority of the village is actually on the south side of the river. Fortunately whilst the road is private for vehicles that doesn’t apply to anyone walking. I crossed the river which is surprisingly wide given it’s source is only a couple of miles away though at this time of year the water was pretty low.

Corran

Coast path near Corran

Once over the river the path initially follows a track in front of the houses, right along the south bank of the river. Encouragingly, a wooden “Coastal Path” sign points the way.

Coast path near Corran

Coast path near Corran

The shower continued and looked to now be approaching the visitor centre on the other side of the river.

Corran

The path narrows as it rounds the corner and soon I am at the end of the beach.

Loch Hourn near Coran

The path intermittently goes along the back of the beach or just up in the woodland behind it and is pretty well maintained by the standard of Scottish paths. Mostly it sticks pretty close to the shore and a ford marked on the map proves no problem to cross.

Loch Hourn near Coran

Loch Hourn near Coran

Loch Hourn near Coran

However soon I reach a fence where there is a gate through but once through I turned left, heading uphill the path now feinter. Soon this path fizzles out entirely and I’m just in bracken, gorse, heather and long grass.

Loch Hourn near Coran

Loch Hourn near Coran

I consider my options. I could try and press on, but I know it’s going to be pretty hard. Or I could go back but it seems a shame to give up having not got to my intended destination. So I head back to the gate and here I realise I somehow missed a more obvious path – in fact the route is to head downhill and back closer to the shore. I am not sure how I missed that the first time but now back on the path again things are a lot better.

Ahead I soon have the most wonderful view.

Loch Hourn near Coran

Loch Hourn near Coran

This is the wild, remote and beautiful Loch Hourn. Whilst many Scottish lochs are pretty remote this one feels especially so. I remember being a bit daunted by it when walking the south side of it last year. There are only two settlements on the entire loch. At the head, Kinloch Hourn consists of about half a dozen buildings and at the end of the public road (and that is a very long, remote, single-track road) and further out on the south side is Barrisdale in Knoydart. This again consists of about half a dozen buildings and does not have any roads at all, it is only accessible on foot or by boat. Other than that there are a couple of houses, isolated from anywhere else and I’m not sure if they are still inhabited (and if so I don’t think all year round). This area really is remote and wild.

Loch Hourn near Coran

At least having being in the loch before and knowing I’m doing a short there and back walk I find it less daunting, but no less beautiful. I can see the islands I’m heading to ahead. They still look pretty far away. However the path continues to be pretty good, now I have found it again, usually just above the beach. At one point it even goes into a narrow cutting between rocks.

Coast  path on Loch Hourn

Is it natural? I presume so but I did wonder if it had been cut to make the path (and if so, for what purpose)?. The weather now seems to be improving too, with more sunshine present making the views even more spectacular.

Loch Hourn near Coran

Loch Hourn near Coran

Despite the remoteness I could soon hear voices. This turned out to be two men in a boat (fisherman?), though I’m not sure where they had come from (I suspect Barrisdale) or where they were going. They seemed to be travelling around quite a bit in the loch, but you can see them (just about) in the photo below and it certainly gives some scale to the landscape.

Loch Hourn near Coran

I was now nearing the end of the path and approaching the first 3 little islands and dropped down onto the beach. Here my luck ran out with the weather and a heavy shower reached me, though it stayed sunny initially, despite the downpour. Well the weather forecast had been for sunshine and showers so I guess I was just getting both at the same time!

Loch Hourn near Coran

Sunshine and showers

Sunshine and showers

I sheltered partly under a tree to avoid the worst of it. I hoped it was just a short shower and the sun would soon come out and dry me out. Fortunately the rain did indeed soon stop so I came out from under the tree and continued along the beach to the larger Eilean a’Gharb-lain island. This is an island, but it’s a tidal island and the tide was out.

Loch Hourn near Coran

Who can resist exploring a small island? Well I can’t! I decided to make my way out to the island. This was a bit tricky initially because the beach was entirely rocks covered with sea weed which was very difficult to get over, but I had soon made it to the island, which was mostly low rocks topped with long grass and heather. I headed up to the highest point of the island, where I got a wonderful view in every direction.

Loch Hourn near Coran

Loch Hourn near Coran

Loch Hourn near Coran

Loch Hourn near Coran

Loch Hourn near Coran

Looking up the loch it narrows to almost (but not quite) completely close at Caolas Mor but then widens again beyond this. Kinloch Hourn is still more than 3 miles beyond this. Across the loch I could look over to Barrisdale, where I came last year (but not yet written up) and I could trace the route of the remote path that links Barrisdale to Inverie, the main settlement on Knoydart.

Loch Hourn near Coran

I was really enjoying the view from here but I was a bit reluctant to linger too long. I didn’t know how long before the tide was going to come in, I couldn’t see all the rocks between me and the mainland and I didn’t want to get stranded here if the tide came in and cut me off.

So I headed back down to the beach and made the rather tricky crossing over the sea-weed covered rocks to the beach.

Loch Hourn near Coran

As is so often the case, the walk back took less time (or at least appeared to) than on the way here. The weather too had improved with more sun and less rain so the landscape looked quite different on the way back and exceptionally beautiful.

Loch Hourn near Coran

Loch Hourn near Coran

Loch Hourn near Coran

Loch Hourn near Coran

Loch Hourn near Coran

Loch Hourn near Corran

Loch Hourn near Corran

Soon I was back to Corran crossing the river and back to the car park to end the walk.

Corran

Corran

Corran

I was really glad I came back to do this path. It really was stunning and it would have been a shame to have missed it out entirely. Having said that I’m glad I did it after I had already walked round Knoydart, or I might have found it made me feel more apprehensive for the difficult walks that would be ahead. It was good too that the path was pretty well maintained so it was easier than expected.

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

The only public transport to Corran runs on Friday only, must be pre-booked and the timings don’t really make it possible to make a day visit unless you walk up to Glenelg and stay the night there (the Glenelg Inn does accommodation), but here are details of it:-

McRae Kintail route 712 Corran to Kyle of LochalshCorran (Friday only) – Arnisdale (Friday only) – Upper Sandaig (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 to request it.

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

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8 Responses to 365. Corran to Loch Hourn Islands (Eilean a’Gharb-lain)

  1. tonyurwin says:

    It looks so remote round Loch Hourn. What a spectacular setting. I also can’t resist exploring when the tide is out!

    • jcombe says:

      Yes it is really remote. I did find it a little intimidating when I first came here, but I knew what to expect by the time I did this walk. Glad it’s not just me that can’t resist exploring!

  2. How wonderful to see you explored that path. I was tempted… but chickened out. Photos are beautiful.

    • jcombe says:

      Yes! I didn’t originally but felt a little sad when I saw it on the map outside the visitor centre at Corran so thought it would be good to come back before I moved on, too far to be practical to come back. I’m glad I did, it was a lovely walk. I did wonder about the condition of the path, but it was actually pretty good.

  3. Wow, some really dark skies there! Beautiful rainbow shots.

    • jcombe says:

      Yes sunshine and showers, sometimes both at the same time and the showers were pretty heavy when they did come. I think some of the photos had the sky so dark because I was standing in the sun looking to the dark area that was not in the sun. Still pretty spectacular, though!

  4. Wow. I’m both impressed and a little jealous. I saw that that path existed but could not make it work with the time that I had available when I was there. At least I can enjoy it vicariously through your beautiful photos.

    I can, however, shed some light on the mysterious footpath that ends at Eilean a’ Gharbh-làin (‘Island of the Fierce Tide’). Looking at the 1st edition OS map, it used to be part of a longer footpath that continued to the couple of crofts at Caolas Mòr (‘great strait’). This also seems like a startlingly remote place to run a path to, though it least had people living in it, but then Caolas Mòr is the narrowest part of the loch and the opposite point is called Leac an Aiseig (‘ferry ledge’). No ferry is indicated on the map, so it probably ceased to exist long before Ordnance Survey did their thing but it does tell us that at one time the path you walked connected Corran to the track on the southern side of Loch Hourn that links Kinlochhourn and Barrisdale!

    • jcombe says:

      Wow thanks so much for reading. I’m always so impressed with how much research you put into you blog and all the interesting history you pass on (just as you have done on your recent walk south from Wick, which I very much enjoyed reading about), I look forward to reading your posts.

      Thanks so much for doing that here too and what an interesting story. Of course looking at the map it makes perfect sense to have a ferry from Caolas Mor which as you say is the narrowest part. So certainly sounds as if there was a ferry here at one time, though I suspect for a pretty short time. There are a lot of places in Scotland that once had a ferry (hence the road sign that amused me on an earlier walk “Strome Ferry (no ferry)”.

      You can find a lot from the old OS maps, I’ve found it interesting to see the changes to the roads and paths over the years (for example I found that at one time Kyle of Lochalsh, despite being on the mainland could only be reached by road by taking a ferry).

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