366. Kinloch Hourn to Corran (and return)

October 2020

For this walk I was staying in Fort William. Corran and Kinloch Hourn are both on the north edge of Loch Hourn. Corran is near the coastal end of the Loch, whilst Kinloch Hourn is at the head of the loch. They are slightly over 8 miles apart. However Corran is at the end of a dead-end road and Kinloch Hourn is at the end of another dead-end road. There is no direct road between the two villages. To drive between them via the most direct roads is a 71 mile journey taking over 2 hours. Kinloch Hourn has no public transport whilst Corran has a very limited bus (running one day a week, if pre-booked only). However whilst there is no road connection between them there is a path that links the two villages.

This makes the logistics for this walk somewhat tricky. Unless I want to “walk through” and camp out overnight (which means a lot of equipment and food to carry) the only real option seems to be a there and back walk, which obviously doubles the distance. However it is a long way to walk in a day and now it is October the days are also getting shorter so daylight is more limited. However I decide that is the best option. If I find it’s too far I can always opt to turn back and do it instead as two there and back walks from each end, meeting somewhere in the middle.

I opted to drive to Kinloch Hourn rather than Corran as it looked like it would take less time to get to from Fort William than Corran as it’s closer. Turning off the A87 onto the unclassified road, a sign informs me that it’s 22 miles to Kinloch Hourn on what I suspect is a single track road the whole rest of the way. There are only a couple of hamlets on the road, it is very very remote.

It was a fairly hair-raising drive. Initially following close to the shore of Loch Garry the road then enters woodland. I thought as I drove, the road can’t all be like this surely (can it)? It must get better at some point. Well it didn’t, really. The section through the woodland was the worst part, having few passing places, poor visibility and a poor road surface, often with grass growing down the middle of the road! Later the road went through more open country which whilst still a challenging drive at least had better visibility so I could see any traffic coming the other way. The worst part however is the last mile, where the road goes through a sequence of hair-pin bends, with crash barriers and wooden posts beside the road on one side and cliffs on the other and down very steep hills, as the road drops down to it’s end at Kinloch Hourn, at the head of Loch Hourn. I was very glad not to meet someone coming the other way on this bit. It turns out that walking the coast, at least the way I’m doing it, is also a test of your driving skills.

This is a remote, isolated place, as I can tell by the time it’s taken me to drive this 22 miles road (not far short of an hour). I expected it to take less time but it’s simply not a road on which you can hurry unless you want to risk a head on crash (which obviously I don’t). There are no facilities anywhere along the road. In fact, it is so isolated that Kinloch Hourn was cut off entirely for part of 2019 after a landslip on the road closed the road leaving the only possible access on foot or by boat.

It was a relief to reach the car park at the end of the road. In fact there are two car parks  – an “overnight” or multi-day car park and a day car park, both with an honesty box for the small payment. The overnight car park had a £2 charge per day. The day car park just had an honesty box but no indication of the cost, so I assumed it was the same amount (£2) and put that in. The farm nearby also houses a bed and breakfast (and I think also a tea room), but both were “closed due to Covid” – as everything seems to be in Scotland.

Actually car park maybe stretching things! It was more a sort of rock and grass area beside the road. I actually stopped first on the road to get out and test the surface. I was a bit worried it was just grass and with all the recent rain if that was the case I might find that if I pulled onto it, my car might sink into the mud (or might have if I parked on it, by the time I got back to it) – this is not the sort of place I wanted to get stranded, since there is no phone signal either! Fortunately a tentative test with my feet showed the surface was firm so I parked on it. The only other vehicle here was a small van.

Kinloch Hourn

The car park is actually a little beyond where I needed to be but at least there is somewhere to park (finding parking on single track roads can be a real problem). So I start by re-tracing my steps along the road to the farm and continue to the little area of woodland beyond which is a track which has a bridge across the Lochourn River.

Kinloch Hourn

Kinloch Hourn

Kinloch Hourn

A sign here shows various paths. One of them goes to Corran so that’s good. Less good is the fact it’s signed as 9 miles (I thought it was less), which makes it 18 miles for my return trip.

Paths from Kinloch Hourn

Allt Coire Sgoireadil, Kinloch Hourn

Once across the river I followed the track to soon come to a gate which has a notice about the various footpaths ahead and the fact you can camp here with permission from the stalkers cottage.

Loch Beag

Kinloch Hourn

I go through the gate and approach the few houses on this side of the river. The path goes up to the right of the large house here and as I approach a dog comes running out of the open door, so I hurry up the path before it catches up with me (worried that it might be acting defensively, as I’m on it’s territory).

Kinloch Hourn

Round the side of the house the track soon becomes one of lose stones and rocks and then climbs up through the woodland. The track twists and turns climbing steeply through the woodland where it starts to rain again.

View down to Loch Beag

Reaching the top of the woods I lose the shelter the trees offered from the rain. I tried to wait and shelter in the woodland but the rain doesn’t look like it’s going to stop soon, so I carry on and accept that I’m going to get wet (again). I had read from other walkers that although there are several paths on the map the trick is to just follow the path that goes more or less alongside the line of pylons – a good tip.

View down to Loch Beag

View down to Loch Beag

I have mixed feelings about this. The pylons do rather spoil the view, but I’ve got to admit they are useful for navigation! All the way up the path has had tyre tracks even though it seems way to steep to get even a 4×4 up here so I wonder what has made them. After relentless climbing I seem to more or less reach the top. Here, irritatingly the track forks, a fork not marked on the map. I followed the upper fork but fairly soon realise I’ve gone wrong, as this turns away from the power lines which means I should be on the lower track, so I have to backtrack a bit to pick the right path.

Back on the right track I’m now alongside the river, as I should be according to the map, so I’m confident I’m now on the right path.

Allt a Choire Reidh

The path soon crosses the river but fortunately there is a bridge as the river is wide and fast flowing, after all the recent rain.

Allt a Choire Reidh

The path continues by the river until I reach the small Lochan Torr a Choit.

Lochan Torr a Choit

The landscape is wild here with mountains and more streams visible in the distance.

IMG_2844

Now the worst of the climb looks to be behind me, as the path now heads over the open moorland, more gently undulating than steep hills now. After a while the track soon begins to descend down to Abhainn Ghleann Dubh Lochain another wide river with a completely unpronounceable name (to me, anyway).

Kinloch Hourn to Corran path

Kinloch Hourn to Corran path

I follow the path down to the banks of this river.

Dubh Lochain

I head read on Ruths’ blog that it is necessary to ford the river here and could see the map shows the path continues on the other side of the river. The map shows “Fords” at several places but there are no bridges and no obvious fording point I can see. Everywhere I look there might be a few rocks into the river but soon there is a much deeper channel of water to cross, too wide to jump over and with nothing to stand on. I continue past the point the path crosses on the map in the hope I find a better place to cross, as despite the map there seems a path on both sides of the river. I’m encouraged that if others have walked on this side, maybe there is a better crossing ahead.

However near another pylon I have passed the fording point and I don’t want to lose the correct path onwards. So I will have to try and cross. I debate whether to take my shoes off or not. If I don’t I’ll get very wet feet, but if I do I might hurt my foot on whatever is in the water or be more likely to slip. In the end I just keep my shoes on and wade right in and let the water fill my shoes. My feet were already damp from the rain and damp long grass anyway and I have a change of shoes in the car. Despite this the crossing is still tricky. The water gets just above my knees and as it does so the force of the water is powerful. I can feel that if I get much deeper I run the risk of losing my balance. Thankfully my next steps raises me up a bit and then a bit more and I’m then nearing the other side, knowing I’ve past the deepest part. Safely cross the river but now with very wet feet I continue on the path.

However it doesn’t take long for much of the water to escape out of my shoes whilst my feet quickly warm up from the walking again. Another river joins making the river now much wider and I have to cross it again but this time there is a bridge. The river is wide now and meanders through a wide valley, but soon the valley narrows and I approach a loch.

Dubh Lochain

Dubh Lochain

The path runs along the north side of this and then continues to the end of this loch and then a second loch. A boat house is marked on the map here, but I don’t see it.

Dubh Lochain

Dubh Lochain

Dubh Lochain

Dubh Lochain

At the western end of this loch there is a dam marked. However part of the dam appears to have given way and water rushes through.

River Arnisdale

It’s clearly been like this for some time. If I hadn’t seen a previous write up from Ruth where it was also like this I might worry that it has recently burst and is going to cause a flood but since it’s been like this I assume whoever needs to know already knows. The path now runs directly beside the river which is briefly straight and the path is made up of large (but sometimes lose) flat stones which look like it’s a man-made track (almost a road) perhaps built to aid the building of the now broken dam.

River Arnisdale

River Arnisdale

Now rounding the corner the path cross the river on a bridge and still continues close to the river but no longer right beside it. The bridge has an odd warning about crossing at your own risk and horses not being allowed.

River Arnisdale

River Arnisdale

Soon the path widens to a track again as I enter Glen Arnisdale. Corran is about 2 miles ahead but I can’t yet see the sea or the village. Time is getting on and I know I have to go all the way back, so I briefly consider turning back here, but that will leave another short walk for another day so I decide to press on. As long as I’m fairly quick on the way back I should make it back before it gets dark. The path has now climbed quite a way up from the river.

River Arnisdale

Still I can see that the path ahead is now largely flat and that’s good as I’m also quite tired. At about the last point you could drive in from Corran I come across a parked pick up truck. I didn’t see anyone walking from it and there are no buildings near so I wonder where the occupants have gone. I stick with the track along the left side of the river until I come to another wide bridge (with the same warning). Here I crossed the bridge as this was the more “main” track and wide enough for vehicles. The river is now wide and soon has trees beside it.

I continue now with the first house visible ahead. I can’t see the rest of the village which puzzles me but as I get nearer and re-check the map (which I had put back in my bag due to rain) I realise I’ve taken a slightly different track from the intended one and I’m coming up past a house isolated from the rest of the village (marked as Glenfield on the map) that I passed yesterday. So I follow this onto the road, actually about 500 metres north of Corran. A little irritating as I’ve needlessly added some more distance to my work. Still I turn left to the car park and visitor centre and the village of Corran at the end with it’s bridge over the river. Well I’ve completed the walk in one direction and connected up with my previous walks and I’m feeling pretty pleased at having completed this demanding walk (well, in one direction anyway). At least now I know the way the return should be easier.

Corran

It’s gone 2pm and I haven’t had lunch yet so I stop for lunch on the beach, now in drizzle before the long walk back. Having reached Corran at not quite the place I expected I head back to take the intended route along the river (a path is signed to Kinloch Hourn from here), first crossing the river via the bridge.

River Arnisdale, Corran

River Arnisdale, Corran

This soon narrows to a marked path over some boggy grass land.

River Arnisdale, Corran

After a while this enters woodland and runs along in the trees on the south side of the river. It is quite pleasant and soon I reach the bridge that I crossed earlier.

River Arnisdale, Corran

River Arnisdale, Corran

River Arnisdale, Corran

Now it’s just the long return walk, the same way I came. When I get back to the point where the pick up truck was parked it’s gone. I continue up and this marks the point where the path climbs. It is steep with lose pebbles and quite easy to slip so I have to take a lot of care here. However soon I’m back alongside the river and climb towards the dam.

Glen Arnisdale

Glen Arnisdale

The views are quite beautiful and after the wet walk down it’s a bit drier on the way back.

Glen Arnisdale

Glen Arnisdale

Dubh Lochain

When I reach the river where forded it last time, I tried to find a shallower spot near the point you are supposed to ford it on the map.

Dubh Lochain

Abhainn Ghleann Dubh Lochain

Abhainn Ghleann Dubh Lochain

This is the spot I chose.

Abhainn Ghleann Dubh Lochain

This turns out to be deeper than the point I crossed before so I have to take it more slowly due to the pressure from the water and watch I don’t get water in my bag. I make it across but it was certainly worse to cross here than where I did on the way here. Still now safely across I can begin to dry out my now wet feet on the way back.

Kinloch Hourn to Corran Path

The clouds lift but still with some showers, which gives me some rainbows.

Kinloch Hourn to Corran Path

Once I’m up on the flatter moorland part the sun comes out and it’s quite nice as the sun gets nearer the horizon, in the early evening light.

Kinloch Hourn to Corran Path

I should make it back – just – before dark.

Kinloch Hourn to Corran Path

Kinloch Hourn to Corran Path

Kinloch Hourn to Corran Path

Lochan Torr a Choit

Kinloch Hourn to Corran Path

As I reach the top of the steep hill over looking Kinloch Hourn the sun finally drops below the hills, but the end is in sight now. It is light enough through the woodland as the sun hasn’t dipped below the horizon just yet, just behind the hills.

Heading down I get to the bottom and see the first person I have seen since leaving Corran. He is walking a couple of dogs on a large grassy area near the river, (it turns out one of the dogs is the one I saw at the house earlier and tried to avoid!). It turns out the large house I saw is a holiday cottage and he is staying there on holiday. He tells me he saw me walk up the hill earlier so seems pleased to see I made it back safely and asks where I went and whether I enjoyed it. I confirm very much I did enjoy it and he tells me he loves it here.

I am in two minds about it. It is extremely beautiful, but it’s also extremely remote. Other than the walks I’m doing I’m not sure what else is nearby and I wouldn’t like to drive that road every day! We wish each other well and I head back to my car, change my wet socks and shoes and after a quick rest and drink head back on the long drive to Fort William. I’m now at dusk so there are quite a few deer about. Fortunately it’s just about light enough for me to see them before they run in front of my car.

It had been an absolutely stunning  walk through beautiful scenery and remote terrain and I felt a great sense of satisfaction at having done the full work both ways. It was a good “warm up” for the rest of the Knoydart peninsula, as I knew the next few walks would also be very tough.

Sadly my elation was short lived when I got back to the hotel. (Warning, if you’ve read this far, the rest of this post is something of a rant, just so you are warned). I had had no mobile signal all day so had been out of touch (which is good, I don’t want to be disturbed on my walks). However whilst I had been out, Queen Sturgeon of Scotland (well, I know she isn’t, but she acts like she is) has been on the TV to make some more pronouncements.

I used to think we lived in a democracy where we can at least contact our MP to express an opinion, where are laws are debated in parliament, so different view points are considered and then voted on. However Covid proved this was a fallacy. Our leaders can simply announce laws that take effect immediately, with no debate in parliament, no debate as to effectiveness or measures or what would need to change for them to be lifted and no care for what the public thinks. It feels like we are now in a dictatorship and laws are just announced and take effect.

That is exactly what had just happened. Today was the 7th October 2020 and a number of new restrictions had been announced. My big fear that hotels, like the one I was staying in, would be forced to close (again!) and I’d have no choice but to go home. Fortunately that hadn’t happened, however part of the laws were that hospitality venues could only open between 6am and 6pm indoors, and even that was not universally the case, in most of the Central Belt, Now of course staying in a hotel you don’t have a kitchen in your room (or cutlery or crockery, making eating a takeaway difficult too) and I wanted to have dinner after 6pm. If everywhere was closed after that, how exactly was I going to eat?

There was one exception, which was hotels restaurants could open after this time, to serve residents only. The problem for me was I was staying in the Premier Inn which doesn’t have a restaurant in the building. Instead there is a Brewers Fayre pub next door, which is obviously associated with the hotel (since they offer a “meal deal” there and serve breakfast), but it also open to the public. I am unclear if this is covered by this exception. I ask the hotel staff. They don’t know either and are waiting for clarity. Hmm, not great. The Covid hotel experience is miserable. Wear a mask everywhere except your room, no room servicing takes place (so I must queue at reception if I need more towels, tea etc), the bins in rooms aren’t emptied (so staying 8 nights the one in my room is soon overflowing), you are meant to keep 2 metres apart from other guests (which of course is impossible, since the corridors aren’t 2 metres wide) and now it seems there is nowhere to eat either!

Well I’ll have to consider what that means for the rest of my trip tomorrow when I hope the rules are clear. I really cannot stand Nicola Sturgeon who seems to be wanting to make life as miserable as possible.

On a more positive note I had managed to get a much coveted time slot for dinner at the Brewers Fayre next door to the Premier Inn this evening. At least I can sit down, have a hot meal and a pint of beer to go with it. It might be the last time that simple pleasure is allowed for many months (again). I do not toast Nicola Sturgeon when I get my beer.

As mentioned, there is no public transport for this walk. The nearest public transport is along the A87 (22 miles from Kinloch Hourn).

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

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8 Responses to 366. Kinloch Hourn to Corran (and return)

  1. patriz2012 says:

    What an arduous walk – but beautiful – glad you got your dinner eventually Well done!

    • jcombe says:

      Thanks! Yes one of my tougher walks, but i do enjoy them especially the sense of achievement on successfully completing my planned walk.

  2. 5000milewalk says:

    Great epic walk Jon, it looks lovely up there. I bought a pair of light sandals a few months back to wade across the River Esk near Ravenglass, which saves having to get wet socks and shoes. I also have a penknife with a saw so I can saw off a branch of a tree to use as a staff while wading across – although there don’t appear to be too many trees near that river!

    • jcombe says:

      Thanks Paul sounds like you have a good plan. Have you done many new coastal walks this year, you’ve been a bit quiet (well in blog terms, at least).

      No not many trees around here after Kinloch Hourn, though a few bushes.

  3. Usually I can appreciate your walks, but I can’t see any fun in this one at all. Wet feet twice and the anxiety of getting back before dark with that drive ahead of you – ugh.

    Completely disagree about NS, bit I don’t want to fall out with you, so I’ll leave it at that!

    • jcombe says:

      Oh I actually quite enjoyed it, though it was a bit demanding, it is quite a sense of adventure making it through such remote areas. Walking routes like this other than in the height of summer and you’re pretty much guaranteed to end up with wet feet anyway (ford or not) because there is always long grass, often knee deep, occasionally higher and when this is covered with rain or dew you’re going to get soaked anyway.

      Thank you for your comments about NS. I didn’t think you’d agree but I also don’t want to fall out so thanks for continuing to reading and I certainly agree and hope we can continue to respect that we have a difference of opinion and not fall out about it!

  4. tonyurwin says:

    That looks like an amazing walk. Stunning scenery.

    • jcombe says:

      Thanks Tony, it is indeed stunning and I enjoyed it a lot. I didn’t make quick progress on this bit of the coast but it was worth it to explore it properly.

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