Countryside Wanderings

It's amazing how things develop. After all, this blog started out as a news section for the rest of the website. With encouragement from readers, it has become a place for relating my countryside wanderings and musings about the world of outdoor activity. Walking, cycling and photography all are part of what I do out of doors and, hopefully, they will continue to inspire me to keep adding entries on here. Of course, there needs to be something of interest to you, dear reader, too and I hope that's the case. Thanks for coming.

A springtime sabbatical

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

Though the output on here may try to belie it, the month of March was one of exhaustion and a longed for sabbatical from work came not a moment too soon at the start of April. Mostly, it was time to rest at home though there were some escapes. My yearning for rest and recuperation had to be countered for these but it is good for anyone’s state of mind to get out and about too.

The second weekend saw me head to the Isle of Man for the first time since July 2011. Though it was a reluctant manoeuvre in the end, it repaid my efforts with sunshine on a circuit from Laxey that took in Snaefell and on an amble around Castletown. Before I started my return, I took in Douglas Head and Summerhill Glen along with some other sights around the island’s capital.

Strife with insuring a car in Ireland partly ruined any peace of mind around Easter such that I shortened a stay in Edinburgh. In truth, I spent more time around Peebles with a rain-soaked walk around Glen Sax on Easter Sunday preceding a trot along the John Buchan Way between Peebles and Broughton in much better weather on Easter Monday. Thankfully, that Irish obstacle was overcome to allow a few more days of quiet rest before it hit me just how fast time was going.

While it felt as if my time away from work was too short, there still was time for walk from Litton to Buxton that took in several of Derbyshire’s dales. The list included Tansley Dale, Cressbrook Dale, Monsal Dale, Miller’s Dale, Wye Dale and Deep Dale. Wintry weather intruded at times and Chee Dale offered plenty of adventure. Still, it was a good day out with my partly making up the route as I went along.

There was a trip to Ireland too and this allowed more time for myself in between visiting family and neighbours as well as attending to business that I have over there. Evening walks took me on circuits around by Springfield and Kilmeedy village. Though the walking was along roads for the most part, it was a case of revisiting haunts that I have not frequented for a few years now.

On returning to work, I have decided to do things differently and that is allowing me more rest time. My mind is turning to future excursion ideas as a sort of tonic though such flights of fancy are tempered my aunt’s health for now. Still, there is no harm in dreaming a little as I assess how things are going for me after all that has happened during the past five years.

Starting independent touring of Scotland

Friday, March 24th, 2017

Prior to August 2001, my outings in Scotland were day trips or I set off with someone else. A conference in Aberdeen was attended with a university colleague and an annual trip to Highland Perthshire was with a university group. Then, there was a few days in August 1999 when I showed my brother some of the sights that I had seen on day trips and a few more with them.

A Family Outing

That last outing began from Edinburgh and took us to Fort William where we spent a night before exploring Glen Nevis the next day. Our late afternoon arrival meant that there was some time for a stroll along by Fort William’s shore after an evening meal at the Ben Nevis Bar. The town turns its back to the sea so it was up what lay across Loch Linnhe to assuage any lack of scenic glamour despite overcast skies lying overhead.

Next morning after breakfast, we parked in the Braveheart car park before setting off for a stroll along the road through Glen Nevis. The pace was to be a gentle one and I have no recollection of there being much road traffic as we went as far as the Water of Nevis car park. Though this was before I took up hill walking, my brother asked about how long it would take to walk up and down Ben Nevis. Seven of eight hours came the reply and I wonder at the naivety of our deciding against the proposition on the basis of the time we had. Nowadays, I would be thinking in terms of experience, conditions and equipment and that also would be the order on which I would base my decision.

The attentions of midges meant that we did not linger too long around the Water of Nevis. Also, we wisely did not proceed further along and the presence of a disturbing sign would have made sure of that. It was a few years later when I finally went a little beyond it and I maintained control of my ambitions even with the equipment and experience gained in the meantime. This is wild country that commands respect and is not something for a spur of the moment decision of a casual tourist.

We retraced our steps with a stop at a cafe so there was no rush in our movements. On returning to our car, we set off for Oban. Skies had been grey overhead all day but they now were to darken and bring rain. Scotland was to show its less favourable side that evening. Nevertheless, we still sought food that evening and pottered about Oban too. The rain must have passed sufficiently to allow this. We also figured out what to do the next day: a tour of Mull and Iona.

The weather next morning showed that we were not to see Scotland under sunny skies. Still, we crossed to Mull by ferry before catching a coach to Fionnphort with the driver providing commentary laden with dry wit. A mention of the once regular arrival of wet newspapers onto the island at Grass Point remains in my memory and does the description of the, at times single track, road as the island’s answer to England’s M6.

Once at Fionnphort, we crossed to Iona in dry conditions. Skies remained grey but were strolling Baile Mòr without any wetting. We also visit the restored abbey buildings so we would have been under cover for a time too. Still, it was good to have respite while we were there and we reversed our outbound travel to get back to Oban again.

From Oban, we headed to Balloch where we stayed the night. Sadly, we arrived too late to walk along the shore of Loch Lomond in daylight. In any case, we would have some of it while in the way there. Next morning, we continued to Stranraer where we crossed to Ireland and I got a short stay over there before returning to Edinburgh again.

Going Solo

Because of starting a new job in England and having to move home, there was no Scottish touring in 2000. Though it remains the wettest year on record across Britain, my recollections of the summer are not in agreement with the statistic. The autumn that year was another story and I soon learned not to cycle the five or six miles to work in Cheshire rain.

Being lonesome after life in Edinburgh, I resolved to return from time to time and it is something that I still do. There was a weekend visit in November 2000 when I stayed with a friend up there. That became a regular feature for a few years and it was to another friend that I came to stay in August 2001. That was to be a jumping off point for another tour of Scotland, travelling solo this time around.

After arriving in Edinburgh on Monday afternoon and spending the night there, I headed off to Skye on Monday afternoon after spending the morning sorting out my accommodation arrangements. After the sunshine of the previous evening, it was under grey skies that I set off on a Scottish Citylink coach to Fort William. On the way there, we were to pass through heavy rain but it was drier if still grey when I reached Fort William. Bright skies were to persist for the onward journey to Portree though there was a sense of stormy conditions whenever any showers came our way.

The Quiraing from near Staffin, Trotternish, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Eilean Flodigarry, Trotternish, Isle of Skye, Scotland

The following day could not be more different for it came fabulously sunny. Having not been there before, I chose to head for the Trotternish by bus as far as Culnacnoc. From there I trotted along the road as far as Flodigarry and lots of little places like Staffin and Brogaig were passed on the way. Though the road walking left me footsore, there was next to no traffic so I could soak in my surroundings. The gorgeous weather and scenery also meant that my Canon EOS 300 got plenty of use and I made sure that I had enough film this time around. It made a good introduction to the place and I returned to Portree by bus.

After another night on Skye, I caught the bus to Armadale where I caught a ferry to Mallaig. Memories of any sights of Knoydart and the Small Isles are lost to me know but there was some sunshine. Skies were greyer around Mallaig and I travelled from there to Glenfinnan on the Jacobite steam train, a rather expensive endeavour to me at the time. Photography was limited by the sun but I still got a stroll to the shore of Loch Shiel, albeit pulling a heavy trolley bag after me. From Glenfinnan, I got to Fort William on a more ordinary train before catching a Scottish Citylink coach to Oban where I stayed the night.

My third visit to Mull took place next day and I left most of my luggage in safekeeping on the mainland while I made for Tobermory by ferry and bus. Sunshine was rather hazy but I still tried my luck with making some photos of Tobermory with somewhat pale skies. My long SLR photography lesson was only beginning so there was a lot left to learn. Returning to Oban by bus and ferry, I retrieved my luggage and caught the coach to Glasgow. Once there, I continued to Edinburgh on another.

This was the English and Welsh August bank holiday weekend so I stayed there until that Sunday. Saturday came grey so I went shopping for better walking footwear at Tiso and came away with a pair of Columbia trail shoes that I still have somewhere today. They complemented the pack of thick socks that I bought in Tobermory just the day before. It is amazing what sore feet cause you to do.

Sunday morning was spent around Edinburgh and it all felt autumnal. Any photos that I tried making then reflected that more than what I believed I was seeing at the time. It was later that I set to travelling south again and the bank holiday was to see me trying out my new footwear on a trail by Grindsbrook Clough near Edale in Derbyshire. An interest in countryside walking was beginning.

Making a planned escape in the midst of a time of turmoil

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

In a lot of ways, 2005 was an eventful year. My mother’s health was poor for much of it and several weeks with a vomiting complaint resulting in her having to go to hospital, a move that she resisted. We could have done without the clueless inexperience of the consultant that had here in his care. It all meant that an Easter visit to Ireland proved inevitable. During the summer, the poor woman suffered an episode of shingles if life was not hard enough as it was.

In the world at large, there was a general election in Britain where the government got itself re-elected with a reduced majority. Times were changing and July brought two terrorist attacks in London, one horrifically successful and the other resulting in failure. Neither did anything to steady nerves and I resolved to keep away from London for a time; it was to be a few years before I made any return visit.

Not a Good Time to be Going Away

With all this happening, my by now customary week long summer break was in order. The timing was not nearly as bad as my brother’s trip to London with a friend of his. An abortive terrorist attack happened on 22/7 while he was staying in the city and I was to travel to Scotland the very next day. Paternal nerves needed steadying after I sensed that I might have said too much about London events so I got my brother to make contact with Ireland. London turned out to be big enough that he saw very little of anything that happened.

As I travelled north, there was heightened awareness as I topped up on a few things at a WHSmith’s branch in Manchester Piccadilly train station. Otherwise, the security situation does remain so much in my memory these days. My journey was to take me to Edinburgh where I would spend the weekend with a friend before continuing to Skye.

Any recollection of how the weekend was spent has faded as much as that of the journey from Edinburgh to Broadford on the Isle of Skye. Shortly after arriving, my brother phoned to see where I was because our mother  had shingles. Both of us were away from our normal bases so our father had to be supported in another way, possibly with help from an aunt and uncle. While the security situation felt very far away, life’s tribulations displayed their ability to follow you. Still, I got out for a stroll along Broadford Bay and found my way to somewhere where I could get something to eat.

2005-07-27

Gars-bheinn and Sgurr na Stri, Strath, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Next morning, I caught the bus to Elgol. Then, services were not as regular as they are today and that influenced my choice of walk. It is a scenic spot with coastal views of the Cuillin hills. There were to be plenty of those as I followed the path north along by Loch Scavaig.

As this took me along the steep side of Ben Cleat, my mind was focussed by the possibility of slipping into the see if I was to lose my foothold. It reminded me of walk along Offa’s Dyke Path by the side of Eglwyseg Mountain only a few weeks earlier. Tripping there would not have dropped me into the sea though.

Camasunary, Strath, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Reaching Glen Scaladal brought with it a sense of relief though the amount flotsam and jetsam from the sea made for a surprising sight. Next up were the slopes of Beinn Leacach but they were not as intimidating as those along Ben Cleat had been. Camasunary was reached without incident.

Loch na Crèitheach, Strath, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Strath na Crèitheach, Strath, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Sgurr nan Gilleann, Minginish, Isle of Skye, Scotland

From this point, many continue towards Loch Coruisk by way of The Bad Step near Sgurr na Stri. That way would take you into the heart of the Cuillin but I was not so adventurous. My choice took me towards Loch na Crèitheach and Glen Sligachan before I would finish my walk at Sligachan itself. This would continue the scenic grandeur to which I had been exposed.

Bla Bheinn, Strath, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Glen Sligachan, Minginish, Isle of Skye, Scotland

The sun was set to shine for most of the way too. Thus, I would get to see a whole range of delights like Blàbheinn and Marsco at their best. This was a small helping of wilderness walking with encumbrance from scarcely a soul, exactly what I needed after all that had happened that year. Waterways like the River Sligachan and lochs like Loch an Athain or Lochan Dubha would be watery companions for parts of the hike. Map inspection was as much for working out what surrounded or what other walking possibilities there might be as much as it was for progress assessment.

The famous south-facing view from Sligachan was not a photographic possibility as I awaited the next bus to Broadford. Taking some refreshment at the Sligachan Hotel tempted too but I decided to play safe though buses were not so irregular here. This is a place to which I probably need to return.

2005-07-28

After the enjoyment of the previous day, I was off again and the destination this time was the Trotternish. With a stopover in Portree, I went from Broadford to Brogaig. It was on the second leg of the journey that i saw that newspaper delivery to Staffin was done by bus. Once I had disembarked, I was on the minor road across the ancient landslip that so dominates sights on this part of Skye.

Though the curiosities of the Quirang lay to my right, I chose instead to turn left and stroll south along the inland cliff top. Quite why I had overlooked an out and back stroll in the other direction is a little lost to me now but it might have been because the day was dull at this point. Leaving the making of photos of rock formations like The Table, The Prison and The Needle for a sunnier day does have a ring of sense about it.

My course was to carry me over humps and bumps as far as Beinn Edra. For whatever reason, the stroll felt a long one. Whether it was because the day before had spoilt me with its delights or the ground underfoot was less compatible with rapid progress is not something that I can answer readily. Either way, I dropped into Glen Conon on the way to Uig under breaking cloud cover.

Rha Glen, Uig, Isle of Skye, Scotland

The sun was out by the time that I reached Uig and, with time to spend before the next bus to Portree, I found my way to a shady glade at the foot of Glen Uig where I rested a while. It was to be August 2008 when I would be here next and that would be when I made my first, and so far only, trip to Harris. Explorations were set to continue.

The way back to Broadford cannot have been eventful for I have little recollection of it now. After my last evening in Broadford, it was time to start heading south again. That must have been a journey without much ardour too for next to no detail remains in memory. That autumn, I was set to embark on a career move so the changes were set to continue.

None of the changes in 2005 were anything as dramatic as those in 2016. My life was set to continue in a readily steady direction with one thing leading to another. Good memories remain and yet may call me back to those places where they were first made.

Travel Arrangements

Train from Macclesfield to Edinburgh. Scottish Citylink coach journey from Edinburgh to Broadford with a change of coach in Fort William. Highland Country bus services from Broadford to Elgol, Sligachan to Broadford, Broadford to Portree, Portree to Brogaig, Uig to Portree and Portree to Broadford. Scottish Citylink coach journey from Broadford to Glasgow with a change of coach in Fort William. Train from Glasgow to Macclesfield.

Learning many lessons during an introduction to Skye

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

It was July 1999 when I had my first experience of multi-day solo travel. Before that, there were day trips that took me to Fort William, Inverness, Oban and Loch Lomond. There were other excursions too with regular university science meetings taking me to the shores of Loch Tay and a conference in Aberdeen. All laid the foundations for a trip with my brother that took in Fort William, Glen Nevis, Oban, the Isle of Mull and Loch Lomond before he went home via Stanraer. That allowed me a chance for a weekend in Ireland too.

That first multi-day trip of my own took me to Skye for the first time. It came after the oral exam for my Ph.D. so there was an element of celebration after a successful outcome. That July had been dull in the main so it was a change to have a sunny day for the exam though it clouded over by evening time.

The prospect of some more sunshine later in the week was such that I managed to plan the trip away. This was a largely spontaneous escapade that commenced after a late night going through the phone bill for the flat to work out how much each of us had to pay. My pay as you go dial-up internet usage made the task more laborious but the job got done regardless of this.

Any lack of sleep made for a more bleary-eyed journey to Edinburgh’s St. Andrew’s Bus Station to catch a Scottish Citylink coach to Fort William. This was to be my second time going that way and the sunshine ensured that I was looking our the window at the passing scenery instead of catching up on any sleep. After all, both Rannoch Moor and Glen Coe are captivating places for anyone’s attention.

After a break, it was time to catch another Scottish Citylink coach to get the rest of the way to Portree. This was to show me new scenic delights as it passed the Commando Memorial, Glen Cluanie, Eilean Donan Castle, the Skye bridge and the Red Hills (some call these the Red Cuillin while others disagree) of the island itself.

The Square, Portree, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Once in Portree, it was time to seek out a bed for the night. Nowadays, I do this ahead of time but I took a chance and tried the Portree Independent Hostel and was in luck. The naivety of the act now astounds me and I later got to going to a tourist office if I arrived anywhere without a pre-booking. Even that is out of my favour now.

With accommodation sorted, I pottered about the place in the evening sunshine. There was time for getting something to eat too and I found somewhere simple that did what I needed. Otherwise, there was no wastage of the weather and lack of prior research meant that I got to see as far as the Cuillin without realising what I was seeing. The lack of a detailed map could be blamed and so could a certain gap in experience but I think it also was a certain scepticism.

After rising and getting breakfast the next morning, I found a place where I could hire out a bike for the day. Duly equipped and with my few belongings in a bag on the back, I set off to cross the island. Doing so, I followed the main road for Uig and turned to continue to Dunvegan. Lots of little place like Edinbane were passed and Macleod’s Tables were there to be seen in heat haze too.

Dunvegan Castle, Waternish, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Once in Dunvegan, I headed to the castle and gardens with the sort of sunburn that I avoid these days. It was a hot sunny day so a rest under the shelter of trees and shrubs was in order. For the entry, I seem to have stuck with the gardens because I did not enter the castle itself. Instead, I found a quite place by the sea with view of the building where I lingered a little while.

All the while, I was making photos with my compact camera and realised that my film supply was low. Since there was shop around Dunvegan that sold any, rationing was the only option. When I left Dunvegan, I decided to return to Portree by a different way for a spot of variety. The was evening glorious as I plied the west coast of the island and the Cuillin lay ahead of me too since the road I was travelled lead to Sligachan. However, I crossed to Portree on a minor road that I joined after Struan.

Initially, it was a scary affair with a drop at one side that was as steep as the initial ascent. Sharp ups and downs awaited as I continued my crossing. If there was any regret, it was that my film supply was by now exhausted. This was before I had any sense of how much film you would need on a day away from home. Even so, that was forgotten when I found another hostel where I could stay for the night. Again, I took a chance and it worked out for the best.

The bike was stored and food sought before I made for bed in a more amenable spot than where I was the night before. Once I sorted myself the next morning and handed back the bike after the agreed 24 hours, it was time to head for home.

Eilean Donan Castle, Dornie, Ross and Cromarty, Scotland

Given the fame of Eilean Donan Castle, there was to be a stop at Dornie. However, I did not realise that I needed to tell the driver of my plans so we had a job to found my bag under all the luggage of Glasgow-bound passengers. He hardly was impressed but we got it sorted. It was yet another lesson for the future.

Eilean Donan looked well and I did go inside to see this castle. Film supplies had been replenished before leaving Portree and it might have been then that sunscreen and after-sun soother were acquired for I did need these. There was plenty of use of the newly acquired items as I pottered about the castle and what lay around it in the time available before the next coach came.

Not much can be recalled of the journey back to Edinburgh but there must have been changes of coach at Fort William and Glasgow. After the trip, there were photos to get developed and some have yet to be bettered. Nowadays, getting all this for around £100 could appear an unbelievable bargain but it left my financial reserves in need of parental replenishment. Quite what my father really thought of this is unknown to me but it was good to get away for a while and set in motion a series of explorations of Scotland that has continued since then.

A mixture of good sense and a spot of recklessness

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

While I was thinking of keeping the stories of these two walks from June 2005 apart, I changed my mind and they now appear together, not only because they happened on the same weekend but also to illustrate that human nature does not always follow a trend of constant improvement.

The excursion came to pass at short notice given the possibility of some good weather. Oban’s tourist office sorted out my accommodation and I got to stay in the same place for three nights, something that never is a foregone conclusion for short notice bookings during the summer season. Recollections of how I got to Oban have been diminished by the passage of time but those of what else I did while there remain far more vividly.

2005-06-11: When Good Sense Prevailed

Duart Point, Isle of Mull, Scotland

In contrast to what I did on my last visit in 2014, my first visit in 1999 or my second in 2001, this was a more extensive stroll during the longest stretch of a day that I ever spent on Mull. The day started with a sunlit ferry crossing from Oban to Craignure. Once a bus got me from there to Salen, I could begin my walk.

What I had decided to do was to cross the island to the west coast at its narrowest point. That meant a road walk along the B8035 in the growing heat of the day. After a left turn at a crossroads, I was to pass Gruline where Lachlann MacQuarrie’s mausoleum is to be found.

Loch Ba & Na Bachdanan, Gruline, Isle of Mull, Scotland

Loch Ba & Sron nam Boc, Gruline, Isle of Mull, Scotland

Looking across Loch Ba towards Benmore Lodge, Gruline, Isle of Mull, Scotland

Beinn Talaidh, Isle of Mull, Scotland

My sights were on something more natural so I continued on my way. Near Knock Farm, I was to pick up a vehicle track that would lead me along the shores of Loch Bà. Cattle were loitering along the shoreline as I passed them. This was before where the vehicle track I was following was to split in two. All about me looked empty and wild.

One continues further along the shoreline before becoming a path at Gortenbuie. The path then continues towards Glen More by following Abhainn a Ghorten Bhuidhe uphill, crossing a bealach between Corra-bheinn and Bheinn à Mheadhain and dropping down into the aforementioned glen. The other track leaves the loch shore earlier and also becomes a path as it enters Glen Clachaig. It too gains height as it follows the River Clachaig before scaling the rest of the way to get to Carn Cul Righ Albainn. There then are two choices for the coming descent: a direct path into Glen More or a more gradual one leading towards Loch Beg.

All the above has been picked out from OS 1:25000 mapping. However, how things appear on the ground is a different matter. Just because a tempting dotted line appears do not mean that there is an obvious line of a path there for you to follow. In these cases, you make your way using your own navigation skills with little regard for following anyone else’s line and having a peek on Google Earth beforehand could forewarn you if that is what you want. Sometimes, there is a something about having a certain element of surprise ahead of you.

Beinn nan Gabhar as seen from Clachaig, Isle of Mull, Scotland

Bith-Bheinn, Maol Buidhe & Cruachan Dearg, Glen Clachaig, Isle of Mull, Scotland

A' Chioch as seen from Glen Clachaig, Isle of Mull, Scotland

What brought the lack of an obvious path to mind was my choice on that day in June 2005. Since going that way might bring a chance of seeing Ben More, the island’s only Munro and its highest point, I chose the track leading to Glen Clachaig and it looked promising for much of the way. Eventually though, the leading line petered out and I was left to my own devices. My decision then was to proceed as far into the glen as time allowed before turning back. It was when I got to glimpse something more lofty that was when I began to retrace my steps.

The way back to Salen largely followed the same route. The only deviation was a call to see the MacQuarrie Mausoleum, maintained by the National Trust for Scotland on behalf of National Trust for Australia where Lachlann MacQuarrie had been a governor. That led me under tree cover, a respite from the summer afternoon heat. After that, I returned to the B8035 where a passing motorist offered me a drive but I was intent on sticking with walking in the peace and quiet.

The stillness remains in my mind even now. Even with the supposed popularity of Ben More, I scarcely encountered another soul. Once the rush of ferry arrivals and departures has passed, everyone scatters to leave Mull in an unperturbed state. It is that which draws me to Scotland again and again for we all need to leave the buzz of modern life after us for a while.

Lighthouse on Eilean Musdile, Argyll & Bute, Scotland

After a wait, the last bus of the day to Craignure facilitated my catching the last ferry of the day to Oban without any glitch. The evening was glorious and the lighthouse at the southern end of Lismore scarcely looked any better. The day had been good.

2005-06-12: A More Reckless Exploit

Even now, the first train of the day from Oban to Glasgow departs around midday. That means that any walking trips elsewhere in Lorn need to be shorter in duration if a return by train is to be executed. In hindsight, it ought to have been a day for Beinn Lora since that is not far from Connel. A bus trip to Benderloch and back would have been a possibility that would have made that work. In fact, it would have helped for a Sunday evening phone call to Ireland that would saved facing one with a grumpy and uptight father the next day. That difficulty thankfully passed quickly enough and I vowed never to phone the folks on the same day of the week ever again; if only I had hopped to avoiding the Sunday night habit before then.

Glen Strae, Stronmilchan, Argyll & Bute, Scotland

All that lay in the future as I left Lochawe train station to head along the A85 before turning onto the B8055 that itself would be left for a track leading into Glen Strae. Unlike the previous day, the weather was showery and soggy underfoot conditions were unavoidable. My encounter with those really started when I left the track to gain height on the way to Lairig Dhoireann. The track would have been a dead end affair anyway since it finishes near the head of the glen.

Loch Awe as seen from Lairig Dhoireann, Stronmilchan, Argyll & Bute, Scotland

Though only around three to four kilometres in distance, the way up to Lairig Dhoireann was slow going. The ascent was steep and progress over damp ground in showery weather hardly is going to be rapid. Even with a 13:00 start from Lochawe station, it was around 17:00 when I finally reached the bealach. Because I had not stopped earlier, that placed me in something of quandary since there was now no guarantee that I would get back to Lochawe station in time for the last train to Oban.

Meall Beithe & Meall Garbh as seen from Lairig Dhoireann, Stronmilchan, Argyll & Bute, Scotland

Faced with improving weather and beguiling scenery, I made the fateful decision to drop down to the floor of Glen Kinglass before continuing to the shore of Loch Etive at Inverkinglass and follow a familiar route to Taynuilt. The descent by the side of Allt Dhoireann took longer than I would have hoped due to the roughness of the ground. It did not help that I also had missed the landscape too when I was at the top because what I saw straight ahead of me was the hill beside which I would be going downhill. Even so, the exploit proved that there was some wisdom in my choice and gradients eased beyond Coire Dhoireann.

Meall Beithe, Glen Kinglass, Argyll & Bute, Scotland

Meall Garbh, Glen Kinglass, Argyll & Bute, Scotland

Beinn nan Aighenan, Glen Kinglass, Argyll & Bute, Scotland

Sticking with Allt Dhoireann most of the way down allowed me to shadow the line of the path that I otherwise would have been following if I had made the turn at a greater height. Impatience when trying to seek out a useful footbridge led me to do my own barefoot crossing and the water was well cold even of an evening in June. Taking off my socks and leaving on my boots would have worked better and I was to wet my socks anyway. That this wetting resulted my feet getting blistered but that outcome was one to be overlooked in light of my situation.

Beinn Eunaich, Glen Kinglass, Argyll & Bute, Scotland

There was some reassurance in reaching a solid vehicle track though it was to take its toll on my wet feet. Everywhere about me looked resplendent in the evening sunshine and I often stopped for photography whenever the resident midges allowed me. The way to Loch Etive took until around 20:00 so there no longer was any question of catching a train or coach back to Oban. The Taynuilt Hotel was now my objective.

Ben Cruachan, Argyll & Bute, Scotland

My location and my predicament put a stop to my phoning Ireland so I set off as best as I could. There might have been an offer of a lift at Inverkinglass but do you really want to be burdening complete strangers like that? At least, that was my thinking. With Ben Cruachan looming ahead of me and showing itself better than I ever have seen it, I continued my countdown of known landmarks in an effort to reassure myself. There were occasional photographic breaks too though my mind was focussed on other things.

Inverliver was passed and someone else asked me if I was OK at Glennoe. This time, there was an extra confirmation added but I kept going. Declining light was a concern now but the time of year kept things going for longer. Inverawe House was passed and the River Awe crossed to shorten the distance into Taynuilt even more. The hotel was reached at 10:50 and a taxi summoned from Connel. That meant a forty-five minute wait but that passed too. Before too long, I was back in Oban in spite of a suspected deer encounter. The next morning was to see me collect my things for departure and the evening repaired Irish family relations. It had been a lesson-ridden few days.

Travel Arrangements

Return train journey between Macclesfield and Oban. Return ferry trip between Oban and Mull with return bus journey from Craignure to Salen, all on Saturday. Train journey from Oban to Loch Awe followed by taxi from Taynuilt to Oban on Sunday.


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