Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Walk 249 -- Mallaig to Arisaig

Ages:  Colin was 68 years and 11 days.  Rosemary was 65 years and 153 days.
Weather:  Dull and gloomy.  Some light drizzle.
Location:  Mallaig to Arisaig.
Distance:  10 miles.
Total distance:  2313 miles.
Terrain:  Nearly all roads.  One short path by the cemetery in Arisaig.  Undulating.
Tide:  Going out.
Rivers:  No.259, River Morar (Scotland’s shortest river draining Scotland’s deepest loch).  No.260, Allt Cam Carach.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  None.
Pubs:  None.
‘Historic Scotland’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  We had towed our caravan to Scotland a week or so ago.  Yesterday we moved it from Reraig to a site near Arisaig.  This morning we drove to Arisaig Station and caught a train to Mallaig.  There we walked the short distance to the ferry terminal where we started the Walk.
At the end, we finished the Walk in Arisaig village.  We walked up to the station where our car was parked, and ate caramel shortcake.  Then we drove the short distance back to our caravan to make proper tea in a teapot with real tea leaves — none of this teabag rubbish!

I still have my cold, but I am now feeling better in myself — not so drained of energy.  Yesterday, when we moved the caravan, was a lovely day weatherwise, sunny and warm.  Today it was much colder, dull, misty and gloomy — so disappointing.  The light was too flat for good photography, so my pictures don’t do the magnificent scenery justice.
We walked down the ferry ramp as far as we were allowed because we weren’t actually going to catch a ferry out of Mallaig.  It is a pretty port, and very busy with ferries arriving and leaving for Inverie, Rum and Eigg as well as Armadale. 
We watched a ferry leave, then we walked the length of the harbour to look at the statues on the opposite harbour arm where we weren’t allowed to go.
We came to a painted house which looked fabulous on such a gloomy day.  We remembered it from our last visit to Mallaig ten years ago when we had a holiday B&B-ing round the north coast of Scotland.  (That visit was just a holiday, nothing to do with our coastal Trek — we were walking the coast of East Sussex at the time and never thought we would get this far!)  There was a big lorry parked in front of the building today, but I still managed to photograph it.
We took the main road out of Mallaig to the south.  The first mile was next to the shore where it was scenic, but the road was busy and the traffic fast.  Why do they have to speed so?  The road ends in Mallaig so they only have a few more yards to go, surely they should be slowing down?  Colin saw a seat across the road up high on the rocks, so we were above the traffic.  We sat there and ate our pies. 
The mist had lifted a little, and from our ‘perch’ we could see the ferry docking at Armadale.
We were right next to the railway line, the one we had come on into Mallaig this morning from Arisaig.  There is a back road into Mallaig from that point, and we could see the bridge where it crossed the railway.  It looked like a little Toy-Town bridge, arching from rock to rock.  The main road went behind rocks for the next mile or so.  We couldn’t see the sea, and the Walk became a bit deadly.  I don’t like traffic-dodging.
We cheered up when we heard a steam train!  This railway line is arguably the most scenic in Britain, if not the world, and steam trains run regularly from Glasgow, through Fort William to Mallaig throughout the Summer season.  (We caught an ordinary Diesel train this morning from Arisaig.)  We were not in a particularly good position to see the train when we heard it, but we did manage to catch a peep as it puffed past, though not a photo.  This photo Colin took in Fort William the day before.  He thinks the engine is called ‘Sherwood Forester’.  The local tourist industry also make much of the fact that parts of this line were used in the Harry Potter films.
The road soon opened out for the River Morar — Scotland’s shortest river which drains Scotland’s deepest loch, so we were told.  The river flows through a wide estuary, but the tide was in when we passed making it look more like a bay.
We turned off the main road, much to our relief, and followed the original road which snakes along much nearer the coast.  We also left behind the railway line, so didn’t see or hear the steam train as it came back.  Beaches along here were used in the film ‘Local Hero’ (1983) though the action was supposed to take place in the tiny hamlet of Pennan, Aberdeenshire.  
Fans come from all over the world to look at, and use, the red telephone box in Pennan which I featured in Walk 183.  Then they look around for the sandy beach which also featured in the film.  They can’t find it, because it is the other side of Scotland near Arisaig!  That’s films for you.
We should have had good views across to the islands of Rum and Eigg, but today they were merely shadows in the mist.  Yesterday, when we arrived with our caravan, we had excellent views from the caravan park.  We thought we would photograph them later in the week, but that was a mistake.  Visibility was so poor for the rest of our stay we never had the opportunity again.
We were much happier on this minor road because there was hardly any traffic and the outlook was more interesting.  Unfortunately this was spoilt by the drizzle which started up, and the mist which descended over the hills.  In fact it turned pretty miserable.  We walked across one of the beaches in the gloom, then sat on a rock to eat our chocolate.  
The flowers, especially the gorse, were stunning in the rocks above the beach reminding us that it was the month of May although the weather made it feel like mid-winter.
Later on we passed the lane leading down to our caravan park — where we knew we could be snug and warm with a cup of tea in our hands at the flick of a kettle switch!  It was with great difficulty that we walked past — we knew that if we stopped off there for a break we would never have the impetus to get going again. 
Further on we turned off and descended to the village of Arisaig, passing a roadside memorial to a young man who was killed in 2003 during the construction of the main road.  High on a hill to our left we could see the local War Memorial.
We passed a huge church dated 1848, and were surprised to find it was Catholic.  It only became legal in England to establish Catholic parishes in the early part of the 19th century, and then the Church had no money to build big churches like this one.  Perhaps things were different in Scotland, especially parts which were remote like this area was at the time.  The Reformation didn’t hit them so hard.
We took a path through the cemetery which led us down to the beach.  There we came across a memorial to Czech and Slovak soldiers who trained here during the War. 
This memorial is very new, the foundation stone having been blessed by the Pope only last year.  There were several wreaths of red, white and blue flowers.
We walked round the beach road until we came to a lane leading up to the station.

That ended Walk no.249, we shall pick up Walk no.250 next time on the beach road in Arisaig.  It was twenty to five, so the Walk had taken us six and a half hours.  We walked up to the station where we learned that it is the most westerly railway station in Britain!  (A notice on the wall told us so.) 
We were also amused by a notice which read:  Stop  Look  Listen —  Passengers must not cross the line.  How else are they to get to the other platform in order to catch the trains towards Fort William and all places East?  There is no footbridge.  The opposite platform, only accessible by crossing the line, was neat and tidy, and even had a nice waiting room to keep passengers dry on wet days.  It looked very much in use, but we were forbidden to go over there.
However, that wasn’t our problem.  Our car was parked nearby, so we opened it up and ate some caramel shortcake.  Then we drove the short distance back to our caravan to make proper tea in a teapot with real tea leaves — none of this teabag rubbish!

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