Thursday, May 20, 2010

Walk 250 -- Arisaig to Lochailort

Ages:  Colin was 68 years and 12 days.  Rosemary was 65 years and 154 days.
Weather:  Drizzle off and on all day. Pretty miserable.
Location:  Arisaig to Lochailort.
Distance:  10 miles.
Total distance:  2323 miles.
Terrain:  A lot of roads.  Several miles of a firm woodland track which was very pleasant.  Undulating.
Tide:  Out.
Rivers:  No.261, The Canal.  No.262, Brunery Burn.  No.263, Borrodal Burn.  No.264, Allt à Mhàma.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  No.214, as we left the woodland track.
Pubs:  None.
‘Historic Scotland’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  We were staying in our caravan near Arisaig.  This morning we drove to Lochailort Station and caught a train to Arisaig.  From the station we walked down into the village to the spot where we finished the last Walk.
At the end, we finished the Walk at the road junction next to the Lochailort Hotel.  We walked up to the station which was only about two hundred yards away.  We had our tea and caramel shortcake, then drove back to our caravan near Arisaig.

It was a miserable day, and very misty as we left Arisaig.  Photography was a problem because we didn’t want to get the cameras wet.  So we kept them tucked away in plastic bags, only bringing them out occasionally to photograph something special because it was such a palaver trying to keep them dry under an umbrella.  The Walk was very scenic, and the few pictures we did take didn’t do it justice at all.
We took a lane leading south out of Arisaig.  We had good views across the bay with a number of yachts moored in the mist.  We passed a picnic site with rope swings — nobody playing there today in the damp and gloom.
After about a mile we turned on to a very pleasant woodland track labelled “Farm Track, no Vehicles”.  It was a lovely leafy woodland track which led alongside a stream — pity about the weather.  We met a couple with two dogs coming the other way, and stopped for a chat.  They both had accents like Billy Connolly!  We passed a little waterfall, and sat on a fallen tree to eat our pies.
Further on we passed a small loch where the water was absolutely still.  All too soon we came out on to the road again through swanky green gates.  It was raining too hard to risk getting out my camera at this point, so they remained unphotographed!  I got a bit fed up with keep getting my camera out of its plastic bag, then having to put it hurriedly away again.
We were on the road for the rest of the Walk.  This road was vastly improved just two years ago, and is now a lovely smooth road to drive on.  Trouble is, this makes the traffic go fast.  Sometimes there was a cycle/walkway, and sometimes there was not.
It goes parallel to the railway, occasionally very near to it and at other times on the other side of rocks.  We heard a steam train in the distance and we saw smoke, but it went into a tunnel and we didn’t see it again.  It was going towards Mallaig.
We went under the railway — the bridge was so narrow it had to be controlled by traffic lights.  Almost immediately we came to Beasdale Station, a tiny halt in the middle of nowhere with a minute ‘waiting room’ on the single platform.  Since it was still tipping it down, we made use of the seat under cover to have our lunch.  A young woman wearing a railway worker’s uniform appeared unexpectedly and stopped for a chat.  She said she had stopped off to make sure the station was clean, but she didn’t do much cleaning while she was there.  Was it a coincidence that her ‘cleaning’ visit coincided with our picnic?  We don’t think so because we noticed the CCTV camera after she had gone!  It is said that we are the most spied on nation in the world, with all these CCTV cameras everywhere.  But at least we know that this beautiful line won’t be vandalised — she must have been tipped off pretty damn quick that we were there!
We continued down towards the loch.  The road cut through the rock, over a river and under the railway again.  Meanwhile the railway cut through little tunnels so it could keep an even height.  The rain just about stopped, but the mist hung over the hills and it remained very dull.
There were some history boards down by the loch, telling us how, in the 18th century, the French aligned themselves with the Scots — particularly the MacDonald clan — against the English.  How brave the Scots were, and how the English were forced to retreat!  There are rumours that there is still some gold hidden in the hills nearby, left over from this conflict.  Prince Charles Edward Stuart, commonly known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, left these shores for the last time in 1746 after his failed attempt to regain the throne of the United Kingdom for the House of Stuart.  There is a cairn marking the place where he is thought to have embarked on a ship to France.
We came, then, to the Loch-nan-Uamh viaduct where the railway line comes straight out of a tunnel on to the viaduct.  The train is horizontal and the ground is vertical!  Colin knew that the last steam train of the day was due to return from Mallaig anytime soon.  So we went over to a rocky knoll and sat down to wait for it.  And we sat there….and we sat there….and we sat there.  At least it had stopped raining, but we got a bit bored.  We even started eating our chocolate, for something to do.
Colin said, “I’m going over to that pier of the viaduct to see what the plaque is about!”  He called me over because it read:
So the body of the horse is still there, inside the viaduct!  What a horrible death for the poor creature, I wonder if there is a ghost!
We were just discussing the enormity of that terrible accident all those years ago when we heard the train on the other side of the tunnel.  So we rushed back to the knoll and took up our positions again.  And there it was — straight out of the tunnel and on to the viaduct, blowing steam out fit to bust!  How it took us back to our childhoods!  Then we travelled frequently on trains, for we had no cars, and every time it was a steam train.  We just took it for granted.  This engine was the ‘Sherwood Forester’, we could see its name quite clearly.  The only mild disappointment was that the engine was on backwards.
The road continued further inland than the line of the railway.  We crossed a stream on a new bit of road, and admired the original stone bridge on the loop of old road.  Then we went up a steep hill, and down crossing the railway again on a high bridge.
Not only had it stopped raining, but it got quite hot and we found we were peeling off layers as we went.
We came to Loch Ailort with a white chapel high above it.  There we sat on a rock to finish our chocolate.  We both felt very tired, our feet had had enough!  We had less than a mile to go to the road junction where the A861 led south towards Glenuig.

That ended Walk no.250, we shall pick up Walk no.251 next time at the road junction near Lochailort station.  It was half past four, so the Walk had taken us six and a half hours.  We walked a couple of hundred yards up the road to Lochailort station where our car was parked. We had our tea and caramel shortcake before driving back to our caravan near Arisaig.

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