Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Walk 252 -- Glenuig to Acharacle

Ages:  Colin was 68 years and 46 days.  Rosemary was 65 years and 188 days.
Weather:  Grey skies.  Muggy and warm.  Drizzle later.
Location:  Glenuig to Acharacle.
Distance:  13 miles.
Total distance:  2344 miles.
Terrain:  A lot of undulating roads which were fairly quiet and had stupendous views!  Several miles of a forest path which started off well, but deteriorated to an uneven rocky path and even some slippery beach stones.  But at least it was there!  
Tide:  Out.
Rivers:  No.268, River Moidart.  No.269, River Shiel.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  None.
Pubs:  None.
‘Historic Scotland’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  Over the past two days we had towed our caravan from Malvern to Resipole, near Salen.  This morning we got up very early and drove a few miles to Acharacle where we parked near the village shop.  Then, at 7:20AM!!!, we caught a bus to Glenuig, alighting opposite the village shop where we finished the last Walk. 
At the end, we came to our car parked in Acharacle.  Whilst drinking our tea (not forgetting the essential caramel shortcake), I idly perused the bus timetable displayed on the bus shelter.  I discovered that there is a bus we can use tomorrow which runs all the way from Kilchoan to Acharacle early in the morning.  This one hadn’t come up on the internet when I was planning these Walks, and will save Colin miles of cycling and me hours of hanging around!  Feeling quite cheerful, we verified this in an adjacent bakery, bought some pies and returned to our caravan in Resipole.   

We started this Walk so early in the day — ten to eight in the morning — that we wondered if it was a record for us!  We alighted from the bus at Glenuig shop, exactly where we had finished the last Walk.  No shepherd there today!
The next bit of coast was totally inaccessible due to the mountainous terrain, so we had to follow the road inland for the first few miles.  It was uphill and we thought it would be a bit boring because neither of us like walking along roads.  But Colin found interesting flowers, and I looked at the rocks.  We passed rhododendrons in flower, several types of wild orchid in the grass verges, and Colin got very excited when he identified pignuts!  He used to dig for pignuts when he was a boy, and eat the spindly roots which taste a bit like carrot.  But today he hadn’t got any kind of digging tool on him, so he had to leave them.  He was disappointed.
I looked at the rocks, lovely metamorphic ones exposed in the road cuttings.  Some of them had a sheen on them, and some were stripy — pressure solutions so I believe.  A family of sheep sauntered across the road in front of us, one of the lambs was black.
We came downhill towards Loch Moidart, and were treated to fantastic views across numerous lochs to misty mountains in the south.  
I needed to ‘water a bush’, and when I pushed into the undergrowth I found an old-fashioned food mincer hanging on a branch!!  It was such an extraordinary thing to find in the middle of nowhere, I burst out laughing!  
My mother used to swear by her food mincer — she used it mostly to mince up the remains of the Sunday joint with vegetables and breadcrumbs, and turn the resulting splodge into a delicious shepherds pie.  That is how she kept up to eight children properly fed during all the years of food rationing.  I remember we stayed in a holiday cottage on Hayling Island in the late 1960s, long after such stringent measures were necessary.  But she couldn’t get out of the habit and complained that the kitchen was all right, “except that it hasn’t got a rolling pin or a mincing machine”!
We sat on a bank to eat our quiches.  There were stupendous views once we could see across Loch Moidart.  It kept trying to rain but never quite got there.  I put my cape on once, but soon took it off as I was too hot.
The road led alongside Loch Moidart — once more we were on the coast, though it didn’t feel like it because the loch is quite narrow and we couldn’t see the open sea.  It seemed a long time since we walked along a decent beach!  However it was very pretty there.  We saw a heron standing in the shallows, and lots of yellow irises in flower.  We also passed a narrow stone quay and a derelict wooden quay, but we saw no sign of boats.  The peace was only occasionally shattered by jets flying low over the loch — modern life is so noisy!
We passed a scattering of dwellings along the loch shore.  One had a ‘fun’ post-box in the shape of a dog.  Another had its house name on an old pump.  Yet another had flowers growing in a large cooking pot — now I’ve got one of those still in my kitchen at home.  It came from Colin’s mother when she died in 1977, and I used to make jam in it when I had a house full of children.  (Even that seems a long time ago, it’s nearly twenty years since the last one fled the nest!)  I haven’t made jam in years — sigh!
We passed a cairn on which there was a plaque naming the ‘Seven Men of Moidart’.  Bonnie Prince Charlie, the exiled grandson of James II, landed here in 1745 with just seven men.  (Of these seven followers, four were Irish, two were Scottish and one was English.)  He was hoping to reclaim the throne of the United Kingdom for the House of Stuart.  He won over the local Highland chieftains, and within two months he had held court at Holyrood, won a battle at Prestonpans and marched into England at the head of six thousand men!  But he failed to win over the English, and when he reached Derby he decided it would be prudent to turn back.  
Despite his success in battle at Falkirk, he was pursued  by the Duke of Cumberland and soundly beaten at Culloden seven months after he had arrived with seven men and such high hopes.  For the next five months he was a fugitive, and he finally managed to escape to France on a ship which slipped into Loch nan Uamh — the place is marked by a cairn which we passed on Walk 250.
Of his seven original companions, only three managed to escape to France.  The others either died in battle or were captured.  A row of seven beech trees was planted in the fields beyond the cairn to commemorate these brave men, subsequently known as ‘The Seven Men of Moidart’.  In the present day only six of the trees survive, and these were seriously damaged in a storm in 1988.  There are plans to plant new trees so the memorial will not be lost.
We came to the end of the loch and crossed the river on the old stone bridge.  We could see why they don’t use it for traffic anymore, it is narrow and humpy.  Mind you, the ‘new’ metal bridge is only wide enough for one vehicle at a time, and made a loud clackety noise every time something went over.  
On the other side I found a beautiful stripy metamorphic rock lying in the grass, but it was too big and heavy to put in my rucksack!
(Pause:  while another jet screamed overhead — deafening!)
We thought we would be walking on the road all the way to Acharacle, but a few yards up the next hill we came across a footpath sign.  What was unusual, for Scotland at least, was that there was a map on the post showing us where the footpath went!  We looked carefully at this map, and realised that this path did connect up quite nicely with a lane leading into Acharacle, though the odd bits of it marked on our OS map didn’t join up at all!  (I don’t know why we bother to buy these expensive OS maps.)  It had been named ‘Silver Walk’ and was described as a coastal walk.  So we had no choice, we had to follow it!  It traced the southern shore of Loch Moidart as far as a ruined castle, and was a much pleasanter prospect than walking along the road even though we would have to walk at least a mile further.
It was an excellent path at first, through tall pine trees.  But we knew that wouldn’t last and, sure enough, it didn’t.  It began to climb quite steeply, and tucked back round a weird standing stone.  We couldn’t make out whether it was an ancient standing stone or something which had been put up there more recently.  We sat on a rock near it to eat our sarnies, but we immediately got attacked by midges — that’s the trouble with Scottish woodlands in June.  We ate up quickly and moved on.
We went through tall deer gates twice, but they were both unlocked.  The path made us climb a lot, then went steeply down to water level again.  It kept doing that, and in the muggy heat we found it quite tiring.  However we were pleased to be off the road, and the views were lovely.
Occasionally we were down on a rocky beach where it was quite slippery.  Sometimes we were up high, and the path was narrow and uneven.  Sometimes we seemed to be walking along a path cut into the cliff, or under the rocks as if we were in a grotto.  We also had the occasional fallen tree to negotiate — it was not an easy path by any means. 
We had been completely by ourselves, as usual, when we began to hear voices — foreign voices.  Then they appeared on the path ahead of us, a party of German tourists!  They all had to pass us on the narrow path and some of them seemed to be a bit decrepit, not really fit enough to negotiate a trail as difficult as this one.  One of them told us there were a hundred of them!  It certainly seemed like it, but I think he was exaggerating.  However, there were at least fifty!  
At last they had all passed by, and we were on our own again.  We were actually rather glad that they were going in the opposite direction to us because they were progressing very slowly, and we would never have been able to pass them all from behind.
The rocks were beautiful, stripy metamorphic ones.   
The flowers were wonderful too, foxgloves, orchids and ‘cotton-tails’ (I don’t know their real name).  I always associate the latter with Iceland because that is where I first saw them.  And lots and lots of rhododendrons in full flower.   
Some parts of the trail were covered in their petals, and it reminded me of the many Corpus Christi processions I walked in during my Catholic youth.  Those petals gave an almost magical feel to the Walk!  We passed through several open gates as if this was once a private estate.  Perhaps it was, but now it is open to the public.  I think the local Council was responsible for instituting the ‘Silver Walk’.  Thank you, we did enjoy it.
Towards the end we kept catching glimpses of a ruined castle on an island in the loch.  I think we were in Disneyland! Soon we came out into an open grassed space, and realised we were at the end of a lane which leads into Acharacle.  We sat on a log to eat our apples — out in the open so we were less bothered by midges.  We had good views of the castle from there.
We began to walk down the lane, but very soon had to don our waterproofs because a fine rain began to fall.  Further on the lane led down beside the River Shiel, and there we found a rock to sit on and eat our chocolate.  But it wasn’t much fun in the wet, especially as a million midges sought us out the minute we stopped moving.  We walked on pretty damn quick!
We saw an ornamental bridge across the river to an island, but there was no way off so we didn’t take it.  We came out on to the main road, and crossed the river on the road bridge.  From there we walked into the village past the War Memorial which is an arched gateway leading into the cemetery.   
We passed the school, and came to the village shop where our car was parked.

That ended Walk no.252, we shall pick up Walk no.253 next time by the shop in Acharacle.  It was twenty past four, so the Walk had taken us eight and a half hours.  Whilst drinking our tea (not forgetting the essential caramel shortcake), I idly perused the bus timetable displayed on the bus shelter.  I discovered that there is a bus we can use tomorrow which runs all the way from Kilchoan to Acharacle early in the morning.  This one hadn’t come up on the internet when I was planning these Walks, and will save Colin miles of cycling and me hours of hanging around!  Feeling quite cheerful, we verified the existence of this bus in an adjacent bakery, bought some pies and returned to our caravan in Resipole.

No comments: