Thursday, June 24, 2010

Walk 253 -- Acharacle, via Salen, to Kilchoan

Ages:  Colin was 68 years and 47 days.  Rosemary was 65 years and 189 days.
Weather:  Grey skies.  One shower.  Light breeze.  Warm. 
Location:  Acharacle, via Salen, to Kilchoan.
Distance:  21½ miles.
Total distance:  2365½ miles.
Terrain:  All roads, but quiet with stupendous views!  Undulating.  
Tide:  Out, coming in later.
Rivers:  No.270, Glenborrodale River.  No.271, Glenmore River.  + lots of streams.
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 were staying in our caravan at Resipole, near Salen.  This morning we got up very early and drove twenty miles to Kilchoan where we parked by the Tourist Information office.  Then, at 8:00am, we caught a bus to Acharacle, alighting at the village shop where we finished yesterday’s Walk.
At the end, we finished the Walk at our car parked in Kilchoan.  It was ten to nine, so the Walk had taken us eleven hours and forty minutes.  We didn’t delay long drinking tea and eating caramel shortcake because, as soon as we stopped moving, the midges found us!  So we returned ‘post-haste’ to our caravan in Resipole.

        We had a long Walk ahead of us today, more than twenty miles, so we decided to ‘route-march’.  The trouble is, my ‘route-marching’ is a little slow!  We were entirely on roads, but they were quiet and the scenery was varied and magnificent.  We could have taken a lane west out of Acharacle which soon turns into a forest track and thence into a mountain path — twenty miles of mountain path to the Point of Ardnamurchan.  But we remembered Additional Rule no.16 which states, in effect, that we will no longer walk mountain paths in Scotland in the interests of safety and our wellbeing.  So we planned to walk two miles south to Salen, then turn west and walk all the way to Ardnamurchan on a tarmacked road!  That way we were in no danger of  getting lost and had much less chance of sustaining an injury, like a broken ankle or suchlike.  Since the road from Salen to the Point of Ardnamurchan is a dead end, Walk 255 will start at Salen and go east — we will not walk back from the most westerly point on mainland Britain.
We climbed a hill out of Acharacle through a road cutting where the rock has to be held together with bolts.  We passed a small lochan which was covered in water lilies, and I took an ‘Arty’ photograph of which I am rather proud!
It was not far to Salen, where the road sign told us to turn right for “Ardnamurchan, the most westerly point on the British mainland”.  So we did, even though it is a dead end — the third Cardinal Point of our Trek (only ‘The Lizard’ in Cornwall to go) is not to be missed!  Most of the rest of the Walk was alongside Loch Sunart, narrow at first but widening later.
We saw lots of roadside orchids, mostly tiny ones, but we didn’t stop to photograph them because we wanted to put a lot of miles behind us.  Outside one of the few houses in Salen we saw a Morris Traveller in beautiful condition.  It looked as if it was well cared for.
We slogged on, and it started to rain.  I put my cape on — Colin got out his umbrella.  But it was only a shower, and after about ten minutes it stopped.  We had no more rain all day.   
We came to a picnic table by the loch, so we stopped there for a few minutes to eat our pies.  We were just thinking what a heavenly place this is — when the midges found us!  So we ate up quickly and moved on.  We weren’t bothered by midges again until the very end of the Walk, despite the mugginess of the day.
Colin’s knee was troubling him all day.  It has done off and on for several years, but today it was particularly painful.  (He’s been to the doctor about it a number of times, but only been told there is nothing wrong with it.)  He kept taking painkillers, but he was most uncomfortable until later in the day when the pain eased.   
The lovely views across the loch, the beautiful rocks in the road cuttings, the tiny wild orchids in the verges — all these kept us going as we trudged on.
We ate our lunch sitting on some steps in front of a Youth Centre at Glenborrodale.  According to writing on the steps, which led down to a small stony beach, they had been put in less than two years ago, in August 2008.  
A little further on we glimpsed a large building through the trees — was it a castle?  We passed the empty schoolhouse in Glenborrodale, which is a hamlet of very few houses.  We knew the school was closed because one of our fellow passengers on the bus this morning was a five-year-old boy who has to travel about fifteen miles each way daily to go to school in Acharacle.
Further on there was a field of sheep between us and the loch.  But then we saw an additional animal, a young deer was loping amongst the flock.  Later we passed an alpaca farm, snooty looking animals but adorable.  They are such characters!
We marched past a ‘Natural History Centre’, and out of the corner of my eye I saw the word  café.   Immediately the  thought came into my mind, “cup of tea”!  I turned Colin round, and in we went to order a huge pot.  Nothing to eat, just tea.  How we needed it!   
Talking to the lady who made it for us, we discovered she was the mother of the five year old boy on the bus this morning.  They had only recently moved here from England to run this Natural History Centre, and it has been a complete change of lifestyle for them.  She loves the community spirit up here — nobody ever locks their doors, not even when they stay away overnight.  Everybody helps each other out, but she wasn’t sure about coping with the midges.
We felt so refreshed after drinking all that tea, it was definitely worth the half hour spent in the little café.  We soon came to a metal ‘milestone’ telling us we had nine miles still to go.  Well, at least we were more than halfway.  We came to a viewpoint above a beach, and there we stopped to eat our first bars of chocolate — we had brought two each for such a long Walk.
From there the road turned inland for about three miles, then back another three miles before tracing the coast again.  This is because there is a mountain in the way, and I expect it was too difficult to cut a road along the coast.  Three miles uphill, and we had already walked twelve miles!  We trudged and we trudged — it seemed to go on forever.  Our reward was to look back every so often.  We had views of the loch, then magnificent views of Rhum, Eigg, Muck and Skye.
According to our map, there was a mountain path we could have taken which would have been about three miles shorter in distance.  But in our experience of mountain paths, it would probably have been longer in time.  We had no intention of taking it (Additional Rule no.16), but we thought we would look out for the place where it left the road.  We couldn’t find it!  There was no sign of it at the place where it was supposed to go off.  Obviously it had fallen so much into disuse it had been obliterated.
Some of the sheep we were passing were shedding their fleece.  Are sheep’s fleeces so worthless these days that it’s not worth the farmer’s money to get in a sheep shearer?  They did not look like self-shedding sheep because the wool was coming off in lumps.  We felt sorry for the animals — one in particular was dragging a long piece on the ground and kept getting her feet caught up in it.  It looked as if she had an extra-long tail.
It took a long time to get to the ‘corner’ where the road turned south — it had been a hard slog uphill to that point.  We were both very tired and hot.  We sat at the road junction and ate our second bars of chocolate.
Relief, as it was mostly downhill for the rest of the Walk.  Now we were facing the view so we walked more easily.  This lonely road led over the moors.  Traffic was light, there had been on average one vehicle per hour.   
A car came down the hill towards us, and the driver stopped to offer us a lift to Kilchoan.  How we would loved to have taken him up on his kind offer!  But we would only have had to do this last bit of the Walk next time, and that would complicate things.  So we thanked him for his thoughtfulness, explained what we were doing, gave him a blog card and bade him farewell.
We saw some sand martins’ nests in a sandbank, but we didn’t see any birds using them.  Perhaps we were too noisy.
We saw some of my favourite ‘Arctic’ plants — the ones I call ‘cotton-tails’.
Further down we saw a herd of deer, they seemed to be all over the place.  When they saw us coming they leapt over the fence lining the road — all except a fawn which was too small to jump that high.  
 It got very distressed, separated from its mother like that, and ran up and down with wide eyes.  But none of the deer over the fence seemed bothered about it, so we couldn’t work out which one was its mother.   
We couldn’t help it anyway, because it was too quick and sprightly for us to catch.  So we walked on, hoping that they would sort it out themselves after the panic had died down because we weren’t there.   
We did wonder if we had misread the situation anyway, there were a lot more deer up on the slopes the other side of the road.  The fawn’s mother might have been up there.  We thought non-interference was the best policy.
As we came into the village of Kilchoan, Colin walked on faster to make the tea, so that I could have a cup thrust into my hand the moment I reached the car.  I was walking like a robot by then, anyway, it was the only way I could keep going after more than twenty miles.  But I was glad I had stuck it out and completed the distance.

That ended Walk no.253, we shall pick up Walk no.254 next time by the Tourist Information office in Kilchoan.  It was ten to nine, so the Walk had taken us eleven hours and forty minutes.  As soon as we stopped moving, the midges found us!  They were terrible, especially under a tree which was there.  It was absolutely the wrong time of day, so we didn’t delay long drinking tea and eating caramel shortcake.  We leapt in the car and returned ‘post-haste’ to our caravan in Resipole where we plugged in an electric midge-repellent.

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