Saturday, June 26, 2010

Walk 254 -- Kilchoan to the Point of Ardnamurchan

Ages:  Colin was 68 years and 49 days.  Rosemary was 65 years and 191 days.
Weather:  Grey skies.  Muggy. Breezy in exposed places. Warm.  Rain at the end of the Walk.
Location:  Kilchoan to the Point of Ardnamurchan.
Distance:  6½ miles.
Total distance:  2372 miles.
Terrain:  All roads, narrow and undulating.  Quite busy for such a remote place.
Tide:  Out.
Rivers:  None.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  No.215 at Ardnamurchan Point, but it was broken.
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, with Colin’s bike in the back of the car, we drove twenty miles to Kilchoan where Colin left me by the ferry slipway.  Then he drove to Ardnamurchan Point and cycled back.  Meanwhile I sat in the bus shelter and read my book.  Then I idly walked up the road to the junction where we finished the last Walk.  I sat on a wall and waited for Colin to come along.
At the end, we finished the Walk by the lighthouse at Ardnamurchan Point.  We decided to have our tea and caramel shortcake at a more sheltered spot further down.  On our way back to our caravan in Resipole, we didn’t forget to pick up Colin’s bike in Kilchoan.

Colin left me at Mingary Pier, Kilchoan, while he drove the car to the Point of Ardnamurchan and cycled back.  I sat in the bus shelter there for about an hour reading my book.  I also took in the gorgeous scenery in this most westerly part of Britain, and watched a ferry come in from Tobermory on the Isle of Mull.  
I could see the mountains of Mull just across the water.  I’ve never been there, but one day I will.  It’s supposed to be a haven of wildlife — but we have to finish walking the coastline all the way back to Bognor Regis before we can think of hopping over to adjacent islands!
The board that greeted the dozen or so cars which came off the ferry read, “Welcome to West Ardnamurchan, the most westerly point on the UK mainland”.  No, that’s seven miles further on, but when we got there later in the day we failed to find any notice about it being the most westerly point.  This was the only such sign.
I walked slowly up to the road junction to meet Colin.  I passed the little primary school which had farmyard pictures painted on its walls.  I also passed the Tourist Information Centre where we finished the last Walk.  I still had to wait a while for Colin, he’d been battling against a headwind and was feeling a bit shattered.  So we sat on a wall and ate our pies, giving him time to get his breath back.   
While we were sitting there, a girl cycled up and down with her dog on a lead running beside her.  Now that’s a lazy way to exercise a dog, but we saw the same thing being done in a lot of places around Scotland.
We walked past the War Memorial and a track to “Old Cemetery”. 
 Then we had to pause while a family of chickens strutted across the road in front of us.  The babies trotted under the fence on the other side with ease, but the adults had difficulty squeezing themselves through the holes.  It was amusing to watch them.
We very much enjoyed the wild flowers which we passed along the way.   

This may appear to be a remote spot with mountains and moors, but it is floral heaven at this time of year — irises, orchids, dog-roses, and lots lots more.   
The wild roses may seem quite plain with their one ring of petals, but they smell divine!
The road up the mountain is quite pretty — it is narrow and winding, and passes the occasional lochan.  But we found it to be surprisingly busy.  It is a ‘dead-end’ all the way from Salen, more than twenty miles back, but a lot of people drive this far because it is the most westerly point on the British mainland.  
But is it?  Since the Isle of Skye is now connected to the mainland by a bridge and vehicles can come and go as they please, is not Skye now officially the mainland?  If it is, then there are a lot of places on Skye which are further west than the Point of Ardnamurchan.  We could debate this for hours — days — weeks!  But since we decided not to walk round Skye, we are happy to count the Point of Ardnamurchan as our third Cardinal Point on this Trek.
In the middle of all this wildness, we came across a vegetable garden!  It was not what we expected in such a remote area.  But people do live hereabouts, and they have recently decided to become more self-sufficient by getting together and planting a garden.  A board welcomed us to “West Ardnamurchan Community Garden”.  It was obviously a very new venture because a plan they had displayed talked about it being “at an embryonic stage”.  
It certainly looked good, like a well-kept allotment, with a variety of vegetables growing there.  Good luck to them!  I hope it is a success.  They even have a website which shows pictures of the local children digging and planting.

In the next field was a donkey which came over to see us as we walked by.  We continued through wild country, and ate our lunch sitting on a bank overlooking a swampy loch.

Further on we passed Highland cattle and sheep grazing on the mountainside.  This was the kind of scene we expected to see here, not a vegetable garden!    

We also noted a metal chicken on a fencepost by a cottage, and an attractive weather vane on the roof.
Then we caught our first sight of the lighthouse at the Point of Ardnamurchan, where the road ends.  It was still quite a distance away (the photo I took was on full zoom) and we knew the road twisted about a bit before it reached there.   
We stopped at a road junction to eat our chocolate.
Further up we had wonderful views of the Cuillins on Skye to our north.  We also came across a flattened adder on the road, the second we had seen on the way up.  They probably slither on to the road to sunbathe as it is warmer out there, and then they get run over by some of the frequent cars on their way to Britain’s most westerly point.
Shortly before we reached the lighthouse, we came to a traffic light!  It was the last thing we expected to find at such a remote spot, but we could see why one had been put in.  The last bit of road is only wide enough for one car and has a bend in it which you can’t see round.  There is quite a lot of traffic due to the significance of it being the most westerly point — so a traffic light has solved these congestion problems.
As we walked round, we looked at a rocky beach and joked that it looked as if it was more westerly than the lighthouse.  It was!  When we looked at the map later, the lighthouse is just a little bit east of an inaccessible rocky headland.   
We looked around for a board or signpost telling us we were at the most westerly point of mainland Britain, in order to take photographs in front of it.  But we couldn’t find one!  The only such notice had been at Mingary Pier, seven miles back.  Perhaps we should have called in at the Visitor Centre and paid for a ticket to see round the lighthouse, perhaps there was a sign indoors.  But we were not in the mood for paying for anything at the time.  (We like to go to places and not spend money, because we haven’t got much and the best things in life are free anyway!)  Most of the buildings there are self-catering cottages nowadays.

We had lovely views out towards some islands, Coll and Tiree so I believe.  We found a building with a foghorn on top (now redundant as it is all electronic these days) and decided that that was as west as we could get.   
We’d walked twenty-seven miles out of our way to get here, because it is one of the four cardinal points of the whole Trek.  But we thought the place was a bit of a damp squib, like John O’Groats had been.  All hype, but in reality nothing much there.   
When it started to rain we’d had enough, and went to the car which was in the car park nearby.

That ended Walk no.254, we shall pick up Walk no.255 next time at Salen which we had walked through near the beginning of Walk 253.  This is because it was a dead end walking out to the Point of Ardnamurchan, and we weren’t going to walk back!  It was ten past four, so the Walk had taken us three hours and forty minutes.  It was wet and windy as we changed out of our boots and got into the car, so we decided to have our tea and caramel shortcake at a more sheltered spot further down the mountain.  Even there we were bothered by midges, it was that time of day.  As we passed through Kilchoan, we remembered to pick up Colin’s bike.  Then we returned to our caravan in Resipole.

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