Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Walk 261 -- Oban to Kilninver

Ages:  Colin was 68 years and 129 days.  Rosemary was 65 years and 271 days.
Weather:  Very heavy showers interspersed with bright sunny intervals.  Very windy but not cold.
Location:  Oban to Kilninver.
Distance:  11½ miles.
Total distance:  2467½ miles.
Terrain:  99% roads.  Undulating.
Tide:  Going out.
Rivers:  No.296, Feochan Bheag.
Ferries:  None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates:  None.
Pubs:  The Lorne Bar in Oban which we visited twice on our rest days for lunch.  Colin drank Oban Bay ‘Fair Puggled’ and Caledonian ‘Deuchars IPA’.  I had a shandy the first time and Strongbow cider the second.
‘Historic Scotland’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  We took two days to drive up from Malvern towing our caravan, and based ourselves in Lochgilphead yesterday.  This morning we drove to Kilninver and parked on a grass verge at the junction of the road off to Seil and Easdale Island.  We had intended catching the bus into Oban from there, but Colin insisted we try to thumb a lift instead.  A retired couple stopped because they thought we had broken down!  I don’t know how pleased they were when they discovered we were hitching a free ride, but they took us into Oban and dropped us at the bus station, close to where we finished the last Walk.
At the end, we finished our Walk by the car parked on the main road.  We had tea and caramel shortcake, then returned to our caravan in Lochgilphead.

      We started our Walk in the bus station area of Oban.  We had good views across the harbour towards the entrance and the town.
        We walked past the ferries to the Isles which were loading up, it was very busy there.

      We started to take photographs (Colin saw a raven on a roof) but it kept raining — torrential showers so we had to keep putting the cameras away.  When the sun came out between the showers, it got too hot — it was a crazy sort of day!
      We followed the road which led along the lochside.  It told us “Twenty’s Plenty” which is a speed sign we’ve seen all over this part of Scotland.  Quite right too, in these residential areas.  Why is everyone in such a hurry these days?  It was quieter along there, with yachts moored in the loch.
We went through an alleyway to the road in front of the houses so that we could see the view.  Since it wasn’t raining at that precise moment, we sat on a wall to eat our pies.  But we had to finish hurriedly because the heavens opened again.
Further on we came to the smaller ferry across to the island of Kerrera.  On our map it was marked as a passenger ferry only, but when we passed it they were loading up cars as well.  Round the next corner we had to turn inland, because the road continuing was a dead end.  We walked back along the other side of the hill almost into Oban again!
We came to an area that appeared to be an open-cast coal mine which was finished with.  We were amazed and horrified to see that a new housing estate had been built on top of and just below what looked like a tip!  There was even a stream running down the middle of it.  Haven’t they heard of Aberfan?  And the terrible disaster which happened there in the autumn of 1966?  (I was a newly qualified teacher at the time, teaching a reception class in a primary school in Worcester.  When I heard what had happened at Aberfan, I kept looking at the windows of my bright new classroom wondering what I would do if tons of slimy coal-waste suddenly crashed through them, suffocating me and all the children.  It spooked me for weeks even though I wasn’t anywhere near a coal mine!)  We couldn’t believe that houses had been built in what looked like a very unstable situation.  I wouldn’t have a wink of sleep if I had to stay in such a house, especially during a rainstorm.
Because of these new houses which weren’t marked on our map, we had a bit of trouble working out exactly where we were.  But we eventually found the track which connected us to the main road without having to go right back into Oban.  It led us over a swamp, but there were concrete blocks set in the ground like stepping stones so it was a dry path and easy to walk.  A small bridge took us over a stream. Then it was up the road and out by the hospital.
We sat on the wall of a hotel entrance to eat our sarnies, then we continued.  There was a pavement for a little way, after which it was ‘dodge-the-traffic’ once more.  On with the high-vis vests and constant leaping into the undergrowth — not much fun!  We climbed a big hill, then down the other side.  The road was very twisty, and it kept raining.
We crossed a river and came to Loch Feochan — once more we were by the water.  A narrow loch, but that was our ‘sea’ for the moment.  The water in the river was well up, we have had a lot of rain recently, especially in this area.
We came to a stony beach, so we sat on rocks to eat our chocolate.
The rest of the Walk was really a bit dull.  We were still traffic-dodging on the main road and we were alongside the loch, according to the map.  We did have the occasional nice view, but mostly it was behind trees.
We passed a sheep in a field with unbelievably curly horns, but that was just about the only thing of interest.  Colin collected hazelnuts and I ate blackberries as we walked along, a bonus at this time of year.
Eventually we came to our car parked at the road junction down into Kilninver.  There was a notice about the stone-skimming championships to be held fairly soon on the nearby island of Easdale — more about that on the next Walk.

       That ended Walk no.261, we shall pick up Walk no.262 next time at the road junction leading into Kilninver.  It was just gone half past four, so the Walk had taken us five hours fifty minutes. We had our tea and caramel shortcake, then returned to our caravan in Lochgilphead.

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