Friday, September 17, 2010

Walk 263 -- Kilmelford to A Bheinn

Ages:  Colin was 68 years and 132 days.  Rosemary was 65 years and 274 days.
Weather:  Mostly sunny.  Remaining dry despite occasional threatening clouds.  A cool wind.
Location:  Kilmelford to Á Bheinn.
Distance:  14 miles.
Total distance:  2495½ miles.
Terrain:  Mostly roads, a lot were “dodge-the-traffic” main roads.  But some were minor roads and we found the connecting track between Craobh Haven and Ardfern to be an excellent thoroughfare which was well maintained.
Tide:  In.  (There are neap tides this week, so it hardly makes a difference in the lochs.)
Rivers:  No.299, Barbreck River.
Ferries:  None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates:  None.
Pubs:  The ‘Lord of the Isles’ at Craobh Haven, but it isn’t a ‘real ale’ pub so it didn’t really count!  (They did have two pumps with the clips turned round, and said they hadn’t had a delivery.)
‘Historic Scotland’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  We were staying in our caravan in Lochgilphead.  This morning we drove to the middle of nowhere and parked our car in the entrance to a disused quarry where it was off the main road and out of everyone’s way.  (I took the name ‘Á Bheinn’ from the nearest mountain!)  We hailed a passing bus, and alighted at the exact spot where we finished yesterday’s Walk — where the minor road from Melfort met the main road.
At the end, we finished our Walk at the car.  We had tea and caramel shortcake, then returned to our caravan in Lochgilphead. 

The first eight miles of today’s Walk was along a “dodge-the-traffic” main road.  So we put on our bright yellow waistcoats and attached flashing reflective straps — which we had bought only yesterday — to our rucksacks.  Then we just got on with it.  On the ‘up’ side the weather was good, the traffic was sparse, we ate blackberries along the way and the views were fantastic — as ever.

We started at the road junction just south of Kilmelford where we finished the last Walk.  Most of the first eight miles was alongside Loch Melfort, so there were things of interest all the way.  We just had to keep a look-out for traffic speeding towards us, that’s all.
We could see where we had walked two days ago, including the path with the mica rocks.  It was only at a distance that we could appreciate how high we had climbed from the Seil Bridge before descending to Degnish.

There were birds on the shore, we passed a salmon farm, and we enjoyed the wild flowers.  We came to a ‘works’ and there was what looked like a large empty box near its entrance.  It turned out to be an empty tank, but it made a good seat so we sat on it to eat our pies.  Then we walked on for another one and a half hours.

More fish-farming, and a rocky knoll out in the loch.
We came to a strange house, a new-build.  Part of the house jutted out about six-foot high over nothing!  That room seemed to have no visible means of support — I wouldn’t have liked to live there, especially as it was right next to the loch where storms could engulf it.  It was an ugly house anyway.  There was a small concrete jetty protruding over the stony beach there, but no boats in sight.

We came to a layby where there was a picnic table overlooking the loch, so we immediately decided it was lunchtime!
It was very pleasant sitting in the sunshine, though the wind was getting up and the blue water of the loch was becoming a little choppy.  Colin found a peacock butterfly in the undergrowth, and managed to take a gorgeous picture of it.

At last we were able to turn off the main road on to a lane leading to Craobh Haven.  No sooner had we done so than a man stopped his car and offered us a lift!  We explained what we were doing and gave him a blog card, but he looked a bit bemused — I don’t think he really understood.

We walked through the village to the marina and came to the pub.  Before we went in Colin said, “If they have no real ales I’ll drink keg!!”  You could have knocked me down with a feather — I couldn’t believe he had really said that!  They did have the proper pumps, two of them, but the clips were turned round.  The barmaid explained that they’d had no delivery, but they had bottled beer so Colin was ‘saved’ from the awfulness of keg.  It was so nice to relax with a drink for about twenty minutes — it recharged the batteries.

We stood by the yacht marina for a while, watching the swans and listening to the clattering of the masts.  Then we made our way along the shore.  It wasn’t clear from the map which way we had to go in order to get on the track to Ardfern, but the barmaid back at the pub had told us how to find it.  I was relieved that there was actually a way through, I don’t trust OS maps in Scotland anymore!
I was tempted to find a footpath along the shore to a jetty — clearly marked on the map —  and go up from there, but there was no real path in actual fact so my scepticism was justified.  OK, a vestige of a path disappeared under bushes, but it was so overgrown we both immediately decided it was no-go.  It obviously hadn’t been walked for years.

So we followed the good track which led round a big house up on a hill, past a wire statue of a boy looking out to sea, and up to some riding stables.  There was the recycling bin we’d been told to look out for — with a freezer and washing machine dumped next to it.  We knew we were on the right track!

It was a nice wide track leading over the hill to Ardfern, almost a road.  A woman on a trail bike passed us when we were part way up, and later she returned with a child riding pillion.  (It was school turning-out time, and the local primary school is in Ardfern.)  It wasn’t much of a hill, but from the top we could see a couple of small freshwater lochans, and over the tops of trees to the next sea loch, Loch Craignish.  We came out in Ardfern where a notice told us “Twenty’s Plenty” as we passed Craignish School.

Our way led on along the waterfront past numerous luxury yachts — there is certainly a lot of money about these days despite the so-called recession.  We were on a minor road leading along the shoreline.  We watched a heron fishing in the shallows as we sat on a rock eating our chocolate.

"Which way do we go?"
At the junction with the main road is a most extraordinary sculpture.  Standing more than six feet tall, a wooden arm rises out of the ground pointing a finger along the road we had just walked!  We wondered what was the ‘deep’ meaning behind such a structure.

We had three more miles on the “dodge-the-traffic” main road before we reached the car.  So we donned the bright yellow gear again, and set off.  We crossed Barbreck River on an ordinary straightforward bridge, but further on we crossed a burn on a curve in the road over a pretty stone bridge.  Colin was ahead of me and didn’t look back, so he didn’t see the following incident.
I decided to take a photo of this bridge after I had walked over it, so I leant on the stone wall to get a better view.  Unknown to me, a sheep was sitting down, possibly asleep, against the wall on the other side.  She woke up, completely spooked by me.  She leapt up, lost her balance, and rolled roly-poly roly-poly all the way down the steep grass bank!  It was so unexpected and funny, I burst out laughing.  But I was also relieved when she got up on her feet looking slightly bemused, and trotted away apparently none the worse for her adventure.  Pity I didn’t have my camera switched on in time to take a video!

A little further on we passed the remains of an ancient stone circle, so we diverted for a few minutes to look at it.  The standing stone in the middle was very phallic-like.  It also had a face carved in it — we wondered who it was!  Looking at the map, there are standing stones everywhere in this area.  And ‘cup & saucer’ rings.  And ancient cairns.

After that it was a slog uphill inland for a further two miles on the main road.  We were very tired by then, so we route-marched that last bit, looking neither to right nor left, until we reached the disused quarry entrance where our car was parked.

 That ended Walk no.263, we shall pick up Walk no.264 next time at the at the entrance to the disused quarry at the foot of Á Bheinn. It was twenty-five past six, so the Walk had taken us eight hours and twenty minutes.  We had our tea and caramel shortcake, then we returned to our caravan in Lochgilphead.

No comments: