Due to the remoteness and complexity of the coast between Mallaig and Oban I decided to divide the area between two series of walks. On the first (my previous blog post: Walk 43) I walked in stages from the Corran Ferry across the counties of Morvern and Ardnamurchan to Salen, Lochailort and Mallaig, and then walked back along the South side of Loch Eil from Drumsallie to the Corran Ferry.
This time I walked from Salen to Ardnamurchan Point, from Inversanda to Lochaline and Drimnin, and along the North shore of Loch Eil from Drumsallie to Fort William.
Logistically this was by far the most difficult series of walks which I have planned anywhere on the entire coast of Great Britain. Distances were great, accommodation was extremely limited, public transport was irregular, and for the first time this year it started getting very cold. I wore every piece of clothing I had the whole time, including long johns and a thermal T shirt, which at least meant that my backpack was very light.
One day I walked in a loop from the little village of Kilchoan out to Ardnamurchan Point, the most Westerly point of the British mainland, and on to Sanna Bay. Returning from Sanna I found myself walking through a large circular ring of hills which 60 million years ago had formed the rim of the crater of a huge volcano!
On a day of thick fog and unremitting rain I walked 20 miles from Kilchoan to Salen. I followed the delightful single track road which twisted and turned around the coast and led through ancient woodlands which are the last remnants of a coastal forest which used to cover the whole West coast of Scotland. The area, which was once ruled by the Vikings, is very remote and empty having been almost depopulated by the infamous Highland Clearances when entire communities were summarily uprooted and moved off the land by landlords who realised they could make more money from grazing sheep.
On another day when the fog was often almost too thick to see ahead of myself and when the rain poured down without a break I walked the 26 miles from Inversanda, via Kilmalieu, to Lochaline. In spite of the weather it was an unforgettable walk. There was nowhere to break the journey and nowhere to take shelter from the rain. When I arrived at my destination in Lochaline I was invited to “take off my wet things” and when I did so water absolutely poured out of my clothes.
From Lochaline I got a lift along the narrow rutted single track road to the point where the road ends at Drimnin and then walked back to Lochaline. At Drimnin I found an overgrown slipway which is used by occasional ferries to Tobermory on the Island of Mull. As I walked back the temperature plummeted and I saw frost forming on the upper reaches of the hills of Mull. Snow fell overnight and next morning the temperature was barely above freezing. Later that morning I made my fourth and final crossing on the Corran Ferry.
The last section of these walks took me from Drumsallie along the North shore of Loch Eil to Fort William. Grass and leaves crackled with frost underfoot. Ben Nevis towered icily over the town. Just before I reached Fort William I passed the Southern end of the Caledonian Canal which runs all the way across Scotland to Inverness.
The Caledonian Canal and Lochs Linnhe and Eil bisect Scotland and make an island of the Far North. As I walked into Fort William I realised that I have now walked the whole way round the Northern Highlands. As I sat down for a hot meal at Morrisons supermarket I allowed myself to think for the first time that I might actually complete this 7,000 mile walk. In my heart of hearts I have never doubted that one way or another I would complete it, however long it took, but before that moment I had never permitted myself to acknowledge that fact. I felt a quiet sense of satisfaction that I have only another 250 miles to go!
© Nick Creagh-Osborne and manwalkstheworld.com 2017.