Before pushing on from Lochgoilhead (where I finished last time) to Glasgow I had to double back to walk down the West coast of Scotland from the Crinan Canal to Tarbert. I had decided to leave this stretch and walk it out of sequence because when I was in the area in December 2017 the canal was frozen and the unfrequented coast was snowbound. But now, with British Summer Time and warmer weather permitting longer days’ walking, I returned to Lochgilphead and found myself staying in the same room as before at the Kilmory Guest House, where Rob and Karen were extraordinarily generous and supportive. I can’t thank them enough.
I spent several days walking up and down and round Lochs Sween and Caolisport. One morning Rob and Karen rearranged their dog walking schedule to meet me at the Keills Chapel and together we walked round to the Old Slipway on the Atlantic side of the peninsula and enjoyed fine clear views across the Sound of Jura. While I went to look at the Chapel, Rob and Karen went to check on a pool filled with tadpoles which they had been monitoring. They had an intimate knowledge of the region’s flora and fauna, and talked interestingly about things we passed on the way. The Keills Chapel is believed to be a 13th century foundation and inside, amongst a number of early crosses and cross slabs, I saw the High Cross of Keills.
Another day, I followed a path which Rob had mentioned to me, and which did not appear on my map, from Kilmory to Ellary. It was a day of big views and complete silence, warm sunshine and achingly clear light. I walked on and on all afternoon and eventually in the evening, near Ormsary, I met the Lochgilphead bus coming towards me down the single track coast road.
Next morning Rob again altered his plans and took me back to Ormsary with his venerable old dog. I left them walking on the sandy beach, although we did meet again briefly later in the morning when he drove up and we spent some time watching seals swimming and basking on the rocks.
From Ormsary it was a long hot 20 mile walk to Tarbert where again I found myself in the same room at the same B&B as last December. I was up early next morning to catch the ferry from Tarbert to Portavadie for the second section of these walks. Shortly before the ferry was due to arrive a notice flashed up saying that the service had been suspended. At which point all my carefully laid plans collapsed.
Today being Sunday there were no buses and I might not have got round to Portavadie by land on public transport until Monday evening. I raced to the entrance of the car park at the ferry terminal and began hitch hiking assiduously: big smiles, lots of eye contact. A man in a 4 by 4 stopped and I was fantastically lucky that he took me all the way round Loch Fyne to a point within five miles of Portavadie. Brian worked at a logging camp up in the forest. He was a kindly, softly spoken man and for most of the three hour journey we drove in a companionable silence. From time to time he nodded towards a deforested hillside and murmured “We did that” or looking to the far shore of Loch Fyne he would nod at a tiny hamlet and say “You’ll be walking there”.
Within seconds of being dropped off by Brian I picked up another lift into Portavadie. I spent the next few days walking around the coast of the Cowal Peninsula but will record those walks on my next Post.
© Nick Creagh-Osborne and manwalkstheworld.com 2018.