Today was going to be another tough day, not only because I was planning to go ‘off-road’ again but an awful lot of rain was forecast to arrive.
As I awoke, I was surprised not to hear the pitter-patter of rain falling on my tent. My tent is a North West Westwind and is orange in colour, which makes it quite bright inside and difficult to know what the weather is doing outside. I need not have worried, the cloud cover was very high in the sky and it was a lovely still and tranquil morning. The midges had not risen fully yet and I was able to brew a cup of coffee before I set off.
Today required a bit of thought because I needed to catch two buses and this meant thinking about bus timetables again. My best solution was to drive to Lochgilphead, about 11 miles away, and park there. Then get the 7:25 #425 bus back to Carsaig ( which is less than a mile away from Tayvallich) where my walk would start. I would then walk to Ardfern and catch one of the afternoon #423 buses back to Lochgilphead and my car. There was ample free parking in Lochgilphead and before I knew it I was on the bus back to Carsaig. Speaking to the bus driver he said today was going to be a washout, but didn’t know when the rain would arrive.
I set off from Carsaig along a well made dirt track, which later became a forest road. The road climbed steeply, twisting and turning. The walk was interesting mainly because this forest road was predominantly through deciduous trees, with oaks, birch, alder, beech, ash and elm. This was the Knapdale Forest and one of the classic areas of Scotlands ancient natural woodland.
I made good time along the track and after a few hours reached Ardnoe Point. The vista was magnificent, with the Paps of Jura to the south and now receding into the distance; and now the high hills of Mull becoming visible. The bulk of Cruach Scarba on the Isle of Scarba now dominated the view west, together with a plethora of small islands. I could also look north across Loch Crinan to the area where I would be walking in the next few hours, it did not look particularly inviting with its dense vegetation obscuring signs of tracks and paths.
I drop down from the forest road to the small village of Crinan. I make my way through a car park and pick up a footpath leading to a road running down to the start of Crinan canal, which connects with Ardrishaig 8.5 miles to the east. I begin walking along the tow path towards Bellanoch. At Bellanoch there is a swing bridge where the road crosses the canal and heads north in a straight across the low-lying Nature Reserve of the Moine Mhor. As I walk along the road the rain begins, not a deluge, just incessant, it will be with me for the next 6 hours! I turn west down a private road heading to the privately owned Duntrune Castle. I have been looking for a convenient place to get up high and onto the high ground. I spy a farm track, which soon peters out. I change into my walking boots which I have carrying in my rucksack. Immediately as I climb the bracken slopes my boots begin leaking. The plan is to stay on the high ground, avoiding as much of the bracken and bog as possible – easier said than done!
Although the weather was closing in I still have good visibility. I used my 1:25,000 map and followed the old stone walls to navigate my way across the high knobbly ground of bracken, bog and ‘turks-head’ grass. After locating the isolated Loch Michean, I headed further north looking for a fire-break leading into a large forested area. I managed to find the fire-break and even though the area has been deforested and reforested over the fire break I had felt the old hardcore track beneath my feet. I emerged onto a very wide forested road which led me further north.
I continued along the forest road north-west towards Ormaig. Here I made a big effort to visit the cup and ring marked rocks which were situated a few hundred metres up a small climb. Although I am soaking wet and my feet hurt, the detour is well worthwhile. There is a well maintained path up to the markings and the vegetation around the exposed ice-scoured rock slab has been cleared. This prehistoric rock art is considered to be from 4000 years BC, that’s almost a thousand years before the Pyramids! It’s an impressive sight, but does require some effort to get to.
I followed the forest road past the house of Ormaig heading north up to a loch, where I knew the road will end, which would mean negotiating some 400m of forest. However, this presented no problem as the large mature pines had lost most of their lower branches, ripped off over the years by passing deer. After crossing a small burn and a stone wall I emerged onto an atv track below the slopes of Creag nan Fitheach. This track took me around the hill to join the busy A816 – the Oban Road. From my high vantage point I could look down on Loch Craignish and the village of Ardfern. The remaining couple of miles weree along the A816, before turning off down the Ardfern road.
I had about a 15 minute wait before the next #423 bus arrived which would take me back to Lochgilphead. I rewarded myself with a fish supper after getting off the bus. However, most of my gear was soaking wet and I decided that I would ditch my third day of walking, which was a short walk anyway. I drove back to Tayvallich and rested for a while. It was still raining as I packed the tent up and left.
Distance today = 22 miles
Total distance = 2919.5 miles