174. Kilmelford to Isle of Seil

I quickly get a brew going and eat my cereals as the midge are about! I am forced to keep on the move – eating and drinking! I pack up the tent and literally just throw it into the back of the car. I then drive around to the Isle of Seil and park at the Clachan Bridge just opposite the Tigh-an Truish Inn – the house of the trousers. Once a secret meeting place to wear a kilt, when the post-Culloden restrictions were rigorously enforced.

I have 30 minutes before the #418 bus will take me to Kilmore, where I will catch another bus, the #423,  which will take further down the A816 to Kilmelford where I finished yesterdays walk. I am pestered by the midge as I wait for the bus, fortunately I am joined by a couple, who get their fair share of attention from the little b*!*ers.

I had removed my gel pad from my left foot as I was having second thoughts on how effective it was on relieving the pressure on the ball of the foot. I found that walking in my North face Hedgehogs was much more comfortable than walking in my boots, which I was carrying in my bag for any off-road rough bits.

Looking down Loch Melfort

I set off from Kilmelford along the very quiet lochside road that runs 5 miles to the farmstead  at Degnish. The weather was lovely and warm and sunny. There was little wind with the odd cloud in the sky, which meant the sun was not that fierce. The yachts anchored in the tranquil  Loch Melfort provided a beautiful picture postcard image.

Loch Melfort with Cruach Scarba in the distance

Only a couple of cars passed me as I made my way down the road, which rose steeply as i passed onto the Kilchoan Estate. Just short of Degnish I took an upland path that rose steadily over the slopes of Dun Cruitagain. As I gained height, some patchy rain showers arrived, but not heavy enough to warrant putting my jacket on. The upland track was easy walking and the only obstacle was a small herd of Luing cattle with a bull and calves in tow. I carefully made my way around them, but they were not interested in me. At the Bealach Gaoithe, I had a good view of the route ahead. In the immediate foreground I would be passing through the Armaddy Estate, where the terrain looked very complicated with numerous small hills and lumps, hiding quarries long since overgrown. In the far distance I could see Mull, now even closer. I could make out one of the hills I climbed 5 years ago, Dun na Ghaoithe with its long winding ridge leading to radio mast. I could also make out for the first time, across the Firth of Lorne, the hills of Ardgour or more precisely Morvern. To my left I can also see the Isle of Seil across the narrow Sound of Seil. Shortly after leaving the bealach I failed to notice the Wishing Tree, a tree with many coins embedded in it denoting someone’s wish. I must have been concentrating on the route ahead to have missed this.

Looking north over the Armaddy Estate

I make my way through the complex estate roads and eventually arrived on the tarmac estate road that came from Armaddy Castle. I eventually join up with the public road which took me around to the Clachan Bridge. The bridge was designed by John Stevenson (and not Thomas Telford as is sometimes quoted), built in 1793 it is also referred to as the Bridge over the Atlantic. Standing on the bridge it is easy to see how the narrow channel makes Seil an Island.

The Clachan Bridge, Seil Island
The narrow channel between Mainland and Island

I carry on down the busy B844 carrying traffic to Ellenabeich. When I arrive at the small village of Balvicar I continue straight on taking the road towards the Luing ferry. A car stops and a chap offers me a lift, which I politely decline, explaining I was only going as far as the nearby church and then walking over the slopes of Barr Mor. Looking down from Barr Mor I can see the extraordinary and dramatic landscape that has made this island and others close by so unique. There are known as the Slate Islands and Ellenabeich, where I am heading to was once the centre of a huge slate industry in the early to mid 19th century. I drop down to the road and walk into Ellenabeich. This slate village has certainly embraced its industrial heritage and has become a very popular tourist attraction. It is difficult to see on the ground where all the quarrying took place, until seen from the air as the following YouTube footage shows:-

Looking towards Easdale
Heading towards Ellenabeich
Slate workers cottages, Ellenabeich
Ellenabeich
Gift shops and brewery, Ellenabeich

I thought of another centre of slate production, Blaenau Ffestiniog in North Wales and how different the two sites are. I think one of the factors is that the spoil waste has been levelled at Easdale, whereas at Blaenau it is still very much on show.

I had planned to beat my way over rough ground back to the car at Clachan bridge, but because of my sore left foot opted to retrace my steps back along the road.

Distance today =  16.5 miles
Total distance =  2951.5 miles

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