Day 179: Kilmelford to Clachan Bridge
Distance: 20.32 miles
Ascent: 3174 feet
Weather: Sunny, Very Hot
Accommodation: Sheiling B&B (Kindly Complimentary)
It was clear it was going to be another scorchio today as even by 6:30 my tent was like a furnace. I was a little tired still from yesterday, but after the owner of the yacht haven had very kindly made me a tea I was ready for the off.
The start of today was along a very quiet road from Melfort along the Loch, in fact it felt more like a glorified driveway. It was more up and down than I had thought but made for nice walking all the way to Degnish Farm. At this point the route became a gravel track and started to climb steeply up onto the plateau. With strong sun, no shade and not a breath of wind this climb was quite tiring but the views down to the loch and across the plateau when I got to the top were incredible.
The gravel track was actually very good quality and must be used fairly regularly by a farmer or estate owner as it is not overgown. After the path heads across the plateau and just before it descends it passed what was called ‘wishing tree’ on my map. On passing this it turned out it was a Hawthorn tree which has hundreds of coins pushed into its bark. Apparently in Celtic Culture the Hawthorn is sacred and placing a coin can bring a wish true. Unfortunately, the tree has fallen over in recent years, though it hasn’t fully died with new growth coming out of the trunk.
The gravel track descends down to the public road and after a left turn I reached Clachan Bridge. This is an incredible stone arch linking the mainland with Seil built in 1792. It is a beautiful bridge and must have been one of the longest single arch stone bridges, and is mighty impressive that it can take modern 40 tonne lorries.
Seil is a small island and my loop of it would only be about 10 miles, so for the only time on the walk I could dump my bag and pitch my tent and then walk the 10 miles without my backpack. The only issue being I had thought it may be hard to pitch right by the bridge as it looked like private land or public tourist areas. So I had proposed to email the pub and ask if I could pitch in their garden but I couldn’t find an email for them, but one of the 5 or so buildings was a B&B (Sheilings) with a large garden so I emailed them instead about pitching. Literally a couple of miles short of Clachan Bridge I received a response and very kindly not only were they allowing me to pitch but had offered a room instead. So, after crossing the bridge I dropped of my bag, and very kindly Caroline gave me a slice of Victoria Sponge and tea.
I had a 20 minute break to cool down in the room and was then on my way for the loop of Seil. It was great walking without the backpack and the first part followed a flat road down the East side of the island passing Balvicar before heading further south down to Kilbrandon Church which had some lovely stain glass windows and I filled my water bottle up. From behind the church there is a little path, that though a little overgrown was easy to follow all the way to the road that leads down to Ellanabeich.
I headed all the way to the end of the village where the ferry leaves from for the tiny twin island of Easdale and had a little break to cool off. After cooling off I had to retrace my steps for about half a kilometer before taking a track, more of a barely used quadbike route, up the steep hill all the way up to the plateau. The views from here were sublime in all directions, and I now had to negotiate 3 miles or so of off piste route up the west side of the island. The first couple of miles were fairly easy along the top of the plateau through the heather with only occasional boggy patches. It was only when I came to descend that things got a bit more tricky as the plateau had a very steep drop to where I wanted to go (can sort of see this in the background of Loch Caithlim photo below), but with a few changes of direction and following the edge of a deer fence I reached a mowed track which was obviously for filling the pheasant feeders which took me exactly to where I wanted to join the road.
After taking the road across Loch Caithlim, I had plotted that I would take a track towards Camuslaich farm and then there was a path marked on the OS map that went all the way back to a track that descended to the B&B. The track was fine but the path did not exist at all, and as I had 4G I just followed the route where the path was meant to go as closely as possible though I had to deviate a few times due to boggy areas or dense vegetation. But this did not slow me much and I was soon back at Clachan Bridge.
I jumped straight in the channel outside the B&B which was so lovely, and the B&B dog Bramble even joined me for a brief swim and on getting out it turns out I was very lucky not to land on a jellyfish as there were many floating by (there appears to be a bit of an issue with them on this bit of coast at the moment.) I was very grateful for the kind offer of the room and warm welcome and after the hot day I just chilled in my bed and got some admin done before falling asleep very early.
A really enjoyable, yet tough day with some incredible scenery.