Archive for July 24th, 2010

July 24, 2010

Treshnish peninsula and ‘S Airde Beinn (Isle of Mull)

by backpackingbongos

I got a bit carried away today so you get two walks within one post…………

Unfortunately the mountain weather forecast was spot on.  I awoke to a dull grey world, the cloud gently drifting just above the van.  I really did not think that cloud base could be this low and I was left wondering what I could do considering that pretty much everything on the island would be invisible today.  I gazed across the sea loch at the cloud capped north shore and decided that a coastal walk was in order, at least there was a chance that the cloud could lift a few metres and I would not be totally enveloped.

The single tracked ‘B’ road that leads to Calgary bay probably has some of the most spectacular views as it twists and winds its way across the west of the Island.  All the time it is climbing and falling with hair pin bends and the occasional steep drop down to the sea hidden in the mist.  The south shore of Loch na Keal although very cloudy had been dry, this part of the Island was very damp with the mist being composed of a fine drizzle.

6.5 miles with 385 metres ascent

I parked up the Bongo in a disused quarry just before Ensay and had a quick debate as to whether I should wear a waterproof or not.  It was very warm and muggy and I had to decide if I wanted to get wet through sweat or wet through the fine damp mist.  I decided that it would be more comfy getting wet from the outside.  A track crosses the Ensay Burn and heads towards Treshnish cottages, most of which appear to be available to rent as holiday homes.  I really could not see very much at all as I joined the track onto open country and almost considered turning back as the combination of no views and muggy dampness was not filling me with the joys of summer.  I decided to continue and passed Haun cottages which are located around 2 miles from the road.  These are also holiday cottages that can be rented and are in a lovely remote location.  I can’t vouch for their views because there still was not one.  I was only 60 metres above sea level and firmly still in the clouds!

A short distance later a gate led to a lovely firm cropped grassy track and an actual view of the coast below.

I followed the coast for a couple of miles taking time to explore all of the nooks and crannies, the landscape was exceptional.  At times I would walk above the cliff tops at other times I would be on the sea-shore.  There is no one defined way to go, simply pick and choose.  Every now and then the cloud would lift a few more metres giving more of a view out to sea where I could make out the Treshnish Isles on the misty horizon.  The photos below give a flavour of the coastal landscape along this part of the Mull coast.

I decided to go and hunt out the ‘Whisky cave’ that the OS map fails to mark.  A bit of scrabbling around contouring above some cliffs and I found it just below a rocky gully.  From above it did not look that spectacular and I could not be bothered with scrambling down greasy looking rocks to explore its innards.  However the clouds did lift enough for a moment to give a great view to the north with the second tier of cliffs becoming visible.

My next objective was the deserted village of Crackaig perched high above the coast on the moorland above.  As I left the coast and was walking inland I looked back out to sea and spotted something sticking out of the water.  It quickly disappeared and then reappeared further along the coast.  It was triangular in shape and it was then I realised it was a large fin.  I really regretted not having binoculars with me.  I watched for a while as it circled around in the shallows before noticing that there was a smaller fin like shape a few metres behind it (a tail fin?).  Whatever I was watching was definitely large and it soon attracted the attention of a boat that started to circle it.  I sat and watched the boat watching the wildlife and fancifully decided that it could be a basking shark.  I soon got bored of watching a distant fin so began the steep climb along a zig zagging path to the deserted village.  An erie spot with well preserved houses scattered among the misty moorland.

Higher up the path crossed a boggy plateau where luckily there are wooden planks to cross the deeper more smelly sections.

The path goes around the back of a cottage with a great big view and onto its driveway.  Stomping along something caught my eye and I stopped to notice a small adder a few feet away.  I fumbled with my camera and approached a little closer to try and get a photograph.  In response I got a hiss before it quickly slithered off into the heather.  It was not as keen as the slow worm a few days earlier to be photographed!

Anyway it was then a quick and easy walk along the road to the waiting bongo, as usual as my walk was drawing to a close the cloud had finally lifted and was now sitting at a pretty lofty 200 meters.  I now had another decision to make, where to spend the night in the Bongo.  Any old spot would not do, I wanted somewhere special to park up for the night.  Somewhere quiet and with big views.  I had read a lot about Calgary bay which has a white sandy beach and a designated ‘wild’ campsite.  Being just round the corner I decided to Bongo on down and have a look.  Spectacular it was but the campsite was a bit too crowded for my liking and rather spoilt by giant motorhomes.  Time instead to go off and look for my own patch.  On the misty drive earlier on in the day I had noticed a cairn at the highest part of the road with space for a bongo next to it.  It turned out to be a lovely spot, especially when the sun came out in the evening and the views returned.  Another peaceful undisturbed night followed.

1.8 miles with 160 metres ascent

Some days even very keen hikers would rather just chill out and look at the scenery rather than get muddy within it, this was one such day.  It’s just a shame when such days occur when the weather is looking much better.  During the last couple of days I had been craving fish and chips and I thought that if anywhere on the Island would sell fish and chips it would be the capital Tobermory.  After a lie in I decided that I would head to Tobermory for a late lunch via a short walk around the extinct volcano ‘S Airde Beinn.

As usual the driving on Mull was driving at its best, very narrow roads with hair pin bends.  They would be much better if there was no other traffic but I did not mind stopping every now and then to let people pass with such good scenery to look at.  Between Dervaig and Tobermory there is a succession of lochs, the middle one Loch Meadhoin has a ruined cottage next to the road where there is space for a couple of vehicles to park.

‘S Airde Beinn is a volcanic plug with a crater in the middle of it and although not particularly high at 292 metres it is meant to have the best view on north Mull.  A simple walk it was too, it was only when I was half way up that I realised I had left my map in the van.  No worries, you just follow the  path up to the hill directly ahead, then clockwise around the crater.  You could be up and down in less than an hour but I sat at one of the cairns for a while and drank in the views.  I wished I had remembered to bring binoculars to Mull as there were a few people up there watching something I could not see!

It was then food time in Tobermory!  Famous for the children’s programme Balamory the town in picture postcard pretty.  However for me I found the village rather bland, it is the sort of place that has no ‘real’ shops just ones selling tourist crap.  Being midweek it was not particularly busy but the people milling around were of the very slow, browsing at shops selling crap variety.  Not really a place for someone in dirty clothes who is just beginning to turn fragrant!  Anyway I cursed the lack of a fish and chip shop and consoled myself with fresh bread in the local Co-op.  I like the Co-op in principle but local experience in Nottingham shows that they are completely incapable at manning a till successfully.  We usually have 6 members of staff stacking shelves and one flustered one at the till with a huge queue.  People usually get cross and storm out, sometimes bad words are used.  It was the same in Tobermory, it must be company policy.

It transpired that the chip shop is a van hidden behind the war memorial.  Pleased I filled my belly and moved on.

I took the long way round to Glen More where I parked up next to the old road by Teanga bridge.  A lovely spot surrounded by mountains, the following day was going to be a hot leg wobbling epic!