Martin in Gatineau Park - 2018

Martin in Gatineau Park - 2018

Saturday, 13 May 2017

TGO Challenge 2017 - Day 1 - Oban to the west of Beinn Churalain (NM 986 464)

Date: Friday 12 May

Route: roughly as planned - Ferry to Lismore > Port Appin > Airds Hill (Ma) > Appin > Strath of Appin > camp to the west of Beinn Churalain at NM 986 464 (420 metres)

Distance:  23 km (Cum: 23)

Ascent:  820 metres (Cum: 820)

Time taken:  8 hrs including 2 hrs breaks

Weather: mostly sunny, warm and calm

The Regent Hotel is a bit down at heel but it served me well. My bag was packed and everything but my small torch (now found) was accounted for, including a first aid kit stuffed with ibuprofen to counter yet another root canal tooth problem.

I wandered down to the ferry terminal and joined seven other Challengers for the short ride past sunbathing shags to Lismore.

Lismore (meaning "great enclosure", or "garden") is an island of some 9.1 square  miles less than an hour's ferry ride from Oban. It was once a major centre of Celtic Christianity, with a 6th-century monastery associated with Saint Moluag and later became the seat of the medieval Bishop of Argyll. There are numerous ruined structures including a broch and two 13th-century castles.

During the 19th century various new industries were introduced, including lime quarrying. The population rose to 1,000 followed by a lengthy decline. Although resident numbers are now less than 200, there was a small increase from 2001 to 2011. About a third of the population were recorded as Gaelic speaking at the former date. The modern economy is largely based on farming, fishing and tourism and the largest settlement is Achnacroish, where we landed this morning.. Various shipwrecks have been recorded in the vicinity.

Aaron and I found ourselves walking together along a good path, with Colin just behind us. Alan Hardy's group of five took the road route and missed the elaborate broch.

This is Tirefour Castle, an Iron Age broch located 4 kilometres north of Achnacroish, situated on a rocky height on the east coast of the island. If we'd been more observant we may have been able to spot Ben Nevis to the north, and the Paps of Jura to the south, as well as the good view of Ben Cruachan that greeted us to the east. The broch was probably built in the late Iron Age. It was inhabited during the Roman era as shown by the discovery of an enamel brooch in the foundation layer.

The broch was inhabited until the Middle Ages. Among the finds in it were a decorative pin from the 8th century and a Norse pin and rivets, dating from the 11th or 12th century. Located near the broch are the remains of a rectangular building in the Norse style.

The Castle has an almost circular floor plan. We noted a narrow passageway in the walls around the outer circumference of the building, blocked off to avoid sheep getting in. A couple of Geordies were camped nearby in a fine spot.

Wiki has lots more on the broch.

Aaron and I had a 45 minute wait for the 12.15 ferry to Appin. Others had less of a wait, but everyone was assembled in plenty of time for eleven passengers and a driver to cram themselves into a small boat for the ten minute ride back to the mainland. The Lismore adventure had proved an excellent way to start the Challenge with an easy stroll on a good path.

Appin may be a remote coastal district of the Scottish West Highlands, but it has its fair share of fish restaurants. We lunched at the one by the Appin ferry. I sat outside with a pint of best and enjoyed that together with a smoked salmon and cream cheese ciabatta that wasn't too soggified by the few drops of rain that preceded a slow change to the recent fine weather.

The district formerly had a railway, but the Caledonian Railway company's branch line from Connel to Ballachulish was closed in 1966. It has recently been converted to a fine walking/cycling track that most of us used today.

Appin is where the Appin Murder occurred on 14 May 1752, resulting in what is often held to be a notorious miscarriage of justice. It occurred in the tumultuous aftermath of the Jacobite Rising of 1745. The murder inspired events in Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Kidnapped.

On 14 May 1752, Colin Roy Campbell of Glenure, 44, the government-appointed Factor to the forfeited estates of the Stewart Clan in North Argyll, Scotland, was shot in the back by a marksman in the wood of Lettermore near Ballachulish. The search for the killer targeted the local Clan, the Jacobite Stewarts of Appin, who had recently suffered evictions on Campbell's orders.

The chief suspect, Allan Stewart, having fled, James Stewart, one of the last leaders of Stewarts, was arrested for the crime and tried for the murder. Although it was clear at the trial that James was not directly involved in the assassination, he was found guilty "in airts and pairts" (as an accessory; an aider and abetter) by a jury consisting of people from the locality where the crime occurred. 

Accordingly, James Stewart was hanged on 8 November 1752 on a specially commissioned gibbet above the narrows at Ballachulish, now near the south entrance to the Ballachulish Bridge. He died protesting his innocence and recited the 35th Psalm before mounting the scaffold. To this day in the Highlands, it remains known as "The Psalm of James of the Glens."

Airds Hill is a low, densely-forested summit rising to the east of the popular village of Port Appin. It's a Marilyn. So it's there to be climbed, but only a very small minority of Challengers, namely Colin Crawford, recognise this fact. I was therefore somewhat astonished when Aaron said it was on his route as well as mine.

It's 181 metres high. Sometimes the small hills are the most demanding. We dumped our bags near the bottom and started up a forestry track, leaving it where requested due to forestry operations. There followed a kilometre of bog, thick forest and the debris of fallen and felled forty year old trees. Halts were needed to remove twigs from down our sweaty necks. The summit was a high point in a thick forest. No views at all. A few hundred metres away an old trig point struggled to be seen through its mossy camouflage.

An equally obscure and tedious descent brought us back to the road, and the end of my ten mile saunter with Aaron. Since then I've seen one person, a farmer. It was good to have company for the start of what I anticipate will be a fairly solitary crossing.

My route continued as planned. The old railway line to Inver folly was lined with plantains and bluebells. Then a track led me slowly, very slowly, to a stream from which I'd decided to collect water for the night. There was just a dribble of good water at NM 971 458. Even slower, I then toiled up to point 430, passing hairy caterpillars and a lizard, as well as the familiar blue flowers of milkwort. Lousewort and tormentil were also in evidence, and I was surprised to see so many bluebells on the open hillside. By the time I reached a camping spot at exactly the place I'd suggested on my route plan, the only sounds were of my first cuckoo of the year, chattering grouse, and barking red deer. It's a good spot, but perfectly calm, so a little midgy. I'm tired, but not very hungry after the large lunch.

Today's pictures are of the broch, the trig point on Airds Hill, and my campsite.


afootinthehills said...

Tired? You? Must be the extra weight of the Phreerunner Martin -:)

Paul Myerscough said...

Well I thought I would start from Oban this year, but it did not occur to me to head to sea. It looks like this is an established way to stretch out the beginning and to put off the serious walking!

Muddy Marilyns! I guess there must be someone who collects them.

And cuckoos. I'm missing my dose of cuckoos too. In England we now have something less than 1500 nesting pairs apparently. When I moved to my area I sometimes heard 2 or 3. For the past 10 years there's been just one. Sadly not heard at this yet.

Phreerunner said...

That Marilyn wasn't muddy but it took a day or two for the sweat ingrained twiglets to remove themselves from my back!

Actually, though this one was a notable exception, Marilyns often provide brilliant viewpoint with a modicum of effort.