Category Archives: West Highlands and Argyll

Helensburgh to Rhu Circuit, Argyll and Bute

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Total distance –  8.2 Kilometres

Ascent –  220 metres

Walking conditions – Well defined dirt footpaths and forest tracks. Some walking on pavements beside roads. No difficulties.

Time required – 2.5 to 4 hours

Nearest Town – Helensburgh

The fire at the Glasgow’s School of Art may well have destroyed some of Charles Rennie MacKintosh’s greatest work, but certainly not all of it. I’m reliably informed that Hill House is a shining example of the genius of Charles Rennie MacKintosh, but more importantly, it is the starting point of a delightful walk from Helensburgh to Rhu which provides fantastic views of the Firth of Clyde for most of the way.

Start at the footpath next to Hill House which is heading in a WNW direction. Continue on this path for about one Kilometre. Take the second footpath on the right (don’t take the first path that travels along the tree line up the hill or you’ll probably end up in Loch Lomond) for around 300 metres then go left. The path will now take you on a very gentle descent for about 1.5 Kilometres down to Rhu. This provides fantastic views of the Gare Loch and the Firth of Clyde. After you’ve wound your way through the residential area walk along the shoreline for about half a Kilometre when you’ll see a swing park and public toilets right next to the water. This is an ideal place to stop for a sandwich. It’s probably best to then double back about 100 metres into the residential area then ascend up through Duchess Wood to meet the footpath you started on, then make your way back across to Hill House.

Make sure you take the time to go for a wander around Helensburgh Town Centre. It’s got a large pier which is a fantastic spot to get tucked into a tasty Helensburgh fish supper!

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Port nam Murrach, Arisaig

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Total distance – 4.6 kilometres

Ascent – 80 metres

Walking conditions – Mainly tarmac road and track. The stretch along the footpath can be quite muddy in places, particularly after heavy rain. No difficulties.

Time required – Around 2 to 3.5 hours.

Nearest town – Mallaig

Travelling on the A830 from Fort William to Mallaig is perhaps one of the most magnificent stretches of road in Scotland. Seven miles shy of Mallaig lies the picture postcard village of Arisaig. This is a place my wife has been raving about for years on account of a family holiday where she stayed there as a child. Nostalgia is not necessary for being blown away by the walk from Arisaig to Port na Murrach. Indeed, any moans or complaints about the walk being a little muddy in places, cease to be heard the minute you walk onto the beach.

From Arisaig, drive along the single track road signposted ‘Rhu’ to the parking spot at the end of the public road. From there walk along the private road/track for about 1.4 kilometres. At that point you will reach a private house with a sign pointing to the footpath on the left. This footpath leads past a hut and along a stone dyke. Due to the movement of livestock this can be particularly muddy. It only lasts for about one hundred metres then the going gets easier, although still muddy in places. Keep following this path until you drop down a rocky outcrop onto one of the most idyllic and picturesque beaches you are ever likely to see, with golden sand transported here from Mexico by the Gulf Stream. Make sure you have brought a map so you can identify all the islands and rock features which you see before you. Return via the same route. Oh, and if you go on a Sunday make sure you’ve got enough petrol because it’s a long way back to Fort William.

Arisaig

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The Steeple, Lochgoilhead, Argyll and Bute

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Total distance – 3.6 kilometres

Ascent – 390 metres

Walking conditions – Well defined footpath. Steady incline. No difficulties.

Time required – Around 2.5 to 4 hours

 Nearest town – Inverary

We’re quite well connected. We’ve got friends who own a caravan at Drimsynie, Lochgoilhead, and on one occasion they even let us use it. What a brilliant three days it was. One of our many highlights was our walk up to the ‘Steeple’. Seldom has a 390 metre ascent been more rewarding.

Begin your walk from the car park in Lochgoilhead. Head towards the forest in a north to north-east direction and pretty soon you’ll come to the forest path. The path is clearly marked and takes you through the trees, onto the open ground and steadily winds its way up the grassy shoulder of the hill until you reach the top. Absolutely magnificent! A superb view of Loch Goil awaits you along with other sea lochs and the Firth of Clyde. That is, unless you happen to be gazing across Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. Return via the same route.

On the way home we stopped for dinner at Creggan’s Inn, Strachur. It was a slight deviation but well worth it.

The Steeple, Lochgoilhead

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Glen Nevis Gorge Walk, Lochaber

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Total distance – 4.8 kilometres

Ascent – 40 metres

Walking conditions – Boots required. Some sections through the gorge require sure-footedness as they are a little awkward in places. Some precipitous drops close to footpath. 

Time required – 2.5 hours to Steall Ruins and back

Nearest town – Fort William

The first time I passed through the Nevis Gorge I was with a friend on route to Meanach Bothy. It was late at night, very dark and icy underfoot. Soon after negotiating this gorge we decided to stop and pitch a tent for the night. Unfortunately, it was my brand new tent and I hadn’t read the instructions on how to set it up. Embarrassingly, my friend and I, both tired and weary took the easy option of wrapping the tent around ourselves convinced we’d still get a good night’s sleep. We woke up in the early hours of the next day covered in snow. If I ever buy another tent I will not make this mistake again!

Driving along the single track road through Glen Nevis you will eventually reach an abrupt end to this road. That is where the footpath through the gorge begins. You will immediately be aware of the danger warning signs at the point of entering this path. Take heed of them but don’t necessarily be put off visiting the gorge. But please note: If you have small children, keep a tight hold of them as there are a few treacherous drops only a couple feet from the footpath. The rewards are great. After working your way through around 400 metres of a narrow gorge walk the landscape opens up into a magnificent gallery of mountains, waterfalls and a winding river. We normally walk through this wonderful setting for about a 1.5 Km to the Steall ruins next to the bridge. However, the last time we came here, we could not resist the lure of the Burma bridge across the river Nevis, not to mention the spectacular view of the Steall Falls for our picnic location. I’m not one to brag but I successfully negotiated the Burma Bridge because I like to show off in front of the children. On this occasion there were no serious consequences.

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Glenfinnan Viaduct Circuit, Lochaber

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Total distance – 3.5 kilometres

Ascent – 130 metres

Walking conditions – Good footpath with no difficulties. Walking along side of road on return journey.

Time required – Around 2 to 3 hours

Nearest town – Fort William

Sometimes you know you’re lucky. This was one such occasion.  During the school October Week last year we stayed for a couple of nights at the Ballachulish Hotel. To our astonishment the weather on the second day was fantastic so we decided to head off to Glenfinnan.

After the usual stuff like visiting the Glenfinnan Monument and having a picnic at the edge of Loch Shiel, we decided to go for a walk. We noticed a track leading towards the viaduct which we duly followed. On reaching the viaduct to our very pleasant surprise, we discovered a newly constructed footpath leading up the hillside. Unable to resist we promptly set off up this footpath. After approximately a 90 metre ascent the path levelled out and skirted along the side of the hill for about 600 metres. This provided us with one of the most magnificent views we had ever witnessed. This statement should not surprise any Harry Potter fans. The footpath then led down to Glenfinnan Railway Station which is also a museum and is something of a must-see for anyone with a passing interest in steam trains. We then made our way back by following the road for 700 metres.

As we had a Dinner, Bed and Breakfast deal at our hotel,  unlike last time we didn’t go to the Glenfinnan House Hotel where I ate the best steak I’ve ever eaten nor did I then look out the window and see some deer bounding up and down the lawn in the most spectacular fashion. Maybe next time!

Glenfinnan

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The Devil’s Staircase, Glen Coe

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Total distance – 3.6 kilometres

Ascent – 250 metres

Walking conditions – Good footpath primarily with gravel and boulders underfoot. A relentless ascent but never gets steep enough to cause any difficulties

Time required – Around 2 to 3.5 hours

Nearest town – Ballachulish

Dangerous and exhausting are two things you might expect from a place in Glen Coe called The Devil’s Staircase. Surprisingly, The Devil’s Staircase is actually a safe and easy winding walk that offers some truly magnificent views over the West Highlands. It was named not by outdoor enthusiasts but by General Wade’s road building soldiers who were lugging materials up and down it all day. Evidently, they did not share our enthusiasm for this stretch of land.

The whole exercise is a straight-forward undertaking. It should take you well under one hour to reach the top of the Devil’s Staircase. Park at Altnafeadh on the A82, directly across from Buachaille Etive Mor. Take the West Highland Way footpath (travelling roughly NNW). You will find this path right next to the parking bay. Simply follow the footpath as it winds its way up the 250 metre ascent of The Devil’s Staircase. At the top of the Devil’s Staircase there is a bealach marked by two large cairns. This is an ideal picnic spot with a fantastic view of the Mamores. Take plenty of time to identify some of the best mountains in Scotland and at the same time cheer on the West Highland Way walkers, as to them, the Devil’s staircase was indeed aptly named by General Wade’s soldiers. Return by the same route.

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