Isle of KerreraOne of my many missions is to visit as many of the Scottish Islands as is feasible. I got one step closer to my distant target today by crossing the narrow Sound of Kerrera from Gallanach to the south of Oban, and taking my first steps on the small island of Kerrera which provides the shelter to Oban Bay. The tracks and paths on this small island split it into 'north' and 'south' portions, each half providing a pleasant walk of about 7 miles, although the southern route is the more popular, and the one most often listed in guides.
Gylen CastleFrom the ferry the track turns left along the shore around The Horseshoe, and so on to The Little Horse Shoe - both bays and the latter similar in shape, although not origin, to Lulworth Cove in Dorset. It is a pleasant stroll along a roughly-surfaced road, with a pretty row of cottages at Little Horseshoe, including a Parrot Sanctuary in one garden. Although, as my mum pointed out, I'm not sure that Parrots were ever native to Kerrera...
Beyond the cottages, the road climbs through a narrow gap behind a rocky knoll that was once an iron-age fort, and slowly turns inland to the farm at Upper Gylen. Apart from a picturesque rotting Land Rover, there is not much to see, the houses hidden by trees and the view of the shore now distant. The road continues to climb over the hill to Lower Gylen, but at the summit a grassy track heads off roughly in the direction of Gylen Castle. This is the ruined stronghouse of the MacDougalls of Dunollie near Oban, although it only survived for about 65 years, from its completion in 1582 until it was partially ruined during the civil war in 1647. It is thanks to its remote location that it survives as completely as it does, and has not been quarried for stone.
The West CoastFrom the castle, we retraced our steps to the road, and headed down to the house of Lower Gylen. Here there is also the island Bunkhouse, and from Wednesday-Sunday a Tea Garden. Sadly, today was Tuesday, so we plodded on, the road taking us back along the shore beneath ancient sea-cliffs carved when Sea Level was significantly higher and on to Ardmore, where the road peters out in a field. A steep path climbs through the narrow pass that leads across to the island's west coast, and the specatcular views across the Firth of Lorne to Mull, Lismore and Morvern beyond. The oath drops down to Barr-nam-boc Bay, once the main Ferry Point to Mull, and beyond, where a small cottage is all that is left of the small village that must have once stood here to service the cattle drovers and other travellers as they waited for the tide, or arrived after a long journey.
Here we regained a road, and followed it as it climbed through hairpins to cross the islands interior. The views across the Firth as we climbed just got better and better, until they were suddenly snatched away as the road turned behind a low ridge. The island's high point is only 189m up, but even so there are no signs of settlement on the undulating higher ground, the few houses being in the valleys or along the coast. The farm of Slaterich sat below us as we wandered east now, descending past the largest farm - Balliemore - and past the old school to catch the ferry back to the mainland.
Kerrera is a fantastic, magical island, and I just wish we had had the time and energy to continue and explore the island's northern end too.