KentallenI have made this trip several times before by bike, and most of it by foot on various occasions, but this time I decided to walk. Much of this decision was based on the fact that last time I cycled on the A82 I very nearly got knocked off, and while it hasn't deterred me from cycling, it has stopped me cycling on the A82 itself. However, some of my planned travels between now and getting a new car will necessitate me to do so.
As I've never written about this route before, and despite the fact that my camera remained unused in my bag the entire day, I shall describe some of the highlights!
Ballachulish - GlenachulishHeading west from the village, there is a pavement for the first half mile up to St John's Church. Along the way, we pass Lochside Cottages on the right, where the partly-demolished arch of the old railway line is still visible. As we continue, the road and railway used to run parallel along here, with the road in the trees to the left. parts of the surface and kerb can be found by digging in the grass with your foot! At the church, the course of the old road is very clear as it now forms the car park for this pretty little building with a stunning view across Loch Leven. The big downside is that with the mountains rearing up behind, there is very little sunlight reaching the place in the winter months.
Beyond the church, the forestry road climbs up the hill on it's own way to Glenachulish, but it is a much longer route, and the grass verges are plenty wide enough to walk along. Past explorations in the trees and undergrowth on the loch-side of the road have revealed the old railway line running as a ledge just a little above the high-tide line. As the modern road continues west, vast cliffs have been cut to provide a level route, and the old road can be seen (complete with tarmac and white lines at one point) in the undergrowth to the north.
After crossing the old railway line (the bridge is long gone), we reach the roundabout. The road up to the bridge starts off on the old trackbed, but after a couple of hundred metres or so, the railway line diverges to the left on it's way south to Oban. This is now the start of the cycle track to Kentallen - eventually intended to link Glencoe to Oban! A short climb brings us to the derelict platform of the old Ballachulish Ferry Station, which was a good ten minutes walk from the ferry slip.
After a brief stop for some lunch (I had left rather late!), the cycle track follows the old railway line as far as the old road overbridge just before the river through the glen. The timber Railway bridge was evidently destroyed many years ago, so we now have to follow the road up to the forestry car park and then back down to the railway line.
Glenachulish - KentallenThe road up Glenachulish formerly crossed the railway at a bridge, the abutments of which are still in evidence. However, after the railway closed the road was re-aligned, removing the bridge and seeing the railway's cutting filled in. It is down this infill slope that the cycle track now goes, regaining the bottom of the cutting quite quickly! We continue westwards, passing behind West Pier House, where steamers once called, before passing under the A828 Oban Road and picking up the shore. This is the best bit of the route, running alternately through shallow cuttings and along open stretches with expansive views across Loch Linnhe and the mouth of Loch Leven. The road and properties of Lettermore are largely forgotten as out attention is constantly drawn to the water and the views.
Eventually, however, like all good things it must end and we find ourselves approaching Kentallen. There are a couple of points in this last mile where the railway line was buily on an embankment, virtually on the rocky beach. Forty years of storms have not been kind, and the old line is gone, but as the road has also been realigned further inland, it is the old road line that now forms the cycle track. The final pull into Kentallen is towards the Holly Tree Hotel, converted from the old station, and as a result the cycle track climbs up to the village pavement to terminate for now. Rumours that the next section to Duror were to be built this winter so far seem unfounded, but maybe work will get under way after Christmas!