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Walks round the corran


Walk auld Ardgour

From the ferry slipway turn north-east along the lochside. Take a look at The Inn first. It may look fairly symmetrical now but hides at least five building periods from c1750 to 1998. The ground floor at the right hand end having been converted as a private flat for a former Secretary of State for Scotland in the 1960's who loved Ardgour so much and returned so frequently he needed more than a hotel room. The modern pier was built in 1986 and replaces an old stone pier used by the steamer plying between Oban and Fort William. The Lighthouse and Church are both later on your route. The first house is known as Old Ferry Cottage (c1800) because of its ownership by the ferry proprietor prior to the take-over of the ferry by Highland Region in 1975. In the early part of the century, however, it served as the local police station. Further along the road the house with the outside stair now serves as the ferry manager's house. As you enjoy the magnificent panorama up Loch Linnhe imagine a galley slipping quietly through the waters heading for Iona under a black sail. The buildings you can see at the far end of the loch are Corpach (place of the bodies) a resting place on the funeral route of ancient Scottish Kings. The loch has played its part in Scottish history down the centuries for in the 17th century Argyll used the loch to escape from the great Montrose. Around a century later the Hanoverian troopers of "German Geordie" came by water from the new garrison below Inverlochy to harry the Jacobite clansmen on both shores of the loch. More recently the waters were used as safe anchorage for the British fleet during the Second World War. The loch can also offer some wildlife surprises. Watch for the resident grey heron, which takes over the slipway when the ferry retires to its mooring. Look again at that flotsam for it could be the head of a seal and around dusk watch for the sea otters. Even the gulls are worth a look as there are several varieties. Look up and slightly to your left rises Sgurr Nah Eanchainne (Ben Na Kiel or Chapel Hill) at 2397 feet just three short of the magic number that would make it a Munro! A serious scramble for the fit and ambitious but certainly not a Sunday stroll. Down the front falls the waterfall Maclean's Towel, so called because of its appearance. The legend tells us the Macleans will leave Ardgour should it ever run dry. Walk on past the double fronted Victorian villa, Ardgour's school in Victorian times and look out for the old smithy, probably 18th century and the old Post Office to Ardgour Church. This was built by Thomas Telford in 1829, one of forty-two in the Highlands which were part of a Parliamentary Project for The Church of Scotland. Colonel Alexander Maclean, thirteenth laird of Ardgour, gifted the site and the church is still the centre of local worship. This bay is called Camus Na h' Aiseag (Bay of the ferry) Take a look at the shore here for the original Ardgour Jetty. Just beyond the church turn left through the gate, marked private into the Ardgour Estate, East Drive. Please remember this is a working estate, which relies in part on sheep and deer for part of its income. Your co-operation in staying on the drive and keeping dogs on the lead will be much appreciated. The drive is heavily wooded along its whole length with a mixture of cultivated firs and native deciduous trees. Among them the rhododendron try hard to choke out native plants. Introduced during the eighteenth century as an essential part of the country estate they thrived in the mild climate of the West Coast but are now considered by conservationists to be a weed although in the early summer a very colourful one! On your left lies one of a group of lochans (small lochs) which were formed during the last ice age. Your walk takes you round what is in effect a raised beach created by the receding glaciers dumping millions of tons of sand, gravel and small rocks where The Great Glen narrows. The larger boulders helped form the lochans, which are known as, kettle-holes. (See sketch). This one is called "Lochan Nan Eaglais" or "The Church Loch. The one beyond the next lane is "Ardvullin Loch" after the house which lies nearby" or, very recently, "The School Loch" for obvious reasons or long ago, "Lochan Eoin Mhic Alastair" probably after the son (Ian) of a Maclean laird (Alistair). Note how the water level on these lochs can be below that on Loch Linnhe for there is no direct connection. Linnhe is salt water and these are fresh. Look over the School Loch for an excellent view of the raised beach with Loch Linnhe in the background. Here also you can see trees damaged both by the prevailing South West wind which usually blows up the loch and by the occasional fierce North-easterly gales. The lane between the lochans is private and leads to Ardvullin House, once part of the estate but now in private hands. Continue along the main drive and past a second lane on your right.

This leads to the former Maclean residence, Ardgour House. Once again this is private and the main house is no longer part of the estate. Follow the drive over the old stone bridge noting the water meadow on your right to where it joins the tarmaccadamed Main Drive to Ardgour House. Turn left and pass through the front gates into the Crofting Township of Clovullin. The village store and post-office lies in front of you and on your left a welcome bench dedicated to the memory of Major Gregory Smith a friend of the Maclean family. The village name means "the burial place by the mill" .The mill and the burial ground lay toward the junction of your route with the new bypass but are no longer visible. Just beyond the entrance to the stores lies Ardgour Memorial Hall. The plaque on the North-facing gable is to Alexander John Maclean, sixteenth Laird who died in 1930 and the second plaque on the extension over the burn is in memory of Muriel, his widow. Catriona, his daughter and the seventeenth laird is remembered on a plaque within the hall, erected when it was renovated in 1989. Further along on your right lie two unpretentious buildings, the former school and the present telephone exchange. The former may have been built in 1840; another of the public works of the thirteenth laird but it was the first experience of education for many generations of Ardgour children until 1994. The latter building is one of the last analogue telephone exchanges in Britain. No on-line telephone services here, indeed only eight lines connect Ardgour with the trunk network! The road out of Clovullin used to be the trunk road between Fort William and Strontian but the village is now by-passed and the few cars will most likely contain local people. Remember to wave, everyone does here and enjoy the acknowledgement of your presence so foreign to visitors from more "civilised" locales. On your right along this road are a number of the croft-houses built in the 1840's by Alexander the thirteenth laird. He moved his tenants from remote Glen Gour, higher and with poorer soil than here, to benefit from the flatter and more fertile ground at Clovullin. Not so much Highland Clearance as Relocation and with it the benefit of fishing in the estuary. A right exercised to this day. When you reach the end of the loop road turn left and cross over. This is the new (1960's) trunk road which will take us the last few hundred yards back to our starting point and traffic can be heavy (by Ardgour standards) when the ferry docks. On your left lies first, the drive to Ardvullin House and then Magazine Cottage (now a modern bungalow), so named because this was the site of a First World War gun battery. Beyond it set high on the point a memorial to Ardgour men lost in the two World Wars. On your right lies the, Corran (sickle-shaped, like the shoreline at this point) Light and Lighthouse, the first navigation aid for Telford's Caledonian Canal. The lighthouse originally had two live in keepers. More recently it lay empty and was tended by someone living nearby. Finally, in 1970 it was made automatic and is now controlled by landline from Edinburgh but almost two centuries after the great man completed his work, it's red warning of the Corran Narrows is still flashed to navigators every four seconds. The surrounding buildings are now private flats and the brick workshop, originally used by the ferry is still in industrial use by the fish farm in Ardgour Bay. In front of you as you round this final bend lies the cottage building which housed the ferryman (or men) for there were two cottages here. This is not the original, which would have been a Highland " Black House". Hanoverian Troopers burned that down in 1746. This is the replacement "white-house". built, with its twin on the opposite shore, shortly afterwards by another Maclean laird. Curiously that building is now also at the heart of a Highland Inn. Both still serving the needs of travellers using the centuries old Corran Narrows crossing. Back to the start and the modern ferry slipway. There are now two ferries, which between them carry both passengers (free) and nearly a quarter of a million vehicles each year. If you travel down to Lochaline you can see one of the six car turntable ferries abandoned on the shores of Loch Sunart. Ask at The Inn and they will show you a photograph of the first car ferry, built for two cars by the Macintosh family who still own the hotel on the opposite shore and once ran the ferry. Earlier still the ferry was a rowing boat used by drovers swimming their cattle across the narrows as they travelled from the islands, south to Lowland markets. Before there was even a rowing boat these same drovers would have swum their cattle over the loch hanging from the shaggy coat of one. For this is one of the oldest trade routes in the Highlands, the original ROAD TO THE ISLES and still today the undisputed gateway to Ardnamurchan and the Inner Hebrides.


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