|Kilcheran—The Lighthouse via the Ridge
The walk to Lismore Lighthouse along the limestone ridge is said to be one of the finest in Scotland. In strong March sunshine with great visibility, it certainly was.
To reach the start make your way on the main road south to Kilcheran, through the gate after the houses and along the road until you reach a large shed. If driving, park beyond the shed in a convenient place, as the road is used by very large farm vehicles.
The shed and the livestock you will meet belong to John Carmichael who farms Kilcheran and Fiart. Take the first turning to the right after the shed onto a rough track/road which is known as the road to Achanard, an abandoned township. It passes the head of Loch Fiart before winding uphill towards the ruins.
Not too far up this hill you cross a burn and reach a fork where you take the left-hand track and continue to climb. After you pass the remains of two houses the road curves round and you pass more abandoned dwellings on your left. The township is spread out below you as you look down to the Firth of Lorn and the group of islands known as the Creags’.
In the 1780s there were at least eight families, over 50 people, living here in Achanard; many of these were evicted in the first clearance. As conditions worsened, some moved to other parts of the island, while further clearances meant numbers dwindled so that, by 1861, the township was deserted. Not much more than 200 years ago this township would have been full of men, women and children producing oats for food and livestock feed, bere barley for whisky distilling, as well as grain to pay the rent. The story of Achanard is told fully on the Comann Eachdraidh website.
Continue climbing until you are on the ridge. From here you can see the Bàrr Mòr and Ben Nevis to the north. To the east, Loch Fiart is visible on your left with Benderloch behind. Mull with Duart Castle in the foreground is to the south, and in good weather, you can see down to Scarba and Jura. Soon the island of Bernera appears on your right, with Achinduin Castle nearby. Morvern is to the west, separated from Lismore by Loch Linnhe, with Glensanda quarry further north(west) on mainland Kingairloch.
Though known as a ridge walk, there is more than one limestone ridge: Druim Mòr, Garbh Dhruim and Druim nan Damh, the last being a deer ridge, although deer in Lismore are a relatively recent phenomenon, having initially swum from the mainland on visits until, in the last decade, they have decided to stay (like the Canada geese, they like it). Between the ridges, there is a pleasing amount of up- and down-walking.
Just before the wall between Kilcheran and Fiart is a cairn, or a collection of stones, placed by unknown hands. The wall itself is beautiful and the only one to negotiate. Those who owned and cleared the land probably had this built to contain the newly grazing Cheviot sheep, and it is thought they were built by Liosaich, whose skill at dyking is well known. However, others say Irish wallers were called in. This one runs down a considerable hill. It is important to take great care with walls and, where possible, to look for a gate. Not possible here. It is a challenge, although there is a wooden trellis and also stepping stones on both sides.
Below is the road to the lighthouse, and beyond that on the east coast is An Dùn, a very large Iron Age dwelling on the coast.
Eventually, you reach the wall between Fiart and Dalnarrow, another long and high one but with an easily negotiable broken-down section. The next wall, though extensive, has been heavily plundered for its stone. Not long afterwards is another sort of cairn or stone pile, and looking down to the shore Dùn Chrùban—the remains of an Iron Age fortified dwelling—is in a commanding position on the southeast coast. The inlet beneath it would have welcomed all kinds of boats over the centuries.
The cottages at Dalnarrow are visible, and you also get your first glimpse of the lighthouse and Lady’s Rock which disappears as you descend again.
From the last ridge, the lighthouse is permanently visible and, although this is a walk to the lighthouse, you will never reach it, as it sits on its own island: Eilean Musdile. It was built by Robert Stevenson in 1833. It’s always exciting to see the light for the first time and to watch it grow as you get nearer. Although at a very low tide it may look from a distance as though you may be able to cross, the Northern Lighthouse Board advise that the seaweed is usually floating and it would be very slippery. And the tides are fast-running.
Beyond Eilean Musdile is Lady’s Rock, a square pyramid of white-painted solid stone, where one of the chiefs of Clan Maclean, clearly an unpleasant one, is said to have stranded his wife, the daughter of the Earl of Argyll, leaving her to drown, as the rock is submerged at high tide. The story as told on Lismore is that she was rescued by the Campbells, who had their revenge. Of course.
You gradually descend from the ridge and finally quite steeply onto the raised beach. Here you turn left and begin to head north under the raised beach cliffs. Because the ground is boggy, it’s easier nearer the cliff. You pass a man-made structure tucked into the cliff and continue until you have a wall on your left and another running at right angles to the sea. Go straight ahead into the field and walk diagonally to the top right-hand side.
4. THE ROAD BACK
The road is possibly the easiest route back, but you can also return on the eastern raised beach, it being full of interest and described in another walk. The road though is also interesting and often deserted. You may encounter cattle and a bull, but these are usually easily avoided.
Here there is a gap in the fence and a tractor track leading to the road back used by cars, bikes and walkers. You will pass behind the Dalnarrow cottages where the Carmichael family used to stay during lambing but these days with better transport, John visits and the cottages have been sold. Before reaching the cottages, several abandoned farm implements lie, a common sight on the island, which doubles as an agricultural outdoor museum.
Before crossing back into Kilcheran, we pass an extruded dyke visible on the right-hand cliff, and all the way up the hill opposite. The gate out of Fiart has gone, although its last wooden remains are lying still. There is also what could be a quarry through the gate, and surely Lismore always had and has need of them, converting the limestone to roads, walls or houses. The wall between Fiart and Kilcheran is visible up the hill opposite.
Loch Fiart soon appears on the left, the land around very sheep-grazed and not framed by dwellings or trees, as other lochs are. This southern part of Lismore was never resettled after the Clearances. It is quite different even from more northerly Kilcheran, and certainly Baligrundle and Craignich. The look and the feel of the place is different.
Just before the last gate was one of the new mobile fank units opposite the caravan which is a bit more dilapidated at every visit. The turn-off to Miller’s Port and the river that fed the Mill are soon on your right, and so is John’s shed.