1. Achnacroish to Newfield
From the ferry, pass the welcome phone box and what was for many years a post office—now a private house, and take the first turning on the left onto Newfield Terrace. After four semi-detached private houses (originally council houses) cross a cattle grid, pass a ruin on the right, and go over a bridge across a gushing water supply with a caravan beside it. A road rises to the right, but you cross the field diagonally, heading for the gate near the sea leading to the raised beach.
From here you see a nine-cage fish farm ahead and behind that the offshore islets of Eilean na Cloich and Eilean Dubh, two of the Creag islands in the Lynn of Lorn. Walking is not difficult but can be damp, rocky and uneven. However, there is a sort of sheep path after the gate—which is odd, as no sheep graze here. The path meanders up and down and eventually leads up to a cliff and a cave. This can be visited but is a detour and you need to stay near the sea on a less discernible path as you approach the start of the fish farm. Continue through the vegetation, aiming for a fence where it becomes a wall.
2. Baligrundle 1
Once over the fence/wall (not difficult) you are in Baligrundle One. Keep left, nearer the sea, and go straight along through vegetation. You soon reach striated limestone and, at one point need to walk along a ledge which looks perilous but is totally doable. A bit further on, you need to climb well clear of a very deep hole leading straight down to the water. More vegetation will disguise this. Care needed. The terrain is very up and down, and eventually you come to an inlet. Walk above this, where the crofter has very thoughtfully cut down a lot of blackthorn making this path viable.
Cross a fast-flowing stream at the top of the inlet—this is a popular otter run—and climb, or clamber, up and walk beside a wall, through some dead nettles and round the headland. Continue ploughing your way, relatively easily, through vegetation.
You are soon at the end of the fish farm cages and approaching a shingle beach. Walk up above it. There is still blackthorn to be wary of and quite thick vegetation you will push through—it’s not far—to a large wall and next to that a fence you can easily climb/step over.
3. Baligrundle 2 and 3
You are now in Baligrundle 2 and a sign on the cliff tells you it is 555 metres. The substantial wall between the two Baligrundles is impressive and suddenly the raised beach looks more like a park or a field with the worst of the terrain behind you. Because cattle graze here hoof ruts occur but the walking is easy. Amazing cliffs have large erratics beneath them. Step over a low jagged wall and beyond that just before the gate into Baligrundle 3, there is a large cave deep in the cliff. Many boulders litter the terrain.
Cross into Baligrundle 3 through an attractive small gate. Here it is well grazed, with high cliffs. A wall with a convenient gap has a wet approach, and nearby a large band of quartz has emerged from the limestone. At the bottom of a cliff is an opening known as Granny Black’s Henhouse. It is roomy inside and has been partially closed with stones. A road up the hill directs you to a cairn, an optional view.
Not long after this is what looks like another cave, but it is in fact an overhang, a wonderful animal shelter stretching up the hill. Inside it is cave-like and lovely.
You are soon at the double gate into Baligrundle 4.
4. Baligrundle 4
The group of islands familiarly known as the Creags are now directly to your left. The going is reasonably easy, as four plump sheep keep the paths in good order. A gated road on your right leads to the rest of this croft, and you soon pass an abandoned dumper truck which has been here for some years and is a star exhibit in Lismore’s outdoor museum. Very soon you reach a fence with a gate, and almost immediately a very small gate in a lovely wall leads into Kilcheran, where the cliffs are dramatic and there are many sheep paths. The raised beach soon opens out to a large flat expanse between the cliffs and the sea.
5. Kilcheran to Craignich
After a time you see the Kilcheran houses ahead. Follow the tractor path round beneath the cliffs, and with the mill race and wall on your left. Next to the gate to the main road, a ruin may have been a house or a store for the lime kiln down by the shore. Again, turn right onto the main road, heading north past the remains of an old meal mill on the left, and walking beside its full burn. On the other side of the burn is a fine-looking wall, and a lovely erratic is lodged in its bank. Soon you are beside Loch Kilcheran, looking through the rushes across at Frackersaig and up to Craignich Number 9.
After two modern cottages on the right are two pretty, much older cottages on the left. After the last house on the left you begin to climb gently at first, with mainly hazel woods on both sides of the road. At the top of the steepest hill you can look back at Loch Kilcheran and over to Mull, and on your left, in Baligrundle 2, at two large wind turbines. Beyond the Craignich crofts are the sun-dappled (on a good day) hills of Morven.
After what was Baligrundle school, now a private house, and the UP Church and Manse, also a private house, do not turn left for the road to Achinduin, but continue on the main road to the Crossroads and the sign for the Achnacroish ferry.
6. Crossroads to Achnacroish
Turn right here through Tirlaggan, passing barns on the right and a very white house on the left. As the panorama opens, the sea is framed by the hills of Argyll.
Pass a white house and two horses in the next field and see on the hill the remains of the World War II lookout.
Just before the school is its water supply, which is now two boreholes run by Scottish Water. Until recently it was part of the Achnacroish/Newfield water, a wartime supply designed for a few houses and the troops. (Water is the single biggest problem islanders will ever face, and we know precious little about it when we buy or rent our homes.)
This supply was set up in the late summer of 1940, when the Firth of Lorne was filled with ships—from Eilean Dubh (the Black Isle) to the lighthouse; it remained an anchorage for five years.
Donald Black’s book, Sgeul no Dhà às an Lios: A Tale or Two from Lismore, has a chapter entitled ‘Echoes of War in the Firth of Lorne and Lismore’. He describes his schoolboy experience of the ships arriving, the sudden bombing raid (there was just one), followed by the installation of anti-aircraft guns at Achnacroish, Baligrundle 1 and Baligrundle 4; and then watching them build housing for the gunners and establish this water supply at Newfield, still in use today, but now struggling to serve a greatly expanded Achnacroish.
After the school and Lorn View, where council-built houses—now almost all privately owned—were also added to the water supply, walk down towards the old Achnacroish pier and the newer slip, now in daily use by the MV Loch Striven car ferry from Oban.
The original deep-water pier, alas deteriorating fast, was built in 1880 and modernised in the mid-twentieth century; a waiting room, a livestock ramp and a goods shed were added.
It was used when the building materials for the Heritage Centre were being landed, with some drama, in June 2006. A momentous day.
The blog … except the Kyles and Western Isles has a detailed and interesting history of Lismore’s piers and the vessels that used them.
The service as we know it today started in the mid-1970s, when Lismore got one of the Island Class ferries. The story of the MV Eigg’s dedicated service is told on the Ships of CalMac website. All this is too interesting not to include but too long to retell. This is a walk after all!
Or it was.