1. POINT FERRY
Start at Point ferry and, opposite the phone box, follow a sheep path beside Point House round the top of the island. This part of the walk is quite a scramble in places. If you prefer walking to scrambling, an alternative route to Port Ramsay is below.
This route is grazed by sheep, lambs and cattle, and, because sheep and lambs have nowhere to go on what is often a narrow shelf, it is not a recommended walk during lambing.
2. RAISED BEACH WEST
At the beginning of the west side, a stile is cosmetic, as the fence is down. You are now heading south towards Port Ramsay. The cliffs are always interesting. Look out for a deep cave which may be difficult to spot in vegetation and may also be flooded. Mysteriously, someone has built a wall of stones outside it.
Further on, a second stile is redundant as the fence is down. The grazing widens out round a shingle beach, Port Ainean. Ahead, a dramatic cliff has a cave-like indent where sheep shelter.
Then it’s a clamber up, and then under a barbed wire fence in a fallen-down wall which leads to another stretch of wide grazing. An island, Eilean Droineach, is opposite, and there are views down to Laggan.
Ahead is the hole in the rock, a very typical limestone feature, which invites you to walk through onto another stretch of grazing.
3. PARK LIME KILNS
When you reach the actual beach you can climb down and walk towards the Park limekilns and the gate onto the road to Port Ramsay. Lime burning was carried out at Park until the outbreak of the First World War. Of the two kilns, the northern one is older and thought to be of poorer quality.
Take the gate into Port Ramsay, pass a new house, and continue in front of the terrace of cottages.
4. PORT RAMSAY
Port Ramsay has the best anchorage on the island. Several islands lie off the mainland, the two largest being Eilean Droineach and Eilean Ramasa (Ramsay Island). Although it is often referred to as a fishing village, and indeed most people fished, it was planned as a port to serve the newly established lime kilns. Before the 19th century there was no settlement, although there were dwellings which can still be seen in front of the terrace of ‘new’ houses.
At the end of the cottages turn left past the phone box—the only one that still has a telephone, and, almost immediately, turn right to join a rough road to Laggan.
From here to the end of this road is about a kilometre. A little bit further on, you pass three broken-down caravans on your right, and later cross a cattle grid beside a dark house, and another after the nearby white house. Follow the road round through Laggan, passing several houses, and arrive at a gate with a caravan beside it. Once through, ignore the track which passes beneath a cabin, and go straight ahead on a grassy path, with a fence on your left and a low cliff on your right. Muddy in places.
Follow the tractor path as it rises gently, flattens out and then descends to the gate into Creagan Breac straight ahead. On your right you can see Loch Linnhe, the hills of Morvern, and you are level with Glensanda Quarry.
6. CREAGAN BREAC AND THE TRIANGULATION PILLAR
Through the gate, follow the sheep path up an incline. Near the top, it widens into a sort of vehicular track. Ignore a sheep path going to the left and continue on this gentle incline. Ignore also the quad bike track which goes off to the right and becomes steep near the top. Keep on this slowly rising track and, where the path splits, keep rising to the right.
You soon pass a large ruined dwelling on your right. This is interesting and mysterious, as the middle section has no way in or out and has clearly been blocked with stone. Another ruin with a large walled garden is almost immediately on your left. Creagan Breac is a quiet place now, not visited a lot, but the remains of dwellings still hold the echoes of lost souls and voices and the spirits of those who placed these stones so carefully and skilfully. Sheep now own the dwellings and certainly enjoy the shelter.
Almost immediately, turn off the path to the right and walk straight up. A sheep path will take you to a broken-down wall. Over the wall, continue climbing by the easiest route. You descend briefly and then ascend immediately into quite a steep, short climb from where you soon see the triangulation pillar ahead.
This north triangulation pillar (Lismore NM 86588 44649) is one of two on Lismore (the other on the Bàrr Mòr). It is concrete and not natural stone, as they can be, and I presume it has been there since some time after the retriangulation of Britain began in 1936.
The view sweeps the surrounding hills which encircle Lismore and give it a setting which is wonderful in every season, and is greatly responsible for the island’s extreme beauty. Few places offer a vista only of fields. This point is not high compared to that on the Bàrr Mòr but, on this low-lying island, it is accessible to many. To the south lies Castle Coeffin, Mull and the island of Bernera. You are opposite Glensanda Quarry and Loch Linnhe, and in the near north is Alasra and below the fish farm in Port na Moralachd (Port na Mòr-Laoch).
From here continue south, straight ahead and, after you have passed through a gap in a vegetation-covered wall, you will see a gate in the corner of the field above the trees.
7. BALIMACKILLICHAN CROFT AND BACHUIL
Once through the gate, you are in Balimackillichan Croft. Continue walking straight, parallel with the fence. Avoid the obvious tractor track off to the left. That way you are doomed. Straight ahead becomes a sort of track as it bears left on a gentle incline. Very easy walking at this point and you come to a strange, jagged, broken wall like a row of rotten teeth. Step over this and head for the gate up to your left.
Walk parallel, with a fence on your right. Ahead is a large shed, the home of Mogwaii. Behind it is a bus which arrived on Lismore as a home. It has moved about, being home to various people in the last 30 years. Sarah Campbell has been running Mogwaii, her textile business, since 2003 and has done so on Lismore since arriving to settle with her family in 2006. She is enterprising and extremely talented, and also runs Lismore Voices, an excellent choir.
Go through a gate on your right, continue ahead through another gate, and meet Sarah’s tame and friendly fowl. Continue a short distance to a third gate. Ahead is Balimackillichan croft house and the road to Clachan, but you turn sharp left towards the gate into Bachuil and follow the track up.
Go through a wooden gate and go straight ahead with a fence and Bachuil House and drive on your right. Stay in the field. You are heading for the main road via a gate in the corner, and with Hawthorn House on your left.
Over to your left you will see Cnoc Aingeal (Fire Hill), a Bronze Age burial cairn. Fourteen such cairns survive on the island, most in the southwest. Cnoc Aingeal is about three miles from the north end, is relatively untouched, and is thought to be the largest in Lorn—if not Argyll. The rest have been robbed of their stones over the centuries.
Turn left on the main road and begin walking north. Ben Nevis is ahead covered in snow on this occasion.
8. BALIGARVE AND ACHUARAN
You soon pass Baligarve farmhouse on the left and, down an incline, the old Baligarve schoolhouse. The next house on the right is the home of Lismore Luminations. An honesty cabinet is at the gate and you can visit by appointment. After the next bungalow on the left, you will see the sign for St Moluag’s Chair, where he was reputed to have rested.
A road to your right goes off to Balure and the Broch.
Further on, we are in Achuaran, where Archie MacGillivray has been farming, man and boy. On the left is the well-built house, now ruined, which Archie tells me was here when his family arrived from Mull at the end of the 19th century. It is not a ruin but, intriguingly, a house which was never finished or occupied, although I once saw the bull snoozing in it. Other theories about its origin exist.
Next door is the independent chapel at Cachiladrishaig, now a farm building. It dates from 1844 and the time of evangelical renewal in Scotland, and was built by volunteer dissenters led by John MacDougall, a weaver in Balimakillichan who established a meeting of Congregationalists. A cotter, John MacDougall, born in 1803 in Balimakillichan, was said to have started a Sabbath School for island children.
From here it is downhill to Stronacraoibh, where the road to Port Ramsay goes off to your left.
9. TO THE POINT FERRY
Just after Stronacraoibh farmhouse there’s a cave up to your left. The cliffs, while sometimes bare, are mainly covered in vegetation, with huge boulders resting below them. One of these, near the turn in the road, was always said to be haunted and you passed at night at your own risk.
A tractor track goes off to the left and verges get more wooded as we approach Achuaran House with its gardener’s cottage, now boarded up and reroofed, but at one stage in danger of death by fuchsia, despite being a well-built cottage. The ubiquitous fuchsia easily gets out of control.
Beyond the house and garden is a wood—all enclosed by a wall—which is mainly beech trees. Further on, the trees are often hazel, with self-seeded ash, some of which are succumbing to dieback here, as they are all over the island. In season, the woods here are full of garlic and bluebells, and the shore, should you choose to explore it, with thrift.
As you approach a group of four houses, the verges become overgrown, mainly with blackthorn and bracken which reduced grazing has allowed to thrive between here and the ferry. It was almost completely absent when I arrived 30 years ago.
The second cottage on the left, Point Cottage, is new, but the previous one, Dollie’s Cottage (Taigh a’ Bhealaich), was a Lismore landmark. It was an honorary ferry waiting room (long before there was one) where the kettle was always on. It was a sad day when she and the cottage had to go. It belonged to the absentee Fells at Achuaran House, and they failed to put up the money to modernise it—a small sum, as there was a generous grant. Dollie Carmichael and her mother lived there for much of the last century, when theirs was the only house apart from a hut next door which is now Mo Dhachaidh.
The road to the ferry is lined with self-seeded ash trees and is grazed by sheep and lambs.
From the Point Ferry at the north end, take the main road south. After 330 metres, turn right onto a track and go through a gate and straight on. When you reach the top you are looking down at Morvern and the Glensanda Quarry in the far distance, but in the near distance, you can see a drystone wall. Aim for the break in this wall and, once through, climb up a rise, veering left, to reach a tractor path and a break in a lower wall. Straight on here.
Soon Glensanda is visible to the right in the far distance, Alasra in the middle distance and the houses at Laggan beyond. Continue ahead and slightly right. In the near distance are a fank and a rough cliff, a quarry for the lime works. Head for the fank and turn right onto the road, passing the two Park limekilns on your right just before a gate near the sea.
Turn left and walk in front of a new house, and then on past the Port Ramsay cottages. When you reach the end, turn sharp left beside the phone box, and take the first right onto a rough road to Laggan.