Reproduced from www.viewranger.com. Map data: Ordnance Survey ©Crown Copyright and/or database right 2016. License number 100043379.
|From Oban YH, follow Esplanade SW to join A85 at NM 858 3013 Continue SSW and take A816S at NM 859 298. Leave A816 at NM 860 296 taking SE Road. Continue in a NE direction, until you merge with railway line at NM 879 308. Keep Railway to right as handrail until NM 900 329 and continue on route N to meet A85 at NM 903 339,. Follow A85 NE to cross Connel Bridge and leave A85 on an E direction at NM 910 348. Follow Easterly route on N bank with Loch Etive Loch as handrail through Black Crofts Ardchattan and Bonawe, to camp near banks of Loch Etive at Rubh Aird Phlacaig NN 043 358.|
|OS Landranger series maps: 49, 50|
|Length: 28.01 km|
|Total Ascent: 501m|
|Total Descent: 484m|
|Max Elevation: 114m|
|Min Elevation: 0m|
I selected Oban as a start point because I know it. In fact, I know about the first 200km of my route. But Oban, 3 hours by train (or bus) from Glasgow, and the wonderful McCaig’s Folly up on the hill, and the array of styles of buildings around the harbour is the perfect start for me. I joined Hostelling Scotland so that I could stay in a fantastic scots baronial lodge, and it’s right on the seafront. This morning I will have enjoyed the most wonderful breakfast at Oban Youth Hostel. Youth I hear you say? Scottish Youth Hostels Association/SYHA/Hostelling Scotland is for all.
Corran Esplanade, Oban, Argyll PA34 5AF Get Directions
Photo Credit: Visit Scotland
I will head initially south out of town and follow the railway north easterly towards the Connell Bridge. This takes me to an area of Scotland called the Benderloch. Benderloch itself is a village a little further north in the coastal parish of Ardchattan, the name being derived from Beinn eadar dà loch, meaning “the mountain between two lochs”, namely Loch Creran and Loch Etive, the latter of which I will follow for several miles today. The Benderloch is the birth place of my father’s grandmother – Elizabeth Aitken Annan, born 1898 and lived with her grandparents in their croft at Keil, just outside Benderloch. Her Grandfather was the postman for the area for thirty years before his death. It would be nice to think that I am stepping where they once stood, although I won’t visit the specific area this visit.
The Connel bridge is a cantilever bridge originally built in 1903 by the Callandar and Oban Railway (C&OR) to accommodate the Oban railway branch line to Ballachulish and was the largest single-span steel bridge in Britain, second only to the Forth Road Bridge in length of its main span. To compete with other transport options in the area, including on off discussions with Argyll County Council about the development of a pedestrian footpath on the edge of the bridge, the C&OR developed a charabanc for vehicular crossings, provided occupant remained in their vehicles. They defied recommendations to create a roadway on the bridge, but quickly reversed their policy in 1913 when McAlpine Downie applied for a chain ferry crossing. As the road network improved, the use of the railway declined through the C&OR’s determination to retain control on the bridge, even being so difficult as to allow shepherds to use it, but limiting sheep flock crossings to one sheep at a time. By the 1930’s the only users on the railway were mostly school children. The line closed in 1966, and the bridge was handed over to the Argyll County Council who re-tasked it with carrying solely vehicular and pedestrian traffic in the form of the A85. I am in awe that my great grandmother will have watched this being built as a little girl!
I cross the bridge and turn East on the North bank of Loch Etive, and pick up one of my first Heritage Paths.
It exists as an identifiable route on the Ordnance survey maps from the mid 1800’s and would have served as a main route westwards for many crofts sited solely along the north bank of Loch Etive. The lack of path on the south bank of the loch is because it is predominantly in shadow, and more or less uninhabited. I will follow this route, following it on and off road through Black Crofts, Ardchattan Priory, Bonawe, and onwards to a suitable spot for the night near the lochside at Rubh Aird Phlacaig, my designated spot for the night.
From my camp spot, due south is Ben Cruachan, and it is this I will watch as the sun goes down. It is one of the finest Munros in the Highlands with good walks and amazing views from its 1126m summit. It is also the home to Ben Cruachan Power Station constructed between 1959 and 1965, home to a pumped-storage hydroelectric power station deep in the heart of the mountain, generating 440mW at peak times on the National Grid. It’s worth a visit.
See you tomorrow.