That ‘end of the road’ feeling is weird. With me, there’s normally a mix of anticipation, relief and a slight whiff of an anticlimax. You look forward to wondering what you’ll find, you certainly look forward to the journey ending and expectations are often dashed when you get there and think: “Oh … okay … is that it ?”.
This was precisely how I felt when I achieved number 13 in my list of 2014 ‘challenges’. However, the delight wasn’t in the destination but in the journey. So while Ardnamurchan Point is nothing particular to write home about (save some good views and a tall lighthouse), Ardnamurchan itself is one of Scotland’s hidden gems and never fails to disappoint. (Or at least on the grand total of two visits I have paid there now it has exceeded my expectations both times on all counts).
This particular visit was part of a long weekend’s trip I took in September, climbing the Rois-Bheinn Horseshoe overlooking the Small Isles, camping out overnight on an island as part of a kayaking trip and having a day’s instruction in sea kayaking. This was a driving day and a chance to dry out and give my joints and muscles a rest.
Coming down from the north from Moidart I took the A861 past Acharacle to Salen then turned off on to the B8007 westwards.
The B8007. The name itself gives a bit of a clue, suggesting a minor road a little off the beaten track. It sure is lovely scenery in this part of the world and the road gives you plenty of time to enjoy it – at least if you’re a passenger. If you’re a driver it’s a somewhat different matter since you’re concentrating with all your might on the bends and twists on this single track road, one hand permanently on the gear stick alternating between second and third gear. And if you’re lucky you might sometimes change up into fourth for a welcome relief from the engine noise.
I’m (only half) joking, of course. It’s a lovely drive and the views to Loch Sunart are beautiful. However, by the time I reached Kilchoan another 25 miles on I was ready for a strong coffee and the chance to wipe my sweaty palms dry again. I turned off north on the even more minor road up to Sanna Bay.
Although the sun was still to make an appearance, Sanna Bay was stunning. From a small car park you can wander through the dunes to the wide sweep of the white sand beach, which on a sunnier day would give lovely views of turquoise coloured seas. I pitched my tent to dry it out, had lunch in the van and took a stroll along the beach.
It was about another five miles to drive back to Kilchoan and then west as far as the road would go to Ardnamurchan Point. The road twists and turns, gradually inducing that ‘end of the road’ feel, until you reach the single track access to the lighthouse itself. Not only is this the westernmost part of mainland Britain but it also has the most westerly set of traffic lights, avoiding the awkwardness of having to reverse along a narrow, rocky headland in case of meeting another vehicle along the final 300 metres of road.
The lighthouse is rather impressive, built in 1846 and standing an imposing 36 metres above the headland. Not surprisingly the views are rather impressive too, north to the islands of Muck, Eigg and Rum, west to Coll and Tiree and south to Mull. On a clear day I’m sure you’d also see views towards Barra and the Uists in the Western Isles.
The place was pretty busy with people soaking up the views. Some eager wildlife watchers were huddled under thick coats with their telescopes trained on the sea out to the west – whale-watching I presumed. A few milled around the visitor centre and shop but I couldn’t see anyone taking the lighthouse tour. It just felt a little bit of an anticlimax to me and I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to look around the lighthouse either, so after a few snaps I decided to strap myself back into my driving seat and take on the challenge that is the B8007. For not only did I need to retrace my route back to Salen but then had to rejoin the A861 to drive the whole 48.7 miles all the way to the Corran Ferry. Not that I was counting of course.
In truth, there were some great views on the way back. I caught glimpses of Eigg and Rum past heathery landscapes, bringing back memories of my fantastic trip to climb the Rum Cuillin back in May. Ben Hiant too provided a spectacular sight, crowned with its rocky outcrops. If I’d had more time I would have liked to have quickly scampered up to take in the views (no doubt similar to the amazing views I’d had on my climb up Ben Resipol last year).
I stopped off a few times on the road back to the Corran Ferry. Gradually, nearing the ferry back over towards my final destination that day in Kinlochleven, the ‘end of the road’ feel began to recede. Out on its promontory, jutting way out to the west, Ardnamurchan maintains its special character with its fabulous woods, seascapes and landscapes. People and traffic are few and far between and it feels relaxed and unhurried.
Just as well really, since on the B8007 nothing goes very fast at all.
While my 14 for 2014 is a series of personal challenges I’m using it to help raise funds for the Naomi House Children’s Hospice in Hampshire. Naomi House cared for the young daughter of a friend and ex-work colleague who died of an incurable brain tumour in January 2014. Please read this moving article about four year old Chiara and view the link to her fund raising site .
Naomi House clearly made a real difference to the last few months of Chiara’s life, and that of her family, and so this is why I want to use my 14 for 2014 to raise awareness and additional funds for the great work that they do. If you have enjoyed reading my blog and feel inspired in any way please consider giving a donation to this extremely worthwhile charity.