• Paul Swannell

Spring Arrives at Kinloch Hourn

Updated: Apr 19, 2021

April 2021

Inchlaggan lies on Britain’s longest dead-end road; 22miles of single track road which ends at the coast in the tiny settlement of Kinloch Hourn, some 17miles beyond our home. Last Sunday we took a packed lunch and timed our arrival for low tide, with the hope of gathering mussels on the shore of Loch Hourn. As the road travels west from Inchlaggan a remarkable wilderness soon opens up, especially as Loch Quoich is reached, flanked by the snow-capped Munros of Gairich and Gleouriach on either side. In fact, beyond the hamlet of Kingie there is not a single house for 12miles and the numerous red deer far outnumber any motorists or walkers you might see en-route. The last few miles of the road twist and turn steeply downhill, following the Loch Hourn river until it meets the sea. Kinloch Hourn has a holiday cottage, a tearoom and B&B ( undergoing renovation , and a large country house set amongst specimen trees on the other side of the river. Where the road ends, a well-known footpath follows the southern shore of the loch for 7 miles to Barrisdale Bay and the wilderness of Knoydart. Last year we walked part of this route, fighting through overgrown rhododendron, so on this visit we were looking for something different.

Whilst Bianca went off to explore the northern shore, Amber and I walked down to the extensive flat ‘beach’ in search of mussels. At low tide a huge expanse of seaweed-strewn seabed is exposed, with the Loch Hourn river flowing through the middle. We had no luck finding any mussels, and instead an intact but very dead stag - complete with 10-point antlers - was the main point of interest!

Soon a tremendous hail storm began, and we spotted Bianca on the northern shore and made our way across to meet her. She had found an excellent footpath following the line of the coast, heading west, so we decided to follow it. The best approach to this path is first to walk across the bridge, which crosses the Loch Hourn river just before you arrive in Kinloch Hourn. Signposts point to Scottish Rights of Way paths heading to Glenelg and Corran on the west coast. A track leads from here across to the large house mentioned above; at its gates an obvious path follows the fence westward, rising gently above the shoreline. The path soon reaches an impressive stand of scots pine on a promontory above the loch, and then heads through mixed woodland, all the time gaining height.

The bright yellow gorse flowers were in bloom and primroses dotted the edges of the path. In fact the larch trees, still completely bare back at Inchlaggan, were covered in bundles of new bright green needles. The path is very well constructed and makes for an easy walk. We passed a couple of stone benches, and flagstones have been laid across a number of burns that flow down the hillside. The only challenging part came when we arrived at a larger burn where a recent landslide has taken out the footpath - crossing here wasn’t too difficult though and we soon rejoined the path on the other side.

Within a few hundred metres some stone steps head up to the right and an impressive view of Loch Hourn opens up to the west. Whilst we stopped to take photos, Bianca carried on and soon called out “there’s a bench up here”. The path ends here at a point high above the sea, complete with a very comfortable stone bench, and the most amazing view along Loch Hourn, with Ladhar Bheinn - Scotland’s most westerly Munro - clearly visible in the distance, and still very much blanketed in snow. Loch Hourn is very narrow at this point and the rising tide was clearly visible below, with a river of seawater flowing inland to the east.

Below us we could see a pebble beach, so we took the very rough path that continues west from the viewpoint, which brought us back down to sea level. Amber enjoyed playing in the clear shallow water, now rising amongst the seaweed, but I could see clouds coming in from the west. Soon a heavy snow shower was upon us, so we quickly headed back up to the viewpoint (where Amber had left her coat!), and then followed the path back to Kinloch Hourn. By the time we got back to the big house the sun was shining brightly again, and we made our way back to the car to head home. The footpath I have described here is not much more than a mile in each direction, but certainly made for a memorable afternoon and very child friendly. We’ll certainly be back again when we have visitors, and if the sun shines we’ll spend more time at the viewpoint with a picnic.

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