The long walk home
Trip Start Unknown
64Trip End Ongoing
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
There are only two buses a day on the northern route which meant whatever I did was going to be a long day. It left at eight am returned, and then made another run arriving back after 5 pm. I decided to take the bus as far as it would go, just to see what the country was like and then get let off so I could walk back to Tarbert - my goal, and use up some of the hours. I planned to continue on to Lagg, to use up some more time and I packed a book to read to while away the hours.
It was a bit different. I ended up doing an eight and a half hour day and walking 15 miles (over 24 kilometres) on the road plus a number of diversions which must have totalled another 3 or 4 k. I feel fine, although my feet were a bit uncomfortable over the last hour, and my legs tell me they may be quite stiff tomorrow
The bus driver was very helpful and took me a little beyond his usual turning point to see Ardlussa, the home of the new Fletchers (no relation) who do the only serious farming on the island, and who run the Distillery. It is a very large house and the whole area looks well groomed. I was told the cattle are the Ling breed which is the only one never to have had foot and mouth disease and that they are now crossing them with Limousin. The present Fletcher owner seems well liked and is a hands on person, not the absentee owner so prevalent on these islands.
Before letting me off, the bus driver pointed out the dozens and dozens of lazy beds covering hectares in one area. This was on a very different scale to Mull and indicates a large population at some time as all the beds were cultivated by hand. I left the bus at Lussagiven where I explored the remains of the old community. Then over the hills to Tarbert. Large expanses of open moorland stretch inland towards the higher ground, today shrouded in cloud. Low lying areas are often peat bogs and where they have planted conifers they are growing unevenly; very stunted in some places
I listened for birds along the way, but just some nondescript tweets in the forested areas and the very occasional raucous gull, until I got right back down near the shore again. The walking was most enjoyable with a slight breeze and a little sunshine. One of the mini challenges was toilet stops in open moorland.
Tarbert is the second place Archibald Fletcher farmed. Later it was taken over by his two oldest sons Dugald and John (Patrick’s brothers) . They must have been there for nearly 50 years until around 1900, but the parents Peter and Janet were also there from at least 1811, when Archibald was born, until 1827. Then there was a gap. Archibald was the tenant or tacksman of Tarbert, almost all land on Jura being owned by the Campbells.
Apart from the family connection it is also a very interesting place for other reasons. Jura is almost split in two at this point and Tarbert means to carry between the seas. I was able to look down on Loch Tarbert, a sea loch extending from the western side of the island to the right, and Tarbert Bay, on the eastern coast to the left
Extensive stone fences, of a design I haven’t seen elsewhere, using thin flat stones in the second to top layer enclose large paddocks around the bay. I expect the Fletcher’s cheviot sheep also grazed the surrounding hills. They lived in Tarbert House. There is no building of that name still in existence. However, as there are only a few buildings and that includes some very old houses I think it will be still standing. It seems likely that it is Tarbert Lodge which has obviously had several bits tacked on to it, and its sheds are very old looking. I talked with a young woman who has just bought one of the cottages and she said they are all referred to by the name of the cottage - such as Gillie’s cottage,. She thought it would be the lodge, but the old people could have even lived in the ruined stone cottage.
What is definite is that Archibald died at Keills, North Knapdale, (on the mainland) , December, 1891, aged 80, and was returned to his old home at Tarbert for his burial. He has quite a dominant position, first inside the gate in a very securely fenced cemetery. In the centre is the outline of an old chapel, which they attribute to St Columba connections
The Argyll and Bute groundsman appeared not long after me and we agreed that removing a little loose, fluffy lichen from Archibald’s stone was not harming the surface in any way. It is still legible, but the first signs of an insidious flat lichen (not the type I removed) are starting to obscure a letter. I left as his weedeater began to disturb the atmosphere. Later he stopped to offer me a ride and told me it was all cleaned up and looking good.
I spent about two hours exploring around Tarbert and speaking to the people, then continued over the next hill to Lagg This one is quite a challenge for trucks. Having got out of the way of one I saw him position his vehicle diagonally from one side of the road to the other and just get enough room to inch around the bend. It was a little hard to know where to walk because in some places it was difficult to get off the road, but there were not many vehicles and they could be heard from quite a way off.
The most spectacular part of this section, up high above the sea, was marred by recent tree felling. Not only is it ugly and untidy, but a sprinkling of limbed slender trees have been left spiking the view
Lagg was important in the cattle trade and it has a stone pier, plus a ramp like structure which is where I presume the cattle were loaded. I investigated the old village, but not the pier which was approached by a very boggy road. It is great that in Scotland everyone agrees there is a “right to roam”. There are no trespass notices and it is accepted that you can walk around other people’s places. On Jura, however, at this time of the year those venturing onto the upland walks are strongly advised to ring and enquire about shooters. The old village had every type of house from stone with no chimneys, stone with chimneys, one storey and two storey. Lived in ones are sitting among the ruins of sheds and old cottages with no fences.
On the next section of the walk I got my closest view of the Paps of Jura, still not exposing their tops. They are said to be difficult to climb and the nearest to me seemed to have a nearly sheer scree face. There is a great photograph at the hotel. it shows the Paps with snow to their bases and a black thunderous sky above them. There are copies for sale, but too large and expensive for me. Another new sight was a three arched bridge. Not so finely constructed I feel as some of the others, but still worth a photo.
As I glimpsed the familiar Bay of Small Isles I was relieved to see I was within reach of “home”. The gradient also eased off, but about that stage, my feet started to complain about the hard road surface. The bus man passed me on his out trip and said he would be pick me up, but I was back before him at 5.30, having started at 8.