a walking week

When we booked ourselves a week’s break many moons ago, we did not expect it to be delayed by a full twelve months, nor that the intervening year would turn out as it did. Like many, we have not travelled outside of our immediate locale for quite some time (in our case, fourteen months) and have really missed walking and pottering about Scotland. There are a great variety of wonderful landscapes here, and though many parts of the country are familiar to (and much beloved) by us, there are lots of places in which we’ve never had a chance to spend time, even areas that are relatively close by, such as Moidart and Ardnamurchan.

Ardnamurchan point – with lighthouse – on the headland

Ardnamurchan is perhaps known to many of you as one of those evocative place names through which the British coastal landscape is defined on the shipping forecast. The point of Ardnamurchan is the most westerly on the British mainland, and the whole area around Sunart, Moidart and Morar is a wonderful mix of rough and rocky highland landscapes, gorgeous sandy beaches, and large stretches of ancient deciduous woodland, clinging tenaciously to the shore.

These distinctive craggy woodlands, with their hardy twisted oaks and carpets of mosses and lichens, are the surviving remnants of the old “Atlantic rainforest” that once defined Europe’s western (Atlantic facing) seaboard from Portugal and Norway to Britain and Ireland.

Fragments of ancient Atlantic woodland are found in Wales, Cumbria and Cornwall as well as this part of Scotland, and though such landscapes can feel very “wild” they have actually been shaped and defined by humans for many centuries. As you walk around the Ardnamurchan woodlands there’s lots of evidence of how people lived with and among these amazing trees – from iron-age coppicing to eighteenth charcoal production. Victorian rhododenron planting and contemporary commercial forestry present rather different management challenges, but happily much of this wonderful woodland environment is today protected and preserved.

Bronze age standing stone at Cladh Chiarain

Scottish landscapes like this one – accessible by ferries, and single-track roads – are so often casually spoken of as “wild” or “remote” – ignoring the fact that they are spaces which humans have inhabited for millennia, and which today host thriving contemporary communities. The long centuries of the human shaping of this landscape are visible everywhere in Moidart and Ardnamurchan from Bronze Age burial sites and standing stones . . .

. . . to the remains of old townships, whose worn stones and lazy beds tell the story of this area’s particularly brutal nineteenth-century clearance.

We and the dogs had a great time exploring this stunning landscape on foot. If you enjoy doing that virtually (or perhaps have an interest in visiting this area), I’m going to talk about a few of our favourite walks in some subsequent posts.

But I’ll close for now by saying that tomorrow (Friday, 14th) I’ll be back with all the information about our new Bluestocking Club, including the opening of sign-ups. Enjoy your thursday!