Walking around Kilmelford
There are many lovely walks from Melfort Village, both short and long, gentle and taxing. A booklet is available in our Reception detailing seven walks, more, if you count the alternative routes available. We’d like to share a few with you …
Walk 1 – The Wishing Tree walk
The wishing tree walk is a great favourite with our guests, offering beautiful views across Loch Melfort and down the sound of Jura on the ascent. On a clear day, from the top, you can look across the Firth of Lorn to the mountains of Mull in the background.
The wishing tree is a good stopping off point – sadly, the tree has fallen down recently, but it still in situ and fenced off to protect it. You can see the hundreds of copper coins embedded in the bark – the hawthorn was a sacred tree in the Celtic culture and the practice was to make your wish or prayer at the tree and then offer a coin to the spirits or fairies!
Most people prefer to drive along the Degnish peninsula, leaving their cars and walking along and over the hillside to the wishing tree and beyond to Ardmaddy Castle and Gardens. A good trick is to get someone to meet you in a car at Ardmaddy and then call in to the Tigh-an-Truish pub for refreshments! What a nice end to the day!
Degnish Peninsula and Ardmaddy Castle
Distance From Melfort: 20km/12.4 miles (Return)
Distance From Degnish: 8.4km/5.2 miles (Return)
Max Elevation: 170m/560 ft
Description: Well defined hill track with moderate slopes. On the ascent , the views are down the Sound of Jura, but at the plateau, weather permitting, a panoramic view opens out across the Firth of Lorn to Mull, Ben Buie and as far west as the Ross of Mull. In the foreground is Seil Island, Ellenabeich village and Easdale Island. Those wishing to walk from Melfort Village have 5.8 km (3.6 miles) of tarmac road to walk past Melfort Pier to reach the hill track starting point. At the starting point there is room to park 2/3 cars.
Degnish – Ardmaddy Castle Turn right at the main gates, drive/walk along the tarmac road for 5.8 km. Passing Kilchoan Farm, you will encounter two metal gates across the road. The road ends in a locked metal gate, some 650m further on. Take the track which doubles back from the parking area, climbing above and behind Kilchoan Farm. After 1.3km the ground levels out to a moorland plateau, which can be very exposed but affords wonderful views of Mull on a clear day. Pass through the metal gate which forms part of a stone wall (dyke) enclosure. The track continues, undulating a little to the top of Bealach Gaoithe, pronounced ‘Be-alach Goo-ie’ (“The Windy Pass”).
Descending the Pass, you will see the Wishing Tree, half-way down on the right-hand side. In recent years this Hawthorn tree has fallen down and has been ring-fenced to protect it. Nevertheless you can still see the hundreds of copper coins embedded in the trunk. In Celtic culture the Hawthorn was regarded as a sacred tree. The practice was to make your wish (or prayer) at the tree then embed a coin in the bark. Alternatively take a strip of cloth or ribbon, traditionally tartan, make your wish and tie the ribbon to a branch. These were offerings to the spirits and fairies who would either convey your wish to a higher authority or possibly grant it themselves!
Continue down the track to a wooden sheep pen on your left. The track breaks to the left behind the sheep pen and follows the line of a stream down the shallow ravine to your right. On your descent, you may have observed the tower of Ardmaddy Castle above the Pines or enjoyed the view of Balvicar village across Seil Sound. Pass through the metal gate in the stone wall and descend the track (a little stony in places) which snakes behind a couple of houses at Caddleton and emerges on the tarmac road at Ardmaddy Bay. Turn right for the Castle which is 450m ahead.
Return by re-tracing your route.
Historical Note: Ardmaddy Castle The early tower house of this castle was built by the McDougals in the late 1400s. In 1648 the castle passed into Campbell ownership and over the centuries there have been extensions, alterations and restoration. In 1933 the castle was sold, so passing out of Campbell ownership after nearly 300 years. There is a small interesting garden which is open to the public during spring and summer.
Walk 2 (a): Creag an Sturra Circuit
Walk 2 (b): An Coire Lochan Circuit
An Coire Lochan: 10km/6.2 miles
Max Elevation: Creag an Sturra: 290m/950 ft
An Coire Lochan: 240m/790 ft
Description: A higher level walk. All well defined track after leaving the road. The climb to An Coire Lochan has several steep slopes and this section accounts for most of the height climbed. Thereafter the going moderates. Both walks have a common start point. On the ascent the views to the South West can be spectacular (weather permitting). It is possible to see great distances down the Sound of Jura, with Crinan and Craignish on the east of the Sound, Isle of Jura to the West, recognised by its twin mountain peaks known collectively as the Paps of Jura. To the North of Jura are Scarba and Lunga. Inside Scarba (coming towards you) is the fertile green island of Luing which itself is shadowed by Shuna Island to its South Eastern flank. Both Circuits pass through forestry where encounters with roe and red deer are not uncommon, if only fleetingly.
Circuits 2(a) and 1(b)
Turn right at the main gates. Follow the tarmac road on past Melfort Pier until the road starts to climb up behind Ardenstur Cottages. Where the road peaks, about 100m beyond Top Ardenstur Cottage, there is a gate on the right of the road with a dirt track leading up into the trees. This is the starting point for both circuits. Proceed up this path coming quickly to a second gate. You should now stick to the well-defined track. As you are on the ascent most of the steeper slopes will be encountered between here and An Coire Lochan. Ahead the track has a few tight elbow bends as it climbs.
Keep climbing the track and at 200m elevation you will abruptly break out into forestry. Continue on through the forestry gate. Now, immediately on your left you will see the lovely An Coire Lochan (the cauldron loch). It’s a great place to rest, admire the views and appreciate the solitude. In front of you there is a stone hut (boathouse). The track passes this, dips down a little and rises again. In a short distance the track arrives at a “T” junction.
2(a) Creag an Sturra Circuit
Turning right, stick to the forestry path which may undulate but the going is not too difficult. Your range of vision will be limited now as you are in maturing forest but it can induce a sense of wilderness as there is no sound or sight of habitation. The track is well defined and meanders through the forest for another 1km, at which point you reach a “Y” junction. Take the path to the right, the other is a dead end.
You are now passing over and between the line of the hill. The track will eventually swing left and starts to drop as it passes below the highest summit, Cruachan nam Fearna (“Hill of the Alder Trees”). At the bottom of this slope the track twists its way to the right until you reach a metal forestry gate leading into hill grassland. Continue along the track; it takes a sharp right turn and before descending in front of Creag an Sturra (“The rough/ragged rocks”) eventually joining the ascent track at the elbow of a bend. Descend to the gate at the road, turn left and walk past Melfort Pier and so back to Melfort Village.
2(b) An Coire Lochan Circuit
Taking the left track, continue for another 650m, through forestry, up and behind An Coire Lochan. At the forestry gate you will re-renter hill grassland. The path descends the hill in a series of bends with longer straights in between with many good view points along the way. The track makes its way down past the rocky outcrop of Creag na Leachd Moire and down to the gate at the tarmac road. At this point, turn left. After 1.6km you will recognise the gate you passed through to access the hill. Continue along the road, past Melfort Pier and so back to Melfort Village.