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Tighnaspeur - a circular walk

By Becky Williamson

This was to be quite a significant walk for me as it involved completing my final grid square in the eastern block of the island. Furthermore, it was a 'green' gridsquare - and little wonder! Not only is it situated in one of the remotest parts of the island, but it has nothing within its 1 km square to entice the everyday walker. The Abhainn Staoin (bending/crooked river) flows diagonally NW to SE, almost dividing NR 4252 in half, but otherwise there is nothing but contours and a small moorland pool in this gridsquare.

Undaunted by the prospect of 7 miles of tough walking, and spurred on by the thought of attaining my boggy goal, I chose the only dry, sunny day in a week of rain and hail to drive to Kintour, my walk's beginning. Now usually when embarking on a walk like this, anyone I meet at the start (and, to be honest, it's unusual to meet anyone on such occasions), asks where I'm going and then gasps in horror at the incredulity of it - "but it'll be so wet!" is the usual reply. And I nod and set off, disheartened before the walk's even begun. Today, however, I met two farmworkers who were actually almost envious of my having a whole day to walk like this. "Lovely day for it," the gamekeeper remarked as I took my first photo. NR4551 : Farm track, Kintour by Becky Williamson. I was in the mood for taking lots of photos; it had been so long since my last proper geograph walk. The farmland here is incredibly flooded - in some ways it was just as difficult walking across 'ice-rink' fields like this NR4551 : Flooded Kintour farmland, Islay by Becky Williamson as it was walking across the boggy moorland. The ATV track runs parallel to the Kintour River for a while, leading through a couple of gates before heading into native woodland. I looked west to the raised hillocks - duns and forts which form a spine across this eastern part of the island NR4551 : Islay's backbone of duns and forts by Becky Williamson and NR4552 : Near Creagfinn, Islay by Becky Williamson Soon I'd be moving from the bright green of the fields to the monotonous and drab brown of the moorland beyond.

To do this I had to walk through the trees, still wearing their winter dress, and past Cnoc Dhota (hillock of the stupid fellow, possibly) NR4552 : Track from Kintour to Cnoc Dhota, Islay by Becky Williamson and NR4452 : Cnoc Dhota, Islay by Becky Williamson I was very conscious that I had to cross the Kintour River, which was in full spate, and was not sure where I was going to be able to do this, having shunned the only bridge I knew was along this river. It's quite a climb to the northern edge of the woodland, but it is quite a welcome scene once you emerge from the darkness of the spindly trees NR4452 : Emerging from woodland at Cnoc Dhota, Islay by Becky Williamsonand NR4452 : Emerging from the woodland at Cnoc Dhota, Islay by Becky Williamson.

I was now heading directly west, or trying to, and getting more anxious about crossing the fast-flowing Kintour River. In the distance I could make out a ruin,NR4452 : Moorland and scrubland north of Cnoc Dhota, Islay by Becky Williamson nestled beneath Dłnan an t-Soluis (Forts of the Light) NR4452 : Dùnan an t-Soluis and Kintour River, Islay by Becky Williamsonand NR4452 : Dùnan an t-Soluis and Kintour River, Islay by Becky Williamson and decided to head for these ruins. This was easier said than done as I walked along the north banks of the Kintour River, looking for a suitable place to cross NR4452 : Trying to cross the Kintour River, Islay by Becky Williamson, NR4452 : Maze of Rivers near Kintour, Islay by Becky Williamson and NR4452 : Thinking about crossing the Kintour River, Islay by Becky Williamson. Finally, I placed one welly gingerly into the water, gained my balance against the strong current, discovered that the water wasn't quite at the top of my wellies and strode cautiously across the pebbly-bottomed river, using my pole to steady me. Now on the south banks of the river I took more photos, NR4452 : Having finally crossed the Kintour River, Islay by Becky Williamson, NR4452 : Kintour River, Islay by Becky Williamson and NR4452 : Kintour River, Islay by Becky Williamson, before heading for the ruins NR4352 : Ruins near Dùnan an t-Soluis, Islay by Becky Williamson. There are a few remains of erstwhile dwellings here, although I have been unable to find out anything about their history.NR4352 : Heather-covered ruins near Kintour by Becky Williamson. I paused here for a drink, conscious of the sound of the waterfall behind me and being drawn towards it.

Finding the small waterfall involved a tiny detour and it's debatable it was actually worth it! NR4352 : Small waterfall in Kintour River, Islay by Becky Williamson. If I'd been heading directly for Tighnaspeur now, I could have followed the Kintour River NR4352 : Kintour River, Islay by Becky Williamson and everything would have been hunky-dory but no, I had to get into NR4252, which involved heading gratuitously north up some gratuitous contours NR4352 : Climbing the contours into the next square by Becky Williamson. The views across this russet moorland were spectacular though NR4352 : Cloud, shadow and expanse of moorland, Islay by Becky Williamson - a vast expanse of moorland which, if you didn't risk sinking into squelchy peat with every step you took, could be mistaken for the Islay equivalent of the Sahara Desert!

Trying to edge my way into the next square across the boggy moorland was exceptionally difficult and I was glad I was on my own. Anyone else would have chosen the much easier route, failing to understand my mission in all of this. Flushing Snipe (the only bird life around) I trod carefully from one tussocky lump to another, occasionally testing the depth of the surrounding moorland with my pole and seeing it disappear further than I wanted my leg to! Once in the grid square I made no attempt to venture further north NR4252 : Looking towards unnamed hill in exposed Islay moorland by Becky Williamson. I would head for the Abhainn Staoin and Tighnaspeur.

Which was actually much easier thought than achieved! Once more a river thwarted me - this time the Abhainn Staoin (Crooked or Bending River NR4251 : Abhainn Staoin, Islay by Becky Williamson, NR4251 : Abhainn Staoin, Islay by Becky Williamson, NR4251 : Abhainn Staoin, Islay by Becky Williamson NR4251 : Abhainn Staoin, Islay by Becky Williamson and NR4251 : Abhainn Staoin, Islay by Becky Williamson. These moorland rivers break up the monotony of the expansive moorland and are very pretty, often banked with scrubby woodland NR4251 : Looking for somewhere to cross the Abhainn Staoin, Islay by Becky Williamson and NR4251 : Abhainn Staoin, Islay by Becky Williamson, but I hadn't to be enticed to follow its course. I didn't want to head too far south, certainly not as far as its confluence with the Kintour River, but I was forced to do so for a bit until I finally found a shallower part at which to cross - and a delightful little spot it was too NR4251 : Where I finally crossed the Abhainn Staoin, Islay by Becky Williamson.

Not long after crossing the river and trying to follow a roughly south-west bearing, I happened upon a totally unexpected ruin NR4251 : Unmarked ruin near Abhainn Staoin by Becky Williamson. I scrutinized the map, but, no, it definitely wasn't marked. Should I take another short detour to go and inspect this small ruin? I knew I'd regret it if I didn't so I tussock-to-tussocked across to the remains of its walls and decided here was as good a place as any to have lunch.NR4251 : Unmarked ruin near Abhainn Staoin, Islay by Becky Williamson I love ruminating on what the purpose of such buildings once was, who used them and what difficulties and joys did they experience during the time this once purposeful building was used?

Pondering too the unwelcome thought of treading the same ground at the height of the summer when the prolific bracken would be an added hindrance, I now followed a tributary of the Kintour and Staoin rivers, heading southwest NR4251 : Following the Abhainn Staoin, Islay by Becky Williamson and NR4251 : Abhainn Staoin, Islay by Becky Williamson. It seemed the best course to follow the river, and to try to find deer paths through the relentless moor grass NR4251 : Finding the tracks in exposed moorland, Islay by Becky Williamson and NR4251 : Bogged down in moorland, Islay by Becky Williamson. I became quite disorientated here, expecting to approach Tighnaspeur from the north and not having the time or energy to study the map properly (the bog walking was exhausting and taking longer than I thought and I was due at work at 6 pm). Surrounded by boggy moorland there was no sign of my destination NR4251 : Moorland near Tighnaspeur, Islay by Becky Williamson and NR4251 : Approaching Tighnaspeur, Islay by Becky Williamson.

I suddenly came upon a spot I recognised and realised my mistake. I could see the tree-topped chimney of my ruin 100 metres north of where I stood and I ran recklessly towards it (OK, maybe I moved up from first to 3rd gear!) NR4250 : Tighnaspeur and Loch nan Clach, Islay by Becky Williamson Basking in sunshine with views across to Loch nan Clach and the sea beyond, this is an ideal location for a hide away. NR4250 : Tighnaspeur and Loch nan Clach, Islay by Becky Williamson I'd love to be able to go inside and explore, but this renovated ruin is kept locked. It was tempting to linger, but the Co-op called (6pm start) and I knew it was a couple of hours walk back to the car.

I headed straight for the ATV track and the collapsed bridge across the river NR4250 : ATV track across boggy moorland near Tighnaspeur, Islay by Becky Williamson. I briefly greeted Loch nan Clach (Loch of the Stone) as I passed at some distance NR4250 : Loch nan Clach, Islay by Becky Williamson and looked back to Tighnaspeur (Sky Cottage), looking very indistinct amongst its surrounding camouflage. NR4250 : Looking back to Tighnaspeur, Islay by Becky Williamson Heading for the 'backbone' of forts via the well-defined (if boggy) ATV track, NR4250 : Following the quad bike track back by Becky Williamson, NR4250 : Approaching the forts, near Tighnaspeur and Loch nan Clach, Islay by Becky Williamson and NR4351 : Track near fort near Loch nan Clach, Islay by Becky Williamson, I was on the constant look out for anything that moved. This is not a good walk if you want to see lots of wildlife, but there are a few things you can almost predictably see: Ravens, Red Deer and Snipe. At the beginning of the walk, through the woodland I had seen tits and finches, but now I was looking for something much bigger - the King of the Air.

I was not disappointed; just as I reached one of the forts, a Golden Eagle flew directly overhead NR4351 : Fort near Loch nan Clach, Islay by Becky Williamson. I watched it for a few minutes - undeterred by my meanly presence it soared above me and I was envious of its speed and mastery. Humbled, I paused to take yet more photos of this seldom-viewed eastern hinterland NR4351 : Valleys and hills in eastern hinterland, Islay by Becky Williamson before continuing my earth bound way, weary and heavy laden. Heading east towards the visible phone mast of Tallant and glad of this navigational aid, I walked between Leac Eģdhne and An Dłn NR4351 : Faint moorland track between Leac Eìdhne and An Dùn, Islay by Becky Williamson. As I cleared the contours of An Dłn, the shimmering waters of Loch Carn a' Mhaoil came into view NR4351 : Loch Carn a' Mhaoil. Islay by Becky Williamson. For some reason this is one of my favourite lochs on the island. I have no idea why. I had not time to linger, however, and left it basking in sunshine, with its stegosaurus-like backbone of forts and duns lying prominent to its northwest NR4351 : Loch Carn a' Mhaoil and An Dùn, Islay by Becky Williamson.

I now felt as if I was on the homeward leg of my long walk. Tired though I was, I took time to notice the blue sky and cirrus cloud above me NR4451 : Looking back to the duns near Tallant, Islay by Becky Williamson, crowning Beinn Bheigier NR4451 : Cirrus Cloud above Beinn Bheigier, Islay by Becky Williamson and NR4451 : Losing the ATV track - again! by Becky Williamson. A towering cumulonimbus cloud lay to my north, above the Stegosaurus backbone of duns NR4451 : The land of the duns, Islay by Becky Williamson. I had been hailed upon already by such clouds; the onslaughts being heavy, but brief and I reveled in this variety of weather - extreme or not.

Still stopping regularly to record my walk in photos, I plodded on, following the boggy ATV track as closely as possible. Most times it was more flooded than the surrounding moorland NR4451 : Boggy moorland, Islay by Becky Williamson and NR4451 : ATV Track back to Tallant Farm, Islay by Becky Williamson, but occasionally it made for easier walking NR4451 : Track back to Tallant, Islay by Becky Williamson. Dipping briefly (and unintentionally) into NR4450 NR4450 : Back the way I've come by Becky Williamson, I was soon looking across to Loch Tallant NR4550 : Loch Tallant, Islay by Becky Williamson and then the gamekeeper's house at Tallant itself NR4550 : Tallant, Islay by Becky Williamson.

Glad to be back on the road, I only had about half a mile left of my 7.1 walk - but it seemed a long half a mile! The fields here were still showing signs of the heavy rainfall we've experienced this winter NR4551 : Flooded fields, Kintour, Islay by Becky Williamson, although nothing like that of further south. As my car came within sight, I paused at the bridge at Kintour Farm to take my last photo - the benign-looking Kintour River. I'd virtually traced its twists and turns to its source near Tighnaspeur. It was satisfying now, at the end of my journey, to be rejoining the river near its own journey's end NR4551 : Kintour River, Islay by Becky Williamson.


Loading map...
Marker only shows grid square

When
Fri, 7 Mar 2014 at 13:23
Grid Square
geotagged! NR4250

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