Ardroil to Arnol (West Lewis Coastal Path)

Having arrived at Ardroil from Tarbert we had an afternoon to relax. The next day we had resupplied and aimed for Giosla. If you are not taking a dog the easiest option is the bus. With hindsight we could probably have hitched a lift to save the road walking but we had time to do it.

I’d planned an overnight somewhere around Giosla. I figured there might be pitches around the dam on Loch Coirceabhat and there were several. The weather was becoming blustery so we took shelter in the track leading up to the dam.

The next day was a long road walk almost to Carloway. This is pretty forgettable for the most part, at least until the approach to Calanish. There are a number of seductive pitches around Loch Ranail but we wanted to make a little more progress. A storm came in, however, and we spent several hours taking shelter. I’d looked at Tolsta Chaolais as a possible stop for the night, but there were few choices. Night was falling as we heading towards the hotel at Carloway and found a sheltered spot by Loch an Dunain.

At Carloway I’d planned to start the coastal path heading towards Barvas. This starts just above the preserved villages at Garenin and is a pleasant cliff top ramble with occasional waymarking to help. There are some amazing spots to camp all along to Dail Beag. As we broke the bealach to Dalmore it was another warm sunny afternoon so we pitched up on the dunes. The beach still had warning notices about the oil platform that had crashed into the rocks offshore a couple of months earlier.

The following day saw more grim weather. The forecast was a light breeze and drizzle. Closer to a storm was more like it and it was unrelenting most of the day. The waymarking shifted to brown coloured posts, which as they had become weathered were completely undistinguishable from the rock. It wouldn’t be a problem except that the waymarking held the route for gates and stiles which were plentiful. Some of the stiles had been completely dismantled and just thrown to the ground particularly around Siabost. This combined with notices with completely out of date and wrong information about access rights gives an impression that hiking isn’t particularly welcome.

We continued around the coast past Labost and to Loch Arnol. I’d planned on pushing ahead towards Barvas and taking shelter there but the burn from Loch Arnol was in spate and offered no safe way across. We pitched by the side of the loch and weathered a stormy night.

The next morning posed a difficulty. My food parcel to Cros hadn’t been delivered (it later turned out that the post office never gave it to Parcelforce to send). This meant that my plan to hike around the Butt of Lewis wouldn’t work. I was also carrying a foot injury – I had taken waterproof boots and never again. They never dried out and my feet were becoming painfully sore. The walk to Stornoway wasn’t attractive so I decided to chance my luck with the bus, and a driver kindly took us both to Stornoway in time for the 2pm ferry to Ullapool. The D&E bus to Inverness was happy to take us and we were back in Edinburgh before 10pm.

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