Wully Davidson Bus Pass Rambles: Kerrera


5 June, 2023


After Thursday’s failed attempt, due to a coach blocking the road after becoming stuck in a ditch, I decided to get back on the horse for another go at visiting Kerrera. The 0830 bus from Buchanan bus station arrived in Oban at 1136 and I caught a taxi for the 2 mile trip to Gallanach ferry terminal. It must be the smallest ferry in CalMac’s fleet and can only carry 12 passengers at a time. It departs twice hourly, at 06 and 36 minutes past the hour, but if there are a lot of passengers waiting, it just shuttles back and forth. From what I’d read, payment was by card, but that seems to have changed, and you’re now expected to pay by phone. Since I don’t own a smart phone, I got a free trip.The ferry takes five minutes to make the crossing.

Loop Round Southern Half of Island

Gylen castle

Gylen Castle

The plan was to walk a 6 mile loop around the southern half of the island, going off track at about half way to visit Gylen castle, about half a mile from the track. I expected there to be a few tourists, but was unprepared for the sheer number of them, particularly at the castle. I must have seen more than a hundred, and this didn’t exactly help with the sense of isolation that I had anticipated. Kerrera is a beautiful island with magnificent views and a population of just 45. Visitors aren’t allowed to bring cars. However, if you want to experience its natural remoteness and isolation from the world, it might be better to visit well outside of the tourist season.

tourists gylen castle

Tourists Gylen Castle

The first mile of the track was a tarmac road. Then, it alternated between tarmac and gravel path all the way to a tea garden about 3 miles south of the ferry terminal. Very easy walking. Just before the tea garden there’s a gate you go through to get to Gylen castle. It’s a ten minute walk. The castle was very ‘busy’. There were 14 tourists outside, and 6 inside, with about 8 sunbathing near the shore. Add the ones I passed walking to and from the castle, and there were probably about 50 tourists in the 40 minutes I spent off track. The tourists outside were having a picnic and seemed to be mostly Americans. The American love affair with verbal decibels allowed me to hear their conversations from some distance away, and I gathered that they were mostly scientists. If you’re into photography, Gylen castle is a must do.The views are magnificent.

Views and Wildlife

view kerrera

Kerrera has lots of wildlife. I saw a young rabbit, a fox hole at the castle, a couple of buzzards, and heard four cuckoos on my walk. I can’t be certain that the calls I heard were four different cuckoos. Their calls are very far carrying. But, I think they probably were. I’d only ever heard one cuckoo on a single day out in my life. But, it was the number of greylag geese that caught the eye. They were everywhere. In some places they had cropped the grass so that it looked like a bowling green. Well, except for their droppings, that is. I saw a pair with six goslings in tow, but the paltry 4X zoom on my camera wasn’t up to the job of getting a photo.


Second Half of Loop

woodland project

The second half of the loop, beyond the tea garden, could not have been more different from the first part. I saw just 6 people, all in the first mile. Beyond that, I didn’t see a single soul. It was rough, with some very steep inclines, and even in the current heatwave, was muddy in places. I carried on past a small croft, but after about a mile, the track petered out, and I found myself on open pastureland. I had obviously gone off track, but where had I made the mistake? I wandered around for a while, trying to find the track, and eventually found myself back on the track that I’d walked before. I retraced my steps back to the croft. At this point, the track I had taken turns left, down to the sea. But, there’s another track, which goes behind the croft, making it look as if its a private road. It’s not until you go behind the croft that you can see that it continues on and is the loop track, even though it heads away from the sea. There’s no sign at the junction to keep you on track.

Section Beyond the Croft

ferry terminal

The section beyond the croft was the toughest of the whole trip, with many steep uphill parts that would have been tough even on a tarmac surface. But, the track was covered in rubble, making it all the more difficult. I eventually made it to the ferry terminal, but well behind schedule, and too late to get the only daily bus from Gallanach to Oban at 1612. So, I had to walk the 2 miles back to Oban. In total, I had walked about 11 miles instead of the 7 miles I had expected, and got into Oban 40 minutes before the last bus departed at 1815. I went into Wetherspoon’s and had the most eagerly anticipated pint of beer I’ve ever had in my life.

tarmac road

I’d advise anyone intending doing the trip to just walk out to the tea garden and Gylen castle, then return back the same way. Unless you’re young and fit, with a sense of adventure, then by all means, do the full looop. Just remember to keep right at the croft.

Wully Davidson, 5 June, 2023

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