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Heather Thomas-Smith runs Heathery Heights, a walking company based in Lochgilphead, offering a bespoke guided walking service, from holiday explorations and wild forays to long distance challenges or fun navigation days.
She has travelled and trekked throughout the world but now lives in Argyll amongst the scenery she loves. www.heatheryheights.co.uk
Route: Dun Skeig and Dunskeig Bay from Clachan
Distance: 6.7km (4 miles)
Time: 2 – 2.5 hrs walking (add time to explore!)
Terrain: tracks, road and rough pathless terrain; uneven, steep and muddy
Map/s: OS Landranger 62 (1:50 000)
OS Explorer 357 (1:25 000)
Start/Finish/Parking: village centre (space may be available by the village hall)
Grid reference: NR765561
Public Transport: Bus route 449, 926
The paths chosen for this walk have been well trodden over the years, the ancient fort and duns harking back to another age, the vitrified rocks tiny pieces in a jigsaw that tells the story of this land.
The village of Clachan – place of stones – has a rich history. Sir William Mackinnon of Campbeltown, who became a famed shipping magnate in the mid-18th century, owned nearby Balinakill House and was buried here.
The church, rebuilt in around 1760, has several carved medieval stones of note and the area is rich with standing stones and ancient remains.
A second church, built with the aid of Sir William and now converted, is situated nearby and an old lime kiln can be found in the village north of the burn.
In winter the paths may be wet and muddy but the windswept peace of Dun Skeig makes for a fascinating walk with the sun low on the horizon creating magic on the waves.
1. From the village centre head north over the bridge, following the minor road for 500m. The route leads uphill passing a minor track on the right and the lane to Dunskeig Farm on the left. The road bears right and comes to a walled track on the left, opposite a couple of houses.
2. Turn left into this. After 300m there is a gate. Continue and, as gradually climbing, Dun Skeig will come into view on the left. A further 250m will take walkers to the crest of a rocky rise and views up West Loch Tarbert. It seems an old squeeze stile may once have been in the wall here, but it is now blocked by a large stone. After dropping down slightly a rusty gate is reached on the left. Climb/step over this with care; it is secured with barbed wire.
3. A faint path wends its way up to the fort. After passing through what would have been the outer walls of the older oval fort, the steep slopes lead directly to the entrance of the northern Dun. This is well preserved; it is likely its stone was taken from the vitrified Dun just to the south beyond the trig point. Catching the wind from the southwest, the exposure can be keenly felt in winter but the summit of Dun Skeig
certainly commands amazing views to the south, west and north and would have made a fine lookout.
4. Return down the faint path and back over the rusty gate. Turn left and continue down the walled route through woodland. A haven for wildlife, the way is sheltered from the winds above. The track is diverted from that on the map when reaching a gate but is clearly signposted to go down past pretty birch copses by the side of a fence. The track re-joins those on the map after a second gate; turn left then immediately right down to the cottage at Portachoillean.
5. Ahead lies the jetty but the main route now turns left through a gate and continues for over a kilometre. Initially the ground is dry enough but after passing through a further gate it can be very wet; wellies are useful. To the right the rocky shore often beckons for photographs looking over to Knapdale and Jura. Look out for otter, cormorant and gulls toying with the wind. Old structures also remain, nodding back to Kintyre’s more industrial past.
6. Veering south the track reaches a gate with a sheep pen and small holiday cabin ahead. Turn right before the gate and a small track will lead to the wild sandy shores of Dunskeig Bay. Although this can be a popular spot to sunbathe and paddle in summer it is quite different when the sun lies low in southern skies and gales send breakers towards its shores. Beyond, light may play amongst the clouds over Gigha and Jura, creating jewels on the restless seas.
7. Continue along the beach until reaching the Clachan Burn. A path will now lead left away from the sea and back towards Clachan following the burn. It briefly joins the track after passing through a gate before veering off right and following the burn through fields all the way back to the village centre.
Safety in the Outdoors
The described route and accompanying information are there to be used as a guide and do not replace the use of map and compass and the skills required to use them. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the route is accurate at the time of going to print please be aware that track and path closures can happen at any time. All walks are undertaken at walkers’ own risk. Please continue to adhere to current guidelines as set out by the government, exercise responsibly and use appropriate clothing and equipment for the chosen outdoor activity. Inform a contact about route/whereabouts. Don’t forget a phone, snacks, drink, any medication/first aid supplies needed and to check weather conditions. Most walks are dog friendly but please keep dogs under close control, especially around livestock and wildlife. Please follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
A map of the route. no_a49HeathersTreks01
Light and shade from the top of Dun Skeig. no_a49HeathersTreks02
The dun at Dun Skeig. no_a49HeathersTreks03