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A varied circular walk across the narrowest part of the Isle of Mull, between Salen in the East and /Killiechronan in the West. The first half takes you through woodland and forestry and across open hillside. The return is predominantly along a single track road, finishing with the Salen Woodland Walk.
On-street parking in Salen. Local bus service to Salen.
Route: From Salen & Ulva Parish Church, turn left (West) along Main Street / A848 to pass two coffee shops and arrive on the banks of the Sound of Mull after 170m. Turn left (South) onto a gravel track beside a converted church building. Just as the track reaches the dry stone wall, turn right (East) onto a grassy embankment where a faint footpath leads you into the woodland. Follow this faint woodland path gently uphill for 600m to emerge onto open hillside. The path widens and initially follows a fenceline (on your left-hand side) before leaving the fenceline behind and traversing the hillside in a South West direction for 1.5km. With deer fencing either side of you, a narrow passageway leads you into an area of forestry. Follow the track South West through the forest for 1km to reach a tall gate leading to open moorland. Go through the gate. Optional de-tour to standing stone: turn right (North) and follow good wide tracks for 500m to reach the standing stone on your right-hand side. Return to the gate via the same route. From the gate head South along firm gravel land-rover tracks for 400m to reach the Killiechronan Estate. The track continues through some trees and onto an access road next to Killiechronan Farm. Turn left (South East) onto the road and at a fork at the bottom of the hill keep right (South) to arrive at the B8073, Loch na Keal visible ahead. Turn left (West) and walk along B8073 – a single track road – for 1km to a road junction. Take the left fork and turn left (North East) onto B8035 – another single track road. Walk along the B8035 for 3km where there is a sharp bend to the right. Just after the bend turn right (South) to come off the B8035 and onto a forestry track, signposted “Salen Woodland Walk 2.5km“. After 500m turn left (North East) – signposted “Woodland Walk”. The path heads uphill for 500m, crossing two footbridges and leads you onto a wide forestry access track at a junction. Turn left (North) – signposted “Woodland Walk”, and follow the forestry track for just over 1km, enjoying fine views down to Salen, and across the Sound of Mull to the mountains on the Morvern Peninsula. When you reach the A849, cross over carefully and turn left (West) to walk along the roadside verge. After a few metres look out for a gap in the hedge to your right which allows you access to a footpath running parallel to the road behind a row of trees. The footpath ends just before a minor road on your right. Turn right (North) onto that road and follow it along for 600m past several houses. You will emerge onto A849 again. Turn right (West) and walk along the roadside pavement for 300m to return to Salen & Ulva Parish Church.
Staying in the village of Salen for our short break on the Isle of Mull, as soon as we found out there was a coast-to-coast walk which started in Salen, it was decided we’d be giving it a bash! At this point let me give kudos to the comprehensive walking section of the Isle of Mull Cottages website, which we found most helpful in preparation for this walk.
Despite having plotted out the route on my favourite mapping app before leaving our cottage, we managed to get lost within the first 5 minutes. Arriving at the converted church building, we turned up the obvious gravel track and completely missed the right turn into the woods. In our defense the path is very faint and we did later find what looked like a marker post lying on the ground at the top of the embankment, which would have helped us out a lot had it still been in place. But these are the things that happen and you need to be prepared for. Hence my route plot!
The next “incident” occurred just inside the woods when mum managed to hit just beneath her eye on a tree branch she hadn’t seen protruding out over the path at (her) head-height. She had been up front and concentrating on where she was placing her feet. I shouted out “watch your head”, sadly a few seconds too late. Not a cut nor a bruise was visible so onwards (and upwards!) we went. But not before my sister spent several minutes removing the rogue branch from the tree to avoid anyone else suffering the same fate.
Soon we were out onto the open hillside and enjoying gorgeous vistas of the surrounding mountains, Loch Ba also coming into view as we gained height. We were pretty sure we saw a white tailed eagle soaring high above us – a real treat. I love eagles as they remind me of childhood hillwalking days. My dad was always on the lookout for golden eagles and deer so any time I see one or the other it reminds me of him.
By this point the sun was heating up and my sister was wishing she had worn her shorts. Turning to the next best option, she rolled up her trouser legs to the knee. However after less than a mile she had flicked three or four ticks off her skin so it wasn’t long before she was rolling them back down again.
After the forestry section, we decided to take the short de-tour to a standing stone I had spotted on my map. We found it no problem, although no longer standing! Lying on its side, it made a good seat for a snack stop.
The next section between the standing stone and the Killiechronan Estate was lined with gorse bushes in all their yellow splendour. They fairly brightened the place up and the smell of coconut off them was quite strong. It reminded me of a question I was asked recently: why do we describe that smell as coconut, when coconuts don’t grow in this country? That is to say, why is the smell from coconuts more familiar to us than the smell of gorse flowers which we can experience in our own country? Why don’t we describe the smell as gorse flowers? So then when we smell a coconut, we’d say the coconut smells like gorse flowers…… a good point, I thought!
Once through the Killiechronan Estate (the name made us smile, since we live in a different “Killie” several hours away!), we were treated to the sight of a herd of eight or nine large red deer in the field of sheep next to us. They appeared to be a bit disorientated, as though they had run away from something in the forest and ended up in the field by accident. With the exception of the path they had run out of, the entire far side of the field was lined with deer fencing and they followed each other back and forth a few times seemingly wondering how they were going to get back out. Eventually they figured it out and were on their way. How lovely to have seen such a large herd so close up. We are used to roe deer around Ayrshire, and any sighting of one becomes the highlight of the walk. These were double the size! My dad would have loved it 🙂
The walk back along the road towards Salen was just ok if I am honest…. Doing the coast to coast walk again I’d probably opt for going back over the hillside. It was 3km of road, and scenic as it may have been, it didn’t inspire me very much. It was quite stop-start too because every time a vehicle came along we had to stop at the side to give it enough space to pass. And that happened many times over the course of the hour…
I was therefore grateful to arrive at the entrance to the Salen Woodland Walk which would take us off the road and back to the village via the woods. It didn’t disappoint – a good mix of different path types, bridges, uphills, downhills and gorgeous views.