Arisaig House - Highland Hospitality at it's best on The Road to The Isles
An easy walk along road and track to the ruins of Ardtornish Castle on The Morvern Peninsula.
The walk provides a wonderful opportunity to explore a ruined castle and affords fabulous views over Loch Aline and the Sound of Mull. There are also some lovely mixed deciduous woodland on route consisting of alder, hazel, rowan, sycamore, ash willow, oak, birch and wych elm.
The walk provides a good opportunity to spot pipits, skylarks, wheatears, corvids, raptors, as well as a range of coastal birds, and, if you are lucky, white-tailed eagle and otter.
A lovely scenic walk.
1. Park along the roadside or by arrangement at the Ardtornish Estate Office nearby. Take the gravel/tarmac track signposted to Old Ardtornish Castle. The track skirts the shores of Loch Aline with some fine views afforded of the loch. There is combination of rough pasture and mixed deciduous woodland on the left.
The track passes through a fish farm net site and then continues along the tree-fringed shoreline. The occasional stands of hazel support an interesting and diverse community of graphidion lichen. Look out for the patches of bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) in the woods in Spring, and the dense patches of yellow flag iris (Iris pseudacorus) in the wetter areas. There are also small disjunct patches of saltmarsh interspersed with clumps of alder by the coast. There are also some lovely views of boats anchored in the loch as you near the outflow of the loch, as well as the ferry port of Lochaline.
2. The track skirts round the peninsula through open pasture providing lovely views of the Morvern hills and its rocky coastline, across the Sound to the hills and coast of the Isle of Mull. Look out for pipits, skylarks and wheatear over the rough pasture. The drystone boundary walls also support an intricate and interesting mosaic of orange, white, green and grey crustiose lichens.
3. The track soon passes by a lovely coastal clump of mature sycamore, intermixed with beech and larch, descending to the coastal fringe.
Just beyond this point, Old Ardtornish Castle comes into view, its inspiring profile perched on the jutting outcrop of Ardtornish Point and silhouetted against the low hills of Mull.
Continue along the track heading towards a large barn in the distance. The track passes through a gateway and becomes bounded by drystone walls on either side. The more exposed wall on the right supports a bryophyte dominated community, whilst the wall on the left hand side of the track is covered with crustiose lichens; a testament to the differing microclimates associated with aspect.
4. Pass through a gate at the end of the track and turn right heading away from the barn and towards the castle. This section of the track supports some lovely specimen sycamore trees whose trunks are strewn with crustiose and foliose lichens interspersed with bryophytes.
5. Pass through another opening onto a grassy track through a bluebell/bracken meadow heading directly towards the castle.
Once at the castle, take time to explore this inspiring stronghold both from the exterior and interior, set high on a grassy mound at Ardtornish Point, and surrounded by abundance of bluebells, primroses, violets and dog’s mercury in the drier areas and species rich meadow/marsh flora in the wetter areas; the former species are a testament to former woodland coverage. Unfortunately little now remains of this former castle, other than its dilapidated boundary walls. The only inhabitants now are the free roaming sheep and the epiphytic plants and lichens on the dry stone masonry walls. However there are magnificent views of the sloping hills of the Isle of Mull and the steep, wood fringed, flat topped cliffs of Ardtornish Bay, with its interrupted narrow sandy/shingle beach, as well as the clear blue seas of the Sound of Mull. There is also an automatic lighthouse at the Point.
6. Once you have explored the castle you can either return by the same route or take a short detour through the tract of woodlands on the eastern fringe of the Bay before rejoining the track. This is a lovely detour and well worth doing in Spring.
7. If taking the alternative route, skirt around the Point heading towards a clump of fine mature sycamore trees on the eastern side of Ardtornish Bay. Pass in front of the trees, ignoring the ascending path on the left, and head towards a wooden pedestrian gate in the fence line at the far end. Before entering the narrow fringe of woodlands between the cliffs and shore, take time to admire the denizens of the rocky shore.
8. Once through the fence line, follow the path which skirts the shore through a wonderful mixed coastal woodland, with a rich colourful ground flora in Spring of bluebells, primroses (Primula vulgaris), pignut (Conopodium majus), violets (Viola spp), cranesbills (Geranium spp), celandines (Ranunculus ficaria) and ramsons (Allium ursinum), interspersed with Dryopteris spp (male and buckler ferns, including Dryopteris aemula) ), hard fern (Blechnun spicant) and Tunbridge filmy fern (Hymenophyllum tunbrigense). The trunks and rocky outcrops are also covered with lichens. This is a particularly lovely section of the walk andthe woodland is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), which extends along the shoreline of Ardtornish Bay and Inninmore Bay to Rubha an Ridire, and then along the south-eastern shore of the Garbh Schlios to Camus Eignaig. There are extensive stands of ash (Fraxinus excelsior) , with wych elm (Ulmus glabra) and hazel (Coryus avellana)l on the scree and gorges of Inninmore Bay and on the cliffs and ravines of Garbh Shilos. The vascular and bryophte flora is particular rich.
9. The path skirts around the back of a boat house and then onto a coastal wet meadow.
10. Head across a faint path towards the track ascending gently uphill immediately to the left of a drystone walled enclosure and a private house at the edge of the bay. At the track, turn left and continue uphill, admiring the fine specimen trees which eventually skirt both sides of the track, and the boundary wall on the left studded with primroses, violets and foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea).
11. Pass through a pair of gates and in front of a large barn, and then turn right through the gate to rejoin your original track. The left track takes you back to Ardtornish Castle.
12. Return to your car by the outgoing route.
starting grid ref:
- there and back