A lovely, but fairly strenuous, and long coastal walk along the shores of Loch Moidart, with the possibility of seeing otters and a range of coastal birds. The walk is a ‘there and back’, although parts of the Silver Walk are incorporated into other routes, namely Blain Burn and Castle Tioram Walk.
The Silver walk got its name from a hoard of Elizabethan coins found during the construction of the path. The walk contains some vertiginous sections and scrambles over large boulders near the coast, as well as some boggy sections and a few small stream crossings. Some sections of path also descend close to the beach and may not be easily passable at high tide.
There are some fantastic views on route of Loch Moidart with its pine-studded islands. Good views are afforded of the deserted township of Port a’ Bhata (the bay of boats), the island of Eliean Shoan and Castle Tioram. Along with many other townships, Port a’ Bhata supported a whisky distilling industry, with barley imported from Tiree and Uist, until the introduction of licensing in 1780.
The walk passes through a range of habitat types including Atlantic oak woodland, coniferous plantation, salt marsh and rocky shoreline. There are good opportunities to see waders, diving and dabbling ducks, cormorants along the coastlines and a range of woodlands birds in the Atlantic oak woodlands fringing sections of the walk. If you are lucky, you may also see white-tailed and golden eagle; the latter flying high along the crest of the high hills and crags. Look out for red deer on route, and otters feeding at high tide.
The path is mostly gravelled with a few rocky outcrops in places, an exposed narrow stretch skirting the edge of the hill and some coastal sections. You can also start the Silver Walk at Dorlin.
1. Park at car-park off the A861 with an interpretation board introducing the walks around Ardmolich. Head off through the magical mixed spruce plantations, strewn with bryophytes. Listen out for the high-pitched lilts and ’twangy’ calls of gold crest, siskins and coal tits respectively. The path descends initially, and passes through a gate/ stile from where the path begins to ascend steeply. There is a welcome bench on route with good views of Loch Moidart and The Small Isles.
2. Take the right hand path by the coast and then right again. The path follows the contours of the rocky coast line descending to the edge of the beach on occasions.
Look out for a range of woodland birds in this coastal section fringed with Atlantic Oakwoods with its Calluna-Erica understory. Oak woodland also supports a remarkable diversity of lichens, most notable members of the foliose Lobarion and Parmelion communities, strewn on the branches and trunks of ancient oaks, as well as epiphytic ferns. There is also an abundance of liverworts and mosses in the crevices and the wetter areas, and crustiose lichens on rocks and boulders.
The walk descends to the edge of a small salt marsh with a few deserted houses inland. The walk then heads inland ascending to the deserted township of Port a’ Bhata (the bay of boats), with its many abandoned stone buildings. Continue along the track through the hill heading downhill on a well defined track/path, eventually crossing a small stream walking over some large boulders. The path skirts along the coast with oak, birch, pine and larch, aspen woodland above and the indented coast and sea below.
3. When you reach a stone cairn continue along the coastal route, ignoring the path to the left. The latter path goes to the ruined village of Briag, which can be explored on the Castle Tioram walk.
4. Continue along the coastal path fringed with Atlantic oak woodland which affords fantastic views over Loch Moidart to the small islands of Eilean an Fheidh, Riska, Shona Beag and Eilean Shona, in order of increasing size. These smaller islands are covered in pine woodland, whilst the larger islands have coastal woodland fringes. Look out for otters and a range of coastal birds on Loch Moidart.
The path tightly hugs the coastline and in section requires some scrambling over boulders as well as descending close to the coast where the path traverses a boulder block. The path crosses close to the edge of the rocky cliffs, with a particularly vertiginous section as you near Castle Tioram, where the path skirts around the edge of an outcrop. There are also some muddy sections.
The effort is rewarded by stunning views of the ruined Castle Tioram on its rocky tidal island at the confluence of Loch Moidart and the River Shiel. The Castle was built in the mid 13th century and extended in the 14th century, providing an impenetrable stronghold for the Clanranalds borne of its design, construction and location. The castle was destroyed by fire in the 18th century on the order of Allan, 14th chief to prevent it falling into the hands of the Government. It now stands as a sombre testament to the changing fortunes of the Clanranalds.
5. Continue along the path, climbing up some stone steps and passing through a low iron gate and then descending to a lovely beach at Dorlin. At low tide, you can walk to the Castle along an exposed sandy isthmus. Due to the dilapidated state of the castle it can only be viewed from the outside, although it is well worth a visit. However, you should be aware of the tide, as at high tide the castle becomes cut off from the mainland. Take time to enjoy the beach and castle. This is also a good place for a picnic stop.
6. After exploring the area, return by the same route.