St Blaines via Tor Mor - wild walks
for the Great Outdoors Magazine
The southern end of Bute has a low population, only a few hamlets and farmsteads indicate man’s intervention, this 11.5 km walk offers solitude with plenty of features; lowland hills, empty coves, seascapes, lochs, and archeological remnants of medieval Britain.
My walk began at the end of the B881 road at Kilchattan Bay, a small coastal village on the southeastern end of the island, a bus stop and parking for several cars can be found here at the beginning of the West Island Way - a 40km path created at the end of the millennium which will take you over the entire length of Bute.
The waymarked path followed the shoreline, the terrain is varied, volcanic rock, grassy knolls, rock pools, shingle and sand make for an interesting traverse, but relatively easy to do. As the shoreline opened up I took a short 150m detour from the path and visited the small lighthouse at Rubh’ an Eun. Soon after I reached Glencallum Bay a secluded bay with a shingle beach, the path ascended over the cliffs and headed inland, the landscape softened, grassland replaced volcanic rock and gorse was evident as I climbed higher, leaving the sea behind. Soon the beautiful Loch na Leighe came into view, a small loch covered in lilies that nestled at the head of a small glen.
The path continued though this pleasant lowland landscape of stone walls, cattle, sheep and more gorse until a scattered group of mature trees indicated the site of St Blane’s, a 12thcentury church and the remnants of a 6thcentury monastery, located below dark jagged cliffs in a natural basin. An impression of medieval Britain was intensified as rooks squawked and hovered over St Blane’s as I explored this atmospheric site, I sensed how a community driven by faith could have thrived for hundreds of years, tucked away in this quiet corner of Bute.
As the rooks echoed behind me I rejoined the path and headed north and soon started to climb onto a clearly visible ridge that took me on a southeastern direction, I traversed several peaks up to 149m until I reached the final peak of Tor Mor (146m). From Tor Mor I could clearly see the Isle of Arran to the southwest as well as panoramic views of Bute to the north.
I returned along the ridge and descended back onto the waymarked path, where I was led down into the ‘v’ of the valley keeping to the left of a wire fence, to my right I could see the open basin of Glen Callum as I headed towards the distinctive hill of Suidhe Chatain (157m). To reach this high point I had to leave the path but it was worth the short steep climb to experience the view of Kilchattan Bay and the 360 degree views across Bute. From Suidhe Chatain I returned back onto the path and was led down into a lichen-rich woodland situated at the rear of Kilchattan Bay where I was welcomed by the distinctive aroma of wild garlic, a pleasant finale as I returned back onto the road at Kilchattan Bay and the short walk along the B881, back to my starting point.