Monday, 16 February 2015

Achosnich Schoolhouse Walk

We had 24mm of rain last night, so we chose what we'd hoped would be a fairly dry walk, along the path which passes Achosnich schoolhouse and joins the Portuairk-Sanna track.  The schoolhouse path has recently been upgraded, and we were interested to see how well it had survived a fairly wet winter.

The answer is that it has survived remarkably well.  The gravel surface remains in good condition, partly because the contractors ensured that surface water was diverted off the gravel, and the small burns routed so they either passed underneath the path or, as seen here, were crossed by stepping stones.

The most serious damage was likely to be on the steeper parts but the rocks set across the path to divert water off it have worked extremely well.  Not that all the path is gravelled, some isn't, so it isn't an easy walk, but it certainly leads to....

....some fine views, even on a grey day, to Portuairk and....

....across the beautiful beaches of Sanna to the Small Isles.

We didn't turn down the tracks to either Sanna or Portuairk, but climbed into the high land to the east of the schoolhouse path before turning back towards the car.  This route gave us views across the glen of the Sruthan Bhraigh nan Allt to Achosnich township (right) and down onto the old school house (left).

As a settlement, Achosnich is a shadow of its former self, with a permanent population today of four.  As a comparison, the 1841 census recorded a total of 18 households and 82 people - farmers, cotters, agricultural labourers, a shoemaker, and a retail trader.

We walked along the ridge until the Sonachan came into sight, then dropped down to the bridge that crosses the burn.  At this point winter returned, with sleet followed by a heavy hail shower.  But when we returned to Ormsaigbeg, the sun came out and we were back to another promise of spring.


  1. Hello,
    Thanks for this and other posts relating to this path. I have been doing a few runs around here, while staying in Kilchoan. I thought I would try the path as a means of making a loop from the Portuairk to the Sanna roads. When I did that today I made a few discoveries which I thought I would share.
    First of all, the track to the Old Schoolhouse is in good shape. Things almost took a turn for the worse when I arrived at a pole, which I assume at one time had a sign on it.
    I have walked in the area before so thankfully avoided the temptation to head towards the path that I knew led towards Portuairk / Sanna.
    Instead I headed up towards the school building where I was relieved to see a way marker, which appeared to point up the hill.
    I was just about to head in that direction, when I remembered your comments about this leading nowhere. I looked around to see what might conceivably have been a track, skirting around the hill and took that. I was relieved to find that it met up with a gravel track and more way markers.
    I assume that the lower track I had shunned had indeed linked to the Achnaha path.
    Perhaps as well as replacing the missing signpost, the way marker up from the schoolhouse, apparently pointing in the wrong direction, could be repositioned.
    Once on the gravel path, although it had clearly suffered from a pretty wet and miserable summer, following it was relatively straightforward.
    Running in ordinary running shoes, it wasn't until I was on the Achnaha side of the hill that I got a foot wet.
    As I got nearer Achnaha the way markers continued but the path all but vanished. This was in part due to the thigh high bracken.
    Eventually after opening (and closing) one gate and carefully climbing over another, I made it back onto the road.
    For anyone considering using the path as part of their running route, it is do-able, as long as you're prepared to keep your eyes peeled for the right route and get your feet wet - avoiding boggy ground is nigh on impossible, either side of the stepping-stones which cross the burns as you near Achnaha.
    In an ideal world, it would be great if the gravel track continued all the way to Achnaha. It would also make sense to me to have a sign on the road at the Achnaha side.
    There may be good reasons why the path seems simply to peter out towards Achnaha but for anyone not familiar with the area, the description of the path is surely misleading.
    Perhaps it should be amended to read "Path to halfway down the hill about half a mile from Achnaha".
    That said, I've really enjoyed running amongst the most beautiful scenery I can imagine and feel privileged to have spent another week back here.
    Tony Paton (C. of S. locum minister here, 2001-2002)

  2. Hi Tony - Many thanks for this detailed comment. It's unlikely that anything will be done about the signage on this path and its condition as money is only available for 'core paths' and there are several - for example, the one from Ockle to Gortenfern - which are more heavily used and badly in need of upgrading. Jon