I recently spent a week over in Argyll, on the west coast of Scotland with my family. As part of the plan for things to do for the week, the Crinan Canal came up as a possible option for part of a day.
The weather for the first part of the week was awful (we actually got hit by the tail end of hurricane Katia on the Monday), so there wasn’t a whole lot of options to get out and do any walking, or see much of the wildlife. On the Wednesday, however, the clouds parted and the sun decided to put in an appearance. As such, the decision was made – we’d walk the Crinan Canal that day!
Now, when I say ‘we’, I mean me and my sister-in-law, Yvonne, would walk the whole route with my nephew, Harris, and Sara, the dog. We were joined for the first couple of miles by my parents, who didn’t feel able to walk the whole route.
We started the walk at the Crinan end, where the one and only obstacle of crossing the canal via one of the locks occurred (I should point out at this stage that my nephew is only 6 months old, so was in a pram!). Not a particularly challenging obstacle, it has to be said!
Once out of Crinan, the walk is pretty straightforward, on level ground and well maintained towpath throughout.
There isn’t really a whole lot of point in me talking about the walk in terms of terrain, to be honest. It’s a level ground walk on tow paths throughout, so there are absolutely no challenges to be faced. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to complete this walk in a pair of everyday trainers. I’ll point out some of the things seen along the way, though.
Not long after leaving Crinan, we came across a small house on the other side of the canal. A tiny little thing, but clearly lived in (as the owner was bringing the shopping in at the time!) Yvonne and I both agreed that it would be great to live in a location such as this. It just looked so, well, cozy, for lack of a better term.
Yet again, just around another corner, there was another house, this time with a bridge over the canal, which looked stunning.
A mile or so further along from here, we reached Bellanoch and the Islandadd Bridge over the canal. Unlike the previous bridge, this one is big enough for cars, and is used regularly (we crossed it ourselves in getting to Crinan!). This is where my parents left us.
They had parked there, and been picked up by us on the way to Crinan, where we were parked.
The white-washed houses is a bit of a recurring theme for buildings along the canal, and there’s no denying the visual effect it has. They just look stunning, and they work so well with the white and black of the locks and bridges over the canal.
Next up was the Dunardy Locks. Each Lock has a small pool of water, to allow for boats to move aside and let others pass.
A mile or so on from here, you arrive at Cairnbaan, which is more or less at the half way point for the walk. We stopped here for a bit of lunch, at one of several picnic benches (the canal has amazing facilities, in terms of toilets, picnic benches and the like, which are all particularly useful when walking with a 6 month old baby!)
From here, the walk was pretty uneventful. For a lot of people, Cairnbaan would potentially make a good stopping point for the walk.
There was, however, still plenty to see on the way to Lochgilphead, and then Ardrishaig, but now it was mainly in terms of wildlife. We had Speckled Wood butterfly, Garden Tiger Caterpillars, what looked like Common Hawker dragonflies, etc to keep us entertained for the last part of the walk.
We made it to the end just a little under 4 hours from starting. That’s not too bad, really. It’s a 9 mile walk, and you need to take into account the pram, psychotic spaniel and baby.
The walk itself did make me think, though. I have to admit, I normally avoid level ground walks like this, as there’s very little challenge for me, but what if you are a mother, or if you’re wheelchair bound? How do you get out and about, and enjoy the countryside?
Places like this, and country parks and urban green spaces are ideal in this sort of scenario. They’re the sort of place that as a proper hiker, you tend to avoid. Too many people, not enough challenge, etc, but for someone who has physical restrictions on where they can go and what they can do, who may want to experience the countryside, these places are ideal.
Yes, in the case of the baby, my brother could potentially go down the baby carrier route, such as this one, made by LittleLife. The problem with these, however, is the extra weight. Walking extended distances with the weight of a small child and their gear (nappies, food, etc) will take a lot of getting used to.
Admittedly, once the child is able to walk, there will be times when you let him run loose by himself. Again, LittleLife have come up trumps for this sort of scenario, with the Toddler Daysack range, where the child can carry his own gear, and feels more like he’s sharing the same experience as dad. (I saw one of these when Harris was only 3 months old, and instantly purchased it. They’re just so adorable! – I’m pretty confident it’ll get used in a few months time, too!) Admittedly, the drawback of this is when the child gets bored/tired and wants to go back in the carrier… where do you then store the toddler daysack?!
I think I’ll definitely be exploring more of the local parks and walks with Yvonne and Harris, particularly over the winter months, as it could be quite interesting to see some of the scenery and walks which I would have ignored in the past as not challenging enough. It’s good to see these things from someone else’s perspective every once in a while.