Isle of Lismore

The Isle of Lismore is a 15km long island in the Firth of Lorn. It’s low-lying and fertile with lots of small farms and this is reflected in the meaning of the island’s name: lios meaning ‘garden’ and mor meaning ‘big’.

As part of a five day tour I have been guiding, based in Oban, I decided to head for Lismore, anticipating that the rain showers would by-pass it and we’d be rewarded with some great views on this interesting island.

We braved the early morning rain and wind and took the 9am ferry from Oban. After a grey choppy crossing the cloud began to clear and the happily the sun came out.

Our walk started from the ferry terminal at Achnacroish. We walked north east along the coast past Loch Baile a Ghobhainn and ruined crofts, with beautiful views across to Appin to the east and Ardgour to the west. Adding interest to our walk were lots of mushrooms including scarlet waxcaps, bright red fungi with yellow highlights to the rim and gills. After a few km of walking Tirefour Broch came into view.

Brochs are a distinctive type of Iron Age defensive structure, unique to Scotland, built between about 200 BC and 200AD. Most brochs are in northern Scotland; in Shetland there are at least 100. Brochs are circular towers, 10-15m high with massively thick double layer walls. Many, it’s thought, had a cluster of stone houses around their base. Tirefour broch in Lismore is one of the most southerly in Scotland and a particularly large example. Although it’s walls are perhaps a quarter to a third of their original height it’s remains still impress.

After an early lunch in the broch we headed inland and walked on minor roads to Clachan, a small village with a church. Medieval carved grave slabs stand erect outside the church. These slabs reflect a west highland martial culture where knights with chain mail and claymore swords held power and status on these islands.

A short distance on from the church we took a right and walked to the west coast of Lismore and another defensive structure: Castle Coeffin.

Built by the Macdougals in the 13th century the castle occupies a stunning location by the sea. With castle, seacape and mountains it’s hard to imagine a more romantic Scottish scene.

Off to the west was the rugged, uninhabited coast of Ardgour. I have explored some of that coastline from Lochaline in the past, as far as Inninmore Bay, but there’s so much more to see of this remotest of Scottish Coastlines.

Leaving the castle behind us we returned to Clachan and headed for the Lismore heritage centre and cafe.

The museum and cafe are a super place to stop, great for visitors to get some coffee and cake and learn about the history of the islands.

With About 50min spare before our 3pm ferry was to depart we left the cafe and set off again to walk the last 2km back to Achnacroish. On the way back we met a group of primary school kids with teacher picking sloes from a Blackthorn bush. They are very tart to eat and better for juice making or gin.

After the one hour crossing we arrived back in Oban and decided to visit the best value seafood place in the town: the ‘Green Shellfish Shack’ on the pier. Half a lobster, and loads of mussels and langoustine for £20 is hard to beat.

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