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  • Chris Jones

Day 121, 122. Mon, Tues, 31st July, 1st August. Salen to Kilmelford.

Surprise, surprise !!! It chucked it down with rain for most of the night, it eased up slightly at about 8.30 so I packed up and headed off. It was still raining when I got to the ferry terminal at Craignure to catch the ferry over to Oban. I had sent a message to the contact at the lodge in Oban who had responded to say he would meet me at the lodge at 5.30pm for a look round. There was a campsite near Oban but it was nearly 3 miles down a one way track so I'd have to walk all the way back the following morning, I decided not to bother but would look for a wild pitch as darkness fell.

The Secretary of the Lodge Oban Commercial No. 180 kindly showed me around and I even had the chance to look back through the minute book, the first meeting was back in 1791. Just like all of these towns and cities I've passed through on the Scottish coastline, Stone Masons have played an important part in the creation and development of the communities. Indeed, from 1897 to 1900 John Stuart McCaig sought to keep Stone Masons in work through the winter months by employing them to build the McCaig's Tower as a monument to his family, the Tower has always been the predominant structure up on the hill above Oban.

Sadly he died in 1902 so the Tower was never completed, I never did discover if John McCaig was a Freemason but it seems highly likely.

I had a walk around the town to waste the last of the daylight, I don't like wild camping near built up areas but being a wet misserable Monday evening it was very quite so I felt a little more confident id be safe enough. A five minute walk walk out of town I found a secluded patch of cut grass looking over the RNLI station so I pitched my soaking wet tent. It was quite and reasonably well hidden so I had a peaceful night and was away by 7am in the morning. It was too early for anything to be open so I sat on a bench for an hour or so on the promenade with my wet kit hanging on the pier balustrade to dry out. I was the first person in the Outside Edge Outdoor shop when it opened, I walked out 10 minutes later in a brand new pair of boots and a new pair of walking poles...

A massive thank you to Tanya for sponsoring my new boots, that was a very kind and generous gesture and also thank the shop manager who gave me a £50 discount.

Perhaps 1600 miles is a little bit too much to expect from a pair of boots, they were completely wrecked. My poles had worn down to the point that they actually too short to be of any assistance. I was nearly skipping up the street in my new boots, lovely and comfortable and not smelling like a dead camel... 🫣😷 I deposited the old ones in a bin, I couldn't leave them in the shop to be disposed of, they were a health risk...

Dried out, fed and reshod I was ready to head south. I was just leaving when a chap came over and introduced himself, not a Freemason but a manager in a Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution Care home. He ran off to find his wife and returned a few minutes later with Bee, also a manager in The Queen Elizabeth Court care home in Llandudno. I knew about the existence of these homes as Freemasons in Lincolnshire jointly support the Connaught Court Care home in York and I attended an open day there a few years ago with a few others on our motorbikes. I had no idea that there were 17 homes around the UK though, I shouldn't be so surprised, I'm very proud that Freemasonry does so much to support our older generation and I'm looking forward to dropping in for a cuppa then I get down into the Welsh coast.

Plenty of off road walking today heading south down the mainland. The showers came and went and I passed through some lovely open areas, mostly all on tracks and paths. Some of the wooded areas felt almost tropical as I walk through, strange plants I'd not seen before with all of the trees covered in moss and everything feeling very wet and humid. Just over 16 miles was enough for the first day in my new boots so I walked into the little village of Kilmelford, scanning the area for a wild camping pitch. I spotted the perfect spot just between the tiny church and the war memerial, a nice flat piece of short grass which would be reasonably well hidden when darkness fell. Until dark I needed to find something to do... 🙄 Pub ? Oh, go on then, just one though... As I sat in the bar of the small hotel, people were turning up carrying instruments and set themselves up in the tiny bar. A couple of biker chaps returned to the bar after having their evening meal and joined me at my table as it was the only one with a couple of spare stools. Ian and Keith were over from Ballyclare in Northern Ireland on their bikes, in no time at all it was like we'd known each other for years.

I failed miserably in my plan to have only the one pint, when they started on the whiskey, they were getting me double shots of port and the three of us fell out of the bar well after 11pm when all but one of the band had gone home leaving us to our own little drunken sink along !!!

I staggered down to the little church to pitch my tent but finding the church door open, I slipped inside and had a lovely peaceful sleep on one of the pews. Tomorrow may be a challenge...

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