Ben More Drove Roads
Start location: B8035, access to Ardvergnish, (NM 540 293)
End location: B8035 at Knock (south of Gruline Village) (NM 545 388)
Geographical area: Argyll and Bute
Path Type: Pilgrimage Route, Drove Road
Path distance: 11.5km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians
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From Ardvergnish, ascend over the shoulder of A' Chioch (northwards) and descend for 1km to the col 2.5km due east of Ben More. Then descend by Glen Clachaig to the shore of Loch Ba to join a track leading north-west along the loch to Knock.
An alternative start may be made from the disused bridge at Teanga Brideig (NM564306). Go through a gate on the E side of the bridge and through sheep fanks. This is a clear and well-used old hill path. It joins the above route at the col.
OS Landranger 48 (Iona & West Mull, Ulva)
There is a tradition that this route was a pilgrims' way at the time of St Columba. An old cairn, Carn Cul ri Albainn, stands on top of Mam Clachaig and is said to have been erected by missionaries returning from Iona, at what was the dividing line between Alba and Dalriada. Karn culri Allabyn be seen marked by a cross on Blaeu's Atlas of Scotland of 1654. A second cairn, Carn Cul ri h'Eireann, lies on the opposite side of the glen. As Karn culri Erin, it too is noted on Blaeu's Atlas.
The route from Ardvargnish to Knock is clearly marked on George Langlands' 1801 map of Argyllshire. In fact, the line of what is today's B8035 only extends as far as Ballinahaird on that map - there is no road marked along the south side of Loch Na Keal.
This old drove road brought cattle from the north of Mull over Mam Clachaig to Glen More. They were heading for Grass Point where they were ferried to Kerrera, then swum across the sound to the mainland. The route is said to have been used by drovers as recently as the early 1960s to get from the south of Mull to Salen for shipping cattle off the island.
In the mid-nineteenth century, the Mull District Road Trustees paid to make a "new Bridle Path over Glen Clachaig hill" as it had been "entirely neglected for the last five years and was almost impassable with a horse". At the end of the nineteenth century, the postrunner was using this route to bring the post from Salen over the Mam and on down to Kinloch where he exchanged post with the Bunessan postman, both having done round trips of over thirty miles.
Teanga Brideig is also known as the Holly Tree Fank. Holly trees were sometimes planted as waymarkers, as their dark evergreen foliage stands out against misty or snow covered hillsides. It can't be said with certainty whether the old holly at the fank was planted intentionally, but it would have been a good landmark for those descending from the pass in bad weather.
With thanks to "Glen More: a drive through history", by Jackie LeMay and Joanna Gardner.