155. Auchenbreck to Portavadie

Only a single walk on this visit, due to the next section of the walk having some dificulties around public transport that I need to work around.

It has been a good 5 weeks since my last visit to Scotland, partly due to finding a suitable weather window, but principally due to the fact that I have taken up wood turning again (last done when I was at school!). The local electricity power supplier had recently chopped down a number of trees which had encroached near to power lines. I managed to retrieve some of this wood, mainly oak, from a brook where it had just been dumped – it weighed a ton! So I had been very busy preparing the wood by removing the pith and rough-turning it into bowls before laying the wood up for 6 months to continue drying.

I found at least a couple of good weather days in the Cowal area, but did not bank on the bad weather while driving up to Scotland. Driving over Shap Fell on the M6 through a snowstorm was horrendous, I could not even tell which lane I was in, the snow being so intense. Because I was doing a single big day, I had also decided that with the travelling up overnight and the tough walk I would need a good rest, so I decided to stay the night in Dunoon.

I drove to Portavadie, making use of the Gourock – Dunoon ferry which knocks about 50 miles of the northerly approach via Arrochar. Pre-buying ferry tickets for two journeys also means it only costs about £8.50 each way.

Not any more!
Luing cattle feeding on the shores of Loch Riddon

I park in a Forestry commission car park close to the marina development. Portavadie is a rather strange place, besides being a ferry terminal for the short hop across Loch Fyne to Tarbet, someone had the idea to develop the site with luxury apartments. I catch the 9:35 #478 bus heading to Dunoon, but I will get off at Auchenbreck. I leave the bus and begin my walk at 10:10, far later in the day than I normally start walking. I set off north back down the A886. I am heading for the first bridging point over the River Ruel which feeds into Loch Riddon / Ruel. I arrive at the junction with the A8003 which runs south alongside Loch Riddon. Traffic along the road is light. A short distance along the road I am joined by the Cowal Way, which I last walked along near Arrochar. The road snakes and winds itself close to the River Ruel and it is a lovely spring-like morning with the sun out.

The view south from the road (taken earlier in the morning)
Steep sections on the Cowal Way

I pass a sign for Mechan’s Grave. Mechan was a Norse warrior, who was killed on his way to the battle of Largs in 1263. Some time ago, the grave location was examined but no remains were found.  Shortly afterwards I follow the Cowal Way which now leaves the main road and continues alongside the Loch towards Ormidale Lodge. This marks the end of the public road and where the Cowal Way must climb high up the hillside to pass above and around Sron na  Carraige, a steep rock outcrop. For the next couple of miles the Cowal Way is certainly inventive and makes good use of rock ladders to get along the steep and forested hillside. The rhododendrons have been cut back giving a wide path, that the path also uses wooden walk ways over some of the more steep ground.

At Glen Caladh the path joins a dirt track access road to the small settlement of Caladh, with its sheltered harbour guarded by the small wooded island of Eilean Dubh.

While the majority of the Cowal Way runs close to the loch, the A8003 climbs high and unseen up the hillside. At a couple of places there are observation points which offer stunning views south down Loch Riddon and the Kyles of Bute. I had taken advantage of such views earlier that morning on my drive down to Portavadie.

Looking back at Tighnabruaich

After rounding Rubha Ban I can now see the strung out settlements of Port Driseach, Tighnabruaich and Kames hugging the shoreline. I love the delightfully sounding name of Tighnabruaich pronounced Tine-na-brew-arr-rich. At this point I have passed out of Loch Riddon and into the western Kyles of Bute. I pop into a spar and stock up a couple of items to supplement my meagre lunch. As I sit down to tuck into my lunch of oatcakes and squirty cheese, the wind gets up and these north-easterlies bring a very cold and chilly feel. I’m soon on my way with about 5 miles of road walking ahead of me.

Looking south from Ardlamont Point across the Sound of Bute to Arran
Phyllitic mica-schists on Ardlamont beach

I’m now heading to Ardlamont Point and must leave the public road at the turning for Point farm. I pass the farm negotiating a digger blocking the lane to keep livestock in place. The view from the Point  across the Sound of Bute to the snow-capped peaks of Arran is breath-taking and I wish I had a camera to do the view justice. From this point on I will be walking westwards and having to make my own way around the coast over rough ground. I could take the road inland, but much prefer finding a way myself. Most coast walkers appear to miss out on this section of the coast which is a pity as it contains some really quiet and lovely beaches. I find remnants of an old footpath that passes beneath the small cliffs of  Creag Mhor. As I enter Ardlamont Bay I see that I am also entering Loch Fyne, the last of my Clyde Sea Lochs. I hug the shoreline walking on both the rough grass and the barnacle encrusted rocks close to the shore-edge. I make good progress and emerge into the delightful Kilbride Bay with its lovely white sands.

You tell me! Probably Second World War
Kilbride Bay

The next section of the walk would involve crossing a largish burn, which I did by a small footbridge and entering a forest section. I had examined satellite images, but am only to aware that these images are quite old and these forests grow quite fast! Sure enough, the firebreaks had long since disappeared. However, I managed to find the forest road I was looking for by using my compass. Although the road stopped short of the shoreline I could easily see the outline of Asgog Bay.

Ferry from Tarbet arriving at Portavadie (taken earlier in the day)

By this time the light was beginning to fade and I was not so sure of the route along the coast for the last couple of miles. I decided instead to head inland a short distance along a dirt track to the public road which would lead me down into Portavadie. A good days walk with some stunning views and some interesting terrain west of Ardlamont Point. The walk took 8 1/2 hours.

 

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=23498

 

Distance today =   23 miles
Total distance =    2611 miles

 

 

 

154. Ardtaraig to Auchenbreck

This section required some thought and planning due to: one, the absence of any footpath for the first 4 miles along the shore of Loch Striven; two, the infrequent bus service from my end destination and three, coordinating the start of the walk at low tide or as near to it as possible.

Essentially, this walk took in one of the many promontories that jut out into the Forth of Clyde, collectively giving rise to the Clyde Sea Lochs.

I had read other “Coasters” accounts of how they had tackled this section, most appeared to have just ignored it, choosing instead  to just walk along the B836 bypassing the promontory. I had read only one account by a coastal walker, David Cotton back in 2002, who had undertaken this section, although there may have been more. David described this section as a very tough walk that should be tackled at low tide, if you wanted to walk the shoreline route. I also considered the higher route, possibly taking in the Marilyn Beinn Bhreac (506m) before dropping back down to Troustan House located at the end of the un-pathed section. Unfortunately, the start of this section is heavily forested and I could see no reliable route onto the open hill. ** See footnote.

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Looking down Loch Striven (poor quality, still dark)
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Easy going down Loch Striven
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A few of the many flotation bouys from the local fish farm

So my plan was to take  on the low route along the shoreline, at low tide and leaving my bicycle at the end of the walk in order to provide transport back to the car. Low tide at Loch Striven was occurring at about 5:30 in the morning, but I opted to start at 7:15. I began with a short section of road walking from Ardtaraig to the derelict farm at Craigendive. It was still dark, so I wore my hi-vis vest , strobe head-torch and flashing red rear light. At Craigendive I took to the shoreline and found the going very easy to the ruins at Stiallag, where it seems a recent road had been opened up back to the B836. After Stiallag I encountered the first of many outcrops into the loch which would require me to climb around them. I doubt it would be possible to walk around them along the shoreline, even at low tide. It was really a case then of finding the best route around the outcrops through the trees. I did however, pick up a number of faint deer tracks, which came and went, but still aided in picking a way through the vegetation. However, in spring and summer it would be impossible to follow them due to the amount of bracken underfoot.

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Emerging from the woods near Troustan

And so it continued for almost 2 1/2 hours walking along the shoreline, going up and down around obstacles. There were a few grassy level sections which could provide excellent wild-camping sites. I knew exactly where I was along the shoreline, as I had been paying careful attention on yesterdays walk along the opposite side of Loch Striven to certain features on this side. As I approached the end of the un-pathed section my thoughts turned to Jennifer Thomson who perished close-by in 2007. Eventually I emerged out of the woods near to Troustan House. I must admit it was a bit of a relief to be back on a path. The route had not been easy, but neither had it been unduly hard. From Troustan onwards the walk would be all along the road. So I simply changed from my walking boots to my walking shoes, which I had been carrying in my bag.

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Sea otter feeding

The public road clings to the shore for most of the way and I was soon rounding Strone Point (one of many with a similar name in the area). I had excellent views of Rothesay and Port Bannatyne on the Isle of Bute as I bade goodbye to Loch Striven and entered into the Kyles of Bute. As I rounded Strone Point I suddenly came upon a Sea Otter who was busy feeding on a fish very close to the shore. I managed to get within 20m of him before he noticed me and dived under the water. This was the first time I had seen a Sea Otter in the wild. Unfortunately, my camera did not do full justice to the occasion.

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Looking up the Kyles of Bute towards the Colintraive ferry
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Colintraive ferry

I continued onwards along the road with the Isle of Bute dominating my view ahead. I soon espied the Cal-Mac ferry operating the short 300m across the Kyles to Bute. From the ferry terminal at Colintraive the road suddenly became much wider and turned into the A886. I was not on the main road long before turning left onto a minor road that was probably the old road to the ferry, which twisted and turned but was very quiet. I had now entered into the doubly named Loch Riddon or Loch Ruel. After 2 1/2 miles the old road re-joined the new road. The main road was relatively quiet, punctuated only by a sudden burst of 5 or 6 cars all at once as the Colintraive ferry disgorged its load.

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Looking up to the head of Loch Riddon

After 6 hours walking I finally arrived at the B836 junction where I had chained my bike to a signpost. The bike ride back to the car was a mixture of push and ride with an exhilarating and swift descent down to the head of Loch Striven.

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=23435

**Footnote: On my bike ride back towards the top of the B836 I noticed a recent area of de-afforestation and could quite clearly see a short but wide fire-break leading to the open hill. An obvious high route alternative to the one I had just completed.

Distance today =   19.5 miles
Total distance =    2588 miles

 

 

 

153. Ardtaraig to Dunoon

I managed to spot two days of reasonable weather which meant that I could continue my trek around the Clyde Sea Lochs. I left Shropshire very early, well at 1:30 in the morning and drove to Gourock deciding to save the long drive around via Arrochar and get the short ferry journey across the Firth of Clyde to Dunoon. After landing at Hunters Quay I drove the short distance into Dunoon and parked on the sea-front outside my hotel for the night. I then caught the 7:56 #478 bus,  glad to be out of the cold and biting wind blowing in off the Firth. I got off the bus just before the power station at Ardtaraig and walked the short distance back up the B836 towards the start of the path to Glenstriven.

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Start of footpath
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Looking down Loch Striven
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Looking across Loch Striven to Beinn Bhreac

I had heard that the public footpath which ran from Ardtaraig to Glenstriven was rather ‘vague’. In fact, at the start of my walk a wooden footpath sign pointed in an entirely different direction to what was on my map. Pheasants were in big supply here and I passed a number of pens, which appeared to block my way forward on a couple of occasions. For the next three miles I struggled to stay on any sort of path, one minute I was on an excellent path, the next it would suddenly disappear. The recent rains had also made the path, that was, into a bit of a quagmire in places. I had read that in the past attempts had been made to mark the general route of the path by making red marks on the tree trunks, I didn’t see any marks though. I also kept a careful eye on the terrain on the opposite side of  Loch Striven along which I would be walking tomorrow and that definitely did not have a path!

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Sign post
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Inverchaolain Church

After 4 miles I emerged on a recently bulldozed track which turned a number of ways. I just chose the obvious direction and descended down into Invervegain where I joined an Estate tarmac road. I spoke to an Estate worker who was busy cutting down and burning Rhododendron bushes, a fruitless task he told me! I finally came to the public road and proceeded to the next small hamlet of Inverchaolain which had a small church (rebuilt a number of times) and a very old graveyard. The church was up for sale.

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View looking back up Loch Striven

I continued south along the public road and although it was a low sun, it was not as bad as my previous visit to the area in early January; still pretty poor for taking photos pointing due south though. The road passed by the site of the Loch Striven OPA(Oil Pipelines Agency) a statutory body sponsored by the MOD for running Naval OFD’s(Oil Fuel Depots) of which Loch Striven is one. At this point I had moved out of Loch Striven and into an area bounded by the Kyles of Bute and Kames Bay, with excellent views across to Port Bannatyne and Rothesay on the isle of Bute, with the snow-capped peaks of Arran proving a fine backdrop.

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Looking across to Rothesay with Arran in the background
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Arriving at Dunoon

At Port Lamont I tried to continue along the coast to the fish farm, but was obstructed by a recently built house. I therefore followed the road slightly inland. The road emerged at Toward Quay, the terminus of the frequent #489 bus service to Dunoon. I was now walking east and that very chilly wind which I experienced early in the morning was back and would stay with me all the back to Dunoon. I headed towards the lighthouse at Toward Point, which together with the nearby Foghorn House now appear to be private residences.

I’m now heading due north towards Dunoon along the A815 which offers superb views across the Firth of Clyde to Skelmorlie, Wemyss Bay and Inverkip, places  I passed through in October 2016 and now just a couple of miles away! The A815 is very busy but there is a pavement all the way to Dunoon. Walking through the strung-out village of Innellan seems to take  an age. My feet and legs are now beginning to feel the fatigue and I stop a couple of times to relieve my tiredness, well its been a month since my last walk. Dunoon finally appears into view and I finally enter the town in the fading late afternoon light. As I pass the passenger ferry service near the bus stop terminus, a chap who had just got off the ferry spoke to me “Some walk mate, passed you at Ardtaraig first thing this morning”. Todays walk was a leisurely 7.75hrs.

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=23434

Distance today =   21.5 miles
Total distance =    2568.5 miles

 

152. Lochgoilhead to Dunoon

Todays walk was to be predominantly along roads, off-road footpaths and forest tracks keeping to the lochside for virtually all of the route. My plan was to get to at least Ardentinny, when I would then have the choice of completing the journey back to Dunoon by bus. In the end I made it all the way to Dunoon on foot, even if it did mean finishing in the dark.

To get these long walks in you need to start very early at this time of the year, so I caught the 6:58 #484 bus from Dunoon to Lochgoilhead; at only £3.60 it was fantastic value for money for a journey lasting over an hour and 33 miles. We had had another severe frost, which meant clear skies as I arrived at Lochgoilhead. Apart from yesterdays walk I had only previously visited this area before some 5 years ago while climbing a singular Corbett, Beinn Bhuela, which rises above the village.

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Looking north up Loch Goil to Ben Donich

Although it was not completely dark I began my walk with head-torch and hi-vis vest on. The road I was heading down was in fact a cul-de sac, but there was the odd couple of cars coming down along the road. From the bus stop I walked along the shore to the golf course and crossed the small burn by a wooden footbridge onto the Carrick castle road. Although it was very cold I soon warmed up with a brisk pace. I had lovely views to my left across Loch Goil of yesterdays high walk above Loch Goil. The ridge looked very knobbly from down here.

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Early morning amber-glow at Carrick Castle
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Forestry Commission car park at Ardentinny

It took about an hour and half to get to Carrick Castle. The 15th century tower house that is Carrick Castle is now in private ownership and is currently being restored, as I saw with scaffolding and building materials stacked up outside. Not far after Carrick Castle the public road ends. This is where the Forestry Commission footpath takes over for the 4 miles to Ardentinny. The path is a mixture of an off-road footpath and forest road. The route is well-marked and a popular attraction. I make good progress along the path which ends at a large Forestry Commission car park just before Ardentinny. I also finally say goodbye to Loch Goil as I rejoin Loch Long.

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Submarine in tow up Loch Long

As I walk through Ardentinny, something out on the loch catches my eye. It’s a small flotilla with a Royal Navy vessel escorting a submarine that is being towed and pushed by three tugs, with another escort vessel bringing up the rear. The conning tower has a huge pipe with steam coming out of it and is bedecked with engineers in orange overalls.

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Hunters Quay across Holy Loch from Strone
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Argyll Mausoleum at Kilmun Church

I have a couple of miles of road walking with no footpath as I make my way to Blairmore. At Blairmore, I look across Loch Long to see the end of the Roseneath Peninsula and also Loch Long. I now have a wide panoramic view out across the Firth of Clyde towards Greenock/Gourock and even Dumbarton Rock. As I pass through the small village of Strone I pass into the rather small sea-loch  of Holy Loch. The loch is quite narrow as I can see Hunters Quay quite easy on the far bank.

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Mortsafe at Kilmun Church
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Kilmun Church – Old and New

It has become quite overcast now, but still dry and streetlights are starting to come on. My legs are feeling fine, but I could do with some food as I hadn’t bought any with me! I soon forgot about my stomach when I came to Kilmun Church and I realised why Holy Loch is called Holy Loch! Kilmun Church is a fascinating place and I spend a short time looking around the old graveyard and the

 

church. I would have liked to have spent more time here, but with the failing light I must push on.

At Kilmun Turn, where the road joins the A815 I pop into a service station to get some food. As I come out,  I bump into a fellow “Shiller” in the form of Diane, of TwinAscents fame. In retrospect I should have spoken and introduced myself but I wasn’t 100% certain it was her. You Know embarrassment and all that!

By now I knew my legs would carry me the whole way to Dunoon. I’m also on well-lit pavements, so no real worry. I turn off the main road into Dunoon, to follow the coastal road through Ardnadam where I have a conversation with a dog-walker about the Amercian Submarine base when it was here. He tells me as a young lad he was one of the protesters camped out near the base at the time. I continue on to Hunters Quay, but not before popping into the ticket Office for Western Ferries to buy a ferry ticket for tomorrows return home. I find that buying tickets in advance and multiple gives you substantial savings. I bought a 2 journey ticket for car and driver for £17.

By now its dark, but I am walking along the promenade through Kirn and into Dunoon. Gourock is lit-up and seems very close, well actually 2 miles away. I walk straight to my B&B which is on the sea front. I have been walking for 9 hours and decide that I will give tomorrow a miss as wet and stormy weather is forecast.

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=23090

Distance today =   27 miles
Total distance =    2547 miles

 

151. Arrochar to Lochgoilhead

Today it was back to Scotland for a two-day trip continuing around the Clyde Sea Lochs. Todays walk would be different in that I intended to include some of the higher mountains between Arrochar and Lochgoilhead. The reason behind this was that in 2012 I completed the Corbetts (hills between 2500 to 3000 ft), but unfortunately the “meddlars” re-surveyed the Graham – Cnoc Coinnich (hills between 2000 to 2500 ft) and the result of the survey was that Cnoc Coinnich was indeed now classified as a Corbett and I hadn’t climbed it. I had therefore decided that I would climb Cnoc Coinnich and Ben Reithe when I walked from Arrochar to Lochgoilhead. I had not climbed any mountain above 300m for some 2 years so I was looking forward to this. I finally got a small weather window so off I went.

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Looking down Loch Long from Arrochar – with wooden carving and mountains on right yet to climb
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Near Forestry Commission car park on The Dukes Path
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Hills to the north with The Brack in the foreground and The Arrochar Alps behind

As I parked up in Lochgoilhead I could see that no hills had any snow on them at all, including the ones I intended to climb. So I discarded my ice axe and crampons and caught the 09:00 #302 bus to Arrochar. At Arrochar I set off immediately walking back down the busy and noisy A83. There is a footpath along the main road all the way  to Ardgartan where I took a woodland path that ran alongside the main road for 400m until I came to a small wooden footbridge that took me over the small burn. I emerged onto the minor public road that rose to a Forestry Commission car park at about 130m at the foot of Glen Coilessan. Since Ardgartan I had also been walking along The Cowal Way which climbs over the bealach between Cnoc Coinnich and The Brack, before dropping down into Lochgoilhead. Besides forming the Cowal Way, the access road continues around this peninsula, albeit as a cycle-track. I notice on the signage that it is referred to as The Dukes Path and I will join up with it again later on in the afternoon.

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Looking back down to Arrochar and Loch Long with Loch Lomond and Ben Lomond in the distance
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Looking south into the blinding sun with Ben Reithe and The Saddle in the foreground and the Roseneath Peninsula just visible in the distance
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The steep descent off Cnoc Coinnich
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Looking back towards Ben Reithe

At the bealach I make my way up steepening slopes to gain the ridge line of Cnoc Coinnich. Although the sun has been out since I started walking this morning it was only now that I was walking directly into it, and it was blinding! At the summit of Cnoc Coinnich it restricted my view to the south as well as trying to take any decent photos. However, there were terrific views still to the north and west, with the Arrochar Alps and hills of the Cowal peninsula standing out in particular. I could also make out to the south the Roseneath peninsula, The Gare Loch, Loch Long and Loch Goil stretching into the distance and into the Firth of Clyde. Unfortunately my ‘cheapo’ camera and the aspect of the sun could not do the view from this hill full justice, so if you want to see  much clearer views in their splendour then follow the link below to Trekpete’s TR of his visit to the area in 2013:

 

 

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=15649

It had taken me almost  3 hours of walking since Arrochar to reach the summit of Cnoc Coinnich and I must have stopped about 10 times to catch my breath, yes walking uphill takes more out of you. After negotiating the steep descent off Cnoc Coinnich I now had almost 2 miles along hummocky, boggy terrain towards my next objective Ben Reithe. Although lower than Cnoc Coinnich, Ben Reithe still had magnificent views, particularly to the south, although I had to squint with the blinding sun. Like Cnoc Coinnich, Ben Reithe had a steep descent on its southern limb, which required care to navigate around the small crags here and there.

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Corran Lochan

My next objective was The Saddle, which was lower still, but this time I was heading towards its eastern flank to pick up an ATV track which would descend down to the Dukes Path. I managed to locate the ATV track and 15 minutes later I arrived back on the Dukes Path. Most of the forestry roads I had been walking on during the day had been recently upgraded, a prelude to a probable commencement of forest operations. After a mile the Dukes Path arrived at the upland loch of Corran Lochan, a delightfully secluded loch below Clach Bheinn. Here the path turned north, as the sun began to disappear below the neighbouring hills.

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Approaching Lochgoilhead late afternoon

I continued along the path until I crossed the Stuckbeg Burn, where I met a local gentleman who was out from Lochgoilhead on a late afternoon stroll. He suggested that I descend down the Stuckbeg Burn path to join the main forest road back to Lochgoilhead. By the time I reached Lochgoilhead the sun had long since disappeared below the hills of Cowal. I now had the long drive around to Dunoon where I was staying for the next two nights. The walk had taken 6.75hrs.

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=23078

Distance today =   18 miles
Total distance =    2520 miles

 

150. Bowness-on-Solway to Gretna

Today I would be closing a gap in my walking progress around the coastline of Great Britain. I opened up a “second-front” at the Scottish border town of Gretna  in May 2016. Since then I have made excellent progress northwards to Arrochar, in the Scottish highlands. Meanwhile, on the English side I have been soldiering-on in single day trips up the English West Coast, getting ever closer to Gretna. I was thinking of making todays walk a two-day jaunt, but decided against it, preferring to save the money otherwise spent on a hotel.

Today I had the added bonus of being able to follow a National Trail, the Hadrian’s Wall  Path as far as Carlisle. I have the National Trail guidebook and intend, at some point to complete the path across to Wallsend on the East coast, at least I will have made a start on the section stretching towards Carlisle. The National Trail, more or less follows the route I intended to take anyway. From previous stuff I had read I was not expecting to find much left of Hadrian’s Wall in this neck of the woods. In actual fact I found nothing! I did not even find any evidence of the Vallum ( a 6m x 3m trench) running south of and close to the wall and whose true purpose is not fully understood. In actual fact. I probably did see parts of the wall, but within the many buildings I passed along the way, in the church’s, castle’s and houses. Over the centuries, people had used the ready cut stone of the wall as a cheap available building material.

As we rapidly approach the Winter Solstice, days are at their shortest and I know I must get a move on to get 22 miles in. My logistics to complete this section are quite simple. Drive to and park in Carlisle (£2.50 all day), catch the 6:35 #93A bus to Bowness (£5.60 again that still hurts), walk the route to Gretna, get a bus/ train back to Carlisle (in fact I got the #79 bus back at a cost of £3.50). To get that 6:35 bus I leave Shropshire at the ungodly hour of 02:15. This ia always the hardest part of travelling, the going to bed early, getting up early and then setting off. But the benefits of virtually empty roads and getting a start at the crack of dawn cannot be denied.

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Mosaic at start of Hardian Wall Path – Bowness
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Inscription at start of Path

I arrive in Bowness at 7:30 and it’s still dark. The irony of starting a walk in the dark to ensure that I do not finish a walk in the dark, is not lost on me. It is my favourite time of the day, but I need to ensure I can be seen as most of the todays walk will be along roads. I don my hi-vis vest, my head-torch set to strobe, I also wear my bicycle lights, which are quite light and have a red-flashing strobe at the back of my head and an additional light on my rucksack. I am like a mobile Christmas Tree!

I walk down a short alleyway to an area known as The Banks, this marks the start/end of the Path as well as the Wall itself. A number of information boards are contained in a small wooden arch building with a lovely mosaic floor depicting wading birds and the words Ave Maia meaning Hail Maia, the name of the fort Bowness was built on.

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Drumburgh Castle or Bastle – built of stone from the Wall

I begin walking east along the coastal road towards Carlisle, it is still quite dark, but no cars pass me for a few miles. I pass through the small hamlet of Port Carlisle, long since used as a Port. The morning light begins to glow from the east and I can easily make out the lights across the Solway towards Annan and East Riggs. The sky is overcast and grey, but warm and dry. As I pass through Port Carlisle the only noises I hear are from the wading birds on the nearby salt marsh on the Solway. I see a collection of flocks, some large, some small. Some are performing murmurations in a beautiful synchronicity.

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The road ahead – its straight and flat!

The road is very straight, the Roman influence, undoubtedly. I pass various small hamlets before coming into Drumburgh with its distinctive Castle, or more precisely its Bastle (a fortified house and quite common in these borderland areas). The bastle is built of stone taken from the Wall.

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St Michaels Church in Burgh by Sands built from the Wall
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Recent Edward 1 statue guarding the local playing fields.

I continue along the very straight road all the way into Burgh by Sands. This is quite a strung out village, but has a fine collection of houses. The course of the wall passes through the village, but little evidence is seen of this other than the church of St. Michael’s being built of  stone from the wall. St Michael’s has also a fine example of Pele tower, used to offer protection to those seeking shelter in the church during the times of the borderland raids. The church was also the temporary resting place of Edward 1 , who died close-by while waiting to cross the Solway into Scotland.

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Another brick in the Wall – this time the church at Beaumont

For the first time today I follow the Path off-road across fields and green lanes to the small village  of Beaumont which is situated on the banks of the River Eden. The local church again draws the eye as it is situated on the mound of a former motte and bailey castle, with stone again from the wall. I follow a minor lane down to Kirkandrews-on-Eden, because the adjacent National Train is closed for safety reasons. At Kirkandrews I leave the road again and follow the path across country to the village of Grinsdale. I am about 3 miles from Carlisle, but after walking along the banks of the Eden I reach its first bridging point, the A689 bridge forming  part of the Carlisle Northern development Route and only 3 to 4 years old and its time to start heading northish. I walk alongside the busy A689 on a wide footpath until I reach the first roundabout and take the minor road towards Cargo and Rockcliffe. Although the road is not busy, the traffic is moving at quite a pace.

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Walking along the River Eden at Rockcliffe
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Metal Bridge at Metal Bridge

I pass through Rockcliffe and descend down to the banks of the River Eden. The river is quite wide here and although it has some way to go before it enters the Solway, it still continues with its broad meanders. I follow the river out towards Demesne, where if I continued out to Demesne Marsh I could possibly join an earthen sea-wall which would join up with where I was going anyway. Not knowing the state of the sea-wall, I opt to continue on the minor lanes through Rockcliffe Cross to Halltown farm. Here I cross through a muddy field onto a equally muddy lane. For the last 3 miles I have not been able to see a thing, the area is just so flat. Just before I arrive at the farm Garriestown, I get a bit of a shock as a shotgun is discharged about 30 meters away on the other side of some trees. It’s a shooting party of 3 men with their dogs. I’m on a public footpath, but not sure on the legal standing there. I walk around the farm at Garriestown, with its many horses and follow a track down towards a huge metal bridge  which crosses the main West Coast rail line.

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The view from the rail bridge looking north towards the River Esk and Gretna
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At last reaching Scotland!

The view from the railway bridge is excellent; I can make out in the distance the village of Gretna and the River Esk which I will need to cross soon. I walk along the River Esk a short way before coming to the Inn at Metal Bridge. To cross the Esk I need to climb up a small embankment onto a minor road, which runs adjacent to the M6. I now on my final leg as I walk along the verge on the minor road towards Gretna. I eventually join up with the B7076 and walk a short distance before I arrive at the bridge over the River Sark, which marks the border between England and Scotland. I think back to May of this year when I first stood on this bridge and began my Scottish walk. After 6.5 hrs of almost continuous walking I need to rest now; but first I need to get back to Carlisle and my car. Fortunately I have only a short distance to walk and wait for a #79 bus back to Carlisle.

So what next? Well I have now have walked a continuous section from Poole in Dorset to Arrochar in the Scottish Highlands. I intend to continue pressing on up the Scottish west coast, in 2 or 3 day-long trips. In oder to get some day trips in over the coming months I therefore intend to open another second front, starting at Berwick-upon-Tweed and working my way slowly down the east coast of England.

Distance today =   22 miles
Total distance =    2502 miles

 

 

 

149. Abbeytown to Bowness-on-Solway

Todays walk would be solely along minor roads, as I complete the section around Moricambe Bay. This area of North Cumbria is quite quiet and I would have to get two buses from Bowness-on-Solway (my destination and parking spot) to Abbeytown (my start point). My first bus is the #93 into Carlisle, it costs £5.60! I then get the #400 service to Abbeytown at a cost of £6.90………………ouch!! At a total cost of £12.50 it is the most expensive journey I have undertaken on my journeys so far. I could have bought a Day Rover for £10.70, which would have still been very expensive OR I could have simply cycled between my start and end points and then walked back. Food for thought on my next trip up here.

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The disused Carlisle/Silloth to Annan railway

Yet again there had been a severe overnight frost, so it was on with the thermal mitts when I got off the bus at Abbeytown and a bit of quick walking to un-freeze my toes which had got very cold waiting for the bus in Carlisle. I will be walking along the B5307 for most of the morning and hope that the ROAD CLOSED AHEAD signs will not affect me. I pass the red sandstone church, the site of the Cistercian Holme Cultram Abbey, another victim of the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

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St John Church Newtown Arlosh

The road is very quiet and I suspect the road closure has something to do about that. I turn off this b-road down a minor road and walk over a railway that spans the long disused Carlisle/Silloth to Annan line, that passed over the Solway by means of a viaduct the remnants of which can still be seen on either bank today. I pass the small hamlet of Saltcoats, with its over-sized pond and re-join the B5307.

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Old mileage signpost Angerton

At this point I finally come to the point where the road is closed and the current work is taking place. The road is being widened and re-surfaced, not sure why as the bit about to be upgraded looks ok. I ask the workmen if its ok to walk through, they say yes, no probs, but I have to be ‘escorted’ for about 100m for ‘elf and safety reasons. I am now in the small village of Newton Arlosh, which has an interesting  church St. Johns, which although dating back to 12th Century was restored in the mid-19th century. I pass the pub and continue on.

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Whitrigg bridge over the River Wampool
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Radion mast and anchor points at Anthorn

This whole area is flat as a pancake and views are quite limited and with roads as straight as an arrow, the walking is not that interesting. I eventually come to Angerton and turn left and cross Whitrigg bridge which spans the other main River feeding into Moricambe Bay, The River Wampool. I continue on through the hamlet of Longcroft and into Anthorn. There are more houses here, but I finally get a view out across Moricambe Bay, which looks huge. I then see something I have not seen for quite a few years, coal lorry delivering sacks of coal. This used to be a common sight, but these days you just buy the stuff at a petrol station or garden centre. As I leave Anthorn behind I finally arrive at whats been dominating my view all morning, the 13 huge radio masts, interconnected like a spider’s web, they soar 745ft into the air. I am taken-in by their amazing symmetry.

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Looking towards Annan across the Solway

As I approach the hamlet of Cardurnock, I say goodbye to Moricambe Bay and begin to continue to walk along the Solway Firth. The shoreline is out some distance and across a salt-marsh, but I have been walking north most of the day and am drawing very close to the Scottish coastline. I can now make out features of my walk along the Scottish side of the Solway which I did in May 2016, in particular the area around Annan.

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Mileage post at Bowness-on-Solway

I have about four more miles of road walking until I eventually arrive at Bowness-on-Solway and the western extremity of the Hadrian’s Wall. Built on the site of a Roman Fort – Maia, it is also the start of the National Trail for Hadrian’s Wall. I have been pleasantly surprised today with how quiet this area has been. I have been on roads all day but probably had about 10 cars pass me and just a couple of people. I complete the walk in just 4.5 hours.

 

Distance today =   16 miles
Total distance =    2480 miles