130. Stranraer to Ballantrae

Today will see me walking north and out of Dumfries and Galloway into South Ayrshire. It is a beautiful calm and still morning as I set off from Stranraer. The sun is yet to come out of the thin clouds that hide it.

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Old Ferry terminal Stranraer

I walk out past the deserted and desolate old Ferry Terminal at Stranraer, Stena chose to relocate some miles up the A77 to Cairn Ryan, to join P&O in providing ferry services to Belfast and Larne. Not long after leaving Stranraer, I meet a couple and their two Jack Russells, always a sucker for JR’s we discuss dogs and things in general, 30 later I am on my way again. When the traffic from the busy A77 stops, the peace and tranquility is splendid, with the sound of Oystercatchers, Curlews, Redshank, Ringed Plover and a host of other Gulls a welcome change to the incessant noise of traffic.

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On the A77 heading north towards Cairn Ryan

Although the Cairn Ryan Coast Path runs almost alongside the A77, I opt to stay on the cycle/pathway alongside; which was a big mistake! About 2 miles from Cairn Ryan, the cycle/footpath stops for no apparent reason in the middle of nowhere…………..WHY? Do they expect people to stop and turn around?? Absolute madness. It leaves me little choice other than continue on the verge…artics and all! Eventually I find a way back onto the  coastal path. I rejoin the A77 at th first of the Ferry terminals which is the P&O Larne terminal, the European Causeway is just about to be sent on its way.

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Loading up for the Stena service to Belfast
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The old coach road between Ayr to Stranraer

I find a bench and sit down, the tough day of yesterday has left my legs feeling quite tired. As I approach the Stena and Belfast Terminal, the  coastal path turns inland and quite steeply up onto moors. I am on the old coach road between Ayr and Stranraer which was used between the 1700 and early 1800’s. They must have had some fun with getting coaches up and down that hill!

On Little Laight Hill I pass a number of battery installments and searchlight sites from the WW2, all in ruins. I note an interesting stone, the “Taxing Stane” a marker of the boundary between the old kingdoms of Galloway and Carrick also in memory to Alpin, King of the Scots of Daldriada, murdered in nearby Glenapp.

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The Taxing Stane
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Looking across Loch Ryan to the North Rhins

The tarmac soon runs out and I am left out on the open moor. The views are stupendous from this height, I can see across the Loch towards all of yesterdays walk,  Kintyre and Ailsa Craig. The path disappears and I cross Galloway Burn and I am now officially in South Ayrshire. I have spotted some construction ahead which I believe to be a new wind farm. Later evidenced as I spot countless turbines in the dock area of Cairn Ryan. I avoid the site, but am shepherded by new fencing leading me to the access road for the site and a bloke with a clipboard! He points to another access road which is says is where the path goes. I go through a gate and are effectively dumped on the moor. I see one more signs, then its a case of fending for yourself. I reach a burn above Haggistone Bridge and try to battle down through gorse and bracken. The Mull of Galloway Trail has ended quite ignominiously which is only fitting really, as this Trail on the ground leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, as do most of the footpaths in D&G. The concept of Core Paths in D&G is really quite a myth being either a concept in someone’s head or just purple lines on maps  on the Councils own website. In reality few exist on the ground.

I emerge on the A77 in Glenapp and endure another 600m of verge walking along this busy road. At Glenapp church I say hello to the start of the Ayrshire Coastal Path, my guide fo the next  100 miles,  as it weaves its way north up the Ayrshire coast. AND just as I make a new acquaintance in the Ayrshire Coastal Path (ACP),  I acquire another almost immediately! Meet Mark a 58 year old taxi driver from Morecambe who is slowly cycling his way around the coast of Great Britain. Mark too had started out from Stranraer that morning and was also heading for Ballantrae. Mark had left the A77 a few miles back due to it being dangerous. Unfortunately, Mark did not have the adjacent map which he had strayed onto. He was indeed heading back to the A77. I suggested he try following my route on the Ayrshire Coastal Path, as parts of it could be cycable. But first we had to ascend 200m to bealach between Barbule and Sandloch Hill. It was certainly worth the climb, as the vista was breathtaking. At the bealach Mark had cycled off into the distance, but I met him up awhile later where I was due to turn off and follow the ACP down to the shore. As it turned out, the ACP was closed at this section (from 2015) for ground works on a interconnect cable between Scotland and Northern Ireland for electricity. The detour would take us slightly inland then use minor rods all he way into Ballantrae. Mark was apprehensive about the cycle back, I suggested he leave the cycle locked up in Ballantrae, get the bus back with me to Stranraer the collect his car  and back to pick his bike up. He said he wish he had thought of that! I arranged to meet Mark in Ballantrae, as he cycled off.

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Quirky shop Ballantrae

The final couple of miles down into Ballantrae were tiring even though they were on road and downhill. The minor roads joined up with the A77 as we crossed the River Stinchar into Ballantrae. I met up with Mark as we sat on a bench outside of the local church as the lorries thundered through the village in a monotonous procession. Oh what joy, I would be sharing the self same tarmac with them tomorrow. The walk had taken 8.75hrs

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=21583

Distance today =  20.5 miles
Total distance =   2098 miles

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