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

 

 

 

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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