160. Lochgair to Ardrishaig

Camping Pod

I had planned to make my third day slightly easier, so I opted for a much shorter distance today. I packed everything into the car and bid goodbye to the camping pod, which I doubt I will ever return to. I drove and parked in the small village of Ardrishaig which sits across from Lochgilphead on the small inlet of Loch Gilp.

I caught the #926 bus back up the A83 to Lochgair. The bus today was only half-full, which quickly changed at Lochgilphead where about 15 to 20 people got on. Needless to say it took a good 15 minutes before we were on our way.

The view south from Carrick Hill
Whelk pickers beware!
B£%&*r off!

I got off the bus at Lochgair which only took 15 minutes from Lochgilphead and began walking down the A83. Although it was a bright and sunny morning, the occasional breeze reminded me it was still spring and a chilly one at that. I decided that I would try to get closer to the shore using some of the forest tracks. My first departure from the A83 saw me heading down a forest track that rose steeply over a de-afforested Carrick Hill. I got good views down Loch Fyne from the elevated position but could see little of Arran because of the morning haze. I came to a crossroads in the forest where a track went east down to the old West Otter ferry point which many years ago had a ferry service across Loch Fyne to Otter Ferry.

Not this way

I descend a forest track and emerge on the A83 at the small hamlet of Port Ann. I continue along the main road for a short distance. I had planned to get back to the shore and later enter a series of forest tracks around a hill called The Barr. Unfortunately, I am confronted with a series of off-putting signs and closely mown lawns. One of the signs warned-off “whelk pickers” and other people involved in commercial activity. Unsure of what a “whelk picker” might look like I opted for the non-confrontational approach and continued along the main road. Although, the signs did not explicitly prohibit access to walkers I felt the implicit undertones of “bugger-off!”. I passed further signage a few miles up the road, again warning-off “whelk-pickers”.

Ardrishaig across Loch Gilp
The Clock Lodge – Lochgilphead
Water fountain Lochgilphead

Thirty minutes later I entered the small town of Lochgilphead. I pass the recently restored Clock Lodge, once a gate lodge for the nearby Kilmory Castle. I had last passed through this town in December 2012 on my way back from Jura. The whole sea-front was festooned with Christmas lights, at the time and it looked very nice. I followed the A83 around the head of Loch Gilp. After about half-a mile I was able to climb up a series of steps alongside an automatic water waster building ( I bet Malky C would be interested in that!) on the Crinan Canal, which cuts Kintyre in two. I continued on to Ardrishaig where I ended my walk in a very quick 3 hours.

 

The Crinan Canal

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=23569

Distance today =   10 miles
Total distance =    2691.5 miles

 

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159. Inveraray to Lochgair

Today was a much simpler affair with regards to the logistics of getting to and fro to the start of my walk. On a beautiful sunny, crisp spring morning I set off driving down the A83 to Lochgair. Unfortunately the sunny bit did not last long, because as I arrived in Lochgair the first of a series of snow and sleet showers greeted me; setting out the pattern, weather-wise, for the rest of the day.

A sunny morning in Inveraray

I caught the 8:15 #926 bus outside the Lochgair hotel all the way to Inveraray. Yesterday the bus driver was amused at me booking a ticket for an empty bus, today was different as the bus was packed-full with travellers, people going to work and school kids. At Inveraray, the bus driver informed the passengers that there would be a 10 minute stop-over. Everybody, including myself, headed for the The Pier Cafe, where a selection of hot rolls were on offer. I bought a bacon and egg roll, and enjoyed the views up Loch Fyne just as the sun came out and the 926 bus continued its journey onto Glasgow. Meanwhile, I began walking south back down the A83 towards Lochgair.

Looking across Loch Fyne to Strachur
Looking down Loch Fyne at Pennymore
Fairy Castle at Pennymore

After a few miles I turned down an access road to the Argyll Adventure Centre. The dirt road continued on alongside the shore towards and through the Holiday park I was staying at, including the camping pod I had rented for two nights. The route through the holiday park put me on a dirt track estate road all the way to Furnace. The road was empty and clung to the loch shore for most of the way. The walk was wonderfully quiet, punctuated only by the frequent snow showers that came and went. Not far from Pennymore, basically a small collection of houses, I passed through a recently felled section of forest and just by the roadside was a very old tree stump that had been dressed into a “Fairy Castle”, presumably by children. It was quite fascinating to see the imagination and artefacts that had been placed there.

Granite quarry at Furnace

Shortly afterwards I arrived at Furnace, passing by a large and still active granite quarry. Furnace was founded really in 1755, when Lancashire industrialists built an iron smelting furnace at the site, making use of local iron ore and abundant charcoal. The industry did not last long and had ceased all together by 1813. The furnace itself is still there and in very good condition.

Furnace in Furnace!

I’m back on the A83 again walking on a recent tarmac footpath for the next couple of miles. A sign on the outskirts of Furnace gives some local info and history; but I am taken with striking wooden effigy at the top of the sign. Here the words Kintyre have a wooden eagle between them. This is the first sign that I have entered Kintyre, although I suspect I am actually still in an area known as Knapdale. Still, I am confident that yesterday I bid goodbye to Cowal, which I enjoyed immensely.

Another quarry nr Crarae Bay, note the black streak of a dyke running through the quarry wall
Looking north back up Loch Fyne
The ruins of St Brides Chapel and Graveyard at Loch Gair

I continue along the road passing through the villages of Crarae Bay and into Minard, where I get the last sleet shower of the day. Here I drop down to the beach and manage to pick up a footpath which takes me along the coast around to Brainport Bay. I continue onto Minard Bay, where the path turns back towards the village of Minard. Private gardens seem to block my way, but I manage to get around them and appear on an estate road within the grounds of Minard Castle. I can just make out the castle through the trees. I continue westwards and come to a fork in the estate road. I gamble on a road that leads down to the shore,…arrgh it comes to a private residence with no access onwards. Grrr! I backtrack, after walking an extra mile for nothing and my feet are starting to ache now. I retrace my steps to the road fork and follow a track that eventually leads back to the A83. I stay on the A83 for about a mile, before turning off into Ardcastle Woods and sample the delights of forest tracks! The tracks on the ground seem to match those on my map, which is reassuring. As I emerge close to the shore of Loch Gair I come across the ruins of the Chapel of St. Brides with its adjacent graveyard containing both very old and some quite recent headstones. This is surprising as the road is almost a mile away. Some of the gravestones are a just a simple stone with no writing or marks visible to say who is resting there. The place offers a tranquil view across to Lochgair.

I need to get back onto the A83, as this is where my car is. This involves bashing through trees and over barbed-wire fences and over a large drainage ditch – I really didn’t need that after such a tough walk. The walk ends after 7 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=23567

Distance today =   20 miles
Total distance =    2681.5 miles

 

158. Inveraray to Strachur

This was to be the start of a three-day trip around the head of Loch Fyne and the beginning of the long trek south down the Kintyre peninsula.

I had set myself to complete the first leg of the walk on a Sunday due to the lower volume of traffic on the A83. However, I had not been paying close enough attention to the City-Link (run by the ever reliable West Coast Motors) #926 bus service timetable, to see that the bus goes nowhere near Strachur. Besides reversing the direction for the route, I was also going to need to find alternative transport to Cairndow (the nearest point to Strachur on the #926 route). So I decided I would have to use my bicycle again. The City Link #926 bus service runs on a daily basis, up to four times a day from Glasgow to Campbeltown and the journey time is just over 4 hours! I  would probably using this bus service quite a bit over the coming months.

The Tinkers Heart
View south down Loch Fyne from The Tinkers Heart

I set off for the overnight journey from Shropshire and parked in Strachur. After a quick cup of, still warm, coffee I got my bike out and started the 10 mile peddle to Cairndow. The bike journey up the A815 was predominantly flat until St Catherines and then the road began to gain quite a bit of height which meant getting off and pushing. Just west of Ardno and close to the junction of the B839, I noticed a sign referring to “The Tinker’s Heart”. I was unsure of what the “Tinker’s Heart” was . However, close to the road I found a triangular set of low iron railings, within which was a set of stones set into the ground in the shape of a heart. The heart was covered with many coins, some of which had been there a long time. This site had been used in the past for many weddings and with the view on hand, looking south down Loch Fyne, you could see why.

I arrived at Cairndow and joined the A83. I chained my bike to a lamp-post close to the bus stop and waited for the 8:01 #926 bus. I had booked all my necessary journeys for the next three days, following the online advice. The bus driver was most amused when I showed him my e-ticket as he was only carrying one other passenger!

Inveraray Castle from the Aray Bridge
Looking back at Inveraray
The Garron Bridge, Loch Shira

I got off the bus at Inveraray with the sun shining and not a breath of wind. It was a beautiful, still and sunny spring sunday. I set off walking back up the A83 and walked onto the famous Aray bridge, guarding the northern approach to Inveraray and rebuilt a number of times. I had passed over this bridge a number of times over the last ten years but had not been able to get a closer look at Inveraray Castle, which looks down on it. I must admit I have wondered why the bridge has never been by-passed in favour of a more modern one and not requiring traffic lights for the traffic to pass over it. The Aray is quite elegant and justifiably listed as a Category A building/monument. A similar bridge, Garron Bridge, a few miles down the road at the head of Loch Shira (a small inlet of Loch Fyne) has been by-passed by a more recent one.

 

A shy Dundereave Castle, Loch Fyne

The traffic along the A83, while light at first, begins to grow as the morning moves on. However, there is a generous verge on either side of the road giving some protection. For most of the walk back to Strachur I am surrounded by trees offering only occasional views across the loch. I pass Dundereave Castle, historic home of the Clan McNaughton, now restored and in private residence. Unfortunately, it is difficult to get a good view of the place with the security fencing and gates in place.

Looking up Glen Fyne with Beinn Bhuidhe in the distance
Ardkinglass House, Cairndow

I eventually pass around the head of Loch Fyne I am not tempted by the large menu at the Loch Fyne Oyster bar and deli. I do remember parking here almost 15 years ago to the day when I set off down Glen Fyne to climb Beinn Bhuidhe in my Munro-bagging days. The hill is visible some four miles to the north. I enter Cairndow and pass my bicycle still securely padlocked. I could actually push my bike back to my car, but there is little need as I will be driving back this way later on. At Cairndow I am able to get some respite from the A83 by walking past the Stagecoach Inn and onto the Ardkinglass Estate. I cross a small footbridge close to the Salmon Fish Farm and pick up a dirt road that runs alongside the shoreline for some miles.

Heading south along the shores of Loch Fyne

I emerge back on the A815 road just before St. Catherines, a small hamlet on the A815. After leaving St Catherines, I pick up the old road which still serves a number of properties along the loch shore. From here Inveraray looks tantalisingly close, but it has taken me some 6 hours to get to this point. The final stretch of the A815 into Strachur is quite quiet and I eventually complete the walk in 7 hours.

I drive back up the road to Cairndow where I pick up my bike and continue back around Loch Fyne and onto the Argyll Caravan Park, where I have booked a camping pod for two nights. Although brand new and a quality build the camping pod is quite spartan. Apart from a wooden bench on the porch, the inside has no furniture whatsoever, other than a kettle, heating and lighting. You are not allowed to cook inside the pod, which was quite annoying as I had brought my microwave with me! I know, but it is long story. Anyway I still manage  not to break the rules as the microwave lead is able to reach inside the pod to an electric socket! At £40 per night, the small cabins at Glendaruel offer better value for money.

PS. I heard my first cuckoo of the year today. This always cheers me up with the promise that summer is on its way.

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=23565

Distance today =   20.5 miles
Total distance =    2661.5 miles

 

 

 

157. Strachur to Otter Ferry

The problem with this 15 mile section is there are no public transport links between the two points – which is actually not quite true! On a couple of days in the week you could travel between the two points but it would take almost 5 1/2 hours! Therefore my choices for getting back to the start point were limited. I decided on using my bicycle again by parking at Otter Ferry, cycling to Strachur, walking back to Otter Bay and finally driving home via Strachur to pick my bike up.

It was a very damp and overcast morning when I drove back over the top from Glendaruel. Although it was not raining, it was typical “scotch mist” weather. I set off on my bike to cycle to Strachur. I am not an expert cyclist and 15 mile is about my ‘comfort’ limit. The terrain certainly helped with the B8000 hugging the shoreline for most of the way and was generally level.

Looking north up Loch Fyne at the Boer War memorial Strachur
The church at Garbhallt, notice the bell and rope.

It took about 1 1/2 hours to cycle to Strachur, where I locked my bike up close to the main A815 junction. the ride up the loch was uneventful, apart from my cycle chain coming-off! Which was easily repaired. After securing the bike I set off back down the A886 at 8:15. The road was relatively quiet and for the first mile out of Strachur I had the luxury of a pavement. After another two miles I turned off down the now familiar B8000. In fact this road had become very well-known to me after two car journeys, cycling and walking it! If the A886 was quiet the B8000 was even quieter, which is always nice, especially when you don’t have to concentrate all the time on large lumps of speeding metal that could kill you.

The old chapel at Kilmorlie, resting place of the Clan Chiefs Maclachlan
Old ruins Castle Lachlan on the shores of Loch Fyne

At Garbhallt I pass the derelict building of the old coaching inn which sits on the opposite side of the road to the newly built(well 1781) and relocated chapel of Kilmorlie. This church, like others in the area, has its bell situated outside of the church and connected by rope in order that the bell can be rung for call to prayer. I am now in Strathlachlan, home to the Clan MacLachlan. Their stronghold at Lachlan Bay has a great deal of history. The ruined old chapel and graveyard at Kilmorlie is the ancient resting place for the Clan Chiefs of MacLachlan. Close by are the ruins of Lachlan castle, a consequence of post-Culloden retribution for Maclachlan siding with the Jacobite cause. Although the government allowed the Maclachlans to keep their lands, things changed forever after Culloden. The present castle was rebuilt about half a mile away and is situated and hidden behind a holiday home park. The castle is still home to a Maclachlan, the present incumbent being Euan John Maclachlan 25th Chief of clan Maclachlan.

Jacob Sheep – if you look carefully!
He is no Jacob, but has a beautiful set of horns

I continue along the road south. At Lephinmore I notice a small flock of unusual sheep in a field. I recognise them as Jacob sheep, an ancient breed and one that I remember seeing near Ravenglass in the Lake District last year. The weather is being kind to me with only the occasional shower and a few glimpses of sun. I am afforded excellent views across Loch Fyne, which I am not surprised to learn is the longest sea loch in Britain. Close to the fish farm at Largiemore I see a Red Squirrel, the first I have seen for about 7 years. It scampered across the road just in front of me and disappeared up a tree before I could even get my camera out.

Approaching Otter Ferry

My end point of Otter Ferry has now come into view and I was pleased to see that I completed the walk in 4.25 hours from Strachur. It was then simply a case of heading for home, driving back up the B8000 to pick up my bike art Strachur.

These two days had not yielded a great deal of mileage; but at least I was back on reasonable public transport routes. My next trip up will see me passing around the head of Loch Fyne and beginning the long, long route down Kintyre.

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=23538

Distance today =   15 miles
Total distance =    2641 miles

 

 

156. Portavadie to Otter Ferry

A short two-day trip this time to continue my journey up Loch Fyne. I achieved an interesting milestone driving up along the M6, just after the Thelwell viaduct, my trusty Toyota Avensis clocked up 250,000 miles. I had bought the car from new in 2004 and undertook all of the servicing myself. Its been a reliable old motor and I’ll be sad to see it go, when it finally does.

This part of West Cowal is not particularly well served by bus routes and todays route was no exception. Tighnabruaich Service Station runs a request service only a couple of days a week, so I had to factor in these days with the weather and finding somewhere to stay.

The path to Glenan Bay
Glenan Bay
I just love Highland ‘Coos

I caught the 9:18 #473 bus service from Otter ferry to Millhouse, unfortunately, this service was the closest I could get to Portavadie where I last finished my walk. So it was a 55 minute wait for the #471 bus to Portavadie. However, I decided that as the distance was only 2.3 miles to Portavadie I would walk the rest of the way. Upon reaching Portavadie I continued walking  along the coast following a footpath through the nature reserve to Glenan Bay. On rounding a small headland I enter Crispie Bay. This area has a number of private houses connected by a dirt/tarmac road which veers slightly inland, but continues northwards. I am now on the Ardmarnock estate. I pass a single ‘No public right of way’ sign which I had just unknowingly walked through. However, I had no issues with walking on this estate or the other ones I passed through on this walk.

Looking north up Loch Fyne and down to the River Auchalick

I had planned to take this route, as about 2 miles up the coast I would come to the River Auchalick, which I did not know if it could be waded. I opted therefore for the dirt track which took me onto the B8000. The B8000 was very quiet and offered excellent views both up and down Loch Fyne. By the time I reached the first bridging point of the River Auchalick, close to Drum, I was about three-quarter of a mile from the coast. I could have bashed my way through thick forest and bog to get back to the shoreline, but decided to stick with the road.

Water fountain with Cadburys Cream Egg cup available

I continue up the B8000 walking onto the Otter estate arriving at the small village of Kilfinan just as it started to rain, albeit lightly. I took temporary refuge under the eaves of Kilfinan community centre directly opposite Kilfinan church and its graveyard. As soon as the rain abated I walked around the graveyard, examining the older stones dating from the late 18th century. Some of the older stones sometimes have an inscription on the back of the headstone. One such headstone was for Duncan Thomson who died in 1814 aged 52, the inscription at the back of his headstone had an hour-glass carving and the words :

“My Glass is run
And yours is running
Be wise in time
Your day is coming”

Kilfinan church

I must confess I had to look up most of the words because as the photo shows the writing is a little obscured. Anyway, I considered this advice and departed Kilfinan.

Duncan Thomson’s gravestone
Blown over spruce trees

The road now rose up to a densely forested area where I saw a vertical wall of soil and tree-roots, which appeared that a good 100m of spruce trees had been blown over in some storm at the same time. I now pass onto the Ballimore estate. I head along the South Lodge estate road, towards the shore. Unfortunately, I could not find a way that did not involve climbing over high enclosure fencing. I continue along another estate road towards North Lodge, where I meet up with the B8000 again. A short walk downhill then saw me arrive back at Otter Ferry.

This short walk only took 4.5 hours so I had plenty of time to sample the ale at the Oystercatcher Inn at Otter Ferry. As I entered the pub, I was greeted by the pungent smell of smoked fish, which I quite like. Not bad ale either, but rather pricey, which is the norm for this part of the world.

The gravel sand bar “Oitir” giving Otter Ferry its name

I would have put money on the Otter Ferry taking its name from the sea Otter seen hereabouts. However, the word Otter actually comes from the gaelic Oitir, referring to the nearby gravel sand-bar jutting out for almost a mile  into Loch Fyne and is marked by a light and bouy.

The Small Lodge at Glendaruel campsite

I’m spending the night at the Glendaruel camping park. To get there I need to take a small single-tracked road up and over the hills into Glendaruel. It’s a car journey worth taking with its views, height and twisting nature making for s stimulating descent. At Glendaruel I booked a small lodge for the night, well its just like a small wooden cabin, but very nice. With bunks for 4 people, heating, TV, microwave, toaster and kettle. You just need to supply your own pillow/bedding + kitchen utensils. I had the place to myself and it was excellent.

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=23535

Distance today =   15 miles
Total distance =    2626 miles