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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
Distance today = 20.5 miles
Total distance = 2661.5 miles