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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Distance today = 20 miles
Total distance = 2681.5 miles