I decided to do something different on this tip to Scotland by making use of the seasonal Cal Mac ferry service from Ardrossan to Campbeltown. I would be leaving my car behind at Ardrossan and aim to do four days of walking while based at Campbeltown. Making this work involved a number of factors within a suitable weather window, these included finding reasonably priced accommodation for five nights in South Kintyre and ensuring my routes were served by public transport.
I drove up to Ardrossan on Sunday morning to catch the 13:50 ferry. I intended to leave the car at the council run Harbour car park, for five days this would cost about £11. As a foot passenger the return cost of the ferry was £15. I also had to pre-book the three journeys I would be taking on the #926 City Link bus service. My B&B was located in the centre of Campbeltown, about 300m from the ferry terminal and at an excellent rate of £30/night.
The last time I took a ferry from Ardrossan was back in 2006 when I took the ferry over to Brodick on the Isle of Arran to climb the Arran Corbetts. The ferry route today would pass to the south of the island. The weather for the crossing was excellent with beautiful sunshine and calm seas. I caught the occasional glimpse of porpoises, but the main view on display were the mountains of Arran. We arrived in Campbeltown some 2 1/2 hours later and I lugged my rucksack and bag the short distance to the B&B.
My first walk began the following day and it meant I would be catching the #926 bus at 6:30 in the morning. David, at the B&B offered to cook breakfast at 5:45! It was another lovely sunny day when I boarded the #926 bus, which dropped me at the Skipness road-end (just before the Kennacraig ferry terminal) where I had a 30 minute wait to catch the #448 bus to Skipness which was about 7 miles away.
Because of bus timings I was having to do this section in reverse. The walk was basically split into two halves; the first section was following the Kintyre Way up through a forest road and then over high ground and down to Tarbet; the second half was along the A83 for almost the entire way up to Ardrishaig.
I got off the bus at Skipness post office. The views over to Arran were amazing and an unusual view of the mountains above Lochranza. I set off up the Kintyre Way which I discovered was well signposted with mileage posts every mile indicating how far you had come and how far you had travelled between Tarbet and Machrihanish. The Way is also marked throughout its length a distinctive set of light posts with a logo possibly depicting mountains reflected in the sea. The track followed the Skipness river through typical deciduous woodland, passing old crofts and sheep fanks long since disused. I could see the path had had a significant amount of work completed on it recently, with a number of sections raised above boggy ground. I finally passed out of the forest and onto the open moorland. I came upon a small steel structure with a metal box that housed a notebook asking people walking the way for their comments. Unfortunately, the notebook was in very poor condition. The last recorded entry I could just about make out was in December 2016. I considered making an entry, but thought it a pointless exercise as the book would dissolve before long.
Although I was now quite high, I could not get a good view out to the west, so I made a short detour across boggy ground to the summit of Cruach Doire Leithe. The summit offered excellent views across to the Paps of Jura and Islay, up Loch Fyne to Lochgilphead, to Portavadie on the Cowal peninsula and across to Arran. I rejoined the track and continued north. Two miles from Tarbert, the Way moves off the forest track and joins a footpath. I immediately come across a large stone cairn erected by a local man to celebrate the birth of his two nephews. Its called the Tarbert Millennium Cairn. I chatted to a lady at the cairn who was on five-day loch cruise and had hiked up the hill for the views.
Soon after setting off from the cairn I came upon a Slow Worm on the footpath. It did not move as I carefully stepped around it. Normally they just scarper back into the grass when you get anywhere near them. I could see that it was alive, it just seemed docile and hardly moved. Further down the track I came upon the ruins of Tarbert Castle. I then dropped down into the small village of Tarbert. The harbour looked magnificent in the blazing sunshine.
In Tarbert I popped into the local co-op to buy a cool drink, which I drank outside while watching a swallow in the front window of a pharmacy! It must have inadvertently flown in there. Anyway, with a bit of coaxing the pharmacist managed to point the bird in the right direction; it flew out of the door across the A83 and out over the harbour.
The next 12 miles I was not particularly looking forward to as it involved walking most of the way down the A83. I did manage to get some relief for about two miles by following an estate road that passed through the grounds of Stonefield Castle Hotel. The hotel, which welcomes non-existent is certainly an impressive looking building. In no time I was back on the A83, again practicing verge-hopping with an increasing number of vehicles. There were a number of sections which had little or no verge, so I had to very careful and quick in getting past these places.
I tried to stay in the shade as much as possible, because the afternoon sun was very strong. At Ardrishaig, I crossed over the Crinan Canal which enters Loch Fyne here. I planned to catch the 16:46 #926 bus back to Campbeltown, fortunately my timing was ok and I only had 40 minutes to wait. Miss that bus and I would have to wait another four hours! The walk had taken 7.5 hrs.
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 = 22 miles
Total distance = 2713.5 miles
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