This was a three-day walking trip which would see me reach one of my personal milestones on my journey around the coastline of Great Britain, rounding the Mull of Kintyre.
A good weather window beckoned, but I did not have much luck on the accommodation front as all of the reasonably priced places in and around Campbeltown were taken. I therefore decided it was time to start camping by spending two nights under canvas at the Kilegruar campsite just off the A83.
Unfortunately, I was travelling mid-week so no Ardrossan Ferry to Campbeltown on this trip, instead it was a 410 mile overnight drive to Campbeltown to catch an early morning bus, the 7:55 #444 bus to Southend. I was looking forward to rounding the Mull, because at least from today I would begin walking in a mostly northerly direction again.
After passing the Keil Caves I continued on a quiet road heading north. At the dramatic sounding farmstead of Druma Voulin, the Kintyre Way continued north along the quiet road, I continued west on an even quieter road that would continue all the way to the lighthouse at Mull of Kintyre. The road rose steeply and buildings were left far behind. The road was heading for The Gap, a small bealach between Tor Mor with its transmitter tower and the Marilyn – Beinn na Lice. At the end of the public road, a private road descended very steeply down to the lighthouse passing close-by a memorial to the Chinook helicopter crash in 1994. I decided not to descend to the lighthouse, it was a long way down and a long way back up. I left the road and headed up hill across rough ground to the summit of Beinn na Lice (428m). From the summit of this hill I could easily pick out the coastline of Northern Ireland twelve miles across the North Channel, picking out houses and fields with my binoculars as well as Rathlin Island , Fair Head and Ballycastle. The views towards the Ayrshire coast were more hazy, although I could still make out the distinctive shape of Ailsa Craig.
The next three to four miles would be across high moorland, keeping to the high ground as far as possible. This was easier said than done, as there were no tracks and it was a case of plodding through deep heather and spongy moss that made progress extremely slow. Navigation was not a problem as I could see the large outline of Cnoc May in the distance. Keeping a fence-line on my left I headed north aiming for the Kintyre Way, coming up from the south-west which I would join up with. I passed over the flattish summit of A’Chruach and could now see a track in the distance which would be the Kintyre Way. However, first I had to descend steeply down to Glenadale Water and then climb slopes up to the track. By the time I reached the Kintyre Way I had been struggling across the terrain for almost two hours and my feet were quite painful. I had intended to climb Cnoc Moy, directly up its southern slope, but I didn’t fancy going “off-road” again today!
I sat down and decided to eat some lunch. Although the there had been little in the way of sunshine all day, the heat of the day was very oppressive, with little or no breeze. Soon after setting off and after finishing my food I was startled by an Otter which appeared out of a drainage ditch alongside the track. It splashed around shot back into the water and hid down in the wetland grass. I could see the grass moving and by this time I had managed to get my camera out. However, I did not want to flush the animal out just to get a snap shot, so I continued on, happy that this had been my second close-up Otter encounter of the year.
The Kintyre Way circumvented Cnoc Moy by passing to the west of it. I came to an area known as The Inneans. I could descend steeply down to a small sheltered beach, which was the site of an unknown Sailors Grave. The partial remains of the “sailor” were found in 1917 and buried nearby. The grave is apparently still tended by walkers and locals. I didn’t have the energy to climb down to the beach and then back up again. I’m heading up Innean Glen now conscious of covering the last 6 miles to catch the 16:30 bus back to Campbeltown. I work out that if I can stick to 3 mph I should make the bus; I use the mile indicator post of the Kintyre Way to time myself. I come across a metal case containing a book of comments /suggestions about walking the Kintyre Way, the book has recent entries and is in much better condition than the one at the Tarbert end. Eventually I reach Ballygroggan farm at the road end and see my first people of the day!
By the time I reach Machrihanish, the overnight drive, heat, terrain and walk have taken their toll and I suddenly develop very painful leg cramps as I sit down on a bench. It takes awhile massaging my muscles and stretching my legs to relieve the cramp. The walk had taken 8 hours.
I pick my car up in Campbeltown and drive back up the A83 to my campsite at Kilegruar. As I try to erect my tent one of the three tent poles, somehow, has lost its sleeve down the inside of the pole. I spend over an hour trying to retrieve the sleeve, but to no avail. I make the tent secure as best I can and empty the contents of the car into the tent and end up spending the next two nights sleeping in the back of the car – which is quite comfortable.
[Footnote: when I get home I have to cut the shock cord which holds the pole pieces together. The cord needed replacing anyway. I manage to remove the sleeve and relocate it back into the pole by gluing it in place.]
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 = 19 miles
Total distance = 2785 miles