I’m back for a further three days of walking, but this trip has been quite difficult to plan because of the logistics around public transport and the difficulty of the geography of Knapdale.
I have based myself at Port Ban holiday park and opted for another wooden pod or Hexilodge. The pod was not a great deal more than a tent and because the weather was forecast to be ‘unsettled’ I needed somewhere to dry my stuff, should the inevitable deluge begin.
The first days walking was quite straightforward and simply involved driving to Port Ban overnight and then catching the 08:00 #447 bus to Tarbert. Some of the bus services in these neck of the woods only run during school term time; which means that come 1st July public transport will not be available, well not until August.
I had driven up to Port Ban in my new ‘second-hand’ car which I had purchased a few weeks before. Unfortunately, I had had to say goodbye to my old faithful Avensis that I had bought from new in 2004 and had accumulated some 253,000 miles! There were few places in the British Isles that this car had not conveyed me to.
I left my car at the holiday park and walked up to the main road to catch the bus. The driver and myself were the only adults on the bus, as the bus was almost filled with school children we picked up on the way. I got dropped off at Tarbert Golf Club, which meant I had to walk half a mile to the West Loch hotel and then retrace my steps.
The early morning weather was very overcast and muggy which was forecast to clear up later in the day. Because my route would involve some off-road walking I was wearing my boots (the ones that gave me problems walking around the Mull of Kintyre). I thought I had solved the problem this time by ensuring they were laced up tight and by wearing additional pairs of socks – but I hadn’t solved the problem!
I was following a quiet single track road, the B8024 for most of the way back to Port Ban. Unfortunately, there were few views on offer as the summer vegetation and leaf coverage was with me for the first couple of hours. I passed a solitary Standing Stone, one of many I would see throughout the rest of the day. I passed through the small hamlet of Torinturk where the road rejoined the loch shore. At Dunmore I met and spoke to a local gent (the first of many conversations that day); some forty minutes later I moved on further down the road and got into another conversation with a local gent. The last 400m had taken almost an hour to cover. But it was nice to meet and chat with people along the way.
I was now heading for the road that turned off for Ardpatrick, down which I would pass onto the Ardpatrick Estate. This cul-de sac road actually leads towards Ardpatrick Point. The first thing I noticed as I walked along the road, was that virtually every gate into a field I passed had a “Plot for Sale” sign attached, along with the size of the plot in hectares. I pass a discrete distance from Ardpatrick House and am puzzled to come across a coloured painting from 1859 depicting the House on a large board. I spoke to one local gent, working in his garden, who said that the Estate owner was a developer who was unsuccessfully trying to sell off parcels of the estate. The local also advised that although I could get out to Ardpatrick Point I could not go further north because of the impenetrable vegetation. I already knew that the terrain north was going to be tough going and was rather apprehensive about having to have to retrace my route back the way I came.
I now headed north, avoiding as best I could high bracken, thickets and bog. I started following fence-lines which gave some help in navigating through the jungle. The walking underfoot was difficult with heather, bog and rocky terrain. Eventually I arrived at a secluded beach called Ceann an t-sailein. I still had another mile of difficult walking, but eventually picked up the road again just west of Gorten Lodge. However, the tough terrain had taken its toll and the pad of my left foot was very painful and difficult to walk on. I soon came to a church where I sought shelter to rest my legs and get some shade from the afternoon sun, which was scorching. I knew I would have to leave the peaceful and cool church in favour of the three miles of road work back to Port Ban.
A little further up the road, the afternoon #447 bus stopped next to me. It was the same driver who I had chatted to that morning. He asked if I was ok, as the bus was going to Port Ban before turning around returning to Tarbert. He stopped again on his return trip and we chatted awhile in the late afternoon sun on a very quiet country road.
By the time I entered the small hamlet of Kilberry my left foot was quite painful, I resisted the temptation to go into the Kilberry Inn for a quick pint. I had planned to visit the Kilberry sculptured stones and then continued along the shoreline, but fatigue and my painful foot meant the carved stones would have to wait for another day.
As I wrote this report in the wooden pod that night, it was touch and go whether I could walk the following day, as the pad on my left foot was quite swollen. The walk had taken a gruelling 9 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 = 21 miles
Total distance = 2845 miles