159. Inveraray to Lochgair

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.

A sunny morning in Inveraray

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.

Looking across Loch Fyne to Strachur
Looking down Loch Fyne at Pennymore
Fairy Castle at Pennymore

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.

Granite quarry at Furnace

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.

Furnace in Furnace!

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.

Another quarry nr Crarae Bay, note the black streak of a dyke running through the quarry wall
Looking north back up Loch Fyne
The ruins of St Brides Chapel and Graveyard at Loch Gair

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:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=23567

Distance today =   20 miles
Total distance =    2681.5 miles

 

158. Inveraray to Strachur

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.

The Tinkers Heart
View south down Loch Fyne from The Tinkers Heart

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!

Inveraray Castle from the Aray Bridge
Looking back at Inveraray
The Garron Bridge, Loch Shira

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.

 

A shy Dundereave Castle, Loch Fyne

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.

Looking up Glen Fyne with Beinn Bhuidhe in the distance
Ardkinglass House, Cairndow

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.

Heading south along the shores of Loch Fyne

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:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=23565

Distance today =   20.5 miles
Total distance =    2661.5 miles

 

 

 

157. Strachur to Otter Ferry

The problem with this 15 mile section is there are no public transport links between the two points – which is actually not quite true! On a couple of days in the week you could travel between the two points but it would take almost 5 1/2 hours! Therefore my choices for getting back to the start point were limited. I decided on using my bicycle again by parking at Otter Ferry, cycling to Strachur, walking back to Otter Bay and finally driving home via Strachur to pick my bike up.

It was a very damp and overcast morning when I drove back over the top from Glendaruel. Although it was not raining, it was typical “scotch mist” weather. I set off on my bike to cycle to Strachur. I am not an expert cyclist and 15 mile is about my ‘comfort’ limit. The terrain certainly helped with the B8000 hugging the shoreline for most of the way and was generally level.

Looking north up Loch Fyne at the Boer War memorial Strachur
The church at Garbhallt, notice the bell and rope.

It took about 1 1/2 hours to cycle to Strachur, where I locked my bike up close to the main A815 junction. the ride up the loch was uneventful, apart from my cycle chain coming-off! Which was easily repaired. After securing the bike I set off back down the A886 at 8:15. The road was relatively quiet and for the first mile out of Strachur I had the luxury of a pavement. After another two miles I turned off down the now familiar B8000. In fact this road had become very well-known to me after two car journeys, cycling and walking it! If the A886 was quiet the B8000 was even quieter, which is always nice, especially when you don’t have to concentrate all the time on large lumps of speeding metal that could kill you.

The old chapel at Kilmorlie, resting place of the Clan Chiefs Maclachlan
Old ruins Castle Lachlan on the shores of Loch Fyne

At Garbhallt I pass the derelict building of the old coaching inn which sits on the opposite side of the road to the newly built(well 1781) and relocated chapel of Kilmorlie. This church, like others in the area, has its bell situated outside of the church and connected by rope in order that the bell can be rung for call to prayer. I am now in Strathlachlan, home to the Clan MacLachlan. Their stronghold at Lachlan Bay has a great deal of history. The ruined old chapel and graveyard at Kilmorlie is the ancient resting place for the Clan Chiefs of MacLachlan. Close by are the ruins of Lachlan castle, a consequence of post-Culloden retribution for Maclachlan siding with the Jacobite cause. Although the government allowed the Maclachlans to keep their lands, things changed forever after Culloden. The present castle was rebuilt about half a mile away and is situated and hidden behind a holiday home park. The castle is still home to a Maclachlan, the present incumbent being Euan John Maclachlan 25th Chief of clan Maclachlan.

Jacob Sheep – if you look carefully!
He is no Jacob, but has a beautiful set of horns

I continue along the road south. At Lephinmore I notice a small flock of unusual sheep in a field. I recognise them as Jacob sheep, an ancient breed and one that I remember seeing near Ravenglass in the Lake District last year. The weather is being kind to me with only the occasional shower and a few glimpses of sun. I am afforded excellent views across Loch Fyne, which I am not surprised to learn is the longest sea loch in Britain. Close to the fish farm at Largiemore I see a Red Squirrel, the first I have seen for about 7 years. It scampered across the road just in front of me and disappeared up a tree before I could even get my camera out.

Approaching Otter Ferry

My end point of Otter Ferry has now come into view and I was pleased to see that I completed the walk in 4.25 hours from Strachur. It was then simply a case of heading for home, driving back up the B8000 to pick up my bike art Strachur.

These two days had not yielded a great deal of mileage; but at least I was back on reasonable public transport routes. My next trip up will see me passing around the head of Loch Fyne and beginning the long, long route down Kintyre.

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:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=23538

Distance today =   15 miles
Total distance =    2641 miles

 

 

156. Portavadie to Otter Ferry

A short two-day trip this time to continue my journey up Loch Fyne. I achieved an interesting milestone driving up along the M6, just after the Thelwell viaduct, my trusty Toyota Avensis clocked up 250,000 miles. I had bought the car from new in 2004 and undertook all of the servicing myself. Its been a reliable old motor and I’ll be sad to see it go, when it finally does.

This part of West Cowal is not particularly well served by bus routes and todays route was no exception. Tighnabruaich Service Station runs a request service only a couple of days a week, so I had to factor in these days with the weather and finding somewhere to stay.

The path to Glenan Bay
Glenan Bay
I just love Highland ‘Coos

I caught the 9:18 #473 bus service from Otter ferry to Millhouse, unfortunately, this service was the closest I could get to Portavadie where I last finished my walk. So it was a 55 minute wait for the #471 bus to Portavadie. However, I decided that as the distance was only 2.3 miles to Portavadie I would walk the rest of the way. Upon reaching Portavadie I continued walking  along the coast following a footpath through the nature reserve to Glenan Bay. On rounding a small headland I enter Crispie Bay. This area has a number of private houses connected by a dirt/tarmac road which veers slightly inland, but continues northwards. I am now on the Ardmarnock estate. I pass a single ‘No public right of way’ sign which I had just unknowingly walked through. However, I had no issues with walking on this estate or the other ones I passed through on this walk.

Looking north up Loch Fyne and down to the River Auchalick

I had planned to take this route, as about 2 miles up the coast I would come to the River Auchalick, which I did not know if it could be waded. I opted therefore for the dirt track which took me onto the B8000. The B8000 was very quiet and offered excellent views both up and down Loch Fyne. By the time I reached the first bridging point of the River Auchalick, close to Drum, I was about three-quarter of a mile from the coast. I could have bashed my way through thick forest and bog to get back to the shoreline, but decided to stick with the road.

Water fountain with Cadburys Cream Egg cup available

I continue up the B8000 walking onto the Otter estate arriving at the small village of Kilfinan just as it started to rain, albeit lightly. I took temporary refuge under the eaves of Kilfinan community centre directly opposite Kilfinan church and its graveyard. As soon as the rain abated I walked around the graveyard, examining the older stones dating from the late 18th century. Some of the older stones sometimes have an inscription on the back of the headstone. One such headstone was for Duncan Thomson who died in 1814 aged 52, the inscription at the back of his headstone had an hour-glass carving and the words :

“My Glass is run
And yours is running
Be wise in time
Your day is coming”

Kilfinan church

I must confess I had to look up most of the words because as the photo shows the writing is a little obscured. Anyway, I considered this advice and departed Kilfinan.

Duncan Thomson’s gravestone
Blown over spruce trees

The road now rose up to a densely forested area where I saw a vertical wall of soil and tree-roots, which appeared that a good 100m of spruce trees had been blown over in some storm at the same time. I now pass onto the Ballimore estate. I head along the South Lodge estate road, towards the shore. Unfortunately, I could not find a way that did not involve climbing over high enclosure fencing. I continue along another estate road towards North Lodge, where I meet up with the B8000 again. A short walk downhill then saw me arrive back at Otter Ferry.

This short walk only took 4.5 hours so I had plenty of time to sample the ale at the Oystercatcher Inn at Otter Ferry. As I entered the pub, I was greeted by the pungent smell of smoked fish, which I quite like. Not bad ale either, but rather pricey, which is the norm for this part of the world.

The gravel sand bar “Oitir” giving Otter Ferry its name

I would have put money on the Otter Ferry taking its name from the sea Otter seen hereabouts. However, the word Otter actually comes from the gaelic Oitir, referring to the nearby gravel sand-bar jutting out for almost a mile  into Loch Fyne and is marked by a light and bouy.

The Small Lodge at Glendaruel campsite

I’m spending the night at the Glendaruel camping park. To get there I need to take a small single-tracked road up and over the hills into Glendaruel. It’s a car journey worth taking with its views, height and twisting nature making for s stimulating descent. At Glendaruel I booked a small lodge for the night, well its just like a small wooden cabin, but very nice. With bunks for 4 people, heating, TV, microwave, toaster and kettle. You just need to supply your own pillow/bedding + kitchen utensils. I had the place to myself and it was excellent.

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:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=23535

Distance today =   15 miles
Total distance =    2626 miles

 

155. Auchenbreck to Portavadie

Only a single walk on this visit, due to the next section of the walk having some dificulties around public transport that I need to work around.

It has been a good 5 weeks since my last visit to Scotland, partly due to finding a suitable weather window, but principally due to the fact that I have taken up wood turning again (last done when I was at school!). The local electricity power supplier had recently chopped down a number of trees which had encroached near to power lines. I managed to retrieve some of this wood, mainly oak, from a brook where it had just been dumped – it weighed a ton! So I had been very busy preparing the wood by removing the pith and rough-turning it into bowls before laying the wood up for 6 months to continue drying.

I found at least a couple of good weather days in the Cowal area, but did not bank on the bad weather while driving up to Scotland. Driving over Shap Fell on the M6 through a snowstorm was horrendous, I could not even tell which lane I was in, the snow being so intense. Because I was doing a single big day, I had also decided that with the travelling up overnight and the tough walk I would need a good rest, so I decided to stay the night in Dunoon.

I drove to Portavadie, making use of the Gourock – Dunoon ferry which knocks about 50 miles of the northerly approach via Arrochar. Pre-buying ferry tickets for two journeys also means it only costs about £8.50 each way.

Not any more!
Luing cattle feeding on the shores of Loch Riddon

I park in a Forestry commission car park close to the marina development. Portavadie is a rather strange place, besides being a ferry terminal for the short hop across Loch Fyne to Tarbet, someone had the idea to develop the site with luxury apartments. I catch the 9:35 #478 bus heading to Dunoon, but I will get off at Auchenbreck. I leave the bus and begin my walk at 10:10, far later in the day than I normally start walking. I set off north back down the A886. I am heading for the first bridging point over the River Ruel which feeds into Loch Riddon / Ruel. I arrive at the junction with the A8003 which runs south alongside Loch Riddon. Traffic along the road is light. A short distance along the road I am joined by the Cowal Way, which I last walked along near Arrochar. The road snakes and winds itself close to the River Ruel and it is a lovely spring-like morning with the sun out.

The view south from the road (taken earlier in the morning)
Steep sections on the Cowal Way

I pass a sign for Mechan’s Grave. Mechan was a Norse warrior, who was killed on his way to the battle of Largs in 1263. Some time ago, the grave location was examined but no remains were found.  Shortly afterwards I follow the Cowal Way which now leaves the main road and continues alongside the Loch towards Ormidale Lodge. This marks the end of the public road and where the Cowal Way must climb high up the hillside to pass above and around Sron na  Carraige, a steep rock outcrop. For the next couple of miles the Cowal Way is certainly inventive and makes good use of rock ladders to get along the steep and forested hillside. The rhododendrons have been cut back giving a wide path, that the path also uses wooden walk ways over some of the more steep ground.

At Glen Caladh the path joins a dirt track access road to the small settlement of Caladh, with its sheltered harbour guarded by the small wooded island of Eilean Dubh.

While the majority of the Cowal Way runs close to the loch, the A8003 climbs high and unseen up the hillside. At a couple of places there are observation points which offer stunning views south down Loch Riddon and the Kyles of Bute. I had taken advantage of such views earlier that morning on my drive down to Portavadie.

Looking back at Tighnabruaich

After rounding Rubha Ban I can now see the strung out settlements of Port Driseach, Tighnabruaich and Kames hugging the shoreline. I love the delightfully sounding name of Tighnabruaich pronounced Tine-na-brew-arr-rich. At this point I have passed out of Loch Riddon and into the western Kyles of Bute. I pop into a spar and stock up a couple of items to supplement my meagre lunch. As I sit down to tuck into my lunch of oatcakes and squirty cheese, the wind gets up and these north-easterlies bring a very cold and chilly feel. I’m soon on my way with about 5 miles of road walking ahead of me.

Looking south from Ardlamont Point across the Sound of Bute to Arran
Phyllitic mica-schists on Ardlamont beach

I’m now heading to Ardlamont Point and must leave the public road at the turning for Point farm. I pass the farm negotiating a digger blocking the lane to keep livestock in place. The view from the Point  across the Sound of Bute to the snow-capped peaks of Arran is breath-taking and I wish I had a camera to do the view justice. From this point on I will be walking westwards and having to make my own way around the coast over rough ground. I could take the road inland, but much prefer finding a way myself. Most coast walkers appear to miss out on this section of the coast which is a pity as it contains some really quiet and lovely beaches. I find remnants of an old footpath that passes beneath the small cliffs of  Creag Mhor. As I enter Ardlamont Bay I see that I am also entering Loch Fyne, the last of my Clyde Sea Lochs. I hug the shoreline walking on both the rough grass and the barnacle encrusted rocks close to the shore-edge. I make good progress and emerge into the delightful Kilbride Bay with its lovely white sands.

You tell me! Probably Second World War
Kilbride Bay

The next section of the walk would involve crossing a largish burn, which I did by a small footbridge and entering a forest section. I had examined satellite images, but am only to aware that these images are quite old and these forests grow quite fast! Sure enough, the firebreaks had long since disappeared. However, I managed to find the forest road I was looking for by using my compass. Although the road stopped short of the shoreline I could easily see the outline of Asgog Bay.

Ferry from Tarbet arriving at Portavadie (taken earlier in the day)

By this time the light was beginning to fade and I was not so sure of the route along the coast for the last couple of miles. I decided instead to head inland a short distance along a dirt track to the public road which would lead me down into Portavadie. A good days walk with some stunning views and some interesting terrain west of Ardlamont Point. The walk took 8 1/2 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:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=23498

 

Distance today =   23 miles
Total distance =    2611 miles

 

 

 

154. Ardtaraig to Auchenbreck

This section required some thought and planning due to: one, the absence of any footpath for the first 4 miles along the shore of Loch Striven; two, the infrequent bus service from my end destination and three, coordinating the start of the walk at low tide or as near to it as possible.

Essentially, this walk took in one of the many promontories that jut out into the Forth of Clyde, collectively giving rise to the Clyde Sea Lochs.

I had read other “Coasters” accounts of how they had tackled this section, most appeared to have just ignored it, choosing instead  to just walk along the B836 bypassing the promontory. I had read only one account by a coastal walker, David Cotton back in 2002, who had undertaken this section, although there may have been more. David described this section as a very tough walk that should be tackled at low tide, if you wanted to walk the shoreline route. I also considered the higher route, possibly taking in the Marilyn Beinn Bhreac (506m) before dropping back down to Troustan House located at the end of the un-pathed section. Unfortunately, the start of this section is heavily forested and I could see no reliable route onto the open hill. ** See footnote.

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Looking down Loch Striven (poor quality, still dark)
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Easy going down Loch Striven
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A few of the many flotation bouys from the local fish farm

So my plan was to take  on the low route along the shoreline, at low tide and leaving my bicycle at the end of the walk in order to provide transport back to the car. Low tide at Loch Striven was occurring at about 5:30 in the morning, but I opted to start at 7:15. I began with a short section of road walking from Ardtaraig to the derelict farm at Craigendive. It was still dark, so I wore my hi-vis vest , strobe head-torch and flashing red rear light. At Craigendive I took to the shoreline and found the going very easy to the ruins at Stiallag, where it seems a recent road had been opened up back to the B836. After Stiallag I encountered the first of many outcrops into the loch which would require me to climb around them. I doubt it would be possible to walk around them along the shoreline, even at low tide. It was really a case then of finding the best route around the outcrops through the trees. I did however, pick up a number of faint deer tracks, which came and went, but still aided in picking a way through the vegetation. However, in spring and summer it would be impossible to follow them due to the amount of bracken underfoot.

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Emerging from the woods near Troustan

And so it continued for almost 2 1/2 hours walking along the shoreline, going up and down around obstacles. There were a few grassy level sections which could provide excellent wild-camping sites. I knew exactly where I was along the shoreline, as I had been paying careful attention on yesterdays walk along the opposite side of Loch Striven to certain features on this side. As I approached the end of the un-pathed section my thoughts turned to Jennifer Thomson who perished close-by in 2007. Eventually I emerged out of the woods near to Troustan House. I must admit it was a bit of a relief to be back on a path. The route had not been easy, but neither had it been unduly hard. From Troustan onwards the walk would be all along the road. So I simply changed from my walking boots to my walking shoes, which I had been carrying in my bag.

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Sea otter feeding

The public road clings to the shore for most of the way and I was soon rounding Strone Point (one of many with a similar name in the area). I had excellent views of Rothesay and Port Bannatyne on the Isle of Bute as I bade goodbye to Loch Striven and entered into the Kyles of Bute. As I rounded Strone Point I suddenly came upon a Sea Otter who was busy feeding on a fish very close to the shore. I managed to get within 20m of him before he noticed me and dived under the water. This was the first time I had seen a Sea Otter in the wild. Unfortunately, my camera did not do full justice to the occasion.

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Looking up the Kyles of Bute towards the Colintraive ferry
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Colintraive ferry

I continued onwards along the road with the Isle of Bute dominating my view ahead. I soon espied the Cal-Mac ferry operating the short 300m across the Kyles to Bute. From the ferry terminal at Colintraive the road suddenly became much wider and turned into the A886. I was not on the main road long before turning left onto a minor road that was probably the old road to the ferry, which twisted and turned but was very quiet. I had now entered into the doubly named Loch Riddon or Loch Ruel. After 2 1/2 miles the old road re-joined the new road. The main road was relatively quiet, punctuated only by a sudden burst of 5 or 6 cars all at once as the Colintraive ferry disgorged its load.

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Looking up to the head of Loch Riddon

After 6 hours walking I finally arrived at the B836 junction where I had chained my bike to a signpost. The bike ride back to the car was a mixture of push and ride with an exhilarating and swift descent down to the head of Loch Striven.

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:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=23435

**Footnote: On my bike ride back towards the top of the B836 I noticed a recent area of de-afforestation and could quite clearly see a short but wide fire-break leading to the open hill. An obvious high route alternative to the one I had just completed.

Distance today =   19.5 miles
Total distance =    2588 miles

 

 

 

153. Ardtaraig to Dunoon

I managed to spot two days of reasonable weather which meant that I could continue my trek around the Clyde Sea Lochs. I left Shropshire very early, well at 1:30 in the morning and drove to Gourock deciding to save the long drive around via Arrochar and get the short ferry journey across the Firth of Clyde to Dunoon. After landing at Hunters Quay I drove the short distance into Dunoon and parked on the sea-front outside my hotel for the night. I then caught the 7:56 #478 bus,  glad to be out of the cold and biting wind blowing in off the Firth. I got off the bus just before the power station at Ardtaraig and walked the short distance back up the B836 towards the start of the path to Glenstriven.

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Start of footpath
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Looking down Loch Striven
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Looking across Loch Striven to Beinn Bhreac

I had heard that the public footpath which ran from Ardtaraig to Glenstriven was rather ‘vague’. In fact, at the start of my walk a wooden footpath sign pointed in an entirely different direction to what was on my map. Pheasants were in big supply here and I passed a number of pens, which appeared to block my way forward on a couple of occasions. For the next three miles I struggled to stay on any sort of path, one minute I was on an excellent path, the next it would suddenly disappear. The recent rains had also made the path, that was, into a bit of a quagmire in places. I had read that in the past attempts had been made to mark the general route of the path by making red marks on the tree trunks, I didn’t see any marks though. I also kept a careful eye on the terrain on the opposite side of  Loch Striven along which I would be walking tomorrow and that definitely did not have a path!

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Sign post
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Inverchaolain Church

After 4 miles I emerged on a recently bulldozed track which turned a number of ways. I just chose the obvious direction and descended down into Invervegain where I joined an Estate tarmac road. I spoke to an Estate worker who was busy cutting down and burning Rhododendron bushes, a fruitless task he told me! I finally came to the public road and proceeded to the next small hamlet of Inverchaolain which had a small church (rebuilt a number of times) and a very old graveyard. The church was up for sale.

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View looking back up Loch Striven

I continued south along the public road and although it was a low sun, it was not as bad as my previous visit to the area in early January; still pretty poor for taking photos pointing due south though. The road passed by the site of the Loch Striven OPA(Oil Pipelines Agency) a statutory body sponsored by the MOD for running Naval OFD’s(Oil Fuel Depots) of which Loch Striven is one. At this point I had moved out of Loch Striven and into an area bounded by the Kyles of Bute and Kames Bay, with excellent views across to Port Bannatyne and Rothesay on the isle of Bute, with the snow-capped peaks of Arran proving a fine backdrop.

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Looking across to Rothesay with Arran in the background
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Arriving at Dunoon

At Port Lamont I tried to continue along the coast to the fish farm, but was obstructed by a recently built house. I therefore followed the road slightly inland. The road emerged at Toward Quay, the terminus of the frequent #489 bus service to Dunoon. I was now walking east and that very chilly wind which I experienced early in the morning was back and would stay with me all the back to Dunoon. I headed towards the lighthouse at Toward Point, which together with the nearby Foghorn House now appear to be private residences.

I’m now heading due north towards Dunoon along the A815 which offers superb views across the Firth of Clyde to Skelmorlie, Wemyss Bay and Inverkip, places  I passed through in October 2016 and now just a couple of miles away! The A815 is very busy but there is a pavement all the way to Dunoon. Walking through the strung-out village of Innellan seems to take  an age. My feet and legs are now beginning to feel the fatigue and I stop a couple of times to relieve my tiredness, well its been a month since my last walk. Dunoon finally appears into view and I finally enter the town in the fading late afternoon light. As I pass the passenger ferry service near the bus stop terminus, a chap who had just got off the ferry spoke to me “Some walk mate, passed you at Ardtaraig first thing this morning”. Todays walk was a leisurely 7.75hrs.

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:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=23434

Distance today =   21.5 miles
Total distance =    2568.5 miles