It’s another great day – blue sky, blue seas, no wind – perfect for walking. I catch the bus to Port Logan and set off along the sand.
There is absolutely nobody around, except a woman walking with her dog at the far end of the beach. She’s coming towards me but, after a while, I notice the dog has disappeared.
As I draw closer, I realise the dog – a springer spaniel – is swimming in the sea. He’s not fetching sticks or a ball, just purposefully swimming parallel to the shore and keeping pace with his owner. In fact, he is swimming faster than her walking speed, and so has to keep turning back to allow her to catch up.
“I just love to see your dog swimming,” I tell her.
“We do this walk twice a day,” she says. “A mile out, a mile back, and he swims all the way. I used to worry at first – sometimes he goes out so far – but he’s a very strong swimmer.”
Of course, when the dog sees us talking, he comes ashore to find out what’s going on, and we have to leap out of the way as he shakes himself. Water sprays everywhere.
(This turns out to be the first – and the best – of the animal encounters I’ll have today.)
At the far end of the beach, I follow a track leading to Port Logan’s Fish Pond centre. I don’t stop, and have no idea what happens in the centre. I do see an old boat with “Fish Pond 1” painted on its stern, but I don’t see any obvious fish ponds.
The track ends in an untidy area with a static caravan, From there I follow a path around an old building – (a barn or a chapel?) – and down to the shingle beach.
This is another official core path. It should take me along the coast for a couple of miles, before heading inland along a track to a farm estate called Logan Mains. It’s a crying shame so little of this coastline is accessible, so I decide I must make the most of this stretch.
I walk across low cliffs, close to the sea, through a landscape of jumbled rocks, tussocked grassland scattered with wild flowers, and the occasional marshy pool.
The shore is indented with tiny coves, guarded by fierce lines of jagged rocks, the water the clearest I’ve seen since Anglesey.
And, instead of bluebells, the flowers that surround me are thrift – pink, blue and white.
Very pretty. I’ve never seen so many different colours all in one place and I stop to take photographs.
Sadly, many of the coves seem littered with rubbish. Fly tipping? No, probably not – because there’s no easy access route for vehicles to this part of the coast (and fly tippers are lazy brutes!) This must be tide wrack: debris that’s been dumped here by the waves as they funnel up through the coves at high tide.
What a lot of litter we “civilised” humans create! Look at all the plastic junk. It will stay here for years, decades, centuries. Terrible.
I reach a cove lined by steep grassy banks, with a base full of brambles, coarse grass and reeds. The path disappears. I try to walk across, but the ground is very boggy and overgrown. I nearly stumble down into a hidden pit.
Oh dear. Mustn’t break a leg down here!
I look around. There’s a mass of jagged rocks on the other side of the cove, and no clear exit route even if I did manage to find a way across the bog. So, I decide to scramble up the bank and hope I can find a way through along the top instead.
It’s not an easy climb – hands and knees over steep and crumbly earth – and at the top is a wire fence with barbed wire. (Damn the core path! Damn the farmer!) I begin to walk along the grassy ledge on the outside of the fence.
The ground is uneven and, as I get round the corner of the field, becomes worse. Deciding it would be easier to walk on the other side of the pesky fence, I’m just about to climb over – when I spot a lone bull in the field.
A BULL! Uh, oh. Think I’ll stay on this side of the fence after all.
But the ground outside the fence becomes rougher and rougher, until any semblance of a path deteriorates into a scrum of rocks and prickly gorse bushes. The slope is steep and any slip would definitely end in nasty scratches and possibly in serious injury.
The bull is watching me. I know cattle have poor eyesight, and he’s maybe 100 yards away, so it must be my movement that’s keeping him interested. So, what if I stand still and wait until he’s looking at something else?
My plan works. After a few minutes, the bull turns and starts ambling – with excruciating slowness – further away. I seize the chance, climb over the fence, and jog along the edge of the field.
There’s an exit gate about a 100 feet ahead and I don’t stop until I’m through. Safely on the other side – in a huge, empty field – I take a photograph giving some idea of the slope I’ve just had to navigate. I guess there might have been a path there once, but it’s slipped away.
I walk along the new field, on the inside of the fence, looking at the lush grass and wondering why there is nothing grazing here… and then… I spot another bull.
Beyond the fence is an almost sheer drop. I’ve got nowhere to go.
Jogging in walking boots is hard work, but I make it to the wall at the end of the field. There’s a gate, but it’s another 100 feet up the slope, nearer to the bull, and he’s watching me now, so I scramble over the wall.
I’m on the outside of the fence again, and begin to worry. If the coastal path turns out to be impassable, I’ll have to turn back and brave those two bulls again. Oh dear.
But, in fact, from here onwards the route improves, and soon I’m following a definite path once more. I begin to relax and enjoy myself.
This is the Mull of Logan, and the cliffs are high, with glorious views over blue sea and stunning rocks. There are two natural arches nearby – Little Bridge and Devil’s Bridge, according to my OS map – but I only manage to spot this one. Devil’s Bridge, I think.
I’m walking along a wide area of grass and below me are caves – Peter’s Paps – and somewhere down there are the remains of an old promontory fort, Fort Duniehinnie. But I’ve had enough cliff climbing for one day, and don’t go down to explore.
Ahead, is a large bay made up from a number of smaller bays – Back Port, Port Gill, Port Lochan, Drumbreddan Bay, Port Gower.
Port Gill is a popular fishing spot, although there’s no one in sight today. Only a lonely caravan, which seems to be a permanent fixture. And here I must climb down the slope to reach the bay.
The slope is steep and rutted with hoof prints. Cattle? That’s an alarming thought – but luckily there are no beasts in sight, thank goodness.
I walk up the access track from the bay and take a photo looking back down. What a perfect spot. Sheltered. Unspoilt (apart from the tatty caravan).
My core path turns inland at Port Gill. I had half considered carrying on along the coast, but my previous difficult experiences have made me want to stick to the core path system.
But, now I’m wondering where has the path gone? There’s a gate across the track and an untidy small-holding beyond. Chickens are running loose and – oh dear – I spot a duo of excited collies ahead.
Luckily there’s a couple out walking with the dogs and they warn me to stay back as they usher the animals into a nearby field. (I’m not normally scared of dogs, but am very wary of farmyard collies since I was bitten by an aggressive one a few months ago!)
I climb around the gate and reach the public road. It comes to a dead-end at Port Gill. Nothing here but a couple of houses. Where’s the Core Path? Should be straight ahead.
I walk down a track that appears to have become the private driveway of somebody’s house. A sign (a footpath sign?) lies smashed on the ground nearby and the way forward is completely blocked by a thick mass of brambles.
But I can see where the route might continue ahead…
…so I climb over a low electric fence, walk through a small field of geese, and hop over the fence on the other side. Yes. Faint on the grass are two worn strips of tyre treads, suggesting the old track continues here.
All goes well for a few hundred yards. The field is huge and featureless. I keep a watchful eye out for bulls, but see nothing. Then I come over a low ridge and – uh,oh – the next field is full of cows and calves.
I wave my stick and create a panicky stampede. Watch their disappearing rumps with mixed feelings, worried one of the little ones might come to harm as they race along beside their mothers, but pleased they’re all moving away.
A short while later, I see the retreating cows have reached the far end of the field where they’ve stopped and appear to be preparing to make a last stand. Directly in front of my exit gate!
Trouble is, I can’t see an easy alternative route around. There’s an empty field to my right, but it’s bounded with an electric fence.
One of the larger cows – the big black beast in the front of the photo below – stamps the ground and starts coming towards me. Oh dear. She looks like she’s spoiling for a fight.
[I’ve noticed when there’s a group of cows with calves, you often find a lone cow – one who doesn’t appear to have a calf of her own – who seems to be the most aggressive. I think of these as the “angry-aunt” cows, guarding their sisters’ babies.]
It’s my turn to retreat, walking back the way I’ve come, searching for a way into the neighbouring field. I can’t find a gap in the fence, only a place where the ground underneath has eroded and I might be able to crawl through.
I walk back towards the group of cattle, waving my stick and shouting – and hoping my fresh approach will scare them into another stampede away from the gate… but the angry-aunt holds her ground. Puts her head down.
Yes, I’m a coward but she’s much bigger than me! Where’s that place under the fence? I take off my rucksack and slide my pole and my pack under the lowest strand. Get on my hands and knees, close as I can to the ground – is the fence really electrified? Will it hurt if I touch it by mistake? Carefully, I wriggle through.
Made it. Without any shocks. Safe on the other side I stand up and nearly leap back into the fence. Oh! No!
Immediately ahead of me, only 50 feet away, and hidden in a little dip in the ground, is a bull!
I look at him. He looks at me. And then he turns and runs away.
Quickly, I jog to the end of the field, cursing all cattle ever born – and all bulls too. Climb over a gate and back onto the safety of the track. Stand for a moment to catch my breath and wait until my heart stops hammering.
Never been so grateful for fences before.
My heart is still racing, and my nerves all a-jangle, when I approach Logan Mains. More cows here, chewing the cud, lazy in the warm sunshine. One of them lumbers to its feet as I get closer and – oh – another heart-stopping moment – it’s another bull.
The fence between us suddenly looks horribly flimsy… I hurry onwards and, although he watches every step I take, I get past without any trouble.
As I reach the driveway to Logan Mains, the track becomes a road. Tarmac. I leave the fields of cows behind and walk through woodland – lovely silver birches and a carpet of bluebells.
Trees arch over the road, forming an airy tunnel. This is wonderful. There is nothing more relaxing than woodland and I soon calm down.
Beyond the avenue of trees, the road continues. It’s hot walking in full sunshine, and I soon realise I’m both hungry and thirsty. So I find a shady spot in the grass and sit down for a picnic lunch. Then… onwards.
It’s two miles up the lane to the main road and, making rapid progress, I soon spot a familiar sight. Yes, I’ve seen this white building with a tower before, and only a couple of days ago. I’m back at Auchness.
Walking along the main road is somewhat dispiriting. I hate retracing my steps and it’s disappointing to be so far away from my intended route along the west coast of The Rhins peninsula. What a shame the coast path isn’t complete.
Still, it’s a pleasant walk. Shady trees. Bluebells in the woods. Wild garlic on the verge.
A mile along the road and I reach another familiar place, Ardwell. This is where I caught the bus this morning, and this is where I’ve parked my car.
Then, because it’s still early afternoon, I decide to drive to visit the famous Logan Botanic Gardens. I had heard they were full of tropical plants, so it’s something of a surprise to discover the gardens are mainly full of rhododendrons and monkey puzzle trees.
I wander around taking photographs. The gardens are beautiful, but not exactly what I was expecting.
I’m also surprised not to find a café. And the place is almost deserted. Still, it’s a good place to end up – calm and peaceful – after such a nerve-wracking walk.
This was a short walk, due to:
- Logistical problems. Both my start and end points need to be on a bus route and there aren’t many bus routes in the area.
- On my 12th consecutive day of walking, I thought I deserved a restful day. Restful? Shame about the close encounters with cattle!
Miles walked today = a miserly 7 miles
Total distance = 3,350.5 miles