In Kirkcolm there’s a patch of green parkland where they’ve buried a millennium time capsule. The plaque says, “Dedicated by the Gala Queen, Nicola McClorey and her attendants...” How wonderful to be the gala queen in the year they decide to commemorate your name forever!
I wonder if Nicola (now in her 30s, I assume) still lives locally.
Just beyond here is a footpath sign. “Circular Walk via Shore and Wig”. This is the route I’m taking.
It’s a beautiful day. Sunny and cooler than the English midlands, where everyone is sweating and baking in an 80 degree heat wave. I walk down a shady track…
… which turns into a shady path…
… and then I’m on the shore. This is Loch Ryan – a beautiful sea loch which provides a natural deep-water harbour. Visible at the mouth of the loch is an impressive conical lump. I check my map. It’s an island called Aisla Craig.
A warning sign: “Caution. Large waves come ashore unexpectedly up to 30 minutes after ferry has passed.” No sign of large waves at the moment, just gentle ripples.
I turn southwards and walk along a spit of land. The Scar. The place is deserted, apart from a mother and a child in the distance, playing on the shore with a lively dog.
Across Loch Ryan I can see a ferry in the port. (The ferries used to leave from Stranraer, but they’ve relocated to the other side of the loch. Don’t know why.)
I reach the end of The Scar, where a crowd of sea birds are huddling on a shingle island. Time to turn back… towards Kirkcolm again. I walk past the mother and her little boy, who is throwing stones into the water for the dog. Ahead is a gently curving bay – The Wig.
A sign tells me that birds are nesting on The Scar between May and July, and “PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB”. Oops. A bit late to tell me that now!
I join a track. There are a couple of cars parked here, and two sets of binoculars fixed to a metal stand. I am expecting to see a slot for coins, but am surprised to discover you don’t have to pay. They’re free! What a great idea. I stop and take a look at the far shore.
Then it’s time to follow the track and head back towards the main road.
Although the road from here to Stranraer is pretty quiet, I’m hoping I can walk along the shore instead. So far, so good. Despite the tide being high, there’s a clear beach of sand and shingle.
In my peripheral vision, I catch sight of something that makes me come to a sudden halt, heart thumping. A little snake, coiled and ready to strike…
…but…no! It’s only the lid of a china teapot. Whew. Silly woman!
Actually, it does look very much like a snake from a distance. I can’t decide if the scale-like markings are deliberate, or the result of weather and waves.
I walk along a small jetty and take photographs of the loch.
The beach ahead peters out in a jumble of rocks. With the sun in my eyes, photography is difficult, but you can see how the sand disappears. You can also see how clear the water looks.
I follow the road for a while and walk past a small sailing club. The facilities look basic. Just a few sheds and some rusting container boxes. The ships don’t exactly look luxurious either, but there are people working here – scraping hulls and retouching paint.
Soon as I can, I leave the road and head down to the shore. In the bright sunlight, the colours are fantastic. Blue sky, deeper blue-green sea, and vivid yellows and greens where seaweed coats the rocks.
I pass a man walking with a beautiful red collie. The dog is Welsh, he tells me, in a soft American accent. (He might be Canadian, I decide later.) There is a holiday park nearby. The static caravans line up and peer over the sea wall.
The beach is interrupted by a small stream. Sole Burn, according to my map. There’s a bridge nearby, but I don’t want to fight my way through a mass of brambles and weeds, to get to it, so I walk along the edge of the burn towards the sea, knowing the burn will become shallower further down. I can wade across.
At the mouth of a burn, a couple of swans are foraging. I’m always surprised to see swans in the sea, but I guess the water is probably rich with nutrients carried along by the stream.
The shore on the other side becomes rougher and tiring to walk along. So I’m relieved to see an area of flat meadow ahead. Good, maybe I can walk on the grass for a while? But, no. It’s not a meadow, it’s a golf course. They’re everywhere in Scotland!
I stop to take some “artistic” photographs of the rocks, bending over to find interesting patterns and textures.
Suddenly I’m aware I’m being watched. Look up. It’s a group of golfers!
They must think I’m mad – photographing boring old rocks – but refrain from making rude comments. Instead, we exchange polite conversation about the weather. “Enjoying the walk? You’ve chosen a nice day for it.” I agree the weather is fabulous. “I guess it never rains in Scotland,” I say. “No. Never,” they laugh.
They turn back to their golf game, and I continue with my walk.
The tide has rolled out, exposing a large area shingle and scattered boulders, interspersed with pools of gleaming water. It’s really beautiful.
I stop for a picnic lunch. Perch on a rock. After eating, I stay sitting for a while, enjoying the peace and quiet of the area. Then I see a movement ahead…
A solitary figure picks its way cautiously over the rough terrain. A woman. Unusual. I get ready to make conversation, but she veers off down over the shingle to avoid coming close to where I’m sitting.
I pack up my picnic and continue walking.
Ahead is McCulloch’s Point. The low cliffs are overhung with vegetation, and the soft earth is clearly crumbling away, exposing twisted roots and dumping mini landslides on the beach.
Around the Point and… there’s Stranraer ahead. I’ve made rapid progress and didn’t expect to get here so soon. I climb up to the walkway that runs along the top of the sea wall.
Past a row of white houses, I reach a road. There’s a police car parked on the corner – its markings glaring and garish after the natural colours of the beach. The cops inside appear to be doing paperwork. I wonder if they’re really working, or just enjoying a rest in a quiet spot with a good view!
(I don’t know why I always feel guilty when I see a police car, but I always do!)
Further along, I meet a couple walking with their dog. Lovely weather, we agree. They tell me they’ve been sailing around the coast of Britain. Left Falmouth a few weeks ago and worked their way up the east coast, through the Caledonian Canal, and finally reached Stranraer.
What a wonderful thing to do! What an adventure!
I’m full of enthusiasm and interest, but the woman interrupts me. No. It’s been awful. They’ve had weeks of rain and wind and she’s had enough. In fact, she’s abandoning ship and going home tomorrow. Her husband has hired a professional crew to help him take the boat the rest of the way back to Falmouth.
Oh dear. The weather over here was glorious in May, but I know the east of the country was cold and miserable. They’ve had rotten luck. I watch them walk away and feel sad for their failed adventure.
Onwards. I’ve nearly reached the main part of Stranraer. A path winds around the edge of the park. I meet more dog walkers. Joggers. Women with pushchairs.
Stop to take more photographs looking out towards the mouth of Loch Ryan. I’ve stayed in Stranraer several times over the past few months, but have never had a day so clear. Never been able to see the mouth of the loch before.
I walk around Agnew Park. It has a central lake with islands and some sort of palm trees. Also a pirate ship, play equipment and a mini-train track (although I’ve never seen the train running). A very nice place.
I walk along the pier and look at the yachts in the harbour. Is one of them the ship that battled up the east coast? The one the couple have been skippering?
Further along are a groups of motor tugs and fishing boats. In the distance is the infrastructure of the old ferry port, now quietly decaying.
I do wonder why they moved the ferries to the other side of the loch? The scheme seems to have left a dead hole in the heart of Stranraer.
On the waterfront is a strange Art Deco style building. It looks tall and impressive from a distance, but close up is revealed as being much smaller than it first appears. (The architect certainly created a good optical illusion!) It’s the old harbour master’s office, now disused.
I stop in the centre of Stranraer and return to my B&B, before going out for an early supper. Because it’s my first day of serious walking for 2 weeks, I deliberately kept today’s distance short. But, after eating, I decide I want to continue my walk a little further up the loch.
[Unfortunately, for this evening stroll, I only have my iPhone to take photos with, so apologies for the poor quality of the next two photographs.]
Below the road, a concrete walkway runs beside the water. As I near the apex of Loch Ryan, the walkway appears to be covered in sand…
… but on closer inspection the ‘sand’ turns out to be millions of shells. They lie in drifts across the path.
It’s a glorious end to a beautiful day of walking, in perfect weather.
Miles walked today = 10 miles
Total around coast = 3,391 miles