I return to Fairlie by bus. The sun is shining this morning, but the forecast predicts rain later. My plan is to keep today’s walk short – but now I have the extra miles to Largs to do too – the ones I failed to complete yesterday!
Onwards. Along the cycle path. Heading north.
I had a restless sleep last night and I’m not feeling brilliant this morning, for a number of reasons.
- I am sniffing and sneezing due to hay fever.
- I have a sore throat, probably due to breathing all night with my mouth open.
- My joints and muscles are aching, possibly due to general age and early onset of arthritis.
- I’m feeling very hot and sweaty, with constant hot flushes – menopausal, of course.
[I’m sure some of my regular readers will have already combined these four separate symptoms, and my four separate explanations, into a single, common diagnosis. Doctors are absolutely hopeless at assessing their own state of health! The penny will, eventually, drop.]
The cycle path leaves the road and meanders through fields, making odd twists and turns, until it runs tantalisingly close to the shore…
… before heading off along the side of a marina. It’s a surprisingly huge place. Full of ships of all sizes.
Various nautical objects have been placed along the path, with information boards. These cheeky chappies (below) are floats. “Spherical and double conical.”
I pass a parade of anchors along the side of the path and, in a car park at the far end of the marina, a further collection of huge ones on the grass.
Normally, I would have spent some time looking at the anchors and reading the information supplied, but I feel surprisingly listless and uninterested.
Ahead is a curving bay, with a weird lighthouse at the far end. But is it a lighthouse? Where’s the light? Or a daymark? In which case, it’s a bit gloomy.
Again, I can’t raise the energy to take a closer look at the strange pillar.
[If I had, I would have discovered it’s a monument called The Pencil, and was built in 1912 to celebrate the defeat of the Norwegian Vikings in the Battle of Largs, back in 1263. Long memories around here, apparently!]
Now I can walk close to the shore. The tide is high and choppy waves splash against the rocks. There are a fair number of people strolling along the path. Dog walkers. Couples with pushchairs. I’m getting closer to the centre of Largs.
At one point, the route is sandwiched between a concrete wall and some railings, with the waves crashing up and spilling water over the path.
Further along, I’m still dodging the splashes. There’s a steep green bank with sunbathers, and ahead is a church spire.
I’m feeling hot and low in energy, so I’m pleased to spot an ice-cream kiosk next to a children’s playground. An ice-cream! Yes. Just what I need to cool me down and perk me up.
But the kiosk is shut! I’m astonished. It’s a beautiful day, unusually warm and sunny, in the middle of the Scottish school holidays. If you don’t open an ice cream kiosk on a day like this, when do you open it?
Disappointed, I walk through the rest of the park, past a fountain with no water, past the public toilets…
… until I reach a river and must cross over via a bridge. The river is called Gogo Water. What a fabulous name!
I continue along the promenade. Ahead is a ferry port, and I can see a ship setting off across the water, heading for Great Cumbrae Island. Perhaps one day I’ll return and walk around all the Scottish Islands too…
… but first I need to finish this walk today. And I’ve finally arrived at my starting point, where I should have arrived yesterday, if you see what I mean.
What’s this weird stone sculpture? A Viking ship? I like it. They seem obsessed with Vikings around here.
I’m feeling exhausted. And I’ve only just started my walk. It must be the unusual heat of the day, my hay fever, my newly developed arthritis and, of course, my constant hot flushes.
I spot a nearby Wetherspoons and can’t resist. After a cold drink I’ll feel much better. I sit outside, on a table sheltered from the breeze by a glass screen, and watch a ferry arriving at the nearby port.
It is very tempting to end my walk right here… I really don’t feel like carrying on… but I’ve booked my car on the ferry over to Arran tomorrow morning. If I don’t get to Wemyss today, I’ll never finish the Ayrshire Coast Path, and I’ll have wasted two days of walking without achieving anything.
I set off along the shore. There’s a nice promenade and everybody else is enjoying the beautiful day. What’s wrong with me?
I pass a Viking. He’s huge. Can’t resist taking several photographs.
And, a little further along, another Viking. This one is covered in plants! He’s wearing a living suit of clothes. Wonderful.
Largs is a pleasant town, larger than I anticipated, and with a long shore-side walking route. But that will come to an end when I reach a river – Noddsdale Water, another wonderful name.
From here, the Ayrshire Coastal Path turns inland to cross over the river via a road bridge. It’s time to leave the sea behind, temporarily.
On the road, there are three signs for the Ayrshire Coastal Path. Apparently you can take the high road to Skelmorlie, or the low road to Skelmorlie. I’d already decided to take the low road, because it runs closer to the shore.
The closest route would involve walking along the A78, but I’ve already travelled this in the bus, and decided it would be unpleasant and dangerous. No pavements and a narrow road with constant traffic streams.
I turn off the A78, up a lane, glad of the shade on one side, heading for the low road. Unfortunately, I now have that song looping in my head… “you take the high road and I’ll take the low road”
The lane climbs steadily. So much for a low road! I soon leave Largs behind. Farmland now, and cows with tiny calves. Very sweet.
The road climbs and climbs. A road sign tells me this is a Core Path Route, and maximum advisory speed is 30 mph. No problem. I must be doing about 1.2 mph. Possibly less.
When I reach the top of the hill, I can look down over the golf course (yes, another golf course!) and then across the water to the islands. Is that Great Cumbrae or another one? I should pull my map out and take a look…
… but I just can’t be bothered. What’s wrong with me?
Further on, and I meet a group of golfers on the road, pulling their golf bags along. They’re heading from the 4th Tee to the 16th Tee. No, that’s not right. I don’t play golf, but even I know you would normally go from the 4th Tee to the 5th. Oh well, I suppose they know what they’re doing.
A little later, and I’m overtaken by a farmer on a quad bike. It’s a common sight. Farmers don’t seem to walk anywhere these days.
Onwards. It’s a loooong road. Most of the time there isn’t much of the view, due to high hedges.
I reach a place called ‘Knock Castle’. (There are a lot of places in Scotland called Knock something. Knock means an isolated hill or hillock.) The castle is down a private driveway and I can’t see it. This building on the right might be the old stables.
A little further along and I come across a building site on my left. Is this something to do with Knock Castle? Are they building a housing estate? It all looks a bit waterlogged.
Down a hill and here’s a junction. Ah, this is where the High Road rejoins the Low Road.
Over a bridge, and the sky has clouded over. It feels like the rain I’ve been waiting for is finally on its way.
But, on my way up the hill, the sun comes out again. There are some more houses here. I feel unreasonably irritated because they’re not on my map. What are they doing here?
I pass the driveway to Millrig farm, a neat looking place. Now, despite the sun lighting up the fields, I can see dark clouds hovering above the hills. Luckily the wind should be blowing them away from me. I speed up anyway…
… or try to. I only seem to have one gear today. Low gear.
What’s this green container doing here? “Skelmorlie Secret Bunker.” Not so secret, really, if it’s out in the open.
[I later discover the Skelmorlie Secret Bunker is an old Cold War observation post, manned by the Royal Observer Corps. It’s one of a number of similar bunkers scattered around the Scottish countryside, as part of our preparations for a nuclear war]
I feel I can’t go on any further and perch on a bank by the side of the road. Time for a drink and a snack. And a rest. The sky gets darker. I drag myself up again. Onwards. I really, really, don’t want to get soaking wet.
The road dips down again, a steep drop down to the village of Meigle and sea level. The light is gloomy.
On the way down, it starts to rain. I pull on my waterproof jacket and rucksack cover. Of course, as soon as I’m kitted up, the rain stops.
The Ayrshire Coastal Path joins the A78 along the coast for a short distance in order to cross another stream – Meigle Burn – via the road bridge. Just beyond the bridge, the path leaves the main road and heads back inland and uphill again.
I look up the road. There’s an impressive house on the slope. Skelmorlie Castle. The hill looks steep, and the sky up there is darkening…
… and so I make a decision to stay on the A78. It’s not too busy and has a narrow pavement I can walk along. And, of course, it’s close to the sea.
I soon reach the outskirts of Skelmorlie, where newly built apartment blocks are springing up along the road. What a shame the planners didn’t use this opportunity to create a wider path for walkers. Could have built a cycle path too. The pavement is horribly narrow.
I pass a gated slipway down to the shore. With the tide high, and the water choppy and grey just below, the “Road Closed” sign seems a tad unnecessary.
Onwards. New buildings give way to a mix of old houses interspersed with modern apartment blocks. There are balconies and gardens, and private parking areas. Looks like a growing area. Shame they didn’t plan a proper pavement!
In fact, there seems very little public space in Skelmorlie. I noticed this when I tried to park my car this morning. There are no public parking spaces, and the few shops that exist seem to have closed down or be in a state of advanced decay. Despite all the newly built houses, it feels like a dying village.
Of course, I could be wrong. There could be a thriving centre hidden away somewhere. All I can say is that, after driving around several times this morning trying to find somewhere to park, it seems an unwelcoming place.
This little green lawn is the only open-access area I found. And it’s only tennis-court sized, with a flower bed and some regimented benches. Looks lovely in the streaking sunlight, though.
At this point the road leaves the shore. Private houses in the way. A mile further along, is the Wemyss Bay station and the pier for the Rothesay ferry. This is the end of my walk, and the end of the path too.
I’ve done it. I’ve finished the Ayrshire Coastal Path. Despite fatigue and lethargy, despite sneezes and sniffles, despite aching muscles and painful joints, despite hot flushes and… hang on…
Yes, the penny finally drops. That’s why the walk seemed so difficult yesterday and today. What a relief to have a simple explanation for my weakness. And one that is now blindingly obvious…
I’ve got a cold!
I find my emergency strip of paracetamol tablets at the bottom of my rucksack, and decide I’ll drive back to the Wetherspoons pub in Largs. Time to relax with a late lunch and another cold drink.
Miles walked today = 8 miles
Total around coast = 3,509 miles