I drive to Kildonan, on the southeast tip of Arran, where I leave my car in an official car park, which turns out to be a strip of grass by the side of the road. From there, I catch one of the infrequent buses that travels around the coastal road in a huge loop.
Back in Lamlash, and the sky looks ominous.
I walk along the green bank, before dropping down to walk along the shore.
My route is interrupted by a river. I can’t walk along the bank, because of private property, so I stop to take a photo of the footbridge – so near, and yet so inaccessible – a few hundred feet away.
A furious barking starts up, and two retrievers jump over a low wall. Luckily, their bark is just a pretence, and their tails send a different message, wagging like fury. We have a chat, and a pat, before I turn back to find a path that leads to the bridge.
Ah, here it is. Luckily, somebody has put up a sign. Coastal Way, this way.
Once over the bridge, I walk down a residential lane. I’m on the edge of Lamlash, in an area called Cordon.
The lane is a dead-end for traffic, but a footpath continues and take me down to the shore. I walk past a grandma supervising several children, who are busy building a den in the branches of a tree. After that, I’m alone.
I stop to take a photograph looking across Lamlash Bay, along the route I walked yesterday. I’m pleased the sky has cleared and the sun has come out.
I walk along the foreshore. It’s treacherous underfoot, with slimy seaweed and slippery rocks. Possibly there’s a better path just above the rocks, but it’s now covered in Himalayan balsam. (Somebody really needs to do something about this weed. It’s certainly out of control in this area.)
I slip and slide on stones, and spend a long time not getting very far, so I’m pleased to spot a series of wooden steps leading up the bank…
… and discover a wonderful walkway has been created among the trees. This is better!
The woodland is old, and full of character. I pass wild flowers, upturned boats stashed under the planking, and the occasional waterfall.
I guess the walkway must be fairly new, as none of the planks are rotten or broken, and I am very grateful to the people who built it. Just occasionally I come across a fallen branch that blocks the way.
All too soon the walkway comes to an end, and the path runs along the shore again. At least there is a grassy bank for part of the way. But in other places, I have to walk over the slippery rocks, and I soon get tired of ankle-twisting stones…
…so I’m really glad to see the walkway starts up again. This is lovely.
I hear voices ahead, and meet a group of hikers. I stand aside to let them pass, and wonder where they’ve come from.
I’m hot, and strip off down to my t-shirt. But then I notice there are hundred of dancing insects in the air, and I begin to worry about the infamous Scottish midges. (The only time I’ve been bitten, so far, was a few bites one evening while in Irvine. I’ve heard horror stories, but never experienced a full-blown attack.)
Anyway. Beter safe than sorry. I stop and smother my arms in Smidge. It’s supposed to be good.
This section of boardwalk ends, but a little sign tells me it’s only 400m to the next section. Good. I hate the rocks on this shore. So slippery!
And so my walk continues with short sections of rocky scrambling, interspersed with easy segments of boardwalk.
On one occasion, when I come down to the shore, I meet a lone woman hiker. She has an American accent and asks me if the boardwalk really resumes here. She’s made some false starts on paths that peter out. Yes, I reassure her. She warns me there is a family of swans ahead. I must watch out.
I do watch out, but I never meet the swans.
Onwards, and I stop from time to time to take photographs across the bay. Where’s the famous Goat Fell? Still hidden in the clouds.
I feel sorry for mountain walkers, stuck up there in all that mist and drizzle, while it’s sunny down here by the coast.
Nearly miss the next set of steps. They’re almost swamped by the invasive Himalayan Balsam. Someone really needs to do something about that plant!
Further along, back on the shore again, and there are some odd constructions floating in the water. The faint thrum of machinery. I think it must be a fish farm. Salmon?
I have mixed feelings about fish farming. I know it’s the only way to preserve our fish stocks and generate a sustainable supply of fish. But it seems… well, so unnatural really. (I know that’s illogical. All farming is unnatural!)
Anyway, after musing about fish farming, I begin thinking how nimble I am on the rocks, and congratulate myself on choosing safe places to put my feet… and so, you can almost predict what happens next…
Yes. My boot slips on a smooth rock and my leg shoots out from under me. I land with a wallop and a yell.
Luckily, I land on my bum. Unluckily, I land on a very sharp stone. It hurts like hell and I have to sit there for several minutes before the shock wears off and I can stagger to my feet again. Surprisingly, there isn’t any blood, but I discover I’ve torn a giant rip in the seat of my trousers.
I contemplate the view of Holy Island, and mutter a few profanities.
Well, I have no choice but to carry on walking. And, as the pain settles, I know I’ve done no serious injury to myself. But what I’m really worried about is the 6 inch rip in my trousers. It’s big enough to expose many square inches of my pink knickers.
(It’s an odd British thing, but I think I would rather suffer from injury than suffer from embarrassment!)
In the end, I take my jumper out of my rucksack and tie it around my waist. I arrange the material so it drapes down over my back side. There. That’s fixed the problem.
After that experience, I’m nervous on the rocks, and very glad when I come to a footpath sign and realise I can leave the treacherous shore. Good. To get to Whiting Bay, I must climb up this hill. But is it really only 2.5 miles back to Lamlash? I feel I’ve been walking for hours!
The hill turns out to be a cliff. And sometimes the path doubles as a river. So it’s a steep and difficult climb, and I’m glad I’m going UP, rather than down.
Near the top is a bench. Thank goodness! I sit down for a rest, and take some more paracetamol. I’m still feeling poorly with an intermittent temperature and a fruity cough. And now an aching bum!
At the top of the cliff, my path joins a track, and then a road, and then a track again. Basically, I’m going to end up walking three sides of a rectangle.
But it’s pleasant up here. Hello horses.
I pass several farms and houses. And what a great place to live. Although these might be holiday cottages.
Here’s a stunning view across Lamlash Bay. Dramatic clouds still hanging over Goat Fell, while here the sun is shining.
The track heads downhill now. Ahead is Holy Island. I meet another fiercely barking dog (who runs out of the house you can see in the photo below). He too, is just a fraud with a wagging tail.
Down another footpath, and I’m back on the shore.
This is beautiful, although it’s a shame the sun decides to go in when I begin to take photographs. I’m looking towards Kingscross Point. Across the water is a jetty and lighthouse near the tip of Holy Island.
Near the water’s edge is a heron. It lets me get surprisingly near. Looks rather stiff and elderly. Poor old bird. Actually, I realise, he looks just how I feel!
I climb up to Kingscross Point. There are irregularities in the ground, suggesting an old fortification. An iron age fort, maybe? The place has an ancient and mysterious atmosphere.
[Later, a Google search suggests this is an old Viking burial site.]
I find another bench. Not lunchtime yet, but I’m feeling really tired and hope a snack will perk me up. After eating, I pose for a self-portrait. (Note the casually draped jumper covering my bun!)
There were a young couple walking on the shore below, but since I’ve climbed up the headland, there is nobody around. I take another photo looking across to Lamlash Bay.
I check my watch. I can’t understand why the first half of this walk is taking so long, and then I realise I’m deliberately wasting time. Why? Because I still feel rather unwell, despite the paracetamol, and that fall has shaken me up.
Onwards. I walk across a series of interlinked meadows. Open spaces covered in short grass, but surrounded by walls of bushes and ferns. Is this grass being cropped by animals? I can’t see any cow pats, thank goodness. Or do they mow it? I can’t tell.
It’s a bit of a maze to be honest, and sheer luck that I don’t lose the path.
Finally, I’m heading down to the shore again, and walking in a southwest direction, straight into the sun, which makes photography difficult. There, ahead, is Whiting Bay. Oh, and some lovely sand.
I’m glad to see a beach, after the rocky scramble earlier, and enjoy walking along the sand. The sun is shining and I’m very warm. (Just as well, since I can’t wear my jumper as it is being used to cover my bum.)
A popular area. A man collects driftwood and begins building a fire. There are families on the shore, dog walkers, and strollers.
The sand turns to rock. Warm sandstone makes a wonderful colour contrast with the emerald-coloured seaweed and the deep blue of the sea.
As the beach becomes stonier, I climb up to the roadway and walk along the pavement. There’s the village of Whiting Bay ahead.
I pass a family of swans. Teenage girls overtake me, chatting on their phones.
The rocks below have unusual linear formations, reaching out into the sea like mini roads, or railway tracks. Are they artificial? Or natural? I can’t make up my mind.
Further along is a mini putting green, and a sign advertising a nearby golf club. There are cafes, a pub, and an area of parkland where people stand chatting while their dogs run around sniffing each other.
I’ve nearly reached the end of Whiting Bay, and stop to take a photo looking back. The sand banks look lovely, but I’m worried about those dark clouds. Definitely looks like rain.
Right at the end of the bay, an alternative route for the Aran Coastal Way heads off to the right, climbing up beside a stream called Glenashdale Burn, and then going over the top of the hills, before dropping down to Kildonan where my car is parked.
I’d already decided I would probably go over the hill, even though it’s a more inland route than the coastal alternative. Why? Because I really don’t fancy another rocky scramble along the shore. I’m nervous of another fall. And the tide is coming in.
But… I look up at the hill. I really don’t feel like climbing up there either.
I dither. Two ladies sit down on a nearby bench and stare out to sea. That is exactly what I feel like doing too… sitting and staring.
But I must get back to my car. What should I do? Of course, I could catch the bus to Kildonan. Yes.
I check the timetable. Crikey. Nearly 90 minutes to wait until the next bus! I spend the time in a small café, where they apologise for a delay in serving because they’re busy, and then hand me the most enormous prawn salad I’ve ever eaten. The meal takes around an hour, and then I spend another 20 minutes drinking coffee. Works out as perfect timing for the bus.
Miles walked today = 7 miles
Miles around Arran Coastal Way= 13 miles
Total around coast of UK = 3,522 miles