342 Kildonan to Lagg

The Kildonan Hotel overlooks Pladda Island. In the distance (just to the left of the island) is the misty shape of Ailsa Craig. The hotel garden is dominated by a circle of sculpted stones.

01 Pladda from Kildonan, Ruth's coastal walk around the Isle of Arran

From the hotel, I stroll back up to the road to begin my day’s walk. The view is familiar – with Bennan Head across the pretty bay – and I remember this is where I met the hen party last time I was on Arran!

02 road towards Bennan Head, Ruth's coastal walk, Arran, Scotland

I keep stopping to look at the sea, because this area is supposed to be a good spot for seals and otters. Sadly I don’t see any, and I’m soon overtaken by a couple of hikers. I wonder if they’re walking the coastal path too?

03 walking towards Auchenhew, Ruth on the Arran Coastal Way, Scotland

I reach the point where the coastal path splits into two alternative routes. You can either stick to the shore, which is covered in boulders and impassable at high tide. Or, you can follow the road as it curves inland and climbs over Bennan Head.

I’ve already decided to follow the road, because I had my confidence dented by a fall on the last occasion I walked along a rocky Arran shoreline. But, when I see the couple ahead of me striding out along the coast path, I’m really tempted to follow. But I resist. (Anyway, I didn’t check the tide times before I set out, and so have no idea whether I could get around Bennan Head or not.)

It’s a steep climb up the hill… but I soon join the ‘main’ road, where I am rewarded by an easy walk with stunning views.

04 road to Lagg, Ruth hiking the Arran Coastal Way

It’s a bright day, and I point my camera into the sun to take photographs of Pladda Island.

05 Pladda island, Ruth Livingstone on Arran, Scottish coast

The road is narrow and has no pavements, but the traffic is very light. I make rapid progress.

06 road walking, Ruth Livingstone on the Isle of Arran

After 2-3 miles of road-walking, I see the Arran Coastal Way sign on a telegraph pole. It’s pointing down a track to my left, and I realise I’ve gone over the top of Bennan Head.

07 Arran Coastal Way, Ruth hiking the coast of Scotland

I’m bored with road walking by now, and decide to head back down to the shore. If I’m careful, I’m sure I can negotiate the rocks. Anyway, the track looks very inviting, leading straight down towards the sea. Hard to resist.

08 track down to shore, Ruth hiking from Kildonan to Lagg

The south part of Arran is extensively farmed. Mainly with livestock. I pass fields of sheep on my right, and a great view across to… is that the Mull of Kintyre? Yes. I think it is. Oh, no. Now, I have that damn song looping through my brain!

09 view of the Ayrshire coast, Ruth hiking around Arran

To my left is a field of cows and their calves. The mothers give me menacing looks, but I’m safe behind a wire fence. Luckily, so far on Arran, I’ve not had to walk through a herd of cattle.

10 cows with calves, on Arran, Ruth Livingstone

[I’ve recently been working with a group of people who were very badly injured by cows. I’ve put together a blog and website for them at www.killercows.co.uk. Listening to the horror stories of the people who’ve been attacked has done nothing to reduce my own fear of the critters!)

A red post-office van drives past me – I have to climb onto the verge to let him through. I really love seeing these friendly vans. They’re as much part of the British countryside as our hedges and green fields. It’s such a reassuring thought that, no matter how isolated your house or farm, the post is always delivered to your door.

11 post office van, Ruth hiking the Arran Coastal Way, Scotland

The track leads through a farm. A collie leaps to his feet and greets me with a volley of barks and growls. I stop. Oh, no. Am I going to be bitten again!? But then I see the dog is chained up. Phew. It’s safe to continue.

12 farmyard collie dog, Ruth hiking around Arran

Beyond the farm, the track deteriorates. Mud. Inglorious mud. And, worse still, evidence of cattle – soggy mounds of cow pats and hoof prints. I struggle along this slippery, gloopy surface. I can’t escape the mud, with a cliff wall to my left and a steep drop to my right.

13 muddy track to sea, Ruth hiking the Arran Coastal Way

What really worries me, of course, even more than the mud, is the prospect of meeting a group of cows on this treacherous route…

The final part of the track is the worst bit. Recent rain has washed away the path and I slip and slide down a slope of liquid mud, testing the depth with my walking pole, but still managing to fill my boots with the stuff. And then there’s a stream to wade through, before I reach the comparative solid-ground of the shoreline.

I’m glad to be out of the mud. But now I have a mass of boulders to navigate!

14 boulder field near Bennan Head, Ruth hiking Arran

Scrambling across the boulders turns out to be safer than walking on the grass at the top of the shore, which is treacherously cut-through with deep channels.

I come across a blackboard. Guinness. Maybe it once stood outside a seaside pub? Did a giant wave wash it away? Or perhaps some drunken reveller threw it into the water? Has it come all the way from Ireland?

15 shore and guinness sign, Ruth's coastal walk around Arran

Further on, making slow progress, I come across the cows. Luckily they are too busy eating to take any notice of me. I stick to the boulders until I get safely past them.

16 grazing cattle on Arran coastal way, Ruth Livingstone

A sign points back to Brennan Head and the Black Cave. I’m sorry to have missed the cave. It’s supposed to be the biggest on the island. For a moment I consider going back, making my way along the shore, to take a look… but the terrain is tough and I don’t really have the heart to retrace my steps. So, I decide to carry on.

17 sign to Bennan Head, Ruth's coastal walk around Arran

I was expecting to meet other coastal walkers, but since I left the road, I’ve met nobody.

It’s a beautiful day and a beautiful walk. But I can’t relax to enjoy the views, because I must concentrate on my footing. The ground remains treacherous and, with no phone signal and nobody around to help, I worry about a nasty tumble.

It’s a relief to see some sand ahead. Good!

18 shore walking, to Lagg, Ruth hiking the Arran Coastal Way

I climb down the low cliff and onto the beach. Such a wonderful and dramatic landscape, with rocks, sand, blue sea, and the distant Mull of Kintyre.

19 shore and view of Mull of Kintyre, Ruth's coastal walk, Arran

My boots are still covered in filthy mud, and my socks are wet with the goo that has seeped over the top of my ankles. So, it’s a relief to wade in the clean water of the sea. I splash through the waves – like a naughty toddler – not caring how wet I get.

20 paddling in the sea, Ruth walking the Arran coastal way, Scotland

Now, off the boulders, I can really relax and enjoy the walk. The sand is ridged by the waves. Love the textures.

21 beach walking on Arran, Ruth Livingstone

Lines of rocks lead into the sea. Pointing towards Ailsa Craig.

22 Ailsa Craig, from Kilmory beach, Ruth hiking around Arran

To my right, a waterfall pours out of crack in the cliff, and splashes down the grassy slope. It’s not marked on my map, so maybe it’s only a temporary cascade after a rainy few weeks.

23 waterfall, Ruth hiking along the Arran Coastal path

I see other people ahead. Strollers and dog walkers. I must be getting close to the village of Lagg.

24 people on beach, Ruth walking the Arran coast to Lagg

I pass a couple who look like serious walkers. I wonder if they’re walking the coastal path too? Since I’m going the “wrong way” around the island, I expected to meet far more people. Where is everyone?

25 hikers on the beach, Arran Coastal Way, Ruth hiking in Scotland

My way forward is barred by a little river. Torrylinn Water. Apparently there are stepping stones somewhere here, visible if the tide isn’t too high and the river isn’t running at full spate. Stepping stones? I can’t see them.

26 Torrylinn Water, Ruth hiking to Lagg, Arran Coastal Way

Actually, I probably could just wade across – my boots and socks are already soaking wet from paddling in the waves. But the official coastal path turns inward at this point, and, I’m going to follow it up to Lagg, and then walk back along the road to find my car.

But I don’t want to leave this lovely beach yet. So, I sit down on the grassy bank at the top of the sands. Time for a rest and a drink.

Suddenly – thump – a stick lands on my lap. What?! Who is throwing things at me? Ah, here’s the culprit.

27 Lotty and the stick, Ruth Livingstone

The dog is eager to play, and won’t leave me alone. I throw the stick down the beach, but that turns out to be a mistake. The dog just keeps bringing it back and flinging it in my lap again. I guess he (or she) could keep this up all day!

“Lottie. Lottie!” A woman appears and manages to drag the dog away. I’m amused by the name. My daughter has a dog called Lottie, a springer spaniel, who is similarly obsessed with fetching sticks.

I finish my snacks, and balance my camera on a rock. Time for a self-portrait.

28 self-portrait, Ruth Livingstone walking around Arran

The coastal path leads up the slope. It’s a gentle climb and with only a small amount of mud. No cows this time!

29 path up to Kilmory, Ruth hiking the Arran Coastal Way

On the way up, I come across the Torrylin Cairn. It’s an ancient burial site, 5,000 years old.

An information plaque explains how the bodies were left outside until wild animals stripped the flesh of the bones. This was thought to release the souls of the dead. The remaining bones were important symbols of fertility, containing the essence of the ancestors. They were carried inside the cairn and stored in piles, mixed up with all the other bones.

30 Kilmory Cairn, Ruth Livingstone on Arran

I spend some time photographing the cairn. It’s not as dramatic as the Giant’s Graves, but still amazing to think it has survived all this time.

Continuing along the path, I end up walking through a lovely wooded section. The trunks are so pale that, at first, I think they must be ash trees. But the foliage looks like sycamore leaves. It’s both eerie and beautiful.

31 path through wood to Lagg, Ruth's coastal walk, Isle of Arran

The path joins the road at the Kilmory Stores. But the shop is shut. I check my watch… crikey, it’s 5:30 pm. My walk today hasn’t been very long in terms of miles, but seems to have taken me hours. Well, I wasn’t rushing.

32 Kilmory Stores, Ruth Livingstone hiking around the Isle of Arran

Next to the Kilmory Stores is Toby’s tearoom. This is definitely shut. In fact, it’s for sale. I take a photograph of the sign and inadvertently capture another self-portrait with my reflection.

33 closed tea room, Ruth in Lagg, Isle of Arran

Luckily, the Lagg Hotel is open. I’m hungry after my walk, despite eating my snacks, so I pop in for a cream tea. And a piece of shortbread. (Well, I am in Scotland, so I must have shortbread. It’s compulsory.)

34 Lagg Hotel, Ruth Livingstone on Isle of Arran, Scotland

I eat my cream tea in the garden, where midges dance around my head. Luckily, I don’t get bitten. Everybody has warned me about the Scottish midges, but I’ve had more trouble in the Peak District!

Miles walked today = a pathetic 8.5 miles
Miles around Arran Coastal Way= 28 miles
Total around coast of UK = 3,537 miles



About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
This entry was posted in 20 Ayrshire and Arran and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to 342 Kildonan to Lagg

  1. 829b says:

    It’s great to see another blog entry. I was getting worried that some cows had cornered you. Curiously, I think your photos in this entry are crisper and brighter than in the prior entry. Perhaps they have improved with age.


  2. Eunice says:

    I don’t envy you walking through all that mud, it looks horrible. The beach looks nice though and the woods are lovely – and Lottie looks cute 🙂

  3. I had a little smile at your nonchalance regarding the little beasties. I would recommend buying a midge shirt before you get much further into Scotland

  4. Midges in Scotland are most prevalent from about the end of May to the end of September.

  5. Jane says:

    I do like the way you write and the combination with the pictures. Every day feels like a new adventure. Full of little dramas – cows, mud, rising tide, debates about which way to go – all that and 5,000 year old hills of human bones. Keep going. Keep posting.

  6. Karen White says:

    A lovely walk with super photos. When I was on Skye many years ago I got bitten to pieces by Scottish midges!

  7. I always thought cows are big soft-hearted creatures. I went walking by myself at Nature’s Valley the other day …. in the western cape … and a leopard was standing in the footpath. I looked at it … and it looked at me. I spoke to the leopard and said that if you are kind to me then i will be kind to you … and the leopard looked at me in the eye and I could swear that it smiled .. then it turned away and walked off. Perhaps you should try that approach with cows

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