This morning I park my car at Blackwaterfoot and catch the bus back to Lagg. The first section of today’s walk follows the road. Great views over the countryside, with Ailsa Craig a constant feature on the horizon.
I decide not to take the first path down to the shore. The official Arran Coastal Way sticks to the road anyway, until you reach the village of Sliddery.
I walk past a church with boarded up windows…
… and a little further along is a war memorial. It seems to be in the middle of nowhere.
After a mile or two, the road twists down towards Sliddery Water, and Sliddery Bridge.
The sun appears intermittently, lighting up the landscape with glorious colour. Meanwhile, the clouds over the Mull of Kintyre look ominous.
Sliddery is a tiny place (with a great name!). I spot the signs for the Arran Coastal Way, pointing down a farm track. I just hope it’s not as muddy as yesterday. Finger’s crossed.
I meet some cows with interesting black and white faces. [Later, I look the breed up on the internet and discover they are produced by crossing red Herefords with black Aberdeen Angus. Sometimes these beasts are called Black Herefords, sometimes Black Baldy.]
Luckily the track doesn’t disintegrate into a muddy river, and I arrive on the beach with dry feet. A number of people are strolling along the sand with their dogs.
Out to sea, Ailsa Craig is eerily pale in the morning light.
I follow the shore, walking past a paddock of goats. Like the cows, these have black and white faces too.
The sand disappears and the shingle makes difficult walking, so I follow a track along the top of the beach for a while…
… before hopping down to the shore again. Here I come across a rotting carcass. Poo! It stinks. Probably a dead sheep, but hard to tell. Maybe a goat?
A little further along, I spot a kitten sitting on a piece of driftwood. A kitten? Yes. With only one eye. The other is closed up, either due to injury or due to infection.
What should I do? I look around. There are no houses visible. How did the kitten get here? It must be lost. I try to work out how I can carry it to safety… if I empty out my rucksack, I can put it in there. But where will I put all the stuff I carry with me?
As I’m trying to figure out how to rescue the lost kitten, it decides to shoot off into the reeds. I don’t even try to follow, knowing I’ll never find the tiny animal among the maze of vegetation. Oh, well. Perhaps it knows where it’s going.
I worry about the kitten for the rest of the day.
Oh dear. Here is something else to worry about. A field of cows. And they have numerous young calves with them. Oh no… what shall I do?
There is no fence separating the field from the coast, so no safe path for me to follow. But if I stay on the rocks, I’m sure the cows will be too wary of slipping to want to follow me. Won’t they?
The rocks present rather a challenge.
Slowly, very slowly, I clamber around, keeping below the high tide mark, where the stones are slippery with water and seaweed. It takes me ages to pick my route through.
Meanwhile, the cows watch my progress with a somewhat perplexed gaze.
A plopping sound startles me. It’s coming from the sea… no, it’s coming from the rocks close to the water…
Ah! Seals! The timid ones slip into the water – plop, plop – while the braver animals watch me carefully. They look surprised to see a human invader crawling around on their rocks.
I feel guilty disturbing the seals. Perhaps I should head back up the shore. No. Those damn cows are still watching me. Look at all those baby calves. Their mothers will be feeling very protective.
I better stick with terrorising the seals. There are plenty of them out there. Luckily, I don’t think they’re producing pups yet.
I finally get to the end of the cattle field, and can head back to the top of the beach. It’s taken me 30 minutes to travel a couple of hundred yards. And now I face a boulder field.
Luckily, I discover hopping across dry boulders is much easier than clambering over slippery stones, and I make better progress.
I continue scrambling along the shore, picking my way across boggy grass, or leaping from the top of one huge stone to another.
For a while I’ve been steadily swinging northwards. Now I discover I’ve lost sight of Ailsa Craig. Oh. I always hate leaving a friendly waymark behind, but there’s the Mull of Kintyre to keep me company now. Beautiful.
The air is cool, but all the leaping about has made me hot and thirsty. I’m also tired and hungry. So I stop for a rest on a rock, and eat my picnic snacks.
As I’m eating, a couple appear – the first walkers I’ve met since the dog strollers earlier. They have American accents. “Lovely day,” we agree. They haven’t seen any seals, so I point out the youngster who has been sitting on a nearby rock, watching me eat my lunch.
Later, I watch in awe as the Americans stroll boldly through the field of cattle. They take two minutes to cross, with the cows reluctantly parting to let them through. I think of the half hour I spent climbing gingerly over slippery rocks. If only I’d been braver!
Onwards. The boulders give way to sand. I’m grateful, because this provides a much easier walking surface.
I balance my camera on a rock and pose for a self-portrait.
Walking close to the sea, I’m amazed how clear the water is.
The beach comes to an end. I pick my way over more boulders, and stumble along the boggy grass at the top of the shore. Uh-oh. The sky is grey ahead. There’s rain falling over the water and looks like it’s coming my way.
Yes. The rain plummets down. I stow my camera away, put on my rucksack cover, and zip up my jacket. I didn’t pack any waterproof trousers (I hate the things) and soon my legs are soaking wet.
Uh. Head down. Plod on. The path winds close to the cliffs and becomes extremely muddy.
I’m surprised to meet a couple of workmen. They’re only wearing t-shirts and are soaking wet too, while trying to heave some enormous stepping-stones back into place along the path. The stones must have been washed down the slope by a previous flood.
The rain lightens and I can’t resist swinging my camera out of my rucksack, and taking a photo of the men and the path of stepping-stones.
As quickly as it began, the rain stops. And in a few minutes the sun is out again. This is better. A dry path. Blue sky. A brilliant blue sea.
I come to another boulder field and am glad the sun has dried the stones. They would be horrible and slippery if wet.
Beyond the boulder field is a mass of bracken. But the path has been recently cleared and is easy to follow. I bless the workmen I met earlier. Thank you.
There’s a village ahead. Must be Blackwaterfoot. I’m nearly there.
I pass a series of caves in the cliff. My map says the largest one is called “Preaching Cave”. Presumably somebody stood and gave sermons here.
Beyond the caves, the path becomes very indistinct and peters out. Frustratingly, neither my OS map, nor my Garmin, show the Arran Coastal Way, so it’s very easy to make a mistake and lose the route. In fact, I’m convinced I’ve lost the path. Maybe it turned inland?
I follow the shore as best I can, sometimes stumbling over the stones on the beach, and sometimes feeling my way over uneven ground covered in vegetation along the top of the shoreline. At least there isn’t far to go now.
I meet a woman walking her dog. And then a man and his daughter. They ask me if the caves are ahead. Yes, just round the headland. I wonder if I should warn them that the path is tricky… but, too late, they’ve marched onwards.
Ahead are more dog walkers, and the houses of Blackwaterfoot.
I reach the point where the Black Water burn empties into the sea. That’s the end of my coastal walk for the day.
Every place looks different when viewed from the shore, so it takes me a few seconds to get my bearings. To my right is a hotel, and the car park where I left my car, and the bus stop where I caught the bus this morning.
The river widens out in front of the hotel to form a little harbour. It’s very pretty in the sunshine. A popular place for sightseers.
I can’t resist popping into the hotel for half a pint of cider, which I drink outside in the sunshine. I think I’ve deserved it.
Miles walked today = a miserly 7.5 miles, but hard work.
Miles around Arran Coastal Way = 35.5 miles
Total around coast of UK = 3,554.5 miles