344 Blackwaterfoot to Imachar

On a beautiful, clear morning, I park by the shore near Machrie, and catch the bus back to Blackwaterfoot. The harbour looks very attractive.

01 Blackwaterfoot, Ruth's coastal walk around the Isle of Arran

Today is a walk of two halves. The first half is glorious, the second half… well, it will turn out to be a bit of a slog. But let’s start at the beginning…

I follow the road and head north out of Blackwaterfoot. The main road swings round to the right, but I carry straight on, down a dead-end lane that leads to the golf course.

02 Blackwaterfoot, Ruth hiking the Arran Coastal Way

An information board tells me this is where the Arran Coastal Way runs. It’s only 5.5 miles to Machrie, where my car is waiting. I’m not sure if I believe the sign, because most of my walks turn out to be far longer (according to my Garmin) than the official distance.

03 sign for Arran Coastal Way, Blackwaterfoot

I hear a clanging noise behind me and turn around. It’s a couple carrying a golf bag, with the clubs jiggling around inside. I stand aside to let them pass.

Onwards, and I soon leave the road to walk along the sand. I think this is the best beach I’ve come across so far on Arran. Easily accessible and perfect if you have children. But, on this fine day, it is virtually empty. Just a few strollers and dog walkers in the distance.

04 beach at Blackwaterfoot, Ruth hiking around the coast of Arran

It’s one of those perfect moments at the beginning of a walk, when the day is full of promise, and I’m filled with a happy energy. The sun is warm on my back. Gentle waves roll across the rippled sand. I take dozens of photographs.

05 Arran and Blackwaterfoot beach, Ruth Livingstone

Further along, a family is climbing along a line of rocks that stretch out into the sea. They’re silhouetted against the gleaming water. In the distance… Ailsa Craig peeks out from behind the headland.

06 Drumadoon Bay, Ruth's coastal walk around Arran

I reach the end of the beach. This is Drumadoon Point. (What a great name! Sounds like something out of a pirate adventure story.) I walk over a flat area of grassland, while ahead towers the craggy mass of… I check my map… the Doon Fort. Does that mean there’s an ancient fort on top of the cliff?

07 Drumadoon Point, Ruth hiking the Arran Coast Path

To my right is the golf course. A sign suggests it is too dangerous to walk over the links, and better to climb over the rocks by the shore. Hmm. I’m not convinced this is the safer route, as it requires scrambling on hands and knees.

As I crawl over the stones, I look up and see the couple who passed me earlier. He is hitting the golf ball but she appears to be an observer only. I know many people love the game, but it really doesn’t appeal to me at all.

08 Shiskine Golf course, Ruth Livingstone on Arran

I leave the golf course behind. It’s slow going. The coastal way here is really rugged and I have to watch every step. This is going to take me ages.

09 rugged path, Drumadoon Point, Ruth Livingstone on Arran

I clamber over a tricky section, and then sigh with relief as the path improves. Time for a self-portrait.

10 Ruth Livingstone walking the Arran Coastal Way, near Blackwaterfoot

Further along, and people have created piles of stones. Each one is a feat of balancing skills. These little structures are both appealing and a little uncanny at the same time.

11 piles of stones, Ruth hiking in Arran, Scotland

Down on the shore I spot a few sheep. At first I think they must be goats – but, no – they’re definitely sheep. It’s unusual to see sheep standing on wet sand. I look around to see where they might have escaped from… but I can’t see any nearby fields. Just rocks and cliffs.

12 sheep on the beach, Ruth hiking the coast of the Isle of Arran

The path here is well worn, but I don’t meet any other walkers. This seems very strange. It’s only the 1st September and I’m walking the Arran Coastal Path the wrong way (I always seem to end up walking the wrong way!). Therefore, I would expect to meet anybody who was walking this same section coming towards me.

13 easy path to Machrie, Ruth hiking the Arran Coastal Way

Where is everyone?

The path begins to rise up the side of the slope. This is perfect coastal walking. A beautiful day, a well delineated path, and great views.

14 Arran Coastal Way, Mull of Kintyre, Ruth Livingstone

Ahead are a series of caves. A signpost points the way towards them. “King’s Cave”. Which king, and why he was in a cave, isn’t made clear.

15 King's Cave, Ruth hiking the Arran Coastal Path

Down by the shore are more constructions of balanced stones.

16 piled up stones, Ruth Livingstone on Arran

I clamber up to the mouth of one of the caves…

17 King's Cave, Ruth hiking the coast of Arran

… and peer into the dark and damp interior. The floor doesn’t look very comfortable – covered in rocks. And here, inside, are yet more piles of stones. People have been very busy creating all these little towers. Seems a tad obsessional to me.

18 inside the King's Cave, Ruth's coastal walk, Arran

The largest cave has a metal fence in front of the entrance, although the gate is open. A large spider dangles from the bars. A spider? Somebody has a sense of humour.

19 giant spider, Ruth Livingstone's coastal walk, Arran

[Later I learn the King’s Cave is where Robert the Bruce hid after he was defeated in battle, and where he learnt a lesson in patience as he  watched a spider repeatedly trying to build its web. Allegedly. Apparently there are several caves that lay claim to being the King’s cave! You can find out more here.]

Several people arrive. A group of young people, and a family with two dogs, climb up to the caves.

20 tourists at King's Cave

Further along, a group of ladies in walking gear are sitting on a large rock, sunbathing. Ah. That’s where all the walkers are! Lazy things.

The path leaves the shore and climbs up the steep slope above the caves. I meet an older couple coming down. They tell me I’m walking the right way round, because I’ll get to enjoy a lovely view in a minute, while they must keep stopping to look behind them.

They’re right. As I climb higher, the view is wonderful.

21 Path up from shore, Ruth's coastal walk, Isle of Arran, Scotland

At the top of the cliff, the path runs along the edge of a woodland. The views are even more wonderful. Lush farmland, dotted with sheep, and the blue waters of Machrie Bay. In the distance, are the mountains of the northern part of Arran.

22 view to Machrie, Ruth's coastal walk, Isle of Arran

I sit on a bench and eat my snacks. Really, I could stay up here for ever.

23 Torr Righ Beag, Ruth Livingstone on Arran

A man walks past me. He’s come up from the shore and is carrying a string bag over his shoulder. It is stuffed full of shells (cockles?) and drips water down the back of his jacket. The bag looks heavy, and I admire his stamina up the steep slope.

Further along, in the woodland, I spot something bright red. What? Ah, a magic mushroom. Several magic mushrooms.

24 Magic Mushrooms in the forest, Ruth hiking in Arran

Called amanita muscaria, or fly agaric, these mushrooms when intact look just like the toadstools out of a children’s story book. These are less impressive because they’ve been nibbled by something… not by me, I can assure you!

My woodland path ends in a car park, and from here I join the main road. There are no pavements, but the traffic is very light. I’m really not fond of road-walking, but the wonderful views make up for the tarmac slog.

25 Arran hills, Ruth hiking in Scotland

I reach Machrie. I was expecting more of a village, but it’s really just a string of cottages strung out along the road. There is a café too – a “tee” room. A pun. Yes, Machrie might be tiny, but it has its own golf course!

26 Machrie, Ruth Livingstone on Arran

At the far end of Machrie is my car. But I’m still full of energy, and it seems too early to stop walking for the day. I check my watch. There’s a bus that comes down this road in 90 minutes or so. If I continue walking, I could catch the bus and get back to my car.

27 road from Machrie, Ruth's coastal walk, Arran

Onwards, then. I’ve had a succession of short walks recently, and am keen to cover some more miles today.

The road stretches ahead. Easy walking. I pass a group of little boats pulled up on the grass verge…

28 boats beside road, Ruth Livingston

…and then pass something odd. A yard, full of cars. What are they doing here? No sign of life, just a Union Jack flying beside a shack. That’s odd too. You rarely see a Union Jack flying in Scotland!

29 mysterious yard, Machrie, Ruth's coastal hike

Onwards. The road is pretty boring, but the views are great. Is that Goat Fell? The highest mountain on Arran? I think it must be. But I’m not sure.

30 Goat Fell, Ruth Livingstone on Arran

I can see the road curving round the bay. No sign of the bus. Plenty of time. I’ll catch it when I get to Dougarie, because I’ve already checked on Google Maps and there’s a bus stop just beyond the Dougarie bridge.

31 Machrie Bay, Ruth Livingstone walking to Dougarie

I pass a couple of road-construction vehicles. An old notice warns me this road will be closed for a day in August. “Sorry for the inconvenience.” Wow. If they closed this road, it must have been very inconvenient. There aren’t many roads around Arran, and this is one of the few serving this area.

32 road mending equipment, Ruth hiking on Arran

Further along, and I come across a few camper vans parked on the grass beside the shore. One of the joys of Scotland is the relaxed attitude towards overnight parking and to camping outside of official parks.

33 camper van, Arran, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

The sky has darkened and the light is poor. Shame. My photographs along this section of the walk all turn out rather dull.

I reach Dougarie. There is a line of stepping-stones running alongside the bridge. Does anybody use them? When the bridge is only 100 feet away? The building near the shore is called Dougarie Lodge. It is surrounded by “Private” signs, but looks empty.

34 Dougarie Lodge, Ruth hiking the coast of Arran, Scotland

I march along the road. And, after a while, realise I haven’t come across a bus stop. Oh. Where is it? I’m sure I didn’t miss it.

Check my watch. I’ve got 1/2 hour until the bus is due, anyway. I’ll just carry on.

35 uninspiring road to Imachar, Ruth hiking the Arran Coastal Way

I walk past an electricity sub station. What is that doing out here? There’s not a house in sight. I check my map. Oh. I think it must be the “Submarine Cable Terminal”. Interesting. I’m not sure where the cable runs. To Ireland?

36 submarine cable terminal, Ruth walking the Arran coast path

Onwards. This road goes on and on. Nothing much of interest to look at. Ah, here’s a rock with cormorants standing on it. I stop to take a photo.

37 cormorants and Mull of Kintyre, Ruth hiking in Scotland

I’m worried about the bus now. It should come along at any moment, but I haven’t seen a bus stop for miles. Will it stop to pick me up if I put my hand out? I hope so.

Onwards. On and on. I’m walking quickly and growing tired, with the tarmac hard under my feet.

38 winding road, Arran, Ruth Livingstone

The road curves away from the sea and begins to climb up a slope. I must be nearly at a place called Imachar. There’s a bus stop there, I remember, clearly shown on Google Maps. Onwards and upwards.

39 bend at Imachur Point, Ruth hiking the Arran coastal route

The road up to Imachar is very steep. I puff and pant, and have just reached the top of the climb when I see the bus hurtling towards me. Stick my hand out. Hold my breath.

The driver sees me. Brakes suddenly. And stops.

What a relief. I climb in, sink into a seat, and enjoy the ride back to my car.

The bus is filled with Japanese tourists, who take photographs of the view through the windows. I’m not sure if they capture any decent shots. The afternoon is dim, the windows are dirty, and the bus shakes and trembles its way along the road.

Miles walked today = 11 miles
Miles around Arran Coastal Way = 46.5 miles
Total around coast of UK = 3,565.5 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.

14 Responses to 344 Blackwaterfoot to Imachar

  1. Margaret Oliver says:

    Hi Ruth I’ve visited Arran each September for a week from 2014 to 2016 camping and walking the coastal path the correct way round 😊 Each time I’ve spent more than a day in some of the places so not achieved as much as was planned. It’s a stunning island and I’m loving following your walk around it. I found you didn’t have to be at the bus stop on the quieter country roads, just stick a hand out and the driver would stop. You’ve got some fabulous sections to come with no cows as far as I remember. Happy walking.

    • Hi Margaret. I admire you greatly for walking AND camping. Did you carry everything on your back? (I must admit I do like the comfort of my B&B.) Yes, Arran is a spectacular island. I sometimes wonder if I’m deliberately making slow progress in order to stay here longer 😆

      • Margaret Oliver says:

        Hi Ruth yes I carried everything but the first year was the only year I moved on each day. The other years I based myself on a campsite and did day walks using the bus, as the weather was not so good, it was still fabulous. I only have the section from Blackwaterfoot to Lagg to actually walk though I have visited the falls and the graves as you did. Like you I wonder if I don’t want to complete it too soon 😀 Enjoy

  2. Anabel Marsh says:

    I was getting quite tense there thinking you were going to have to walk all the way back to your car! We’ve been to Bruce’s cave before, in pre-blogging days, but you couldn’t get past the fence and I don’t remember the spider (though there was a dead sheep, poor thing). Fairly sure we walked over the golf course – I’m always amazed how many there are too, they make me a little nervous.

  3. Hi Ruth – are you walking all the way around Arran or will you just go as far as the ferry to Claonaig so you can jump to the Kintyre Peninsula? Do you have a goal for this year?

    • I would like to finish the complete circuit of Arran. Main problem is finding somewhere to stay, as Arran is often fully booked. I don’t think I’ll get much winter walking done, so trying to get back this month.

  4. babsandnancy says:

    I love the the stacks of stones. They don’t seem to be cairns (way markers) if they are inside the cave but whatever their significance- spiritual or guidance for walkers I find them very comforting and have made many myself on beaches with my children. Beautiful views – enjoying Arran vicariously through your posts.

  5. Eunice says:

    What fabulous views, it looks like a really beautiful place. I have to ask though – why should there be a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to walk a coastal path, and who decrees that there is? Surely it shouldn’t matter which way anyone walks 🙂

    • Good question, Eunice 😄 The ‘right’ way is the way the guidebooks or official websites describe the walk. The ‘wrong’ way is the way.i usually end up going! (Of course, I’m of the firm opinion that I’m actually going the right way, and everybody else has got it wrong.)

  6. jcombe says:

    Nice to hear about your walk around Arran. There is something particularly special about small(ish) islands I think.

  7. Karen White says:

    What glorious scenery and fab photos as always. I don’t hold out much hope that the Japanese tourists will get decent pics!

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