I catch the morning bus into Carradale, and walk along a track to meet up with the Kintyre Way and the route of my previous walk. It’s good to see the familiar blue post with its squiggly logo.
I’ve agonised over which route to follow out of Carradale. I would prefer to walk around by the shore, but the map shows a headland of trackless rough ground – as well as impediments such as golf courses and caravan parks. Would I be able to get through?
Normally, I’d have a go at finding a way, but my walk today is already very, very long (for me) and will push me to the limits of my walking-distance tolerance. I really can’t take the risk of adding extra miles if I’m forced to backtrack.
The Kintyre Way passes through woodland, but I’ve decided to follow the road because it runs closer to the water. There are no pavements, but I’m relieved to see a footpath is being constructed alongside the road. I use it, although it’s not officially open yet. At the far end, a parked mechanical digger makes a half-hearted attempt to block the way.
From here I spot another footpath. This would take me even closer to the shore, so I follow it. The path is lined by sweet-smelling gorse bushes…
… and a few early bluebells. Everything blooms later in Scotland, so it’s wonderful to see these beautiful flowers are already out. They’re proper native bluebells too.
One of the frustrations of walking in Scotland is the lack of official public rights of way. Footpaths might be marked on the map, but you have no idea whether they are open to the public, or obstructed by fences, gates, or ‘keep out’ signs. Carradale, I discover, is surrounded by footpaths and they are well signed. If only I’d known in advance. I bet I could have walked around the coastline after all!
I meet up with the Kintyre Way again. I’m heading to a place called Waterfoot, and a bridge over the Carradale Water river.
On the other side of the bridge, the Kintyre Way goes off to the left, following the bank of the river, towards the shore. It’s good to be heading towards the sea again, but I’ve only gone 1/2 mile or so when I come to a warning sign. “Consult the monthly tide table below as part of the route can be blocked by high water.”
Unfortunately the tide table shown is dated December 2016. Not a lot of use.
Thank goodness for smart phones. I soon find out that high tide is around 11:10 am. Check my watch. Uh, oh. It’s 11 o’clock exactly. Oh dear, I’m going to have to backtrack and follow the road after all.
It’s a steep climb and a rather boring road with little sight of the sea. After a mile, I reach the point – marked by blue poles – at which the Kintyre Way joins the road again.
From here my planned route is straightforward. No more decisions to make. I’ve decided I’m just going to follow the road down to Campbeltown.
I pass some interesting buildings. A fortified homestead? An old stable block?
And some pretty farm cottages, surrounded by lush green grass and with cute little lambs in the fields. (Love this time of year.)
I try to take some photographs of the baby lambs, but their mothers are very wary and it’s impossible to sneak up unnoticed. All I get is blurry snaps of their disappearing bottoms.
A little further along, and I catch a glimpse of an impressive building through the trees. Torrisdale Castle. Here the Kintyre Way turns off the road and follows the driveway towards the castle, before going off on one of its inland jaunts.
I stick to the road, which swings down the hill and runs alongside the shore of Torrisdale Bay. This is more like it! Beautiful view. That’s Carradale across the Bay, with the mountains of Arran looming behind. The air is so clear today, Arran seems very close.
Onwards, along the road. I’m heading south and into the sun, which makes photography difficult. I’ll be glad when I get round the Mull of Kintyre and can start heading northwards again.
What’s that lump of rock across the water? I peer into the distance. Oh, yes. It must be Ailsa Craig. Hello, old friend! It seems a long time since I last saw you.
The road has been steadily climbing, and when I look back I get a great view over Carradale Point and the far end of the Isle of Arran. In fact, I can see a good way up Loch Fyne, where a storm cloud seems to be building.
I reach the village of Saddell, approached along a lovely tree-lined avenue.
There’s a parking place in Saddell with information boards and a rather sad-looking bench. The wooden seat is rotten… but I’m tired and decide to stop for a rest and some lunch.
While I’m sitting there, perched awkwardly on the unstable bench, it starts to rain. A bus lumbers by up the road. The driver slows and looks quizzically at me. No, I’m not waiting for a bus. Just sitting in the rain eating my lunch. What’s odd about that?
The rain soon stops, and I decide to look around the nearby ruined abbey. There’s not much to see, just a couple of crumbling archways, and old tombstones, along with some more recent graves. The really ancient stones are housed in a nearby visitors’ centre, locked away.
It’s a very dramatic setting. Would make a great gothic-horror film location.
I follow the road out of Saddell, and climb high above the sea. Through the trees I get a view of Saddell Beach. Looks perfect.
[Later I discover that Saddell Beach is where the pipers marched in the video for Paul McCartney’s song, Mull of Kintyre.]
At the top of the hill, above Saddell Bay, I’m surprised to find a Kintyre Way marker. What are you doing here? I thought you were wandering inland somewhere?
I can’t decide if it’s marking an old route, too old to be shown on my OS map. Or a new route, too new to be shown on the map.
Onwards. Down the hill. A cyclist overtakes me and shouts a cheery ‘hello’.
The road is part of cycle route 78 – a 237 mile route between Campbeltown and Inverness. Strangely enough, this is the first cyclist I’ve seen all day, and I’ve yet to meet a single walker along the Kintyre Way. Such a beautiful area, but so few people seem to come here.
The road goes on and on. Up and down. Into the sun. Ahead, in the distance, I can see a wide inlet. Ah, that must be Campbeltown Loch. Still some way to go.
I pass Ugadale farm, where they seem to be diversifying into IT. The two signs make a weird juxtaposition: “fresh eggs for sale” next to “Computer Services”.
From the high ground I get great views across Ugadale Point. More sheep, some ruined farm buildings, and across the water is the southern tip of Arran.
Beyond Ugadale Point the road dips down to the shore of Kildonald Bay. The light is stunning, and the sea is utterly calm. Beautiful.
Above the bay is a car park and a couple of picnic benches. There is one car parked, but nobody around. I decide it must be time for another snack, and set up the camera for a self-portrait.
The bench is the usual Scottish height – built for giants, so my feet dangle several feet above the ground. Can’t complain, though. It’s a beautiful spot.
[To be continued…]