354pm Southend to Machrihanish

I’ve definitely reached the top of this hill now. The path begins to go down, straight towards a group of trees.

31 top of the hill, Ruth's coastal walk, Mull of Kintyre

And then the route takes a sharp left turn and plunges down the hill. (It’s hard to get an impression of the steepness from the photo below, but you’ll have to take my word for it.) Mindful I have no phone signal, and the footpath is so unused it is barely visible, I come down the hill slowly – one foot at a time, and grateful to have my pole for support.

32 steep descent, Ruth's coastal walk, Mull of Kintyre

I’d studied my OS map carefully in advance, and hadn’t been anticipating such a steep slope at this point. Maybe my map-reading skills were much poorer than I believed? (Later, checking my Garmin track against the paper map, I realise there had been another subtle deviation to the route of the Kintyre Way. It wasn’t my map reading skills after all!)

A mile or so further along, and I come down onto a track. This is definitely Andy’s track, and I feel quietly comforted at knowing I’m now back on the same route as he took.

33 track through Largiebaan, Ruth hiking the Mull of Kintyre

The track makes for easy walking and all is going well until… until it crosses into a field and… uh, oh. Cows!

The cows have some very young calves with them. The black matron, standing guard by the track, eyes me suspiciously.

34 cows on the Kintyre Way, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland

I tell myself to be brave – I’m on the Kintyre Way after all, and have a right to be here – and I start to walk forward again.

I haven’t got much further along the track, when the black cow lowers her head and begins to come towards me.

I do what any sensible cow-fearing person would do at this stage. I head for the fence. Unfortunately, it’s a double fence. Fortunately, the second fence is the only one with barbed wire, and luckily that wire has pretty much rusted away.

35 double fence, Ruth Livingstone hiding from cows

Climbing over, I find myself in a boggy section of forest. The trees are wonderfully old and dripping with moss.

36 woods to escape killer cows, Ruth's coastal walk, Mull of Kintyre

It doesn’t take me long to bypass the cow field, and I’m soon back on the track again. I look back at the gate out of the field (the gate I didn’t even try to go through) and the cows are still standing guard.

37 cows guarding the gate, Ruth Livingstone on the Mull of Kintyre

Ha ha. Fooled you!

Further along I spot a dead sheep carcass in the forest and decide to walk a little further before collapsing on the grassy verge. It’s time for another drink, snack and rest. At least this field only has sheep in it – along with nettles and thistles too. I spread my coat carefully on the ground.

After resting for half an hour, enjoying the sunshine, I get up and haven’t got very far when I spot a picnic bench. If only I’d known this was just around the corner!

38 picnic bench, Ruth's coastal walk, Mull of Kintyre

The track has changed from gravel to grass and then deteriorates into a vague path. I climb over a stile and walk through a wooded area. Ahead is another stile and… and a big expanse of blue and light. That must be the sea! At last.

40 over stile, Ruth's coastal walk, Mull of Kintyre

It’s really good to be overlooking the coast again. (Funny how my coastal walks can be definitely non-coastal for protracted periods!) But… what’s that island over there to the south. I get my maps out.

Oh. It’s Ireland!

41 view of Ireland, Mull of Kintyre, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

This morning I’d been chatting to the bus driver about the 7.5 hour drive to Manchester, and how even Glasgow is nearly 3 hours away from the Mull of Kintyre by car. And yet, there is Ireland, so close you could almost swim over.

This next section of the walk is beautiful. But tough. First comes a steep, hard scramble up a hill. Great views from the top. A tiny boat makes its way over the placid ocean. Those island over there – looking north-west now – are they Islay and Jura?

42 view over Islay and Jura, Ruth's coastal walk, Mull of Kintyre

This landscape is too steep for cattle, and I don’t see any sheep either. But I do see some goats. They have terrifically huge horns, and watch me with some curiosity,  but don’t come anywhere near.

43 wild goats, Ruth's coastal walk, Mull of Kintyre

I reach the top of the slope and stop for a breather and to take photographs of the stunning views. Yes, that island over there is definitely Jura, with its distinctive humps. The Paps of Jura.

44 empty landscape, Ruth's coastal walk, Mull of Kintyre

From here, the path plunges down the slope, twisting and winding, among grass and rocks, and occasional patches of slippery scree. Luckily blue posts mark the route, because the landscape is a jumble of rocky outcrops and steep drops. It’s quite terrifying in places.

45 steep slopes, Ruth hiking the Kintyre Way, over the Mull

And I am suddenly aware of my own vulnerability. No phone signal. A path that’s rarely walked (I haven’t met another walker all day – just a glimpse of the man in red – who might or might not have been a walker.)

Also, I realise I didn’t tell my family my route today. Just said I was walking the Mull of Kintyre – but I’ve been walking the Mull of Kintyre all week and mainly along roads. If I twist an ankle… or worse… I could be stuck here for days before anybody finds me. It doesn’t bear thinking about.

Onwards. Carefully. I pick my way down the slope.

Below is a pretty beach. It’s nameless on my OS map, but is the site of a sailor’s grave.

46 Sailor's Grave, Kintyre Way, Ruth Livingstone hiking in Scotland

I had planned to go down to visit the grave, but the path down isn’t clear, and I don’t want to take any chances on this unforgiving slope.

It’s a relief to reach the sheepfold. This is the point at which the path turns away from the coast and heads up the glen.

47 Sheepfolds, Innean Glen, Ruth hiking the Kintyre Way

In fact, at this point, the terrifying path turns into an easy track. “Ballygroggan” says a sign. Is that the name of the beach?

48 Ballygroggan sign, Ruth's coastal walk, Mull of Kintyre

I make my way up the track, up Innean Glen. I suppose it could be considered pretty, but I find all this open moorland rather bleak and intimidating.

49 Kintyre Way up Innean Glen, Ruth hiking in Scotland

At the top of the glen is yet more moorland. But with wonderful views of the hills ahead. And the blue Kintyre Way markers stretch ahead of me – a line of welcoming blue punctuation points.

50 Ruth's coastal walk, Mull of Kintyre, hiking to Machrihanish

I begin to get obsessed with the idea of midges. No, I didn’t put any spray on this morning. No, I forgot to put it in my rucksack too. And I know they like these boggy areas. Oh dear. And I’m too tired to run fast if they surround me.

A marker post tells me I’ve walked 96 miles along the Kintyre Way. (Actually, I haven’t really, because I haven’t followed the Kintyre Way in its frequent cross-country meanderings!) But, that 96 miles also means I’m only 4 miles away from Machrihanish.

51 96 mile maker, Kintyre Way, Ruth Livingstone hiking in Scotland

4 miles!? Still four miles to go?! Check my watch. It’s 5pm already. I knew this walk would be a long one, but didn’t expect it to take me quite so long.

Now, at last, I’m definitely going downhill. There’s Machrihanish Bay ahead. The strange domed piece of land directly in front of me is… I check my map… a dun. A dun? What’s a dun? Dunno.

52 Machrihanish Bay, Ruth's coastal walk, Mull of Kintyre

Only 3 miles to go now. No midges around me either. Yet.

53 three miles to Machrihanish, Ruth hiking the Kintyre Way

Near the ‘dun’, I pass a wooden post with a metal box on top. The note stuck to the top invites you to leave comments in the book inside. I wrestle with the lid of the box, which is covered in flaky red rust, but can’t get it open.

54 comments book, Kintyre Way, Ruth's coastal walk

A nearby signpost tells me Southend is 13 miles away. Lies! I’ve definitely walked farther than that, haven’t I?

55 signpost to Inneans Bay, Ruth's coastal walk, Mull of Kintyre

And, finally, after miles of moorland tramping, I come to another farm. This is the first farm since I crossed the river at the bottom of Amod Hill. In fact, it’s the first building I’ve come across for miles.

56 Ballygroggan Farm, Ruth's coastal walk, Mull of Kintyre

The farm is called Ballygroggan. That explains the signpost I saw above the beach. And here is a proper road, at last, with a little car park and a picnic bench. I sit down and finish the rest of my water.

57 Ballygroggan car park and picnic bench, Ruth's coastal walk, Mull of Kintyre

The road heads down the hill. My feet are sore on the tarmac, but at least I can now make rapid progress. The view of Jura is pretty spectacular.

58 High Lossit and Paps of Jura, Ruth's coastal walk, Mull of Kintyre

In the surrounding fields are sheep, and inquisitive little lambs. Hello, number 22. You look like a cheeky chappie.

59 lambs in fields, Ruth's coastal walk, Mull of Kintyre

I arrive at the final mile-marker post. Only ONE mile to go. Hooray.

60 mile to go, Ruth's coastal walk, Mull of Kintyre

There is a smattering of houses along the road into Machrihanish. The evening light slants low from the west across the sea, and everything glows golden. I love this time of day.

61 down to Machrihanish, Ruth's coastal walk, Mull of Kintyre

Finally, coming down into a little cove, I can see the car park where I left my car this morning. And, there’s my car. Waiting patiently for me.

62 Machrihanish, Ruth's coastal walk, Mull of Kintyre

I stop to take a photograph of the marker of the finish (or the start) of the Kintyre Way. I feel a sense of achievement, as if I’ve really walked the entire 100 miles. Maybe some day I’ll come back and complete the sections I missed out?

63 end or beginning of Kintyre Way, Ruth in Machrihanish

But, for today, my walk is over. It’s the most challenging walk I’ve done so far in Scotland – on a par with north Cornwall in terms of terrifying and steep slopes. And, at long last, I’ve walked around the Mull of Kintyre… oh, no. Now that song is going around inside my head again!

High points = the amazing views over to Ireland and Jura
Low points = meeting cows with calves on the path

Miles walked today = 17.5 miles
Total around coast = 3,684.5 miles

Route (vaguely!):

About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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14 Responses to 354pm Southend to Machrihanish

  1. owdjockey says:

    Hi Ruth, a Dun in Scotland is basically an old fort similar to a Broch. You passed 4 or 5 of them road section from Carradale to Campbeltown. The Kildonald Dun was about 20 metres off the road and had sign pointing to it.

    • Ah. Yes, I’ve noticed a lot of ‘duns’ on my map. That explains it, thank you. I couldn’t remember who warned me about the difficult terrain over the Mull. Was it you? Anyway, given how difficult the official path turned out to be, I hate to think what it was like off the path!

  2. You are going well. 17.5 miles over difficult terrain is a damn good day in anybody’s book Well done. I chuckled about the bench cropping up shortly after taking your stop; how many times has the happened to us all?

  3. Chris Elliott says:

    Hi Ruth – can I make a suggestion re being in a very remote place and having no telephone signal – have you thought of buying a PLB (personal locator beacon). They’re the sort of thing round the world yachtsmen use and since 2012 have been legal to use on land. They cost circa £200 which is a lot but if it saves your life a snip. You have to register with the coastguard and tell a contact roughly where you are going to be as the coastguard will check you’re in the area that a signal goes off at in order to rule out false alarms. I have been carrying one ever since entering Scotland and it means my family don’t need to worry. It’s basically a satellite distress beacon. All the best. Chris

    • That’s a very good idea Chris. I knew about the beacons, but was lulled into a false sense of security on the Kintyre Peninsula, as most of my walks were along public roads or logging tracks. I will order one soon.

  4. Anabel Marsh says:

    That was a big walk! I was worried at the end of your last walk that something terrible might be going to happen, but you survived.

  5. Robin Currie says:

    Hi Ruth,
    You may find the 112 emergency service number useful. There is a link attached to a you tube video which is very helpful.


  6. jcombe says:

    I think your title photo sums this up walking in the more remote parts of Scotland well. What seems like a trackless remote area of moorland where you worry you might be lost and then suddenly a footpath post stuck in the middle of it, just when you think no one has been there for years!

    Certainly a view of Ireland there, I’m surprised just how close that part of Scotland is to Northern Ireland (I just checked the map, I hadn’t realised). Another project awaits when you’ve completed the mainland 🙂

    As to being in such a remote area without mobile signal. It doesn’t really bother me and to be honest I hadn’t really thought about it before. Perhaps I should have. I found that much of the north coast of Scotland has no mobile signal.

    I know I’m going to have *that* song stuck in my head when I get that far too!

  7. Karen White says:

    I think you are incredibly brave! I hope you got one of the PLBs soon after this. The view of Machrihanish Bay is gorgeous but I wouldn’t have enjoyed the climb or descent – terrifying sums it up nicely.
    I think Ireland is approximately 12 miles away.

  8. Karen White says:

    I just watched the first part of the 112 video and I’m wondering if the number will still be operational in the UK once we leave the European Union?

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