358 Tarbert to Ardpatrick

It’s the last week of May, and I’m back in Scotland. Taking up a great deal of room in my car, and clanking ominously every time I turn a corner, is a monstrously heavy, folding bike.

I bought the bike to avoid double-walking. Alan Palin, another coastal walker, suggested it. Get a bike, he told me. The worst that can happen is you end up pushing it uphill and freewheeling downhill, but without a bike you’d have to walk the whole way, anyway. So you can’t lose.

You can’t lose. Unless, of course you fall off. I haven’t ridden a bike for 30 years.

Anyway, I won’t have to use the bike today, because my plan this morning is to park in a village called Kilberry, from where I will catch the bus to get to the starting point for today’s walk. Then, all I have to do is walk back to my car.

Unfortunately, I had great trouble finding accommodation this week, and ended up staying a good 30 miles away from where I wanted to be. My drive to Kilberry, therefore, is a long one. Much longer – it turns out – than I anticipated.

After following a single-track road for what seems like forever, I meet the bus head-on just outside Kilberry village. In fact, I am forced to pull off the road to allow the bus to go past. Since there are only two buses a day – both coinciding with the school run – this is a DISASTER.

Now I either face a day of double-walking, or… uh,oh… or, I could use the bike. The incredibly heavy, terribly unstable, clanking Monster of a bike.

Hmmm. I was planning a 16 mile walk today. I’m happy enough to walk that distance, but I’m really not sure about riding or, as seems very likely, pushing the Monster for 16 miles at the end of the day.

As a compromise, I drive back to the half-way point – a place called Torinturk – and heave the Monster out of the boot of my car. It takes me at least 10 minutes to persuade the thing to unfold itself. Then I chain it up and stash it behind a tree.

It actually looks deceptively attractive, standing among the grass and bluebells.

12 my fold up bike, Ruth Livingstone hiking in Scotland

I drive back to the main road and park in a layby just outside Tarbert. Today’s walk should be, theoretically, an easy walk along a quiet road. But the Monster is playing on my mind, and I can’t stop feeling very uneasy and anxious about the whole venture.

Leaving the main road behind, my quiet road soon narrows to a single lane.

01 road to Kilberry, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland

It’s still early. Not yet 9am. I pass a golf course, where a man is mowing the greens, and reach the B8024 turnoff. A heavy lumber truck thunders past.

02 B8024 to Kilberry and lumber lorry, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll

In fact, the B8024 seems well maintained, perhaps because of the demands of the forestry industry. A sign mentions the ‘Strategic Timber Network’.

03 timber transport network, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll, Scotland

It’s a pretty road, running down the western side of West Loch. Bluebells are nearly over in England, but here they line the verges, and the trees are just beginning to bud into full leaf.

04 bluebells, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll, Scotland

I pass a standing stone. There are plenty of these in Scotland and it’s not uncommon to see them. This one is fenced off, which is unusual.

05 standing stone, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll, Scotland

A landowner has placed a couple of warning signs at the bottom of their driveway. ‘No large trucks’ and ‘please close gate.’ Love the way they’ve taken the trouble to carve the letters into the wood, instead of just painting them on.

06 no large trucks, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll, Scotland

I was worrying about timber lorries, but I don’t meet any. The largest thing to pass me is an Open Reach van. So they definitely have WiFi out here, then?

07 Open Reach van, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll, Scotland

The road turns away from the loch, and trees give way to open grassland. Here the road is lined by a high deer fence. Whether this is supposed to keep the deer in, or out, isn’t clear. Through the wire I can see ruined cottages.

08 deer fences and ruined cottages, Ruth Livingstone

The landscape is a mixture of forested hills and grazing fields, with very few buildings in sight. Very attractive.

09 sheep fields, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll, Scotland

I’m back in a forested area now, with a mixture of conifers (yuck) and lots of much more attractive native trees. A Forestry Commission sign bears the name ‘Achaglachgach’. How do you pronounce that? Sounds like a gargle.

10 Achaglachgach forest, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll, Scotland

It doesn’t take me long to reach Torinturk – less than an hour and a half. I’ve been walking quickly due to my anxiety about the bike ride ahead. Oh dear.

Time to unchain the Monster. It’s well hidden – in fact, I can’t see the bike at all. Maybe someone has stolen it?

11 Torinturk, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll, Scotland

No such luck. There it is.

bike still there, Ruth Livingstone hiking in Argyll.jpg

After a moment’s hesitation, I decide to leave my rucksack behind because I feel more stable on my bike without that extra weight across my shoulders. I leave a note too, just in case anybody finds my pack. “If found, please leave alone. I’m coming back!”

13 rucksack, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll, Scotland

Funnily enough, I quite enjoy the bike ride back to the car. Yes, I have to push the bike up the steep hills. (Actually, to be honest, I have to push the bike up every hill!) But free-wheeling down the hills is exhilarating and thrilling.

But I’m not used to cycling. By the time I get back to the car, my backside is completely numb.

I drive back to Torinturk and pick up my rucksack. Now, filled with confidence, I’m happy to walk a little further. Maybe not all the way to Kilberry, which is still 9.5 miles away, according to this stone marker.

14 Kilberry, 9 miles, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll, Scotland

But, instead of facing a cycle ride at the END of my walk, why don’t I get it over with at the beginning? Great idea!

So, I fold the Monster in half again – despite it putting up stiff resistance – heave the thing back into the car, and drive on along the road. I find a convenient parking place and cycle back to Torinturk, where I persuade the Monster to straighten out again, before throwing it into a ditch.

I don’t usually enjoy road walking, but this is a lovely walk. A post-office van trundles past. Love those vans.

15 post office van, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll, Scotland

I’m back near the shore again, with the water of West Loch showing blue between the trees.

16 West Loch Tarbert, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll, Scotland

I reach a place with a ‘slipway’ marked on my map. And, there actually is a slipway. It doesn’t look very well used.

17 slipway, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll, Scotland

Although there isn’t much developement along the road, I do come across the occasional house. Some have been sympathetically converted into lovely residences. I wonder if they’re all holiday homes, or do people live here permanently?

18 houses along road to Kilberry, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll, Scotland

It’s a beautiful day – bright, still and clear. There are a few ships moored along the loch, but not many.

19 ship on West Loch, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll, Scotland

I pass Dunmore House. Looks like a castle. Oh dear, what happened to the roof?

20 Dunmore House, Ruth hiking to Kilberry, Scotland

At this point, the road turns away from the loch and heads inland again. Another Open Reach van passes me. Crikey. Those things get everywhere.

21 Open Reach strikes again, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll, Scotland

Now here is an interesting-looking track. Looks like an old green lane. I wonder if it might be possible to follow it and walk closer to the shore?

22 old tracks, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll, Scotland

Tempting. But, when I trace the track on the map, it appears to come to a dead-end at a farm house. Shame. I decide to stick to the road.

Some of the land along the side of the road is up for sale. I see several signs on different plots. I wonder if the land comes with planning permission?

23 plots for sale, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll, Scotland

A driveway to my right displays a series of interesting signs. ‘Artists Studio’, ‘Personal Retreat’, ‘Holistic Therapy’. In other words, a bit of almost everything and anything. Diversification? Entrepreneurship? Or desperation?

24 everything therapy, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll, Scotland

The road goes on. Over bridges. Through lovely woodland. I hadn’t expected so many trees, or such a variety of native species. Ash, oak, sycamore, silver birch… and many I can’t identify.

25 B8024 to Kilberry, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll, Scotland

I come to an area where the fences are in poor condition and there’s a faded notice on a board. ‘Sheep and their lambs on this road’ and ‘Please slow down!’ Really? I couldn’t go much slower.

26 please slow down, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll, Scotland

There they are. Not actually on the road at the moment, but watching me from the field to the side.

27 sheep with lamb, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll, Scotland

I pass a little walled cemetery on my right. Such a common sight in Scotland. I wonder if there was once a church close by?

28 walled cemetery, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll, Scotland

There’s a plaintive bleating from the field on my left. A little lost lamb. It goes on and on, with no answering call from its mother. I look around. No sign of an adult. The lamb sees me and comes running towards me – uh, oh. I can’t help you, little one. And please stay away from the road.

29 lost lamb, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll, Scotland

I walk on hurriedly and luckily the lamb stops following me. There are sheep farther along the road, busily munching grass. Perhaps one of them is the lamb’s mother?

Onwards, round a corner, and there’s water ahead. It’s not West Loch anymore, but open sea. Yes! I’m making progress.

30 Ruth hiking to Kilberry, Argyll, Scotland

I check my watch and am surprised to see it’s nearly 5pm. Where has the time gone? My car is only a mile down the road, but Kilberry is still 5.5 miles away.

31 Kilberry 5 miles, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll, Scotland

Perhaps I should carry on and reach Kilberry as planned? There’s still plenty of daylight left. But, my heart sinks at the thought. It’s not just the extra miles of walking, but all the extra hassle of driving back and picking up the Monster, driving on and finding somewhere to park, getting the Monster out again…

Onwards. More land for sale. ‘Outline planning permission’ and a ‘Serviced Plot’. That must mean electricity and mains water, and maybe drains too.

32 more plots for sale, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll, Scotland

I pass quite a few houses now, although there’s no village marked on my map. Perhaps the council are quietly allowing a new residential area to develop here?

33 attractive houses, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll, Scotland

I reach the place where a side road turns off to somewhere called Ardpatrick. There’s a phone box, a post box, an information sign, and more land for sale. But that’s about all.

34 crossroads at Ardpatrick, Ruth's coastal walk, Argyll, Scotland

My car is parked a little further up on the verge. I’ve already decided not to try to make it all the way to Kilberry, although that means I’ll have to rethink my plans for tomorrow. Oh dear. I remember that ahead of me, beyond Kilberry, is a section of road without any buses at all…

… but, what am I worrying about? I don’t need buses. I’ve got The Monster!

Miles walked today = 14 miles
Miles cycled today = 14 miles (but some of these were walked too!)
Total around coast of Britain = 3,738.5 miles


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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24 Responses to 358 Tarbert to Ardpatrick

  1. Julija Svetlova says:

    I was waiting for the bicycle to make an appearance since I say your note saying that you bought one:)

  2. Ray Perry says:

    Do we get a selfie wearing a bicycle helmet?

  3. patriz2012 says:

    You are such an intrepid explorer – really living up to your name!

  4. Josie Arnold says:

    I love your writing! I’ve just been laughing out loud about the monster!
    Take care x

  5. jcombe says:

    I’m giving thought to using a folding bicycle too as I know that much of the West coast of Scotland is devoid of buses. However my usual means of geting to northern Scotland is Easyjet from Luton Airport. To drive up from my home in Surrey would take would 12 hours and that would be a couple of tanks of petrol. I’ve never paid more than £50 return for the flight (and often under £40) so the cost of petrol will be way in excess of that. So it would take a lot longer and cost a lot more to drive all the way. However I do often cycle to work (mostly along a canal towpath) so at least I don’t have the worry of not having ridden a bike in 30 years to add to it! Maybe I’ll have to look into whether you can take a folding bike on Easyjet (or perhaps I could just find a suitcase big enough to fit one inside). It’s a shame that the cost of hiring a bike is usually about the same as hiring a car, which seems rather ridiculous!

    A shame you didn’t see much of the coast on this walk, though it still looks a lovely walk despite that. I have mixed feeling about coniferous woodland. Whilst they might not be the prettiest they are green in winter, when everthing else looks dead.

    • I think a genuine Brompton bike would be light enough and small enough to carry on a plane, Jon. But they are (a) hideously expensive and (b) have very small wheels and are more suited to towns than to hilly Scotland. Andy Phillips finished the coast last year and he didn’t use a bike, doesn’t have a car, and did it all using public transport – so it is doable.

  6. Eunice says:

    I was wondering when the bike would make an appearance, I’ve been waiting to see it ever since you said you were getting one. If you get chance to get to a good bike accessory shop sometime I would suggest getting a gel saddle cover to go over your seat, you’ll probably find your cycling experiences a bit less bum-numbing! 🙂
    I’m only just catching up with you having had almost a week on Anglesey and spending the last week editing photos and updating my camping blog. Last Monday I walked part of the Anglesey Coastal Path to the old brick works at Porth Wen – you were right when you said on your blog that it’s one of the toughest sections, and it’s definitely not the easiest with two dogs in tow! It was worth it to actually explore the old brick works though. Here if you want to read it – http://tigermousetales.blogspot.com/2018/06/monday-june-11th-2018-part-2.html

  7. owdjockey says:

    Hi Ruth, yes you are dead right about Bromptons being expensive……..hideously expensive and I don’t know why. Where there are good public transport links then you should not need a bicycle. But there are sections when a bike can be very helpful, with the other options being a)Walk through the section i.e. a very long days walk b) Hitch-hike, not the best of solutions especially if you are a female. c) Have your partner/spouse/friend transport you c) Taxi………….hideously expensive. d) Do small circular walks – or Out-and-Back again not a good solution especially when in Scotland and you are trying to get the best mileage out of your days. e) Walk through the section by camping/wild camping or B&B ing overnight – this generally means a bigger sack to carry.
    Well I am off back to Skye tomorrow to face these very same problems

    • The walking is really the easy part of long distance walking, isn’t it? Actually, although I am struggling to get used to The Monster, I’m sure the bike will really help. Have fun in Skye. The weather looks set fair for the next few days.

  8. Philip Simpson says:

    You are an inspiration! I’m doing another section of the SW coast path on Friday. Hoping to start near St Loy heading in the direction of Gwennap Head. Good luck with your next walk!

    • Hope you enjoy your walk Philip. Lovely area. Sounds like the weather will be perfect too.

      • Philip Simpson says:

        For the first time ever since I’ve been walking the SW coast path, I am going to have company for the next section tomorrow. Yes, my cousin has agreed to come along with me.! I think though, what amazes me is the age of a lot of the people who I meet on the path. Last week I met up with a lady from NZ who told me she’d been walking the path for twelve days in succession, and was 78 years old! I also tend to find at the moment, that there are more walkers from Germany than there are British. I’d also like to say that I feel quite fit after finishing chemotherapy at the end of November. Anyone reading this, is there any better way of getting fit than walking the SW coast path with the sun on your back and the smell of the sea air? Top number , as Bush Tucker man says! Keep on going Ruth, I really like reading your daily blogs, and especially the photos.

        • It will be interesting to see how you get on walking with company. I always enjoy it, but then find it a relief to be back walking solo the next day. I haven’t met any walkers since I left Arran – but many of those I met on Arran were from the continent too.

          • Philip Simpson says:

            Hope the weather’s not to hot! Just finished my walk today. We left the car at Boskenna and initially got a bit lost ! Sorry about walking through the farmer’s field of Barley. Anyway, we went through the campsite and down onto the coast path. Penberth and Porthcurno were quite scenic I thought. We called it a day at Porthcurno and caught the bus back to Boskenna. Probably about 9 miles in all today. Look forward to seeing your next blog very much!

  9. Hi Ruth, which did you prefer at the end of that first day with the bike; doing the cycling before the walk, or at the end of it? I can see why getting it over with first is appealing, but did it in any way take away some of the surprise having already cycled a stretch?

  10. Karen White says:

    West Loch is beautiful. I have been laughing to myself about you grapples with your ‘Monster’ od a folding bike. I thought they were meant to be lightweight!
    Whenever I see an Open Reach van near me I am filled with dread, as it usually means our internet connection will be lost. We aren’t with BT but thay still supply the lines, and have an uncanny knack of causing more problems than they fix.
    I am worried about you cycling without a helmet!

  11. Still following your endeavours Ruth… reading along a few days at a time when I get the chance. I wonder if I will actually catch up with your efforts before you finish.. Having to wait for the next installment will be strange if I do! Bikes are definitely a long distance walkers friend… I’ve done several week long stretches along south west coast way using mine. I’ve still not finished by the way… I have now made it to Lulworth Ranges last month, but they were closed the week I was down there for soldiering so i was forced to have the rest of the week off from walking and do normal holiday stuff… NOT that I am actually procrastinating and not wanting to actually finish my south west coast way walk at all. I definitely challenge your assertion that you are the slowest coastal walker! 🙂 I have a week off from the 30th August, and thought I’d do a more local long distance walk again for this week.. can’t keep affording b n b breaks. Will do some of Millenium Way from Pershore near Worcester to Banbury, if the weather is at least half decent, and expect I will use my bike for some days of this walk where busses aren’t convenient too.

    • Hi Matthew. It’s definitely worth waiting for the ranges to open, because that’s a beautiful stretch of coast – but very tough. Enjoy your holiday on the 30th, and don’t fall off your bike!

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