Today I get up very early, and drive back towards Kilberry, arriving in good time to catch bus number 447. There are only 2 passengers. Myself and a sleepy-looking schoolgirl.
The bus driver seems surprised by my choice of destination – the turnoff to Ardpatrick. Yes, I know it’s the middle of nowhere.
Yesterday I felt frustrated and downhearted. Rather foolishly, I’d drawn up a schedule for this walking trip, with number of miles, destinations, and bus times, for each day. But, because I missed the bus yesterday, I knew all my careful plans would have to be revised.
This morning, I woke up to brilliant sunshine, and reminded myself that it is the walking that matters, not the destination, and I’d always promised myself never to look too far ahead. So I’d better forget about plans and just get on with walking. One day at a time. One step at a time.
It’s a beautiful day. Warm and with just a hint of a breeze. Perfect. Not much traffic on this road either – just the occasional white-van-man, hurtling along. Why do they have to go so fast?
Yes, this is a lovely stretch of road, with views over fields and sightings of the coast. And what’s the land across the water? I check my map. Must be Islay. Or Jura?
Very few houses along the road. This traditional white cottage is called… guess what?… White Cottage. It looks empty and I wonder if it’s a holiday let. Apart from farming, what would you do if you lived out here?
Just a little further along, and I come to a bend and a larger house set in landscaped gardens. Gorten Lodge.
And here’s a track leading down to the shore, where I can see a beach and a pretty bay. In Scotland there are no public footpaths, but the sign on the gate says “Farm Stock. Please keep dogs on lead.” I take that as an invitation.
The route to the beach is waymarked, and easy to follow. It’s further than I thought, but the deviation is worth it. This is lovely.
I turn right and walk along the sand. After a while, I come to a shallow river and wade across, before turning back to look out over the sea and take more photographs. That must be Jura over there – I recognise those hills.
There are sheep on the beach! Why? No grass here.
I notice the flock has got itself separated on two sides of the river and wonder if the sheep on the sandbank will get cut off as the tide comes in. But then one sheep demonstrates that I’m not the only one who can wade across water!
I’ve reached the end of the beach, and find a river that’s too deep to wade across without getting my feet very wet, so I turn inland, following a rough path. (The path is reassuring, because I was wondering if I’d have to retrace my steps.)
The path leads up to a burial ground. There are a number of old gravestones set in a large enclosure, and a more modern ‘annex’, where the graves are modern. I sit on a handy bench and have a drink and a snack.
The gate to the cemetery is decorated with an anchor. “BE FIRM”.
I can’t resist taking photographs of the older tombstones. What a fantastic place to be buried! What a view!
Back on the road again, I cross the river via a bridge.
An old sign tells me that Kilberry is still 3.5 miles away. The deviation via the beach was very pleasant, but didn’t get me much further along the road.
I love these old roadside markers, but find it strange to have markers with fractions on them. Why three and a half miles? Why not proper milestones marking whole miles?
While climbing up the hill on the other side of the river, a group of cyclists overtake me. The woman with the red backpack seems the fittest. She leads the way, and then comes back to give encouragement to the others, who are finding the incline far more of a struggle.
They disappear around the bend, but I soon come across them again. One of the cyclists has slipped their chain.
I remember I will need to use my own bike a little later on today. Oh dear. Not looking forward to it.
One of my many fears about The Monster, apart from falling off, is getting a puncture or slipping the chain. I can imagine the frustration of getting covered in oil as I struggle to get the thing going again, and then almost certainly being unable to repair it, and having to push the heavy contraption all the way back to my car.
Stop it! I mustn’t imagine disasters before they happen.
As I reach the top of the hill, I see I’ve nearly caught the cyclists up again. They’re having a breather. Yes, that hill was steep. Glad I’m walking, and not cycling.
Over the top, and what a lovely view down the hill. A tiny sailing ship hangs, motionless, on the blue sea. There’s barely a breath of wind.
The road straightens out and runs across a flat piece of ground. Lovely, but I’m getting very hot and rather tired.
I stop at a convenient gate, climb over into the field, and perch on a piece of lumpy rock. Lunch. And a chance to enjoy the great views. Those are the Paps of Jura. The last time I had such a clear view of them was when I was clambering over the Mull of Kintyre.
I set up the timer on the camera for a self-portrait. This time I get the focus right, and can show off my new hat – a wide-brimmed ‘Australian bush hat’ (although it’s actually made in England) – perfect for windless, sunny days.
I’m approaching Kilberry. Here’s the same layby where I had to pull off the road to let the bus go past yesterday. I remember the heart-sink of that moment.
Still can’t believe I got the timing so wrong – but maybe I should have predicted it would take longer than I thought. These tiny, winding roads really slow down your speed.
I was looking forward to the Kilberry Inn and thought it would be a good place to enjoy a rest and a cold drink, and maybe a slice of cake. But, luckily, I reconnoitred the place yesterday, and discovered it’s actually a restaurant rather than a pub, and it doesn’t open till midday. Shame. I’m dying for a cold drink.
The red phone box outside the Inn has been turned into The Wee Bar – complete with bar stool and a ledge for your glass. There’s even a shelf of bottles inside, but they’re all empty!
Onwards. I leave Kilberry behind and climb the gentle slope out of the village. Trees give me some shade, and I enjoy the scent of bluebells.
Now the road stretches, long and straight, to the next village. Coulaghailtro. Well, it’s not exactly a village, just a few houses clustered around a bend in the road, but it has some grass verges and it’s where I’ve left my car. (Finding places to park has been difficult.)
Back in the car, I drive to the next suitable parking space. It’s a wide piece of tarmac where a side road turns off towards a place called Kilmaluaig. Here, I haul the Monster out of the car, kick it into shape, and set off to cycle back to Coulaghailtro.
On the way, I stop to walk up the occasional hill. And see this poor little adder on the road. Dead. Must have been hit by a car. Or maybe by a cyclist. (Not me!)
Surprisingly, I really enjoy the cycle ride on The Monster, and even manage to cycle up some of the gentler slopes. Perhaps I should have chosen to bike around the coast instead of walking?
I leave the bike at Coulaghailtro, and begin the second part of today’s walk. First I climb up the hill, and soon come to the turn off to Port Ban. Here is the very last bus stop on route 447.
(I would have caught the bus from here this morning, but there was nowhere safe to park. The bus needs all the available space to turn round.)
Onwards. The road bends and undulates. There are patches of forest on the hills, but I’m mainly surrounded by sheep-filled fields. It’s a lovely, unspoilt landscape.
I’m about 1/2 a mile from the sea, and I do wonder if I could have found a way to walk closer to the shore. The map suggests there’s a string of small beaches below me. Perhaps I’m too resigned to road-walking? Perhaps I’ve got lazy?
I can’t see an easy way down to the water and so, for the time being, I decide to stick to the road. Maybe I’ll find a route down soon.
This is the largest building around. A farm, I guess.
The gate on my left has a familiar red sign,”Your dog can kill.” But next to it is larger sign, of a type I’ve never seen before, with some friendly looking cows dancing around. Unfortunately, the wording is not as friendly as the pictures suggest.
“Cow Mums can be very aggressive while protecting their young.” Oh, yes. I know.
The sign goes on to say, “Please take another route if possible that avoids this field and shoreline.” OK. Perhaps it’s just as well I didn’t try to walk along the beach, after all.
The road winds up a slope. At the top is a ruined cottage. I noticed the building when cycling this way, and I was planning to sit in the shade of the walls and have another rest… because I’m feeling very hot and tired.
But what are all those people doing? Oh, looks like a large group, consisting of several families, making its way across a field towards the same ruined house.
Some of the party are wearing inappropriate footwear (open sandals) and are finding the rough ground rather difficult to navigate. A mother shouts encouragement to her children. “You’re doing really well. We’re nearly there.”
I wonder if they’ve been down to the shore? If so, did they manage to get to the beach? Or did they turn back because of the cows? Anyway, but the time I get to the ruined building, the group are congregating around the walls, and so I decide to keep on walking.
Farther up the road is another set of ruined cottages, but these look less appealing as there is a scruffy static caravan parked close by.
I sit on a wall under the shade of the pine trees, and have a quick drink and brief rest. I don’t dare stay still for long. The midges are out!
The rest of the walk is a lovely amble along the road, high above the shore, with great open views across to the mouth of… I check my map… ah, the mouth of Loch Caolisport.
Down on my left is a beach. And, what’s that on the sand?
I take a blurry shot with my zoom lens and later blow it up to demonstrate what I’ve just seen. Yes, cows, and with very young calves too.
Now, I’m really, really glad I didn’t try to walk along the shore!
I’m growing tired. And, rather worryingly, I’ve developed quite a painful blister under the ball of my right foot. It must be due to all the road walking I’ve been doing. Not only is the tarmac tough underfoot, but I’ve been wearing walking shoes without as much padding as my normal walking boots.
Why am I wearing these shoes instead of my comfortable boots? Because I can’t pedal in walking boots, and so I’m wearing shoes in order to ride the bike. Grrrrrr. The Monster is really NOT my best friend.
I’m nearly there. My car is parked somewhere over that hill.
Just before I reach my car, I meet the cyclists again. This time, they’re cycling back towards me.
I manage to exchange a few words with the woman with the red rucksack. She’s in the lead again, and definitely the fittest of the bunch. (The rest are too tired to speak.) They’ve had a great ride, she tells me, and been all the way round to the other side of the loch.
As she cycles off, one of the male cyclists – going at a much slower rate – begins instructing her in the use of gears.
I can’t resist a photograph of their disappearing backs. The fittest woman, despite her apparent ignorance of gears, is in the lead again.
Onwards. I limp back to the car. I was planning to walk a little farther today, and to reach Ormsary, which is still a couple of miles farther along the road. But, my blister is troubling me, and the thought of unleashing the Monster again seems just too much effort…
So, I decide I’ve done enough for one day.
Miles walked today = 10.5 miles
(plus an additional 3.5 miles of cycling)
Total distance around coast of Britain = 3,749 miles