It’s going to be another day of road-walking, but my blister is well padded and my foot feels surprisingly comfortable. I drop the Monster bike off in the village of Achnamara, and drive back to Castle Sween, where I park in a layby.
What’s that in the field with the sheep? Ah. A group of deer.
This section of road has no view of the sea, which is a pity, but is bordered by flowering rhododendron bushes, and some wonderful oak trees.
Oh. A dead vole on the road. Poor thing.
One thing I’ve learnt from watching the BBC’s Countryfile is that voles really are at the bottom of the food chain. Everything eats voles. But I wonder what happened to this one? Was it dropped by a bird of prey? Or hit by a car?
Further down the road and I spot something in a patch of grass. A standing stone, a memorial, or an old religious cross? I’m not sure, because the deer fence prevents me getting a closer look at it.
Now the road heads down to the shore again, and I spot a signpost. “Shore Walk 500m.”
The sign is pointing back the way I’ve come. Oh no. Was there really a footpath running along by the water after all? If so, I’ve missed it. Perhaps the walk started at Castle Sween? Now I could kick myself for not going down there to investigate.
But, hang on. What does the sign actually mean? Is there a shore walk 500m away? Or does it mean the shore walk is 500m long? I look at my map, but can only see a short track marked, and it looks like a dead-end.
Oh well, too late anyway. Onwards, along the road. At least now I’m walking close to the water.
Yesterday was bank holiday Monday, and this road was relatively busy with cars driving down to the beach at Kilmory. Today, just gone 9am on a Tuesday, I hardly meet anything. Lovely and peaceful.
A roadside sign offers me lamb and mutton. Hope the sheep grazing nearby can’t read. And they’ve added another sign – pork too.
There are a few scattered farms and cottages along this road. Some of them look like holiday lets. This one is really pretty, and with great views over Loch Sween.
I’ve left the Island of Danna behind, and the land I can see across the water belongs to yet another peninsula. Behind that are some taller hills. Are they on the mainland? Really, the geography of this area is totally confusing, and the clear light gives me views of places well beyond my current map.
I come around a curve, and here’s a little slipway with some boats pulled up on the foreshore.
Around, half-hidden in the bushes, are a motley collection of caravans and shacks. Used by fishermen? I can’t imagine people live here permanently.
There’s the sound of hammering, and I come across a couple of men putting a shed together. A garage? A man cave? Or is it a boathouse?
Down by the water, on a wide grassy stretch, are a congregation of Canadian geese. And some other type… I’m not sure… are they greylag geese? I’m not very fond of Canadian geese – noisy, messy creatures.
Now the road begins to climb a hill. In the field below are sheep. Oh, and another deer. Yes, those deer fences around the fields are working really well!
At the top of the hill, I stop to catch my breath, and to look back at the view across Loch Sween.
There’s a funny little house on the corner of the road, and more flowering rhododendrons.
A group of cyclists come past. A family. They’re following the prescribed format – father in front, kids in the middle, mum struggling at the back. I remember how much I hated family cycling expeditions, but, oh dear… I will be cycling along here shortly myself…
… at least it’s downhill most of the way.
Onwards. Oh, and here’s another one of those funny little scarecrows beside the road. I remember Andy Phillips (another coastal walker) mentioned seeing plenty of these when he walked through Argyll, but this is only the second one I’ve come across. This poor chap is so old, his face has faded away completely.
I’ve been seeing signs of equestrian activity, with horse blankets draped over gates, and fields set out with little jumps. Now, here is a sign warning of horse riders. Haven’t met any yet.
I come to a largish house which seems to be a horse-riding centre. There are certainly plenty of horses in the fields round about.
But this little pony is standing very still.. oh, it isn’t a real horse.
And neither is this a real horse. Another deer. Just a few yards away from the road.
I stop and take several photos of the deer. It doesn’t appear in the least bit timid, but it keeps moving about. Stand still! I’m trying to take your photo. Really, I would never have the patience to be a wildlife photographer.
I pass a swanky entrance gate. Eilean Loain estate.
And, a short while later, a not-so-swanky cottage. It has a pretty little blue shed outside, and a coffee sign. Coffee? Is this a café?
No. Not exactly. It’s a lovely little refreshment shed, with a fridge, cold drinks, snacks, free-range eggs, and an honesty box.
I check my pockets, but find I have only got my emergency £20 note. Make a mental note to stop here later in my car. The chance of a cold drink is just too tempting.
The road begins heading downwards, and back towards the shore. There’s a little boathouse down there. Lovely view.
On the right is a new development. Wonder if it’s going to be a private house and if the owner is currently living in the static caravan perched nearby. Machines are busily carving out a driveway from the slope of the hillside.
There certainly seems to be a lot of new development in Argyll. Hope that’s a sign of prosperity, and also hope the wonderful, peaceful nature of this area won’t change. It’s not exactly crowded at the moment.
On a track nearby, I spot a camper van. A camper van! That would be the answer to my accommodation problems. Yes, that would be perfect.
Scotland is fully booked! I spent the first half of this walking trip staying in the only place I could find on Booking.com, and had over a 30 mile drive to reach the start of my walks. Now I’m staying in a hotel on the Crinan Canal where I was lucky to get a room. Other coastal walkers have told me the problem gets worse as you progress up the northwest coast.
Oh, a camper van would be a great idea. It would solve all my accommodation problems. (Note to self: will need to persuade hubby.)
Onwards. I must nearly be at Achnamara now. Here’s a pretty little bay, where there’s a slipway and some boats moored up on the grass.
I spot a picnic table on the slope below, next to a makeshift jetty. Perfect. It’s not yet 12 midday, but definitely time for an early lunch. Afterwards, I take a self-portrait beside the little jetty. (Another note to self: really MUST get a hair cut!)
I sit and enjoy the bay for a while. A man comes past in a kayak… no, I think that is actually a canoe. He waves at me. The air is still and the water flat. Looks idyllic.
Then, onwards, and into Achnamara. I was hoping there would be a café here, or even a pub, but in fact there’s nowhere to buy a drink or anything to eat.
My bike is parked behind a shed, along with a pair of ordinary shoes for cycling in. Hello Monster. I’m back.
I decide to leave my walking boots and rucksack behind, because I don’t yet feel confident to cycle while carrying the weight of my pack on my back. I hide these things in a bush, and – oh, horror – midges!
They were lurking in the shade and now launch a frenzied assault on the exposed skin of my neck and arms. Go away, you horrible wee beasties!
Luckily, the Monster is unfolded and ready to run. I jump on the saddle and pedal like mad. I may not be a fast rider, but can certainly outpace a flock of midges. You see, you ugly, horrible bike, you do have some benefits, after all!
[to be continued]
Route this morning: 7 miles