I’m walking along a wooded slope, surrounded by beautiful native trees, scented by a carpet of bluebells. Walking doesn’t get much better than this.
On the slope above me I spot a cave. No… not a cave, exactly, but a hollow space under a mass of tree roots. Footprints lead in and out, so this wonderful den is almost certainly used by local children. I resist the urge to crawl inside.
The path joins a track. Ahead is a primary school and, a few minutes later, I hear the sound of children chanting a familiar song.
“Three naughty monkey’s jumping on the bed, one fell off and bumped his head…” squeals of laughter at this point… “Mummy called the doctor and the doctor said, ‘No more jumping on the bed.'”
Peer over the hedge. A circle of children are holding a blanket, stretched between them like a trampoline, and are bouncing a number of cuddly toys on the surface. “Two naughty monkeys jumping on the bed, one fell off…” At this point, an adult helper seizes one of the toys and tosses it off the blanket, and the children scream with pleasure. “…and bumped his head.”
I can’t help grinning, but also feel a pang of loneliness. My daughter and I sing this song to my little granddaughter, now all of nine months old. She doesn’t understand a word of it, of course, but enjoys the rhythm. I’m really missing her – missing her toothy smiles and the feel of her stocky little body in my arms
Well, I’m going back home tomorrow, so will see her again soon.
I’ve joined a cycle track. This is route 78, The Caledonian Way, which runs all the way from Campbeltown to Inverness, and which I’ve been piggybacking, off and on, since the Mull of Kintyre.
So, for the first time today, I meet other walkers. And cyclists, of course.
My cycle path runs along a valley called Kilmartin Glen, named after the village of Kilmartin, which I can see just across the valley.
I’m now several miles away from the sea, and feeling rather frustrated because my coastal walk around Scotland is turning out to be not-so-coastal after all. So, I’m not expecting much from this section of the walk… but, hang on, this looks interesting…
Two ladies are going off the track to look at something. A pile of stones? An ancient burial ground.
I turn off the path to explore the site, and join the two ladies who are standing silently in front of an information board, and here I discover that Kilmartin Glen is dotted with prehistoric remains. This is just one of a string of ancient cairns and burial sites.
But, then I realise why the two ladies are keeping very quiet. Rather weirdly, there’s a body lying on the ground beside the information sign. Its face is covered in material and only a mop of blonde hair can be seen. In fact, the body is so very still, at first I think it might be a dummy – a Resusci Annie
Or is it a dead body? I watch and wait, not relaxing until I see the chest rise and fall. No. It’s a real living person. What a strange place to have a nap!
The two ladies move silently away and I follow them, circling round the site, where some burial cavities still remain.
On the way, we fall into conversation. They’re American and they want to apologise for their current president. He’ll be out of office soon, we all agree. And hope.
We also agree that this is a weird place for the sleeping person to choose to sleep.
I walk further along the path to the next site. It’s a raised cairn. An elderly couple are deciding not to climb to the top, where there is a burial chamber, because it is a tomb after all, and it would be disrespectful.
I don’t have any such scruples and, leaving my rucksack and camera behind, I climb up the slippery mass of stones, and down a short ladder into the tomb. It’s a little spooky inside, and I don’t stay long.
Climbing out again, I notice the ‘dead’ body, still wearing a blue cloth over its face, is on the move.
A little further along the cycle track, a path branches off and leads up to Kilmartin village (this is where the ‘dead’ body is heading).
But I stick to cycle route, bypassing Kilmartin village and going straight on towards Carnassarie Castle. Now there are less walkers, but still a few cyclists.
The cycle path joins a track, and runs past a quarry site. They’re extracting gravel. Hope they’re not destroying any prehistoric remains in the process.
I stop to take photographs, as I like to take shots of industrial machinery, but the light remains disappointingly dull and the photographs don’t turn out well.
Nearby, the extraction site looks like a Roman amphitheatre.
Past the gravel site, the cycle route leaves the main track (it’s well signed) and heads past some ruined cottages. If you were cycling Route 78, you would need a mountain bike on this section.
I walk past meadows covered in yellow buttercups. Wonderful.
And then, ahead, I see Carnassarie Castle.
The sound of a car engine takes me by surprise. Wasn’t expecting to meet any vehicles on this track. Can’t see any nearby houses either.
But I notice a few old caravans dotted among the trees, although they don’t look as though they’d travel very far. Are they used as holiday homes? Surely people don’t live here permanently?
I’ve nearly reached the castle. It’s a proper ruin and, unlike the disappointing Duntrune Castle, I know Carnassarie Castle is accessible and open to the public.
And it’s a great castle. Entrance is free, and you can climb to the top of the tower, although the stairs are very narrow and twisty. On the way up I stop to take photographs of the courtyard below.
From the top there are panoramic views. Such a shame the sun isn’t shining and the views are hazy and dull. Anyway, here’s the view to the south, looking down Kilmartin Glen, and back in the direction I’ve come.
And here’s the view to the north, and the A816 road below. When I return on my next walking trip I’m going to have to walk along this road for some miles. I’m already dreading it.
I perch the camera on the stone parapet, and take a self-portrait. (If I’m looking slightly nervous, it’s because I’m worried my camera might fall the 100 feet or so and smash on the ground below the tower!)
Below the castle is a car park, and there’s my car waiting for me. Next time, I will start my walk from this point. Luckily there is a frequent bus service along the road, which should help my next trip get off to a good start.
It’s been a great day. I’ve been able to catch a bus and leave The Monster bike in the car. And, what I thought would be a tedious inland walk, turned out to be really interesting after all.
[I’ve suddenly realised I made a mistake when I declared after walk 356 that I’d been walking for a whole year. Visitors to the blog were obviously far too polite to correct me, and point out there are actually 365 days in a year (not 356!) and so today marks my first complete year of coastal walking.]
Miles walked today = 12 miles
Total around coast = 3,816 miles