Monday, June 27, 2011

Walk 274 -- Carradale to Claonaig

Ages:  Colin was 69 years and 50 days.  Rosemary was 66 years and 192 days.
Weather:  Cloudy and breezy.  Occasional glimpses of the sun and occasional light drizzle.
Location:  Carradale to Claonaig.
Distance:  14 miles.
Total distance:  2637 miles.
Terrain:  First three miles on forest tracks and paths, but mostly road which was fairly quiet. Undulating.
Tide:  Going out.
Rivers:  No.320, Crossaig Burn.
Ferries:  None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates:  None.
Pubs:  None.
‘Historic Scotland’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  We were staying in our caravan in Machrihanish.  This morning we drove to Carradale with Colin’s bike in the back of the car.  He left me there to doodle away a couple of hours while he drove on to Claonaig, parked the car and cycled back.  He locked the bike to some railings by the public conveniences.
At the end, we arrived at the car.  We moved the vehicle to a breezier place before consuming tea and biscuits because of the midges.  We returned to Carradale to pick up the bike, and thence back to our caravan.

There is no public transport between Claonaig and Carradale, it is too far away from anywhere to book a taxi and there is not enough traffic to successfully thumb a lift.  So Colin put his bike in the back of the car, and we drove to Carradale where he left me at the harbour.  Fortunately I had good views to look at, a bench to sit on and a toilet block nearby — as it took him two and a half hours to drive to Claonaig and cycle back.  It was a bit hilly!
I had a good look round this small harbour while I was waiting.  It is still a working fishing port, though in a small way.  A couple of fishing boats were moored in the harbour.  I came across two plaques which illustrate just how dangerous the fishing profession can be.  One was in memory of four young men, James Russell, William Martindale, Stewart Campbell and Dugald John Campbell, who died when their trawler sank off the Isle of Arran in 1990.  The other was a new plaque put up only three months ago by descendants of the McIntosh family who lost four members, a father, his two sons and a nephew, in a storm in March 1911.  When we eat our fishy meals — I love fish — we should appreciate more the courage of the men who caught them for us.
There is also a shop on the quay, it looks like an old shed but it is the village shop and much used by the locals.  The bus delivers daily newspapers on its first call of the morning.
When Colin arrived at last — thoroughly exhausted because the road had been much more hilly than he had been expecting — we sat on the bench to eat our pies in order to give him time to get his breath back.  Then we started the Walk.
We marched back up the road and turned on to a forest track.  We thought we were very brave to trust ourselves to the Kintyre Way again after being let down by it twice before.  But we were in for a surprise, it was a good path and well way-marked for its first three miles through the forest.  It went uphill for a long way.  I found it hard going, and Colin wondered whether he would make it after using up most of his energy on the cycle ride.
It twisted and turned a bit further up to get to the very top of the hill.  It was a little swampy, but wooden steps had been put in to help us.
We had marvellous views of Arran which was very near, or so it seemed.  Colin amused himself by taking pictures of a green beetle on the swamp.  Then we noticed two of these beetles mating on the pathway……  I think its time we moved on!
We descended on a forest road which was a wide gravel track.  Colin was OK then, going downhill.  We were both very tired, I felt as if I was falling asleep walking along!  So we blindly followed this road wherever it went, and didn’t notice the Kintyre Way path turning off on a more direct route near the bottom of the hill.  By the time we woke up to this fact it wasn’t worth going back, so we did an extra loop which was annoying.  We came out on to the road at a picnic site, so we sat there and ate our sarnies — for as long as the midges would let us!
The next eleven miles of the Walk was along a road.  It was a narrow lane with passing places.  There was not much traffic, but it was a nuisance when it did come because we never seemed to be by a grass verge or at a passing place when it caught up with us, and we usually ended up having to jump in the ditch!  As usual these days, the vehicles tear along much too fast taking no notice of the road signs which are obscured by rampant vegetation anyway.
We came to the hamlet of Grogport (yes, really!) where we sat on a wall to eat our apples.  There was a short beach there, the only one we saw all day.  We trudged on.
Colin seemed particularly cheesed off today — we both hate it when we have to set up a Walk by him cycling.  “Remind me of the good bits of the Kintyre Peninsula!” he said, just a little sarcastically.  So I reminded him of the glorious Machrihanish Beach and the otter we saw near Muasdale.
The Mull of Kintyre (before it started to rain), the beautiful wild orchids we have seen all over the place including today, and the wonderful views of the Isle of Arran we were enjoying at that very moment!  He was silent.  But it really was a bit dull trudging up and down hills on that road.
We passed a milestone telling us we were 22 miles from Campbeltown.
As we approached Crossaig, we met a lady walking her dogs.  “You can fill your water bottles at the tap if you wish!” she said, “It’s OK!”  We hadn’t noticed there was a tap until then, but we were quite glad of the permission because our supplies were running low with the warm muggy weather.  A notice (Cour Estates) by the tap said it was for residents only, otherwise the system would run short.  We surmised they didn’t want huge motorhomes filling up (much of the passing traffic on this narrow lane was motorhomes) but a couple of small bottles-worth from hikers like ourselves wouldn’t make much difference.
We passed a milestone telling us we were 23 miles from Campbeltown.  Eh?  Surely we’ve walked more than a single mile since the last milepost!  Yes, we were both very tired.
We crossed a stream and trudged on, trying to enjoy the beautiful wild flowers and the wonderful views of Arran to our right.  But we were really glad to get to the end of the Walk.  Colin had parked the car in a little clearing, one mile short of where we had previously planned.  We were glad of that today, though not on our next Walk!
That ended Walk no.274, we shall pick up Walk no.275 next time at the forest clearing one mile south of Claonaig.  It was seven o’clock, so the Walk had taken us seven hours.  The clearing was riddled with midges, it was that time of day.  So we moved the car to a breezier place back along the road before consuming our tea and biscuits.  We then returned to Carradale to pick up the bike, and thence back to our caravan in Machrihanish.
The next day we moved the caravan back to a site in Lochgilphead, and took a couple of days off to rest and recover our spirits.

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