Friday, September 09, 2011

Walk 283 -- Girvan to Ballantrae

Ages:  Colin was 69 years and 124 days.  Rosemary was 66 years and 266 days.
Weather:  Cloudy, with long bright intervals during which it got quite hot.  There was a strong breeze which was against us.  A tiny shower near the end of the Walk took us by surprise.
Location:  Girvan to Ballantrae.
Distance:  12 miles.
Total distance:  2780 miles.
Terrain:  Snatches of beach.  Lots of road.  Some ‘old’ road.  One big hill, but otherwise flat. 
Tide:  Going out.
Rivers:  None.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  No.235 where the Ayrshire Coastal Path went off uphill, but after following it for a few yards we changed our minds, deciding it wasn’t coastal enough, and returned to the road.  Nos. 236, 237, and 238 on the ‘old’ road — but 236 was nailed up and 238 led sideways into nothing!
Pubs:  None.
‘Historic Scotland’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  We had brought our caravan up to south-west Scotland.  Yesterday we moved it from Ayr to New England Bay on the southern Rhins of Galloway.  This morning we drove to Ballantrae and parked in a seafront car park.  We caught a bus to Girvan, and the driver kindly dropped us off near the car park where we had finished the last Walk although there wasn’t an official bus stop there. 
At the end we walked along the seafront to where our car was parked.  After having our tea, we drove back to the caravan at New England Bay, stopping off to shop for supplies in Stranraer on the way.  (Lovely caravan site at New England Bay, but miles from any shops!)

It was a much nicer day than when we last walked two days ago, and there were a lot more cars in the car park.  The snack bar was doing a good trade, it hadn’t been open when we were last there in the wet.  The view was gorgeous, Ailsa Craig seemed very near and had a cloud on its top making it look like an iced bun!  We sat on a seat to eat our pies before we started.
Colin noticed a grass path going behind a building and round a rocky spur (Cow and Horse Rocks).  It was obviously well used, and it kept us off the road for a couple of hundred yards.  But most of today’s Walk was on the road — sometimes with a pavement and sometimes not.  We wore our bright yellow vests from the start.
 The next spur (Black Neuk) had the ‘old’ road running round it so we were able to stay off the road for another couple of hundred yards.  A notice on a trailer was offering ‘freshly dug tatties’ for sale — I wonder what foreigners make of that kind of English!  (My spell-check doesn’t recognise ‘tatties’ as a word!)  After that it was the road for miles and miles, with a lot of unpleasant car-dodging.  There were snatches of beach, but it always got too rocky after a few yards forcing us to return to the road.
Opposite where we came out from the ‘tatties’ layby was a paper and wire sculpture.  Despite the fact it was weather-worn, it was really rather good.  It depicted a running horse with a rider, and another figure, possibly a woman, trying to leap on behind him.  We liked it — it seemed to be full of energy — and thought it a pity that the wind was tearing it apart.
We came to a milestone that said:  Girvan 3 - Ballantrae 10.  We had only walked two miles, but then we did start at the southernmost part of the town.  Oh well, ten miles to go then!  Ailsa Craig had now lost its cream topping.
The Ayrshire Coastal Path led off along a track on the other side of the road.  We hate roads, as is well known, but couldn’t make up our minds whether to follow it or not.  By then we had passed the entrance, so we climbed over a gate to get to it.  Not a nice track, it was muddy and went uphill whereas the road stayed more or less flat and followed the coast.  We decided we preferred the road after all, and went down through a field  to get back to it.  We were glad afterwards because we saw the track went up really steeply to high places.  A milestone told us:  Girvan 4 – Ballantrae 9.  Going down!
We hiked up Kennedy’s Pass.  It wasn’t very high but it was a bit dodgy with the traffic where the road went round a sharpish bend.  We could see the village of Lendalfoot ahead.  Eventually we emerged on a beach where we sat on a rock to eat our lunch.  I tried to video seagulls taking off from the beach on their hundreds, but ended up with a lot of very shaky film, most of which I deleted at a later date!
The rocks we were passing looked very interesting, a variety of igneous I see from the geology map.  With the volcanic plug of Ailsa Craig in the background, they made a wonderful scene.
There must have been a lot of volcanic activity in this area, I wonder what it looked like then — and what it sounded and smelt like!  A lot of sulphur, I should imagine.  Much more peaceful today.
The seabirds seemed to like the rocks, we saw gulls everywhere, and cormorants drying out their wings.
Seals as well — one was doggedly sitting on her rock even though the tide was rising up and covering it.  She did look funny, as if she was floating on the water.
Further on another seal had found a higher rock, she looked majestic — queen of all she surveyed!  (I was convinced the seals we saw were female, they looked too calm and even-tempered to be males.)
We came to a memorial — it was to a ship that came to grief on this shore in September 1711, exactly three hundred years ago.  The stone is sandstone — pity they didn’t use a nice piece of the local granite because the lettering had eroded a little and was difficult to read.  I think this is what it says:  Created to the memory of / Archibald Hamilton and crew / natives of King’s Cross, Arran / who were drowned near this place September 11th  1711  /  Ye passengers whoe’er ye are / As ye pass on this way / Disturb ye not this small respect / That’s paid to sailor’s clay.
Through Lendalfoot we passed a number of wild rose bushes.  At this time of year it is mainly hips hanging on the branches, but there was the occasional flower in all its glory.  They smelt gorgeous, but Colin was unable to detect any of their scent as he seems to have lost his sense of smell in recent months.  Must be getting old!
About half a mile out of Lendalfoot we came to a picnic site on which there was a much newer memorial to a Russian ship which was involved in the Japanese wars circa 1904.  This ugly (well, we thought so!) stone with Russian writing on it was erected in 2006 for a ship that had nothing to do with Scotland, nor the British nation for that matter.  Eh?  I eventually found out that when it was being scrapped in the 1920s, it was being towed from the Firth of Clyde to Germany and it came to grief on the very rocks we had been admiring just offshore from Lendalfoot.  A sorry end to a great ship, but we did wonder whose feelings were being appeased when the authorities went to the expense of erecting such a memorial nearly a hundred years later on this spot, where nobody died.
We climbed a hill after that, and found it hot in the sun which was shining right in our eyes.  Colin complained that he had forgotten his peak, so he wasn’t very happy.  We came to a milestone which told us Ballantrae was only four miles away — not far to go now.
The road then went inland for about a mile, but it used to hug the coast and we wanted to walk along the ‘old’ road away from the traffic.  You would have thought the Ayrshire Coastal Path would have done the same, but it didn’t.  We found the spot where the ‘old’ road branched off, but there were a number of gates which were either tied up impossibly or padlocked.  It wasn’t very friendly.
We saw an Ayrshire Coastal Path sign ahead of us on the road, so we walked up there.  But it was pointing back the way we had come, and there was no sign pointing on our way.  Colin opined that it was looping us round and through a tunnel under the road — we were still convinced the Ayrshire Coastal Path was routed along the ‘old’ road.  But we were wrong!  We found out later that it went inland too, like the new road.
To avoid the loop we walked down a steep bank and climbed over a fence.  All the gates were tied in impossible knots, and even a kissing gate was nailed up.  But the fence next to it was broken — obviously other hikers had been there before us!  We stepped through without causing any further damage, and at last we were on the ‘old’ road.  The tarmac was still there, and so were most of the ‘cat’s-eyes’, so we didn’t think it was too long ago that traffic had been speeding past our way.
The tarmac was coated in animal dung making it difficult to keep it off our boots.  But as we progressed this problem became less and less until there was none at all.  We went gently downhill, and at one point we walked for about a hundred yards on an ‘old old’ road where a bend had been straightened out a long time in the past.
We were well away from the traffic, and it was very quiet.  We agreed that this was the most pleasant part of the Walk.
We descended along what seemed to be an ancient raised beach alongside cliffs where avalanche barriers were still in place — probably the reason the main road had been rerouted further inland.  We also passed a cave-house in the bottom of the cliff.  Colin went to look inside, but couldn’t see anything because it was dark in there!
After a good mile of easy walking we came to a gate, again tied up with twine to such an extent we couldn’t undo it.  There was a kissing gate in the side fence, but this only led to a rough grass bank and an even rougher beach — so rough we couldn’t walk on it.  We thought this very odd.  There was a lot of barbed wire about, but not on the top bar of the gate.  So we climbed over.  Further down we came to another gate which did have barbed wire wrapped round the top bar, but there was a gap in it so we were able to climb over.  We then came out on to the real road again.  An Ayrshire Coastal Path sign pointed a different way than we had come, though ours was the more obvious route.
We felt the whole place was most unfriendly.  We concluded that the land was owned by a b****y-minded farmer who was determined walkers were not going to turn the old road into a footpath.  (He couldn’t really stop us because of the open access laws in Scotland.)  Well, he didn’t beat us!  What harm did we do, walking along a tarmac road?
We crossed a stream. Then swept down to the beach where we sat on a rock to eat our chocolate.  We had two miles of lovely sandy beach to walk before we reached Ballantrae Harbour — a nice end to our Walk.  That is, except for the short sharp shower which caught us just before we got there!
The harbour is very small and was practically dry.  There were a few boats tied to the wall but most of them were out of the water.  The sandstone harbour wall was quite attractive, the way it had been eroded.  We walked along the seafront gardens to the car park where our velocipede with tea and biscuits in the boot was waiting for us.

That ended Walk no.283, we shall pick up Walk no.284 next time in the car park at the southern end of Ballantrae.  It was  a quarter to six, so the Walk had taken us seven hours.  We had our tea, then we drove back to the caravan at New England Bay, shopping in Stranraer on the way.

No comments: