Thursday, April 05, 2012

Walk 285 -- Stranraer to Portpatrick

Ages:  Colin was 69 years and 333 days.  Rosemary was 67 years and 110 days.
Weather:  A cold but sunny start.  Light cloud later.  It did get warmer as the day progressed, but it was still cold in the breeze when we were up high.
Location:  Stranraer to Portpatrick.
Distance:  13 miles.
Total distance:  2813 miles.
Terrain:  Concrete.  Stony beach. Quiet roads.  A cliff path.  Undulating, especially the cliff path.
Tide:  In, going out.
Rivers:  None.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  Nos.260 to 262, all on the cliff path just beyond the lighthouse.
Pubs:  None.
‘Historic Scotland’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  No.62 round renovations at Stranraer.
How we got there and back:  We were staying in our caravan on a site at New England Bay on the South Rhins.  This morning we drove to Portpatrick and parked by the harbour.  Then we caught a bus from the village to Stranraer.
At the end we were at the car.  We drove back to our caravan at New England Bay where we had our tea and biscuits.

We were exactly at our 2800 mile point in Stranraer, so we set up the camera to take a photo of both of us on the timer.  Then a lady came along with her dog, so we asked her to take a picture of us.  Hers came out better, so we ditched the other one.  We got chatting to this lady, and told her about our Trek and the significance of the photo she had just taken.  She was a walker too, and told us she had once done the Three-Fells Walk “which nearly killed me!”
We walked along to the pier where we got confused.  It seemed to be a large building site, but there was a doorway in the fencing with the word “Pedestrians” over it in big red letters.  It was only after we walked through it that we realised that didn’t mean us!  It meant pedestrian workers on the building site, so we retreated and looked for a safe way round it.  The pier was closed due to the fact it was pretty derelict.
In fact the whole of the waterfront was behind security fences, undergoing a major makeover.  We had to pick our way along the outside of it, and in places wondered whether we would be able to get through.  We had to divert right on to the beach at one point, and it wasn’t easy walking being as it was all stony.
But looking to the right we had wonderful views of the North Rhins, stretching out almost seeming to meet the Ayrshire coast where we had been walking two days ago.  We could just see Ailsa Craig peeping out behind the hill we had walked over in the sleet when feeling so cold.  We were not cold today, it was a beautiful sunny day with not a breath of wind — the sea was like a mill pond.  I got Colin to throw a pebble in the water just as I took a photo, and was very pleased with the resulting image.
We passed a mural that was of a stormy sea with fish — I really liked this piece of Art.  We passed a building where we were told the flat roof was fitted with an anti-climbing rail incorporating revolving cacti (!)  And we passed a wall plaque which told us a creamery was once on this site.
We passed all the works, then we were able to walk along the prom until it came to an end.  The surface wasn’t very good on this latter bit, perhaps they are going to extend the works and improve it in time.
There was still a warning notice about the waves from ferries up to 30 minutes after the ferry had gone past.  We looked across the bay — the ferries seemed a long way away.
I put my camera on maximum zoom and took pictures of both a P&O ferry and a StenaLine ferry at their respective berths.
When the prom ran out we walked about fifty yards along the stony beach until we came to a path leading up into bluebell woods.  It seemed to run parallel to the shore and was much easier than the beach, so we followed it for about a hundred yards.
It ended at a private house!  By then we were up on a bit of a cliff about twelve foot high, so we had to return to where we’d entered the woods.  We weren’t best pleased.
We continued along the beach.  It was stony, but not too bad to walk.  Colin delighted in looking for fossils in the beach stones.  At the inevitable golf course we went up and walked along the edge of the greens.  It made a bit of relief from the stones.  But then we came to fields with barbed wire fences, so we had to return to the beach.  We sat on a bank to eat our pasties — well Colin did, I had a slice of quiche.
Before we reached the river at Soleburn Bridge, we went up to the road.  We’d had enough.  The tide was in, the narrow beach was stony and there obviously was no path.  We abandoned our original plan of walking along the beach to Kirkholme and back along the shore — this decision saved us seven miles!  The rest of North Rhins is dead ends, very few of which actually lead to the coastline.  So we turned south on the road and headed for Portpatrick.  We looked back as we climbed the gentle hill, and we could see the P&O ferry leaving for Ireland.
For the first half mile the road was quite busy, but after we passed a roundabout it was much quieter.  We were on the lookout for a feature marked as a river on the OS map so we could gauge how far we still had to walk, but this ‘river’ turned out to be a ditch.  We nearly missed it!  We felt a bit sorry for some cows who were in a ploughed field with no grass.  The remains of the winter silage had been thrown down for them to eat, and it didn’t look very appetising.  They followed us along as far as the gateway at the end of their field — we’ve never seen cows so frisky, don’t know what was in the silage!  Then we saw two sheep fighting, one really butting hard into the backside of another.  What had got into these animals?
On a gentler side, there were lots of newborn lambs in the fields.  We sat on a tree stump near a wood to eat our sarnies.  It got warmer when we were down low so we started peeling off the layers.
But this proved to be premature, for when we got back up high we felt the cold wind again.  Perhaps the rows of modern windmills up on the ridge should have told us!
We joined the Southern Upland Way, but we were still walking roads — well lanes, and there was minimal traffic.  We went downhill towards the lighthouse which was just coming into view.
We sat on the towbar of a farm trailer to eat our first chocolate.  I began to feel very tired.  It got warm too, the cold wind disappeared as we approached this western shore.
We cut across a green to bypass the lighthouse, then turned southwards on a clifftop walk.  This path was much better than we had expected, more like an English waymarked footpath!
There were spectacular views along this rocky bit of coast, back towards the lighthouse with its redundant foghorn on the edge of the rocks (foghorns are all electronic these days), and down to beautiful sandy coves.
And for once there were a lot of people about, all enjoying the fine views with us.
We climbed — there seemed to be a lot of uphill.
Then it was quite a smooth path for a while.  We came to a gully where we were overlooking a beach far below.  I was feeling really tired, so I sat on a stile to eat my apple.  Trouble was, I had to get up every time someone wanted to get past!  So we descended the steep and very uneven steps down to the beach — Colin had to help me as I still lack confidence on steep downward slopes.
We went across the beach where a family were playing, up over rocks, then down better steps to another beach.
On the further side of this beach we climbed a steep zigzag path to get up again.
Coastal walking is knackering!  There was a seat near the top, so we sat on it and ate a second bar of chocolate each.
We continued on the level for a while, with views of amazing rocks down to our right.
We were alongside a golf course — the people playing golf on this one were talking in posh English accents so we guessed it was an expensive course!  We passed the radio masts we had been seeing on the horizon for ages.  We came to a pair of ornate stone gateposts, but our path was arrowed past them still on the clifftop.
At last we overlooked Portpatrick, a pretty touristy fishing village.  The path was gravelled by now, and of very good quality.  There were also more people than ever about on this lovely afternoon.
We descended the concrete steps into the village, reading the geology ‘lessons’ printed on every step.  We also noticed dogs’ footprints on many of the steps, obviously made when the concrete was still soft, and a few human footprints too.  It put us in mind of our eldest grandson, Jamie, when he was twelve.  A new path was concreted at his school on the day they broke up for the Christmas holidays, when all the kids were mad with excitement anyway.  What twelve-year-old could resist soft concrete?  He, among others, left his footprints forever on that path!
The teachers went ballistic!  But I maintain they asked for it — why couldn’t they have waited until the following day, when no children were around, to concrete the path?  I thought the incident was quite amusing, and that the teachers over-reacted on those poor kids — and I taught in a comprehensive school for sixteen years so I know what ratbags they can be at age twelve.

Back to the Walk.  We walked all round this pretty harbour until we came to our car parked on the quayside.
The village was quite busy with tourists.

That ended Walk no.285, we shall pick up Walk no.286 next time on the quayside in Portpatrick.  It was five past four, so the Walk had taken us eight and a quarter hours.  They didn’t charge for parking in Portpatrick but they did for toilets (which I think is immoral), so we got in the car and drove straight back to our caravan at New England Bay.  There we were able to have our tea and biscuits in comfort.

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