Saturday, April 07, 2012

Walk 286 -- Portpatrick to Port Logan

Ages:  Colin was 69 years and 335 days.  Rosemary was 67 years and 112 days.
Weather:  Bright with some sun.  There was a cold breeze in exposed places, and a sea mist for the last two miles.
Location:  Portpatrick to Port Logan.
Distance:  14 miles.
Total distance:  2827 miles.
Terrain:  The cliff path took us further than we expected because it wasn’t marked on the map.  Quiet roads mostly.  A track which deteriorated — it was blocked by electric fences, mud and gorse!
Tide:  In.
Rivers:  None.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  Nos.263 to 272, from above Moroch Bay to an hotel.
Pubs:  None.
‘Historic Scotland’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
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 Port Logan and parked in the seafront car park.  We caught a bus from the hamlet to Lochans.  There we had to wait half an hour before catching another bus from the opposite side of the road to Portpatrick.
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 started by walking along the waterfront in Portpatrick, passing a memorial bench to John and Mary McDowall.  Their epitaph read, “It’s bein’ sae cheerful that keeps us goin’”!  I like them already!  (Though I never met them during their lifetime, nor know anything about them.)
Next we passed a shop which sold all sorts of oddities.  Two days ago there was a large gorilla outside, today it was an Easter Island statue!  It looked so out of place in this delightful little Scottish harbour town.  Besides, the mouth on the moai didn’t look right to us — we, who have been to Rapa Nui and seen the real thing.  Too much of a smile on this one, and the rock it was carved from was the wrong colour — they appear to have used granite whereas the genuine moai were carved from solidified volcanic ash.
We moved on past this nonsense (who on earth would want a moai in their garden anyhow?) to the lighthouse on the southern extremity of the harbour.  Portpatrick looked very pretty in the morning light.
We continued southwards to a car park in an old quarry, and from there we gradually climbed.  There was a deep cleft in the cliff at the end of the car park which was surrounded by stout fencing to stop people driving their cars into it.
A narrow path led to the top of the cliff and along.  To our right was the sharp drop down to the sea, and to our left was another sharp drop down to a disused railway line.  We seemed to be walking along a knife-edge!  But luckily, to the relief of anyone suffering from vertigo, the trail was enclosed in good strong fencing either side.
It was quite cool in the wind up there, but we came across a sheltered seat so we sat on it to eat our quiche/pasty.
We met a lot of people on this narrow part of the path.  Most were commenting on the deep cutting which used to take the rock out from the quarry by train, and the even deeper clefts in the cliff on the other side.  We came to a ruin, named ‘Dunskey Castle’ in ancient lettering on our map.  Apparently it has been a ruin since the 17th century.
Why do we keep these buildings?  There are too many useless little ruins along the coastline to warrant spending taxpayers money on them.  Keep the big ones for their historical significance and as tourist attractions, but why little ones like this?  Let them fall down, I say, or use the stone for building new homes, as our forefathers did.
The path took us up to a caravan site where we thought we would have to continue inland until we hit the road.  There were no further paths marked on our map along the coast.  But there was a signpost telling us we could get to Morroch Bay, and we could see a good path snaking away across the cliff tops.
We were delighted, and wondered how far we would get before we had to retreat to the road.
It was a lovely walk along that rocky coast.  The views were spectacular, with many nooks and crevices on the edge of the cliffs.  And it was a good path all the way.
Also there were primroses all about — I love their delicate shade of yellow in the springtime!  The further from Portpatrick we progressed, the less people we encountered.  Soon we were completely on our own, and we didn’t meet any other walkers all the way to Port Logan.
We reached Morroch Bay, and were pleased we didn’t have to go down to the beach there — we would only have had to climb back up again!  There were kissing gates all round the top of the bay, lots of them and all spanking new.  So efforts are being made to put in more of a coastal path.
We came to a road up from a house in the bay.  A man drove up and had to get out of his car to open a gate.  We arrived just then, so Colin closed it for him to save him getting out again after he had passed through.
We thought we had come to the end of the new path and would have to follow this private road up to the public road from that point.  But there was another kissing gate on the opposite side of the road, so we carried on.
The path was not so clear now, the only way we could tell where it went was to look for the location of the next kissing gate.  This trail was obviously not well walked.  We were led down a steep hill into a gully — this part of the path looked very new.  Arrows had not yet been put on the posts though the hollows for them were there, and the earth had recently been scrubbed out to make the path.
We came out on a private road to an hotel.  A sign there told us we had just been walking on a “Path to Hush-Hush via Morroch”.  Well, we were quite unable to locate this place called Hush-Hush, it wasn’t on any of our maps and we weren’t aware of ever walking through it.  It must have been very hush-hush!
We were resigned, by now, to walking miles of road practically all the rest of the way to Port Logan.  We started up the hotel road.  Further on there was another kissing gate on the other side of the road.  Could it possibly be a continuation of the coastal path?  There were no signs, and the gate looked very new.  A glance at the map told us there were no further ways out to the road for miles and miles.  Considering the state of that last bit of path down into the gully, we decided we daren’t risk it.  We still had a long way to go and we didn’t want to get lumbered.  So we ignored it and continued up the road.
There followed miles of boring walking along roads.  At least they were quiet lanes, traffic was negligible.  We sat on a bank by the side of the road to eat our sarnies because there was nowhere else.

It was farming country — we noted a Shetland pony in a field with chickens, celandines all over the grass banks, three modern windmills on a hill, and a horse wearing a coat sitting down in a field.

I thought horses only sat down when they were ill — we did wonder about this animal…..
At a crossroads we came across a signpost pointing to a ‘Coastal Path’.  But we didn’t get too excited because we quickly realised it was where the continuation of the new path, which we hadn’t taken, came out.  It was no use for us going on southwards as there wasn’t any more coast path in our direction.  We looked at the map, and saw the path seemed to have curved inland just before a deep gully — obviously too much of an obstacle for the coast-path makers.

After passing a Flowerpot Man doing his skiing exercises (at least, that’s what it looked like!) we saw some hares on the grass up ahead.  Colin hadn’t got his camera handy, so I whipped mine out and managed one photo before they darted into the undergrowth.

Further on we sat on a roadside bank again to eat our apples.

We walked under a rookery where the road was spotted with their droppings — but none landed on us as we passed through!  We passed a rather pretty house, which looked very neat but had chickens roaming about on its lawns.
We took the road down towards Ardwell Bay, but before we got to the car park we turned on to a ‘white’ road signposted to South Ardwell Farm.  There was no mention of the coast path here, just the fact that there was “no beach”.  This road soon turned into a track, and there was string across it as if we weren’t meant to go that way.  We stepped over the string and carried on!  The track was very straight but a bit of a rollercoaster up and down over small hills.
Then, in the middle of nowhere, we came to a sign which told us we were on the “Footpath  Drumbreddan to Portlogan”.  So it seemed we were on the official coast path again.
Or were we?  We searched the map to find Drumbreddan and discovered we hadn’t got there yet!  It was a farm about half a mile ahead.  Port Logan, our destination, was even further on.  Very puzzling.  We got to the farm, but we couldn’t see our way on from there.  The farmyard was full of cows, and that seemed to be the only route onwards — but then Colin found an almost hidden gate to the side with a muddy track leading away from it.  No signpost of any kind.
From thereon the path was extremely muddy, uneven and not very obvious.  We came to a gate with an electric fence in front of it.  (Somehow we got the impression that the landowner didn’t welcome walkers!)  Colin lifted the wire with a piece of wood while I ducked underneath.  Then I did the same for him.  The gate behind it wouldn’t open, but we managed to squeeze through a gap.  We sat on a broken down wall to eat our chocolate, wondering what else we had in store!

We walked to the end of the field and came across another of those puzzling signposts.  This one was pointing back the way we had come, and told us “Footpath  Drumbreddan to Ardwell Bay”.  We were at least half a mile beyond Drumbreddan by then!  Turning to our way, we found we had to negotiate a gate choked by gorse.
We managed to squeeze through, only to find the path onwards was completely blocked by gorse.  There was simply no way we could get through that without a machete!  So we did the electric fence trick again to get into an adjacent field.
Over there we found mud with deep footprints already in it — so some other poor soul had also attempted to walk this way.  We tried back on the ‘path’, then back in the field — it was certainly challenging.  It got muddier and muddier, the way was not at all obvious.  We ended up in a cattle-feeding station and couldn’t see our way out at all.  We stumbled over rough ground and eventually reached the farm gate — there were no signposts here telling walkers this was the coastal path.  As we stepped out into the road, a dog in the farmhouse was barking fit to bust.  We felt as if it was saying, “Go away, you horrible hikers, we don’t want you on our land!”
We could see Port Logan at last — but then a sea mist came down so we couldn’t.  We had two miles of a plodding road-walk before we reached the car.  It was grey, cold and miserable, but we didn’t get really wet until we got to the car.

That ended Walk no.286, we shall pick up Walk no.287 next time at the car park in Port Logan.  It was twenty-five to six, so the Walk had taken us eight hours and twenty minutes.  We drove back to our caravan at New England Bay where we had our tea and biscuits in the warm and dry.

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