Rest Day, 14th June: Stranraer
Not wanting to impose myself on Nick and his family anymore than was really necessary I moved on, leaving my thanks, to pick up Reesy from Stranraer station – very much at the end of the line. Snickers had developed an electrical fault and I spent some time swapping fuses out trying to understand why all power should cut out when solely reliant upon the leisure batteries. None the wiser, we ended up enjoying a cracking chinese dinner and I fell asleep listening to England predictably losing 2-1 to Italy.
Stage 99, 15th June: Stranraer to Ballantrae
Today was my last day in Dumfries and Galloway and to be perfectly honest I was glad to see the back of it. It wasn’t any dull scenery, rough towns or unfriendly people that had depressed me, it was purely the frustration and monotony of having to walk alongside so many dangerous roads so far inland that had turned me off. The occasional flashes of coast path and lanes alongside the sea had shown me just how much potential the county had in terms of attracting visitors, but with such poor coastal access, it really didn’t do it for me.
DnG still had some road hell to hand out to me as I stepped out towards the ferry terminals at Cairnryan. On passing them I was soon in Ayrshire and within half a mile I was on a coast path winding its way through woodland and over hill tops with great – if overcast and hazy – views back towards Stranraer. Scotland was quickly getting better despite a proliferation of electrified farm fences giving me an unwanted jolt as I leant against one to admire the view.
The clouds burnt away by early afternoon and the temperature rose more than enough for me to give the legs an airing and see if I could get a mild tinge of colour to them beyond the pallid grey I had managed to keep under cover for most of the journey to date. I marched a jaunty pace down off the hills into pretty Ballantrae nestling in rich farmland alongside a meandering river with its trout jumping for flies to find Reesy parked up on the seafront enjoying the barmy warmth of Ayrshire.
Stage 100, 16th June; Ballantrae to Maidens
The weather seemed to be warming up considerably and I loaded up my rucksack with fluids just in case. An all to brief sand / shingle beach walk up to Bennane Head was brought to a shuddering halt as I was diverted to walk alongside the A77, laden with heavy ferry bound trucks, for a couple of miles. Fortunately at Lendalfoot I left the road to climb over Pinbain Hill and follow a track running parallel to the main road far below. I pleasingly met up with my first fellow walkers for many weeks and we chatted about this and that for a good twenty minutes.
I dropped back down onto the main road coming across a fisherman on the beach whose boat was very clearly a little worse for wear as it sat beyond the rocks with barely any of it left above the water. It had sunk only an hour or so previously and he had swum for his life. Now his mood was a little dark as he picked up belongings and debris from the beach, so I passed him by quietly.
The road took me to Girvan and happily my route took me away from the road even if it was through chest deep bracken and nettles. Thus I decided that, despite the heat, wearing my shorts might not be the best decision, so I didn’t. Gradually the terrain improved along with the beach quality as I approached and skirted the championship golf course at Turnberry. I turned to cross the course and got a full view of the impressive clubhouse and immaculate fairways in all its glory.
I walked into Maidens to meet up with Reesy who was sporting a robin red chest. It takes a lot to put me off food so my Magnum White was never under any threat.
Stage 101, 17th June: Maidens to Prestwick
The Costa del Ayrshire was once again bathed in sunshine as I took to the beach across Maidenhead Bay. From the beach I took to woodland roads up towards Culzean Castle. The shade of the woodland was a blessing even in the mid-morning heat and though I probably shouldn’t have done, I crossed the plush lawns immediately in front of the castle to find my way back down onto the fine shingle beach and round to Dunure Point and the pretty little harbour village of Dunure.
Just after Dunure the path was marked by spots of white paint strategically daubed on large rocky outcrops amidst their grassy hillocks. Unfortunately at some point I lost the white blobs and ended up boulder leaping my way across an increasingly rocky foreshore with high impenetrable cliffs above me. Even a rogue red deer seemed to struggle finding her way back up and it skipped its way along in front of me before I lost sight of its bobbing white bottom way ahead.
The boulder leaping was fun and I have decided that it is probably my favourite terrain as it requires concentration, a bit of thought and carries toying with the possibility of breaking an ankle. However, progress isn’t always as fast as it could be so I was a little relieved when the bay opened out at Ayr and I was able to walk freely along a seafront and beach filled with pink and white skinned human zebras worshipping the rarity of a hot day on a Scottish beach.
I dipped quickly in to the town of Ayr to round the harbour and out again before finding a promenade walk across the front at Prestwick. A 99 cone with raspberry sauce was a must.
That evening friends from back home in Leicestershire came out to take us out to dinner. Brenda, Richard and Kate took us back into Prestwick for a cracking meal as I took my fill of a haggis starter, a posh burger and good ole fashioned sticky toffee pudding. I slept well.