Rest Day, 21st June: Dunoon
Simon arrived early at Dunoon ferry terminal following an overnight bus from Luton. Arriving a little jaded we sought and found a cracking cooked breakfast with plenty of added caffeine and returned to camp to try to fix an electrical problem on Snickers which had appeared a week or so ago and had so far beaten Reesy, me and a multi-meter in our efforts to fathom out. After dismantling half of the van we found an oddly sized 30 amp fuse at the back of the leisure battery housing which had blown. Holding the fuse aloft like an olympic torch, we returned to Dunoon in the vague hope that we would find a replacement.
Dunoon had more than its fair share of electrical shops for a small Scottish town, but after four or five shop visits we rather predictably had little joy. With a failing trudge back to the van we passed a commercial vehicle recovery yard with the owners meticulously cleaning their truck which was very much a blue and red pride and joy. A doubtful questioning as to the fuse and our eyes lit up as a positive “yeah I think I’ve got one of those” saw one of the men dip into his workshop and return with not one, but two ….and to us – a fiver. I would have given him twenty quid if he’d asked.
So all sorted and settled ….err yeah right….except for the damn tap, that was replaced back in Dumfries, had now sprung a major leak down the back of the fridge and the cooker…. Grrrreat!!!!
Stage 105, 22nd June: Glendareul to Carry Point
The weather was still warmish if not quite as barmy as last week as I started a new week following the Cowal Way south and down the peninsula. It was a planned short day and the lane soon became a steep but fun scramble along a coast path suitable for goat traffic only. It emerged at the utterly tranquil but largely redundant Caladh Harbour (photo) with barely a handful of yachts sharing its secret pleasures and the view across the dual named Loch Riddon / Ruel to the Isle of Bute. The calm silence was only broken by the quiet almost whispering words of a yachting couple as they prepared their boat for sea and then shattered by the squeal of an Oyster Catcher as it skimmed the rock pools.
At Tignabruaich visitor business was quietly, almost lazily proceeding as only a Sunday in such places can. Nobody was rushing around to the nearest DIY store or the supermarket. People just ambled around, looking one way or another, slowly soaking up their day with no real aim or purpose. Sometimes it seems such a shame to me that in most parts of this big island we seem to have lost the sanity check of a Sunday where everything closed other than the occasional village fete. Progress isn’t always for the good.
Stage 106, 23rd June: Carry Point to Skipness
A brief but heavy early morning shower and planned off-road forages forewarned me enough to change my boot choice of the day to the slightly more waterproof Pair 1, rather than the heavily worn and tatty Pair 2 I had tried to wear out over the last couple of weeks. Pairs 1 and 2 are still going with the very leaky Pair 2 having been worn over 1600 miles of the trip so far. With Salomon offering a two-year warranty on boots, I wondered whether it would be in the right spirit to take them back and ask for a replacement. If they did replace or offer me free boots per say, then I might stop complaining about their permeability and sell my soul to the world of corporate sponsorship. Alas – I have no corporate sponsor, so when it comes to a full kit review I will eulogise the wonders of comfort but moan to hell and back about water tightness.
After five miles of empty lanes I stepped off left along and up a farm track which quickly became chest deep bracken and knee-deep sopping wet grass. Not only was I soaked from the waist down but Pair 1 were now about as waterproof as Pair 2 and both were about as effective as a sponge. I stepped onto the ferry for Tarbert at Portavadie looking like I had waded across a couple of rivers to get there and on reflection that is probably the reason why nobody approached me to ask for the fare.
The breeze on the ferry allowed parts of me to dry off a bit and I sat in Tarbert harbour to eat my lunch airing my bath wrinkled feet and wringing out my socks. A party of Irish pensioners stopped for a slightly pitying chat as I sat there bare footed looking a tad dishevelled, but they headed back onto their coach reassured that I was perfectly happy even if my sanity in trying to walk 5,000 miles was questionable.
I climbed out of the harbour via some steep stone steps passing the ruins of Tarbert Castle. The path took me up into the forest for a long slow climb over 1,000 ft and above the tree line. It held me high for a few miles before dropping back through the forest for a glimpse of Arran between the trees. The conifers eventually gave way to occasional clearings with the odd grazing red deer. The conifer bound clearings melted away to become deciduous woodland and the path became a track as I dropped back down to the foreshore at Skipness and a rendezvous with Simon at Skipness Castle. A night of wild camping on the foreshore was not only a welcome change now that the electrics were fixed on Snickers but also afforded us the opportunity to see Arran bathed in evening sunlight as the sun slowly set deep into the evening.
Stage 107, 24th June: Skipness to Carradale Bay
Though the wild camping in such a lovely spot was great – the midges weren’t and the morning brought persistent but barely dampening mizzle with a few clouds of midges thrown in. A walk along the seafront lane to Claonig brought me to Tom, an American from Michigan, who had hired a nice new Audi A5 for his Scottish break. This A5 was now half buried in the ditch alongside the road and Tom sat there nonchalantly as he waited for Avis to come to his rescue. We chatted briefly as I looked for the car towing-eye now buried deep in the grass verge. Simon turned up in Snickers and together we immediately assessed that the paltry pulling power of our 2.3 litre diesel and a 3 tonne motorhome were of little use to Tom. I left them to it only to discover that the efforts of even a 4×4 were no match for the buried Audi and that hopefully Avis hadn’t left him there too long.
From Claonig I edged inland for fourteen miles of lane shadowing the coast but rarely touching it. Instead I had the joys of the ‘Hunstanton / Kintyre OHL Reinforcement Project’ traffic to keep me company. The whole project seemed to consist of numerous vans, builders wagons and 4x4s driving purposefully but also aimlessly up and down the single track road. I had to stand aside to let each vehicle pass and over the near ten-mile section of road alongside which they were meant to be working, did I see a single piece of work actually taking place? Did I heck!
At lunch time I ventured off-road to sit on a vaguely dry wall for a few minutes to munch my pork pie and sandwiches. The lack of overnight facilities caught up with me and I disappeared into the woods to do what bears do. As if by magic, the midges circled around me and lay siege to my nether regions. Despite my haste, the damage had been done and as I returned to the wall they followed me in clouds determined to finish me off with a nice Chianti. Hence my lunch break was curtailed and I headed back for the road and the works traffic.
Eventually I got off-road to contour around Kirnashie Hill and follow a marked path down to the shoreline. The path was initially grand with occasional bridged streams and steps (photo) but as I closed in on the sea it petered out and became increasingly overgrown.
Now the bracken was head high with fallen trees and trailing bramble making progress very slow. Finally the path vanished completely and I headed directly for the shore and a rocky scramble to Carradale. Compared to earlier road miles these were brilliant and I enjoyed the last five miles to Carradale Bay more than any of the previous fourteen that day.