Tarbert revisited

Stage 111, 29th June: Machrihanish to Point Sands

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A glorious day with barely a cloud in the sky set me fair to cross the first tee at the expensive looking Machrihanish golf course. It was then four miles along Westport Beach with rare bare feet and my head down looking for shells along the high water line.  The blissful start didn’t last as I donned the boots to follow the A83 whilst trying to find any excuse to get off the road, be it for a short stretch of beach, an old section of road or a bypassed village.

At Muasdale I treated my overheating tongue to my firm old favourite Mint Magnum and quickly found a blissful almost deserted tropical beach at Chleit with two teenage children happily playing in the deep white sand whilst dad sat, back against a rock, with his head buried under a big straw hat reading a book.

Eventually I managed to clear myself of the A83 altogether and return to mixed beach walking. This time it wasn’t so much soft white sand but silt, shingle, crispy dried seaweed and purple ooze under my feet as Tayinloan and the Isle of Gigha Ferry Terminal passed on by.

Stage 112, 30th June: Point Sands to West Tarbert

I was back on the Kintyre Way for the last time and the weather was still as glorious. My mood was thus optimistic if not a little apprehensive at the road walking which lay ahead. A shingle beach walk with nesting terns and plovers kept me attentive if a little wary in not wanting to disturb the birds.

All too soon I was up alongside the A83 as the Kintyre Way did its best to keep away from the road by giving me the occasional cut bracken path to walk along.  Eventually though, I waved goodbye to the pale blue path markers as they headed off east and inland away from the coast at Clachan. Instead I headed west and down along a river bank back towards the sea to lunch on the rocks at what was clearly an otter restaurant. The sweet-smelling, yes sweet-smelling, otter scat was prolific and judging by the number of empty broken crab shells, Mr Otter had clearly been dining well.

I reluctantly lifted my backside after lunch and headed back inland to follow the A83 for ten miles of what can only be described as hell. Not only was the infrequent but fast-moving traffic refusing to give me much room but on more than one occasion I must have looked like Pig Pen from the Peanuts cartoon as I walked along with a large cloud of flies just behind my head.

By the time I arrived in West Tarbert I was exhausted. Not physically, but mentally. I had spent nearly three hours concentrating hard by listening and looking out for traffic. It was never a constant stream, but would often come in clumps and I dreaded when those clumps came from both directions, as I barely had anywhere to escape. I almost felt lucky to get through alive after three very close calls, all of whom had clearly seen me and had loads of room and time to give me a wide berth. My exhaustion was capped-off with anger for the numpties who clearly have no consideration for anyone outside of their own little metal box and think that all other road users MUST get out of their way.

On the good side…. Snickers at long last had a tap! And this one worked! Thanks go to Johnny in Carradale for receiving delivery and getting the damn thing fitted. It was worth every penny.

Stage 113, 1st July: West Tarbert to Port Ban

I woke to find probably the warmest day of the year awaiting me.  We had parked overnight outside an empty rundown hotel along the waterfront back in Tarbert. The place looked as if the Addams Family could move in with very few modifications. I was barely a mile from where I had finished walking yesterday and Tarbert was a place I had walked through over a week ago.

Before returning to West Tarbert, Simon and I had a few chores to do. With our everlasting propane gas bottle finally not lasting, we waited for the Chandlery to open to buy a top up, do a bit of food shopping and empty my bank account even more at the cash dispenser before heading back to West Tarbert to start walking. I was immediately off the dreaded A83 and down a nice quiet B road to head back south and down the other side of West Loch Tarbert. With a shaded woodland walk to keep me cool I could relax and enviously enjoy the houses dotted along the waterfront even if I barely got view of the water myself.

Thanks to the lack of a proper view and the prospect of a relatively short day, I fancied a challenge to get the blood flowing and kill a bit of boredom. I turned off down a side road to Ardpatrick knowing that it was a dead-end with no path or obvious route to get out the other side and back on to the road. The road became a track. The track became a path and lunch on the opposite bank of the loch to the otter restaurant of yesterday was due. The path then became a field and the field gave way to chest deep bracken with some sign of occasional foot traffic. The bracken gave way to bog grass and the bog grass gave way to thick woodland. A slightly startled and definitely baffled red deer stood and watched with a look on its face as if to say – “Are you sure you should be here?”  But my reward was two fantastic deserted beaches with hazy views out to mountains on Jura.

Then it got tough. No Silly. I actually found myself laughing as well as occasionally swearing as I stumbled my way through deep tufts of grass interlaced with boggy ditches. If that wasn’t enough for a mile then the next mile of deep tangled woodland, neck-high bracken and extremely soggy swamp made me consider that the Ordnance Survey chaps might well have understated the “bracken, heath or rough-grassland” symbol they had used on my map. Progress was understandably slow, but nonetheless satisfying and enjoyable and I made it back on to terra-firma for the last few miles down to Port Ban and to a very laid back, friendly and generous camp-site. Oh yes – and another Mint Magnum!

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