Stage 114, 2nd July: Port Ban to Castle Sween
I knew the Scottish West coast would be a long hard slog and already the peninsulas to get around seemed to just keep on coming. However, I can have no complaint as I slowly pass through some of the sections of this trip I have looked forward to more than any other. I confess to not knowing this corner of Scotland at all and though not as rugged or dramatic as some of the places I have yet to visit, it is still a gorgeous landscape without being drop-dead stunning or spectacularly photogenic.
With rain threatening later in the day and a South-easterly wind picking up, I headed North up the road alongside Loch Caolisport. The road was by no means busy, but it was populated by an inordinate number of cement trucks and huge logging wagons. I had a chuckle for Simon having to find a passing space big enough to get round them before realising that it was my motorhome he was driving.
Ten miles further up the road I arrived at the loch head and turned South along the West shore of the loch along an empty lane signposted for Ellary but with no access to Castle Sween – my destination. The Ellary Estate didn’t seem very welcoming with ‘private’ signs everywhere but with nobody around, my planned route through seemed fair game and perfectly legal. The track took me up and over the peninsula and as I walked up through the forest, across moorland and around a perched and lily filled loch, I kept thinking how the estate road would make an excellent car rally stage and imagined driving it myself watching out for loose and very hard standing rocks to avoid.
I rejoined the road a few miles South of Castle Sween on the West side of my latest peninsula. Fortunately, the rain never made the full entrance I had expected, even if a few brief light showers were enough to make me put on my waterproofs in expectation of a downpour. I found Simon parked outside Castle Sween caravan park after a rulebook quoting official had refused to let us park up. Instead we headed for a little slipway a few miles up the road and a peaceful tiny boatyard park-up far superior to the static caravan park which had surrounded and spoilt the vista around Castle Sween.
Stage 115, 3rd July: Castle Sween to Tayvallich
Once again rain threatened without actually delivering as this time I continued North up the lane bounding the East side of Loch Sween. After the wooden clad houses of Achnamara I was glad to have another opportunity to walk off-road and a forest track beckoned, but not before James had emerged from his house to challenge me as to the private land I was about to cross. We had a quick chat. I told him what I was trying to do and quickly I discovered how the welcoming and friendly nature of people was refreshingly changing for the better as I headed further into remoter parts. Scotland is so much more welcoming than England and even Wales and I only hoped that this would continue.
We parted as if good friends with a postcard depicting his house in my hand. I headed into Knapdale Forest to circumnavigate two small peninsulas. This time I stuck religiously to the tracks having decided that any off-track adventure might be foolish with the trees and undergrowth looking utterly impenetrable. After an hour or so the forest thickened into heavily planted conifers and I found myself on a ‘Beaver Trail’ around the hidden Loch Coille-Bharr. Disappointingly I saw no trace or sign of the recently reintroduced Scottish beaver and instead found myself walking tracks edged by high tree walls cutting through slightly foreboding and oppressive forestry.
For some reason lunch seemed to have taken its toll on me and the afternoon walk through the forest was a real slog. At one point I found myself lurching around whilst slowly trudging up a gentle incline and I wasn’t 100% by any means. My energy level seemed to have plummeted, but I hadn’t a clue why.
Back at the road I once again turned South down the West side of the narrow strait of Caol Scotnish. In parts it was so narrow, still and silent that I believed it would be easy to hold a conversation across the East and West banks without ever having to raise a voice much above a whisper. Despite my poor energy, I arrived in the pretty but grey skied Tayvallich with its sheltered yacht filled harbour and expensive looking houses in good time. The apparent wealth I had seen in this part of Scotland since crossing over from Ayrshire was unexpected and the Bentley parked in the driveway of a house no longer surprised me, even though it does baffle me a little.
Rest Day, 4th July: Tayvallich
After not feeling too great yesterday, being a day ahead of schedule and with a seriously grotty weather forecast I thought I had a valid number of reasons to take a day off. Without any phone signal or tracking beacon for family to follow I thought I might be a bit snookered in terms of communique, but strangely wi-fi came to the rescue. I do find it odd that wi-fi is still available in areas where a phone signal isn’t. So instead of walking I could try to fill my three vacant driver weeks in North Scotland, do this blog, upload some more photos and catch up on emails. If I’d had a phone signal, I might as well have been back at work….hurrumph!
Miles to Date: 2,371 Ascent to Date: 310,000 ft