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Arran Coastal Way – Lovely Lochranza

Lovely Lochranza

After a very tiring two days and a lot of soul searching the night before I decided that a change of plan was needed. This walk was never about enduring pain and wearing myself out just to get around the Coastal Way and say I had done it. It was always about enjoying the experience, seeing the sights along the way and giving myself a break mentally. So after sorting out blisters and making it possible to put my walking shoes on without grimacing (!), I decided to have a hobble around and enjoy Lochranza for the day.

Before leaving home I had downloaded all of the geocaches for Arran onto my phone thinking that I could find them as I walked…mmm, not so easy to do when your phone is out of charge and the thought of taking a heavy rucksack on and off to scrabble about for hidden boxes fills you with dread!! So today, minus the bag and with a fully charged phone, I went off in search of one near to the campsite. The great thing about geocaches is that they often take you to places you may not usually explore. This one was in a little bit of woodland with a pretty stream running into the Loch, a peaceful spot with dappled sunshine coming through the trees.

Walking back out onto the road I spotted a little white church, St.Bride’s. I love looking around churches and graveyards (is that a bit weird!?) and love the fact that a lot are kept open for anyone to enjoy. It has some lovely stained glass windows and colourful prayer kneelers, well worth a look in.

When we stopped at Lochranza many years ago there was a great little sandwich shop at the top end, just over-looking the Claonaig Ferry and I was glad to see it still going, a few changes of ownership since then but still great food and coffee. I enjoyed a delicious pulled pork on rye bread and the first decent coffee since I’d left home…bliss!

And of course you can’t go to Lochranza without visiting the castle.

Then back to the campsite, wandering across the golf course with resident Deer. A relaxing day was just what I had needed and the campsite itself is excellent with plenty of space, a room for campers to use with a sofa, microwave, table and plugs etc which is a brilliant idea on cold evenings!

Arran Coastal Way – Sannox to Lochranza

After a windy, rainy night the morning was grey and drizzly but somehow managed to get the tent packed up reasonably dry and headed off. I was having problems with my solar charger so my phone was on really low battery which of course meant very few photos again – a bit frustrating to say the least!

Over the stepping stones at Sannox and on to North Sannox picnic area. This was one of our wild campervanning spots many, many years ago so I was looking forward to see how it had changed since then. A bigger parking area but the rest looked pretty much the same until I got onto the path to the Fallen Rocks. I’m sure when we were here about ten years ago this was a small rough path, as it is further on, but now it has obviously been taken over by the Forestry Commission and turned into a slightly ugly, wide stone track. There has obviously been felling around the area, so I guess a decent track was necessary, but a bit of a shame.

The path further on meanders around the Fallen Rocks and onto a long grassy stretch all the way to the now deserted Laggan Cottage. This was a good sight to see as I came around the headland, it meant it was time for a stop and some munchies. Laggan Cottage is deserted but open to have a nosy around, it looks like people obviously bunk down in there overnight at times but otherwise it was dark and dingy with the windows boarded up. What a shame that it’s just being left to decay, it must have an interesting history but I am struggling to find out much about it online but will keep trying! I was kicking myself for not having a camera at this point.

I pulled up a chair in the doorway of the cottage and rested my feet while munching my very tasty lunch of oatcakes and pre-packed tuna mix -surprisingly delicious even if it looked like I was eating from a cat food pouch!! I was feeling really tired at this point and wondered how I was ever going to get to Lochranza…

Heaving my bag back on, I carried on to the ruins of the Duchess Anne’s Salt Pans which proved to be a good spot to get out of the wind for a bit, put on more layers and psych myself up for the next bit….the dreaded boulder field…

Over the first few boulders I heard a deep thwumping sound coming from the sea hitting a gap in the boulders and sucking back out again and looked along to see a swan calmly sitting in a large rock as the tide rushed in towards it. That put a smile on my face which was much needed as I got to An Scriordan Rock Fall.

If the weather had been sunny and calm, if I hadn’t got a bloomin’ heavy rucksack on my back and if my feet weren’t killing me at this point, I’m sure this would have been an enjoyable experience but I can honestly say it wasn’t. Big boulders to clamber over, narrow path between rocks, and overhanging rocks strategically placed to knock your rucksack to the side as you clambered. There was an awful lot of swearing involved! Towards the end, as I pulled myself up onto another boulder and shouted ‘For F*** Sake’ for the hundredth time, a young, good-looking Italian(?) guy appeared around a rock with a slightly shocked look on his face…oops! I politely said ‘Hello’ and then carried on swearing, slightly quieter this time!! I really never thought this part would end.

Coming down off the rock fall and seeing the lovely little white cottage of Fairy Dell was such a relief. Back onto flat ground and good paths…hurray! Eventually Lochranza was in sightand I stopped at a bench for a rest. I had completely lost track of time at this point, the sky had been so grey all day that I really thought it was about 6pm. I felt so exhausted but trudged down the side of the Loch in search of the campsite for the night.

At the end of the Loch I wasn’t sure which way I was going so stopped to ask a friendly looking man resting on some logs. He dug out his map and figured out where the campsite was and then told me he was waiting for his wife to get the car as he had walked too far that day…I knew the feeling. When he said I probably had another half mile to go I think I must have looked so crestfallen he took pity and offered me a lift. Bless the kindness of strangers – a lovely couple from Aberdeen saved the day!

Got booked into the campsite at 2.30pm – I’m not sure where my body clock was but it thought it was at least four hours ahead! Tent up in drizzle, bed prepared and I crawled into my sleeping bag to warm up and rest for a little while before dragging myself out for some tea and to find a plug to charge my phone.

It was a really,really tough day, I felt exhausted and utterly depleted. My feet were blistered and painful and I could feel a change of plan coming on…

Arran Coastal Way – Brodick to Sannox

I’ve been and not quite conquered the Arran Coastal Way for reasons I’ll go into later but I’ll attempt to give a run down of each day for anyone who’s interested!

The first day was mainly taken up travelling, starting out at 10.30 to catch the train to Glasgow Central and then on to Ardrossan to meet up with the ferry. I love trains and ferries so I find this part quite enjoyable, even the waiting between connections is fun if there is coffee and people watching involved. I had booked my train ticket from Oxenholme station (nr Kendal) to Glasgow back in January for just over £20 return and picked up a ‘Rail and Sail’ ticket which covers travel from Glasgow to Brodick for £22.90 from Glasgow Central. The plan was to walk a section each day carrying all my stuff with me to camp along the way. (I’d like to add at this point that my rucksack must have weighed in excess of 15kg so not ultralight by any stretch of the imagination!)

I arrived in Brodick at 4.15pm to a few grey clouds and a little bit of wind and headed straight off knowing that I had until about 9pm to get to my intended wild camp site at Sannox approx 8 miles away. Unfortunately both my phone and solar charger were slowly dying so didn’t manage to get too many photo’s along the way.

I think I had underestimated how much of this walk was uphill, heading up into Merkland Woods above the castle at Brodick and then following broad forestry paths for what felt like miles. Just as I thought I was coming back down to the coast, up it went again! The views through the gaps in the trees were amazing and I couldn’t wait to get back down near the sea way down there. I was getting tired and ended up slipping at one point and smacked down on my bum, I felt like a turtle trying to get back up with a fully loaded rucksack attached!!

Merkland Woods – looking back down to the ferry.

Eventually I came down to the road and walked along to Corrie, finding a handy water tap at the village hall there (also toilets!) and the lovely pier complete with sheep! I must have looked shattered as a local came cycling up to let me know I could camp at the village hall if I wanted to. Thinking that Sannox wasn’t very far, I thought I’d push on and make camp so I was that bit further on for the next day. That last mile or so was tough, I was sooo tired and feeling disheartened that it seemed such a struggle on day one!

Pier at Corrie complete with sheep!

Tent up, food eaten, bed ready, woolly hat and numerous layers on…sleep! The rain and wind woke me a couple of times but my first night wild camping on my own was absolutely fine. The tent held up to everything thrown at it and I felt safe even if a little fed up.

Slog and Sloth?

I haven’t done much the last few weeks, no real walks, no wild camping, no getting out much at all. All I seem to have done is work, work, work…between that and ferrying teenagers around it’s all got a bit dull around here!

BUT… there is light on the horizon. I’m going to Arran in a week and a half. It was touch and go for a bit as to whether I could realistically do it. Life has a way of throwing all the crap at you at once and you have to scrabble to stick your head above it all, hence the work, work, work. We decided that despite not really being able to afford a week off work (I’m self-employed so if I’m not here, I’m not getting paid) I am going. This is time-out for me, a breathing space to re-energise mentally. There’s things in the last five years which I’ve not really dealt with and have taken their toll so getting back to nature, on my own, dealing with my own rubbish will be good for me.

I feel like I’ve been a bit of a sloth and I may not have got all the training walks in I intended but I know I can do this both physically and mentally so bring it on!

Plus, you’ll be inundated with hundreds of photo’s very soon…be prepared!

Monday Mini-Adventure

The sun has been shining! Time for a mini-adventure to try out our ‘new-to-us’ tents before deciding which one I will take to Arran. With Teen 2 along for the adventure we headed up to Hodge Close, near Coniston. An intersting and slightly spooky old quarry which we’ve been to a few times before but we’d never been up to the two little reservoirs just above the quarry itself. What a great place! The pictures can tell you the rest…

P.s. think the blue ‘Lightwave’ tent wins the honour of being my home for a week on Arran! Not quite a stealth wild camp tent but feels so much roomier than the Banshee and is lighter in weight.

The kindness of strangers…

I’ve mentioned in previous posts about the possible need for a different tent to take around the Arran Coastal Way, the smallest tent I had was a great little Eurohike one which had never let us down but weighed in at over 3kg. I’ve spent weeks wading through Ebay to find a half decent one that I could actually afford, that was a more reasonable weight of 2kg or less, and failed miserably. In a last ditch attempt I put a shout out on some Outdoor Gear Facebook pages just asking if any one had one they were upgrading, chucking out, or willing to sell. I thought I would get back some snidey comments about never finding anything for my budget but how wrong was I!?

I had a whole host of helpful comments about where to look, giving advice of what to look for, offering tents for sale as close to my budget (which wasn’t much!) as they could go. I was extremely grateful for all offers but the one that blew me away was a lovely lady offering me an older tent, still in great condition, which she just wasn’t using anymore. At first I didn’t catch on and kept asking for the price but it turned out she was actually offering it to me for free!! WOW !! Not just any old cheap tent, an older model Lightwave T1 Cylq… not only that, she posted it to me and wouldn’t let me pay the postage either! She had upgraded and wanted someone to make good use of her old tent and obviously thought I might be a likely candidate.

BUT…the story doesn’t end there readers (!) The day it arrived I had another message from someone else offering me a older Vango Banshee 200 for ‘cheap as chips’ money! I didn’t want to appear greedy so explained I had just got one but that my son would love it so we could go wild camping. So now we will have two great little tents to go adventuring with. So, so happy!

The kindness of strangers… x

The Dovedale Round – Wainwrights, Birketts, Hewitts and Nuttalls (and lots of swearing!)

More recently I’ve shied away from doing any higher level walks due to health and worry about keeping up with other people (I’m a plodder!) So when a group of Home Ed friends said they were doing The Dovedale Round I wasn’t convinced. However, Teen 2 decided he wanted to give it a go, and being assured it wasn’t too steep, off we went.

Of course, if I’d been a bit more sensible, I would have checked the contour lines on the map beforehand but maybe that would have put me off completely!

We followed this route description (Walklakes – Dovedale Round) but did it backwards, so in theory we had the steepest part first and then a nice gentle wander along the ridge on the way back (yes, this was advised by the same person who said it wasn’t too steep!) The route takes in High Hartsop Dodd, Little Hart Crag, Dove Crag, Hart Crag, Hartsop Above How, Gale Crag and a few other lumps and bumps – 5 Wainwrights, 6 Birketts, 3 Hewitts and 3 Nuttalls…phew, no wonder it was tough!

The younger and fitter ones in the group seemed to have boundless energy and made it look easy while I had resorted to counting 40 steps, stopping, 40 steps, stopping (my strategy for coping with tough hills!) There were a few choice words along the way muttered descreetly to myself. The really steep descent on a loose stone path at the end was almost my breaking point – but WE DID IT!

The sun had shone all day, not a drop of rain, just a cold wind on the tops so almost perfect walking weather. The views were absolutely amazing and getting up high was fantastic, even through all the pain! After all the moaning and groaning, I’m really glad we did it, just goes to show how much more our bodies are capable of than we think they are. Teen 2 was a star, always checking back with me to make sure I was ok, making sure I knew about loose rocks and wet slippery bits.. proud mum moments!