Arran Coastal Way – Plan B! (Part One) – Kings Cave to Blackwaterfoot.

Plan B = take the bus!

Arran has a great bus service which goes all the way around the island and across the middle, I know it’s cheating but the next stage was a long drag mainly along the road so I decided to see it from a bus window and pick the best bits!

The plan was to get a weekly ticket (£21.50) so that I could just hop on and off when I wanted along the way. Today I was heading down to Kings Cave and walking on to Blackwaterfoot and then hopping back on to get to where I was staying at Kilmory.

I packed up camp and headed to the bus stop just down the road outside the Lochranza Distillery, the sun was shining and I felt at peace with my decision to use the bus. I waited…and I waited…chatted to a friendly Danish couple who had also turned up … and we waited… erm…no bus! We all looked at the timetable again and realised we had read it wrong and the bus wasn’t turning up for another hour…doh!! A great excuse to get a coffee at the distillery where the friendly staff let me leave my bag in a cupboard while I relaxed with a lovely proper coffee (this is a recurring theme..I love coffee and usually at home I have one of those hob espresso makers…packet Kenco just wasn’t cutting it!!) The distillery has a very nice cafe with great views.

Lochranza Distillery

The bus arrived bang on time and the driver sorted out my ticket, well he thought he had but apparently it was a new system with a plastic card and he wasn’t sure if it would work… It didn’t and for most of the rest of the week I had to keep hold of my increasingly battered receipt as proof of purchase! Didn’t matter, all the bus drivers were lovely and just laughed if they’d seen me before! He dropped me right by the start of the Kings Cave walk and told me which way to go for the best views on the way down.

Views on path to Kings Cave

It was a lovely walk down, clearly marked through Forestry Commision land with tall pine trees opening out to amazing views. I met three walkers coming up, obviously they’d been further than me as one of them looked completely worn out! A steep path down to the rocky beach and then onto the cave. Now…I’ll be honest…it was a little disappointing! I’m not sure what I was expecting but photos I’d seen had made it look so much more impressive. I did stand at the gated entrance and think..maybe if the teenagers and hubby were here and I wasn’t on my own, it would be a bit more exciting, they would go and explore and want to find out how far it went and I’d get caught up in their enthusiasm, some things just aren’t the same on your own. I did however love all the stone piles which seemed to go on forever inside a smaller cave and the cut through with the view of the sea.

By now the sun was lovely and warm, I found a spot just before Drumadoon Point for some lunch and to make sure the tide was definitely going out before attempting the walk around the headland.

Lunch with a great view

Another boulder field, this time with quite a well-laid path and strategically placed boulders to follow but still tiring with a big rucksack. Made it round without being swept away to sea which is always good (!) and onto the start of Blackwaterfoot beach. Soft sand is really draining to walk on! Eventually the sand got harder and I made it to Blackwaterfoot with hot feet and gasping for another cup of coffee. It was so nice to take off my shoes and relax for a while after refilling my water bottle and finding coffee (Unfortunately the bakery and sandwich shop were both shut but the hotel came to the rescue!)

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…

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

Endurance or enjoyment?

I read a post on one of my favourite Facebook pages the other day where a lady was asking about completing the Arran Coastal Way in less days than the suggested six/seven because the daily mileage didn’t seem high enough (slightly paraphrased!) I think I was tired and grumpy and my hackles rose just a little bit. For a brief moment I felt as if my efforts weren’t quite good enough. I am planning to take the whole six/seven days, take in the scenery, explore the caves, swim in the sea and plod along happily… I got over myself!

I’m a 46 (ahem) year old mother, staring the menopause straight in the face, a dodgy hip and 17 years of hypothyroidism under my belt. I never have been and never will be super fit, super energetic and super enthusiastic about notching up as many miles in a day that I possibly can… and it doesn’t matter.

It’s so interesting reading other people’s posts and blogs, finding out about their adventures and their plans, some I would jump at given the chance, and others I would run a mile from (if I had enough energy!) Everyone is different, with different bodies, different opportunities, different wishes and that’s what makes the world go around.

My plan to walk the Arran Coastal Way on my own, wild camping, carrying all my equipment may be a drop on the ocean for some people but it’s a biggie for me, one that makes me nervous and excited at the same time. The reasons are many, life is short and it’s too easy to get dragged along in the everyday of ‘getting by’. So, enjoyment or endurance? Personally, I would choose enjoyment every time.