The West Island Way | Day 1

The West Island Way | Day 1

The West Island Way is amazing! The terrain, views, variety and landscapes are all amazing. Obviously this is just the first section but it’s amazing.

The weather was harsh though! It was cold and windy, giving a windchill well below freezing. It made stopping for breaks and admiring the views hard, but we still tried. Today we focused on trying to keep moving and limiting stops to just a few minutes. But we didn't get a dumping of snow unlike a lot of areas of the UK. If we had I might have thought twice about walking as this section is quite exposed.

This is the first trail this year we have carried flasks with a hot drink. We don't normally carry them as they are heavy, but after today we might have to start carrying them more frequently or even invest in some smaller, lighter one's, especially for Eve.

We slept well last night with the alarm set for 7 am but we were both already awake. We were up and walking by about 8.30am. Walking outside we could immediately feel the cold and wind hit us.

We are staying in the small village of Kilchattan Bay. It's little more than a street with a post office/convenience store. But what it does have are amazing views. We are on the third floor, which is great as it only makes the views even more amazing. The view is, in my opinion, what sets this place apart.

The living room doesn't have a TV and we like it that way. After all with a view out the window as amazing as this, who needs a TV! Anyway, we like the flat. It's quirky, busy and there is no mistaking that you’re on the coast. If you want to check it out here is the link

We walked the full length of Kilchattan Bay. It has a wide grassy area with loads of benches and picnic areas overlooking the sea towards the mainland. Walking to the start of the trail was not a chore and on the road we didn’t see a single car.

In fact we didn’t see a single person all day, until we got back to Kilchattan Bay and popped into the post office.

Reaching the end of the village we walked down a track that lead to a bus turning area that was also the official start of the West Island Way. There was a large information board and the first signpost and waymarker.

This whole section is very well signposted, and although we always have maps with us (and we regularly use them) we didn’t need to use them once to confirm the route.

The trail started by following the coast along a grassy trail that gradually got narrower and narrower and rocky underfoot.

We passed frozen rock pools, walked over board walks, side stepped some frozen, muddy areas and navigated some larger boulders. The trail was never boring and keep us thinking and switched on. Some trails, especially when on tarmac, you could close your eyes and walk with little concern. This trail you had to take care. It was never difficult, but you had to concentrate.

The best thing by far was the scenery all around. We had rocky cliffs and hillsides beside us and the sea with the most amazing panoramic views with the sun reflecting off the surface making it feel even more spectacular.

I have said it before, and I will say it again, coastal walking is probably our favourite. There is something special about the coast that’s deeply rooted is all three of us.

I can’t help to think some day Eve will ask to attempt the entire UK coastline. The start of it was more or less agreed for a short period last year towards the end of our JOGLE walk!

We paused for a few minutes to check the maps for my own satisfaction when we saw a warning sign telling us to be cautious as the trail was eroding and narrow. I was looking for an escape route if we needed it, but the trail wasn’t that bad. I can understand the warning sign as there was a short section that could fall into the sea at any moment. It’s not a big drop, only about a metre or so, so we made a point of not hang about.

We walked past some amazing rock formations and even a small cave before reaching the lighthouse at Gelncallum Bay.

We decided not to go to the lighthouse, as it was so windy and cold. We carried on around having to walk around some frozen muddy areas that if not frozen could have been quite a challenge.

The whole way Eve and I had been having shouting conversations about Harry Potter and quizzing each other on various facts and Harry Potter general knowledge. Eve knows a lot more than I do. We were having to shout not just because of the wind, but because we both had our windproof jacket hoods up making hearing even harder.

Glencallum Bay is beautiful and clearly very popular with campers or more precisely ‘dirty campers’ to coin a lockdown phrase. There was a fair bit of rubbish and even some discarded hypodermic needles. We carried on walking.

From here the route started to head inland slightly, towards Loch na Leighe. It’s a small Loch that’s more of a Lochan really.

The route was grassy and undulating winding through gorse bushes. We made the most of the shelter the gorse bushes offered by stopping for a snack and to drink some warm coffee and juice. We didn’t stay for long as the cold was still bitter.

The whole section from where we headed inland to arriving back at the flat reminded us both of Gulliver’s Travels, with us being the giants. All the undulations, mini hills, small rock formations etc felt like Scotland as a whole but in miniature. It’s one of those places that you would have to visit to really know what we mean. It was a really fun section of trail to walk.

As we continued on we came up to the remains of St Blane’s Church. It’s an odd looking church, in the middle of nowhere set upon a walled area of elevating ground. We had to investigate, so we walked off trail slightly to visit the church.

The first challenge was to get up onto the raised area. We walked all around it, with Eve keen to climb the wall. I said no as I didn’t want her to damage anything, when we found some steps and a gate leading up.

The church is old and we read some of the information plaques before hiding behind a wall for a snack and a drink.

Unfortunately Eve dropped her water bottle on my knee whilst we sat and the pain was so sharp it brought tears to my eyes. Eve was very apologetic and gave me a huge cuddle that I wasn’t going to turn down.

We left the church and carried on walking, past a farm and up a small hill through a cow field. Once at the top of the field the wind was strong, really strong.

We carefully walked down the other side as it was steep with lots of gorse bushes that we didn’t want to fall into. Again it made the walk interesting, keeping us entertained.

We walked down the hill seeing the roofs of the flats of Kilchattan Bay slowly come into view over the tree tops.

We walked to the back of the flats and carried along the rear gardens to the other side of the village that we had walked to this morning.

Walking back up the street to our small flat we noticed the post office was open, so we popped in.

I bought Eve a treat using some of the kind and generous donations we have received of Buy Me a Coffee. Thank you so much! Eve chose a Calipo ice lolly!!! 😂

After the coldest night of the year and spending all day battling the wind and cold trying to keep warm, Eve chose an ice lolly 🤣. I had a packet of crisps! Thank you all again so much for these donations!

We got talking to the very nice lady who was working and after hearing what we were doing and who for (Scottish Autism) she gave me a free cup of tea and Eve a hot chocolate! Thank you so much! We sat in the post office talking for about half an hour learning about the connection to the Titanic.

The post office had loads of Titanic memorabilia so I asked what the connection was. The owners grandfather worked as a riveter on the construction of the Titanic. Due to his detailed knowledge of the ship and his lifelong work on the construction, he was offered the chance to go to America on its maiden voyage. The whole family encouraged him to go as it was a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’. However he had been away from his family for so long already he didn’t want to be away any longer, so he turned down the opportunity and returned home to Bute. Without that decision none of his family would be alive today, so the post office is a sort of memorial to him and the titanic!

We walked the few metres back to our flat and snuggled down on the sofa under the duvet that we have brought into the living room watching the waves outside and listening to the wind howling outside.

That's it for today, as I have got to warm our chilli up for dinner and get ready for hiking into Rothesay tomorrow.

Ian and Eve

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