What a day! It’s been immense!
We walked 10.3 miles over some truly magnificent terrain with views that were breathtaking in grandeur and sheer beauty. No photograph I have taken could capture how beautiful it was today and how it made us both feel.
If it’s okay I would like to briefly mention something from yesterdays post, because I feel that I have done a disjustice to the first section of the West Island Way.
In yesterdays post I included an image of a hypodermic needle. I did debate with myself if I should include it or even mention it in my write up last night. I obviously did, and it generated a lot of responses and messages. In hindsight I think it was wrong to include it as it took away or detracted from how beautiful and epic this section was, and gave it a overall feeling that I did not want or intend. I feel that I didn’t do it justice yesterday to how incredible the area is, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anybody.
Today, we packed up and tidied up the flat at Kilchattan Bay heading off at about 8.30 am. It was cold, but with hardly any wind at all it felt warm and cosy. The sky was bright blue, the sun felt warm through the cold air as we started to walk.
It felt a bit sad to leave as the area is so beautiful, but the feeling soon left us as we walked along the most wonderful forest path watching deer running and jumping like new born lambs. There were patches of hard frost still on the ground that looked like snow had fallen and the breeze was so gentle it felt like a hug. There was something about this mornings walking that just felt perfect. Eve and I were walking feeling a really deep sense of happiness and well-being.
The forest path reached a country road that we crossed to walk down a grassy trail and into a large airfield. The airfield had picnic tables that we stopped at for a brief break and to sip some of our hot coffee and juice from our flasks.
The airfield is maintained by volunteers with information on how you can donate to its upkeep. I had no idea that there were ‘free’ airfields that’s people could use for a contribution that was less than the cost of a car parking ticket.
The route then went round the edge of a golf course and around Stravanan Bay. It always surprises us how many golf courses there are about. They seem to be absolutely everywhere! Stravanan Bay is beautiful and the noise from the waves lapping the shore with the noise of high pitched bird song was incredible.
The West Island Way has been one of the most amazing trails that we have walked so far and if it continues like this, I think it could be one of our favourites!
We encountered a small issue soon after Stravanan Bay. A field full of cows and calves. We kept to the edge, navigating large areas of muddy swamp. The cows left us alone, thank goodness, however the route took us up a small farmers track lined with barbed wire fences of each side. As we got up there we saw 4 bullocks who were very skittish! We walked carefully until we came to a gate into an adjacent field that we used to escape the track. We were concerned the track would end and the bullocks would only have one option, to run past us or at us! We walked through the field when all of sudden the bullocks ran in our direction and jumped the barbed wire fence like a horse in the Grand National. They jumped into the other field on the opposite side of the lane. Eve and I were amazed seeing cows jumping a barbed wire fence. We normally feel fairly safe walking past cows with a fence between us, but after seeing the bullocks jump I don’t think we will feel quite as secure behind a fence, even when it’s barbed wire!
We entered the farm at the top of the trail to see 4 bulls in pens. Eve wanted to say hi so we went to a pen and Eve tried to stroke one. It backed away and stood looking at her. It didn’t do anything, they just stood looking at each other, until I encouraged Eve to walk on.
We followed a country road for a few minutes before turning off onto a track flanked by trees and gorse bushes. Eve at this point found a second wind and I struggled to keep up with her until we reached the top. Once at the top the trail turned grassy and we found a small gateway to stop for a break at my request. Eve had exhausted me!
Today we had been talking a lot about Harry Potter again and finished listening to her audio book - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. To give you an idea how little we have been listening to stuff this year and how much we have been talking, Eve started to listen to this audio book last year on our JOGLE and had only 9 hours left. She only finished it today after borrowing it from the library more times than I can remember!
We walked for several miles over open moorland. This was one of the best stretches of the trail today and the views were breathtaking all around, seeing the sea, lochs and mountains. It was outstanding and given how little energy is needed to get up here the scenery could not have been any better. It felt perfect.
We continued walking passing a small trig point, a huge friendly horse and a few large information boards for local walks including the West Island Way.
As we dropped down off the moors we passed a small loch called Loch Ascog that looked amazing set against the backdrop of the Firth of Clyde.
It was soon after this that Eve decided she wanted to listen to some music. Eve asked to listen to Pink but specific songs so we spent a while finding songs that were not explicit for Eve to sing along too. Even Sarah was helping at this point as we had just spoke to her.
We crossed the B881 to descend towards Loch Fad to cross at the causeway. Again it was spectacular to look up the Loch towards the hills and mountains of the Isle of Aaron.
I really can’t think of many negatives about the whole West Island Way so far, it’s absolutely spectacular with so many little surprises, it’s like the gift the keeps on giving.
We did have to do a little bit of road walking which is almost unavoidable on any trail. The road was quiet and we didn't meet a single vehicle except a tractor that was parked up with some farmers talking to each other.
The hardest (if that’s what you can call it) section was just after the B878 that goes around Rothesay. It was full of holes that made the walking really hard, putting our feet on every conceivable angle. It was exhausting. There was also a lot of muddy areas that lucky were dry. If it had been raining I think the whole area could of been a quagmire. It was also hard to navigate and to work out what side of various boundaries we needed to be. As it turned out it didn’t matter as you could cross them all easily but it’s still a challenge as you don’t want to walk for a mile only to realise you have to walk the same mile back again to be on the opposite side of a hedge!
Once we had reached the far side of Rothesay we left the West Island Way and headed into the town.
First job was to find the coop to get some supplies for the next few days. Dinner this evening was pasta with garlic bread and an orange each for pudding. We also got some breakfasts, lunches and dinner for tomorrow night to carry with us. I find resupplying incredibly stressful and one of the few times when doing long distance hiking I feel autistic. Eve is great and just lets me get on with it in my own way and answers my infinite questions with patience.
Leaving the coop we then walked to the seafront to find the hostel we are staying in this evening. We love hostels. There is something about hostels we like. The atmosphere, the access to everything such as kitchens and lounges and the general informal and laid back approach to everything. This hostel is great and the owners very friendly and very accommodating. A great place to stay if you visit Rothesay or the Isle of Bute.
After getting to the hostel we dropped our bags off and headed out to have a walk along the coast (we hadn't walked enough already l) and to scope the port out.
I wanted to do this as most people know I have a huge issue with public transport and I’m already losing sleep over the thought of having to navigate getting on the ferry without Sarah. I also wanted to know if there was somewhere to sit and wait for the ferry if, when we get there, it’s raining and we have to hang about.
We popped into the other coop and I got Eve an ice cream using some of the donations we have so kindly been given on Buy Me a Coffee. On behalf of both Eve and I, thank you so much!
We are now back at the hostel in bed getting settled for the night.
The trail today has been spectacular and I think it’s going to take a lot of beating!
Sleep well and we will see you tomorrow!
Ian & Eve