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Two days on the West Island Way

Two days on the West Island Way

Postby edinbairn » Sun Aug 10, 2014 8:52 pm

Route description: West Island Way

Date walked: 01/08/2014

Time taken: 2 days

Distance: 23 km

Ascent: 400m

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Two days on the West Island Way
Day 1

1st August. Our wedding anniversary. And the now traditional island adventure. This year it’s Bute. We’ve been before, 15 years ago, but it’s easy to get to and time isn’t on our side. The train takes us to Glasgow, then on to Wemyss Bay where the ferry awaits us through a sweeping Victorian walkway. An all too brief Calmac journey and it’s on to the Kilchatton Bay bus. With all transport integrated, we dump our bags at the Kingarth Hotel and are on the road by half one.

From the Kingarth to the start of the official route, we take the road down towards the beach and follow it through Kilchattan to the end of the road at the bus turning circle. It’s possible to walk along the beach for some of the way (cut left down a road, then through some cottages) but it’s no Hebridean plage.
Kilchattan Bay.JPG

The path is easy to find and easy to follow, despite the neck-high ferns. There’s lots of kissing gates, and occasional boardwalks and stepping stones sited where the mud, dry today after prolonged good weather, is a potential threat. Rocky at times too, in wet weather it could be a tad tricky.

We pass a little lighthouse, signalling our entry into a wee world with a mini massif and a baby beach.
Mini massif.JPG

At the end of the beach, we go wrong. The guide promises us a marker post but it doesn’t exist so we follow the path made by others, likely also lost. Don’t make the same mistake. So at the first fork, go right and head up the hill. Easy. Arran looks immense, looming to the left in a sea sparkling in the sun.

Here, the marker posts do appear so follow them to a little loch, backed by volcanic ridges. It’s like Arthur’s Seat but small. It feels a bit Disney.
There’s even audience participation with scary electric fence tension tests.
Electric fence.JPG
We make it safely to St Blane’s Chapel – again the markings were a bit hazy (or we were, as it was heating up) but the aim is to get to the front of it. There’s got to be a better way than the one we took.
St Blane's.JPG

Back on the path, we pass farmland and head for the obvious hill, detouring to clamber to the top and sit in the shade of the cairn amidst a mass of butterflies. It should be chilled, but the forecast hadn’t been good and we’d foolishly come underprepared with suntan lotion and water. But we’re closer that we think and the descent continues from the hill and, steeply at moments, through a wood and back to Kilchattan.

Back at the KIngath, we eat well: the perfect quality/quantity combination of starters from the restaurant menu and mains from the bar. And sleep well too – once we manage to escort a frantic butterfly from our room.

Day 2

It’s raining. Properly chucking it down. We contemplate baling over breakfast but that wouldn’t be in the spirit of things. So waterproofed up, we head back to Kilchattan to pick up where we left off from yesterday. The mud is immense already. When we leave the woods for the wide open spaces of the airfield (perhaps not, as the landing strip did have picnic tables on it) and the golf course, we have wind as well as the rain to contend with. But no stray golf balls to worry about. It’s not a day for golf, not a day for doing anything outside - we don’t see anyone else all day.

We take refuge in a hut at the far end of the course and survey the damage.
We’re both soaked. J’s feet are wet. I tie a binbag round my shoulders, under my supposed waterproof. We push on to the beach. The guide recommends stopping here: there are great views apparently but we can barely see anything, certainly not Arran and not even the next marker. Momentarily lost, we dither in the driving rain. The trick is to walk along the beach as far as the blue corrugated farm buildings then head up the track towards them.

We walk on, through the rain. We sing as we go. You’ll Never Walk Alone, Rose Garden, Runaway and a hilarious round of Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot. We can’t get any wetter. It’s somehow very liberating. We go through gorse and woods and lochs and a field of pretty pink and black cows. I’ve never been so wet for so long.

When we reach Rothesay, the sight of the ferry in the harbour speeds us through deserted streets. We had thought about staying the night in Rothesay before doing the northern stages, but the weather report remains bad and, given the sodden state we’re in, we’d be too embarrassed to try and check in anywhere. On the ferry, we bolt to the toilets to change, wring out our clothes and try to futilely dry off under the hand driers. It may take us another 15 years to finish the route but we’ll be back.

Note: times/distances are taken from the walking guide – my podometer gave up in the rain.
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Joined: Aug 9, 2014

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