Leaving Campbeltown behind, it took me a further three days to complete the Kintyre Peninsula. During that time I walked north beside Kilbrannan Sound with views across to the Isle of Arran and passed through the delightfully named village of Grogport, past Crossaig beach, visited Carradale harbour and parked overnight on Claonaig jetty. Bound for Tarbert, I’d to complete one final section of cross-country walking on the Kintyre Way which I joined at the tiny village of Skipness. Here I found its primary school had recently been closed and boarded up; seeing its empty playground and redundant swings moving idly in the breeze was a forlorn sight. Incredibly, a little further down the road, I discovered a small shop and Post Office that provides a daily counter service to residents.
Along the Kintyre Way forest views, woodland tracks, together with swathes of wind and rain accompanied me for almost my entire journey to Tarbert. I noticed some croft remains but apart from this I saw no sheep, cattle or deer – just acres of trees. Much later, when leaving the forest track to begin a steep descent into Tarbert, I came across Tarbert’s colossal Millenium Cairn, built by a proud uncle when twin nephews were born in year 2,000. I wonder if the babes, now adults, appreciate their uncle’s spectacular effort?! Further down I’d good views over to Tarbert and below I could see a CalMac ferry that would soon transport me across Loch Fyne, and also mark the end of my 120 mile walk round the Kintyre Peninsula.
Having crossed Loch Fyne, we were given permission to park overnight amongst the boats in the incredible Portavadie complex which offers marina facilities, restaurants, self-catering apartments, spa, cottages and much more. The site was originally created in the mid-1970s when it was planned to build concrete oil rig platforms for the North Sea industry. A dry dock was created and a nearby 5 star village called Polphail was built for the intended 500 workers. As so often happens, circumstances can quickly change a plan: OPEC oil prices plummeted and steel platforms rather than concrete were regarded as the way to go, so the yard received no orders.
Despite many alternative ideas being put forward, Polphail was never occupied and the ghost village was only finally demolished at the end of 2016. Part of the Portavadie dock area briefly became a fish farm, but it wasn’t until the Bulloch family came with a new vision that the old dry dock area flourished in its new life. The dry dock now forms the basis of a marina, and the other facilities have been created around it. This is an incredible transformation which is clearly doing well and offers local residents good employment.
Loch Fyne is one of Scotland’s longest sea lochs and as I made my way up its eastern shores I followed the old road with its distinctive finger mileposts. Upgraded and called the West Cowal Timber Route, the road passed through mile upon mile of forestry plantations. Where winds had blown over the conifers there were walls of uprooted trees whose root disks resembled stranded spider crabs. My two day trek up the loch was in weather of complete contrasts: passing through Otter Ferry white horses and rain ripped up the water, but later at Lephinmore, Lachlan Castle, Garbhallt and Strachur the sun shone through the autumnal golds, yellows and oranges.
That night we parked the Van at St Catherine’s village with our head barely inches off the A815 as lorries trundled through the night. The walk on this newly surfaced road with fresh chippings in torrential rain is not one I’d wish to repeat. At my Hell’s Glen junction I discovered the Tinkers’ Heart – a meeting place where travelling tinkers and gypsies met and married. Recently restored, it is a reminder of how people used to travel to make a living. After a steep climb away from the ‘A’ road I plunged deeper and deeper into Hell’s Glen, a steep sided wooded valley with Moses’ Well near the bottom. The moan of the wind in the trees sounded like approaching traffic, fooling me more than once. Inevitably, the drop came before an equivalent hard climb up another valley, to a junction aptly called The Rest and Be Thankful, where I did just that!
This spot was given that name by weary soldiers with a sense of humour, who in the 1740s built the old (military) road that rises up Glen Croe. Here, they placed a stone with The Rest and Be Thankful inscription on it at the head of the Glen. Although the original stone became damaged, it was replaced by another in 1768 which can be seen at the Glen’s viewing point. Today’s main ‘A’ road runs high above and parallel to the military road, but I opted to take the old deserted military road as I pushed on to Arrochar sited at the head of Loch Long.
Next morning it was yet another very wet walk down Loch Long before crossing over to Gare Loch. I was on target to walk into Faslane, HM Naval Base Clyde, the following day. Forty-nine weeks earlier I’d left HM Naval Base Portsmouth to walk 3,124 miles to this Scottish Base. There has to be a quicker way to travel!
See Photo Album Numbers 49 – Walking Loch Fyne; Destination Faslane