Day 151: Stranraer to Ballantrae
Distance: 17.50 miles
Ascent: 2500 feet
Weather: hAZY, dAMP mORNING & SHort Spell OF TORRENTIAL RAIN FOLLOWED BY sUN AFternoon
Accommodation: Wild camp Ballantrae Beach
I had a shorter day, so as I was in the static caravan I decided to complete yesterday’s diary and do some admin before leaving. In the end I left about 9:15. The sunny weather had disappeared completely, and it was another very hazy morning with a definite chill in the air. The chill lifted very quickly but the haze actually got worse for the first couple of hours.
The path started directly from the caravan park, and followed the edge of the bay which looked surprisingly beautiful in the haze. There was a very regal looking heron who’s appearance was reflected in the very smooth water, and a couple of seals lying on a sandbank about 50m out making a right racket.
Near Leffnoll Bridge the route got less appealing as it joined the road which even though there was a pavement did not make for nice walking as there were loads of HGV’s flying past on their way to the ferries. I passed the first ferry port which was specifically for P&O ferries, and then there was not much of interest till just before the second ferry port which was for Stena specifically.
Just shy of the Stena ferry the path heads up a farm track and inland slightly. This next section would be much more pleasant, though it did start to rain a bit for a while, though I assumed it would not be too hard so put by rucksack cover on but decided not to put waterproofs on myself. The track headed up and up and up passing a little woodland and some farm buildings before at a disused gun battery it flattened off and though it said track on the map there was now nothing on the ground, and so just had to rely on my map and the occasional arrows. I must of gone ever so slightly wrong as at one point I ended up just the other side of a boggy bit, which I thought I could get across but low and behold I couldn’t and I am sure not for the last time in Scotland I got a boot full of muddy water. This was annoying though nothing major and then just before the track back down to the road the arrows appeared to take another route than what I expected on my map but there was no sign about a diversion so I followed the route on my map, and it became apparent why they may have diverted the path, as the forest track had half disappeared in a landslide and they were actually fixing it as I walked down but it was easily passable on foot.
At the bottom of the track I joined the main road which I had to walk along the verge off for 1km. Just before my turnoff I saw a wooden hut at the side of the road (maybe a bus shelter) and decided to have my last break in it and out of the slight dampness and wind. Literally 30 seconds after I sat down the heavens opened and there was heavy rain, I was so lucky to be in the hut as if not I would have been drenched as I did not have my waterproofs on. In fact the rain was heavy enough that though my break was only meant to be a 5/10 minute one, I ended up sitting out the worst of the rain for an entire hour.
As the rain started to lighten a bit, I got waterproofed up and headed back out, and once across the road I joined the Ayrshire Coastal Path for the first time. It took me up a track, that climbed up the hill for a long while through what felt like a large estate. The sun actually started to come out now and with the waterproofs on, the steep hill and the high humidity I started to sweat a lot but decided I would get to the top before taking them off.
Near the tops the views were stunning with the slowly rising haze and clouds making for a dramatic vista. This track at the top across the moor and farmland was great and took me 3 miles before descending steeply down to Currarie Port. This was a lovely little secluded bay, which surprisingly had 3 very strange looking ‘mountain’ goats on the beach.
The other side of Currarie Port was a completely different kettle of fish to the track before (I should have guessed this as a sign a bit earlier had tried to persuade people to go the scenic inland route). The first climb up was incredibly steep on a gravelly sort of track, before there was one last arrow and then there didn’t really seem to be a path. All I knew is I had to keep the wall on my right and eventually I would get where I want. Slowly but surely I picked up a trial which I think was the right one (very subtle and not that different to the sheep/deer trails) well it must have been as it was the only route through the thick ferny banks. 2 miles without a sign and then I was inundated with the Ayrshire Coastal Path signs and I was soon back on a proper track at Downanhill.
I had actually run out of water about 3 miles ago which is very rare for me, and on a hot (if damp at times) day like today not very sensible, so at Downan Farm I knocked on the door and the guy kindly filled up my water container.
It was a short stretch to the end from here over Ballantrae bridge and then down to the beach where I pitched. It was not the most subtle spot only 50m in front of houses but it was on perfectly flat, mowed grass and I had asked a couple of the houses if it was alright to camp here and they had all said yes.
The Kings Arms Hotel who I had contacted about possibly camping had very kindly offered me a free dinner and drink, even though they had nowhere for me to pitch. So I headed up there from my tent and the dinner was absolutely lovely, and it is much easier doing diaries and admin in a pub on Wi-Fi than sat in my tent.
So a mixed day with some really scenic walking and some road verge walking, and fortunately I was able to sit out the only heavy rain of the day.