Day 163: Dunoon to Ardtaraig
Distance: 19.94 miles
Ascent: 1593 feet
Weather: Overcast, WIth Medium Showers Early Afternoon
Accommodation: Beater's Bothy, Ardtaraig (Kindly Offered on Route)
I had got a lot done on my rest day; laundry in laundrette, haircut, got food supplies for the next 48 hours, printed maps at library, checked tides/ferries/routes/map for walks, emailed a few places about camping and unbelievably I still didn’t quite get everything done. But it had been a good rest day, and very kind of Craigieburn Guest House. After a nice breakfast I was on my way.
The gulf stream has shifted south so the 4 week heatwave on the west of Scotland was coming to an end. The forecast was for rain from about 2pm starting light but by about 4pm being torrential, and then there were weather warnings overnight and for tomorrow morning due to strong winds in excess of 50 mph.
I was leaving about 8am and with 20 miles to walk and mostly flat I hoped, including a little break, I could reach Ardtaraig by 2:30pm. In essence I was racing the approaching storm. The start of the day from Dunoon was along a fairly quiet road heading South, and the wind was already up a bit and the skies were heavily overcast. There was not much of interest along this part up until one of the most bizarre place names I have heard ‘Toward.’ This did answer a query I had 2 days ago when one of the buses had Toward Castle on the front of it and I thought this was strange as there were lots of castles around here, so which was the bus heading to.
At Toward there was a lighthouse that like many I have seen appeared to have been turned into a house. The road now took a 90 degree turn and headed along the south end of the peninsula, which I followed to the sailing club. At the sailing club I decided instead of following the road which headed inland, I would head along the track that followed the coast. In fact this took me through a salmon fish farm area. It felt quite strange walking this way because it felt like somewhere I shouldn’t be even though there had been no signs or barriers along the track at all. There were several circular salmon nets a couple hundred meters of the shore. I walked past the little warehouse and then just shy of rejoining the road I had to join the beach for 100 meters.
I was back on the little road which was even quieter and more remote now. I had been walking for 3 hours straight, but with the overcast conditions and the fact I knew rain was coming I just kept going. I reached a jetty which was apparently military and a large ship was docked presumably filling up with oil.
Not long after this I came across a tractor cutting the road verge, the issue being that the road was very narrow and the driver hadn’t noticed me. So, for about 5/10 minutes I just had to slowly follow the tractor before he finally spotted me and let me passed. The road suddenly became much more presentable with neatly cut verges and tree lined which seemed strange after being this normal narrow quiet road for the last 15 miles or so but it was because I was approaching the Glenstriven Estate.
There is a core path through this estate (though obviously no signs), which starts on a nice simple track for about 1.5 miles. During this stage the rain started and as I had already been walking for 4.5 hours I just sat under a tree and had a little break and my lunch at the same time. I had seen no midges all day but as soon as I sat down I appeared to be surrounded by them so I put some spray on and it appeared to do the trick as though I was still surrounded they didn’t seem to land on me.
After putting on my waterproofs and backpack cover I set off again. I had read the next part might be hard to follow as the gravel vehicle track stops (or actually does a switch back and heads back in the opposite direction) and then it becomes a path. It was slightly tricky right from the start as there were 2 options straight away from which based on the direction I knew which one, but then 10m later this path split into 3, 2 of which were quadbikeable due to the track and one much smaller, I assumed it was the middle one, one of the quadbike routes but after 50m it appeared to be going in wrong direction so took the smaller track which it turns out was the right one.
This path was incredibly difficult to follow, as it was quite overgrown and at places went through bogs and presumably it is not used that often so hard to see the path from the wilderness. But there were little bits that were obviously a path, like through the chest high ferns which without the slight track you would struggle to get through. In fact, even though it was raining this part was strangely satisfying as very time you saw a bit that showed you were actually on the right path it was like a little win.
I finally made it through and was now on the Ardtaraig Estate, based on an email I had sent asking whether I could camp I had been told that I could camp on the estate but to present myself at the house or farm first. I reached the lovely house first so rang the doorbell and a woman invited me in and the gamekeeper who was there recommended due to the storm tonight that it may be better to sleep in their Beater’s Bothy on site which I was extremely grateful for. In fact, the bothy (not a bothy like the other night) was perfect as there was electriticity, water and a wood burner that would enable me to dry things out.
The storm is meant to rage tomorrow morning as well, and as tomorrow is a shortish day I may delay the time I set off. It is extremely windy and wet out there already and only meant to get worse tonight.
A good efficient day and though I didn’t beat the rain, I beat the heavy rain and the full storm. Very happy to be snuggled up inside through the storm.