Day 172: Tayinloan to West Tarbert
Distance: 20.40 miles
Ascent: 1115 feet
Accommodation: Wild Camping West Tarbert
The sun was beaming through my tent as I woke up this morning, and after packing everything up I set of just before the first ferry left the jetty to Gigha at 8am. I had re-joined the Kintyre Way at the end of yesterday, and the first part of today was lovely along the flat sandy/muddy beach all the way to Rhunahaorine Point.
After turning 90 degress at the point the path followed a mixture of field and beach walking until it was just next to the A83. I did mainly stick to the Kintyre Way along this bit rather than the road but the path was pretty terrible at times having to push through thick ferns (see photo) and other times tramping through boggy soil. Though near Ronachan Bay it took a better route passing two amazing houses before heading inland and up along a pavement to Clachan.
Clachan was my only option of a shop today at a petrol station and I was going to fully stock up as no more shops until the end of tomorrow, so a fair amount of food required. Though it was a petrol station this was a proper local shop and unlike a lot recently actually had lots of good stuff, including loose fruit and good pies. I had a big stock up and had some of it outside as an early lunch so as to lighten the load a little and was on my way.
There was no path for the next bit and the road was busy and headed inland, so I had plotted a route I felt I could follow the coast on. This involved firstly following a farmers track down to the coast from Clachan, this part was easy and very scenic. This track eventually joined a little lane near Corran Farm which I was only on for a few hundred meters, before after Corran Farm heading back to the coast firstly on a little track and then fully off piste just following the foreshore. The going wasn’t too tough following a mixture of mud flat and grassy verge. I passed the end of a little fence and then strangely noticed a strip of grass that appeared to be mowed (strimmed) and indeed there was a little mowed strip alongside the loch which I happily used and then a little bench seemingly in the middle of nowhere which was perfect for a little break. I can only assume there was a big estate inland and they had mowed this path, but it went on for maybe a kilometer, darting in and out around trees, behind a rocky outcrop before stopping eventually at another fence.
From here I picked up another farmers track to Kilchamaig, and after passing the farm, contrary to my proposed route which now headed up to rejoin the road due to a river, I decided to carry on off piste along the loch edge. Once again this was not too hard, but I soon reached the river which as expected was too deep to walk across in boots, so I had to take of my boots/socks and wade across. The cold water felt great on my feet. After crossing and following the foreshore it was not long till I reached Kennacraig Jetty for boats to Islay.
I was extremely satisfied how I had got to this point using all the little tracks and off piste routes to minimise the A83 road walking. But now I felt I had no choice and set of along the road, this seemed much busier and faster than the stretch I had done yesterday, and the verge was narrower. After 2 miles with the verge even narrower I decided it was not safe and I would have to come up with an alternative. I decided to use a house (Wood House) driveway to get me back to the foreshore and hope I could get along from there. This time the foreshore walking was not easy (which is why originally I had not plotted this way) with many rock scrambles and a few slightly sketchy climbs around little rocky headlands but finally just short of West Tarbert Quay I joined a little track which took me passed the quay and onto West Tarbert my finish point for the day.
There was a mowed patch beside the loch across the road from the West Loch Hotel, so I popped into the hotel and asked if I could pitch there and they kindly said I could (though they weren’t entirely sure if they owned it.) This pub/hotel is in the most stunning location, I decided to grab some food in the pub to ensure my food stocks lasted. When I came to pay I was told one of the guests in the hotel had picked up my tab which I was very surprised and grateful about. This was on top of another guest giving me some money for a drink. All the acts of kindness, as well as donations I get on the walk never cease to surprise me and all I can say is thanks as it makes the walk that bit easier.
So, a strangely satisfying day mainly due to the success of the off piste parts, and the scenery was stunning but the road section was a bit of a downer on the day. I am going to say it, I am falling in love with the West coast of Scotland! Even if at times it makes the logistics of the walk very hard.