Day 178: Duntrune Castle to Kilmelford
Distance: 25.72 miles
Ascent: 2532 feet
Weather: Sunny, Very Hot
Accommodation: Camping Kilmelford Yacht Haven (kindly Complimentary)
After being fed like a king by Patricia on my rest day, I was ready for the start of another week. With a long mileage, a fair amount of off piste and hot weather forecast I decided to leave early. I set of from the magnificent Duntrune Castle just before 6am, and there was barely a cloud in the sky.
The first part of the day had taken a fair amount of planning, trying to find a route that would stay closeish to the coast and also steer clear of the busy A816. The start of this was fairly easy following farm tracks to Slockavullin. From here it followed roads, and tracks passing many historical monuments such as burial mounds, standing stones and stone circles showing that this area had been lived in for a very long time.
After reaching Carnassarie Castle, my route started to head uphill on an old coach roach that was now quite overgrown but still easily followable. But there was an issue a massive amount of horseflies literally everywhere and I was being attacked, unfortunately it turns out they can bite through my shirt so everywhere on my top half was vulnerable. There was not much I could do other than swish a cloth around to disperse them, but I was bitten a lot of times.
The coach road suddenly became a wide forestry road, and after a sharp turn and still climbing steeply I came across a large excavator remaking the road. The issue being until the driver saw me I couldn’t continue on, so I stood about 20m behind the excavator and had to just wait for the driver to see me which fortunately after 5 minutes or so he did and he moved the digger arm out of the way and waved me through. Then about half a mile later, for the first time on the walk, I came across actual forestry work and I was a bit worried I would not be able to walk through but there was nothing stopping me so I carried on along the track. Halfway through the site a guy came up to me, and said the road I was on stopped in a few hundred meters. I told him I knew this and was hoping to go off piste from the end and he said he was pretty sure this wasn’t possible to walk due to the pine plantations being to dense to walk through. Undeterred I carried on, as I had a little plan that I hoped would work even though I was a little apprehensive. The plan involved following the direction of series of telegraph poles that I believed continued from this forest track all the way to the public road in about a mile.
The plan was working as I headed though the newer pine plantations, but on the edge of the taller pines quite a few had fallen over completely taking out the telegraph poles/lines and blocking the cleared route but fortunately it was possible to walk behind the roots of these fallen trees and then rejoin the cleared area and I was soon through the wooded area and even more luckily just over a drystone wall I came across a quadbike track that took me down to the public road.
This road was not great for walking as no real verge and vehicles were driving fast but I only had to follow it for 500m or so before turning onto a much quieter road heading south towards Ardfern. I took a little break in Ardfern, a place which seemed to have at least 10 times as many yachts moored up than actual houses.
I continued down the quiet road to Kirkton where after passing Craignish Castle I started heading up the other side of the little peninsula. This section would involve many miles of off piste walking but I had thought this bit would be fine. How wrong could I be! The parts that I wasn’t expecting to be off piste (farm tracks, historical paths) just didn’t exist and were impassable so I had to come up with an alternative. So, from Achanarnich, I decided the only option was to head down to the little bay and try and directly follow the coast. It was surprisingly hard to get down to the first bay, as it was steep, boggy and I had to force my way through thick bracken. Once down the first mile or so was not too difficult as there were sheep tracks and flat ground and in fact there was a group of sheep that led me through it. But after this mile the going got very difficult, with rock scrabbles, and constant little ups and downs. In fact there was one small section only about 3 meters where I actually had to use my boulder skills as there was a gap between 2 rock ledges. Due to the strata it was simple with simple hand holds and a thin ledge for my feet and not a risk (even if somehow I had fallen it would of only been 1m into deep water) and I made it easily across. Eventually I did reach Craobh Haven absolutely exhausted and I had to grab a pint of coke and just sit down for 20 minutes. A stretch that I had hoped to have completed by 12:30 had actually only been completed about 14:30.
After my break I had a short section of track walking before finally having to join the A816 proper. Fortunately, there was a little verge but it still did not make for nice walking with fast cars going by. I was on this road for about 5 miles. I had kindly been offered a free pitch at Kilmelford Yacht Haven, and was proposing to walk into Kilmelford and get supplies in the shop and then head down to the Yacht Haven which according to google maps and the site was in Melfort. But suddenly I saw a sign/entrance for it a mile short of Klmelford which was confusing. But I needed some food so would have to walk the mile to the shop and then back again which was not ideal but would mean I had food and then somwhere with a shower and WI-Fi.
I finally arrived back at the yacht haven where they had kindly let me pitch for free. I decided exhausted and boiling the best plan of action was to dive into the loch. Even this didn’t go right, as I was walking down the jetty to dive off, there were literally hundreds of jellyfish so I had to abort and just submerge myself in the shallows quickly.
After a shower I felt more human again and in fact the Wi-Fi reached my tent so I was able to watch the England v Belgium game.
A very tough day, with seemingly lots being thrown at me; horse flies, impassable routes, sweltering heat, finish location in a different place and finally jellyfish! But at the end of the day it was completed, as you can see from photos scenery was stunning and the football was a bonus.