Day 174: Port Ban to Castlesween
Distance: 19.97 miles
Ascent: 1867 feet
Weather: Sunny & Hot
Accommodation: Wild camp Castle Sween
I was up early as per normal and on opening my tent flap, I immediately saw an otter swimming by, diving occasionally, and then within a few minutes he was gone. I took this as an omen that today was going to be a good day, and after packing everything up I was on my way not long after 7.
My original plot had me going along the road here, but from my pitch spot it looked like I could follow the actual coast. This also meant I wouldn’t have to backtrack almost 1km up and through the holiday park, so I just headed North straight from the little camping field and across a little river and beautiful Cretshengan bay. At the end of this bay there was a little chapel ruin which was very quaint, but I couldn’t follow the bottom of the rocky outcrop so I followed a faint track which headed up and over the rocky outcrop before following the ridge for a while from where the views were amazing.
On dropping back down there was no track at all and I had my own private beach, in fact several, all to myself. The first bit of walking was fairly easy along sand and short grass, and then I suddenly disturbed a group of sheep which I hadn’t noticed at all as they were camouflaged with the sand on the beach.
In fact these sheep were quite useful as the next stretch had longer vegetation and they led me through a good way which if I could speak sheep I would thank them for. At this point I passed what must be one of the most remote camping pods (normally they are just stuck in the corner of a camping fields so not overly exciting), presumably this is just for the landowner as it is in the middle of nowhere (see photo below) but it would be amazing to stay in it and there were a couple of canoes tucked just behind it.
The final bit of this off piste section involved a fair distance of rock scrambling but I made it to the road and was very satisfied by this first very remote/scenic section. The road was very quiet and followed exactly along the waters edge so made for nice walking and meant I got a bit of a breeze on this already boiling day.
I was tempted by a short cut across the Ceann Loch Caolisport that would link me up to the road on the other side of the loch without heading inland, but I decided against it as there was a river shown on the map on the other side. So I took the road inland slightly before joining the even smaller road which would take me down the other side of the loch. And on reaching the other side of the bay it was clear I had made the right choice as the river was quite wide and deep.
This road was more of a glorified driveway but it took an incredible route literally right along the edge of the loch it must have been a nightmare to originally lay this road, but it made for lovely walking as I was getting a gentle breeze and dappled shade from the trees. I diverted slightly to see Columba's Cave which was intriguing as people (presumably religious) had obviously left coins over the years even though it is not near anything. At the end of the public part of this road I reached the Ellary Estate holiday cottages, I knew this was my last chance to get water so I knocked on one of the doors (after having taken off my Lawrence of Arabia style headgear) and they kindly filled my water up for me.
From here my route followed the private road (private for cars, but it is also a core path) up the hill and it was quite a steep ascent with a few switchbacks. Where this plateaued out at the top the views across the plateau were incredible with two small lochs and peaks all around and the track winding across it. Apart from encountering some cows and their calves on the road which I had to detour around I really loved this little three mile stretch.
This track then joins another small road on the next loch, Loch Sween, and if I’m honest I think the views in this loch were even better than the last, looking again over towards Jura amongst other things. I passed the small hamlet of Kilmory which had a stunning sandy beach below it with a couple of yachts anchored down and the road took me most of the way to Castlesween but I decided to divert down to the coast about 500m short of the holiday park and then walk along the coast.
It would have been ideal to pitch in the holiday park as it has a little shop, and a bar with wi-fi for doing the diary but on emailing I had been told they couldn’t take tents, and as I was walking through anyway, I thought I would ask again and got the same answer. It took me a few minutes to work out a plan but I believed the actual castle, Castle Sween, which is on separate bit of land was separate to the holiday park so I walked down to the lands edge and pitched within this bit. I was not entirely happy by this (though under Scottish camping rules as not fully enclosed I can camp here) as I like being more remote when wild camping or have got permission if not, but it is a good pitch spot, no one can see it and I will be gone by 7am in the morning. The reason I pitched here was that I was still close enough that I could walk back and make use of the Wi-Fi in the bar, and get dinner as I needed some proper food, and get some bits in the shop (though not much food choice at all.)
Bloody food it is a right nuisance at the moment and I am just about keeping on top of it, though breakfast tomorrow will be shortbread and cookies which is hardly nutritious! I should hit a tiny shop/cafe tomorrow about 9 miles in so can hopefully get some proper food.
A great day, with great scenery and the only grumble I could have was that it was a bit hot so all in all pretty perfect.
My rest day has been pushed back by 2 days for accommodation reasons, so will be on Wednesday.
NB - even after removing about 30 stunning Loch shorts I could still only reduce the photo count to 16.