Day 123 & 124, Wed, Thurs 2nd & 3rd August. Kilmelford to Lochranza, Isle of Arran.
I woke at 8.30am, slept right through without waking once, my head was splitting but I hadn't wet my sleeping bag so not all bad news. I hadn't been discovered in the little church so I packed up and left leaving no trace of me having been there but feeling like I'd been a very naughty boy. It's ok to sleep in my tent, tucked away behind a church or in the graveyard but I felt like I'd pushed my luck by sleeping inside the church. I wouldn't make a habit of it although I was very grateful for the excellent sleep I'd had.
I left the church and walked south, my day being a mixture of road walking and short bus journeys, a large part of this section headed inland on busy, fast moving roads so I was careful to study the map as best I could to avoid the most dangerous looking stretches of road. I'd walked all morning and decided to sit down on some rocks to have a rest, get some air to my feet and have a bite to eat, typically as had happen countless times, I had just sat down and started eating when a rain cloud decided to open right above me so I scrambled to get my socks, boots and waterproof on and carried on walking, munching my lunch 'on the hoof' !!! With no cover from the rain, I don't really have any choice and thinking about it, there has only been one day in the past month when it hasn't rained at some point during the day, this west coast of Scotland certainly is a wet place...
After a relentless day of jumping up and down from grass verges and hopping on and off buses I eventually walked into Lochgilphead, knowing that there was a campsite I headed straight over there. The owner greated me and kindly allowed me to pitch up free of charge, he'd seen me in Oban a few days earlier and had read the poster on the back of my rucksack so he knew what I was up to. I washed my clothes, had a hot shower and walked into town to charge my power packs and phone and to find the Masonic Lodge. I found the lodge which was all locked up so went into the only pub still open in the town, there were three others but all were closed down and in various states of disrepair. Charged up and having failed to find any contact details on line for anyone in the Lodge, I thought I'd check one last time to see if there was anyone in. Shocked to find the door open I went inside and interrupted a rugby club meeting but was assured by the reigning Master, who just happened to also be part of the rugby club, if I returned at 9pm and if the meeting had finished, he'd show me round. I had rations in my tent which I was planning on cooking tonight but to waste an hour I decided on a Chinese takeaway instead which I ate in the park looking out over loch Fyne. I'd not had a Chinese for months and certainly hadn't had one since starting this walk on New Year's day, it was fantastic... I did return to the lodge at 9pm and again at 9.30pm but the meeting was still in full swing so I gave in and headed back to my tent.
I'd walked about 3 miles the following morning, stopped at a little cafe for a coffee when my phone rang. It was Gavin, the WM from Lodge Loch Fyne No. 754 back in Lochgilphead, he apologised that their meeting had gone on for so long but offered to come and pick me up so I could visit the lodge.
Another beautifully decorated lodge room with incredible paintings on the walls and ceiling and another lodge that is being so well looked after by its members. Gavin was a busy man and I didn't want to take up too much of his time so he kindly delivered me back to where he picked me up and I carried on walking down the loch towards Tarbet. I was mistaken to think this was a safe road to walk, the traffic was flying up and down so I was repeatedly jumping onto the verge or running accross the road to avoid being in the firing line on blind bends. I'd had enough so asked a chap cutting his grass if there was a bus stop nearby, there was just up around the next bend and I couldn't believe my lunch when the timetable showed that the next bus would be along in 5 minutes, what a stroke of luck. Sure enough, 15 minutes later the bus came flying around the bend, probably going as fast as his speed limiter would allow him so I jumped up and down at bit waving my arms around so the driver definitely knew I wanted to get on, he simply looked straight through me, never eased up a bit and flew straight past !!! I was not happy and I think I may have swore a couple of times... 🤬 looking again at the bus timetable, it was two hours until the next bus so resigned to the fact I'd just have to get on with it I started walking but stopped quickly when a car horn behind me made me turn. The chap cutting his grass had seen the speed the bus was travelling so realising it wasn't going to stop, he jumped in his car to give me a lift. Thank you Alan, that was a very kind gesture and being good friends with Gavin, the WM of the local lodge, you really should consider joining. 😉🤝
Delivered safely to Tarbet, I got some lunch and sat by the harbour watching the boats coming and going and the tourists busying themselves in and out of the shops. I'd noticed that there seemed to be a lot of places up here called Tarbet, very confusing to a moron trying repeatedly to find his location on the map but did you know ?? The name Tarbert is the anglicised form of the Gaelic word tairbeart, which literally translates as "carrying across" and refers to the narrowest strip of land between two bodies of water over which goods or entire boats can be carried (portage). In past times cargoes were discharged from vessels berthed in one loch, hauled over the isthmus to the other loch, loaded onto vessels berthed there and shipped onward, allowing seafarers to avoid the sail around the headland... back in the 11th Century the Vickings did exactly that and dragged their boats from the west loch into the east loch marauding through Argyll's Western seaboard, effectively creating an extension of the Norwegian Kingdom... stick with me kids, every day is a school day... 😉
That'll be why there are soo many Tarbets around this coast line...
Anyway, after I finished my lunch I headed down to Claonaig to catch the ferry over to The Isle of Arran. I had initially intended to walk down the length of Kintyre to Cambletown, have a look over the Mull of Kintyre without even thinking about singing that bloody awful song, but then catch a ferry up to Ardrossan. Thankfully, I did some research into the ferry sailing times and I found out that the ferry had been diverted to another route so there were no ferries from Cambeltown until the end of August...
Only a half hour crossing and a short walk up to the campsite at Lochranza to see if they had any availability. They were very busy but I got chatting to Alan and Carol who run the campsite, they were originally from Scunthorpe, they kindly found me a pitch, wouldn't allow me to pay and also made a donation so I added that to the fee pitch and added it to the MCF fund. It was the next morning when I got a text from Stuart back at Walktheedge HQ who notified me that their donation had taken our fund raising effort over the £25,000 threshold. What fantastic news and the milestone was reached by a donation from a lovely couple who originally came from Lincolnshire.
Worth a celebration drink and as my mate Stewart was riding up from Lincolnshire to see me for the weekend, I would save the celebration until tomorrow. 🍺😉