Thursday, 24 April 2014

Ardrossan(ish) to Portencross 23 April

Alan, Allan, Andy, Davie C, Davie Mc, Gus, Johnny, Malcolm, Paul, Peter

The weather must be warming up
We welcomed back Paul and Gus from their recent illnesses and hoped that today’s flat walk would get them back in the groove. We were also happy to welcome Peter back from Ballantrae!
The morning was fresh and dry but a wind was blowing up the coastline making a few don jackets to begin with. Undeterred, Gus and the two Davies (not to be confused with the two Ronnies, although, mind you, there was a big one and a wee one in that duo as well – but they weren’t as funny) were resplendent in shorts.
Malcolm demonstrates the long through ball
The walk along the beach from the car park on the shore front to Seamill was uneventful and beyond that most of us took to the path adjacent to the golf course for the rest of the outward journey up to Portencross Road. On the way down to the castle, where lunch was to be taken, the boys showed their footballing skills as a ball had been found. This episode came to an end when it was passed to Davie Mc who demonstrated his close control by sending the ball into a tattie field.
It had only taken an hour and a half to get to our furthest point and by 11 o’clock the return journey, into the wind, was begun. Arriving back at the cars at about 12.30p.m., the first drops of rain started to fall.
This was a good walk which blew away the cobwebs and was easily negotiatd by Paul and Gus. FRT was taken at the Lauriston in Ardrossan.

One dog and her man

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Annbank to Ayr 16 April

Allan, Davie C, Johnny, Malcolm, Robert

This is the life!
Following a number of call-offs, an early morning decision was made to change the scheduled walk from Glenapp to Ballantrae to a more local one. Hence we met at Annbank Bowling Club for our familiar walk from there down to Ayr. The Kilmarnock battalion was resplendent in shorts although the early air had a chill to it as we set off down the path towards the River Ayr. The path had dried out well and before we knew it we arrived at Auchincruive where we were surprised to see that the wall adjacent to the path had been cleaned and restored. Oswald Hall is now in new ownership so this may well explain the renovations. A leisurely coffee break was taken at the Wallace and Burns monument before setting off towards our lunch stop at the stepping stones over the river. We hadn’t tried to cross over today as we are compassionate people and we know of Davie’s aversion to crossing here, but it was just as well as the water was still tumbling over them.
Try these for thighs
The wall looks moorish
The rest of the walk down to Ayr was uneventful other than when we crossed the footbridge over to the UWS side of the river. There was a booming noise as we crossed which we discovered was being caused by the walkway bouncing, the far end of it having become detached from its footings. Scottish engineering at its best again!
Having reached the High Street we had twenty minutes to spare before catching the bus, so the time was spent browsing  in Waterstone’s .
No explanation necessary
Still too much water to cross
FRT was taken at the Tap o’ the Brae. Another good day out in fine walking conditions.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Bute 9 April

Alan, Allan, Davie C, Davie Mc, Gus, Jimmy, Johnny, Robert

Looking back down on Rothesay
The rain continued to fall as we took a pre-sailing coffee in the coffee shop across from the terminal at Wemyss Bay. The forecast, however, assured us it would dry up so it was with some optimism that we embarked on the 10.15 ferry and headed for Rothesay. By the time we docked the rain had stopped and we disembarked to notice that the bus, which usually waits for the ferry passengers, hadn’t, and was on its way to the south of the island. Sometimes you wonder if Scotland really is serious about tourism!
Leaving Kerrycroy
The driver of another bus advised us that the next bus for Kilchattan would not be for another forty-five minutes so a decision was made to do the walk in reverse i.e. walk to Kilchattan and get the bus back rather than the other way round. The initial stage was a bit of a shock to the system as it was a steep climb up a series of steps before joining Serpentine Road for a slog up to the top of the hill overlooking Rothesay. Those of us who were not getting their breath back took time to admire the view and to take some pictures. We turned right and passed by the caravan park before going ‘through’ the golf course (the course has holes on either side of the road – some of them with very steep inclines) before heading down to the north side of Loch Ascog where we exchanged pleasantries with workers upgrading the waterworks. The road climbed again before descending to the main road on the east side of the island. A few hundred yards up the road was Kerrycroy village where we stopped for sustenance.
The next section took us through the grounds of the Mount Stuart estate although, since we kept close to the beach, the house itself did not come in to view. The path here was suffering from the recent rain and was muddy, but progress was not hindered. We stopped briefly at the remains of an old slipway and boathouse and also at an old graveyard where the great and the good from yesteryear were laid to rest.
The walk gets the seal of approval
Kilchattan Bay at last
We ventured on to the beach for a stretch, the walking here not the best due to softish sand and loose gravel, but soon had to leave it due to rocks making the going too difficult. A path was found which enabled us to skirt the obstacle and we remained on it until it gave way to open fields. (The path itself may well get overgrown in the summer months). The walking at this stage was mainly O.K with only a few wet and muddy sections to negotiate and soon Kilchattan Bay was reached. The tide was out and the walk along the beach was good, although by this time there was definitely a touch of moisture in the wind. As we reached some cottages at Kingarth, the boys in front saw the bus at the far side of the bay so the pace quickened as we found the side road which took us back to the bus route where, although we hadn’t reached the bus stop, the driver obligingly picked us up. Great timing, or what? Well done to Alan for suggesting this walk, one we hadn't done before.

Some took the hard way on to the beach

On the bus back to Rothesay we decided to partake of FRT at the Taverna Bar but, as we approached the pier, we saw that the ferry was just docking so the earlier decision was reversed and we took the three o’clock sailing back to Wemyss Bay and lodged ourselves in the Station Bar where amongst other things the talk was of pandas and ninety-five piece domino sets i.e. the doms go up to double twelve. Johnny has purchased ‘more than one’ set of these and, keen to offload some of his homebrew, is going to organise a domino tournament in the near future.
Strangers on the shore
I would post his rules for the competition but they would breach the upload limit for the blog. Anyone with a few spare terabytes of memory can download them straight from JM himself.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Greenock Cut 2 April

Allan, Andy, Davie C, Davie Mc, Gus, Jimmy, Johnny, Peter, Rex, Robert

The weather was bright and sunny as we travelled up from Ayrshire to neighbouring Inverclyde for the Greenock Cut walk, but as we gained some height and neared Cornalees Visitors Centre the sky became overcast and threatening, and, as we readied ourselves, we were dismayed to find that the strong wind had an icy chill to it. This did not deter Davie C who was the only one of us to adorn shorts today. Davie Mc – eat your heart out!
Whilst leaving the car park we were approached by a couple of workers keen to know who we were.
Apparently, as a cost saving measure, the authority is seeking to close the visitors centre, so the workers are trying to gain as much evidence as they can as to the number of people using it to justify its retention. It was also noted that a couple of cables running across the entrance of the car park were part of a vehicle monitoring system.
We wished the guys well as we set off in our more usual anti-clockwise direction and headed up the incline and into the wind. Having gained the highest point in about twenty minutes it was decided to stop in the lea of a small hillock to take coffee. Peter, being Peter, continued on his own and disappeared into the distance.
Coffee over, we soon caught up with Peter at the first of the small reservoirs and we were to remain as one for the rest of the day. As we made our way downhill the view over the Firth of Clyde and beyond was obscured by the overhead conditions, but there were bright spots in the distance and the sky gradually lifted.
By the time we were following the cut above Greenock, we were out of the wind and the going became much more comfortable, although the pace remained brisk. The usual landmarks were noted e.g. the prison, hospital, school, and comment was made regarding the past glories of the IBM factory in Spango Valley, now employing a fraction of the original workforce.
Lunch was taken a wee bit further along the cut than normal, in order to get shelter from the wind again, and a pleasant fifteen minutes was spent blethering and eating.
Another forty minutes or so was all it took to get us back to the cars before continuing down to McCabe’s in Largs for FRT.
A guid day oot!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

26 March Wanlockhead to Sanquhar

An unusual picture of Davie Mc. The only view we normally see is his backside disappearing into the distance.

Alan, Davie C, Davie Mc, Gus & Jimmy

Down Church Street
      Though it was an early start for some to catch the 8:58 bus at Sanquhar for the short journey to Wanlockhead, the five who made the trip were well rewarded for their effort for today the sun shone, the air was clear and the views extensive. We were to follow the Southern Upland Way from Wanlockhead back to Sanquhar, not a long or particularly arduous walk but one which is turning into a favourite.

Past the old graveyard

      A cold south-easterly breeze, blowing off the top of Lowther Hill, greeted us as we left the bus in Wanlockhead but it was a light breeze and it was on our backs so didn’t bother us unduly as we started off down through the village. Down Church Street we came, down past the abandoned church, down past the barking dog who met its match in Holly, down past the old cemetery, down past the beam engine, down past the slag heap, all the time enjoying the sun and the downward slope of the tarmac. Then the tarmac gave out to an unsurfaced road but still the progress was down the valley. The sun went behind one of the clouds being created by the hill country of the Lowthers and the breeze was chill but this was only a temporary blip in what was to be a great day. We crossed the Wanlock water by a footbridge and our downward progress stopped.

A view down the Wanlock Valley from one of our many 'view stops'
      Now came the first climb of the day, a climb up the valley side, a climb that was eased by being on an old track, but a climb nevertheless. We would follow the track over the hill to the ruined farmstead of Cogshead but that was still in the future. As we climbed the track, the sun made a re-appearance and stayed with us for the rest of the day. The climb was warming up and Davie Mc hadn’t quite recovered from his chest infection so ‘view stops’ were called frequently. The view down the Wanlock valley was opening up for us as we climbed and the abandoned farm of Duntercleugh looked almost Highland with its red corrugated iron shed beside it. And beyond the valley Cairntable at Muirkirk was bathed in sunshine. Not so the Lowthers though for when we looked back they brooded ominously dark under heavy clouds. But these clouds wouldn’t reach us and we climbed on in the sunshine. Against our tradition, a halt for coffee was called at the top of this climb and in a spot sheltered from the south-easterly, we settled down for a casual coffee.

      After coffee our progress lay downward again, still following the remains of the old track, down to the ruins of Cogshead. Again, against our tradition, no halt was made here. Instead we tackled the second and last climb of the day, up the stey slope of Willowgrain to the pass by Conrig Hill. Again this was taken in stages but the top of the pass was reached more easily than expected and another halt was called here, this time for lunch.
Our afternoon stop on the Sanquhar Moors
     Now our progress was all downhill and easy. The views from so high on the side of the Nith Valley ware extensive today; from Criffel in the south to Corsencon in the north, the whole of Nithsdale was spread before us; away in the west Cairnsmore of Carsphairn and the Rhinns of Kells showed that the spring had not yet quite sprung by still holding on to patches of the winter snow. And it was this view as well as the warming sun – we were well sheltered from the cold wind now – that cheered us as we dropped down to Brandleys. Another halt was called and we settled down for a break in the sun. The skylark sang high above us and it took some time to spot it high in the blue. And a whaup burbled its evocative moorland song to remind us that spring is indeed just round the corner. And it felt it as we relaxed in the early afternoon sunshine.
      Gus, the first timer on this walk, was asked if he wanted to view the famous Black Loch. Why he declined was beyond us. Maybe it was because we said we would wait for him coming back. Anyway, nobody viewed the Black Loch today, we just kept on our downward progress over the Sanquhar Moor.
      We came into the town by the Coogate, walked along the High Street and partook of an excellent and well merited FRT in the Crown.
      A great day out. And a hint of days to come?