(Stage 2) Kilchattan Bay – Port Bannatyne
The second stage of the West Island Way, as I broke it down, takes you from Kilchattan Bay to an area located south west of Port Bannatyne, a small coastal town on the island. The combination of the Kilchattan Bay Circular and this stage finds you walking a distance of around fifteen miles (half of the total route) which is achievable in one day for an average hiker like myself.
As you leave the woods of Kilchattan Bay you head north west through two gates towards the coast. Keeping the grassed airfield and then the golf course (behind seven foot high horse bushes) to your right (north) you know that you are on the right path.
At this stage of the walk I noticed the weather looking to make a change in the distance and felt the spatter of rain but thankfully this didn’t come to much. As I hand-railed Stravanan Bay it actually made a dramatic skyline across Inchmarnock in the distance.
At these points, when I have everything that I need to survive on my back and a view or a sensation like this catches me, life becomes amazing! For me at least, the snares of modern life fade into nothing around these moments and I feel so alive… so free.
After soaking up the views and letting my mind drift for a few minutes I called Sid and we pushed on. Heading away from the coast towards the Scoulag and Birgidale trig point, which sits at an eye-watering 123m (403ft) high, saw us pass through Langalbuinoch farm yard where the owner appears to have had enough of walkers. The gate into the yard was secured closed by chains and the only option was to climb over it, quickly pass through the yard and head for the main road (A844) so as not to disturb the resident dog.
The small 200m portion of the A844 that we had to walk until the next path had to be done so with some care. The road has a 60mph speed limit with no pavement or path either side. Luckily for us I am quite big and wear a bright orange jacket so felt relatively safe. Sid was back on his lead for this small stage until we reached the new track.
From the A844 to the Scoulag and Birgidale trig point we walked a relatively well used vehicle track lined with hedgerows and more bright yellow gorse bushes. The hedgerows had some breaks which were just enough to give you glimpses of the stunning coastal views towards Inchmarnock island and further afield. Again, these views were simply superb on the day and the slowly moving weather added to the scene.
At Scoulag and Birgidale trig point Sid and I took a breather and I dropped my ruck-sack for a while. I always have a burning desire to press-on, which I know comes from my Army days. Taking the time to actually sit and allow myself to enjoy the views does absolute wonders for my mind and fuels my desire to explore more. Simply seeing mountains in the distance makes me want to journey and explore just that little further… what’s over that next hill?
While relaxing, I kept a watch on the weather just north of where we were heading and it was beginning to creep in our direction. I made the decision to pull on my jacket again and rightly so because around a mile along the path saw a slight downpour catch Sid and I. Luckily along the route there are information boards (which highlight the various walking routes) and they have a small roof. Sid and I exploited one for a few minutes before continuing on.
This portion of the route sees you head north to the B881 road which you are guided to cross before entering the neighbouring field. I had to alter my route a little to accommodate the local residents at this point. When I was planning this journey I watched Hounds of Howgate’s experience and saw that he encountered some lively and inquisitive cattle at this field. As I approached the double field I hoped that the cattle would either not be present or at least be in one of the two fields, leaving one free to walk through. Neither of my hopes were met as the fields were opened through and the cattle had full use of both sides, plus they were more than happy to herd and keep an eye on me.
Deciding not to battle the herd I walked to the next field, crossed over it and made my way down to the Loch Fad causeway, close to Lochly Hill. By now we had been walking for around seven hours and Sid was really soldiering on but I didn’t let him know we still had three miles to go until we could rest for the day.
I deviated from the advised route, which takes you around the western side of Rothesay, so that we could head into Rothesay and re-stock some provisions for the evening and following day. After a short but steep climb back out of Rothesay, past the old Rothesay Academy school building, we re-joined the route and made our way to camp for the night. Thankfully the road flattens just after the old academy and I was able to enjoy a few more great views back towards the mainland while Sid sniffed around the ditches and had a look in to see the sheep.
My intention was to stay somewhere close to the Kames Hill Plantation as it was shown as a wooded area on the map however when we arrived there I found it to be somewhat different. The plantation to the east of the track had been a commercial forest but was now felled and the deciduous woods to the west of the track offered little in the way of pitching spots. There was a wide clearing, big enough for my tent, at the southern tip of the mapped plantation and having found nowhere better close by I decided we would stay here for the night. Sid was just thankful we were doing no more walking that day.
As I pitched the tent Sid seized his opportunity and laid down for some well earned sleep… right up until the point where I opened his dinner. After feeding Sid, making his bed and feeding myself it was around 20:30 and time to make a hot drink. I stood around and enjoyed the relatively limited views on offer, feeling great to be out exploring again. It wasn’t long however until we were both tucked-up for the night and enjoyed a solid sleep right through until 06:45 the following morning when we would set off to complete our journey.