A Winter's Tale: Ballantrae to Lendalfoot.

Ailsa Craig Here I go again, stealing the second part of Robert Louis Stevenson's title. You can read the first part about the first day here.

Striking camp from place that shall remain nameless. We had struck a deal. Hear no evil, see no evil. I don't want the generous people that allowed us to camp to get into trouble for their kindness. A story for another day, possibly. Anither time. It felt colder than Saturday, pulling the pegs for the Gram-counter Gear LiteHouse Solo. My hands were going numb and I had all my layers on. Brrrr. I don't think it WAS colder. It just felt it. Gone were the clear blue skies and weak winter sun to be replaced with cold gun metal grey clouds. The breeze was still there, not helping matters. I was slower than Phil packing up, he had already legged it back to the car and the warmth of it's heaters. I wasn't long behind. Not a morning for hanging around. Hopefully it would clear. Even if the sun broke through just a little it would feel better.

Phil had the car started and the heaters on and his fingers were starting to get there feeling back. I just huddled in my layers hoping to heat up soon. Strange to be so cold after being so warm the night before in the Therm-A-Rest Haven bag. Once I had figured it out. It's always the way, losing all the heat that you've accumulated in your own wee cocoon. We left and joined the road back to Ballantrae. A couple of bedheads not quite fully awake to the world yet but looking forward to another fun days walking. I was anyway.

Back in Ballantrae we stopped at the Spar to resupply. Phil bought another pie for lunch and a big steak pie for his dinner. They are local made pies and he was impressed with them from the day before. Phil knows a thing or two about pies. If he says its a good yin, it's a good yin. I bought two bottles of Irn Bru. My weakness. Sweet sweet nectar. The true drink of the gods. I drink it by the gallon. However I'm not alone in that, just ask Barrs.

With breakfast washed down with half a bottle of Bru. I was ready for the day. No need to be carrying all the gear we had yesterday. Everything other than what was classed as essential got left in the boot. Basically we dumped all the gear in the car except food and liquid and the water proof jackets. We had parked back in the same car park on the Foreland. We crossed the road to where the way markers were indicating the path continued. I had kept my insulated jacket on over my wind shirt and I was glad of the extra heat. Added to that I had my hat on. This served two purposes; one, keeping my head warm, two, hiding the Mr Majeika bedhead from the night in the sleeping bag. Hopefully it would flatten out the ducks tails and coos lick I was sporting. Not that I was likely to bump into anyone I know but you never know, back in the land of my fathers' and the county I grew up in. So vain.

We walked along the Foreland stopping occasionally to read the information boards. I love those boards especially if there made by the locals. Full of interesting little nuggets of local knowledge. From there we walked round to the harbour. It's a picturesque wee thing like a lot of harbours up the west coast. It would look even better if it had some boats anchored in it's lea. Maybe in the summer but it stood proud and strong against the sea, if a little lonely. The coastal path then becomes just that, a coastal path. You make your way along the shore. For us the tide was out but may have been on it's way back in. The beach was made up of firm sand with patches of pebbles and stones. The common make up of the beaches here and great for walking on. Especially in your bare feet during the summer months. Beware though the sea can still be terribly cold even in the height of summer. Ah when I was a boy.

It's a long beach and a longer walk than you think. One of those walks that you have to look behind you to see how far you've come as the head land and it's cave doesn't seem to be getting any closer. Something I was doing frequently. It was a good section to start on and stretch my stiff and unfit walking legs. About halfway along I had built up a head of steam and had to remove my insulated jacket. I didn't want to over heat and build up too much sweat. Eventually or so it felt; not in a bad way, we came to the end of the beach. We made our way off up the path to where a marker gave us a choice. A take it at your own risk sort of offer. You could either follow the new road up and over the head land and down or the old road round but that was your decision. On your head be it. Personally it wasn't a hard choice for me and Phil was of the same mind. The two of us were not for the long hard pull along the new road with trucks, lorries and cars speeding by. Added to the fact that there was no real view. It was agreed. We moved off over a small bridge and joined the old road that I remember more fondly from my younger days.

Snib Scott's Cave

On the old road here is a cave. A cave that I remember well but having never gone in. It took a cairn and Phil to remind me of the story. This particular one was where Snib Scott lived. Originally a banker from Dundee, he just chucked. Decided it wasn't for him, this modern world and he wanted something simpler. Doesn't get much simpler than being in a cave, living hand to mouth. He must have been happy as he lived for many many years. Phil went in for a look about. Too dark for me. I'm a big shite bag in the dark places. It wasn't for me. Even now my hackles are on end just remembering it. I let big brave Phil explore. I just stood in the entrance. He switched on his heard torch and vanished into the back, the abyss. Void of light. To me it was a black hole sooking up all the light. Shiver. I don't think Phil realised that if anything happened back there; like attacked by cannibals, dinner with the De'il or a fall, he was on his own. I would run and jump in the freezing sea before venturing into that particular hell of mine. However I may surprise myself, bite it down and go in there and drag him out. Never say never. Luckily nothing foul happened to Phil and he returned safe.

Snib Scott's Cave

Once the caving expedition was complete we ventured back on to the road and followed it's gently curving incline round the head land. Much more sedate and enjoyable than the up hill slog on the new road. The old road has been claimed back by the local farmer and he's using it for his own needs. It is weird though walking up a full proper road with no traffic. Even although you know there's no cars you still find yourself looking around for traffic.

It was not long until we found ourselves in familiar territory, another river of coo shite and piss. Yep. We were back there again; well not quite physically, that was miles away on the other side of Ballantrae. Anither turgid, festering and stinking road of pish and shit. We had not long got rid of the stench from the day before. It was nowhere near as deep as the previously crap filled road but it was just as wide and just as long. That and another herd of cows; this time beef not dairy, stood between us and the top of the hill. I could see the look on Phil's face and he didn't look best pleased. I imagine mine to be similar but we laughed it off and got on with it. Skirting the slick road by way of the fence on the slightly higher ground and trying not to get entangled in the rusty old barbed wire. I didn't fancy having to stop in at Ayr hospital on the way home to get myself a tetanus jab. Aye a jab not jag because it is like getting punched in the arm. It was almost like Total Wipe out on BBC1 but I didn't fancy splashing down in that liquid road. That would not be funny.

On getting to the top of the hill we now had to join back up with the main road, the A77. Not the best having to walk along the verge. The views to our left were cracking but I can imagine it not being much fun in the height of summer. The coast road here can exceptionally busy. Nose to tail. We were lucky it was a Sunday in January and cold to go with it. At this point the road is all downhill and makes for easy walking and being high on the headland affords stunning views on a clear day. Northern Ireland, The Ailsa Craig, Mull of Kintyre and Arran. Mind you it has to an exceptionally clear day to see the hills of Northern Ireland.

It could be one of those places that if a car doesn't get you, the cannibals might well. Oh? You don't know we have cannibals in Ayrshire. Aye. They stay in caves along the shore at Bennane Point. That's what I was lead to believe, my dad told the story of Swaney Bean like he was real and not some 200 year old tale. Used to scare us running round the beaches. It stopped my sister and I from venturing too far. Sawney Bean will get yi. Personally a great yarn invented by the smugglers that did use those caves, to keep folk out just in case the De'il wasnae awa' wi' th' exciseman. It would take a brave man to go down there an' face off against forty odd hungry rabid cannibalised Ayrshire folk. Just be like square in Cumnock when they kick the pubs oot on a Saturday night.

Down the Road

Having dodged the cars and avoided being boiled in a massive cauldron of human stovies or worse by Sawney Bean and his clan, we made it to Bennane and it's very own five star spa. Not that Phil and I were about to go and get a pedicure. We don't need such things. As we reached the spa, Phil stepped out of sight over the wall. I hadn't notice him disappear from sight, I was too busy looking out to sea. The next thing I knew was  a shout of "Morning!". It was a bit startling, no other soul was about or so we thought. I'm sure the De'il himself was woken, if not him then the dead. It brought me round from my day dreaming out at sea. As I jumped over the wall, I to was greeted with a shouty welcome. It was a guy coming out of the spa laden with towels. I returned the greeting but not as load and continued after Phil. He was checking to see if the walk continued on the beach. It didn't, it still followed the road but had become a Tar McAdam(ed) path.

Kayaking in the bay

Now down at sea level barring a few feet. It was a straight walk into Lendalfoot. When I say straight I mean curvy. As we walked and talked on this easy part we noticed a keen sea kayaker. For keen read nutter. That's what I was thinking. It was cold enough on dry land never mind out in the hypothermia inducing water. My face was nipping a bit with the cold and my nose was running like a dripping tap. Wat-iry snotters. Can't image what it was like for him out there. Braver man than me. He must have had three Adam's aipples. Wearing his baws as earrings. Don't get me wrong, I would love to do some sea kayaking but maybe not the back end of the winter in Scotland? I'm surprised the Ayrshire gulls never thought snack, dinner. Probably too cold for even them to bother.

Varyag Anchor

As we continued on we came across the memorial to the Varyag. Greatest of all the Russian warships. It ended up smashed on the rocks here. Not a fitting ending for such a famous battleship. Even if your driving by it's well worth stopping off for a break and a walk about to read about the Varyag's history. As well as to see the monument at the centre of the memorial. Real communist era Russian design. It is something to see. Impressive.

Monument to the Battle Cruiser Varyag

On the last short leg of this section and bit ahead of time, if I remember correctly. We came into the outskirts of Lendalfoot. Lots of unusual holiday homes. Built of wood in many different styles from Scandinavian to your simple hut with lean-to extension. These have been constructed over the years and it feels that Lendalfoot gets longer by the year. I'm not even sure if these are officially in the 'village' or not. Some are very nice indeed and couple I wouldn't mind owning myself as they have wonderful views. Lucky people. In the village proper it was time to find the bus stop. It's easy to tell when your in the actual 'village', it's all old stone and white wash not bright pealing painted colours and wood.

Looking for the bus stop and finding none. Not like it can hide in Lendalfoot. One street and that's the main road. The guide book said it was by the telephone exchange, a phone box to you and me. If it was, someone had forgot to put out the stop. Maybe they take it away and are laughing behind their net curtains. We walked to the edge of the village. The last hoose or the first depending what direction your coming. It was the auld Smiddy. Where we happened upon a man in a boiler suit painting some ceiling coving. Phil dispatched me and my local accent to ask where we could get the bus. With my one of my dad's many favourite sayings ringing in my ears, "Ya've goat a gid scot's tongue in yir heid, yase it!" Yes; I may have mental issues, hearing voices in my head. "'scuse me chief" it might have been "sur". Doesn't matter either is acceptable in the local parlance. Onywiy. "Ya cudnae tell us whur the bus stoaps?". Yes you always ask in the negative. Like he isn't going to tell you.

Much to our surprise the gentleman spoke with a English accent. He informed us that the bus would stop anywhere on the main road. That made things easier so we parked ourselves down on a seating bench on the way into Lendalfoot. This gave us a easy view to see the bus coming and plenty of time to cross the road to stop it. We had nearly a couple hours to wait. Sunday service in operation, one bus every now and again. It was cold but you could see the clouds were breaking over the Mull of Kintyre and Arran was starting to appear out of the blue. Not a bad place to sit and wait.

Waiting for the Bus

Out came the extra insulating layers as it was biting now that we weren't walking. Hoping that the clouds would get a move on and the sun would start to move closer to us and give what little heat it had to our cold bodies. Phil got tucked into his local pie and me my rolls then I cracked open the Irn Bru. It was now just a waiting game. Waiting for the bus but it wasn't bad in the slightest, good views and good company. Eventually the bus arrived, guess the fare? One pound sixty five pence. Seems to be the standard fair. Same as it was Ballantrae to Glenapp. Then we were heading back to the car and home. Two brilliant days.

Leaving Lendalfoot