Compared with some TGO Challenge start points, Ardrishaig is relatively easy to get to, being on the Campeltown bus route from Glasgow. There was the obligatory Hen Party on my Friday morning train heading North but they were relatively well-behaved and not too noisy. The coach to Ardrishaig took me through the planned destinations for my 2nd and 3rd nights and I saw one very wet (probable) TGOC-er putting up his tent behind a hedge at the side of the road. Presumably he’d traipsed along the road from Ardrishaig, which was something I didn’t want to do unless the weather turned really, really foul.
The Grey Gull Inn was welcoming and I heard the usual tales of how everyone else had already set off that morning. With a good few hours before the sun set, I went for a wander around Ardrishaig – which is bigger than I was expecting – and made sure of my route for the morning.
A monument to a local Missionary – killed (and presumably eaten) by Natives. (I don’t know why I found this funny!)
Next day, I was slightly suprised to find spinach as part of my breakfast but set off well-fed, in full waterproofs and following the canal Northwards. This is really the only sensible way out of Ardrishaig if you’re on the Challenge, but I expect most people turn right when they get to Lochgilphead. I, however, wasn’t 100% happy with Ardrishaig’s status as a West Coast town, so I planned to follow the canal until I reached somewhere I regarded as “The West”.
The weather got wetter and wetter as I walked. It was miserable, but I kept my spirits up by laughing at the yachties who were having so much fun with the canal locks. How happy they all looked!I stopped for a coffee at the Cairnbaan Hotel; not because I needed a coffee but because I wanted a short shelter from the rain. At the Islandadd Bridge, I had a paddle in the West Coast water before turning right over the bridge and starting my journey Eastwards.
By now, my camera was soaked and the lens caps would not close (or open) without some gentle prodding. After two years of awful weather on the TGO Challenge, I was really hoping that today’s rain was a one-off and that I’d soon by skipping along in the sunshine. Well, you have to hope, don’t you?
At some point along the canal, I’d bumped into a tall, wet backpacker who accused me of going “the wrong way”. He knew I was going the wrong way as he was a fellow Challenger (Bart) who shared my purist view of “West” and was now heading East again after an overnight camp at the coast. We chatted about the weather and our routes but it sounded like we’d not see each again until Montrose.
I altered my planned route a little in order to follow signposts to Dunadd, ancient seat of the Kings of Dalriada. Unfortunately, through the clagg it looked more like a dungheap than a seat of power.
I bumped into Bart again but nearly didn’t recognise him as it had stopped raining and he had his hood down. He appeared to have gone over the top of Dunadd whereas I, in true @aroundthehills fashion, had gone round it. We went our separate ways again but met up for the final time that day in a bus stop in Kilmichael Glassary where Bart was making his lunch. It sounded like he still had lots of walking planned for the day, but I looking for somewhere to pitch my tent.
I’d considered a site near a bridge on the River Add but it didn’t have any suitable drinking water running into it and I didn’t fancy taking water from a rain-swollen river. I kept walking along the road looking for flat land, out of view of the road, with drinking water. Not much further on I found a reasonable patch of ground set back from the road and with a stream running behind it. It was a bit too visible from the road to be perfect but it would have to do.
I put my tent up and was pottering about when a Land Rover went past on the road. It stopped and, through the tufty grass, it looked like the occupants were looking my way. I sat still and, after a minute, they drove off again. This was slightly disconcerting; it was still quite early in the afternoon – so I did have time to move on to a different pitch – but I was not looking forward to going out in the rain again and I hoped I wasn’t going to be moved on.
I decided that if I was going to be moved on then it was better to have had a hot drink and got myself warm and dry, so I put the stove on. I was half way through my cup of tea when the Land Rover came back, stopped again and two men got out, came through the gate and headed my way. It turned out that the farmer (and son and daughter) were checking on their ewes and lambs so had been closely scanning the fields and had spotted my tent. Unbeknown to me, my previously sheep-free field was now swarming with them! I offered to move but, thankfully, he was happy for me to stay if it was just for one night. Having expected an argument, I was quite relieved that the conversation had been friendly and that I wasn’t going to have to pack up until the morning.