Two walks were planned for this Saturday. Cars for both were parked at the disused fish factory at Finnart’s Bay near Cairnryan. One group intended to traverse the ridge on the North side of Glen App and the other was to follow the Ayrshire Coastal Path.
Sixteen walkers set off across the recently restored stone bridge crossing the Water of App. We soon left the main track to reach the open hillside and the “pillbox” overlooking the mouth of Loch Ryan, a relic of the Second World War. After admiring the view, we continued upwards to the top of Finnart’s Hill from which Ailsa Craig and Arran could be seen. We descended to the track which forms part of the Ayrshire Coastal Path, turning north for a few hundred metres before taking to the grassy slopes of Penderry Hill. We eventually reached the trig point at 309 metres and our efforts were rewarded with views of the Mull of Kintyre and Ireland to the west, Ailsa Craig and Arran to the North West, Luce Bay to the south, the Galloway Hills to the east, and stretching to the north-east, the undulating ridge along the top of the seaward side of Glen App. This we followed, bogs and tussocks cheerfully negotiated, finally reaching Carloch Hill, marking the top of the glen, our objective for the day at 319 meters. After admiring the views and the memorial stone to little Ellie Russell of Glen App Estate, we descended west to reach the little road again, turning South and homeward, soon meeting the Coastal Path joining from our right.
Meanwhile, our second of seventeen walkers had headed back up to the main road and boarded the bus to Smyrton Village. From there they descended the glen alongside the Kilphin Burn. The trees were showing the first signs of spring growth and the abundant bluebells were starting into flower. Someone had cleared a path through the many fallen trees and an easy walk took them down to the gates of Glenapp Castle. A shortcut across a field lead to the Ayrshire Coastal Path which they followed southwards, soon reaching the slopes above the shore. The Mull of Kintyre stood out on the western horizon and looking north they could see the mountains on Arran. One member outlined a future walk following a ridge across five of the summits. The path continued southwards crossing a series of gullies, each with a profusion of primroses on the sheltered north facing banks. Eventually they reached the Currarie Glen and were met by a washed out pipe bridge. A large plank had thoughtfully been placed across the burn. The ramblers proceeded carefully over it, assisted by one member who had the prescience to carry wellingtons with him. On reaching the shore they paused for lunch overlooking the shore on a bank sheltered from the rising wind. They were entertained by the antics of six dogs that frolicked along the water’s edge and a seal that wallowed lazily offshore in the clear water. After lunch they followed the steep track towards Craigans and joined the track from Kilantringan and High Ballochdowan. As they went they could see the other group walking down the edge of a wood on the way down from Carlock Hill.
Presently the hill walkers caught up with the group who had taken the bus to Smyrton and we enjoyed each others company for about a mile. We then turned west once more towards Portandea, a tiny beach, sheltered by a rocky outcrop, where Elsie Mackay, daughter of the first Earl of Inchcape, had a small wooden house built as a retreat. An actress and interior designer, she died in 1928 while attempting to fulfil her ambition to be the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. The little house was used as a bothy for a while but became very shabby and has recently been demolished. No trace remains. On our way down we were happy to be able to free a young deer that had become hopelessly entangled in some netting. After a few very wobbly steps it soon managed to run gracefully out of sight. We then climbed back up the cliffs, covered in primroses and still mercifully free of bracken, and walked along the grassy tops to the “pillbox” and back to Finnart’s Bay.
When the hill group turned down towards Portandea the remaining walkers pressed on up the track which climbed to the pass between Sandloch Hill and Blarbuie, now heading into the rising gale and driven rain. Once they crested the ridge they descended quickly into Glen App and the welcome shelter of the trees. At the foot of the slope they left the coastal path and returned along the valley road to the cars barely twenty minutes ahead of the group on the more strenuous route.
Both groups retired to the Merchant House in Cairnryan for their excellent coffee and cakes.
Next week there is no organised Ramblers walk as most members will be assisting or participating in the Newton Stewart Walking Festival. The walk on Saturday 15th May will be a moderate 9 mile walk around Portpatrick. Meet at 09:00 at the Riverside Car Park in Newton Stewart or 09:30 at the Breastworks Car Park to share transport. The walk will start from the South Car Park in Portpatrick at 10:00. New walkers are always welcome but please contact the walk leader on 01581 200256 to share transport.