Saturday, 31 March 2012

Scoops Reports 2012 - 31 March Beneraid

31 March  Beneraid – Big Fell  Report by Gordon Phillips

Frances, Thomas , Rachel, Catherine Makepeace, Debi and Allan Topping met the rest of the Ramblers, 18 of us in all at Ballantrae Cemetery (Peter, John, Alex, Allan, Richard, Sue, Linda, Leslie, Mary (Cairnryan), Jacqui, Gordon (our leader) and Carl who had walked down from his caravan, nearby.
Eighteen walkers met at the Ballantrae Cemetery for an 11 mile walk up Benneraird which, at 439 Metres high, is the highest of the hills on the south side of Glen App. The leader explained the route before leaving the start.
It was a lovely clear sunny morning as they left the road and followed a grassy track up to the A77.  The group crossed the main road and followed the newly tarmacked road to Auchairne and Kilwhannel.  The woods were showing signs of early spring. The group were especially surprised to note some bluebells emerging into full colour. On the way they were greeted by a lively spaniel that had to be persuaded not to join the group. Beyond Kilwhannel they followed the old drove road which at one time took you all the way to New Luce, 19 miles away. The route continued as a steady climb and they stopped briefly at a spot marked on the map as "Hut Circles".  They had to use our imagination to see what was probably an ancient settlement. The views northwards took in much of the Firth of Clyde bathed in sunshine.
We stopped for a short while and admired the views down to Ballantrae with Ailsa Craig settled into the blue sea, behind which we could clearly see the Mull of Kintyre and Arran.
The track started to rise a bit more steeply here as they made their way on towards the summit of Benneraird.
The track deteriorated soon after, with huge ruts hewn out of it by vehicles which had obviously come this way when the weather had been so much wetter.  We often had to bypass the track, making our way over relatively dry areas which would normally be very different, owing to a long awaited dry spell.
When they reached the top of the pass a small diversion was taken to the site of a war time air crash. The group followed the road down towards Lagafater Lodge and found a little wreckage in the trackside ditch. A short climb up the fell reached the crash site where the leader explained what had happened in 1945 when an American Liberator aircraft crashed here with the loss of 17 lives. One airman did survive to make his way to the lodge to summon help but it was only when he arrived there that they realised he had been unconscious for two days. Not a lot is known of what happened after this.
Once back up on Benneraird the walkers had a lunch break basking in the glorious sunshine looking out over the Solway Firth to the Isle of Man.  Once they were suitably refreshed they headed down over the moorland towards Big Fell.
Climbing over a fence nearby we turned northwards and dropped down off the hill, crossing moorland (where I, not looking where I was going, managed to put my left foot down in a moss covered bog, fell forward onto both knees and had to tug my leg back up!) before once again making our way upwards, this time to reach the summit of Big Fell.  My trousers were quite wet but they soon dried in the sunshine and light wind.
Parts of the moor were under a controlled fire with lots of smoke billowing about the sky.  A small detour to avoid the smoke took them on to Big Fell where they had another short break to take in the views over the Clyde to Arran and all the way up towards the mountains in the distance known as the Arrochar Alps.
From there the ramblers descended over some fields which were full of sheep grazing with their new born lambs and reached the old coach road which runs past Crailoch House on its way to Smyrton.  Along the way the track passed through an avenue of gnarled beech trees which provided attractive dappled shade along the open hillside. Once at the village they recrossed the A77 and made their way down the paths following the burns down the glen below the grounds of Glenapp Castle Hotel to the cars parked near to the hotel gates to end a magnificent day in the South Ayrshire hills.
Most of us went to the garden centre for drinks and cakes, sitting outside to enjoy the rest of the day’s sunshine.  Those who did not join us were John, Peter, Allan and Alex.

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