Saturday, 26 January 2013

2013 - 26 January Finnarts Bay to Cairnryan

26 January Finnarts Bay to Cairnryan  

Where to now ?

26 January Finnarts Bay to Cairnryan  

Report by Cath Birkett

Cath, Thomas, Frances and Isobel drove to the car park on the north side of Cairnryan where Carl was already waiting although we were all early.  It was a lovely surprise to see Carl who had just found out that he could use his caravan until the end of January.  We walked to the bus stop in the village and most of the other walkers joined us there, the others making the most of the amenable bus driver who picked them up at the car park later.  We almost filled the local bus – Florence, Leslie, Mary  x 2, Audrey, Margaret, Ken, John (bike), Allan, Irene, Duncan, Shona, Rachel, Claire, Jim, Mike, John (two poles), Richard and Andrea swelling our numbers to 24 who, with two other passengers, were probably the most people ever to have used it on a ‘regular’ run at one time!  Having given thanks to our driver, we left the bus at the turn off for Finnarts Bay.
With the cars left at Cairnryan, 24 walkers took the bus to Finnarts Bay for a leisurely walk of 9miles, which was to include part of the Lochryan Coastal Path. In great contrast to the previous wet and stormy day, the weather was kind, the snow left by the last week almost completely washed away by rain, and even the sunshine appearing for brief moments.

The route began by passing the former Finnart’s fish processing factory, now in a dilapidated state but remembered well by the walkers, with one of the number reminiscing about working there. From here a small hump backed bridge crossed the tumbling burn of the Water of App and an estate road led through Garry wood alongside carpets of snowdrops to Finnarts farm and the ruined remains of the mansion house. The cylindrical dovecot on the hillside above was a collecting point for beaters, soon joined for a shoot by the guns passed along the road.

The next stretch coincided with the Ayrshire Coastal path which led back across the Bridge of the Mark over the Water of App to the little gem of Glenapp kirk. Unfortunately there was not time to visit the memorial to Elsie Mackay, Lord Inchcape’s high flying daughter, who disappeared in a presumed air accident in 1928.

The path south from here becomes the Lochryan coastal path which climbs steeply up above the A77. One burn falling in small cascades with the light behind illuminating the peaty brown water was particularly beautiful. Magnificent views across Glenapp to Sandloch and Penderry hills made the hard going well worthwhile, with Lochryan itself coming into view and a brief glimpse of a ferry sailing down the loch.

The views back the way we had come, on this forest track were worth stopping to admire, giving us an excuse to catch our breath.  I took a longer break when we crossed over a burn where the burnt orange of the peaty water formed small colourful waterfalls as it cascaded over rocks, swirling around, creating bubbles and frothy delights in the sunshine. 
Buzzards floated in the sky above whilst a forest road was followed, leaving the coastal path temporarily to avoid much of the wet boggy ground. A new double deer stalkers’ ladder with good views down the intersecting forest rides announced that it could only be climbed by authorised personnel. This area had provided a fairyland spectacle earlier in the week, when snow lay on the ground and decorated the trees to look like crinolines.

Traces of the snow encountered by the walkers who had done the recce in week could still be seen as the track continued uphill, getting wetter as we entered the forest.  Before this, however, I was delighted to see the fast flowing water of Pinwherran Burn with its peaty waterfalls and could see much of its progress as it descended below the track.   
The forest had been felled further on, and it was here that a line of tree stumps made dry seats for the ramblers, who sat resembling a line of pixies having lunch. The views were now over the rolling hills above Cairnryan, which would make the returning route.

We emerged from the forest onto a vast area where logging had recently taken place and where the logs were piled high on either side of the forest road.  The colours of the logs were deeper with the dampness of the recent snow and rain and created a lovely lining to the track along which we walked towards our lunch destination.  Tree stumps and discarded logs provided excellent seats for us all.  Mary and I sat on one log which tipped up when either of us moved - like a seesaw!  Despite the sunshine, we soon cooled down and were happy to move on after helping our blood sugar levels to rise! 
After leaving the forest road the way became boggy, the recent rain swelling the moorland drains and creating the perfect conditions for reeds and peaty quagmires. The Lochryan Coastal path was rejoined by a series of bog hopping and squelching areas alongside a dry stone dyke.

Irene had warned me that the going would get more difficult and so I was ready for the ‘adventure’ of finding our way over some ‘interesting’ terrain!  My occasional squeals accompanied those of others who did not always find the driest route through the marshy ground – bursts of laughter were more frequent than cries of dismay though!
Soon the border between Ayrshire and Wigtownshire was crossed at the Galloway Burn and lucky timing showed two ferries passing in the waters below. Across the loch could be seen the woodland on Clachan Heughs, north of Kirkcolm, which had been laid out in the exact formation of Sir John Moore’s troops at the battle of Corunna in 1809 by Moore’s brother or nephew, who inherited Corsewall estate. Unfortunately the ‘Ace of Spades’ wood is straggling a bit now.

Another war gave the area more remains; when the top of the rise was reached the ruins of gun emplacements and ancillary buildings were explored by some walkers. The site was to have been an anti-aircraft battery for four 3.7 inch guns, one of four such batteries built to protect the military port in Lochryan, but it is not certain that the guns were ever removed from their covered storage place.

The Taxing Stone was the last historical interest of the walk. A six foot high standing stone which is said to mark the burial of King Appin, murdered in Glenapp in 741, was also the old boundary between the kingdoms of Galloway and Carrick.

As we left there we could see a Stena Line ferry entering the waters of the loch while that of P&O was making its way out of Cairnryan.  Carl, who is a tremendous fan of all water transport, stopped to video their passage towards each other – their passing occurring just below where we were walking.  P&O disappeared into open water as we watched Stena’s boat manoeuvre into its berth in the new terminal.  He and I managed to catch up with other walkers who had been distracted by the ferries.  Totally oblivious to what was going on out in the loch was a flock of sheep who seemed to be more interested in the passing of 24 walkers! 
From here it was downhill back to the picnic place in Cairnryan, enhanced by good views over the new port. An easy end to a delightful walk, on an unexpectedly bright and rainless day, brought the ramblers back to the cars and on to ‘Stir It’ in Stranraer for welcome social refreshments. 

We were lucky to have had the best of the weather for our walk.  After visiting Stir It and moving half a dozen or more tables together before enjoying our refreshments (thank you Beth for the great cakes and for putting the tables back!) we drove home as the rain threatened!

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