Friday 20 March 2009

To Ardantrive Bay and beyond

We decide to walk a different route to the Kerrera ferry. It's a strenuous climb up to Pulpit Hill viewpoint looking across the bay to the tower. A proper ferry chugs in below. After negotiating various cul-de-sacs we find the right road, then break off for the footpath that carries us over the plateau. A classic, brown, boggy landscape feeds us towards the jetty and the grassy ramp that descends to the roadside. The ferryman is already there and he takes us, a ponytailed cyclist and one other couple across. Sunny but hazier today.

We head to the other end of the island, on a single track; no loop this time. Instantly, I confidently take us along the wrong path; a scuffy grass track, uphill. Coming out at a small, nestling pool, fences block our progress. A few curses later, some angry backtracking and we hop over the fence and whizz down the hill to a wide, flat bay. T occupies herself with taking pictures and I watch the sea barely move, softly undulating the seaweed. Just the sound of water and birds.

A heavily rutted track, filled with water, leads us along the shore to a white cottage, set aslant; I assume to avoid the brunt of the wind. Highland cattle wait on the beach. They're such docile creatures, built to stand still, as though the least amount of movement is simply exhausting. In the distance, just off the coast, is a fish farm with hundreds of gulls circling around it making the most colossal racket.

The track curls inland, hooded by a cliff, not seeing much sun. This flat area, distinctly visible from the mainland has a large area of reed beds, across which the masts of boats in the yard at Ardantrive Bay can be seen. Reaching a sweet small-holding we pass three pigs deep in mud, chickens, a duck snootily ignoring it's paddling pool, sitting in a puddle. Guinea fowl and a peacock balance on a wall. A goat with kids that have the tiniest horns.

At the boatyard, lots of boats are on land, balanced on stilts. Titania IV from Southampton, I notice. The noise of industry all about us. After following a buzzard from telegraph pole to telegraph pole we hack up the hill to the monument and take lunch. The wind picks up and it becomes a bit chilly laying on a rock with my boots off.

We return the way we came beneath the telegraph poles glinting in the sun, a bright blue water pipe snaking beneath them. A heraldic looking bird of prey sits on a wire and not for the first time we wish Piran was here to tell us what it is. Once back at the first bay, Oitir Mhor, I realise where we went wrong all those hours ago. Cutting up a smooth run between two hills, we come out and look across rich lands. Bare-armed trees and green pasture. The sky is a golden haze. Layers and layers of mountains are dropped in like stage sets. A multitude of shapes: blunt, square, pointed, pitted in varying degrees of silhouette.

There's still time to push it a little further and follow a dead end track down to Slatanach Bay. A chained dog guards the farm, barking a tight-gripped bark. A platformed track zigzags down to the beach that's not as sandy as the map suggests. Geese honk on the water, another stream cascades onto the beach by a ruined cottage.

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