Day 1 - Whiting bay to Lagg
Another glorious day, and another large breakfast - required though, as we set off on our longest day, both by distance and time. The issue was that we had two tidal sections to do - first, the boulder field at Dippen Head (which has an optional inland route if it's a problem) and the coast at Black Cave (which doesn't). Black Cave is impassable for 2 hours either side of high tide, and with that being at 4pm, we had to aim to arrive at either 2pm or 6pm. Figuring 2pm was unrealistic, we set upon a plan to arrive later and take our time.
Packs were settling in, and we were in pretty high spirits, so we started with a couple of miles inland to see the Glenashdale Falls - Arran's own Niagra. Truly impressive, and a good way to warm up for the day, with wide easy trails that are firm underfoot. After a short break to take some pictures we headed back to the coast, within sight of where we'd left it.
|South to Dippen Head from Largymore|
Next up was a stretch of coastal walking from the edge of Whiting Bay down to Largymore Point, at which we had to decide about Dippen Head. Given some of the horror stories about taking 3 hours to cross it, and so on, we decide to take the road route and avoid it. We trudged over the top and down into the Kildonan Hotel, which was a very
welcome sight indeed. Mrs ER commented when we left that she was sure the short lane leading to it was 3 times longer on the way in than when we left...
There was a strong possibility that passing Black Cave at 6pm would get us to our hotel after they stopped doing food, so we decided to have a pretty sizable lunch - if all else failed, we had our emergency provisions in our packs.
|Seals enjoying the afternoon sun|
After food and a nap on the grass in Kildonan, we set off for Black Cave at 4pm. We saw loads of seals - apparently there's a colony of 40-50 just off Kildonan. Our timing was perfect, and we clambered over the boulder field on the approach to Black Cave, arriving spot on at 6pm. Sadly, our tide forecast was not so good - it still wasn't passable.
We had information that the remainder of the walk should take around 1.5 hours, and that food stopped at 9pm in the Lagg Hotel, our eventual goal. But we were tired, and carrying heavy bags, so we assumed it would take longer. However, we had no option but to wait, so we rested and watched the tide. It definitely was going out, no doubt about it - but very slowly...
|The rocks we had to cross...|
By 7pm, I couldn't wait any longer. There were enough rocks visible now for me to attempt to hop my way over the wet section - something I'd spent years doing as a kid. So I had a go. There were a few slippery moments, but the impassable section was only about 15 metres wide, and I soon figured out a route across. I then ferried both packs over, as Mrs ER wasn't so confident, and she came along last.
We could now actually see the cave - and it's pretty huge. We didn't admire it for long though - we had miles to go to Lagg, and if we wanted any food, we had less than 2 hours to get there (it was now 7.15pm). We set off at a surprisingly high pace.
|The awe-inspiring Black Cave|
I don't know what happened next. The last 4km of this walk are a blur. I remember not really being able to see at one point because the sun was setting in front of me and my eyes were watering from the light. We were exhausted, yet we set one of the highest paces of the walk - arriving into Lagg at 20.40, less than the stated 1.5 hours. Astonishing.
We paid the price though. Because of the big lunch, and the big exertion, we weren't hungry. We'd pushed every limit to arrive in time to get a meal, and we weren't hungry! We settled for an ice cold beer, and a dessert each. It was heavenly, and we spent the 'meal' discussing exactly how crazy we are, and how we managed to keep that pace up for over an hour.
|The Lagg Hotel|
We went straight to bed afterwards. It was a comfortable bed, but it could have been a floorboard for all that I would have noticed. I was asleep in seconds, knowing that the next day was considerably shorter... what a fool I was.... but more on that later ;)