We wake up in Carradale.
Carradale is a small village on the south-eastern coast of the Kintyre peninsula. If you look at a map, it’s not hard to notice that it looks like a limp phallus. From the Cock O’ the North to the Kintyre Cock?!
We are greeted by the sound of mewling buzzards and the warmth of sunshine radiating through the fabric of the tent. I poke my head of the tent door and put the kettle on the stove. The buzzards seem to have a plentiful food supply in the neighbouring field, recently cut for hay. Other birds take off, demurring to the more powerful birds of prey. It’s a much nicer setting than in seemed in the torrential rain of the evening before.
Last night, I’d announced I didn’t want to stay here. Being suitably dramatic, after the trials of the day before, I felt trapped in a village with only two ‘death roads’ out of it. We’d travelled one of them, which although not as bad as the ‘Farm Track”, was a technically difficult ride. The other, going north, had been the site of a motorcycle accident the day before – a head on collision with a car, the motorcyclist had to be airlifted out with suspected spinal injuries. The news hadn’t improved my mood or the perception I had of our visit to Kintyre.
With the change in weather, my mood and perception changed. We’re on the coast, in Carradale, a village in two halves. The western half boasts a hotel, post office, police station, fire station and amazingly for us, a garage which was able to supply me with a replacement bulb for my headlamp. The eastern half has a small grocery shop and cafe. The road ends at very small, but busy harbour. We explore both halves and climb back up the hill to the west. We visit the hotel for a drink and light meal, talking to a local couple at the bar.
Verd does most of the talking, he’s excited about what we’re doing, and loves others’ enthusiasm in return. When he gets to permaculture and the state of the world, I notice how many times people remark about how great it is to have an interesting conversation like this. I observe that small spark of awakening.
We listen to their own story. The woman has a few health problems and I pick up that he drinks a lot. There are some hints that their story hasn’t always been a happy one.
During the evening, we both note how tranquil Kintyre is. Even with the sound of a mechanic in the garage when we rested outside the Post Office and the continuous sound of buzzard squawks, there is something extremely calm and peaceful about the whole peninsula. In the village, locals stroll with their dogs, deep in conversation. Nothing is hurried. We follow suit. During an unhurried evening walk along the beach, we agree that the sand is compacted enough to run along in the morning.
Even when hard, sand running is difficult. It feels like I’m running uphill all the way and find just two miles (normally an easy, recovery run for us now), hard to complete. Later, needing some provisions, we amuse ourselves by taking the bus to Campbeltown, leaving the bikes behind.
The driver’s accent is noticably un-Scottish and on asking where he’s from, it turns out he hails from Keighley, a place not far from the home we left. After paying the fare, we’re immediately greeted with a friendly hello. It is the woman we’d met at the bar the day before. We sit in front of her to chat and I jokingly observe: “You’re leaving himself behind today?”
I’m not ready for her response. It’s a yes, I’m leaving him behind. He’d been physically aggressive after getting home from the bar and she isn’t putting up with it anymore. Her journey is to her daughter’s. A phone call later, we get the gist she isn’t free of him yet, as he’s being uncooperative about taking care of their dogs. Their story isn’t a happy one.
There is plenty of interest in Campbeltown. We watch mackerel fishing on the pier. A woman has a good catch and immediately guts and fillets in situ, throwing the waste to eager seals.
The main attraction is 14th Century Cross, ornately decorated in celtic knots.
The town itself reminds us of those of our youth, with many independent specialist shops and a noticeable absence of any chain stores.
Verd visits an extremely professional barber who uses a traditional strop razor for the finishing touches. There’s no blood, I’m relieved to report.
We visit the tourist information centre and book both a night at a hotel and ferry tickets from the port to Ardrossan on the mainland for later in the week. We’re served by a young woman who laughs when she hears where Verd had his head shaved, her father owns the shop.
Most in the office are booking tickets for boat tours in the hope of seeing whales and dolphins. We learn though that no whales have been seen yet this season, but there is a possibility of porpoises. Outside a young couple play the pipes, raising funds for the coast guard.
We return to the pit stop armed with groceries, but disappoint a cyclist who’d hoped we’d got them in Carradale. I make us a meal, and go to the cyclist’s tent to see if he’d like some, but he’s not at home. Pity, as it’s a cooler evening, and the spicy meal is warming. We’ve no trouble finishing it off.
Our biorhythms are synched with the natural rise and fall of the sun. We’re often in bed early and wake early. Most nights I sleep soundly. Our tent is keeping us dry, the sleep system is warm and comfortable.
We wake to another warm day and go for a forest walk, stopping off at the small ‘Network Cafe’ with a varied and interesting menu and more importantly free wi-fi. I get the opportunity to catch up with the blog and update some of the picture-less posts with photos.
We arrive back at camp early to see our neighbour’s tent has half-collapsed. They are a friendly, happy family, but have gone fishing for the day. We take a look to see if we can erect it again. However, the joints between the poles have split, and to do anything could make the situation worse. Their belongings inside are well-covered and we keep an eye on things, in case it rains and textiles become exposed.
They arrive not long after and remain uncommonly chirpy when they discover their plight. They take out their belongings and dismantle the tent immediately. They hope to be able to get a night in one of static caravans or chalets, but the campsite is full. The warden tells them that the local forecast is good for the night, and they adapt with a combination of car and outdoor sleeping. Despite this, they share mackerel fillets with us and we have a wonderful fish risotto for supper.
I am absolutely grateful and appreciative for the kindness that we’ve met on the road. From help with dropped bikes, to offerings of washing liquid when I’d run out, a free hotel night (more on that in a later post) and some folk just dropping by the tent for a chat, it’s made our trip extremely rewarding and pleasurable.
Life is good!