This section required some thought and planning due to: one, the absence of any footpath for the first 4 miles along the shore of Loch Striven; two, the infrequent bus service from my end destination and three, coordinating the start of the walk at low tide or as near to it as possible.
Essentially, this walk took in one of the many promontories that jut out into the Forth of Clyde, collectively giving rise to the Clyde Sea Lochs.
I had read other “Coasters” accounts of how they had tackled this section, most appeared to have just ignored it, choosing instead to just walk along the B836 bypassing the promontory. I had read only one account by a coastal walker, David Cotton back in 2002, who had undertaken this section, although there may have been more. David described this section as a very tough walk that should be tackled at low tide, if you wanted to walk the shoreline route. I also considered the higher route, possibly taking in the Marilyn Beinn Bhreac (506m) before dropping back down to Troustan House located at the end of the un-pathed section. Unfortunately, the start of this section is heavily forested and I could see no reliable route onto the open hill. ** See footnote.
So my plan was to take on the low route along the shoreline, at low tide and leaving my bicycle at the end of the walk in order to provide transport back to the car. Low tide at Loch Striven was occurring at about 5:30 in the morning, but I opted to start at 7:15. I began with a short section of road walking from Ardtaraig to the derelict farm at Craigendive. It was still dark, so I wore my hi-vis vest , strobe head-torch and flashing red rear light. At Craigendive I took to the shoreline and found the going very easy to the ruins at Stiallag, where it seems a recent road had been opened up back to the B836. After Stiallag I encountered the first of many outcrops into the loch which would require me to climb around them. I doubt it would be possible to walk around them along the shoreline, even at low tide. It was really a case then of finding the best route around the outcrops through the trees. I did however, pick up a number of faint deer tracks, which came and went, but still aided in picking a way through the vegetation. However, in spring and summer it would be impossible to follow them due to the amount of bracken underfoot.
And so it continued for almost 2 1/2 hours walking along the shoreline, going up and down around obstacles. There were a few grassy level sections which could provide excellent wild-camping sites. I knew exactly where I was along the shoreline, as I had been paying careful attention on yesterdays walk along the opposite side of Loch Striven to certain features on this side. As I approached the end of the un-pathed section my thoughts turned to Jennifer Thomson who perished close-by in 2007. Eventually I emerged out of the woods near to Troustan House. I must admit it was a bit of a relief to be back on a path. The route had not been easy, but neither had it been unduly hard. From Troustan onwards the walk would be all along the road. So I simply changed from my walking boots to my walking shoes, which I had been carrying in my bag.
The public road clings to the shore for most of the way and I was soon rounding Strone Point (one of many with a similar name in the area). I had excellent views of Rothesay and Port Bannatyne on the Isle of Bute as I bade goodbye to Loch Striven and entered into the Kyles of Bute. As I rounded Strone Point I suddenly came upon a Sea Otter who was busy feeding on a fish very close to the shore. I managed to get within 20m of him before he noticed me and dived under the water. This was the first time I had seen a Sea Otter in the wild. Unfortunately, my camera did not do full justice to the occasion.
I continued onwards along the road with the Isle of Bute dominating my view ahead. I soon espied the Cal-Mac ferry operating the short 300m across the Kyles to Bute. From the ferry terminal at Colintraive the road suddenly became much wider and turned into the A886. I was not on the main road long before turning left onto a minor road that was probably the old road to the ferry, which twisted and turned but was very quiet. I had now entered into the doubly named Loch Riddon or Loch Ruel. After 2 1/2 miles the old road re-joined the new road. The main road was relatively quiet, punctuated only by a sudden burst of 5 or 6 cars all at once as the Colintraive ferry disgorged its load.
After 6 hours walking I finally arrived at the B836 junction where I had chained my bike to a signpost. The bike ride back to the car was a mixture of push and ride with an exhilarating and swift descent down to the head of Loch Striven.
NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:
**Footnote: On my bike ride back towards the top of the B836 I noticed a recent area of de-afforestation and could quite clearly see a short but wide fire-break leading to the open hill. An obvious high route alternative to the one I had just completed.
Distance today = 19.5 miles
Total distance = 2588 miles
5 thoughts on “154. Ardtaraig to Auchenbreck”
Congratulations on completing this peninsula, Alan. And for devising a method to get back to your car! I have to confess I’ll be giving this section a miss, and will hop over to Arran via ferry instead.
I’m planning this walk and noticed most that attempt it rather than cutting along the B836 report it is hard. I wondered if you investigated the forestry tracks marked on the map near the west coast of Loch Striven, which is the route I am looking at. The OS map shows these run most of the way from the B836 to the end of the unclassified public road at Coustonn. The OS map suggests there is just over a 1 mile gap between the two tracks however looking in Google Earth it looks to me like actually the tracks do join up and it looks to be practically a road (you can see it’s surfaced from Google). Did you investigate this track? Just wondered if there is a reason not to use it as it looks to be fairly straightforward albeit not right on the coast in some parts.
Oh yes and I think I now recognise your “title” picture at the top of your posts – Carrick Castle? (I did the walk through there last weekend)
Hi Jon, yes I did consider the middle route, but was very wary of a number of steep ravines which I may have had to negotiate. The 2023 satellite image certainly shows a wide road cut through to Troustan and the 2022 Streetview image shows recent logging operations at the B836 end. There was some smaller logging going on back in 2017 closer to the main road, but I think you may have found a great way to take in this promontory. Its certainly a route I would follow if I had to do it again.
BTW, I could never bother to change the picture of Carrick Castle. The walk was superb down and through to Dunoon.Looking forward to your Trip Report on this area.
Also Scottishhills.com seems to have folded, it had been on the cards for awhile, with most of the subscribers transferring to WalkHighlands. I suppose I need to do some editing of all my Scottish trip reports. Cheers Alan.
Thanks very much Alan, sounds like that track might be a recent creation. I will give it a go.