THE SOUTH END WALK
THEN HEAD FOR ROTHESAY.
Take the bus to Kilchattan Bay, , then look for the start of “The West Island Way” standing stone, which is only a few yards away which you will be following a good bit of the way back to Rothesay.
This is not a copy of that walk as I have been walking here since I was a teenager.
This is to get you there, in one piece, correctly, with info on what you may see as you travel.
After getting off the bus and having a look at the start of the way, look down on the shores and observe the Columner Sandstone. This is the most important site in the UK for this stone, and perhaps even in Europe, so it is worth having a scramble down to touch it , just so that you can say “I was there”. To find more about it, visit the Museum in Stuart Street (adjacent to the Castle).
Head south , observing perhaps Wigeon, ( depending on the time of year.) Red Breasted Mergansers, Cormorants ,Eider Ducks, and there is a possibility of sighting a male Long Tailed Duck, which has been around for years, and it seems to like the company of the Mergansers.
On land, look out for Wheatears, Ravens,Rock and Meadow Pipits, Red Admiral, Painted Ladies, Orange Tip, Green Hairstreak, common Blue, Small Copper, ( this is the best place on Bute for the Small Copper), and also Brown Hawker, Golden Ringed, Common Hawker Dragonflies, also, Common, Blue Tailed, and Large Red Damselflies. There are plenty of moths, but I do not know much about them, so I will leave well alone.
Through a gate farther on , you will notice a small cave on your right, which is handy if you get caught in a shower.
Next to appear in the distance is “The Hawks Neb”, made up of sandstone, and is quite impressive. I once wrote about this, and recommended that you should not slam the gate, as a big chunk fell from it a few years ago, and maybe more will fall, but who knows when, so tread carefully
Head to Rubh'an Eun, a small lighthouse at the entrance of Glen Callum Bay, where it is worth clambering over the rocks just to say that “you have been there”, but it has a big step, with a big drop to get to , so take care, as it may be slippy.
Look out for Gannets diving, as it is a good spot for them. Go round the bay, and look for the path above the high tide mark. There is another path in view which goes straight on but it is made by sheep and misguided walkers, and will send you into land that you do not want to be in.. You swing to your right and uphill at this point. (Download the images and they, plus the text will keep you right)
Find the waymarker that will guide you to the top of a small hillock. I say small but by the time that you travel this short distance, you will be peching, (out of breath). There is another marker at the top, and a short distance away is another. There is a well made path, but if you are doing this during July /August you will encounter lots and lots of bracken.. It looks something like ferns, but is a nasty plant which can grow higher than yourself, making progress very hard.
From the elevated position that you are now at is it good for seeing birds far out in the sea, and also some fine views of the Arran Hills, with the most prominent one being “The Sleeping Warrior”, so called by it's shape resembling a soldier from away back in time, lying down, and you can see the buttons on his tunic, his face and helmet, right down to his feet.
If it is clear weather, you may also see The Holly Isle and Ailsa Craig with it's huge colony of Sea Birds , like Gannets, Fulmars, Kittiwakes, and the lovely wee birds , Puffins . Many years ago they were killed and eaten by rats that had jumped ship, so there were none for many years, until the hard work done by a few to set traps and eradicate them, so now the Puffins are back. Not as many , but given time they may multiply to their previous counts.
Head for a little lochan call “Loch na Leighe”, sometime called “The Physicians Loch, as an eminent doctor who stayed at the Garrochty found that it had medicinal properties, but with sheep all around you, stick to your “Highland Spring” ( or- taste-a-like) water and enjoy the view. This Lochan may have on it , Mute or Whooper Swans, Little Grebes, Teal and Herons, plus loads of House Martins feeding of flying Insects. Many years ago I sat and watched a pair of Otters for ages as they frolicked about, so you never know your luck?
You may miss the best view of the Lochan as the waymarkers take you around the left side of it, and lower down, so while you are up high, stay there and you will now be above it giving you a birds eye view of the Lochan, then head for the markers.( I have since noticed that the walkers have now formed a good path to the edge , so it is now unmissable)
Head to the next marker which will take you to the South side of the Lochan, cross over it's overflow and head along keeeping the hillock to your right, then head uphill missing the boggy bit then down till you come to a fence. Go right then left heading to two catwalks. Cross over them and keep left following the small burn on a fairly level path till you come to a Landrover track, (You will now come to an Electric Fences so be carefull. Use the Plastic Handle to get through being carefull not to touch wires, and close it after you pass through.. I may be switched offf, but do not try it) called as it is not for cars . Go right for a short distance to the next waymarker on your right, and head uphill, but at this point there are two tracks, so after a few yards go left.
Keep the Sycamore trees to your left. (In wintertime no leaves so go below big trees)
Head along the dry stane dyke till you come to a gate, go through and head to the next one, observing on your left St Blanes Chapel. Now you will come to a stone wall that is covered in grass, and is withered with many feet treading on it. This is not the path, this is a wall, so do not walk on it. Your path is on the right side of the wall, through the tall bracken, tall as yourself, and previous walkers took the easy option. The men who look after these ruins and walls are not amused at walkers taking shortcuts .
Carry on till you come to another marker, which points to you right, but head left to the Chapel and enjoy at seat on the stones
Lunchtime, photo's resting weary legs, vitamin pills, replacing the elastoplast on your heels, then you are off again. Back to that last marker and follow the rest which will take you over another two stiles, and back to the upper reaches of the Landrover track that you were on a while ago.
Up to the top, and The Suidhe Hill is now in view. Head down to the gate , then a weary climb up again to a pile of stones that have been accumulated by the farmer as he ploughs his land, and they come to the surface, and are then dumped for future use, or in your case to sit on and draw your breath. At this point a new sign adorns the fence “Beware of the Bull”. Now I have never ever seen a bull at this area, but there is always a first, and as you head over the stile and a small wooden bridge, you the come to a new stile that will take you over the other side of the fence, perhaps away from the invisible bull, so keep your eyes peeled. If all seems ok, then stay on the side that you are on.
If you are loath to enter bull territory, then go over this stile, through the gate, and head uphill following the fence as it swings to the right as it nears the top.
For those of you who chose to be brave, carry on uphill and also follow the fence as it swings to the right.
When you see another stile a short distance away, and in the distance the white buildings that are Hunterston Power Station, then head left and uphill to get to another stile then to the top of The Suidhe Hill and enjoy the vista.
The fearties can carry on through this stile to join you.
At the top watching Meadow Pipits, Swallows , sand Martins which nest in the Kingarth Sand and Gravel Pit, which you can now see. It is a grand spot to sit and watch the boats that move up and down the Clyde.
After your break return the way that you came to the hill top, then to the stile, and follow the markers. Do not turn left from the top as it is very steep and with high bracken.
Down the steep slope, then big steps through the woods, coming to a marker that tells you to go left, but that one is for continuing The West Island Way, but you are not doing that today, so go straight on a few yards and you are at Kilchattan Bay.
Head left, to come to the Post Office and Shop. ( Now The Trading Post) It now serves home made soup ,cakes and scones. And also does toasties, teas and coffee, and sandwiches, freshly made to order Seating for 10, with plenty more seating outside. Hours of opening. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday Friday and Saturday. 9am till 4pm, but if busy 5pm. Wednesday. Half Day, 9am till 12.30. Sunday 11am till 3pm, or 4pm if busy. "Now has Wi-Fi"
Onto the main road and head for Kingarth Hotel, listening for Magpies, and l.ooking for two albino Sparrows. Take the second right missing the single track road , the head uphill facing the oncoming traffic, till you reach the Kingartth and Kilchattan Bay War Memorial. Through the wooden gate and head on, looking out for Dragon and Damsel flies, Buzzards , more Ravens, and Cuckoo's. There is a small reservoir here and it is alive with wildlife around it.. I have been sitting on the ground trying to film Damselflies, and most of them were landing on my head. Large Red, Common Blue, Blue tailed, and ones that were flying that fast I could not get an image of them, so you may have better luck than me. Access is denied to this Reservoir which is a shame as it is a lovely spot, but fairs fair, the sides of the reservoir are steep and slippery, so best to stay away.
Little Grebes nest here, as do Mallard Ducks, and Buzzards in the pine trees in front of you.
Carry on the Landrover track, coming to a junction, carry straight on, keeping a sharp look-out for Golden Ringed , and Common Hawker Dragonflies, as this is the best place on Bute for them. You may also see Short Eared Owls,with a bit of luck, and Hen Harriers Jays, Blue,Cole, and Great Tits.. Carry on this track and as you get to a locked gate with a way through for horses, you are only a very short distance from your last resting place which is the Loch Ascog Bird Hide. Rest your weary legs, have a look for Greylag Geese that are resident on Bute 24-7, and perhaps you may even spy Osprey's, Great Crested Grebe's, Little Grebes, plus depending what time of the year it is, then you may see our winter arrivals.
Head up to the West Road , turn right, and head back to Rothesay, and I hope that you have seen and learned a lot about the Wildlife on Bute,so ,
“HASTE YE BACK”
My apologies, I did not realise that I was restricted to 20 images per article so if you go to Walk South extra, you will find them there.