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Home Travel StoriesAndy's Scottish Expedition

Exploring Arran and The Mull Of Kintyre

By Andy Gray

Day 5: Arran to Port Ban campsite (146 miles)

If I thought it rained a lot the night before last, that was nothing compared to last night. It didn’t stop until 07:30 this morning. Split the tent to separate the soaking outer from the dryish inner so I hope to have less of an issue tonight.

Left the campsite at 09:00 and made my way up the west coast of Arran which reminded me of many places in Norway as you could see the other coast across the water. In places you were up on the cliffs, in others just above water level.

Blackwaterfoot Arron, looking over low fields and the calm waters lies a small town
Blackwaterfoot, Isle of Arran

It was a day for wildlife as I saw the first two red squirrels that I’ve ever seen, both ran across the road in front of me within 100 yards of each other. I rode round a bend and saw two peacocks in a field - yes peacocks! Then there were two groups of grey seals sunbathing (well waiting for it) on some rocks, managed to walk down the beach and get some photos without disturbing them.

A fat seal on a solitary rock in the water has one paddle in the air, as though waving
Waving seal

Once I got south of Lochranza, I could see a ferry heading in from the Kintyre peninsular. Luckily I got there just before it - another cheap one of £8.

A small car ferry in the small port at Lochranza under grey skies but calm waters
Lochranza Claonaig ferry

None of the towns on Arran are very large, the largest is probably Brodick. There was nothing up the west coast more than half a dozen buildings. Lochranza didn’t look very big from the ferry.

This crossing made up for the lack of wildlife yesterday, all the food must be to the north of Arran as there were several pods of dolphins or porpoises. They never came close enough to the ferry to see them properly as I left my binoculars at home!

Looking out from the ferry the waters are dead calm but the skies are leaden grey.
Leaving the Isle of Arran

My plan was to head down east side of the Kintyre Peninsula & back up the west visiting the town of Southend on the, erm, south end. Just to see how it compared to It’s namesake in Essex - I suspect I know which one I’ll like more!! And to sing Mull of Kintyre by Wings, of course.

The sign coming off of the ferry said single track road with passing places - they weren’t wrong, almost 14 miles of it to Campbeltown. Suppose it’s good practise for the NC500 if I get that far. This was exciting as the road also included several hairpin bends.

I stopped for a very good all day breakfast (2 sausages, 2 bacon, egg, potato scone, black pudding, beans, tomatoes, toast & tea) for lunch at Cafe Bluebell before heading south in the first shower of the day.

The roads to Southend improved and there wasn’t much there apart from a pub & shop. A little out of town was the beach with a campsite behind it. Much less busy & therefore nicer than Southend on Sea, sorry Essex.

A large sandy beach, rocky outcrops and small waves at Southend, Mull of Kintyre
Southend and the Mull of Kintyre

Heading back north, the “road” to get to the west coast took me up over the hills through the forests. These were just about classed as roads for the most part, only used for accessing the few farms around there.

This forest, dense undergrowth and a single track lane through it all on the Kintyre Peninsula
The road through the hills and forests

After that it was onto the boring A83 to Tarbert, the only excitement was a traffic incident where the seemingly 15 year old PC explained that a lorry had driven off the road and got stuck. It would take 15 minutes to recover and get us moving again in which time some proper rain arrived and followed me into Tarbert.

In the rain, I wasn’t really looking forward to tonight’s camp and searched for a hotel but didn’t find anything I fancied. The forecast said it was going to clear up for a couple of hours. 12 more miles of single track road & rain and I got to the Port Ban Holiday Park as the sun came out. The prefab offices, the tarmac tennis court with grass tufts in it and the many green caravans made it seem rather tired, the £12 charge worried me even more. Then again it was meant to be £17.

The owners were sweet and got me a map to show where I can get petrol in the morning as the bike is very low - looks like I should make it with 5 miles to go.

They told me to head down the hill towards the sea, turn right and the camping area was in 1/3 mile. They said I could choose any free pitch as they’re not busy. Only one pitch was in use which left around 20 for me. Chose one next up the sea with an electric point as I need to charge things up!

The tent and the bike at the campsite. Beautiful scenery, bright sun in light cloud and the sea
Rain, what rain?
A rainbow set against the clouds and rugged landscape at Port Ban campsite
It’s raining somewhere over there

Dried off the tent fully before setting it back up ready for tonight’s forecast deluge. Then I checked out the toilet/shower block - this place has some proper classy loos & showers. Even the washing up area is posh - not what I was expecting from the initial impression of the place.

Smart clean tiles, wood trim, large sinks and a modern feel to the washing up area
Posh washing up area
Smart sinks, mirrors and taps in clean tiled room at Port Ban
Posh bathrooms
Smart tiled showers at port ban
Posh Showers

After that shock, I headed for a walk down the beach as I could see what looked like a derelict chapel on the headland in the distance. It was about a mile away and turned out to be a tomb to some Campbells - couldn’t see how long ago as it was well worn. At least they had a good view.

Stone built walls and a cross of the tomb near the campsite
The tomb
Rocks and boulders form a v shape leading down to the sea in a dramatic scene
The view from the tomb

Share your travel tale - click here.

Llangollen Andy starts his trip to Scotland... by going to Wales! It is a long way from London Village to The Highlands though, give the man a break.
Friends And Finally Scotland Day 2 and 3 of Andy's Scottish expedition - and he's only just reached the borders. He's having way too much fun and should be focused on heading North.
Bad Weather, Brilliant Roads Andy's first proper ride into Scotland is proving to be a cracker even if the weather is dire.
Exploring Arran and The Mull Of Kintyre There's wildlife and scenery aplenty for Andy as he explores Arran and The Kintyre Peninsula. "Mixed" weather is keeping him on his toes though.
Easy Onto Mull Andy is taking in the splendid West Coast of Scotland at a sensible pace. From the Kintyre Peninsula to the Isle Of Mull there's a lot to take in.
Walking On Iona Andy is using Shank's Pony to get himself around the small island of Iona. Thing is the island isn't quite as small as Andy's feet had hoped for.
Mulling Around To The Mainland When Tobermory is a major town you know you've been somewhere remote. Andy is making his way up the West Coast of Scotland now.
Bealach na Bà Ain't So Bad Andy is making his excuses for a late start today, but it's all self-inflicted. It's time to be overwhelmed by the not really scary Applecross road.
The Wonder Of The West Coast Andy is up on the West Coast of The Scottish Highlands now, and it shows with his achingly beautiful pictures.
The Wonder Of Even More West Coast Andy is exploring the remote and lonesome shores of the North West of Scotland. Geology, beauty and single track, all in another day's ride in The Highlands.
Out Of The Good Stuff, Into The Weather After The splendour of The Highlands and West Coast of Scotland Andy is now at the top of the country. Is there much to report?
The Scottish North East Coast Andy after reaching the tip of the UK is now meandering his way south along the east coast. Being back in civilisation means proper food in solid buildings.
No Nessie And Wet Cairngorms Andy looks at Loch Ness and The Cairngorms, well, when the weather allows at least.

Reader's Comments

Upt'North said :-
Arrrrr, the West Coast of Wee Bonny Scotland. Takes some beating.

21/11/2019 05:51:54 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I think I have some kind of self flagellation thing going on too Upt' While I'm not actually whipping myself I appear to be relentlessly tormenting myself by running this blog that gets filled with images of places I'd much rather be. I think I'm going to start a blog about knitting, much safer both physically and emotionally.
22/11/2019 04:34:36 UTC

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