To the Mull of Kintyre…finally!

One of the amazing views from the weekend

On Saturday Bob and I began our mini lighthouse tour by driving alongside the River Clyde. Our first attempted lighthouse-viewing was Dumbuck –  a last minute addition, which I had managed to get a very quick picture of as we drove along the M8 at the end of our first date. Unfortunately, this time we got distracted at Dunbarton by breakfast and I was too fascinated by the huge rock that sits on the side of the Clyde at Dumbarton to think about it. So, in the end we were looking out for the lighthouse too late and had already passed it. It actually turns out the rock and castle in Dumbarton may be one of the best places to view the lighthouse from, so we’re going to have the head back there at some point!

We continued along the coastal route through Helensburgh and then alongside Gare Loch and Loch Long. As we circled the north end of Loch Long Bob told me about climbing The Cobbler with Mr Adams from Marr College Hillwalking Club when he was younger. The skies over the weekend offered some stunning mirrored scenes of hills and buildings in the lochs as we drove along. We then cut through the hills along to Loch Fyne and “Tour Guide Bob” educated me about in incident in which two RAF Tornados had flown straight into one of the hills. At Inverary we stopped briefly to take pictures of the Vital Spark, a fictional puffer. The boat docked at Inverary is actually the Eilean Eisdeal “dressed up” as the Vital Spark!

Ardrishaig lighthouse

After passing through Lochgilphead, we managed to do exactly the same thing I had done on my lighthouse tour last year, and spotted the lighthouse on the end of the pier at Ardrishaig without expecting it. This time, however, we stopped and parked up and officially bagged the lighthouse by walking out along the pier. We christened the lighthouse “Rusty” due to the state of her exterior. She’s not looking her best, but it’s a peaceful place with some great views out across the small but perfectly formed Loch Gilp.

Davaar lighthouse
Davaar lighthouse

Continuing south from Ardrishaig we headed to Campbeltown, arriving at just the right time to head out to Davaar Island. Davaar is a tidal island off of the coast of Campeltown and at low tide you can walk out across the shingle “dog leg” of beach that appears. We headed out and, half way there Bob had to climb the beacon on what turned out was a somewhat dodgy ladder that wasn’t entirely fixed to the structure at the top! As soon as we reached the island we headed east along the coast to Davaar lighthouse. On the way there we were able to see the old pier that had been built by one of the infamous lighthouse Stevensons to take supplies etc. to the lighthouse. The lighthouse gate was padlocked and so we decided not to attempt a full bag of this one, but it was great to see the lighthouse and in such a peaceful place too – as the best ones are. We then headed towards a path that looked like it would take us to the summit of the island. The summit stands at an elevation of 115m and I really struggled to get up there (I was wearing too many layers, it seemed), while Bob strolled on ahead, turning back to check on me at frequent intervals. He was very gentlemanly though and allowed me to be the first to touch the trig point at the summit. There were some beautiful views back across to Campbeltown and looking south across Kildalloig Bay. We then wandered back along to shingle beach to the car.

Mull of Kintyre lighthouse
Mull of Kintyre lighthouse

Our next stop was a lighthouse I had scheduled for the lighthouse tour last year and was actually quite (apprehensively) excited about visiting: Mull of Kintyre. I think the only thing people generally know about the place is that Paul McCartney wrote a song about it. In fact, the journey down to the lighthouse, which is only 12 miles (20km) from the coast of Northern Ireland, is a challenge to reach. There are a number of videos on YouTube of people on motorbikes driving down the 2.5 mile (4km) road with some very tight bends as it zigzags down the headland. The height you walk down – and, of course, back up – is 305m and it certainly feels like it in both directions! During my lighthouse tour I made the decision not to visit the lighthouse as the weather was particularly poor that day and the concept of walking down and up steep slopes in heavy rain wasn’t very appealing. In fact, I was pleased I didn’t manage it on the tour as I’m not sure Little Car would have managed the single track road on the approach to the lighthouse and Bob was a great encouragement for getting me back up to the car before it got too dark. The gate that leads down to the lighthouse is now padlocked so there was no choice but to walk. On the way down to the lighthouse we passed the small path off of the road to the memorial to the victims of the 1994 Chinook disaster in which an RAF helicopter crashed into the hillside at the Mull of Kintyre in thick fog (all of the cheerful stories came out this weekend!). Once we reached the lighthouse I was amazed at how close the lantern room was to ground level – the lighthouse sits on top of a 12m (39ft) cliff, so there is no necessity for it to be tall. I hadn’t been that close to the lantern room of a Northen Lighthouse Board lighthouse (the ones with the black tops!) so I was very excited about that. We wandered around the lighthouse buildings and enjoyed the stunning coastline, particularly to the north. The walk back up the road involved a few pauses to drink a bit of Irn Bru (for me anyway) while Bob, once again, just seemed to stroll up with ease, as he always does!

The beacon at Crinan
The beacon at Crinan

On the way back to Campeltown where we were spending the night, we could see out to Sanda island with its lighthouse flashing in the dark. We spotted another lighthouse flashing further off, but couldn’t quite figure out its location – will have to look into that one. On Sunday we drove back down the coast to see if we were able to spot the lighthouse on Sanda in daylight, but unfortunately it wasn’t visible. That’s a lighthouse that Bob has visited without me, so I need to catch up on that one at some point!

We drove north towards Crinan for our next lighthouse bag. Although officially a beacon, the funny-looking structure at the west entrance to Crinan Canal was worth a re-visit after my stop off last year. We had some amazing views across the loch and also managed to bag the old lantern from the lighthouse, which is sitting in someone’s front garden nearby. A lovely little place, although I couldn’t stop laughing at the odd beacon.

Cloch Point lighthouse

We headed back around the coast to Dunoon and, while driving I exclamed a number of times “Look at the hills in the water!” as the reflections were at their best on Sunday. Such stunning views that you would never get tired of. On the ferry from Dunoon to Gourock we had great views of the back of lots of children’s heads as they climbed out of two coaches and battled each other for places at the front of the boat. As we neared Gourock Bob was able to catch sight of our final lighthouse bag of the weekend: Cloch Point. For some reason I thought we had stopped there together before, but we hadn’t, so he directed me along the road towards it when we left the ferry terminal and we hopped out of the car to get some pictures. The lighthouse is a private residence, but is still fairly close to the roadside so was easy enough to get some good pictures of. What I hadn’t realised when we turned right out of the ferry terminal was that we were also heading in the direction of Largs where Nardini’s sells the most amazing ice cream ever: Dime bar! We stopped in the cafe for lunch/dinner and then picked up huge ice creams as we left for the drive back to Glasgow.

A busy weekend, but a really enjoyable one and it feels like a great achievement to have bagged Mull of Kintyre, when it is so remote and not visited very frequently. It’s one of those lighthouses that makes you feel that you are truly dedicated to hunting these structures down! Next weekend we should be “tidying up” a few in North East England, so watch out for another post in a week’s time! 🙂

Hugging the Welsh/English border…and a lighthouse visit, of course

A view from the top of Heath Mynd in Shropshire
A view from the top of Heath Mynd in Shropshire

The weekend just passed was yet another enjoyable one and this time in another new part of the country. After meeting in Carlisle at our usual “home away from home” (the Premier Inn), Bob and I headed south to Welshpool to meet Myrddyn Phillips, who is currently filming a series of interviews with Bob about his Seven Summits expeditions.

After crossing the Welsh/English border a number of times, we arrived at Myrddyn’s and chatted over a cup of tea. We then headed out to Heath Mynd for filming of the interview about Mount Vinson in Antarctica and a pre-Everest (the Big Hill) video. Heath Mynd is an English “Marilyn” (a hill or mountain with a drop of at least 150m on each side) and, after the first interview, we proceeded to struggle through the thick heather to reach the top where we had some fantastic panoramic views over to a variety of English and Welsh hills. This marked my third Marilyn and was the first that actually involved a walk of more than 10 metres to the top! After we had found a more sensible route down and filmed the pre-Big Hill interview, we headed back and went for dinner.

Point of Ayr lighthouse at Talacre, on the north coast of Wales
Point of Ayr lighthouse at Talacre, on the north coast of Wales

On Sunday, my main objective was to reach the Point of Ayr lighthouse at Talacre on the north coast of Wales. Having visited all of the lighthouses on mainland Wales now, this one stands out in my mind as a particular favourite. Although it’s not looking particularly special and – from some angles – you can see how it much it is tilting now, it has so much personality (as much as a lighthouse can anyway) and it’s very easily approached. I was keen for Bob to see this one too while we were in the area.

On the drive from Oswestry (which, we were informed by the member of the staff at the hotel, was in England) we headed north and passed through the village of Pant for the second time. This had brought on a severe case of the giggles (from me) the previous day and did so again on Sunday. I have a feeling it was the amount of repetitions the word received in such a short space of time that made it so funny. Our first drive through the village was so enjoyable that passing the sign on the second drive through Bob announced in a surprised, yet delighted tone: ‘Pant!’ and the fun started all over again. We really should stop there in the future to see what, if anything, it has to offer.

Heading up the road, we stopped briefly at the Pontcysyllte aqueduct near Llangollen for me to take some pictures and Bob to research a Marilyn we would be passing on our way to the lighthouse. We then followed a winding road – which Bob enjoyed driving while I held on to my seat – to Horseshoe Pass where we parked and walked up Moel y Gamelin. We were surrounded by cloud on the way to the summit, which was fortunate really as the cloud cleared on the way back and we could look back at the distance we had walked, which looked a lot longer and more daunting than it actually was. After reaching the top of my fourth Marilyn, Bob marked the occasion by revealing a bag of Revels! There were some stunning views on the way down after the clouds had cleared. We continued the celebration with lunch at a nearby café. A short time later we reached Talacre and the lighthouse. For a change from my first visit, the tide was coming in as when we arrived. Bob was disappointed as it meant that we couldn’t touch the lighthouse. He considered walking across the line of rocks leading the lighthouse, but I suggested that it might not be a very good idea and he (only just) obeyed my orders not to attempt it. There’s something about a lighthouse on a beach that I love and I think it’s that the beach is such an enjoyable place to go, particularly when you are a child, and to throw a lighthouse into the mix is, for me, a very exciting prospect!

The old lightship at the side of the road in Mostyn, north Wales

Heading back towards England, I was concentrating on the road (as one should when driving) and Bob uttered his ‘Uh, Sarah’, which usually means he’s concerned or there’s something I’ve missed (he’d said it on Sunday morning too when my crumpet was on fire in the toaster). It turned out that I had driven past what appeared to be an old lightship sitting at the side of the road at Mostyn. After turning around (not doing a handbrake turn, as Bob suggested) we stopped off and had a look at this intriguing boat. I still have yet to find out anything about it as much of the information about Mostyn Harbour is focussed on the old Duke of Lancaster ship, which is rusting away nearby. I shall continue to research this though.

A while later we arrived back in Carlisle and, as usual, I headed south while Bob drove northwards. I look forward to joining him on the drive north each time in the very near future 🙂