Isle of Gigha
OS map 62, 69
The subtitle for this trip was Gigha - Six Boats in Two Days and it came about because we were casting around for ways to make more use of the various ferries that dot around the Clyde. In a nutshell, you get a boat from Ardrossan to Brodick on Arran, cycle to Lochranza and get the ferry to Claonaig on the Mull of Kintyre, cycle to Tayinloan and get the ferry to Gigha, stop overnight and reverse the route next day. Simple.
So, a sunny day and we got the 9.45 from Ardrossan to Brodick. The trip takes about an hour and this gives us an easy two and a half hours to get to Lochranza, about 24km or so. The road climbs to around 200m so this is a fair stint but the roll down the other side compensates for your hard work. We were hoping to get a bite to eat in the pub at Lochranza but it wasn't open so that was that.
The ferry for Claonaig left at 1.15 and takes about half an hour. There's nothing in Claonaig, although there is a small Post Office cum store in Skipness, though this is 3.5km in the opposite direction to where you need to go.
The 'easy' option here is to take the road over the hill - it climbs to 130m - towards Kennacraig and then take the main A83 to Tayinloan, but a more interesting option takes an off-road alternative. Be prepared, though, for some hard work...
From the ferry terminal - if that's not too grand a term for what is little more than a desolate bus shelter - take the coast road south. This is actually part of NCR73 which goes to Campbeltown. We're not going that far, though, and just past Grogport the road leaves the coast to climb up and over a col at 80m. On the run down the other side, look out for a track off to the right (789 421). This track heads NW to Auchenbreck then turns S then E, easily at first but don't be fooled because this is a brute of a hill climbing to 330m in a relentless manner.
There's a wind farm on the top of the hill but this doesn't spoil the views away to the west. Pause to catch your breath and take it all in - you've earned a few minutes rest, provided, of course, that you keep an eye on your ferry time. You should be OK, though, and we had a pleasant roll down to Tayinloan and had time to call in the pub while waiting for the 6.00 ferry. The trip takes 20 minutes and we'd booked a B&B not far from the jetty.
Gigha is only 10km from top to bottom and we took time next morning to potter around and look at a couple of beaches. Again we were blessed with blue skies but, of course, it could all have been so different. Our ferrry left at 11.30 and this time we opted for the main road towards Tarbert and then turn off up and over the hill to roll down to Claonaig. Time was fairly tight on this leg and we only made the boat by five minutes or so.
Again, the pull out of Lochranza is a fair haul but going south and then over the String Road isn't any easier so best just get on with it. Our ferry leaves Brodick at 7.20 and we're back in Ardrossan an hour later. As we said, six boats in two days... brilliant!
john b, galashiels