I found a campsite close to Tayinloan where the the ferry goes to the island of Gigha. I wanted to get the first crossing in the morning and be back before the stormy weather set in.. predicted to be 3pm. The wind blew up in the evening and all the campers were checking their tentpegs and securing their awnings: it seemed at 10pm that there wouldn't be a tent left standing in the morning. I was thankful to be in a Baa, rocking somewhat, and double-checked the handbrake.
I got to the shower block early in the morning. The wind had gone and the tents, as far as I could see, were all standing. By 9am when I parked Baa, and boarded the ferry as a foot passenger, the sun was out.
A nice couple in their Jaguar who were going to play golf gave me a lift from the ferry to the shop. They love playing golf on Gigha, and said there's a sign at the club which says 'Visitors welcome. £10 for 9 holes, £10 for 18 holes, £10 per day... just to avoid confusion...' !The shop is the hub of things, selling a better selection of groceries than most small island shops (classy people must rent holiday homes here) and they hire out bikes.
The island is about 7 miles long. I cycled down to the southern tip, to see its little harbour, and then up to where twin beaches fringe a ridge at the north end. I was horribly puffed by the time I finished - and it is not hilly! One of the highlights of visiting Gigha – apart from its warm micro-climate, safe beaches, seals and otters – are the Achamore Gardens which were created by Sir James Horlick who bought Gigha in 1944.
The Gardens are 54 acres in all, with wonderful trees introduced by Sir James, lots of rhodedendrons, and a two-acre walled garden. It is now owned by the island of Gigha, and I have to say that it did feel somewhat overwhelmed. I was there late in the year – it's a garden to see in May and June – and I just hope that the new Head Gardener can turn it round.
The couple who run the shop serve freshly made rolls, so I ordered a crab one. “Would you like some salad with that?” said the nice lady spooning lunch into her enchanting baby girl. Yes please! Her husband popped out to the garden and moments later he reappeared washing leaves. “There you go,” he said, packing my lunch in a paper bag, “fresh crab with a little mayonnaise and some fresh rocket, coriander and sorrel!” Wow! It was absolutely delicious, a taste sensation, zingingly fresh.
I got back to Baa by 1.30pm and set off down the west coast of the Mull of Kintyre, with its lovely sandy beaches, islands out to sea and pretty 'Cornish' fishing/holiday villages (white houses, blue paintwork). By the time I got to Campbelltown at the southern end the bad weather really had set in, so I didn't stop long. The road up the east coast is STWPP*, with a couple of steep ravines to negotiate, good beaches and a few tiny villages – and not much more.
It was a bit of a white-knuckle ride so I was surprised that I reached Cloanaig quicker than I thought I would. I was due to cross to Lochranza (on Arran) the next morning to meet my friend Cathy Agnew at lunchtime. The ferry dock is Cloanaig, there's not much else to see, and as the rain was chucking down and there was a ferry in, I got on it.
* single track with passing places