Offa’s Dyke Path, Day2 Bodfari to Clywyd Gate

Day 2 of 14 done and what an absolute doozy! We are talking 20 kilometers, 6 of the Moels (mountains) of the Clwydian Range, one steep sheep track (my mistake) and the highest point of the entire Offa’s Dyke Path… aka a doozy!

My day started a little later than my preference – the taxi driver, the very Peter of Peter’s Taxi, does a school kid drop of so could only get me for 845am. So my actual hike started at 930am after a 25min cab ride a short moment to post my Day 2 good mornin’ on @runningforthegate Instagram and IGTV.

Before leaving the Sarum House B&B with Peter, I was up early to grab my lunch and snacks at the co-op – including Prawn Cocktail crisps (chips) mmm. Then I enjoyed a lovely breakfast at the B&B before donning my sunnies (sun glasses) for the day! Yahoo sunshine in North Wales!

Right out of the gate, and by that I mean a kissing gate, I was heading up and up and up. I was not quite ready for the incline so my new buddy, Snaily McSlowerton was kicking my butt. In the end, my legs beat out his slime and I made my way up and over not just the first but all of the Moels today.

Some highlights of the first, Moel Pen-Y-Cloddiau at 440m or 1442 feet – those old prove to be the most gentle of all my climbs today.

From there it was my arch nemesis Moel Arthur at 456m or 1496feet. This one gave me so much trouble I am officially friends off with anyone named Arthur! Ugh the way up was ok but I could not find the descent and ended up on a very steep, there may have been tears – ok there was, on this sheep path from hell.

See that nice path that goes up out of the right of the car park .. that should have been my way down. Instead I came down that line of rocks/fence largely on my ass in prickle county! Ugh.

From there it was up and over Moel Dywyll at 472m or 1550feet which had a crazy incline up hill – like just straight up the Moel. Has anyone in Wales heard of switchbacks?

Then it was into Moel Famau with the Royal Jubilee Tower sitting on top of its 555m or 1820feet. I could see the squat building from the start of my morning calling my name and it looked SO far away! This is the highest point on the Offa’s Dyke Path and I put up a wee video on @runninforthegate Instagram that includes my attempt at capturing the amazing, panoramic scenery from atop this beauty. If you listen closely you can hear me laugh as I am almost pushed over from the wind!

From there it as down, down, down to just go back up and up to Moel Eithinen at 432m or 1425feet. Including a little spot to toss up the feet and have a wee lunch!

Once down from the last Moel, it was a nice jaunt across some pastures, and a very friendly face in my cab driver waiting for me. I had guessed a 5pm when I chatted with him that morning .. and it was 5:02! He got me to my lovely Sarum House B&B in about 10mins and I enjoyed a shower and my feet up with a tea more than I can tell ya!

Tomorrow is a longer day about 24km but I do finish off the mountain range with just a couple more and then a nice stroll (she laughs) into Dinas Bras where I stay next!

Brandé

Offa’s Dyke Path, Day 1 Prestatyn to Bodfari

Well that’s day 1 of 14 done and what a start! Looking at my notes from the guidebook all the things I jotted down came true: 21km; I wouldn’t have a spot to stop for for, snacks or toilet. was able to get let my break; steep sections especially right out of Prestatyn; and lots of livestock fields. Yup! Check, check, check and check.

I started out just before 8am from the official starting point of the Path marked with a cool monument thing right on the beach. I also posted a short Instagram TV video with an intro to the day over @runningforthegate.

I had hoped to stop and grab some food for the next couple days but it was an early Sunday morning so that was a bust! I did get a packed lunch from the hotel and knew the soggy tomato and shredded cheese sandwich, some crisps (chips) and an apple would hold me today so that’s all right. It’s the next couple days I am worried about but I will fix that in Ruthin where I am staying with a 6am run to the market… I hope.

The walk started through the quant, quiet little town of Prestatyn and then up up and up to fantastic views back to the coast where I started. You can see the hill that is guilt as the up, up and up behind the clock in the distance.

From there is was steep up, flattish through livestock and farm fields (which are total ankle breakers by the way), and some serious downhill stretches. Also a nice amount of laneway (like a wee baby paved road with no traffic) where these legs get a chance to really stretch out.

The path was pretty fantastic as far as being cut back and well maintained, and the way finding was epic. The little acorn – my bestie for this 14 day journey – was epic. I was confused for maybe a minute and maybe twice.

I also loved all the stiles. While getting my leg up and over these suckers was pretty entertaining by end of day – I do love them. They are a symbol of hope (maybe the next bit is flat), fear (maybe the next bit has a stupid bull that wants to smash me), or maybe they are just a stile and I should just pop my leg over and keep on going. Right then.

The spirit of hiking weather heard me tell Instagram this morning that I was prepared for the rain – so it barely happened. Yahoo! It did a little mist thing a few times but mostly just cloud cover and even a touch of sun or two. It only really rained for less than an hour. Yahoo!

The winds were brutal – I posted a video on Instagram @runningforthegate with a few seconds of different parts of the trail and you can hear the wind blowing hard! You can see in one it gusted me a bit and another it didn’t cover up my mouth breathing from the uphill slog.

I had thought I would wrap up between 4 and 5pm but I got to my destination at 2pm. I will admit I had thought I was going to way behind my estimate finish time so when it was flat these stems were going flat out! It was nice to finish early, I had me a Beachcomber Blonde Ale local from these parts and served just chilled from a hand pump not a pressurized keg and a broccoli blue cheese soup. Yum! (The mountain or Moel range you can see in the background is the ridge I walk for tomorrow)

From there I called for transport to the town of Ruth’s (pronounced like rushin’) for my stay at the Saram House B&B. I get to stay here for 2 nights and it’s amazing!

To try and keep myself awake till atleast 7pm – the time change is hitting me like a bag of broken clocks and I need to get adjusted fast – I went for a walk about this little town.

They have a castle! Rushin Castle to be exact and it is so super cool. Literally 3 flats from my little place which is amazing!

Ok that’s me back at my cozy room with my misbehaving foot up, in a compression sock, with topical painkillers on it .. having a wee tea before I hit the horizontal. I made it to 7pm, party animal!

Tomorrow, rain expected and higher winds – perfect for my ridge walk! Maybe the winds will gentle push behind me and make the day so easy … 😉

Brandé

20 Sleeps and 20 Kilometers

The countdown is on for real now folks! I am under 20 days to departure which means I am in the final push of my training.

Getting miles and trails under these feet that will best emulate what I will experience abroad is important! Just as important as testing every single piece of gear, yes even your undies, and the food you intend to eat while hiking before you even leave on your adventure!

Yesterday’s training was about all of that – the gear, the food (and water) and the hike.

I picked a fantastic recorded trail on All Trails called Burnaby Mountain Tour – it promised the length I wanted (around 20km), a lot of elevation gain and loss, mucky messy trails, and rain! Yes, I purposely picked a day with a forecast of 100% rain so I could give the Gortex of my boots a go.

Trail and distance training …

The trail and length were fantastic – ok full disclosure there were a few uphill slogs where I would have rather been in a pub – but still fun. Pretty impressed that I got it done under 6 hours considering the rain and elevation gain/loss – but that’s a good sign for my UK hiking days ahead.

I don’t usually worry about the time I finish. I am just out there to take it all in for as long as it takes – but loads of pubs and restaurants stop serving food over in the UK before we ever would here in Canada. So while you don’t need to rush on the trail per se, you do need to be mindful of the time or potentially go hungry.

I remember a time on Hadrian’s Wall Path after a very tough and wet long hiking day got away on me, I walked into the ONLY pub right as the kitchen shut down. The barkeep said there is was no more food. This hiker (me) erupted into a look of horror with tears in her eyes. The barkeep offered fish & chips. I think he saw I was on the edge and wanted to avoid tears. It was the day I was chased by a bull so I was a little emotional. More on that another time.

Food and water …

For this upcoming adventure, I have quite a few days in and around the 20km mark in Wales and England so today was a good lesson at this length. And a length that reminds me why you carry our max water and take just a bit more food than you need….

More water! I ran out of water at about 12km of a 21km hike. On a cool, rainy day it was not too horrible a thing. Had it been hot, I would have 1) carried more, like my usual 2.5 liter bladder not a bottle in the first place and 2) planned where the water refill opportunities were on my route. The H2O spirits were on my side yesterday – at about 13km there was a random skate park with an epic water fountain. Filled me up and then my bottle. I did also have my Life Straw with me if things got bad and I had to take a guzz from a creek.

More fuel! A good reminder that what you pack for a 5km walk-about is not what you pack for 20km+ hike. It is both more and different food you need – not just 4 times more. You need to think of cumulative calories burned and the total time hiking, what your usual meal cadence is over the time you are on the path (i.e do you always eat lunch and are you hiking over lunch) and how much effort the trial will be. A little trial and error before you go is key here!

A few things I have learned:

  • If you took it the last couple hikes but didn’t eat it, don’t pack that thing again. That’s carrots for me, not a carrot + hiking fan.
  • Chocolate covered anything is not the way to go for summer hikes – if it’s your lifeline, keep your chocolate contained, like M&Ms.
  • If you need utensils to eat it, reconsider. Leave the pudding and salad at home.
  • If you are walking over 15km, make sure you have something salty – nuts or trail mix are my go to.
  • After 20km, carbs do not count – eat the carb things guilt free!
  • Pack things that can take a beating – go for the Granny Smith apple over the banana.
  • Take things that won’t create a huge burden to pack out. Orange peels VS a snack pack container.
  • Pack it out. Even if it’s biodegradable – that apple didn’t grow there so don’t leave it there!
  • Check the best before date and maybe keep it in mind. The Sport Beans I scavenged out of my first aid kit when I hit the wall yesterday may have expired June … 2019. Still good?!

Gear training …

The feet were feeling good yesterday. You know you have exceeded your days distance when it feels like your feet have their own pulse (aka dogs barking) – didn’t happen for me yesterday so yahoo feet!

A couple of hot spots in my usual suspect places so I blame my feet not the footwear and these I can proactively compeed. Compeeds seem to be the best blister solution for me of all I have trialed – and I have trialed many! I did give Leukotape a go on this hike without success but I have another technique I can try with it before I give it a fail. Compeeds are expensive so even if I can get to a Compeed and Leukotape combo that would be cheaper and save me from reaching for the duct tape as an extreme measure. For someone who loves hiking, my feet did not get the memo.

Confirmed I most definitely am happiest when I have a gaiter like solution in place. What? Let me explain. I get a lot of snakes in my boots. Aka rocks and grit bits that find there way into my boots and that is a recipe for blisters. Every time a bit gets in my boot, I say ‘I have a snake in my boot’ in my best Toy Story, Woody voice. Yes, every time it happens – not annoying at all. So I need a way to keep them out so I am less annoying and, most importantly, I don’t have to stop and fix my feet every 20 feet. Introducing gaiters!

Yesterday I was able to use my Bewilder tights over my boot top like a gaiter and it worked amazing! I like that it was breathable and stretchy. But I won’t be wearing long tights every day so need a stand alone gaiter solution and don’t prefer my waterproof Outdoor Research ones in summer weather. Based on how good a fabric solution felt during my tights trial, I have ordered the Montane sock-it gaiters that I can wear everyday boot or shoe and they are largely stretchy fabric! See ya snakes, find someone else to hitch a ride with.

Of course my hike yesterday was also just about hiking. Feeling the miles stroll past you and taking in all the sights and smells and green and nature and wow. Here are some pics of all that too to wrap this up!

Brandé

PS 17 Sleeps

Offa’s Dyke Path – the Deets

Just 25 sleeps until I depart for Wales and kick off my next adventure, the Offa’s Dyke Path. So excited! Thought it would be a good time to share a few details about the Path and my hike.

What is this Offa’s Dyke Path?

  • 177 mile / 285 kilometer national walking trail in mostly Wales – considered strenuous and undulates (my favourite hiking word) continuously.
  • The path runs the length of the English and Welsh border, crossing over the border many times (I walked the English and Scottish border – Hadrian’s Wall – in 2008. Once I complete this path I will have walked the entire land border of England! Cool)
  • Lonely Planet ranks this Path as one of the world’s greatest walks. (I will decide that for myself but it does bode well for my adventure)
  • The Offa Dyke is the longest and most ancient monument in Britain.
  • The Saxon Monarch, aka King Offa, is due credit for building the Dyke as a natural border rampart between Wales and England.
  • The Offa’s Dyke Path runs beside or on top of the rampart and was declared an official Path in 1971.
  • There are many intact or ruins of castles and abbeys along the route.
  • Offa’s Dyke Association advises the Path passes through one Natioanl Park, three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and at least two Environmentally Sensitive Areas.

What is my hiking plan for this Path?

  • Walking North (Prestatyn on the coast, literally on the beach) to South (Chepstow) – this way I am closer to the start of Cotswold Way the hike in England I am doing a couple days after I finish this one.
  • Average walking distance a day is 19km – longest day is 26.5km and shortest is 13km. Hoping that shortest day gives me opportunity to laundry of my stinky, sweaty hiking gear – that will depend on what town I staying in that night of course.
  • A few sections are giving me some chest pain and I have not even started … specifically wide open, thin trails on the side of steep scree (aka hill of broken rock and gravel). The fear of heights is strong in this one but I am sure if I could to Pembrokeshire Coastal Path on the edge of 70 foot cliffs in gale force winds for 16days I can do some short scary bursts on this Path. Insert hopeful face here.
  • Except for a few nights, I walk from accommodation to the next accommodation and most are just a few km off the actual Path. This adds to the length of my walk each day but it’s pretty exciting to just walk ‘home’. On the days I don’t walk ‘home’ I just call the place I am staying for transport – hopefully from a pub 😉
  • The Path can be tackled in 5 days if running (an annual running competition proves this) but walking it is usually tackled in 12 – 14 or more days. I am going for 14 days short enough to keep some pep in my step but long enough that I am not racing to the finish line each day to arrive before the pub stops serving food. A long hoof followed by only a cold granola bar and an apple at night is a sad end to a day, lived experience!
  • I am doing the Path on my own … sorta! Eeek this is the really exciting part. After Offa’s Dyke Path, I am meeting my long distance hiking crew Shar (sister) and Cheryl and Rosa (our besties) in England to walk the Cotswold Way – more on that later. Cheryl, trail name Impossible Turtle, is so excited to get her boots on a path, and see castles, she is joining me early and is going to do the last 6 days of Offa’s Dyke Path with me! Doctor Boots (me) and Impossible Turtle getting it done.
  • This amazing company called Anglessey and Wales Walking Holidays have done ALL the work for this one y’all! They have booked all of my accommodations (including making a big change when we added Cheryl – yahoo!) and arranged my transports and luggage service and everything. Wow!

My plan is to do a short good morning video on the Running for the Gate Instagram account from the Path each morning before I start out, and then wrap the day up with a blog post and some photos at night. So loads of details coming your way about this amazing Path! Stay tuned.

Brandé

Losing Stars on Yelp

Tuesday’s hike was amazing, wonderful and absolutely, totally fear factor for this gal! The rest of our merry band had no issues of course but this ‘scaredy cat of heights’ had to resort to full Gollum (crawling on all 4s) for a good hour+ … here are the details:

We woke up in the morning and had a great eggs and toast and granola breakfast with fabulous coffee and by 9am our crazy crew was out the door the bottom of Gros Morne Mountain. Today the new addition to our band, Amy and Sheldon, are joining us for the fun! We met them at the mountain for 930 and off we hiked!

The path was beautiful instantly – wow! Lots of rocks and roots to step over, some muddy muck and built in boardwalks! Beautiful! I was feeling like I could hike this thing all day – my favorite kind of trail!

At about 4kms into this 16km hike we came out of the tree filled path into the rock gully. The very steep, crazy, uphill, hell gully we would be climbing the rest of the way to the top! Ok so not all of us considered it hell – for me it was though and I had to crawl most of it on all 4s! The pictures do not do justice … to showing you what I can only imagine is a great view or showing you just how steep the ascent really was but I promise you it was super sketchy! My favorite part was the snow pack on the way up – slick, icy snow on a steep hill where you could slide to your Gros Morne death. So the very best!

At about 8km we finally made it to the top – let’s be clear most folks were there before me. Seems crawling takes longer than walking. I felt sort of bad as I had the lunch sandwiches in my pack but also vindicated as I was confidently advised the trail would not be a problem for my fear of heights so making them wait for sustenance was a little payback lol. Stick with Nick (our ‘travel guide’) was losing stars on Yelp with every Gollum-like crawl I had to complete … at one point his fake guide company we made up received a rebrand to Nick the Trick!

Once at the top, we toasted the ascent with a massive shared can of local brew and the sandwiches I trudged up in a crawl. The fog was even thicker on top – making the lunch stop a little cold but also eerie in a really cool way! Still recovering from the gully of satan I was giving this hike a thumbs down!

After a short break and before the fog and cold seeped into the bones – we started to make our way down. We walked clear across the top (the shape of which Chauncey, our resident comedian and mechanical/wood working Rain Man, described as a bread bun) on well makes rock paths and boardwalks – so cool. If you were any more than 50feet apart you might as well have been alone though, the fog just swallowed everything up!

The Yelp stars were going up on Yelp again for Nick our friendly, neighborhood guide with this cool on top stuff. I loved the random built in boardwalks – felt so good to get a full stride in after crawling about for a couple hours! On the initial part of the descent down the back side of the mountain we even came across a random ‘staircase to nowhere’ – so cool!

From there we just continued down and around the mountain for another 8km – it felt like the longest 8km ever, ever though I have to tell you. I think the heart rate of 270 up the gully climb made me pretty tired for the downhill. I felt a little like an overlooked noodle but the company was fabulous! A 8km hiking conversation among me, Shar and Cheryl was like coming home … we just needed Rosa! (We missed you Commander Butter)

We started out at 936am and wrapped up at about 530pm and could not have been more thankful. Sheldon and Amy provided some yummy homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies at the finish line, Amy chucked her super muddy and now fully worn out sneakers (my boots should have probably followed) and then we set off for Rocky Harbour for some eats and a pint!

What a day! What a trail! What a crew! I would hike any day, anywhere with these geeks but next time I am picking the trail!

Brande

PS want to know what the dinner bun (aka Gros Morne Mountain) actually looks like without all the pea soup? Here you go – the arrow marks our route! This picture was taken the day after the hike.

Soggy Bread in My Pocket

We arrived safe and tired and happy on Sunday at the beautiful St. John’s Airport! What a fabulous airport – all blues and tiles and so clean!

We were greeted by our hiking and shenanigans crew – Charmaine and Nick, and Cheryl and Chauncey. A, for the most part, a bunch of born and raised Newfoundlanders! Great tour guides!

We left the airport in our rocking Red Ford truck (thanks mama and papa Newfoundland) and made our 7+hr drive all the way across the island – literally east to west coast! Amazing! A stop at Mary Brown’s, the signature fried chicken chain on this rock (mmmmm) and we arrived in Gros Morne around 6pm! Shar and I after our red eye did pretty good on route with only a couple of pass out cat naps on route!

We grabbed some groceries … stocked up with a little Screech and made our way to our oh so cute Air BnB. (Ok for real no I did not buy this Screech)

Our place in Norris Point, a wee baby town in Gros Morne, is adorable. Three bedrooms that are so cute and a fabulous view of the harbour and table lands – more on that to come!

We headed up the road to the only place open for eats on a Sunday at this time – Rudy’s Pub! A quaint little pub / convenience store / gas station. They had only Coors on tap and only fries, chicken tenders, onion rings and mozzarella sticks on the menu – a round of each please! Shar sweet talked the lady and she made some deep fried pickles happen too … we needed something that resembled a salad!

A game of banagrams, a pint and deep fried dinner and we were set!

After dinner a little walk about the harbour was in order. What a sweet little place we are staying so many amazing little boats and such!

Exhausted we played a few games of cards and some pints at your rental cabin – and then to bed. Oh when I hit that pillow I was out!

Up on Monday morning feeling so excited to see this amazing province we had some granola, yogurt and berry breakfast and some fabulous coffee – thanks to the great coffee cook off, judges are still held up on final decision!

From there, ready to hike, we headed to Tablelands – wow! It’s just a short 4km hike but it is on the one place in Canada where the mantel is above ground! Amazing!! It was raining and we did not care one bit – rain gear on and smiles on our face!

Oh and while at the Tablelands we saw the Newfoundland & Labrador flower! It’s carnivorous… the flower draws bugs in which drop into the tube shaped leaves and yum yum!

From there we headed to a boat tour which also included a hike – about 3km each way to the dock which made me happy! We had to race to the boat on the way out as we were cutting it tight and it was so worth hoofing it. The tour was $65/person for a 2hour of the fjords and I was keen to see the cliffs from the water! It was foggy as all heck but whatever the eeriness of fog on a boat we knew would still be so great!

(Queue the Jurassic Park theme song! Shar has the t-Rex roar on her phone from Jurassic Park and played it for us – hilarious!)

Oh and it was so fabulous .. the most best part was the tour was cut short at about the 1.5hour and they gave us a full refund! Whaaat!

On our hike bike we took this awesome detour to Snug Cove – another fabulous bonus to this adventure! I loved this detour and it only added a few km to our 3km hike!

After the hike and some showers, we heading out for supper at Fisherman’s Landing in Rocky Harbour! Shar and I ordered local pints and shared 3 local inspired dishes – cod au gratin, bacon wrapped scallops, and roasted moose meat with mashed potatoes and gravy. All local mmmmm

From there it was back to Norris Point for some games and a pint then to bed! Oh and I was ready to sleep after a long day and a time change 4.5hours later than home for me.

Tomorrow I will share today’s hike – so great!

Brande

PS. Why bread in my pocket? Well in these lands if you don’t want a fairy to steal you … bread in your pocket or wear something backwards when walking in the woods!

Celebrating Back in Brodick

We did it! On Day 5 we completed the Arran Coastal Way – all 105km according to the guidebook or 133km according to my FitBit!

We started our morning with … you guessed it! A full Scottish Breakfast again that was absolutely amazing. While eating we commiserated over how our feet were doing, and the weather and if we think it would improve at all. We were keen to finish this trail despite a hard, late finish the day before and most of us still with we gear.

So we made a plan to be out the door for 1015am and on our way – rain and blustery winds or not! We ran a little late cause of me, sorry gals. For some reason the outsides of my feet have developed some pretty impressive and very painful bruises (I think from all the bouldering where your feet are never flat and you push off from the outside of your boot). I had to do some first aid intervention if I was gonna get another 20km outta these dogs. Some foam backed moleskin and duct tape ought to do the trick!

We were out the door at 1045 …

We had stayed at the Burlington House which was just so cool. Shar and I were on the top floor where it was like an attic angled roof – I always wanted a room like that as a kid. We also had a heater in our bathroom so we could crank it up to dry our clothes and boots – a totally stinky hot box! Ick!

Our day started our on a pretty crazy, overgrown trail heading straight up out of town. The lady at the Burlington told Rosa and Cheryl that instead of backtracking a couple km to get back on the trail there is a sneaky-sneak straight up to the trail just down the road. Yahoo! We found it! At first a wide track (gravel road) then a cool wee trail that looked more like a creek bed than a path! At times we had to crouch hike the branches and bramble was so low We loved it!

From here we were on a minor road and had to guess a little at where to go next – assuming we continued with the coast to the right, we turned right. Well oopsy daisy! Sure felt like the right way. We even confirmed it with a fisherman! He told us to go up a wee road (massive, long, steep hill) and we would be back with the Way. Well we did that and ended up back where we had already been – hahaha sure let’s add a couple km to our day!

So, we asked another lady who drove by and she told us to head around and back down to the coast – yahoo we found the right way markers. Too bad we climbed a horrendous hill to find out! Looks like the driving lady knows a bit more about the inland paths than the fisher guy – weird?!

Ok back in action we spent the next couple of hours either rock beach walking or on boardwalks just above the beach. We could not believe the amount of work that went into building these amazing boardwalks. At the end of each there was a small sign that said how many meters to the next boardwalk- so you would know how long you had to suffer on the wet boulders before flat ground again. Brilliant!

The tide was still a little high so we had to walk a few steps in the ocean at one point to get around a headland. Cheryl went ahead to check out what was on the other side – making even soggier feet in the process but what a champ! She found our boardwalk on the other side, so we all followed! If your friends walked around a headland with ankle deep ocean, would you? Yup!

From here we soon found our way to Lamlash our mid way point and where we getting a hot lunch. This time we knew the tea house or a hotel would be open and we could not wait! All of us enjoyed a hot tea with Arran Gold (yummy, better than Bailey’s liquor) to warm up and some sandwiches with chips!

We also reconfirmed that yes we wanted to finish walking – even with basically ponds in our boots, and torrential rain and wind. We were gonna finish this thing! So we geared up and stepped outside to … no rain, no joke! The skies had stopped crying down on us and it was actually feeling like it might warm up a little. (insert the sound of the heavens singing).

We started with a 2km easy road walk which turned into gravel track right along the coast where we saw seals! Finally we saw all the seals the guidebook and locals were talking about! My photo below doesn’t do the seals justice – Rosa got some epic photos on her camera though!

From here we rounded a headland and had a couple of kms walking on the grassy knoll right beside the coast – sometimes precariously on the cliff edge in my scaredy-Cat opinion but no one else seemed to mind. Absolutely beautiful!

After this section if was some easy hill, fields and minor road walking into town. Stopping whenever we wanted in the sunshine for photos!

img_3278img_3311Wow, we made it! Strolled into town (and by that I mean hobbled haha) and took a photo back where we started 5 days ago – at the Arran Coastal Way marker. Wow!

We headed over to the Douglas Hotel across the street where we were presented with our completion certificates and felt some serious pride in our accomplishment! There may have been clapping and some fighting tears. A toast with some local lager and a cider on the sunny terrace completed our epic journey!

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Ladies! Wowza! Now shall we really celebrate by climbing a mountain, Goat Fell Mountain to be exact? I think so! Brande

Soggy in Whiting Bay

Well day 4 over and done! From Lagg to Whiting Bay in 16kms that felt more like double that!

We started our morning with another yummy full Scottish breakfast and some time checking in with our families and catching up on social media in the cute little sun room of the hotel. The forecast was calling for heavy rains and wind and we were looking to put it off as long as possible. Sitting in our little sun room we watched the rain deluge down sideways for a good hour. Ick! But we had some time to kill anyway so why not hope the rain would rain itself out!

This morning’s walk includes bouldering around Brenan Head which is only passable at a lower tide. The guide book says to arrive at the headland at high tide, take a break, and then go around when the tide is passable and we are confident it’s going out. If not confident then to backtrack to the escape root up to the cliff top and take the road.

High tide was forecasted for 1:06pm and we had 4-5km to walk to get to Brenan Head which included a lot of sand, boulder and bog walking – beautiful for sure, but can take some time to cross. So we left the hotel around 1030am and made our way to the headland. We made awesome time after leaving the hotel – likely because it was pouring rain and all you can do is put you hood on, keep your head down and walk. Good conversation and photo montages are a little tough in the blistering rain along the ocean. But we were lucky the rain only lasted about an hour or so – just long enough to soak a few of the crew to the under clothes.

We arrived at Brenan Head just after noon so got comfy on the boulders below an awesome waterfall just outside Black Cave (the biggest coastal cave on the walk – massive) and enjoyed our lunch while watching the tide come to high and then go out so we could time our crossing. Well as we sat there it got windier and windier, the waves higher and higher – soon crashing against the rocks! A beautiful sight to see but not as you are waiting for the sea to go out so you can keep moving. We committed to waiting for high tide at 1:06pm and picked a tide pool to watch as our indicator that the tide was going out.

Bundled up in all the clothing we had in our packs – for me this included a short sleep, 2 long sleeves, a fleece, my shell and a toque – we enjoyed the waves, had some good conversations and waited. Every once in a while the sun would peek out and brighten our cold, happy but impatient spirits. At 230pm the water was not visibly retreating, the waves were getting worse by far and there was no way to pass Brenan Head – our gut instinct to not attempt the crossing due to the conditions were later confirmed when we found out all ferry crossings to/from the island were cancelled due to bad seas. Bad sea, bad! A weather warning was issued after we left our hotel in Lagg – missed it! So back to the Escape Route we went … we hadn’t seen the markers for this on our way through so Rosa and I double timed it to see if we could find these while Cheryl and Shar got a few things sorted and followed behind. We found it! Not sure how we missed the marker on the way through the first time. I was a bit ‘grumpy’ about having to take the escape route because we had waited so long for the stubborn tide and the Brenan Head crossing just seemed like the cool coastal thing to do. But the escape route ended up being great – up a steep incline to get the thighs burning, across some fields so we got to walk along with some sheep, and then easy road walking with amazing views of the Prada Island lighthouse! After 4km on the road we had a decision to make – walk another 8km into Whiting Bay our home for the night on roads OR walk 12km through woodland on the actual Arran Coastal Way.

By now the rain was looming again, the wind had picked up big time and it was 430pm – we had lots of time but there is always the concern that you won’t get a meal in the next town if you arrive too late. So Shar chatted with the Burlington Hotel where we were staying and confirmed we could order till 830pm.

So we had just under 4hrs to make 12km, we could get a hot meal at the end, and the path was largely through the woodland which I love – decision made, let’s keep on keeping on! About mid way the storm hit! Big style! Soaking, sideways, heavy, bouncing back up off the ground, rain quickly turning us from chilled hikers to soggy sloggers! Hoods on, heads down, we made our way. Even in the rain it was really pretty! Until we got to town and then it was just rain, rain, rain – running down the streets and overflowing drains kind of rain.

By the time we arrived at our Burlington Hotel for the night it was just before 8pm and we were literally dripping – I had to actually ring out my socks! The hotel lady didn’t care one bit and led us to our rooms and had the chef on standby for food. We toasted the end of a crazy, soggy day at dinner and all of us were keen for a good sleep and a chance for our clothes and boots to dry! Brande

Chilling in Lagg

Day 3 (the real day 3 – sorry about the typo on yesterday’s post) here on the Arran Coastal Way was amazing. We walked from Machie to Lagg just over 20kms and loved every minute of it. A day full of amazing views, challenging and beautiful trails, and many a quintessential Scottish moment. Cheryl and I couldn’t believe how many Scottish moments we got in before noon!We began our day at 8am with a full blown Scottish breakfast – complete with Black Pudding or Haggis. Shar and I of course took the Haggis, we both love it. Rosa had Haggis too but Cheryl went with Black Pudding. She originally hails from Newfoundland, Canada where Black Pudding is a regular menu item and she wanted to know if it was as good as home. It was!We dallied way too long at breakfast but how could we help ourselves with such an awesome meal, beautiful sunny dining room and all the tea and coffee we could drink. Ok full disclosure here… we were expecting rain and no one was ready to get out there into the potential sogginess.Leaving our B&B, the amazing owner woman lady (I feel so bad I can’t remember her name) knowing our love of Helian Coo’s offered to take us out to her family’s pasture where she raises them for a ‘wee look’ before she drops us off at the start of our day – heck yah!We met Aggie a beautiful brown mom nd her baby, and another black Coo (I don’t remember her name) and her babe – they are absolutely adorable! Standing in a classic scotch mist rain seeing Helian Coo’s – now that’s quintessential!Oh my goodness they even have a Coo named Pippa and she knows her own name. The B&B gal called it out and all the way across the field Pippa raised her head and made to come our way! She is the Coo way way across the field.Once we got our Coo time in, we were dropped off in Machrie (where we were picked up yesterday) to start our day of walking … with standing stones! Oh wow, wow, wow. Sadly, Rosa did not hear the buzzing of bees and find Jamie Fraser but we had an awesome time all the same!Overall I think there was 3 or maybe 4 standing stone circles in that field – some more impressed than others in size but all pretty awesome to see. Our standing stones excursion was a 3km+ detour and worth every blister bandaid step! Just amazing how they have stood the test of time. From the standing stones we made our way the couple of km to King’s Cave. This is the cave where Robert the Bruce hid out and they say spoke to the spider who changed the course of Scotland. I have heard many a cave claim the Robert and spider story so I am not sure about that but it was amazing all the same!The walk to the King’s Cave Park area was 1.6km on the road but once there it was the most amazing path trough the forest and across the hill top then down a rock gulley to the shore – beautiful!From the King’s Cave we continued along the coast on a gassy knoll just above the boulders on the beach heading towards Drumadoon cliffs and Blackwaterfoot town for lunch. This section of trail is so far my favourite! Easy underfoot on the knoll and then entertaining boulder hopping with amazing views of the ocean to the right and imposing beautiful cliffs to the right – wow!We wrapped up this morning with a 1km+ beach walk to bring us into Blackwaterfoot for lunch. We hit the Post Office/Liquor Store/Grocer to refill snacks and suck for our packs and then grabbed some lunch from On A Roll.I had a very tasty Scotch Pie and the rest of the crew enjoyed super fresh sandwiches. Sitting outside at a picnic table we enjoyed our lunch, took care of any feet concerns, and reviewed the trail info for the afternoon.Once back on the path, our next milestone was Preacher’s Cave at about km 1.6 – we found it. It is a massive triangle shaped cave that was used as a church in the early 1800s. Pretty neat to see! From here the guide book describes the path as ‘tortuous’ over boulder fields grown over with vegetation making for difficult and uneasy footing with very few way markers. Bang on!Well the description was correct .. but we loved it! The sun came out, the stepping up and over and across to the different rocks was entertaining, and the conversation was great. For sure our speed slowed right down as every second stone was an ankle breaker but we didn’t care – we were happy as clams out there and we saw a seal!From this tortuous path we made our way up a very steep – outside of my comfort zone – hill to the top of the cliffs where we rejoined the road.Once up the hill, we took in the amazing view and changed from boots to shoes and continued walking. We had 6.8km left to cover on the road to reach our evenings destination, the Lagg Hotel built in 1971.We walk on the side of the road where the traffic is coming at us so we can give them a chance to see us and give us some space or we can jump into the ditch. There is no shoulder on these roads and barely enough room for cars to pass so it’s a little sketchy but easy underfoot.At 3.8km we happened past a bus stop and hmmmm don’t mind if we do! We didn’t come here to walk on roads – we came to walk on paths and when there is no path, we are outta here! Sure it was only a 3.8km trek and only saved us about 30mins but wow did our feet thank us!We made it to the Lagg Hotel at just after 6pm our earliest at night so far! We checked in and even had time to shower and get into clean clothes before dinner, which was booked for 830pm. It was so nice to have our home right in the very place we were enjoying a cold pint and our meal.We even met the hotel owner who lives part-time in the Calgary area, just like 3 of our peeps! Lots of chat about the Calgary area ensued. We finished the night off with a wee dram of Arran Gold Liquor (like a really good and more real Baileys) liberally poured by Peter and then headed to bed – all secretly hoping the rain in the forecast was a bad weatherman’s joke.Brande

Hobbling in Blackwaterfoot

Day 2 on the Arran Coastal Way proved to be another doozy. A beautiful doozy that has left all of us with a bit of a hobble or a limb tonight- tight muscles, dogs barking, sun burns, and blisters seems to be the order of the body today for our crew.

The day started amazing! We stayed at the Butt Lodge (not a typo) which had the cutest rooms, comfy beds and was so quiet. Except for the temperature of the rooms (too warm) it was a perfect stay. Oh and we had the pleasure of a full Scottish breakfast!

If you don’t know what a full Scottish breakfast is let me tell you! 2 eggs, 2 bacon, 2 sausages, baked beans, grilled tomato, potato scone, fried mushrooms, and toast. Most of the time it also comes with Black Pudding. Ours did not but it would have been epic if it did. So yummy!

After breakfast we packed up and heading out the door. Leaving our big bags for Contours Walking Company to carry forward for us, and just taking our daytime backpack.

At 930am we were on the road. We kicked off the day with a visit to the Lochranza Castle built in the 13th century. Robert the Bruce stopped here on his way from Ireland when he returned to claim the throne. Today, it is just some really impressive ruins – in really gold shape!

From there, we started out on the path. This included a short distance on the road around the headland and a steep, long uphill to take us to a fern filled, undulating path on the cliff above the beach.

A few sections of the trail where beyond my ‘fear of heights’ comfort zone – just a foot wide if that with what would be a hard drop off of it wasn’t for the ferns growing out of the hill to give you illusion of solid ground. You can’t fool me. I took the lead and powered through it! I find when spooked on a trail just ‘doing it’ gets me through it!

Following our up on the cliff walk, we then came down a very steep hill to the village of Catacol where we got to step over our first ladder stile.

These are basically two ladders leaned against each other over a fence. They are used to keep the sheep in the pasture but give us humans an easy way up and over without the pain of a gate. Seems sheep don’t know how to climb ladders. I wonder about that!

The village of Catacol is famous for the row of 12 white houses that face the sea. Each has a different shaped window design so the wives of fisherman who lived there could signal their husbands by placing an oil lamp on the sill.

From Catacol we did a bit more road walking (about 4-5km) before making our way back onto the beach for some Coastal hiking. This is such a beautiful way to see the coast but it’s hard work keeping your balance and purchase on the rocks. Worth the work though for the amazing views! Well the view from the road is awesome too but the is just something fun about hiking on the road vs on a path or the beach!

We soon left the beach to walk into Pirnmill where we were excited to have a warm lunch and a pint at the Lighthouse Cafe. I could already taste my cheese and tomato toastie and a cold pint of Tenants lager.

Well hopes dashed, there was a homemade sign on the door announcing it was closed for today and tomorrow. Boo! Well when life serves you lemons you make lemonade.

There was a small village store next to it where we grabbed some Tuc crackers, Island of Arran Brie, a lemon loaf, some candy and bought a can of Tenants. We then grabbed a picnic table and popped all our pack snacks and new purchases into a pretty epic family style lunch.

After our picnic, we had a few more kms of road walking before getting back on the beach. The road walking while flat surfaced and easy is tough on the body and the mind.

There is no shoulder at all so you are have to be hyper vigilant for cars, walk single file (so no chatting), and the hot black tar with the sun makes for warm and very sore feet. We were glad to get back onto more natural surfaces!

Along our travels we came across 2 seaside graveyards. Wow they were pretty old. The stone fence around the outside always falling down in places and all the graves were covered in lichen. I think the oldest grave stone we could read was for a poor soul who died in 1812. What an amazing final resting place.

By mid afternoon we were no longer beach walking but rather rock balancing and hopping – these amazing lava formations stretched for kms of the coast with a few random grassy or beach breaks. The surfaces were very rough making for sticky walking allowing us to easily walk up and over and across, picking the route we wanted so long as the ocean stayed on our right we were heading in the right direction.

From here the path turned into a very grassy headland with lots of vegetation- mostly some type of tall fern and thistles. At some points we were pushing through shoulder high ferns on the path hoping spiders and tics were in residence on another part of the island today.

Totally worth the vegetation foraging as we got a glimpse of a golden eagle above the cliffs and found some cool caves!

Our beach walking wrapped up around 430pm and a quick look at the map and some math confirmed we still had 8km of road walking left before our day was done. None of us were keen to be back on the road.

Rallying our selves for the next 1.5hrs of a silent, windy, hot, sore slog we tried to think of just how lucky we are to be here and that the road was right beside the sandy beach so we could seal watch while walking! The idea of a spot of tea and a fresh scone at the Machrie Tea Room and Golf Club (our day’s destination) was also a big incentive. Sure glad we didn’t know then it was closed – nooooo! Sad face!

Instead we called our Greannan B&B lady who was picking us up to drive us to the accomodation in Blackwaterfoot as it was far off  today’s walking route. She was lovely and had lots of say about the island so raised our spirits some. Oh and what she couldn’t raise, the beautiful B&B did! A bed has never looked so comfortable!

No time for resting! It was almost 7pm and we still had to walk … hobble, shuffle, wrangle … the 1km down to the Kinloch Hotel for some supper before they stopped serving meals. Our B&B lady was so sweet and called to book us a table to we wouldn’t miss out on getting some eats! We cheered our amazing but tough day and commiserated on our hate for road walking over cold pints!

What an awesome day and fantastic evening meal – now let’s back to our home for the night to tend to the blisters, muscle pain and sun burns!

Brande