The Walk from Achavoulaig Farm to Scarrel Shore

As you wander around Bute, you may have noticed numerous signposts informing that there is a new walk at that point, and inviting you to proceed along these designated paths, Well, I have walked on many of these paths, and I have picked one out to inform you of it's whereabouts, and what you will see on route, the good points, and bad points, if any.

Walk number one—

  • Start Achavoulaig Farm, on the Glenmore Road.
  • Finnish the Glecknabae or Kilmichael Road, at Scarrel Shore.
  • Distance = Approx 2.3 Miles.
  • This walk can be done both ways, but as it has only been waymarked from the farm, it is advisable to do it this way. There is only one marker pointing you in the right direction from the Scarrel Shore way, and that is on the board at the start!

    Parking at Scarrel is very limited, and at Glenmore Road, nil, so why don't you park at Ettrick Bay, or if you go after the 31st of March, take the bus out, and back. Make a day of it by starting and finishing at Ettrick Bay, a total distance of approx 5.4 miles. At Ettrick Bay, sturdy boots on, and if you have them, a pair of gaiters, as at the present time (February) it is very wet and muddy. Flask, sarnies, water, and if you are doing it on your own, inform someone when you leave and when you are expecting to return.

    Head back towards Rothesay for about 500 yards, to the single track road on your left. The first farm you will pass is Lower Ettrick, the next on your right is Upper Ettrick, then again on your left, after you cross over Kilbride Bridge, is a farm of the same name. Carry on until you come to the end of the tar-macadam road , and the board telling you about this walk , and straight in front of you about 500 yards away is Achavoulaig Farm.

    The signboard reads, "Follow marked posts." There are plenty of posts marked with blue paint on the top 6 inches of them. (Good point number one.) Each time you have to change direction, there is a blue triangle pointing to where you have to go. (Good point number two.) It may seem silly giving a good point for something that should be there in the first place, but many walks have lost their waymarkers and have not been replaced, making life awkward for walkers.

    Beware of electric fencing. Self explanatory, the top two wires are live, not enough to cause you any harm, but will give you a jolt, so do not hold or lean on them. Tip! to tell if an electric fence is live, pick a piece of green grass, if it has been raining, shake the excess water of it, hold the thickest end between fingers, slide the thin end very slowly along the fence wire. if alive you will feel this time the electric pulse through the grass, without getting the full force of the power.

    Beware of the 'Bull'. Well that one word will send fear into many folk, not without cause. It is bad enough standing up to a small herd of nosey young cows, but a bull is in a league of it's own. I have been in fields with bulls without any problems, but they were with cows, and I did not noticed them until I was on them, but there was no problem, as this time they not interested in me whatsoever. But to some, it would stop their intentions in doing any walk. Not to worry as,if the bull was dangerous it would not be in any of these fields that you would have access to but try telling that to the bulk of walkers? (bad points?, no, it is wise to inform the public of any problems ), but if the bull turns out to be a 'Red Herring' then it will get treble bad points.

    Dogs must be kept on the lead at all times. It is not advisable to take dogs into fields where there are cows and calves. Well it is nice to take the family pet with you on any walk, but they may be the cause of you abandoning your walk, or sustaining injuries to them and to yourselves. Farmers have dogs and cattle. Cattle hate dogs, any kind of dog, and will try their damdest to get at yours. It is not fair on the poor dog, it doe's not want to be in a situation like this, it is here because you brought it, and it will follow you through thick or thin,as they are loyal to you. If you have obeyed the rules and have it on the lead and you get attacked you may drop the lead in you hurry to get away, and hoping that the cattle will leave you alone and go for the dog. Most dogs can outrun cattle and jump fences, but if they have a lead trailing between their legs, they are severely handicapped. This may cause them to be in dire danger. If the lead gets snagged, then you, and possibly your children, may witness you beloved pet being set upon by a snorting angry bull or cow, with the out come being unthinkable, and if you hold onto the lead , then you will all be at risk.

    This does not happen every time a dog is taken on a walk like this, but the threat is there, so take heed.

    The Start!

    Off we go on our walk. Head up towards the farm, and look for the first blue marker. At first sight, none, then we notice a white plastic thingy with the words ' Hill Walk', which is on your right attached to the fence. This was someone using their head to get us to move in the right direction, and the blue markers come into view within seconds. Head along the fence line counting the blue topped posts till we encounter our first gate. Some of these gates are very narrow, and in may require the removal of your back-pack to get through, except for us skinny wee sods. Not to worry there are also tractor entry gates there as well, so you don't have to climb. Through the gate watch the slippery piles that take you over the ditch Now we find out why it is called a 'hill walk'.. Not a stroll up a gentle slope, but a fairly stiff climb for the non-initiated . No seats to stop for a rest, and don't hold on to the electric fences for support? Fortunately there are no blind summits on this walk, the top of the hill really is the top, no getting up to what you thought was the top only to see another one in the distance, and even steeper.

    There are a lot of very wet areas in this walk but the grass, reeds etc have been cut in a swathe of about twelve feet in width, making walking a lot easier and highlighting the bad points underfoot. As you proceed to go under the Hydro Power lines. the track that was cut in the grass takes a left turn, but the blue topped post goes straight on. It is soon obvious why. To go straight on, takes you into a hollow which was a swamp when I walked it and not fit for walking on, so follow the grass cutters trail. You may still get wet in places but the water will not be over your 'boot heids'.

    At the top, more gates, and a marker that points down the middle of a field. Well I do not like walking through the middle of any field, as I had been brought up to walk on the fields margins and not to trample in farmers crops, also if there are any cattle in that field, it is easier to climb over a fence without doing a 200 yard sprint first. In the distance I see a post at a fence, so I head for it (I only saw it as I was using my binoculars, and the sun was in my eyes). There is no waymarker on it for either way (bad point) to point me in the next direction, and even if there was, the post has been put in the ground facing the wrong way, which means that even if there was a waymarker on it, it would be pointing in the wrong direction (bad point).

    Then, as I scan the area again I see another post that is lying at an angle in the middle of the same field, I head for it and find that it is loose in it's hole as cattle/sheep have been using it for a scratch. Once again no waymarker on it for either way (bad point). Reasons for being in the middle of a field is what we call dead ground and clever use of poles. Dead ground is ground that we cannot see as it is a hollow, so we don't want a pole in a hollow as it would be out of sight, also, the farmer wants to keep poles in the middle of his fields to a minimum as cattle will rub on these poles to get rid of ticks etc, and the results, as we have just seen, make going in the right direction a hit and a miss hence the zig zag movement of ourselves.

    This undulating ground does not last for long, you will be pleased to know, as you will soon be beside the fenceline again, and on your last gasp before hitting the tarry road at Scarrel Shore where you can bend down and kiss the 'Terra Firma' and you will also find a choice of two seats for your weary legs, one in the open, one hidden amongst the whins. After a wee rest, and may be a paddle, it is time to walk the last mile and a bit to Ettrick Bay. Get in your car or bus, go home and look at the map to see the next walk that you don't really want to do!

    All in all, it is a nice walk with excellent views, but badly needs more waymarkers on the anti clockwise route, and a full set of waymarkers on the clockwise route, with poles fitted more securely, and facing the right way.

    PS: Well, after this article was in the Buteman, a lady wrote in that she had done this walk from Scarrel shore, and she said that it was a great walk and well waymarked.. Well I thought that some had taken notice and rectified that faults, so later on that year I went up it again, and no difference to it at all,and I went up it again this year, and it is going downhill even more, with two waymarkers on the ground, the blue paint peeling off the fence posts, and the gate at the Scarrel end tied up with fencing wire.. I have done this walk four times and never seen any footprints of walkers, and only once have I see another walker who was lost, and no wonder.

    Norrie Mulholland
    First published in 'The Buteman'
    Copyright © Text and photographs, Norrie Mulholland

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