I’ve spent hours researching possible venues for microadventures but had been running out of ideas lately. I’m drawn to water and hills / mountains and while there’s lots of both around Glasgow there are very few spots that are well located AND wild enough that your sleep won’t be disturbed by other humans.

So I sat down for a couple of hours with Bing Maps and started scouring the Inverclyde, Cowal, Dumbartonshire and Ayrshire coasts for somewhere suitable. Unexpectedly quickly, I struck gold.

Remembering my last trip to Largs, when I sat on the wrong side of the train for a sea view, I discovered that there are some pretty rugged hills on the edge of town. A quick scan of the OS Map on Bing showed that you could get to Cauld Rocks, at a height of 250 metres, in less than an hour’s walking. Some googling threw up an interesting situation, whereby everyone in the world except Ordnance Survey seem to call the area the Quad Rocks.

Bing OS Maps

Bing OS Maps

After spending the sunniest, warmest, Saturday of the year at work I was persuaded to make a late dash for the hills and take advantage of time I had. I jumped on the next train to Largs which would arrive just before sunset and put my walking pace to the test.

The road rises quickly from the railway station and really gets the heart pumping. At the end of a residential cul-de-sac on the edge of town you are faced with two paths. One follows the fabulously named Gogo Water along Gogo Glen, while the other rises steeply past the site of Flatt Farm and along the hillside. Both routes are joined by an incredibly steep path before the turn off for the Quad Rocks, so if you prefer woodland to moorland the lower path is a good bet.

I took the higher path but could still hear clearly the calls of cuckoos from the woods and pheasants from the moorland, so you don’t lose out by having to choose just one path.

I turned off the track at the second stile, following a drystane dyke north against the advice I’d been given beforehand, as the sun had been below the horizon for almost twenty minutes and cloud cover made it pretty dark. As soon as you reach the top of the rise you get a great view of the crags ahead of you, as well as fairly damp feet. Thankfully it was so warm my shoes dried out very quickly!

Looking towards the Kyles of Bute

Looking towards the Kyles of Bute

After climbing a locked gate I took a high line above the first crag so that I could follow the contour to the flat area on top of Main Crag where I’d planned to bivvy. In the low light I managed to pick the wrong contour and ended up on a higher crag with no shelter, although at the time there was no wind so I cut my losses and quickly threw my kit together.

Just as I started unpacking I heard the roar of a loud engine from below and it took a minute before I could figure out where it was coming from. The Largs RNLI lifeboat had been launched and was powering north close to shore at 35knots. I managed to get my head torch on but just didn’t have time to try and get a photo of the lifeboat before it disappeared round the headland towards Inverkip.

Largs Lifeboat returns to station

Largs Lifeboat returns to station

After assembling my bed for the night and setting up the camera for some low light shots I heard the Atlantic 85 making it’s return. As both a lifelong member of the RNLI and the son of a beneficiary of their services I always get a little nervous seeing them out on a shout, hoping that all come home safe. I managed to fire off three long exposure shots which captured the trail of the lifeboat’s lights as they came in to shore and was delighted to see that they were not met by the blue lights of an ambulance – no casualties this time.

Arran, Kintyre, Bute, Cowal and the Cumbraes

Arran, Kintyre, Bute, Cowal and the Cumbraes

With the clock fast approaching 12 I turned off the head torch and fastened my bivvy bag as tightly as I could to keep out the clouds of midges. I think sleeping in a bivvy bag is something that your body and mind need to get used to. My first sleep was pretty broken and inconsistent. My second was better but still not 100% restful. This time I was out like a light and slept almost all the way through to 6am.

The first thing I noticed on waking up was a chilly easterly breeze which had got up through the night and which I had no shelter from. Expertly wriggling one hand free of the bag I set up the camera on the tripod and took a couple of snaps before very quickly packing up and heading toward Main Crag for some shelter.

Looking back to the crag I slept on top of

Looking back to the crag I slept on top of

Clouds had thickened over night and there was a haze over Arran so the view was fairly limited, but what there was did the trick. Cumbrae, Bute and Cowal were clear and brief sunny spells cast wonderful light over the town below. Just as I was about to start breakfast the farmer appeared on his quadbike and, although we exchanged a nod and a smile, I felt it was better to head off the hill and leave him to tend to his lambs.

View from my intended bivvy spot

View from my intended bivvy spot

On reaching the seafront I was met with a scene from 28 Days Later – not a single human being in sight but the promenade covered in the wrappings from hundreds of fish suppers left by sunseekers the day before. I wandered north along the shore in search of a peaceful spot to sit and read my kindle and eat some breakfast while I waited on the first train of the day. Looking a wee bit scruffy and sitting on the beach with my rucksack got me funny looks from joggers and dog walkers but was just the start I needed.

With the knowledge I’ve gleaned from this trip I’d really like to come back and do some photography on the hill when the sky is clear and the visibility is greater. The views are probably the best I’ve had on a microadventure and there are so many options in this area for extending the trip it’d be mad not to try. Who could possibly turn down a walk up Gogo Glen!?

Leave no trace - my bivvy patch

Leave no trace – my bivvy patch

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