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The perfect autumn amble

The perfect autumn amble
Eve MacFarlane is a freelance writer who lives in Portavadie. Here she descibes one of her top autumn walks.

Autumn is a great time for walking here on Argyll’s Secret Coast. Paths that were blocked by bracken in the summer open up again and the landscape is aglow with reds and oranges. One of my favourite autumnal walks is the Lower Stillaig Loop, which takes you from Portavadie to Stillaig and back. It’s got everything: stunning coastal views, wildlife, standing stones, a beach and loads of wide open space. What’s more, you’ll probably have it all to yourself.

Roaring stags
This walk is particularly lovely in the late afternoon when you can watch the sun begin to set behind Kintyre. I was up here the other evening enjoying the view when I heard rutting stags roar in the distant hills – a magical sound.

The derelict village
Start the walk at the derelict Polphail village. It was built in the early 1970s to house the 500 workers that were needed for the oil rig construction site just round the coast. But, despite the millions of pounds of Government money pumped into the project, the site never went into production and the village was never inhabited. Peer through the fence and you’ll see some striking graffiti on the crumbling walls. You then need to follow a path that climbs quite steeply up through a pretty birch forest. It’s full of pheasants at this time of the year. It’s quite boggy at the beginning and you need to be a bit careful as you pick your way over the slippery boardwalk.

View of Portavadie Marina
Out in the open, keep climbing and follow the fairly well-worn path that’s marked by white posts. After a short while the path descends to the right. If you want, take a quick detour up the hill to the left where you’ll get a bird’s eye view of Portavadie Marina.

Standing stones
Double back and then follow the undulating path until you reach the standing stone. It’s almost 9ft tall and stands next to a much smaller one. They date back to the Bronze Age approximately 2,000 years BC and I heard that they once formed part of a stone circle. Looking out over the loch you’ll spot the ferry ploughing backwards and forwards between Portavadie and Tarbert. Ravens nest in the cliffs close to here and you’ll probably see them flying above or perched on a rock.

Views of Arran
Carry on following the path. After a while it gets a bit indistinct, but basically you’re heading for Ascog Bay where you’ll see a wooden building which is the Boys Brigade hut. You can either cut across the headland or climb up to a heathery knoll, which is the highest piece of ground. The views of Ayrshire, Arran and Inchmarnock Island are fabulous and you can look down on Ascog Bay.

The isthmus
Then head for the ruins below and pick up a path which takes you over a little bridge and down to the beach. A narrow isthmus separates two shallow bays, which are both great places to beach comb at low tide. Eilean Aoidhe is joined to the mainland via the isthmus.

And home...
When you’ve finished exploring, pick up the farm vehicle access path and complete the loop back to the Portavadie road. There are often sheep and cows around here, so be careful if you have a dog! I reckon the whole walk is about 3 miles long and takes between 1.5 and 2 hours – depending on how often you stop to admire the views!

You’ve probably worked up a bit of an appetite, so why not head to Portavadie for a hot drink and some homebaking?

There are some more details on this walk on the Walk Highlands website.
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