Monday, 25 January 2016
Saltcoats to Kilwinning across the amazing Ardeer Peninsula.
The Ardeer Peninsula, a large tract of sand dunes, desolate beach and bleak river estuaries sitting between Stevenston and Irvine in North Ayrshire has fascinated me for many years now. Once the site of one of the largest explosives factories in the world, manufacturing Dynamite and Gelignite for mining, construction, and both World Wars it had a maximum work force of 18,000 at its peak, its own train station (Ardeer) and dozens of explosives blending and mixing huts, a dining hall for meal times, boilers, cooling towers, engine and power sheds, underground bunkers, and warehouses. For many years, unless you worked there, it was a closed site and terra incognita on many maps. Even today it is a remote and little known destination with a very real atmosphere of end of the world desolation and decay.
I was initially surprised to see so many young girls had been recruited and killed but I suppose during the war years most of the able bodied men would have been already called up to fight. From my own point of view I was intrigued to see what it was like and if you could make an interesting walk out of it.
As it was nearby I left the bike and wandered over out of curiosity to see this empty building but an automatically triggered loud hailer soon informed me that it was out of bounds and that the police had been informed and were on their way. Considering it's remote position and the fact that the bridge across to Irvine had been removed I wasn't that bothered and had a quick look around anyway as they would have to reach me first and I wasn't doing anything untoward. As this message kept repeating loudly it did put me off exploring the rest of the peninsula however, (I assumed at that time it was all off limits) and I soon returned to my bike and cycled back along the sands.
He should have watched more old cowboy films as the bad guys in them always give a cheery grin before they shoot someone. That will teach him to relax near me. Classic beginner's mistake when meeting a psychopath in a deserted area. I didn't much care for the colour of socks he was wearing anyway and he seemed a right dodgy type to ever turn my back on. If you are not fast you're last in the quick draw game....And that is a true story. I haven't been back since. (the houses in the background seem empty but are guarded by cameras and patrolled)
We managed to get a bus back in Kilwinning and arrived in Saltcoats just after nightfall. 12 to 14 km one way depending on curiosity and mostly flat. Around 4 to 6 hours at an easy pace, exploring on the way. Interesting sculpture.
As a more scenic alternative here's a stunning route in Wales (Tremadog) that Alex and I have actually done years ago. One from Classic Rock and a great video. It's a deceptive climb put up by two Scottish intruders into the Welsh heartland so we were keen to tick it off. Starts easily enough in the security of the trees but soon becomes very exposed and elevated on a toenail traverse with no handholds for a few moves then weaves a devious snaking line up a near vertical cliff face to the top.
http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=3014 Photos of Tremadog climbing in here.
A brilliant open route we both enjoyed, along with a few other fine routes nearby before a well earned snack in Eric Jones' climbers' cafe below. Wouldn't fancy doing this climb now as I've lost my bottle for serious verticality these days. Worth viewing full screen. Great rock architecture throughout. Wish head cams and Go Pros had been around when we were climbing as we were fairly prolific around the UK in those far off days.