Mark's twelve-day challenge comes to an end
THE garden at Killean Farm, the ferry over to the Isle of Gigha… these are my earliest memories, and they are in Argyll, a place that has always felt like home, even though I spent most of my childhood in rural Perthshire.
But despite these early years, there is so much I had never seen. When you get out of a car and explore the islands, waterways and mainland of Argyll and the Isles under your own steam, by foot, by bicycle, by kayak and much more, there is an amazing connectedness to these varied landscapes.
And what’s more, it gives you a far better chance to meet the locals, the people who call this beautiful part of Scotland home. I have been blown away by the natural beauty and brilliant adventure playground that I discovered during the Wild About Argyll adventure and film project. Whilst ‘only’ being 12 days, we packed in what many people would take years to complete, including iconic challenges like running the Paps of Jura, cycling the Mull sportive and rowing a Viking long boat across Loch Fyne.
As a physical challenge, I knew this would be tough – very used to long expeditions, what was different this time was taking on up to five sporting challenges every day. The days were long and the nights often short, often so we could catch the early tide, or an early flight from Oban airport out to explore another island, like Tiree or Colonsay. But I am not looking for, nor will I receive any sympathy, for this was a dream ‘job’ – to explore and showcase all that Argyll and the Isles has to offer when it comes to adventure tourism.
My second daughter is just 10 weeks old, so I was keen not to be away from home for a fortnight, so my wife Nicci and the children came and road tripped from Kintyre all the way to Oban. Harriet, who will be three years old next week, loved seeing daddy ‘ working’ every day, either galloping down Carradale beach on a thoroughbred horse, open water swimming in Loch Lomond or cycling the Rest and Be Thankful old road. One of my favourite moments was running up the Cobbler, near Arrochar, late in the evening. It was so clear that to the west I could see Ben More on Mull, to the South all the way to Goatfell on Arran, to the east to mountains above Lochearn and to the north to Crianlarich.
The penultimate days adventure was our only really rainy day, but that didn’t seem to matter as I was exploring the trails above Inveraray Castle with Moto Scotland. Motocross certainly lends itself to being wet and muddy, so apart from my poor film crew and their soaking cameras, we were all having a wonderful time.
That evening finished with a big event in the Corran Halls, where 250 people came along to hear the adventures from ‘Around the World and back to Argyll’ - but before getting there we had another high octane location to film. The brilliantly nutty and talented Ben Cathro, the Seil Island downhill biker, built a gap jump across a small road – but the resulting jump was anything but small, and my task was to time my cycling along the road, so I would be directly underneath him in full flight. Please don’t try that at home!
The final challenge was on the beautiful islands of Colonsay and Oronsay – to fell run 22 MacPhie’s – the hills over 300 feet. In parts a stunning route along the cliff edges and along the wide beaches, but in other parts whacking our way through chest deep ferns and brambles! It was a 6 hour fell run more than 20 miles and a fitting challenge to finish 12 magnificent days adventuring in Argyll and the Isles.
There was a huge amount of interest along the route from locals and businesses, as well as massive participation online throughout the adventure. Thanks to everyone who made this happen and who supported my journey. The final films will be online during the Autumn for everyone to enjoy the wildness of Argyll & the Isles, and hopefully to inspire many more adventures in this beautiful part of Scotland. I certainly plan to be back before long, to explore more, perhaps with the family and perhaps in less of a hurry!
ATIC director Calum Ross congratulated Mark and the team at the end of the adventure saying: “When we put this series of challenges together we knew it was ambitious. As an organisation we celebrate excellence and ambition, and who better to showcase these qualities than Mark Beaumont? During Mark’s talk in the Corran Halls we learned his philosophy that we are limited only by our self imposed boundaries. Wild About Argyll proved we have one of the best adventure playgrounds in the world and Mark’s 12- day challenge and subsequent film will allow us to encourage many more visitors to come and discover their own epic adventures here in Argyll and the Isles.”
Mark’s full Wild About Argyll adventure and daily blogs are available on line @exploreargyll. co.uk