It was back to Scotland again for two more days of my walk around the coast of Scotland. As I managed to get another great room deal I stayed in a B&B in my favourite town in the south of Scotland – Dumfries.
I must admit I was not looking forward to this section because I knew it would contain a fair amount of road-walking, in particular, the A710. Although the road was not especially busy I still had to keep my eyes peeled and be alert for vehicles, some which were travelling at quite a speed.
To minimise the amount of road-walking I seriously considered doing a traverse of Criffle, as it was a hill that I had seen many times before from across the Solway on the Lakeland peaks. However, I had read reports of people who descended to the south-west who reported it was strewn with boulders, holes and deep heather, so it was the road for me!
I had roughly calculated that I would be doing about 21 miles, however, with my deviations and desire to stay close to the coast, I accumulated a whopping 27.5 miles, one of my highest walking distances.
I parked in Dock Park and walked alongside the River Nith to the Kirkpatrick Macmillan bridge and crossed over the Nith. It was 6:40 in the morning and the weather was dry , dull and overcast. I followed the Nith downstream until the footpath came to a lane which passed some houses and joined the A710. There was a steady stream of early morning commuters coming and going in either directions, which I managed to safely negotiate.
At Gillfoot I came to a smaller road, which would eventually take me back to the coast and would be much quieter. This road headed towards Kirkconnel House. I was certainly more relaxed on this road and able to enjoy the birds, deer and squirrels running before me. I also had a very strong pungent smell of wild garlic, particularly in the shaded areas for most of the day.
At Kirkconnel House I turn left and pick up a signposted path that ran along the shoreline to two large storage tanks at Airds point. The tanks contained effluent and are released into the estuary at certain intervals. A case of effluent from the affluent?
The path passes through woods and fields full of sheep as I head towards New Abbey. I emerge on the A710 and make a small detour to visit the 13th century Sweetheart Abbey built by Lady Devorgilla.The Abbey, surprisingly, is still good condition compared to the ruins of Abbey’s close to where I live. I take a couple of photos from the perimeter fence but are not tempted to pay the £4 for a closer look.
I retrace my steps and continue down the A710 for 4 or 5 miles until I arrive at the small village of Kirkbean. I turn left and continue a short distance on the road for Carsethorn before turning right on a smaller road heading onto the Arbigland Estate. I strike up a conversation with a local who advises me that I can get to the shoreline and walk all the way to the Mersehead Nature Reserve. I am pleased about this as I had planned to return to the A710, it also meant I would be doing a number of extra miles.
I pass the cottage of John Paul Jones, reputed to be the founder of the American navy. Again I did not fork out the £4 to visit a few rooms of an 18th century cottage.
I finally emerge onto the shoreline at Powillimount. I see from the signpost that this is Core Footpath No. 449. [I later learn about the Core Footpaths in Dumfries and Galloway and will use their site for future visits. The following link is to their Core Footpath route site. A tip to using this site is to zoom right into the area you are interested in and examine the route:]
From the shoreline I can still see the Lake District and its tops, I can make out the familiar shapes of Skiddaw and the Buttermere tops. I head along the beach towards Southerness and pass its lighthouse, the second oldest in Scotland. As I round Southerness I can see that the tide is well out and I am able to walk along the fairly compacted sand towards the tip of Mersehead. I realise that with these extra miles I will miss my planned bus at 13:46 and have to get the 15:40. I continued all the way to Southwick Water and only a short stretch of water separate me from the A710. Unfortunately, it was not safe or possible to cross this water, which I knew anyway and headed inland to complete a 4 mile detour via Caulkerbush. When I reached the A710 again I had to take special care as the road rose, twisted and turned with blind bends, thankfully the traffic is light.
I eventually came to Sandyhills and I descended to the beach to save myself any additional road walking. The caravan park shop was still open and I purchased ice cream and chocolate biscuits while I waited for the #372 bus back to Dumfries. The bus fare was only £3.15 which I thought was pretty good for a journey that would take almost an hour. I managed the 27.5 miles in 8.75 hrs. Not as bad a day as I first thought.
NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:
Distance today = 27.5 miles
Total distance = 1736 miles