109. Dumfries to Sandyhills

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.

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The road to Kirkconnell House – mind the hedgehogs!

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.

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Beautiful and colourful Broom

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.

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Sweetheart Abbey

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.

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Mobile Post Office

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.

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Criffle

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.

 

 

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A nice and considerate gesture

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:]

http://www.dumgal.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=3812

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John Paul Jones’s cottage
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Southerness Lighthouse

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.

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Mersehead

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:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=20891

Distance today =  27.5 miles
Total distance =   1736 miles

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3 thoughts on “109. Dumfries to Sandyhills”

  1. Looking forward to walking this route tomorrow. Will take over 2 days to complete it, as my walks are much shorter then yours! I was wondering about walking along the lower slopes of Criffel too, but sounds like it’s tough, so I’ll stick to the roads and ‘core paths’ instead.

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  2. Hi Ruth, I considered going over the top, but reports on the ground conditions to the west put me off. Traversing the lower slopes would be even worse, I suspect, with increased vegetation and man-made clutter. D&G Core Paths crop up time and again in mine and Mammals TR’s. Just because, it says there is a Core Path there it does’nt mean it actually is!! Core Paths throughout D&G are certainly down on paper, but on the ground, you’ll often find no indication. On the site you can see extra information on the state of the path, where it talks about “Furniture etc”, which generally means stiles, gates, bridges etc.

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    1. You’re right about the core paths not necessarily existing. Tried to follow one today, but gave up when the water started coming in over the top of my boots! They’re converting woodland into peat bog, and I guess the path has been converted into bog too. I followed a deer path through the woods instead.

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