118. Tarleton to Preston

In retrospect I could have combined my last two walks into a single 26 mile walk; anyway I did’nt so it was off very early this morning to finish the final leg to Preston with a very easy walk 10 mile walk. I left home veery early and parked just by the River Ribble in Preston. I caught the 5:57 #X2 bus to Tarleton and within 13mins I was walking back to towards Preston.

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Walking along the A59

The first section of walking was back along the not so busy A59, crossing the bridge over the River Asland/Douglas and walking for about a mile before turning down down a minor road as I reached Much Hoole. The minor road headed towards The River Asland and became a footpath running along the levee, just as my previous walk did on the opposite bank.

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The River Asland/Douglas with tide flowing

It was slightly overcast with a stiff breeze as I made good progress through the grass. Unfortunately, the previous days rain had meant the grass was soaked and I had wet feet before too long. The birds of this area were very active  and I saw large flocks of Lapwings and many Shelducks.

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The Ribble Way
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Lest We Forget

The path joined the Ribble way, which seemed to start at the Dolphin Inn, at the end of a metal road. After something like 2 hours walking I eventually got a proper look at the River Ribble. Its banks where quite full and I could see that the tide was in full flow. I pass alongside a field with wheat growing, the field is fringed with many red poppies, my mind is drawn to the centenary of the start of the Battle of the Somme which is tomorrow.

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On the banks of the River Ribble approaching Preston

I passed through a number of small herds of cows, giving them a wide berth. The path was now running alongside the Ribble and I could make out the office blocks of Preston in the near distance. The path formed a larger road, passing throufgh the site of the Preston Power station demolished in the 1980’s. The track had now joined Holme Road, which was a landscaped area along the banks of the river. The road passes underneath a flyover bridge which is busy with early morning commuters travelling into Preston. I arrived back at my car after completing the walk in 3hrs.

Distance today =  10 miles
Total distance =   1884.5 miles

 

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117. Southport to Tarleton

At first I looked at the possibility of walking all the way from Southport to Preston. However, the idea of walking 29 miles did not hold much appeal. It was only about 86 miles from home  to Tarleton, where I decided to drive to and park my car. I caught the regular bus service from Preston to Liverpool via Southport, the X2 at 6:45. For once the cost of the relatively short journey was quite expensive at £5.30, in comparison to a daily unlimited travel  ticket of £3.80. However, there are travel restrictions in purchasing such a ticket and travelling on this bus at this time was one of them.

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The marine lake Southport

I alighted at Lord Street Southport and made my towards the seafront. The town at this time of the morning was quite deserted as I headed north under the pier and along Marine Drive. My views to the north were essentially across the Ribble estuary towards Lytham st. Anne and Blackpool, although the tide was out and even at high tide does not come close to the road.

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Criffle Granite erratic at Crossens
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The route ahead along the levee along the Ribble Estuary

The dull and overcast morning, with a stiff breeze puts a spring in my step as I make good time to Crossens, where I transfer onto the levee or sea-wall which will be with me for about 4 miles. The start of the levee is guarded by a large granite erratic, which had travelled all the way down from Criffle in Dumfrieshire during the ice-age. The levee is very straight and covered in grass, which being dry and thin does not present any walking problems. I pass two farms Old Hollow and Marsh Farm, just after Marsh Farm I see that the public footpath veers a mile back to the main road, about a mile away, only to re-emerge about 200m further up the levee. There are no keep out signs, so I simply climb over two gates and re-join the public footpath, doing this has saved me almost 2 miles of a pointless detour, all for 200m!!

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Nursery glasshouses containing flowers

I am now alongside Hesketh Out Marsh and it is quite strange to see cattle grazing a great distance on the marsh, which looks just like short-cropped grass. As I approach Ribble Bank farm I can see the footpath ahead blocked and I am forced to divert inland. This work has been going on for a while and is something to do with allowing the sea to breach the sea-wall so many times a year. The options for a detour are good, with a grid-like road structure, I am able to move further east towards Westgate farm. This whole area which sits behind the sea wall has been given over to market-garden produce and I can see many workers in an adjacent field harvesting cauliflowers or cabbages. I walk past one of the many nursery glass-houses which contains a wide variety of flowers. I am slightly amused when I walk past the glass-house to be advised “Warning please be aware you are being video’d”. I suppose as I am on a public right of way, they are obliged to do this.

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The River Asland or Douglas

The River Asland or Douglas (it has two names) is a tributary of the Ribble and means that a 4 mile detour inland must be taken to get over this river. The first bridging point is Tarleton, which is my destination. The walk continues along a levee, although there is a large flood-plain alongside which contains sheep and is very dry underfoot and could be walked along.

The levee follows a sharp sweep in the river and comes to a small boat-yard. It is difficult to see the continuation of the river-bank path and more importantly where to get off the path up river. I walk through a small graveyard and walk into Hesketh bank. I come to a main road with a good footpath, which I follow towards Tarleton. The whole area along the road is built up and is quite boring. I take 4.75hrs to walk the section.

Distance today =  16 miles
Total distance =   1874.5 miles

 

 

 

116. Gatehouse of Fleet to Newton Stewart

I had been dreading today, the thought of walking for 5 hrs along the A75 held little appeal to me. Anybody that has driven along this road will know how busy it gets, especially with the number of lorries on their way to the ferries at Stranraer.

My options for covering this section of the coast were limited; I could divert inland (quite a bit) on quieter roads or I could negotiate a route along the A75. I studied my map and using Google street view, and could see that parts of the road could be bypassed by quieter roads running parallel to the A75. I could also see that only about 5 miles of my route along the road would be on verges, other sections along the road had a footpath. The verge along most of the road was also quite generous.

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A rare moment – no traffic in sight

So off I went, first by driving from my hotel in Creetown and parking in Newton Stewart, then catching the 07:05  #502 bus to Gatehouse of Fleet. I walked out of Gatehouse towards the A75 and began an initial 3 mile stretch along the road. Even at this time of the morning the road was busy, not so much with cars but the large lorries which thundered past me creating a whirlwind of eddies. At times it was like walking up the hard shoulder of the M1.

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Carsluith Castle

After a couple of miles I relaxed a little, but still using all of the verge to keep a safe distance. I was relieved when the signs for a small road to my right meant I could divert on a minor road which ran parallel with the A75 for 3 miles. I could enjoy the views from this qiuet road, with its elevated position offering great views across Wigtown Bay to The Machars. My quiet road returned to the A75 and I was faced with another 2 miles of verge walking. I made good progress and was pleased to see Carsluith Castle, which meant I could continue through Carsluith along a section of the “old road” for a few miles. I returned to the A75 again, but this time along a footpath. Although the footpath was the same distance from the road as my verge-walking, it sort of gave more confidence. The next diversion off the A75 was the road into Creetown, where I had spent last night. This would see me off the A75 for quite a way, although I could still hear the noise from the road all the way to Newton Stewart.

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The clock tower Creetown
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The lovely carved door to the clock tower Creetown

I walk through Creetown, passing the clock tower with its wonderfully carved wooden door. Although the road I am on ultimately leads back to the A75, I will make a right turn where cycle route #7 makes climbs slightly and joins an old railway route long since used. The route moves slowly away from the main road and eventually leads to Graddoch Bridge. I remember this area from 2011, where I parked my car when climbing Cairnsmore of Fleet. Here I join a quiet lane which leads to the Old Bridge at Palnure. I cross the Palnure Burn and continue along an old military road through Stronord and Balckcraig. The road climbs steeply uphill over Daltamie Hill and then down towards the A75 which I rejoin along an excellent cycle path.

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Cycle route #7 taking me away from the A75 – yes get in!

I soon reach the final turn-off for the day as I follow the New Galloway Road  and cross the River Cree into Newton Stewart. I take 5.5 hours to complete the journey and although not the best of walks I am glad it is over.

 

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The bridge over the River Cree – Newton Stewart

 

 

 

 

 

 

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=21083

Distance today =  19.5 miles
Total distance =   1858.5 miles

 

115. Kirkcudbright to Gatehouse of Fleet

Another 2 day trip to Scotland as I continue my walk around the Scotland’s coastline. I was looking forward to todays walk, as I will be walking mostly off-road.

I left Shropshire early to catch the 07:05 Stagecoach #502 bus from Gatehouse of Fleet to Kirkcudbright. At a cost of only £2.20, this offered excellent value for money. I get off the bus at the harbour in Kirkcudbright, its cool and overcast – great walking weather. I cross the River Dee by the concrete bridge, which although solid-looking is quite ugly. I walk for a short distance along the A755 before turning down the B727, which at this time of the morning is quite quiet.

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Senwick Graveyard
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Looking down on Ross Bay and Meikle Ross

After a couple of miles I come to Nun Mill Bay where i need to locate the start of a footpath at Mill Hall Glen. It is not obvious where the footpath begins. I ignore the private signs and walk past a number of retirement homes. I make out at the end of the road a footpath sign pointing to a small gap where my footpath begins. This pathway will lead for a couple of miles through Senwick Wood and although slightly overgrown in places is a delight to walk through. The path eventually emerges at the remains of Senwick church and graveyard. I spend sometime exploring the graveyard and the written inscriptions on the headstones. I see that some of the stones are very old, dating from the early 18th century and giving ages of people who would have been alive at the time of the Restoration.

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Looking back along the coast towards Meikle Ross

I emerge alongside a small caravan park at Balmangan, which I pass by heading up towards the brow of a hill. The view from this modest height is excellent with a sweeping panorama across to the hills of the Lakes, across to the Isle of Man and down on Ross Bay with its small promontory of Meikle Ross and the small island of Little Ross with lighthouse. I follow the road around the Bay and find a footpath sign pointing to Meikle Ross. Although only 90m high I divert off the path to ‘bag’ the summit. I complete almost a full circle of Meikle Ross and continue along the coast skirting Mull of Ross, finding a path of skirts, with occasional signs and kissing gates.

I make good time and eventually arrive at Brighouse Bay, where I have the small beach to myself. I follow a path through a wooded plantation running alongside a caravan park and a picturesque golf course. After about 3 miles the path signage begins to disappear and the gates begin less well used. I head inland, getting stuck in some enclosed fields with their barbed-wired fences either side of a stone wall. I eventually pick up the green lane towards Kirkandrews. At Kirkandrews I come across a small kirk, built as a castle!

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Kirkandrews Kirk!
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The “Coo Palace”

The Lych gate has a mock portcullis, as does the entrance porch, there is a mini-turret tower which hides the chimney. The kirk provides services to all denominations and is apparently a favourite wedding venue. As I pass further down the road I pass a farm with more buildings in the same gothic style, barns and milking parlours as castles! Locally called the “Coo Palace”, this is yet another building  of the Manchester industrialist James Brown, who at the turn of the 20th century a number of these rather idiosyncratic, often whimsical follies around the Knockbrex estate. Personally, I think the buildings look ugly, especially as they use a very dark stone , with light mortar. I carry along the road towards Knockbrex, as I see no evidence of any footpath, although the shoreline is only 80m away.

As I reach Carrick, the sun emerges from the clouds and is  now quite fierce now. I decide to take an extended break of 30mins. I sit and take in the glorious views of the Islands of Fleet, in particular Ardwell Island, lying about 400m offshore.

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Mill of Fleet at Gatehouse of Fleet

I carry on towards White Bay at Sandgreen, where I walk along the small beach before turning inland through the caravan site and onto a straight green lane which will take me past Cally Mains. Aft passing the farm at Cally Mains I begin to pick up the roar of traffic from the A75. The lane passes underneath the busy A75 and emerges outside the Cally Mains Palace, now a Hotel, country club and golf course. The golf course is not on my map, so i head down one of the tracks along the fairways, before emerging in Grassie Park in the centre of Gatehouse of Fleet. It had taken me a leisurely 8.5hrs to cover the distance.

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=21075

Distance today =  23 miles
Total distance =   1839 miles

114. Liverpool to Southport

The early 1970’s saw a number of formative years for me spent as a Geology student at Liverpool University. Although I had returned to Liverpool many times, today would be the first time in over 40 years I had been back to Pier Head, it had certainly changed a great deal since I last visited.

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The Three Graces
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The Fab Four

Todays walk would see me return to the continuation of the “English leg” of my walk around the coast of GB. Even though I was begininng todays walk at Pier Head at 6:25 in the morning, there were plenty of people out and about. At Pier Head I did something I never did as a student, and that was to take a picture of the Liver Building. The “Three Graces” (the Royal Liver, Cunard and Port of Liverpool’s buildings) are certainly iconic and an instantly recognised waterfront scene all over the world.  I certainly appreciated the buildings now more than I ever did many years ago.

 

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The “Dock Road”

I set off up Princess Parade, which skirts the old Princess Dock, before turning left down Waterloo Road and later Regent Road. Collectively this was referred simply as the “Dock Road”, when I was here last. The area certainly looks run-down, with its closed pubs and derelict warehouses. However, this initial impression hides a myriad of small business’s making use of the older warehouses and some not so small. In particular, I passed a huge metal recycling plant that passed crushed metal fragments over the road by means of an overhead conveyor belt, into numerous piles of metal spread over many acres. The road I was now walking on beginning to get busy, with increased commuter traffic and an endless stream of lorries. No problems walking this section though as the road is wide and has large pavements on either side of the road. The road eventually runs into the docks at Bootle, so I turn right and head up the A565 which has been running parallel to the “Dock Road” since leaving Liverpool. This road is now thronged with morning commuters, but the walking is easy and safe along the pavements.

I pass the Seaforth Docks, with their large blue and orange cranes seen for miles around  and helping them load and unload the 700,000+ containers each year. As I pass the Seaforth, I enter Crosby , which marks the end of the industrial part of todays walk.  I turn left down Cambridge Road and to a large marine lake , which also marks the start of the Seaforth Coastal Path, which is notorious for its poorly defined and signed route. I ignored it and had already chosen my preferred route which meant making a b-line for the beach.

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Another Place
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Looking across to New Brighton with Iron Man

The shore-line, which can recede by quite a distance, depending on the tide, was only about 300m out. But the feeling of openness now felt great, with vistas back and across to New Brighton on the Wirral and Flintshire still visible in the morning haze. I was looking forward to seeing Antony Gormleys statues on Crosby beach. There are 100 of them, each with a numbered steel roped wrist tag and all in a different level of water or sand, spread out for 3km along the beach. The figures are exactly the same in shape and form, looking stoically out to sea. Each figure, weighing 650kgs were made from casts of Gormley’s own body. The whole sculpture is called “Another Place”. I’m glad to have seen it.

I have been walking about 250m from the shore-line on fairly firm sand, which has meant for fast progress. I head towards the Coastguard station as the beach and figures begin to run out. The track passes through Dunes as I head into Bludellsands and Hightown. In know I must soon make a detour inland because of the Altcar Firing Range. My footpath disappears for a while as I walk around new housing near Hightown rail station and finally pick up the footpath, which becomes sandwiched between the rail track and the firing range. The range is busy today with frequent bursts of small arms fire coming from the adjacent range. I pass a couple of joggers and cyclists, before I turn inland towards the Ravenmeols Nature Reserve and rejoining the coast.

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11 miles of this!

The next 10 – 11 miles is spent walking along the beach, first around Formby point, then along Ainsdale sands, then finally Birkdale Sands! Very easy walking along firm sand. However, not much to see with dunes on my right and just the sea. I make excellent progress and can now just begin to make out the sea front of Lytham St. Annes across the Ribble Estuary and in the far distance the murky outline of Blackpool Tower.

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The Marine Lake at Southport

The sky begins to cloud over as I pass over Birkdale sands and head towards the Ferris Wheel at the Southport Pleasureland. I head for the coast roads that runs alongside the beach towards the Lifeboat station. I walk through the town and get one of the frequent trains back to Liverpool. A very enjoyable walk, with the Gormley statues the highlight. It takes me 6.5 hrs to cover the 22.5miles.

Distance today =  22.5 miles
Total distance =   1816 miles

 

 

 

113. Dundrennan to Kirkcudbright

With the MOD firing range off-limits, todays walk was going to be a simple affair with a 6 + mile walk along the A711 and a 3 mile circular walk around St Marys Isle.

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Scene of the Dundrennan air crash – where the Hamilton’s cottage once stood.

I missed breakfast with the intention of getting an early start by driving and parking in Kirkcudbright, then catching the 7:20 #505 bus back to Dundrennan. Well they say “………… the best laid plans of mice and….”. The #505 service is separately served by both MacEwan’s Coaches and DGC Buses. Unfortunately, the service times run by MacEwan’s is notorious for both it’s punctuality and reliability. Anyway, the long and short of it the 7:20 did not turn up at all, the first time I have ever been let down by a bus not turning up. I waited for next bus, 9:05, run by DGC buses which did turn up. .

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Looking ahead to Kirkcudbright Bay from the A711

I was accompanied for most of the walk along the A711 on my left by the MOD firing range. The red flags were raised at all roads onto to the range. The  traffic along the A711 was very light and I made excellent progress towards Mutehill where the road turned north and a public footpath all the way Kirkcudbright started.

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Kirkcudbright Harbour and the River Dee
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Rust coloured people with large bosoms and flat heads in Kirkcudbright

As I reached the outskirts of Kirkcudbright I opted to do the 3 mile circular walk of St Marys Isle. There is a dedicated footpath all around the isle, which offers limited views at this time of the year, with its extensive foliage. I emerged from the exit road from the Isle and turned left down a small suburban road which led past the local football ground towards the marina. At the marina I could see that the tidal was out on the River Dee, revealing its deep muddy banks. A small side street led me to the Harbour car Park when my car was parked. I managed the 10 miles in just 2.5 hours.

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War Memorial with MacLellan’s Castle behind

I must admit I liked Kirkcudbright, it is a charming little market town and it was refreshing to see how clean the town was and devoid of litter.

 

 

 

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=20973

Distance today =  10 miles
Total distance =   1793.5 miles

112. Dalbeattie to Dundrennan

It was back to Scotland again for two days of getting from Dalbeattie to Kirkcudbright. The section contained a number of promontories, which jutted out into Rough Firth, Orchardton Bay and Auchencairn Bay,  that I would also try to get around. Because the mileage for this section would be quite high, I  decided I would use Dundrennam as my stop for the night.

This part of Kirkcudbright is dominated by a large MOD firing range which is still regularly used. I called the Range Officer the day before I left home to enquire on the firing times and access. Unfortunately, he told me live firing would continue for the rest of the week, which meant my second days walk would be virtually on all road and quite short.

I set off early from Shropshire and arrived at my B&B in Dundrennan in time to catch the 7:29 #505 bus to Dalbeattie. The bus was about 15 minutes late, which turned out to be par for the course, as I found out the following day. The bus was empty all the way to Dalbeattie, where I alighted at the Maxwells Arms pub (now an Indian restaurant) and began walking out of the town along the A711.

The road was quite busy as I approached the Buitle or Cragnair bridge which spans the Urr water. The next 3 miles was all road walking as I headed south along the A711 towards Palnackie. At Palnackie I headed down a minor road  towards a glassworks. I never did see the glassworks or a Core Path running south from it. Instead I passed to the west of Tornat Wood still looking for any kind of signage. I continued down the lane to South Glen, only distracted by a couple of Jack Russels who wanted to accompany me for some distance. I looked across towards Kippford, which was but a short distance across the muddy Rough Firth. I could have continued to the Glen Isle, but this was only a small promontory. I decided to follow the dry coastline of the merse, due west heading for a track which rounded the next promontory. I found the track ok which contoured around Castle Hill and emerged close to Almorness House. I had read that a previous ‘Coaster’ passing this way had managed to cross Orchardton Bay from Torr Point without major difficulty. I had a look but there was a large amount of vegetation I would have to hack through to see if I could cross this way.. I decided no, and headed north towards the interesting Orchardton Tower.

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Orchardton Tower

Although missing its roof, this fifteenth-century building is the only round tower house in Scotland and was held by the Maxwells for many years. I decided to scale the tower via a very steep and tight spiral staircase. At the top of the tower the views were poor particularly as the foggy haze had not cleared yet. I headed north-west along a minor road where I rejoined the A711, which required another 2 miles of verge-hopping before I came to Rigg of Torr. here I was able to walk west along a lane towards Torr Point. The path was easy to follow, but I decided to climb up onto Torr Hill to get a view, but the hazy fog persisted, however, I could easily look across Auchecairn bay towards Balcary Bay where I was headed next. I now needed a rest and some food. The sun was slowly beginning to break through the fog and was quite fierce when it did so. I headed along a footpath which took me into the village of Auchencairn, where I visited the local store for cold drinks supplies. Although Auchencairn sits on the A711 I was heading down a small cul-de-sac side road towards Balcary Bay.

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The cliffs at Balcary Head

At Balcary Bay I was given a choice of footpaths to Rascarrel, a cliff-top walk around Balcary Point or a short cut across fields. Of course I opted for the coastal route. The sea cliffs around Balcary point where in fact the first significant sea cliffs I encountered since leaving Gretna. The swirling sea fog made for a dramatic effect, rising up the cliff-face and swirling inland. Views where rather limited, but it was nice to get some proper coastal walking in. At Rascarrel Bay, most “Coasters” seem to head inland again towards the main road. I decided to continue along the coast towards  Barlocco Bay.

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“Beach art” ? At Rascarrel Bay

At Rascarrel Bay I met a lady who had tried to walk towards Barlocco Bay, but had turned back due to the rampant vegetation and many Adders on the path. I thought I’d give it a go. The going was not too bad, although I had to revert to climbing a few gates and walking in the fields. Soon after passing through Barlocco Bay, any trace of a coastal path disappeared and I was forced to scale stone walls with barbed wire atop, that was tiring after a couple of fields. I decided to turn inland headed up Cairny Hill, skirting Barlocco farm and onto a minor road.

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Dundrennan

It was late afternoon now nad most of the lingering sea fog had disappeared. A few miles along these side roads I stood atop Rerrick hill with a glorious vista west out across the Kirkcudcbright firing range. I could hear intermittent machine gun fire coming from below. Although I was close to Dundrennan, I could not see it yet. I continued down the minor road and came across a cemetery, which seemed out-of-place, amongst all the agricultural buildings close-by. The graveyard contained many memorials in the usual New Red Sandstone that many houses are built of in this part of Scotland. However, from the cemetery gate, one particular memorial caught my eye. It was the grave of four people,  the Hamilton family of father, mother, daughter and son, all “accidentally killed in Dundrennan” in 1944. I continued along the road and soon arrived at Dundrennan and my B&B for the night. I asked Bev, who owns the wonderful Old School B&B about the grave I saw in Rerrick churchyard. She said it may have been the grave of a family that were all killed in the early hours of 18th July 1944 a Bristol Beaufighter, with two air crew on board, crashed into the Hamilton’s cottage killing the 4 of the occupants and the two air crew. One of the daughters survived and is still alive today. The cottage was not re-built and a garden now stands where this tragedy once occurred. Bev, said this was very coincidental as a recent guest had made a special visit to the B&B to enquire about the air crew. More information on this tragedy can be read here:

http://warmemscot.s4.bizhat.com/warmemscot-post-38569.html

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=20971

Distance today =  24 miles
Total distance =   1783.5 miles