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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 = 24 miles
Total distance = 1783.5 miles