124. Glenluce to Drummore

Today I would be walking onto The Rhins (or Rhinns) of Galloway, a uniquely hammer-shaped peninsular with coast-line facing the North Channel, Luce Bay and Loch Ryan. Although, the Isle of Walney nr Barrow has a somewhat similar shape, The Rhins are much bigger with a coastline extending for 50 miles.

I had stayed in Stranraer overnight and because of the bus timings serving my walking route I had decided to leave my car parked in Stranraer (free parking) and catch the early 6:20 #500 bus to Glenluce. This early start was necessary because I had to catch the 13:20 bus from Drummore back to Stranraer. The walk was going to be a mixture of road, beach and track walking.

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Luce viaduct

It was overcast as as I set out from Glenluce, walking a short distant to cross underneath the Luce Viaduct and over the Water of Luce to follow an old road down to join the A75. A cycleway ran along the busy road until I turned off down the B7084. The A75 has had some upgrading done recently to a dual carriageway status, leaving parts of the old road course as now the B7084. I thought the road would be quiet but no, it was busy even at 7:00 in the morning, with cement lorries and other HGV making for the quarry 4 miles down the road. There was also the odd-nutter who was using the road as his own private race-track; unfortunately, I could hear the nutter coming from a distance and was able to take evasive action.

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Luce Sands

The road was predominantly straight and flat and bordered the large MOD firing range. By the time i reached the quarry, I had joined up with the Mull of Galloway trail, a 24 mile trail starting at the end of the Ayrshire Coastal Path and running south through Stranraer and then following the east coast of the South Rhins all the way to the Mull of Galloway.

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New England Bay
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Kilstay Bay

The tide was out when I emerged onto Luce Sands and I was able to walk along the firm sand beach towards Ardwell Mill. Here the path rejoined the road, but not before some stupid routing through a bog, up a hil then down again onto the beach. The trail path was actually quite useless and stopped following it, it was a case of walking on the beach or on the road. I passed through the quite hamlet of Ardwell, before trying to find a turn-off back to the beach. The Trail signs were contradictory, so I amde my own way towards the beach and emerged by the old Windmill ruins at Logan Mills. Here I was able to walk along the sandy beach to Balgowan Point where the beach entered the charming and peaceful New England Bay. I was able to stay onto the beach until Terally Bay, where I had to go back to walking on the road. After about half a mile I was back on the beach all the way to Kilstay Bay where I was able to walk along the top of the sea wall.

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Drummore

It was getting very warm by the time I reached the outskirts of Drummore. I had lovely views across Luce Bay to The Machars and I could rest easy about catching the 13:20, as I had made good time. The walk into Drummore was a delight as a footpath dropped down to the beach away from the road and featured a number of Palm type Mediterranean trees, which did not look out-of-place in this sleepy village. I pass a number of brightly decorated and painted pebbles alongside the path, each is unique and some convey a message or poem. I complete my walk and have an hour to kill. I make for the Queens Arms, the pint of cider does not stay in the glass long. It is now very sunny and hot as I wait for the #407 bus back to Stranraer. I complete the walk in 5.75hrs.

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=21277

Distance today =  18.5 miles
Total distance =   1992.5 miles

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123. Port William to Glenluce

A two-day trip back to Scotland would see me completing my journey around The Machars and begin my exploration of The Rhins of Galloway.

The day before I travelled up to Scotland was a phenomenally hot day throughout the UK. The downside to this, apart from the oppressive heat was that a series of large thunderstorms were forecast to sweep across Southern Scotland the following morning. I was a bit apprehensive about this on the drive up, especially as I saw the early morning skies darkening as I drove west along the A75. As it turned out, I only passed through one or two storms which were not that bad.

To get to Port William and resume my walk around The Machars, I had to park at Glenluce, take the 8:18 #X75 bus to Newton Stewart, then catch the #415 bus to Port William. Todays walk was going to be quite short and mainly along the A747, which hugs the coastline for most of its length.

I got off the bus at the harbour in Port William and immediately headed for a hot food takeaway cafe, which I seen on my previous visit. I bought a lovely sausage, egg and tattie scone bap, which was delicious and which I ate ‘on the hoof’ over the next mile. The rain, although light, had stopped as I started walking leaving the sky dull and overcast – and offering little in the way of views.

The first 8 or 9 miles was along the A747. The road was not quiet, neither was it busy, I just had to concentrate on traffic coming either way, which became quite tiring after a while. I tried a section of beach walking, but the size and shape of the large cobbles/pebbles meant for uncomfortable and slow walking.

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St. Finians Chapel

Apart from the odd isolated farmhouse, there was nothing of note to see until I came upon the 10/11th century ruins of St. Finians Chapel. Not much was left of the Chapel which was very simple in design and enabled Pilgrims en route from Ireland to pray before proceeding onwards to St. Ninians Chapel at the Isle of Whithorn.

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Translation: Port William 6 miles/ Glenluce 8 miles
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Thousands of small flat pebbles capping off wall

I passed old milestones with only a single letter and number indicating the possible destination and distance with an arrow or facing the direction of travel. They were nearly all carved from granite and seem very old. As the road came over a brow and dropped down to much flatter section, I walked alongside a hand-built retaining wall. What caught my eye was the fantastic detail and painstaking chore of capping-off the top of the wall with thousands upon thousands of small flat pebbles, which where freely available on the close-by shoreline. The wall stretched for about 100m and it certainly harked back to a time when perhaps attention to detail and eccentricity meant something – anyway it was different.

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Looking back towards Auchenmalg from The Mull of Sinniness

After passing through the scattered hamlet of Auchenmalg, I noticed The Cock Inn, undoubtedly amusing to some, I did not batter an eyelid as I have a similarly named drinking establishment – The Cock Hotel, close to where I live. As I passed through the grounds of the Cock Inn, I left behind the A747 and headed along a coastal path of some 2.5 miles around the wonderfully named Mull of Sinniness. The core-path certainly was there and was a path, but was overgrown with long wet grass and vegetation. I reverted to climbing fences and walking in the adjacent field.

The path eventually dropped down a steep bank into a small hamlet called Stairhaven. Here I spoke to a chap for a while about his solar panels and renewable energy in general. The sun by which time had finally started to come out of the clouds and things were beginning to heat up again.

As I continued along the small single track back road at Kilfillan Point I could hear splashing coming from about 200m out into the Bay. I could easy make out that these were Gannets diving for food. Using my small binoculars, I watched this activity for a while, as I had never seen this before.

The small road eventually met the A75. Fortunately, a cycle way appeared and went beneath the A75 and appeared alongside the access road into Glenluce. In Glenluce I found my car, changed and headed to Stranraer where my B&B was for the night. It had taken 5 hours to complete the walk.

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=21272

Distance today =  14.5 miles
Total distance =   1974 miles

122. Blackpool to Knott End

Todays walk was probably going to be the most unusual to date. It simply involved walking the entire distance along a promenade through a built up area.

My daughter accompanied me, as we caught a tram from the ferry at Fleetwood down to the tip of Blackpool at Stargate. I had never been on a tram before, so this was a new experience. I wanted to get a Heritage” Tram, i.e. one of the older trams that still run on the route, however, we opted for the first available one. I must confess to being relieved at getting off the tram as the constant announcements to “mind the doors”, “hold tight” and a repetition of each station approaching and arrival (and there are a lot of them!) started to get on my nerves.

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Heritage tram Blackpool

Blackpool certainly does not appeal to many people, including me, but it is what it is and is very popular. Personally, I find the place, noisy, gaudy, tacky and not for me.

the weather forecast had been for a spot of light rain, then a occasional shower with sunshine, which was spot on. We started walking along the promenade and immediately had to pass through a charity cycle race which was just ending. We passed by the Pleasure Beach, as screams came from riders on “The Big One”, hurtling to earth from 250ft.

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Charming Victorian wind-shelter Blackpool

I stopped counting Fish and chip shops after 20 and finally succumbed to a sit down plate of poisson et frites at a  Harry Ramsdens. After a break of 20 minutes we were off again heading north. The hustle and bustle is soon left behind as we head past sea anglers preparing for the incoming tide as they wait ashore. architecturally, Blackpool is a mess, but the structure that really took my eye were the Victorian wind shelters on the sea-front. they looked like mini Chinese pagodas, with beautiful iron-work on their seats and structure. Eventually, we passed out of Blackpool and into the Wyre Council admin area, passing the stark-looking fee-paying Rossall School and a new construction project in strengthening the coastal defences in this area.

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Rossall Point Observation tower

We enter Fleetwood and pass the Rossall Point observation tower, a very quirky, cubic building leaning towards the sea and used a beacon and observation point. We complete the walk in 4 hours.

 

 

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Lower lighthouse Fleetwood

Distance today =  12 miles
Total distance =   1959.5 miles

121. Garlieston to Port William

My second day walking around  The Machars, with a sunny hot day forecast and 90% of the walk being off-road. My B&B was in Port William where I intended to finish todays walk. I parked at the harbour and waited to catch the 8:20 #415 bus to Garlieston. At only £2.30 for a 50 minute bus ride it turned out to be excellent value for money.

I started walking in Garlieston and proceeded along Core Path #428 telling me that Portyerrock was 6 miles away. I continued along a woodland footpath along the shoreline and emerged at the small bay at Cruggleton. The tide was out, so I was able to walk across rocks, sand and seaweed to the far side. I entered Cruggleton woods and emerged soon after into the bright sunshine. Ahead I could see the whole coastline down to Cairn Head, some 7 miles away.

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The remains of Cruggleton Castle
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Belted Galloway

In a short time I came to the remains of Cruggleton castle, which dates back at least to the 12th century. Very little remains of the castle today and what is there is predominantly overgrown with vegetation. The path continues through a procession of small fields each with a style or kissing gate and hosting either sheep or cattle. Eventually i arrive at Portyerrock which is just a collection of a few house and old mill and walk about 300m along a lane before following another Core Path #355 for the remaining 2 miles to isle of Whithorn. Passing over the slight brow of Stein Head, I can look down on the small fishing village of Isle of Whithorn. The village is famous for the site of the St Ninians chapel, now in ruins, it still attracts Pilgrims and visitors alike.

I head along another 2 miles which would take me over Burrow Head, the most southerly point of The Machars. From Burrow Head I see the Isle of Mann, only 15 miles away and west towards the Mull of Galloway (the most southerly point in Scotland). I have now more or less rounded the Machars and will begin my journey in a north-westerly direction. I head through a small holiday park and continue along the coast.

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St. Ninians Cave
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Raised beach below Fell of Carleton

I emerge at a small inlet called Port Castle Bay, the beach is empty albeit for a fisherman trying his luck. I walk past him and enquire if the path continues past St Ninians cave. He does not know. The core path I was on, shoots inland, but I wish to continue along the coastal route. I check out St. Ninians cave, which is nothing more than a small recess in which the saint prayed. There are numerous homemade crosses made from driftwood lying around. The outcrop that held the cave blocks my way, the cliffs are steep and would require good scrambling skills. I opt to go inland about 300m and pass through a small wood out into a field full of cattle.

I regain the coastline along the cliff top, with the huge difference being there is no longer a path to follow. I walk alongside fields of grass and barley. Its tough going especially when I come to a fence or wall. Eventually I spot on the map a track that descends down to the beach, I reach the track and drop down to a raised or storm beach, which has lots of vegetation and enormous amounts of flotsam/jetsam, ranging from beer barrels to council litter bins. It is obvious that this section of coastline receives few visitors.

The walking is generally easy over pebbles, cobbles and vegetation. After about 2.5 miles I realise that I must find a way back up the cliffs, as eventually the beach runs out. I soon spot a well-worn track leading up the cliff-side. I follow the track which runs parallel to coast until I can see the Golf Course at St. Medan. St Medan is a delightful little 9 hole course, which sits on a small spit of land with a prominent hill, The Lag, at its centre.

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The Lag at St. Medan
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Looking north from Port William

I drop down to the small road leading up from the golf course and visit a small memorial to Gavin Maxwell, who hailed from this area. The monument is of one of the his famous otters, although I did’nt recall a name. The view onwards is amazing, towards Barsalloch Point where I’m heading next. I walk across a small footpath which takes me into Monrieth. I am now on the A747 which will deliver me to Port William in about 3 miles. As ever, I keep a special watch out for traffic, which although light, passes me at high-speed.

I complete a very tough day in 8hrs.

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=21182

Distance today =  23 miles
Total distance =   1947.5 miles

 

120. Newton Stewart to Garlieston

For my next three walks I will be travelling around The Machars in Galloway. I must admit I had never heard of or visited this area before, which is a large promontory of land jutting out into the Solway Firth. I believe The Machars is derived from the Gaelic “Machair” – low-lying land.

A very early start was required as I needed to catch the 08:05 #415 bus From Garlieston (where I parked) to Newton Stewart. The #415 bus service services most of The Machars, where it criss-crosses the area with regular services.

The bus dropped me off in the High Street in Newton Stewart and I made my way down to the River Cree. Here I followed a good footpath which took me out of the town towards the A75 – but not before calling in at the local sainsbury’s to stock up on cake and cookies.

The cycleway come footpath passed underneath the busy A75 and continues to run parallel with the A714. After about a mile I turn left and take a quieter side road which I would be on all the way into Wigtown – my next destination. The road follows more or less the course of the River Cree as it makes its way out into Wigtown Bay. The road is flat, straight and offers the occasional views across the Bay to my previous walk in the area. After a mile the forecasted light rain starts, it would be with me for the majority of the day.

Basically, I knew three things about Wigtown:-

i) It gave its name to County of Wigtownshire – sadly long-since dissolved

ii) It lays claim to be Scotland’s town of books

iii) The Wigtown Martyrs

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Site of Martyrs Stake
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Martyrs grave – Wigtown

I knew some basic facts about the sorry happenings in 1685 in Wigtown regarding the persecution of Covenanters. In  particular the barbaric act of two local women Margaret McLachlan and Margaret Wilson to a stake in the River Bladnoch and letting the women drown. I visit the Martyrs Stake, which is actually a rough-hewn granite pillar erected in 1931 claiming to be the site of the executions. The River Bladnoch, at the time cut a deep channel through the area. I move onto the ruins of the old kirk and graveyard where the two women are buried along with another Covenanter martyr. I make my out of Wigtown towards the first bridging point of the River Bladnoch. Adjacent to the bridge is the Bladnoch Distillery, one of 6 remaining Lowland distilleries.

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Wigtown – Town of Books

After crossing the bridge I turn immediately left and follow a small side road which passes around Baldoon airfield, formerly RAF Wigtown and long since used. I continue down a cul-de sac road towards the RSPB reserve at Crook of Baldoon. Here I pick up  Core Footpath #403 which directs me to South Balfern. The thing about Core footpaths in Dumfries and Galloway is that although the D&G website describes and shows the route on their website, the actual path may not exist on the ground. Fortunately, todays (and tomorrows) would be exactly where they said they would be! I pass along the green lane and met a small herd of cattle, I must go through them, they become inquisitive and try to get close, but I simply keep my walking pole between me and them.

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Garlieston from across Garlieston bay

I head back to the main road, the B7004, and have a few miles before I turn off again down a small lane towards Culscadden farm and Innerwell Fishery. At Innerwell I pick up another Core Footpath #338, which will be my route into Garlieston some 3 miles away. The path is a delightful woodland walk. I meet an elderly gentleman who is looking for places to fish, we talk at length before he is joined by his friends. The path emerges onto a small road as it sweeps into the small bay at Garlieston. I complete the walk in a leisurely time of 7.75hrs.

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=21167

Distance today =  21.5 miles
Total distance =   1924.5 miles

119. Preston to Blackpool

I always like to start my walks early, it’s generally quiet, still and cooler. Also finishing early in the day gives me more of the day to do other things, if I can move that is. Of course, I can do this in summer, but in winter, with the shorter days, less likely. So today was a very early start for the walk from Preston to Blackpool – Stargate.

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Preston docks

I parked in Penworthan, just by the bridge over the River Ribble. Its free parking, which is a bonus. I set off at 5:20 on a Sunday morning, so not many people where about. The first couple of miles is a well signposted walking and cycling route called the Guild Wheel, a 21 mile circular route around the City. This section I start in goes through the old docks of Preston, long since used and little showing other than the wharfs along the Ribble.

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Attractive welcome to Freckleton
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What the…? By order …. of the Sheriff??

After a couple of miles, the Guild Wheel moves inland and continues along the A583, then A5085 then A584. The walking along these roads is flat, easy and safe. At Freckleton, I turn south off the A584 into  housing estate. Here I am trying to find the start of the Lancashire Coastal Way, a footpath that I will follow for the rest of my journey through the Fylde peninsular. I must admit the footpath is sparse of signs and short of infrastructure, although to be fair, I do see evidence of a number recently erected ‘kissing-gates’ on the route. The path follows the Freckleton Pool watre course which joins the Ribble  opposite the start of the River Asland/ Douglas which runs south.  I can see the Asland and Ribble are on a flowing tide.

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On the Lancashire Coast Way footpath

The path has moved down to the foreshore, which has been heavily churned up by grazing cattle. Its difficult underfoot walking for about a kilometre, where the path follows the perimeter fence for Warton Aerodrome. The path is easy to follow, but is covered in long grass, thankfully not wet. The aerodrome does not appear to be MOD, I note some large Aero Engine chimneys, used for testing I presume. The path now works inland back to the road to get around a couple of tidal inlets.

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How many notices can you put on a gate? Answer – a lot!
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Lytham Windmill
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Lytham bench – I like these

I rejoin the A584 and have reached Lytham, although Lytham St Annes stretches for virtually 8 miles along the Ribble estuary and sea. The sea front at Lytham is flat and very easy walking. After taking a couple of photos of the iconic Lytham Windmill, I get my head down, but some strong walking – I’m looking to catch the 11:25 train back to Preston. Mile after miles of promenade walking comes and goes. Shortly after I pass the attractive St Annes Pier I transfer to the flat beach, which is hard sand and  ideal for walking along. I look back across the Ribble Estuary and can easy make out features at Southport. Further south I can see the Welsh coastline, with the Clywdian hills prominent. Using my small pair of binoculars I can also make-out faintly the hilly prominence of the Great Orme at Llandudno.

I stay on the sand all the way to Star Gate at the southern end of Blackpool, which serves as a terminus for the tram service to Fleetwood. My walking time of 5hrs is a testament to the flat and easy terrain I encountered along the way. I easily make the 11:25 train from nearby Squires Gate back to Preston.

Distance today =  18.5 miles
Total distance =   1903 miles