127. Mains of Airies to Portpatrick

My final day on this trip would see me take on the northern coastline of The Rhins. I was determined to try to do a complete section along the coastline. To do justice to this section I had decided to break the section from Portpatrick to Stranraer into two sections. The final section I would complete on my next trip. Most blogs I have read on this section seem to stay on the roads which is some distance from the coast and misses out on probably the most rugged and best bit of The Rhins coast.

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Start of the walk

Because this area is very rural I decide to reverse my route, starting further up the coast at Mains of Airies and walking south to Portpatrick. I caught the 9:10 #412 bus from Stranraer, which is a service operated by the local Wigtownshire Community Transport charity. The bus runs twice a day on a Mon, Wed, Fri and Sat. I was the only passenger and the driver was telling me how the charity works, it was good to be supporting this service. I got dropped off at the end of the road leading down to Mains of Airies. The road passes through a farm and a few cottages, before it hits the coastline. The forecast rain appeared as I turned south heading into a stiff breeze which was with me for the rest of the day.

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Rare footpath infrastructure
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Standalone bridge – in good condition

The walking was quite easy and the big difference between this area and the rest of the Rhins, was that one side of a stone wall (which ran parallel to the shore) was an area of rough pasture, which cattle appeared to have grazed. If the grass got too long then I would simply climb a fence and walk alongside neighbouring fields. I found vestiges of old footpath signage, the odd dilapidated stile and a surprisingly good footbridge crossing a wee burn. The entrance to the footbridge was totally choked with vegetation. I passed through a number of enclosures with cattle in them, including bulls, with no problem. I did not see any  evidence that other walkers had passed this way and save for livestock, I only came across the odd red deer.

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Deer fence access gate…….or not
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Ingenious home made cattle grid

The first real obstacle was surprisingly a 9ft high deer fence! I could have climbed it, but decided to walk alongside it as it was going my way. I eventually came to a metal gate and pedestrian gate – both of which had been fenced over! The irony of it was that there was a footpath indicator on the gate post. I re-crossed a similar deer fence a half mile further on, which I easily scaled.

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Knock Bay with Killantringan Lighthouse ahead
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On Southern Upland Way descending into Lairds Bay
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Approaching Portpatrick

After passing a few sheltered little bays I could now see Killantrangan Lighthouse in the distance. This was important as this was where the Southern Upland Way (SUW) hit the coast and continued south onto Portpatrick. I thought I managed the section without any difficulty as I approached Knock / Killantrangan Bay. A steep drop onto the beach with dense vegetation blocked my path. I tried a number of ways of getting down to the beach and other than a long detour inland the only option was down. I opted for an easy slope with a thick covering of reeds and ferns. I don’t think I have ever walked through anything so tall. The reeds and ferns where about 8ft tall and my progress down the slope to the shoreline was slow. I eventually emerged on the beach and headed towards the lighthouse. I still had to climb back up to join the road that ran to the lighthouse. It was great to join the Southern Upland Way and be treated to a nice easy path all the way to Portpatrick, but what felt much better was the fact I had been able to stick to the coast on this section.

The SUW offered some interesting walking as it dropped down into Port Kale through steep rocks, before passing around to Port Mora and the curious twinned buildings of the former Coastal Interpretation Centre. I later found out these buildings housed the telephone and telegraph cables between Scotland and Ireland. Due to increased demand and traffic a second cable was run to Donaghadee on the Irish coast in 1893 and second similar building was attached to the first.

Portpatrick was as I had left it yesterday, still quite busy, but with quite a steep breeze still blowing, not so many seating outside as yesterday. I opted for a coffee and a slice of carrot cake before catching the #386 bus back to Stranraer. It had taken 6 hrs 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=21384

Distance today =  14 miles
Total distance =   2038.5 miles

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