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

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

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

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