Wild and woolly days in the Galloway Hills near Newton Stewart - July 1998
Sou’wester Walks with a Camera
Walks with a Camera © Geoff’s Pages 2011
"How do we get there?" "Easy - just go straight up the M6 and turn left at Scotland...". Pretty accurate directions, really - the Port road to Stranraer being the first road of any significance after crossing the border. A good road too, single carriageway but straight and wide. It was mid-day by the time we arrived at Dumfries, so we paused there for lunch, before taking the coast road to New Abbey. A
Day 1: Criffel
The highest point for today's sortie would be Craiglee, just 1741ft. But any route taking in "The Rig of the Jarkness" would surely be great, with a name like that! In fact, a few minutes with the OS map reveals a wealth of wonderful place names in this region - "Curleywee", "Craigeazle", "Shalloch on Minnoch" and the gloomy-sounding "Loch Dungeon", to name but a few. The walk starts in Glen Trool, at Bruce's Stone, commemorating an historic fixture when the Scottish team won... I always feel, on visiting Glen Trool, that really, it's part of the Highlands - with far fewer visitors! Climbing above the Garland Burn, we eventually forded the stream to gain the "Rig" - a fascinating traverse of little boggy hollows and rocky outcrops, before arriving at the fine rocky top of Craiglee. Round Loch of Glenhead and Long Loch of Glenhead are both visible from the summit.... Descending to the south, we gained the Southern Upland Way, returning to our starting point mid afternoon.... ....which meant there was time for an ice
cream at Stroan Bridge, where the peaty Water of Minnock flows like Guinness through a shallow rocky gorge, before taking the car back to Newton Stewart. That evening, we drove down to Wigtown. We had dined well at the Cree Bridge Hotel the previous evening, but with time to spare, a short outing and "recce" was justified. The good citizens of Wigtown will, I hope, forgive me for commenting that, at a little after 6pm, the town appeared to have closed down. Wigtown is trying to develop itself as south- west Scotland's "Hay-on Wye", with a number of second hand bookshops setting up there. "What a claim to fame" commented John, "'Probably south-west Scotland's second biggest bookshop' it says on their sign". We had a few chuckles about this excessive modesty before realising that it in fact said "Probably south-west Scotland's biggest second-hand bookshop", an altogether more optimistic claim.... ....and back, again, to the Cree Bridge.
Day 2: The Rig of the Jarkness
Day 4: Home again
Today, we should have had another full day in the area. The day's weather forecast was very poor, with strong winds and frequent heavy rain forecast - not really one for the hills. We left our B&B and headed, in the car, to the main street of Newton Stewart where, after buying provisions for the day, we debated what to do. We were still sitting there when our landlord's son appeared beside the car, on his bicycle. "I'm glad I caught you - we thought you'd gone". The accommodation had been booked, by phone, at short notice. It transpired that they thought we were staying for just three nights - I thought I'd booked for four. This perhaps explained the surprise on our arrival there, when they thought we were one short - "We were expecting four of you". Had we really been chased - on a bicycle???
In fact, the minor confusion had done us a favour. Our rooms had been booked to another party for the evening, so we decided to cut our losses and head for home. We paused at the attractive village of Rockcliffe, for a stroll beside the rocky shores of the Rough Firth, but here too, the rains came, so our stroll was fairly short. Nevertheless, it had been a good trip, with some most enjoyable days out on these wild woolly hills. I've a feeling that we'll be back, one day.
couple of miles beyond, a narrow lane to the right ends at Ardwall, where the walk - a very direct ascent - begins to this shapely, isolated peak, at 1868ft often the most visible part of Scotland for climbers in the English lake district. Wild raspberries in the lane provided free snacks at the start and finish of this short foray.
Day 3: The Rhinns of Kells
Another great name! The Rhinns of Kells is (are?) a fine ridge on the eastern side of the Galloway hills. We were to join the ridge in the middle, at its highest point -  Corserine, 2669ft (the highest point in south-west Scotland is the Merrick, 2765ft, another super outing from the aforementioned Bruce's Stone in Glen Trool). We left the car near Forrest Lodge. Originally, the house was in open country; now it stands at the heart of extensive plantations.... The highlander depicted was once the figurehead of a Fred Olsen Lines vessel. Sunk near the end of the second world war, it was recovered by divers 20 years later. It will have been gathered that, inevitably, the early and late stages of this walk are in the forest. By the time we escaped from the regiments of trees, the showers had begun, and waterproofs remained the order of the day until our walk was nearly over.
(Later, we learned that Newton Stewart had suffered a heavy thunderstorm - I wonder if that's it in the picture of the summit above?) We reached our highest point in a dry spell, the clear air giving some fine views - providing us some interesting guessing games as to whether we would suffer the substantial showers that continued to march around. In any case, the bitter wind persuaded us to keep the waterproofs on - and the hats, gloves etc. July in Scotland! - what was that about global warming? The ridge southwards provided us with a superb walk, via Millfire and Milldown to Meikle Millyea. We met the only people we saw all day here. "We thought we were the only idiots out today" they greeted us. "You're the first we've seen" I replied, unintentially causing Tim nearly to wet himself, as he tried not to laugh out loud. The insult was quite accidental, of course, and I don't think they quite realised what I had said.
Criffel - climbing through the plantation The Nith estuary The summit - Douglas's Cairn and OS column Bruce's Stone and the view to Loch Trool Climbing below Buchan Hill Bog cotton and peaty pool, Rig of the Jarkness Rocky outcrops on Craiglee Round and Long Lochs of Glenhead, and the view to the Merrick Water of Minnoch at Stroan Bridge Water of Minnoch at Stroan Bridge Water of Minnoch at Stroan Bridge The Highlander, Forrest Lodge View north from Corserine Corserine - view to the Merrick View to Loch Dungeon Will we catch this one? The forest - our route back to the car The Rough Firth near Rockcliffe; more rain on the horizon... Back to Walks with a Camera Contact Geoff