301 Brow Well to Glencaple

Today I planned to park at Glencaple, then take a bus to Dumfries, where I would change to another bus to get back to Clarencefield. It would be a late start to my walk and a precarious beginning…  but at breakfast my kind host steps in and offers me a lift. Yay!

We drive in convoy to Glencaple, and then he drops me off at Brow Well.

01 Brow Well, Ruth walking the Scottish coast, Dumfries and Galloway

It’s another dull day and will involve many miles of road walking. Yet again much of my route will follow long-distance cycleway number 7.

02 cycle route 7, Ruth walking the Scottish coast, Dumfries and Galloway

There is something very tedious about road walking, especially when the views are monotonous and the road is straight. It’s just a question of putting one foot after the other and trying to keep up a reasonable pace.

03 to Bankend, Ruth walking the Scottish coast, Dumfries and Galloway

Every vague bend in the road becomes an important milestone. This collection of houses is called Cockpool.

04 Cockpool, Ruth walking the Scottish coast, Dumfries and Galloway

Frustratingly, I’m actually walking away from the coast at this point.

I walk past a wooded area and spot the hub of a car wheel perched in a tree. Did it spin off the road and land in the branches? Or did someone place it there?

05 hubcap in tree, Ruth walking the Scottish coast, Dumfries and Galloway

Luckily my road is quiet, with only a few farm vehicles – and the occasional cyclist – to interrupt the pace of my plodding. Ahead is Criffel. It’s definitely getting larger.

06 Criffell, Ruth walking the Scottish coast, Dumfries and Galloway

The farms in the area look very neat. In Cumbria the barns and fields seemed much messier, for some reason. Maybe there is more land to spare here? Maybe it’s because it’s the end of the winter season and the landscape still looks bare? Or maybe Scottish farmers are just tidier?

07 farms, Ruth walking the Scottish coast, Dumfries and Galloway

A large house, built of warm stone, stands out against the green fields. Behind it is a raised hill with a crown of trees.

08 Larchwoods, Ruth walking the Scottish coast, Dumfries and Galloway

I consult my map. The house is called Upper Locharwoods, I think. The tree-topped hill is Ward Law and the site of an old Roman Fort. I wonder if you can visit it? And does much remain of the Roman ruins?

Onwards. I’ve walked 4 miles (it seems longer) and reach Bankend. Here I will cross a little river called Lochar Water.

09 Bankend, Ruth walking the Scottish coast, Dumfries and Galloway

Across a field I see a ruined tower. It’s too far away to go and explore.

10 Tower at Bankend, Ruth walking the Scottish coast, Dumfries and Galloway

My road ends in a T junction at Bankend. Now I turn left, back towards the coast, nearly doubling back on myself in a hairpin fashion.

11 to Caerlaverock Castle, Ruth walking the Scottish coast, Dumfries and Galloway

Another mile or two of road walking and I reach a turning to Blackshaw. My plan is to follow this road and walk down to the Caerlaverock Nature Reserve. It means doubling back on myself again, but from there I’ll be back on the shoreline and I can follow a Core Path that runs along the edge of the Merse.

12 turnoff to Blackshaw, Ruth walking the Scottish coast, Dumfries and Galloway

I hesitate. What about Ward Law and that Roman fort? It’s out of my way, but a signpost points invitingly up the hill…

13 footpath to Ward Law, Ruth walking the Scottish coast, Dumfries and Galloway

…and proves irresistible. I’m so utterly bored with road walking, this diversion will be fun! So I walk up a farm track, and then through a copse of trees where the path is carpeted with black plastic sheeting. Weird!

14 footpath up Ward Law, Ruth hiking near Dumfries

Among these trees I catch sight of a black rabbit. A black rabbit? Is it a genetic mutation? Or an escaped domestic pet? I see it several times – whether it’s the same black rabbit or a series of different ones is unclear.

Beyond the copse of trees is a path along a ploughed field. Signs warn me to stick to the path. It runs alongside an electric fence, presumably to make sure the signs are obeyed!

15 steep hill to Ward Law, Ruth hiking near Dumfries

On my way up, which is quite a steep climb, I wonder about Scotland’s famous right to roam, and how much ‘right’ a walker actually has.

After a lot of puffing I reach the top of the hill. And it’s worth it.

There is no sign of the Roman fort, apart from the usual raised mounds, but the crest of the hill is covered by a collection of wonderful old trees. There is a carpet of bluebells underfoot, just beginning to come into bud, and the views are wonderful.

16 view of Criffel from Ward Law, Ruth Livingstone

In fact, the whole place has a peaceful and mysterious feel to it. I could stay up here all day and admire the views. There’s Caerlaverock Castle below.

17 view down to Caerlaverock Castle, Ruth walking the Scottish coastline

An information board tells me this hill was used as a lookout point, a signalling place, and a meeting spot. A handy panoramic map tells me I am 23 miles from Carlisle and… crikey… I’m only 10 miles from Silloth! After a week’s worth of walking, I haven’t got very far.

18 Ward Law viewing area, Ruth Livingstone in Scotland

I peer out across the estuary. Is that Silloth over there? I think I can make out the trees that line the edge of Silloth’s promenade, but the light is too hazy and dim to tell for sure.

19 Cumbria from High Law, Ruth Livingstone

I stop for a picnic lunch. And then set up the timer on my camera for a self-portrait. Unfortunately, as I run to get into position, I underestimate the steepness of the slope and nearly tumble down the hill. The photo is rather blurred, and catches me teetering off-balance and holding onto a tree for support!

20 Ruth Livingstone on High Law

It’s time to continue my walk. Onwards. Back down the steep hill I go. The views are really wonderful, despite the gloomy weather.

21 coming down High Law, Ruth heading to Blackshaw

It’s a mile and a half to Blackshaw, but this little lane is far busier than my previous road, and I have to keep stepping onto the verge. There’s tractors, a post office van, a delivery lorry and several cars.

22 Blackshaw, Ruth walking the Scottish coast, Dumfries and Galloway

Caerlaverock Nature Reserve covers many acres of the estuary, but this is one of the few access points for visitors. The car park is surprisingly small, and empty. But a couple arrive and park their car while I’m reading the information board.

23 Caerlaverock Nature Reserve, Ruth walking the Scottish coast, Dumfries and Galloway

The couple is armed with binoculars and cameras. Bird watchers, I think. I’m not sure if there’s much to see at this time of year.

You get to the shore along a farm track. I pass a barn full of cows. Poor things. I bet they’re dying to get out after a long winter shut up. (I often think kind thoughts about cows when they’re locked away. My thoughts when they’re roaming menacingly through the fields are not nearly so charitable!)

24 cows in barn, Ruth hiking the coast of Scotland

Down the muddy track. The couple is well ahead of me now. Good. I feel very anti-social today.

25 farm track, Caerlaverock Nature Reserve, Ruth Livingstone in Scotland

There is a boardwalk across the first stretch of marsh, and… oh, no… cows. What are they doing out of their barn? I’m not sure they’re allowed on the Nature Reserve.

26 walkway across Caerlaverock Merse, Ruth Livingstone in Scotland

I spot a large group of cattle milling about behind a fence at the top of a bank. They’re mooing and frisking like a bunch of naughty school children. It makes me think the ones that have got down to the marsh have escaped somehow.

27 naughty cows, Ruth Livingstone hiking the coast in Scotland

I walk past the cows without incident, and reach a fence that seems to separate the drier part of the marsh from the coastal part of the marsh. If I wasn’t so tired, I would see if I could walk closer to the water, but I decide to stick to the bank instead, where the walking should be easier.

Now I’m walking up another estuary and I’ve doubled back on myself again. (My route today has been a series of V-shaped bends without much forward progress!)  Ahead is Criffel.

28 Caerlaverock Merse, Ruth hiking near Dumfries

The ground is very marshy in places and I’m glad to reach another board walk. Ahead is a weird structure. I think it might be a café or an information hut, but it turns out to be a bird hide.

29 bird hide, Caerlaverock Castle, Ruth Livingstone hiking the coast, Dumfries

I’ve reached the grounds of Caerlaverock Castle, and I spend some time walking through the Castle Woods. I was hoping to visit the castle itself, but find myself unwilling to go the extra few hundred yards, or pay the extra fee.

30 grounds of Caerlaverock Castle, Ruth Livingstine walking the coast in Scotland

So I turn back and retrace my path through the woods. These are ancient woodlands, full of natural broadleaf trees and pools of water. I hear the sound of a woodpecker drilling in the distance, but can’t catch sight of the bird.

31 Castle Wood, Ruth walking near Caerlaverock Castle, Dumfries

Now I’m back on the road again. The River Nith is on my left, behind a screen of trees. Open farmland to my right.

32 road to Glencaple, Ruth walking the Scottish coast, Dumfries and Galloway

Through gaps in the trees I get views of the estuary and Criffel. The light is getting worse as the afternoon progresses and Criffel looks rather menacing.

33 view of Criffel from road to Glencaple, Ruth livingstone

This road is also cycle route number 7, although I don’t see many cyclists.

34 approaching Glencaple, Ruth walking the Scottish coast, Dumfries and Galloway

It’s another 3-4 miles to Glencaple and my parked car. The place looks rather pretty, set on the banks of the river, although what might have once been a bustling wharf is now a very quiet car park.

35 Glencaple, Ruth walking the coast in Dumfries and Galloway

I’m sad when I think how much industry has been lost from these coastal villages. A boat’s hull lies on the grass, and is carved with the names of ships that were once built here.

36 shipbuilding in Glencaple, Ruth Livingstone

The tea room turns out to bc closed due to a fire. Shame. I wonder if it will ever open again.

37 closed tea room, Ruth in Glencaple, Dumfries

A bus pulls into the car park. It’s one of the few buses that travel here from Dumfries, and I’m pleased to see it. I will need to catch it here tomorrow morning when I resume my walk.

38 bus to Glencaple, Ruth walking the Scottish coast, Dumfries

I climb into my car and set off for my hotel. It’s been a better day than I anticipated, despite all the road walking. The highlight was definitely my diversion up to Ward Law hill.

Miles walked today = 13 miles
Total around coast = 3,085.5 miles


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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10 Responses to 301 Brow Well to Glencaple

  1. owdjockey says:

    Hi Ruth, you certainly got a better view of Caelaverock castle than I did, as I was far to lazy to climb Ward Law.

  2. Alistair wilkie says:

    I have just been reading, and very much enjoying, your commentary on walking through Dumfries & Galloway, especially from Clarencefield westwards toward Kirkcudbright. Your are correct when you point out that pronunciation can be problem in this area. Relatives of mine own a farm just along the road from Clarencefield at an even smaller village called Mouswald (Moosald) , which also has Viking connections. This is where I lived and played when I was young about half a century ago. ( It sounds bad when I put it that way.) I, too, have spent many days on Ward Law dreaming of both past and future. You must really visit Caerlaverock Castle at some point. It is pretty unique. Subscribing to English Heritage allows free access to all Historic Scotland properties, too, so it might be worthwhile during your future Scottish adventures. Most people visiting Scotland seem to bypass the southwest and simply trundle up to the Highlands, so I am glad that you have experienced some of this area, and in the best way possible. Good luck with the remainder of your walk.

  3. Hi Alistair, thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment, and for your kind words about my blog. It was wonderful to explore this area, and to discover Scotland actually has a south coast! Something I never really thought about before. It’s a lovely area and I am surprised it’s not better known. Ward Law is a special place, really atmospheric and must be fabulous views on a clear day. Thank you for the useful tip re English Heritage.

  4. jcombe says:

    I did this walk on Sunday though in the other direction as I stayed in Dumfries, so I started from there.and walked to Clarencefield combining the two walks you did. It is a long way to go in one day, but I did it because on a Sunday the only place vaguely near the coast that has a bus service is Clarencefield and I guessed (correctly) that since so much of it is road walking I’d cover the distance quicker than usual.

    The route route out of Dumfries is lovely, lots of daffodils too at this time of year. The river path from Kingholm to Glencaple was lovely but the “wobbly bridge” you had problems with is now even worse, but I did make it across. Annoyingly there are now no signs at all at either end indicating the problems with the bridge (though I could see the remains of the “hazard tape” on the bridge, so perhaps they had blown away). So still not fixed a year or so later! I suspect it won’t be.

    The footpath from Blackshaw to Caerlaverock Castle does continue a little further east along the sea wall and then there is a path around the edge of fields to the visitor centre at the Wetland Centre, where you can pick up the road. This was a lovely section.

    Sadly I didn’t have the time to visit the castle or Ward Law.

    The road walking east from there is very dull. Mostly straight and not much to see as you say, but at least traffic is very light for a B-road.

    • I’m always amazed by how far other people walk in a day. 12 mles is really my comfort zone, and after 16 miles I’m dying for the walk to end! But, as you say, sometimes our routes are dictated by the bus service (or lack of one).

      • jcombe says:

        I’ve found the distance I can walk comfortably has graudally been increasing over the years, I used to find anything over about 10 miles was too much, now I usually aim for around 12-15 miles, but sometimes push it to 20 miles.

        I find a packet of jelly babies to be a good way to keep my energy levels up on longer routes (though as a doctor you would probably disapprove of all that sugar!)

  5. Karen White says:

    I have definitely heard of Caerlaverock Nature Reserve before your blog but I cannot remember when – or anything else about it. I’m sure it must be a wonderful place for birds.

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