Today the sun is shining for the first time since I arrived in Scotland. So I’m looking forward to taking some great photographs.
But when I switch on my camera… oh no… the battery is flat! What a shame. I have to use my iPhone to take a few snaps of Dumfries.
It looks quite beautiful in the bright light of this April morning. I cross the River Nith via an elegant footbridge…
… and start walking along a pleasant path beside the river. The trees are lovely, just beginning to blossom.
The town is behind me now. Open countryside ahead.
A fisherman is standing in the water. Fly fishing. I watch for a while, but don’t see him catch anything. Would it be salmon he was after? Or trout? (I know nothing about fishing!)
My lovely path soon comes to an end, and I join the A710. The route I’ve planned today involves several miles of road walking – unavoidable, I’m afraid – and then a nice amble (I hope) along one of Scotland’s Core Paths.
The traffic is not too heavy, but is moving quickly. Alan Palin warned me there would be a lot of road walking in Scotland, and advised me to buy a high vis jacket. It’s time to put it on. Can’t resist a selfie.
When not dodging cars, I actually enjoy the road walking and make rapid progress. The countryside is attractive, with the meadows glowing green in the sunlight.
I walk through a village called Islesteps. (When I first saw the name, I misread it as Idlesteps – which sums up my method of walking rather nicely.)
A couple of miles later, I come to the turnoff I’ve been looking out for. This little lane should take me to Kirkconnell Flow Nature Reserve, which has a Core Path running through it.
I pass a field of Highland cattle. They are dozing in the sun. With their thick coats, I wonder if they got too hot in the summer?
I reach a car park and the entrance to the nature reserve.
A lady is just returning to her car after taking her dog for a walk. She tells me she passed me earlier, and asks if I’d walked all the way from Dumfries. Then she warns me the path through the Reserve is very muddy.
After she leaves, I’m on my own. She’s right about the path. In fact, ‘muddy’ barely describes it. It starts off nicely, with a board walk, but then soon deteriorates into what can only be described as a swamp.
The marshy area has been deliberately created in an attempt to reconstruct a peat bog. There’s higher land ahead, but an information sign has warned me this is actually a large mass of piled up moss plants, which will eventually decay and compact to form peat.
After struggling for a while, I give up with the marsh. The central wetland is surrounded by a ring of trees, and I decide to walk through this woodland instead… there seems to be some sort of path.
The path comes and goes. I don’t see any human footprints and wonder if I’m following a sheep trail. But sheep don’t normally like woodland, and I don’t see any sheep poo or wool caught in the brambles. If it’s not a human path, and if it’s not a sheep trail, what is it? The answer occurs to me – maybe a deer trail?
Just at that moment, there’s a crashing sound and I nearly drop my walking pole. A startled doe leaps out of clump of trees beside me and bounds off into the marsh.
I fumble for my iPhone – but it’s too late. She’s gone.
Well, that’s the answer to my question. Yes, I’m following a deer trail. Onwards, and I soon reach the end of the woodland. It’s been a pleasant, but tiring, section of the walk. Now I’m walking down a quiet lane.
It’s spookily quiet. In fact, I don’t meet anyone. There are farm houses in the distance, and a few sheep in the fields, but otherwise the landscape is deserted.
I’m so used to solitude, that a lone cyclist startles me. He is taking his collie for a run.
I pick up another Core Path. This one follows a track – a dry track, thank goodness – and should take me along the edge of the River Nith, before swinging round inland to New Abbey. Only 4 miles to go.
I come across a water treatment plant, or a pumping station, I’m not sure which. It’s rather ugly, and the path takes a rather precarious route around the sloping concrete skirt on the outside of the fence…
… but then I’m beside the water again. That’s the mouth of the River Nith ahead. The hill on the other side – with the crown of trees on top – is the wonderful Ward Law lookout spot, where I ate my lunch yesterday. It doesn’t look very high from here.
This is Airds Point. A line of fishing nets are strung across the water. I wonder if they’ve caught anything – and will fishermen be coming later to claim their catch? I sit down on a tree stump and have a rest and a snack, but nobody turns up.
Onwards. My path swings inland to follow the course of a small stream. I’m walking through woodland. Among the trees are deep pools of water where irises are growing. They’ll look beautiful when the flowers are out.
I hear a woodpecker. And see some official footpath signs. The path looks reasonably well used at this point. I wonder if the fishermen come this way to check their nets?
The path emerges from woodland and crosses the edge of open fields. This one is full of sheep. They baaaa nervously when they see me, as they have some very young lambs among them.
The stream is tidal. I’m sure it looks prettier when the water is high. I look out for otters, but don’t see any.
Across more fields and down a track. There’s Criffel. Yes, it’s really much larger now. This impressive hill has been my companion for so many days of walking, both here and in Cumbria, I can’t believe I’ve nearly reached it.
I cross a stream. The water is clear, running over a bed of deep red-brown earth.
Further on there is another stream to cross. ‘Ford’ it says on my map. Oh no! I’m going to have to wade through. Luckily, I soon spot a bridge by the side of the ford, so I don’t need to get my feet wet after all.
I turn back and take a photograph of the ford from the other side. It looks very beautiful and strangely familiar – and I have a weird moment of déjà vu. Have I been here before? I’m sure I haven’t.
Then I realise. It’s exactly like a scene from a Constable painting!
Onwards. I’ve nearly reached New Abbey, and I come across the actual abbey via a churchyard. I love taking photographs in old graveyards, but the sun is low, the light is difficult, and my iPhone doesn’t do justice to the scene.
I follow the path around to the front of the abbey, where I’ve parked my car. It’s a lovely building, and the red sandstone columns glow in the light of the afternoon sun.
Despite the name of the village (New Abbey), the abbey ruins are over 700 years old and the place has a poignant and romantic history. ‘Sweetheart Abbey’.
You have to pay to go inside. I’m tempted, but decide I don’t really want to spend long looking round, and so it’s not worth paying the £5 entrance fee. I feel a bit mean taking photos from over the fence… but I do anyway.
Miles walked today = 12
Total miles around the UK coast = 3,103.5