Rockford is a pretty place, but like anywhere it looks less attractive with the tide out. I park my car and set off along the path that runs behind the houses at the far end of the bay.
The path leads to a track that runs alongside a stretch of estuary called Rough Firth, at the mouth of the Urr Water river. Unfortunately, to cross this river, I must trek inland to Dalbeattie and the nearest bridge.
Much of the headland above Rockcliffe is owned by the National Trust, and I soon find a clear path through some lovely, natural woodland. It promises to be another stretch of scenic walking.
I’m startled when, down in the estuary, I see a couple who appear to be walking on water!
Checking my map, I realise they’re walking along a causeway, and must have been visiting the tidal island in the middle of the firth – Rough Island.
I’m tempted to go and explore Rough Island. (What a name!) But I forgot to check the tide times this morning, and I’m not sure if I could make it safely across and back again, so I decide to stick to the headland.
[Later, I read about Rough Island in Peter Caton’s excellent book, No Boat Required. Apparently trips to the island are discouraged between March and May because of the risk of disturbing nesting birds. Perhaps it’s just as well I decided not to visit.]
Unlike yesterday’s walk, when I met no one, this section of the coast is comparatively crowded. I meet several groups of walkers.
Down the other side of the headland, and I’m on a track once more. It’s easy walking, but a little tame, and I can’t help feeling rather disappointed.
I get the feeling someone is watching me… and I soon spot the culprits!
Along an extended stretch you can see similarly sculpted animals. Some are simple stones with added eyes, others are elaborately carved pieces of driftwood. Clearly, someone has a sense of humour.
I’m approaching a village with two names on my map. At first I thought it was called ‘Kippford on Scaur’, but – with my glasses on – I realise it’s called either Kippford or Scaur.
Both names are rather ugly (I gather the locals call it Kippford, which is marginally better than Scaur), but the place itself is very attractive, with pubs, restaurants, plenty of up-market houses, and a collection of posh boats.
In fact, I think these are the first pleasure boats I’ve seen along the Scottish coast, and the first ‘posh’ resort I’ve walked through. (Sandyhills was a lovely bay, but hardly ‘posh’.)
Onwards. I don’t linger, because I plan to get to Dalbeattie for lunch, and I’m not sure how difficult the walk will be. So I head out of Kippford along the road… past a holiday park and a golf course…
…until I join the A710 again, at a place called Barnbarroch. I was rather hoping I could walk into Dalbeattie along this road, but the combined footpath/cycleway soon comes to an abrupt end.
The road isn’t very busy, but certainly not pleasant to walk along without a pavement. Ah well. Time to resort to Plan B.
Plan B involves walking up through the Dalbeattie forest, following tracks. I wasn’t sure how clear the paths would be, but the route looks wide and seems well maintained.
The first section is a relentless slog uphill, but the views over the Urr Water river valley are worth it. Even better, the sun keeps appearing, brightening up the landscape.
The track I’m walking along is wide and could be used by forestry vehicles, but the forest is also threaded with a network of narrow cycle paths. I’m tempted to walk along one of these cycle ways – they look more interesting than the wide track – until I see a couple of cyclists hurtling along and barely in control…
…and decide I better stick to the main route.
The track continues climbing steadily. Unfortunately, many of the trees here are boring old pines. Plantation woods. They always seem inhospitable and rather dull.
When I reach the top of the hill, I find an open area with a picnic bench and gorgeous views over the valley. Ideal time for a rest and a snack.
And, of course, the picnic table provides a stable support for my camera, so time for a self-portrait too.
While I’m sitting there, resting, several groups of cyclists come by. Families. The pattern is familiar. Dad leads. He’s followed by string of kids, all scrambling for prime position – just behind Dad. Somewhere, bringing up the rear, will be an exhausted looking Mum. She looks longingly at my seat.
Watching the tired women, struggling to keep up, makes me glad I’m not a cyclist. Just a walker.
Onwards, downhill now, through more pine forests.
The cycle routes are well marked. I think of my husband, who is joining me later today, and know he’ll enjoy cycling through this forest too.
Now I’m out of the pines and walking through an area of natural broad-leaf woodland. This is much nicer. The air is alive with flitting insects and birds singing.
I reach an adventure playground, and hear the noise of children playing on the slopes below me. A larger boulder is decorated with some very stylish metal leaves.
And then, all too soon, I reach the outskirts of Dalbeattie. Houses ahead, with garden fences.
Dalbeattie is a lovely name – very Scottish sounding – and I was expecting to find a town as nice as Dumfries. But this is a much quieter place, with smaller houses and an air of poverty.
I walk into the centre and find a pub for lunch. It’s very cheap. I ask for macaroni cheese and am offered garlic bread with it. Would I like chips too? No thanks. I’m trying not to put on any weight. Just the pasta will do.
[to be continued…]