308 am Auchencairn (Torr Point)

I leave my car in the village of Auchencairn, and my husband drives me to the layby on the A711 so that I can start today’s walk exactly where I ended yesterday’s walk, next to the Screel Woods.

01 layby Screel woods, Ruth's coastal walk, Dumfries and Dalbeattie

I push aside a niggling sense of frustration. The nearby shore is so fragmented and indented, I know I’m going to walk all day – but will only end up a mere 2-3 miles further down this road.

But it’s not the end point that’s important, I tell myself. Today I must simply focus on the journey, and not the destination. Onwards.

After 20 minutes of road-walking, I reach the track which should take me from the road and back to the coast. To Torr Point. Pleased to see the way is actually signposted.

02 footpath to Torr Point, Ruth coastal walk, Dumfries and Galloway

The track is rather dull. Past farms, through fields. Ahead I see a mass of pines. That must be Torr Wood – and my heart sinks. Pines!

03 straight track to Torr Point, Ruth coastal walk, Dumfries and Galloway

I find a sign that says “Footpath” and head off into the woods, where I walk along a pleasant, wide, grassy path. It’s rutted in places. A logging track, maybe?

04 Torr Wood, Ruth coastal walk, Dumfries and Galloway

The woods are actually much nicer than they appear at first glance. I’m never fond of the sterile atmosphere you find inside a plantation of pines, but some young broad-leaved trees liven up the place. There is plenty of bird song, and the new trees are just beginning to spring into leaf.

The track fizzles out. I follow a narrow path, overgrown in places. Then I ignore a footpath sign that suggests I should head inland, and continue following a vague trail towards the shore, until I arrive at a lovely rocky cove.

05 across Orchardton Bay, Ruth coastal walk, Dumfries and Galloway

Nameless on my map, the cove’s little beach is covered in sea shells and it overlooks the Almorness peninsula, where I walked yesterday. Unfortunately, with the tide out, the main impression I get is of… MUD.

Never mind. It’s a pretty place. I perch my camera on a rock and take a self-portrait. Today is sunny – but cold. Although I’m wearing a thick fleece and my winter jacket, I soon feel chilly when I stop walking.

06 Ruth Livingstone, Torr Woods, Dumfries and Galloway

I’ve reached a dead-end. When I try to follow further paths along the shore, I end up climbing through thick gorse and wrestling with brambles. So I turn back and retrace my steps to find the footpath sign – the one I ignored earlier.

07 Core Path, Torr Point, Ruth's coast walk, Dumfries and Galloway

The path takes me up the slope of Torr Hill and then dissolves into a series of green spaces, fringed with gorse.

08 Torr Hill, Ruth's coast walk, Dumfries and Galloway

On a map, the tip of the peninsula – Torr Point – looks so… well, so very definite. On the ground, however, it’s hard to see where I should be going. I follow several false trails, until I eventually spot a path leading down between two fences.

09 footpath to Torr Point, Ruth's coast walk, Dumfries and Galloway

It’s somewhat muddy, but is definitely a proper path.

A few minutes later, I emerge from a screen of trees and find myself at Torr Point. Across the water is the Almorness Peninsula, and Almorness Point – which I almost got to yesterday.

10 Almorness Point from Torr Point, Ruth's coast walk, Dumfries and Galloway

I was disappointed with myself for not battling through to the tip of Almorness Point yesterday, and this is one reason I was so determined to get to Torr Point today! Well. I’ve made it.

Built into a rocky slope, a strange brick structure catches my eye. I assume it is a rather sooty barbecue, but why is it such an odd shape?

11 Tar Pot at Torr Point, Ruth's coast walk, Dumfries and Galloway

In fact, it turns out to be a tar pot, where fishermen used to dip their nets in liquid tar to preserve them.

12 Tar Pot information stone, Ruth's coast walk, Dumfries and Galloway

A Tar Pot at Torr Point. The alliteration tickles me!

I decide I can’t follow the shore, the ground is too rough and overgrown. So I turn back along the path, and catch sight of a red squirrel leaping up a tree trunk. Too slow to catch a photograph, I’m thrilled to see the squirrel. It’s the second day in a row and the second red squirrel of the day. (This morning, my husband and I were delighted when a red squirrel came to feed at the bird table right outside the window of our B&B.)

Back on the slopes of Torr Hill, and I lose the footpath again in a wide open plain of grassland, but spot a couple of walkers in the distance, and set off after them.


13 Craig Range, Auchencairn Bay, Ruth's coast walk, Dumfries and Galloway

I’m heading up the western side of the peninsula, towards the apex of Auchencairn Bay. Auchencairn village is just across the water.

14 Auchencairn across the bay, Ruth's coast walk, Dumfries and Galloway

I reach a cottage, and the beginning of a track. It’s the same track I followed earlier this morning, before branching off into the wood, but I’m hoping not to have to retrace my route.

15 path to Duncraig, Ruth's coast walk, Dumfries and Galloway

There should be a footpath across the marshy edge of the bay. Yes. I find footpath signs just on the other side of the cottage. But the tide is coming in rapidly, and I worry whether it’s still possible to make my way across the top of the bay.

16 Auchencairn through the marsh, Ruth's coast walk, Dumfries and Galloway

I set out, through the marsh. The path is clear in places, confused in others. Sometimes there is a board walk. Sometimes there is only a narrow path through mud.

A deep stream creates a difficult barrier, until I backtrack and climb through to the landward side of the fence, where I find a flat bridge over the water.

17 marsh path, Ruth's coast walk, Dumfries and Galloway

Eventually I reach the other side of the bay, just as a dark cloud closes in and drops of rain begin to fall. I spot a convenient bird hide, overlooking the bay, and run inside.

18 bird hide, Auchencairn Bay, Ruth's coast walk, Dumfries and Galloway

It’s dark and peaceful in the hide. I open one of the flaps and watch the rain falling on the waters in the bay outside. Can’t see any birds. Time for a snack and a rest.

Luckily the shower is soon over, and I leave the bird hide and resume my walk along the path, crossing the edge of a field, following the bank of a pretty stream.

19 Auchencairn Lane, Ruth's coast walk, Dumfries and Galloway

There are cows in the field. They straddle the path, and are reluctant to move until I raise my stick and said, “Shoo!”.

I’m perturbed, therefore, to meet two young girls at the kissing gate that marks the entrance to the field on the other side. “Where are you going?” I ask. “Be careful. There’s a deep stream here and cows.” In beautiful Scottish accents they tell me they’re going to the bird hide. And no need to worry, they know where it is.

Although I let them go past, I am worried. They are very young, 7 or 8 years old, maybe. Should they be out on their own? Is this normal in Scotland? Do you let young children roam around on the own?

Then, in the next field – a playing field – I spot a man chasing a black Labrador. Well, ‘chasing’ is too active a verb. He is calling to the dog, but the dog is wandering off sniffing the bushes, deliberately ignoring the man. Eventually, the man manages to collar the dog and sets off in pursuit of the children.

He must be their dad. I wait and watch until he catches them up. Then I breathe a sigh of relief.

Through the playing field, and I’m on the outskirts of Auchencairn Village. There’s a pretty Millennium Garden, with a bird table disguised as a dove coop – although I don’t see any birds, doves or otherwise.

20 Auchencairn Millenium Garden, Ruth's coast walk, Dumfries and Galloway

I stop for a quick rest and another drink, aware I’m slowing down. Being so near to the village has made me feel my walk is nearly over, but I’m not even half way to completing my planned route today!


A quiet road leads along the shore. It’s the weekend, and a number of cars cruise past. I meet several strollers, and dog walkers.

21 lane to Balcary Bay, Ruth's coast walk, Dumfries and Galloway

Through the screen of trees on my left, I catch views across Auchencairn Bay. The tide has really come in, now. It looks much prettier when full of water.

22 Auchencairn Bay, Ruth's coast walk, Dumfries and Galloway

I pass an imposing tower building. The gateway to Auchencairn House.

23 Auchencairn House, Ruth's coast walk, Dumfries and Galloway

Across the water, I see fishing nets strung in a line, and get a great view of Hestan Island. Now fully surrounded by water, it’s difficult to believe it’s really a tidal island and that Peter Caton once waded across from Almorness Point to reach it.

24 Hesten Island, Ruth's coast walk, Dumfries and Galloway

Further along the road is Balcary Bay. A popular place, with a pretty beach, and dominated by a hotel, the Balcary Bay Country House Hotel.

I go into the hotel – hoping for a sit down and a refreshing drink. The place has tartan carpets. People in smart clothes are sitting drinking coffee on comfortable sofas. I can see a formal dining room (starched tablecloths) but no informal bar. In my walking boots and battered clothes I feel very out-of-place, and beat a hasty retreat.

Next, I walk through the car park to the beach and take some photographs of the view across the bay. A building that looks like a castle sits on the other side. “The Tower” says my map. I wonder if it’s open to the public?

25 Balcary Bay, Ruth's coast walk, Dumfries and Galloway

I follow the road, which comes to an end just on the other side of the hotel. A motorcyclist, looking stiff and unsteady after a long ride, climbs off his bike and heads down towards the beach. A notice board describes local walks. I see a mother and son who are just setting out for a walk, and meet a family who are just returning from theirs.

There are several routes I could follow, but the coastal footpath runs up the hill and across an open field. I climb up the path, and enjoy a great view over Balcary Bay. The motorcyclist, still in his high vis jacket, is lying on the beach.

26 Balcary Bay beach, Ruth's coast walk, Dumfries and Galloway

At the top of the field is a gate and a path leading into woodland.

27 path to Balcary Point, Ruth's coast walk, Dumfries and Galloway

Sadly, the “Tower” turns out to be a private house and is not accessible to the public. I decide it’s a fake tower anyway! Looks very modern. But what a wonderful place to live.

28 view back to Rockwell, Ruth's coast walk, Dumfries and Galloway

The woodland turns out to be a small band of trees on the slope above a row of private houses. I meet another group of people coming back from a walk.

29 woodland walk, Ruth's coast walk, Dumfries and Galloway

And, when I emerge on the other side of the trees, I discover why it’s so popular. It’s beautiful. This is Balcary Hill, covered in bright yellow gorse.

Dead ahead is Hestan Island, of course. Behind the island, (to the left in the photo below) is Rockcliffe. To the far right is the long strip of beach that runs in front of Mersehead Nature Reserve. In fact, I can see all the way to Southerness and its lighthouse.

30 view back to Southerness, Ruth's coast walk, Dumfries and Galloway

Wow. What a beautiful place.

To be continued…

About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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11 Responses to 308 am Auchencairn (Torr Point)

  1. jcombe says:

    I’m enjoying your walks around this part of Scotland. You seem to be making rapid progress! Some lovely views on this one in particular and I think it was a stroke of luck you got to that bird hide just in time for that shower!

    I’m always a bit mixed about esturay and river coastal walks. Looking at the map it can be quite depressing to plan a 10 mile route that ends up just a couple of miles from where you started. But once I get going I usually enjoy them far more than expected. As ypu say it’s the journey rather than the distance.

    Glad your spotting red squirrels. So far in Scotland I’ve only seen one (and I didn’t see any around Merseyside where they are apparantley common), so you are doing better than me! Scotland seems to have a lot of interesing towers and castles all along the coast, it makes it quite interesting. Surprised you have not seen any golf courses yet. From my walks it seems to me that every town in Scotland must have at least one golf course (and most villages, too).

    I somehow have in my mind that all Scottish hotels are like the one you stepped inside. Tartan carpets, wood panelling, shortbread biscuits in the rooms and mostly whiskey behind the bar!

    • Hi Jon. Share your mixed emotions about estuaries. On the one hand, they certainly make coastal walking more difficult! On the other, some of my best walks have been up estuaries (I remember, particularly, the glorious trek inland to Machynlleth on the Wales Coast Path – one of the best walking days ever!) Best wishes, Ruth

      • dianeiles@outlook.com says:

        Haven’t done Machynlleth area yet Ruth, but very exciting to read you found the walking there so good. I’ll look forward to doing that area.
        Really enjoying your Scottish walks. How to you remember your walks in such lovely detail? Do you take notes as you walk or record your walks verbally?

        • I’m blessed with a very good memory Di! The photographs really help – I take over a 100 on every walk, many just to jog my memory. And I make little notes on my maps afterwards, e.g. squirrel or bluebells or horrible mud…

  2. Eunice says:

    Love the garden with the dove cote bird table and the view over Balcary Bay – the scenery is getting better and better 🙂

  3. gillianrance says:

    Lovely scenery on this walk Ruth. Thank you for sharing with us.

  4. tonyurwin says:

    Hi Ruth. I will be hiking this stretch next week. Do you recall if there are any places to wild camp around Balcary Point?

    • Hi Tony. It is a popular area and with a fair number of private residences. Can’t remember if there were any secluded spots for camping, but it is Scotland and so I’m sure you will find somewhere. It’s wonderful weather at the moment and perfect for walking! Lucky you. I have so many family commitments at the moment, I’m finding it hard to get away.

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