I eat my lunch and enjoy the views over Kirkcudbright Bay. The rocks below me are extraordinary – jagged, twisted and fissured as if they’ve been sculpted by a crazy giant wielding a serrated knife.
After a welcome break, I get up and look ahead. First I’m going to follow a Core Path, and then a little lane. That should take me 3 miles along the coast to a place called Mutehill. After that comes 2 miles of road-walking into the town of Kirkcudbright, where I’m booked into a B&B. I’ll be there in a couple of hours.
With plenty of time to spare, I decide to climb the hill behind me. My map indicates there’s an interesting feature up here – a ‘Cup & Ring marked Rock’. But the landscape is difficult to work out, with folds and little valleys, and a number of scattered boulders lying around. None of these large stones appear to be the one I’m looking for.
The views, however, are wonderful. I can see right up Kirkcudbright Bay, to the mouth of the River Dee.
Then I spot a group of cattle waiting to ambush me in a narrow gully… and decide to abandon my search for the interesting rock.
Back down the hill, I leave the grassy field through a gate, and enter a strip of woodland that runs along the shore.
This is beautiful. Turns out to be the best part of today’s walk. The leaves aren’t yet out on the trees (everything comes out a little later in Scotland) and I get great views over the water. The path is lined by the early shoots of wild garlic…
… and bluebells are just beginning to flower. These look like genuine native ones. Wonderful to see. They’ll be even better in a few days time.
The path is clearly well-used, with impromptu bridges over muddy areas.
I’m making good progress up the estuary, and begin to examine features on the opposite bank, already looking forward to tomorrow’s walk. I wonder how closely I’ll be able to follow the shore? It looks lovely over there.
I begin to meet other walkers. Must be getting close to joining the lane
I pass one of the ugliest lifeboat stations I’ve ever seen, and wonder if the lifeboat has much work to do. I’ve actually seen very few ships along the coast. Perhaps their main job is rescuing foolish walkers who get stranded on sandbanks in the bay?
The path is very enjoyable. Beautiful primroses.
And even the commoner weeds look glorious in the sunshine. Daisies and dandelions – so cheerful.
The path becomes a track. Easy walking.
And then I see parked cars ahead, and know I must be getting closer to Mutehill and the main road.
Hidden behind a screen of bushes is an old bus that’s been turned into a travelling home on wheels. What a wonderful place to park for the day. Maybe for the night too?
I would like a camper van in Scotland, but my hubby isn’t keen. Quite sensibly he points out a van wouldn’t solve the logistic problems of long-distance trekking, as I would still need to find a way to return to the vehicle at the end of each day’s walk. And, anyway, he prefers staying in B&Bs.
Perhaps I’ll persuade him one day…
Mutehill is a tiny place, just a collection of houses along a bend in the road. Yes, I’m back on the good old A711 again.
I’m pleased to find the road has a pavement and I make rapid progress towards Kirkcudbright. And then I come to a small lane leading to a narrow peninsula called St Mary’s Isle. The footpath sign informs me this is Core Path 151, St Mary’s Circular (3 mile circular).
Sticking to my rule of staying as close to the water as is reasonable, I know I really should walk around St Mary’s Isle. But I’m tired, and was half-hoping there wouldn’t be a clear path. Damn that sign! Now that I’ve seen it, I can’t ignore it.
It will be a pretty circuit, I tell myself. My map promises woodland and I should have some great views of the estuary. And so I set off along the narrow lane that leads towards the end of the peninsula.
It’s not a pretty walk. In fact, it’s not at all pleasant. To my right are sheep fields and then an untidy, marshy bog. Somebody has been clearing the area of scrub and bushes, so the place looks like it has been bombed. There are great clearings full of churned up earth, dead vegetation and piles of splintered wood.
Can’t even see the water, unless I ignore ‘private’ signs, clamber up a treacherous bank and peer between trees over a mass of broken timber. What a shame!
It may be possible to walk right to the tip of St Mary’s Isle, but I don’t try. There is no clear path, just an untidy mess of rocks, stagnant water, and scraggly vegetation.
And the whole place stinks! I presume there must be a sewage plant nearby but, when I pull out my map, I discover the culprit. “St Mary’s Isle Pig Farm.” Really?! A pig farm! What a shame. The smell is most unpleasant.
I stick to the main walking path, which swings around and runs back up the other side of the peninsula. When I come across a ruined slipway, I seize the opportunity to go down and stand on the shore for a while.
Actually, this second section of the route – along the western side of the peninsula – is much nicer than the first. A winding path instead of a rutted track. Proper woodland. Bluebells. And it’s much closer to the water too. That’s now the River Dee on my left.
After a while I join a road.
And then, through the trees, I see Kirkcudbright ahead.
I arrive, at last, having finished the 3 mile detour around St Mary’s Isle.
In retrospect, I’m glad I walked around the peninsula, but do wish the route had been more scenic. They’ve missed a great opportunity to turn this into a lovely beauty spot for both locals and visitors to enjoy.
Walked today = 15 miles
Total distance around coast = 3,185 miles