310 am Dundrennan through MOD ranges

My hubby is going home today. He drops me off at Fagra Mill, just south of Dundrennan, and drives away. I’m all alone on a tiny lane, and feel rather abandoned. Silly. I spend most of my time walking alone, and have no reason to feel lonely. Yes, very silly.

01 road to Burnfoot beach, Ruth walking the coast, Dumfries and Galloway

It’s a beautiful day. Onwards.

After a two-mile walk down to Burnfoot beach, I reach the barrier that marks the beginning of MOD land. It’s bank holiday Monday and, as I expected, the ranges are open to the public.

02 entering the MOD Kirkcudbright range, Ruth's coastal walk Dumfries and Galloway

Burnfoot beach is somewhat underwhelming – a dirty spread of rough shingle, no sand.

03 Burnfoot beach, Kirkcudbright range, Ruth's coastal walk Dumfries and Galloway

The only other person here is a lady walking her dog on the shore. She tells me the ranges really are open, and I should climb up Netherlaw Hill to get a good view. I thank her for her advice, while thinking I have a long walk planned today and no intention of going out of my way to climb any unnecessary hills!

I turn inland, and pick up the track that leads into the ranges. It’s very pleasant, running through Netherlaw Wood.

04 woodland Track, Netherlaw wood, Ruth's coastal walk Dumfries and Galloway

I startle a deer… and the deer startles me. I’m used to the small deer you sometimes find in woodland in Lincolnshire, but these deer are big, and leap about. Anyway, by the time I’ve recovered from my surprise, and swing my camera up, the animal has bounded off into thicker cover.

MOD signs warn me this is a ‘Controlled Impact Area’. I have no idea what that means, but decide I better not try to follow the deer. Stick to the track.

05 controlled impact area, Kirkcudbright ranges, Dundrennan, Ruth Livingstone

The woods are lovely, but I’m pleased when the track joins a proper tarmac road, and I can head back towards the shore. The landscape opens out. Grass and gorse. There’s the sea!

06 Danger Area, Kirkcudbright MOD range, Ruth's coastal walk Dumfries and Galloway

A cyclist passes me. He’s the only civilian I meet on the ranges, despite the fact it’s a public holiday and you would expect this walk to be popular.

One of the warning signs has been used for target practice. Or, maybe, has been hit by accident. Anyway, it’s proof they really do use live ammunition in this area.

07 damaged sign, MOD range, Dundrennan, Ruth's coastal walk Dumfries and Galloway

Further along, and a wooden gate appears to have taken several hits too.

08 damaged gate, Dundrennan range, Ruth's coastal walk Dumfries and Galloway

Off the track, lying around on the grass, are rusty tanks and the remnants of other armoured vehicles. Reminds me of Lulworth Ranges, where similar hulks littered the landscape.

09 rusting tanks, Kirkcudbright ranges, Ruth's coastal walk Dumfries and Galloway

When I reach the shore, I’m overwhelmed by the wonderful view. The bay in front of me is Mullock Bay. Beyond, on the horizon, is a long finger of land. That must be ‘The Rhins’, with the Mull of Galloway at its tip.

10 Mullock Bay, Kirkcudbright MOD training area, Ruth's coastal walk Dumfries and Galloway

I feel a thrill of achievement. The Mull of Galloway is the southernmost point of Scotland and, after I round that distant point, I will be heading north once more.

But I mustn’t get ahead of myself… I’ve still got these ranges to cross. My path follows a track across the valley.

11 track through Kirkcudbright MOD range, Ruth's coastal walk Dumfries and Galloway

I nearly stumble over two tiny lambs. They’re lying so still… at first I think they might be dead. Have they been shot?! Then one of them raises a sleepy head.

12 sleeping lambs, Ruth's coastal walk Dumfries and Galloway

They both totter to their feet and stand looking at me. Strangely, they seem completely unafraid. I wonder if they’ve been hand reared?

13 tame lambs, Ruth's coastal walk Dumfries and Galloway

Then their mother calls. She’s several hundred feet away but – and I always find this a remarkable thing about lambs – they immediately recognise her calls and set off across the field towards her.

I pass several ruined buildings. Mullock, says my map. Abandoned farm houses?

14 Mullock, Danger Area, Dundrennan, Ruth hiking in Scotland

My track joins a road, and for a moment I’m not sure which way to go, until I spot a footpath sign lying in the hedge.

15 hidden footpath sign, Ruth's coastal walk Dumfries and Galloway

I turn right and make my way up the road, and then see a jeep coming towards me. I stand aside to let it pass, but it comes to a halt beside me. Oh, no! What have I done wrong? Perhaps the ranges are not really closed after all?

Two guys jump out. They’re in some sort of green uniform, although not a military one. They notice my anxiety.

‘Don’t worry. We’re only stopping here because we have to set up a target.’
‘Oh,’ I say. ‘I thought you were going to warn me I was about to be machine gunned or something.’
‘No, that’s tomorrow,’ they laugh.
‘OK. I’ll make sure I’m out of here by then.’

I follow the footpath signs and turn off to the left along another road. This one climbs a hill. The photo below makes it look tame, but it’s really pretty steep, and I soon get out of breath.

16 up Silver Hill, MOD ranges, Ruth hiking to Kirkcudbright

I stop for a rest at the top, and look back down at the road I’ve just left. There are the men and, yes, they really are setting up a target. It’s huge. How could you miss that?

17 MOD target, Dundrennan range, Ruth walking the coast

Onwards. My road swings back towards the sea. Ahead is Kirkcudbright Bay, and a headland with a lighthouse. I check my map. Not a headland, an island. It’s called Little Ross.

18 Ruth hiking to Kirkcudbright Bay, MOD range, Dundrennan

A nearby flagpole reminds me I’m lucky to be able to walk across the ranges. But the red flag – which should warn if there was live firing – looks rather old and mouldy. I wonder if it ever gets used?

19 mouldy red flag, Kirkcudbright ranges, Ruth hiking the coast in Scotland

This section of the walk is a bit boring, to be honest. The road is straight, wide, and there is little interesting to see.

20 MOD road, Ruth hiking through the Kirkcudbright ranges, Scotland

I’m coming to the end of the ranges, and much of the land here seems to be farmland. I startle another deer. It disappears into a wooded valley and I run along the road in the hope I will see it again when I get down into the dip, but there’s no sign of it.

21 Balmae, Ruth walking the coast to Kirkcudbright

I reach an empty guard-house. Presumably, when the ranges are in action, this would be manned to keep people away. ‘Gipsy Point’ says a sign nearby.

22 Gipsy Point, MOD lookout post, Kirkcudbright

I peer into the guardhouse. It’s Spartan, with a portaloo out the back. (I smile as I remember the guardhouse in the Castlemartin ranges near Pembroke, which had been kitted out with a comfortable armchair and a TripAdvisor sticker!)

Now I’m out of the ranges, and follow the footpath signs down a road, walk past a building of unknown purpose…

23 track towards the sea, Ruth's coastal walk Dumfries and Galloway

… and then take a footpath down towards the sea. This is better. A proper grassy path. Nice woodland.

24 path to the sea, Lady Katherine's Plantation, Ruth Livingstone hiking in Scotland

I come out into a wide open space. There’s the sea ahead. I should be able to follow the track to the shore, and then follow the coast all the way up the estuary to Kirkcudbright.

25 to Torrs Point, Ruth hiking in Scotland, Kirkcudbright Bay

There’s one more MOD lookout point to walk past. This one is facing out across the sea,  as the waters at the entrance to Kirkcudbright Bay also form part of the ‘Danger Zone’.

26 MOD lookout point, Torrs Point, Ruth hiking to Kirkcudbright

The lookout tower is empty, but I can’t help feeling I’m being watched, and I’m glad to get through the gate and – officially – leave the MOD land behind.

27 leaving MOD land, Ruth in Kirkcudbright Bay, walking the coast

Once safely back in civilian territory, I sit down on a soft clump of grass and shrug off my rucksack. Time for lunch.


To be continued…

About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, Doctor, woman, etc.
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7 Responses to 310 am Dundrennan through MOD ranges

  1. babsandnancy says:

    Wow the scenery really is getting impressive. I love all the tidal islands you are passing and red squirrel spotting is making me envious. I remember Lulworth ranges well – we had a bevy of children with us and they spent much of their time rolling down the sweeping hills while Barbara cursed at them! How long do you go on a trip now that you’re in Scotland? What’s the most number of days at a time that you’ve had the chance to walk for?

    • I’ve just got back from 15 days in Scotland, and that’s the longest walk-every-day trip I’ve done. Got a lot of writing up to do! It’s nearly a 7 hour drive now – with no easy train alternative – so only worth going if I can spend 4-5 days there.

  2. babsandnancy says:

    Just to clarify – Barbara cursed at the hills not the kids!

  3. I do find irritating those people who try to persuade you to take a different route. Occasionally I have fallen (not literally this time) for it and invariably get lost.
    Re your now mounting logistics problem, time for you and Hubby to buy a super camper-van/mobile home?

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