315 Newton Stewart to Wigtown

The light is dull this morning, but at least it’s not raining. I walk out of Newton Stewart along the A714. Wigtown is only 8 miles away, says the signpost, but I know my route will be a little longer because I intend to divert away from the A road as soon as I can.

01 A714 to Wigtown, Ruth's coastal walk, The Machars, Scotland

Traffic is light (it’s a Sunday morning), and there’s a narrow, uneven pavement to walk along. But I can see a cycle way running just below the road and to my left, although I can’t see a way of reaching it. How frustrating!

Eventually I do find a connecting path, and can leave the road to join the cycle way. It has a good, tarmac surface and I make rapid progress.

02 cycle path to Wigtown Ruth's coastal walk, The Machars, Scotland

Below me the River Cree meanders in lazy loops. It looks in no hurry to reach the sea.

03 River Cree below, Ruth hiking to Wigtown, The Machars, Scotland

The cycle route suddenly decides to join the A road, and now becomes a combined pavement/cycle path.

04 cycle route rejoins road, Ruth hiking to Wigtown, The Machars, Scotland

I approach a short row of isolated houses. Lamachan View. This is where I will turn off along a minor road. Although I can’t actually walk along the shore, the minor road will make for a quieter walk, and will take me closer to the water.

05 turn off, St Ninian's Well, Ruth hiking to Wigtown, The Machars, Scotland

A signpost tells me I’m heading to Carty Port and Moss of Cree. I check my map. The names are impressive, but I notice they refer to a couple of houses and a boggy piece of woodland.

The map also informs me I’m passing ‘St Ninian’s Well’. I try to spot it across the field, but can only see a hole in the ground where an orange digger has been at work. Is that it?

06 digger in field, Ruth hiking to Wigtown, The Machars, Scotland

I pass by Carty Port without really noticing it. Was it once a little harbour? Now there’s no obvious port left – or not one I can see, anyway.

Further down the lane is an equestrian centre, where a car towing a horse-box manoeuvres into the driveway. It’s the only car I meet for several miles.

07 equestrian centre, Ruth hiking to Wigtown, The Machars, Scotland

Ahead is a dark mass of woodland. Pines. That must be Moss of Cree. It looks strangely sinister.

08 spooky wood, Moss of Cree, Ruth hiking to Wigtown, The Machars, Scotland

I look behind me and am relieved to see a lady in the distance. She’s walking her dog along the road. Good. I’m not entirely alone in the universe.

The lane deteriorates into nothing much more than a track, with grass growing in the centre. Broadleaf trees crowd on either side, and arch over my head, forming a dark, green tunnel.

09 Moss of Cree, Ruth hiking to Wigtown, The Machars, Scotland

When I look behind again, the lady with the dog has disappeared. Must have turned back.

I begin to notice odd things about the wood. There’s an old and battered sign, asking me to ‘Keep Scotland Tidy’ and ‘Take Your Litter Home.’ Why is it here? There are no paths, no parking places, and I don’t see any litter.

10 litter sign, Ruth hiking to Wigtown, The Machars, Scotland

Further along is another sign. I almost miss it because it’s painted on a tall plank of wood and is camouflaged among the tree trunks. ‘ALWAYS AND FOREVER’ is painted in white letters on the wood. Is it some sort of memorial? Or a declaration of love?

11 Always and Forever, Moss of Cree, Ruth Livingstone

If it’s a token of love, it certainly makes a bigger and bolder statement than the lonely padlock I saw yesterday – the one attached to the railings in Newton Stewart.

I’m still mulling over the ‘ALWAYS AND FOREVER’ message, when I spot a pale figure lurking in the trees, and nearly drop my camera! But it’s not a ghost. It’s a statue of a lady. How odd to see it here.

12 White lady, Moss of Cree, Ruth hiking to Wigtown, The Machars, Scotland

Then I come across a miniature burial ground. Among the little headstones, a terrifying figure is trying to crawl up from under the ground! The hand-painted sign reads ‘LET ALL THE POISONS THAT LURK IN THE MUD HATCH OUT.’ Crikey! A sinister message and a zombie.

13 all the poisons, Moss of Cree, Ruth Livingstone in Scotland

Someone either loves the macabre or has a weird sense of humour.

And now even the roadside plants take on a menacing air. I have a feeling these alien-looking stalks will turn into something really common and ordinary. Ferns? Reeds? But at this stage, thrusting up through the ground, they look distinctly spooky.

14 spooky plants, Moss of Cree, Ruth Livingstone hiking in Scotland

The woodland on my left gives way to sheep fields. This is more cheerful, but why is there a line of dead trees over there?

15 line of dead trees, Ruth hiking to Wigtown, The Machars, Scotland

Onwards. I leave the woods behind and the scenery becomes more ordinary. I walk past farm houses, fields of sheep, and then reach a bridge over a little waterway.

I pause on the bridge and realise the stream is heading for the open mouth of the estuary, now just visible as a gleaming expanse on the horizon.

16 Bishop Bridge, Ruth hiking to Wigtown, The Machars, Scotland

A mile or so later, and I come to another bridge. This one takes the road up and over… not a stream… an old railway line, I think. Pull my map out. Yes. ‘Dismantled Railway’. Shame it has not been turned into a footpath or cycle route.

17 dismantled railway line, Ruth walking to Wigtown

My lane joins another road, where an ancient road-sign – wonderfully battered and weathered – points the way to Wigtown. Turn left.

18 Wigtown sign, Ruth hiking the Scottish coast

A couple are walking ahead. They’re slow strollers, and I soon begin to catch them up. But their little terrier is clearly unhappy and doesn’t like me coming up behind him. Keeps stopping and turning around. Eventually, the couple get fed up with dragging him along and stop to let me go past.

19 Ruth Livingstone trekking to Wigtown, Scotland

‘Didn’t we see you earlier?’ asks the woman. ‘Did you set out from Newton Stewart?’ She had noticed me earlier this morning while driving along the road.

They tell me I can follow the path along the old railway line around Wigtown, and also tell me not to miss the Martyrs’ Memorial

I follow the old railway line, now a gravel track, and reach an information sign. It tells the story of how two ordinary women (Margaret McLachlan, aged 63, and Margaret Wilson, aged only 18) refused to acknowledge the king as the divine head of the church. As a punishment they were tied to a stake and allowed to drown as the tide came in.

20 Wigtown stake, Ruth Livingstone in Scotland

How horrible. I’d heard this story before, but it makes the tragedy very real when I see the actual spot where these two women were killed. Although it looks like a mere puddle now, back in 1685 the river channel was much deeper.

21 Martyrs' Monument, Wigtown, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland

I’m very moved by the little platform and the simple stone memorial, carved to look like a stake. Men can be brutal to other men, but they can be particularly brutal to women who dare to defy them.

Feeling rather subdued, I sit at a nearby picnic bench for a rest and a snack.

Looking over the marsh, I can see the waves in Wigtown Bay and the hills beyond. They’re the same hills I walked over the day before yesterday. The atmosphere is still rather murky, I’m afraid, but I can just make out the masts of the transmitter station on top of Cambret Hill.

22 Cambret Hill Transmitter Station, across the Cree, Ruth Livingstone hiking in Scotland

I continue walking along the old railway track, and then cut inland, following a road, and walk into the centre of Wigtown. This is the book capital of Scotland, apparently, and it certainly has more than its fair share of book shops.

23 Wigtown, book capital of Scotland, Ruth hiking the coast

Unfortunately, because it’s Sunday, all the shops are closed. A pity. Luckily there’s a café open, and I drop in for a cup of tea and a cream scone. Followed by a slice of herb and wild-flower flavoured cake. (Nicer than it sounds.)

The café is almost opposite the same bus stop where I caught the bus back into Newton Stewart this morning. You can see it on the right in the photo below. My car is parked nearby.

24 Wigtown park and bus stop, Ruth Livingstone walking in Scotland

Hmm. I’m tempted to end today’s walk now, but it’s only 3:30pm and, after my a short walk yesterday, I’ve still got bags of energy left. And the sun’s finally come out. Hooray! I decide I’ll walk on a little further.

I have a long walk planned for tomorrow, and the first part of my route involves making a semi-circular circuit around Wigtown. So, I decide to go and complete the first part of the walk today, making the most of the improved weather AND reducing the mileage I will have to cover tomorrow.

So, in good spirits, I set off back towards the footpath I left earlier, and pick up the road that leads to Wigtown Harbour.

25 road to Wigtown Harbour, Ruth's coastal walk, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland

It’s hard to imagine sleepy Wigtown with a working harbour. Turns out the harbour is… well, pretty much empty. I’m not sure if any ships actually use it nowadays. It’s high tide at the moment, and I guess they could all be out at sea… but somehow I doubt it!

26 Wigtown Harbour, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland

I follow the path around the edge of the harbour. The views across the water are lovely. The sun really does make all the difference and I take some pleasing photographs.

27 high tide, Wigtown Harbour, Ruth Livingstone in Scotland

I reach a point where the path just stops.

A sign asks me to put my dog on a lead, but the bank beyond is impassable, covered in thick brambles and gorse. If the tide was out it might be possible to walk down along the shore, but the high tide has turned the grass into swamp.

28 dead end path, Wigtown Harbour, Ruth trying to walk in Scotland

I turn back. Luckily I’d seen a Core Path sign earlier, and I know there is another way around the harbour. This second path follows a more inland route and should join up with my earlier path to form a complete circuit.

‘River Circuit’ promises the official sign. Good.

29 core path river circuit, Wigtown, Ruth hiking in Scotland

But I’m about to learn, again, that Core Paths are treacherous things. After a hundred yards, my progress along the track is blocked by a gate. ‘NO ACCESS’ says a sign. ‘LAMBING IN PROGRESS’. Apparently the route reopens on the 1st June.

30 no access, Ruth Livingstone hiking in Wigtown

The 1st of June?! Well, I can’t wait that long. Actually, if there had been nobody around, I would have been tempted to climb over the gate and carry on. How much harm can one woman – without a dog – do?

But, unfortunately, a farmer is driving around the nearby field in a battered jeep. He’s checking his flock the lazy way, and creating far more disturbance than I would. But I lack the courage to climb over his gate while he’s looking. And I also lack the patience to wait until he disappears.

Saddened, I turn back. And come across a ewe and her lamb who have somehow strayed onto my track. (I had wondered where all the black sheep go when they grow up – well, here’s one.)

31 Black Sheep, Ruth Livingstone

She flies into a panic of course, and charges about in a mindless way, until I manage to slide past her. Then she gallops off down the lane – towards the shut gate – with her lamb bouncing along beside her.

32 black lamb, Ruth Livingstone, Wigtown

Ah, well. I’ve no idea how she got here, but I’m sure the farmer will let her through the gate and back into the field

That’s definitely my walk over and done. Time to go back into Wigtown and find my car. But I’m glad I tried to find a way through today because, now I know this path is shut, it will save me from making a disheartening false start tomorrow.

Miles walked today = 11 miles
Total distance around the coast of Britain = 3,243 miles


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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23 Responses to 315 Newton Stewart to Wigtown

  1. Anabel Marsh says:

    Fairly sure we went to the same cafe here too! We also saw the martyrs memorial, but we didn’t pass the scary man climbing out of the ground – thank goodness.


    Re that ‘alien’ plant: google horsetail in images 🙂

  3. owdjockey says:

    Hi Ruth, one of my all time favourite TV programs is the 1970’s production of I, Claudius. Claudius (Derek Jacobi) says these words in a drunken stupor in the final episode after eating poisoned mushrooms offered to him by his wife Agripinilla.

    I cannot remember seeing these signs as i followed the same route as yourself, well it was a wet day and I must have had my head down.

  4. snowgood says:

    Hello Ruth – that’s an interesting walk.

    I wonder how many of us would be prepared to stand up for what we believe in today?

    You might think it “extreme” and typical of a bygone age, but worldwide in 2016 over 90,000 Christians were murdered by Islamic extremists – and yet it largely goes unreported.

    Sorry your route was closed – what about the Right to Roam? As far as I know marauding Doctors are not known for sheep harassment.


    • Hi Stephen. You’re right, the world is still a terrifying place. 😦
      The Right to Roam is a fantastic principle, isn’t it, but I’m beginning to learn there are all sorts of ways that landowners get round the regulations. Barbed wire, electric fences, bulls in fields, and polite signs that keep people out.

  5. tonyhunt2016 says:

    May 1685, so the king would have been England’s James II (& VII of Scotland). Just as well we swapped him for Mary II and her hubby William of Orange three years later!

  6. Hi Ruth,
    It is always a shame when a railway no longer exists, but I feel the same, they should at least all become tracks and paths for cyclists and walkers, and should not have been sold piecemeal back to the original landowners and sometimes built over – a wasted opportunity, but at least SUSTRANS do have some fabulous routes that are available (the Cuckoo Trail near me) for example.

    ps I have now completed all the Lincolnshire Coast – Yay! Highlight probably Cleethorpes to Mablethorpe, diverting slightly inland via North Somercotes (unless you want the RAF on your case at Donna Nook) what a fab name for a place!

    • Hi Gemma. Thank goodness for Sustrans. There’s a fantastic network of cycle rides now, but I guess some of these old lines were lost before Sustrans got going.
      Well done for finishing Lincolnshire!

  7. Eunice says:

    I don’t think I would have liked walking through the woodland on my own, it’s given me the heebie jeebies just reading about it; Wigtown and the harbour look nice though.

    • It was an odd place. Someone went to some effort to create that graveyard scene. Made me wonder what else was hidden among the trees!

      • dianeiles@outlook.com says:

        Looked very eerie in those woods Ruth. It reminds me of an experience we had whilst walking the Great Glen in Scotland. We were passing through a lonely forest miles from anywhere, we hadn’t seen anyone for hours when we heard a strange distant laughter and a what sounded like a brass tuba being blown in a random way. Intrigued we peered through the trees to see if we could see if we could locate the sounds, but saw no one except stuffed, live sized dummies sitting on tree stumps and strange things dangling from the trees. We couldn’t wait to get out of that forest it was incredibly creepy, so glad I wasn’t walking alone. 😱🌲🌲😳

  8. babsandnancy says:

    I was thinking the odd bits and pieces you spotted in the woods were the highlight of your walk because I have a love of the macabre. However, passing it on my own might have been less appealing!

    • It certainly was a highlight, although I don’t believe in the supernatural and so I’m not easily spooked. I actually found the memorial – the place where those two women were deliberately, and slowly, drowned – far more sinister 😣

      • babsandnancy says:

        Yes. I’m not surprised. Barbara’s PhD revolves around depictions of the witch so I must point it out to her as there may well be a connection.

  9. Karen White says:

    What bizarre and spooky sculptures and quotations to come across in the woods. Though I do agree that the memorial is much more sinister, and very sad. I know I would not have the courage to the same as those two women.

  10. Alan Stewart says:

    I have just come across your blog. The theme for the garden is one of Nonsense, Puzzles and Curiosities. There were two ladies in the Woods. You were unlucky as one got stolen so you missed her. She has now been replaced. The new one has been concreted in and sometimes has a hat. The plank with “Always and Forever” is a constant Plank – it amused me but I think I am on my own there. I must repaint. Just before the Zombie graveyard is the Bog Garden which is muddy – hence the quote. It was that or Flanders and Swann. It has a couple of Easter bunnies in it at the moment. You missed the Invisible Man. He used to be Tinsel Man but my wife thought that looked silly in August (Really?) so the tinsel was removed. If you look for a cup suspended in the air you will then see eyes and nose – what to do with old sheep fencing! Gremlin, penguin, sheep and a giant white marble eagle swooping on a striking cobra etc etc.

    • H Alan, and I must thank you for providing such an entertaining garden! I wish I’d seen the invisible man, and glad you replaced the missing lady. Now I wish I’d spent more time there 😄 Best wishes, and hope you keep adding to the garden.

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