320 Glenluce to Sandhead

Two buses needed this morning, and my first bus is running 10 minutes late, so I see the second bus setting off as we pull in. Just missed it. Damn! That means I have two hours to kill in Stranraer, and won’t arrive in Glenluce until nearly midday.

I spend the time walking around Stranraer’s lovely Agnew Park and have coffee and cake in a café. When I finally get there, Glenluce appears to have its own logo – and the design is a little odd-looking.


From Glenluce, the route taking me closest to the coast would be the awful A75, but I have no intention of risking my life on its unfriendly verges. Instead, I follow a minor road out of the village and… and find the explanation for the Glenluce logo.

It’s an old railway viaduct.

01 Glenluce viaduct, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

Just after the viaduct, I make a sharp left turn and cross over the river (the Water of Luce) via a road bridge, and then another left turn to walk down the other side of the river.

I’m following the track of an old road, now a cycle way, and closed to through traffic. Vegetation is slowly invading the decaying tarmac.

02 derelict road, Glenluce, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

The old road / cycle way takes me back onto the A75, but follows a separate track beside the road.

03 cycle way along A75 to Stranraer, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

I’m not staying with the A75 for long, because I plan to head off down a minor road which runs a mile or so inland and parallel to the coast. (I did wonder if it was possible to walk closer to the shore, but there’s a golf course in the way, and I’m not sure how walker-friendly that route might be.)

The road I’m going to follow is shown on my OS map as an ‘Old Military Road’, and I expect it will be similar to the wonderful old military road I followed over the hills from Kirkcudbright.

But, when I come to the turn off – oh dear – the ‘minor road’ looks like a fairly major road after all.

04 old military road to Port Patrick, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

Confused, I check my Garmin, and end up even more confused, because the Garmin doesn’t even show this stretch of the A75 – the one I’m on at the moment. Instead, it suggests my ‘minor road’ is, in fact, the main route into Stranraer.

[Eventually I work out my Garmin maps are old, and don’t show the new section of A75, because it was constructed fairly recently.]

Oh well. I’ll have to follow this not-so-minor road and hope for the best. Luckily, traffic is light, although the vehicles that do pass me are going screamingly fast.

05 road walking, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

On either side of the road is agricultural land. A group of cattle are standing on a smouldering heap of rotting silage and dung. Beyond the cattle, I can just make out the sands of Luce Bay – and a weird pyramidal structure on the edge of the water. A lighthouse? A navigation marker?

06 cows on steaming compost, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

Here’s an old mile stone. Stranraer 8 miles. Not that anyone would take this route to Stranraer nowadays.

07 milestone Stranraer to Glenluce, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

Onwards. I switch over from my OS Explorer map (number 310) to a new map, number 309.

Each map switch always seems like an important stage in my trek, but I know this new map – double-sided and covering the whole of The Rhins peninsula –  is going to last me a very long time.

I come to Piltanton Bridge. Turning right here would take me back to the A75, but I’m carrying straight on.

08 bend in the road to Portpatrick, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

And very soon I can turn off the road. I’ve come to Torrs Warren Plantation, which is marked on my map with a blue footprint – and that means walking routes.

09 into the Torrs Warren Plantation, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

The forest path makes a pleasant change from the road, and the trees provide welcome shade. I perch on the side of a slope and have a late picnic lunch.

It’s very peaceful among the trees. I pass a fenced off pool of water. And then I begin to see signs… CAUTION. BEES AT WORK.

10 bees at work, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

But that’s an obvious and meaningful sign. The others I find are less obvious. Less meaningful. Like this one – a tube of something stuck on the branch of a tree.

11 signs in the trees, one, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

Or, sometimes, very obvious, but equally meaningless. Like this blue plastic cutout, attached to an old tree trunk.

12 signs in the trees, two, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

Or this duo of plastic ribbons, discreetly tied around a sapling.

13 signs in the trees, three, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

Or a double sign – one high, one low – suitable for both giants and dwarves.

14 signs to the dunes, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland Luce Sands

I guess someone has marked routes through the woodland, whether for walkers or mountain bikers isn’t clear. It’s all rather mysterious.

The plantation is narrow and I soon come out the other side. Between me and the sea is a great mass of vegetated dunes, which I can’t see over. And a fence, with another sign. This one is unambiguous.


15 keep out sign, Danger Area, Luce Bay, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

I was expecting to come across the fence, because this area of coast is all MOD land and used for bombing practice. Nevertheless, it’s disappointing to find I can’t get through.

Perhaps I can walk a little further through the woods and come out onto the road further down? I set off along a promising path… and startle a deer. Just manage to catch a quick (and not-very-good) photo of the animal as it poses on a ridge, before it crashes off into the undergrowth.

16 deer in the woods, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

Onwards, and my promising path becomes less and less promising. I climb over tree trunks, under fallen branches, push through ferns, beat aside brambles, until…

17 lost in the woods, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

… until I’m back up against the MOD fence. Oh well. I’ll follow it as far as I can.

18 follow the fence, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

I reach the end of the woodland and the MOD fence turns a corner. Now there’s only a a farmer’s fence blocking my route. On the other side is a jumble of bushes, gorse, tall grasses and bracken. I know the road I want is somewhere ahead, just a few hundred feet away, although I can’t see it.

19 swampland, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

Reluctant to turn back, I climb over the farmer’s fence and make my way across the wasteland. This turns out to be a big mistake, as the going is much harder than I anticipated, overgrown and with uneven ground, and… and something catches the corner of my vision.

Instinct takes over. I stop in mid stride. Balance on one leg. Heart thumps.

It’s an adder!

Only a young one, yes, but large enough to do damage. It draws its head back, poised to strike. I take a rapid step backwards. And then remember to swing up my camera to take a shaky, out-of-focus photograph, before it slides off into thicker grass.

20 adder, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

Uh oh. I haven’t seen an adder for some time, and I’d forgotten all about snakes. I would like to watch my step very carefully from now on. But the grass is so thick, it’s impossible to see where I’m putting my feet. Just have to hope for the best.

Heading for what looks like higher ground, I make another big mistake. I’d forgotten the basic architecture of a peat bog, which is formed from layers and layers of piled up moss. So the high ground turns out to be… the heart of a boggy quagmire.

I sink in up to my hips, feel moisture oozing over my boots and up to my knees. Yuck. There’s a horrible sucking, squelching sound as I pull myself free. And then a loud crashing sound… and a deer springs up from a dip. It’s only a couple of metres away from where I’m standing. We stare at each, both of us equally startled. And then it leaps away.

The next 50 yards are hard work. I can’t see where I’m putting my feet because of the grasses and reeds, and so I’m constantly plunging into boggy pools. It’s such an utter relief to reach the road. There’s only a hedge to push through now…

21 road, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

…I leap across a ditch and tumble out through the bushes.

Whew. I thought I hated road walking. Now I’m just grateful for tarmac beneath my feet and a total absence of bogs and snakes.

I expect to find I’m covered in mud from the waist down. In fact, the moss has acted as a cleansing sponge, so I’ve ended up with clean trousers – slightly damp, yes, but completely free of mud. How amazing.

Onwards, down the road. I walk past MOD fences and gates.

22 road to Sandfield, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

A few cars whizz past, but this is a minor road, and much quieter than before. Over the fields I see a military lookout station. Not a person in sight.

23 miliatry lookout point, Luce Sands, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

It’s only 2-3 miles of road walking. The immediate scenery is boringly flat, but the hills in the distance liven up the landscape.

A sign warns of low flying aircraft. I don’t see any.

24 danger low flying aircraft, Luce Sands, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

I come to the point where a footpath heads off to the left towards the coast. I don’t spot it at first, as its cunningly hidden between an MOD access road and the driveway to a quarry.

25 path along edge of Danger Area, Mull of Galloway Trail, Ruth hiking in Scotland

This footpath forms part of the Mull of Galloway Trail, which is a relatively short long-distance walking route (35 miles) and runs from the southernmost tip of Scotland, through Stranraer, to Glenapp further north, where it links with the Ayrshire Coastal Path.

I’ll be following the trail from here to the tip of the Mull, and I feel a sense of relief. At last. I’m back on a proper recognised trail. And here is a special signpost – oh, I love the logo.

25 Mull of Galloway Trail logo, Ruth Livingstone hiking in Scotland

The path is narrow, takes me towards the MOD lookout post, and along the side of the quarry road. But, yippee, there’s the sea ahead.

26 approaching the sea, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

I become aware of a man following me along the path. He’s taking his dog for stroll on the beach. I stop to let him go past and we talk about the lovely weather. He tells me it’s possible to walk all the way along the beach from… I forget where he said… but…

“I thought the beach is MOD land.”

“Yes. But they don’t often use it, and there’s no red flag flying. Anyway, it’s Friday afternoon, and they’ll have cleared off for the weekend.”

Realisation hits. I could have got onto the beach much further up, maybe somewhere quite close to the golf course, and avoided that slog along the road, and the awful plunging bog, and… oh dear. Well, I didn’t know, did I? Shame.

He points out the pyramidal structure on the beach, the one I thought might be a lighthouse or navigation mark. Turns out it’s an old target used during bombing practice.

If I’m walking towards Sandhead, he tells me, there’s a stream in the way. But if I head towards the dunes over there – he points again – I’ll find a bridge.

His dog begins to bark impatiently. It’s a lovely springer spaniel, similar to the one my daughter owns, and eager to get on with their walk. I watch them go off across the sands together.

27 springer spaniel, Luce Sands, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

Oh, I would love to have a dog. Maybe one day.

Onwards. I head off towards a hump of sand dunes to find the bridge.

28 sand dunes, Sandhead Bay, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

Crossing the stream, I clamber up the highest dune. It’s not very high, to be honest, but it gives me a great view looking north over Luce Sands. That’s the route I could have walked, if only I’d known.

29 Luce Sands, Ruth Livingstone hiking in Galloway

Turning to look south, and there’s another wonderful view. Sandhead Bay. Should be an easy stroll along the beach from here.

30 Sandhead Bay, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

And it is an easy stroll. Lovely. The sand is firm enough for walking, but much softer than tarmac and gently corrugated with ripples made by the receding tide. Ahead, in the distance, bright specks… kite flyers? No. Kite surfers.

31 Ruth Livingstone walking to Sandhead Bay, Mull of Galloway Trail

I relax and thoroughly enjoy this last section of today’s walk. It’s late afternoon, the sun is bright in my eyes, and the wind gently pushes me along from behind. Perfect walking weather.

Drawing closer to the kite surfers, I begin to take photographs.

32 Kitesurfer off Sandhead Bay, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

Love the coloured shapes against the sand.

33 kitesurfers, Sandhead, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

Looks like a festival campsite. But those are beached kites, not tents.

34 more kitesurfers, Sandhead, Ruth hiking the Mull of Galloway Trail

In fact, there is a campsite – or a caravan site – just inland. And above the dunes is a line of large vans – the type that surfers tend to use.

35 kiteflyers campsite, Sandhead Bay, Ruth's coastal walk, Galloway, Scotland

The wind has picked up. The kites zip about at great speed. At times it looks like a collision is inevitable… but they always manage to avoid each other.

36 Kite surfers in action, Sandhead Bay, Ruth Livingstone in Scotland

I reach the end of the beach. Sandhead Bay. It’s a beautiful spot, only marred by piles of stinking seaweed thrown up at the far end of the beach.

37 Sandhead beach, Ruth walking the Galloway coast, Scotland

It’s gone 6pm and families have arrive to play in the nearby park. There’s a weekend feeling in the air. Before I drive back to my B&B, I sit on a bench and have a snack and a drink, and then balance my camera on the armrest for a self-portrait.

Some people have complimented me on my ability to take decent self-portraits with my camera’s timer. I decide to put this one on the blog – just to prove I don’t always get it right. Well, I am IN the frame, but only just!

38 bad self-portrait, Ruth Livinstone, Sandhead Bay

Today has been a shorter walk than normal, but very eventful and full of ups and downs. I’m glad to end on a high.

Miles walked today = 10.5 miles
Total around coast = 3,310.5 miles


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
This entry was posted in 19 Dumfries and Galloway and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to 320 Glenluce to Sandhead

  1. Pam Ley says:

    Ruth, I started following your blog when you were walking in our area of North Devon, a while ago now!
    Although we’ve always loved our walks I now realise with some of the conditions you’re coming across in Scotland, just how fortunate we are with our SW Coast path. It’s very very interesting travelling along with you, and thank you for sharing all your posts.

    • Hi Pam, and thank you for your kind words about my blog. Funny how part of me enjoys the excitement of plotting a route where none exists, but another part longs for a proper waymarked path! The SWCP was wonderful. Best wishes, Ruth

  2. jcombe says:

    What a lovely beach to finush at. Looks like perfect weather for it too.

  3. tonyhunt2016 says:

    Things tied around trees worry me – if inextensible and synthetic they can be around long enough to interfere with the tree’s growth. So I remove them 😉

  4. dianeiles@outlook.com says:

    Didn’t like the sound of the bogs and the adders lurking underfoot Ruth, so happy now your back on a proper path.

    • It was not a good experience, that’s for sure. In retrospect, it sounds like an adventure, but at the time I was simply trying to get out of a bad situation as quickly as possible. Don’t think I’m cut out for true wilderness walking!

  5. gillianrance says:

    The bog section sounds very scary, glad the walk ended on a high!

  6. Eunice says:

    The bog section sounds awful, I’m glad you got out okay and didn’t get sucked under. Love the photos of the kites on the beach, they look really colourful 🙂

    • It was really strange, Eunice, to emerge looking so clean. I expected to be covered in mud. Really weird to stumble onto the road, look down, and see not a mark on my trousers.

  7. An adventure…I admire your tenacity!

  8. Jacquie says:

    Scary bog but you were rather lucky to see an adder they usually slither off before your can spot them. MOD land is a real nuisance when trying to sort out routes and the times thye might be open but it when used infrequently does give wildlife areas of undisturbed land to thrive in. ?Galloway is looking very attractive.

    • Yes, I do like spotting adders, but I’m more worried about NOT seeing an adder and stepping on one or being bitten by one! You’re right about MOD land: a nuisance for walkers, but often provides lovely tracts of unspoilt countryside.

  9. Karen White says:

    The bog episode sounds very scary, thank goodness you were able to get yourself out!

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