There are only a few of us on the bus to Drummore. One old boy is walking in the same direction as I am – up the hill to Damnaglaur. I wonder why he’s going there. He doesn’t look dressed for farm work.
After a while I overtake him. This is a rare event, as I’m usually slower than anybody else on the road! I walk past tumble-down farm buildings, puffing my way up the hill.
From Damnaglaur, I’m following a minor road as it loops down towards the west coast of The Rhins peninsula.
The landscape is relatively featureless, with wide fields rolling across low hills, intercut by the occasional wire fence or stone wall. On my left I pass a mast sitting on top of Edgar Hill.
On my right, across fields of grass and gorse, I spot the trig point on Inshanks Fell, one of the highest points around at 164 metres.
A few sparsely scattered farms. The occasional abandoned cottage. The area feels very isolated, very rural.
The road swings down between the gentle hills, curves around the slopes of Muntloch Fell… and there’s the sea ahead. And here comes one of the few people I will meet all day, a jogger.
In a nearby field, I disturb a romantic liaison between a bull and one of his cows. He doesn’t approve of being interrupted and gives me an angry stare. I look at the low stone wall – and the single strand of barbed wire pretending to be a fence – and decide I better hurry onwards.
I come to Inshanks Farm, which straddles the road on top of a little rise. I keep an eye out for aggressive collies, but luckily I don’t see any dogs.
Love walking among old farm buildings. Always interesting and photogenic things to see. Rusting doors, weathered walls, a motley collection of machines and equipment. This farm even has an old diesel pump, in a derelict state but still standing. You can just see it to the left of the photo below.
Beyond Inshanks farm the road dips again. In a small field next to a farm building I notice a motley collection of animals. A few heavily pregnant cows. One new mum and her tiny calf. A nursery field.
And in the same field is the skinniest cow I’ve ever seen. When she stands looking at me, head on, she almost disappears. Is she ill? Perhaps had a difficult calving? If so, the calf must have died because she’s alone.
Further along and a tractor is working its way across a grassy field, moving slowly and deliberately. Not ploughing. Not spreading. Strange.
A few minutes later, I hear the same tractor coming up behind me along the road, and I step onto the verge to let it pass. Inside is an older man and young lad. Grandfather and grandson? I think the boy is having tractor lessons!
The road heads steeply downhill. Ahead the tractor comes to a halt for a few moments, then starts off again and disappears around the corner.
Further along and I come across a bundle of feathers lying on the tarmac. A beautiful pheasant. Recently killed. It looks intact, with the only visible sign of damage a small pool of brilliant scarlet on the tarmac.
Ah… I wonder if that was why the tractor stopped? Maybe the bird scuttled in front of the machine and the boy didn’t have time to stop? If so, I hope the lad wasn’t too upset. It’s always distressing to kill something even when it’s not your fault.
I reach a sharp right-angled bend and begin walking along the only truly ‘coastal’ part of this road. I know after 1/2 mile the road loops inland again, but for the moment I’m really enjoying the views.
A few yards later, and I interrupt another amorous encounter between a bull and a cow. He completes the deed and doesn’t seem to mind an audience. She looks a little put out by my presence! Sorry.
The weather is perfect. I watch a small boat speed across the bay below me and think of the two men whose boat went missing a couple of days ago. I saw the helicopter searching for them yesterday and learnt their bodies were recovered later that day.
I’m overlooking Portencorkrie bay. According to my map, the headland (in the photo below) is called Craig of the Stone Dyke, while the little white cottage sitting in splendid isolation above the water is called, very simply, Bay House.
I find a soft spot of grass and sit down beside the road. Time for a rest and a snack. And I want to admire this wonderful view. I take a selfie on my iPhone with Bay House in the background and send it to my husband. “I’m not coming home. Going to live here.”
But now I must get on with my walk, and follow the road as it heads inland again.
A noise behind me and I turn expecting to see the tractor, but it’s a delivery truck. Stand on the verge to let it rumble past. Wonder what it was carrying?
Nearby a piece of machinery lies abandoned. I love the colour of the rusty cogs against the blue paint and stop to take some photographs.
A faded sign points down a track. What does it say? STOP PRIVATE or, maybe more likely FOOT PATH. No use to me, because it’s pointing southwards and in the wrong direction.
The route I want is almost directly opposite this sign, along a track – an official core path – that heads north to a place called Castle Clanyard.
I’ve grown very suspicious of core paths – having learnt the hard way that they can be very unreliable – so my alternative plan is to follow the road. But the track looks very promising. Good.
The field to my left is full of sheep and… oh, a deer. Is it supposed to be in there? Did it get into the field by mistake? Does it think it’s part of the flock? The animal looks rather odd and, after a while I realise why? It only has one antler.
I hear a terrible bleating noise close by, very noisy, distressed, and I look over the wall. There’s a lamb trapped in the narrow passage between the wire fence and the wall. It wriggles and squirms, butting the fence but unable to force a way through, and grows even more panicked when it sees me.
What should I do? It must have got in there somehow, so surely it will get out the same way? I stand back and wait, but the little thing seems incapable of finding an escape route.
The wall is too wide to reach over, so I climb a gate into the field, where all the sheep start baaing and bleating like maniacs. Terrified by the sight of me, the lamb struggles like crazy, butting and wriggling, and I can’t get my hands around it. Oh dear. I’m making things worse.
Suddenly, somehow, it manages to scramble over the wall and leaps out of the field and onto the track.
Oh no! I have visions of spending the next hour trying to chase it back… but it simply runs up to the gate, scurries through the bars and back into the field. What a relief. Within a minute, it’s rejoined its mother and the flock settles down as if nothing has happened, while still keeping a watchful eye on me.
I climb back over the gate, feeling a little foolish. Maybe the lamb would have been OK if left alone anyway? Maybe not.
Looking down, I notice my hands and trousers are covered in what looks like dried blood. Yuck! Gives me a nasty scare for a moment, until I realise it’s only rust from the gate. I use a wet wipe to clean my hands, but can’t do much about my trousers.
Further down the track bends around beside a new house, still in the process of being built. What a wonderful place. And what a wonderful position.
Forget about Bay Cottage. This is where I want to live!
The track leads down, becomes a lane, and leads through a farm-yard. It’s in a state of untidy decay. Rusty and abandoned machines. Sagging roofs. A group of listless cattle looking anxiously at me from a shed.
The whole place stinks of slurry and manure. (I think you can tell a lot about the quality of a farm simply by sniffing the air.) Some of the sheds have collapsed completely.
I pass pools of stagnant water, with pumping equipment that long ago ceased working. More machinery is buried in the bushes, including something which at first I think is an abandoned military tank, but eventually realise is an old mechanical digger.
I’m approaching a crossroads, where my lane joins a minor road, and check my map. The farm must have been Castle Clanyard. This place is Low Clanyard. There’s nothing much here…
…and the only remains of the real castle turns out to be a piece of ruined wall standing alone in a field.
There’s supposed to be a core path running from Low Clanyard to Port Logan. Where is it? Ah, good, a sign. It even says ‘Public Footpath’.
This particular core path is an old post road, according to the official Dumfries and Galloway website. It looks like a proper road too… at first…
…but then I cross a cattle grid and into a field full of bullocks. Uh oh. Should I turn back? No. Don’t be a coward. No calves in the field… keep going.
Half way across the field and I’m in fear of my life. Bullocks come running towards me, calling to others to join them, and I’m soon surrounded. I wave my stick and shout at them, and they back off a little.
There are now more bullocks behind me than ahead, so I decide to continue forward. By now I can see the end of the field.
I say ‘continue forward’, but I’m actually walking backwards, keeping an eye on the leading bullock. He paws the ground, shakes his head from side to side, rolls his eyes at me. A real trouble maker and I daren’t turn my back on him.
I mustn’t run. Just walk steadily backwards, waving my stick.
When I get close to the far end of the field I realise, to my horror, the gate is open. But then – whew- there’s another cattle grid.
I hop across the grid and turn to face my enemies. They know, from experience I guess, there’s no point trying to follow me. Just stand and look at me. And then begin to lose interest.
Breathing a huge sigh of relief, I turn to face the new field and… uh, oh… this one too is full of bullocks. I can’t possibly go back. I must go forward.
Luckily, these beasts are smaller than the others and easily frightened. They skitter away when I wave my poles, but soon return to form an escort behind me.
I’m less frightened of this gang, they keep further back, and I even manage to snatch a photograph. The younger bullocks are the ones in front. You can see the older group massed behind them, on the other side of the cattle grid.
I reach another cattle grid and, finally, I’m safe. I wipe my sweaty hands on my rust-stained trousers. Crikey. That was a truly horrible and terrifying experience.
The young bullocks soon lose interest and head off down the hill.
There are more cattle in the next field – but they are far away from the track and don’t seem interested in me. Whew.
The track becomes a green lane, and I’m walking towards the sea again.
A strange figure leaning against a gate gives me a shock. But it’s only a scarecrow.
The best thing about this part of the route is the views. Oh, and the fact that all the cattle I see are safely behind a wall.
A sign beside a gate makes me smile. “Be ye man, be ye wumman / Be ye gawn, or be ye comin / Be ye early, be ye late / Be ye share tae shut the gate!” Of all the reminders to keep gates shut, this is the nicest I’ve ever come across.
I’m approaching Port Logan. It looks beautiful. A gorgeous curving bay, filled with blue sea, bright light and open space.
My track leads down towards the harbour wall and the pier. The stone tower on the end of the pier looks like a lighthouse, but must have ceased functioning some time ago.
There are a few ships in the harbour. And cars in the car park, including a van belonging to ITV news. It seems strange to see it there, until I remember the missing boat set off from Port Logan. The news stations are still interested in the tragedy.
I sit on a picnic bench for a drink and a snack, and to admire the pretty harbour. A woman reporter approaches me with a notebook and a microphone. Am I local? No.
Meanwhile, a man is taking photos with an impressive looking camera and someone is filming empty sea from the pier.
(Later, when I catch up with the ITV news report on their website, the photos actually look far from impressive. One thing a decent photographer should manage to do is get the horizon straight!)
I take a self-portrait, standing on the pier, before I go to take a look at the tower. It has a rope hanging inside and I guess you could climb up if you wanted to, but that’s beyond my physical capability.
Looking down from the pier, I see a couple of men getting ready to set out in a speedboat. I think of the two men who were found drowned yesterday, and I hope these guys have a safe trip.
Then it’s time to walk around the bay, where my car is parked outside the Port Logan Bay Hotel. I was hoping I might buy a cold drink in the bar, but the place seems deserted and is possibly closed down.
I could easily have walked much further. But the next convenient bus stop is too far for comfort, and so it’s a short walk today.
Miles walked today = 9 miles
Total around coast = 3,343.5 miles