In Leswalt I pull out my camera. The light is dull, but I want to capture this view because I like the way the memorial pillar in the graveyard echoes the upright tower on the hilltop behind.
I leave Leswalt along the road, and climb up the hill towards the tower. Yesterday, I felt too tired to take a closer look, but today I’m going to explore the place.
Actually, I’m really more interested in the other structure on the hill – the ancient hill fort – but there’s nothing much left to see. Perhaps a few dips and ridges in the ground, if I use my imagination. Hard to tell for sure, because the landscape is covered in gorse. The tower dominates.
This stone monument was built in 1850 in honor of Sir Andrew Agnew, who was once an MP for Wigtownshire as well as the leader of the Teetotal and Sunday Observance societies. I get the feeling we wouldn’t have much in common!
Much more interesting, for a walker, is the nearby trig point I use to balance my camera for a self-portrait.
The Agnew Monument is actually a fake tower because, despite appearing to have windows, the structure is completely solid. (I think you can tell I’m disappointed from my expression above!)
Onwards. Back along the road. The landscape is attractive, although the light is too dull for good photography. Just wish the sun would come out.
Today will be a day of unremitting road walking, and the first four miles are going to be spent retracing the final part of yesterday’s walk -“wasted walking“. (Frustrating, but with an almost complete absence of buses, this was the best plan I could come up with to keep my walk a reasonable length.)
I pass a dilapidated farm-yard, where two cows look out mournfully from their prison pen.
I spot something moving between clumps of grass in a neighbouring field. A hare. Then it notices me, freezes with ears rigid, and speeds away before I can focus my camera properly. Manage a blurry shot.
A loud bark startles me, and a dog jumps over a cottage wall. My heart thumps! Instinctively I raise my stick…
…but it’s only a retriever. So pale, almost white in colour. Despite keeping up a series of intermittent barks – and adding an occasional growl – he never stops wagging his tail. He’s just pretending to be a guard dog. I do love retrievers. Daft dogs.
Finally I reach the junction where I can rejoin the coast road and restart my walk. I use the term ‘coast road’ loosely, as the sea is only a blue strip on the horizon.
On the bend is a house offering free range eggs. The garden is enclosed in a fine mesh fence, designed to keep chickens inside, I assume.
Unfortunately, these hens have managed to escape onto the road. Free range, alright.
The road is very quiet. I meet a few cars and the occasional cyclist, but nobody out walking.
Part of me regrets not trying to follow the coast more closely. I didn’t try partly because of the length I would need to walk before reaching a bus stop – well outside my comfort zone. And partly, of course, because I didn’t want to encounter any bovine bovver.
Many of the fields on either side of the road are filled with cows with young calves. This group look very contented and relaxed, but still keep a wary eye on me.
I pass some warning cones placed next to a post identifying, I think, a high pressurised gas pipe running underneath.
[When I stayed in a hotel in Dumfries, one of the other long-stay guests was an engineer involved in laying high-pressure pipes to carry gas from Scotland to northern Ireland. It’s amazing to realise a whole network of infrastructure lies unnoticed and unseen beneath our feet.]
A farmer is spraying fertiliser over his grass crop. It’s not uncommon, but I’m surprised it’s necessary. You would think sheep and cows would naturally fertilise their own pastures. They make enough mess!
A loud rumble behind me and I turn… Oh, my goodness! It’s a bus! What? How? Why did I miss the fact there was a bus route here?
The bus driver slows down and raises his eyebrows. His question is clear. Do I need a lift? I shake my head and wave him on.
[Later I check the timetable and realise this is a very infrequent service. Two buses a day, both in the morning, and only running on 4 days of the week.]
A brown furry thing runs across the road. A hare? No, a rabbit.
The main road bends round to the right, heading back to Leswalt. I turn to the left because I’m following a loop of minor roads and sticking as close to the coast as I can to make a circuit around the northern tip of The Rhins.
Of course, “as close to the coast as I can” doesn’t mean very close… (sigh).
This new road has been resurfaced and is still covered in loose gravel chippings. “Skid risk” and “Max speed 20”. Oh dear. I must remember to cover my face every time a car comes by. Not many cars, thank goodness, but they’re all travelling considerably more than 20 mph.
I see a track runs parallel with the road, just to my left. But the route looks marshy and there are cows… so I decide to stick with the gravel chips.
The landscape is an odd mix of rolling hills, grassy meadows and patches of marshy bog. No villages until I reach Kirkcolm, but a few scattered farms and the occasional isolated cottage stuck on the side of the road.
I pass one such cottage and am startled by the sound of muffled barking. In the window of a built-on conservatory are two dogs. The smaller, white, one is hurling himself at the glass, as if trying to smash his way out, while the larger one provides a background barrage of encouraging barks and growls.
I stop to take several photographs, but never quite manage to capture the white dog throwing himself against the glass.
Wonder whether these same dogs, if on the loose, would turn out to be as ferocious as they sound. Would they maul me to death? Or greet me with their tails wagging? I don’t know and am glad I don’t have to find out.
There’s another tower on a nearby hill. I check my map… Marian Tower. I would like to go and take a closer look, but it’s being guarded by cows!
A few yards later, on a high bank, is a patch of glorious yellow poppies. I think these are Welsh poppies, but I guess they’re allowed to grow in Scotland too!
Further along the road is lined by woodland – Balsarroch Wood. Unfortunately, I see the dreadful Japanese Knotweed is beginning to take hold. I hope they deal with it quickly.
The horse-chestnut trees are in full flower. Their blossoms are usually too high to take decent photographs, but here some of the branches bend low beside the road. Beautiful.
And, under the trees, a carpet of vivid bluebells. Hope the knotweed is cleared soon, or these beautiful native flowers will be crowded out.
I reach a corner, where a row of bins are lined up. It’s a reminder that even the most isolated rural areas must still have access to public services, such as waste collection.
Turning left would take me closer to the sea, past the access tracks to several farm houses and, eventually, to a dead-end. So, instead, I turn right and then take another left.
A tractor works its way across a sloping meadow. Spreading fertiliser. The wind has picked up and the billowing fertiliser looks like smoke rising from a wild fire.
The breeze smells of dust, and then of the ocean. I wish I was closer to the sea… perhaps I should have tried harder to find a route along the shore… but, in a nearby field, there’s a reminder of why I decided to stick to the roads today…
A couple of full-grown bulls. Massive barrels of muscle. One of them gives me a long, hard stare.
The sun flits across the landscape and the road winds ahead like a ribbon. (Sorry, I know roads winding like ribbons is a bit of a cliché, but it’s actually the best description I can think of!) A little further along, I perch on the grassy bank and have a picnic lunch.
When I come to the brow of a low hill, I get a lovely view of the sea. Lots of cows in the fields, I notice, and a ferry slowly making its way along the coast.
I reach a turnoff to Corsewall Lighthouse, and check my map. This road would take me up to the coast, but also to a dead-end. (The lighthouse is, in fact, the most northernmost point accessible by road on The Rhins peninsula.) Hmm. Tempting. I could walk to the lighthouse and back again…
I pull out my string and measure the distance. Two miles there, two miles back. Four extra miles. Perfectly doable. But… but…
Rational brain: “Yes, of course you should walk to the lighthouse. It would be a shame to miss out on this important landmark. Go on. Do it!”
Emotional brain: “No! No! NO! Not another four miles. FOUR whole unnecessary miles! No! Are you crazy?”
It doesn’t take long. My emotional brain wins out and I decide not to walk to the lighthouse. But, I do manage to negotiate a compromise. I’ll drive there, later, in my car.
My route turns southwards. No sign of the sea, although the tall hills in the distance are actually on the other side of Loch Ryan. One day I’ll be walking over there… hard to believe… I seem to have been traipsing around The Rhins for weeks.
I pass a stagnant pond. The air just above the surface of the water is alive with dancing insects. Midges? I take a photo but it’s hard to capture the millions of tiny, darting bodies.
The road begins to go downhill, towards Kirkcolm. I’m walking through woodland. Bluebells and shady green spaces.
Out of the trees, and the road runs between fields again. I stop and bend down to take photographs of the flowering grasses on the verge. Love the colour and texture combinations – cool-grey steel rising above a shaggy-brown base, and the creamy puff between the two.
I straighten up from the grass and – suddenly – yuck! What’s that hanging on the barbed wire fence? A row of tiny bodies, strung up. Moles? Yes.
A row of dead moles!
Little corpses pegged up like a row of old socks on a washing line. How horrible.
It’s such a disturbing sight, it spoils the rest of the walk. I keep looking around. Who would do such a thing? A mad mole-murderer? A serial killer?
Well, it’s been a strange day, full of monuments and mementos to the dead, beginning with a graveyard and ending with a string of little bodies… It’s a relief to reach Kirkcolm and the safety of my car.
I fulfill my promise to myself, and drive back to Corsewall Point. A beautiful, peaceful place. I sit on a rocky promontory and finish off the rest of my snacks, while admiring the stunning coastal scenery. The lighthouse is very fine too.
Later, I look up Marian Tower on the internet. If I had been able to get close, I would have found an inscription “Marian Hill 1818”. Sadly, nobody knows who Marian was, or why the tower was built.
- Official theory: a memorial to a women of the Ross family, from nearby Balsarroch House.
- Local legend: it was built in memory of a girl or young woman killed by a bull!
Miles walked today = 11 miles
Total distance around coastline = 3,381 miles