328 Kirkcolm to Stranraer

In Kirkcolm there’s a patch of green parkland where they’ve buried a millennium time capsule. The plaque says, “Dedicated by the Gala Queen, Nicola McClorey and her attendants...” How wonderful to be the gala queen in the year they decide to commemorate your name forever!

01 Kirkcolm garden, Ruth's coastal walk, Galloway, Scotland

I wonder if Nicola (now in her 30s, I assume) still lives locally.

Just beyond here is a footpath sign. “Circular Walk via Shore and Wig”. This is the route I’m taking.

02 circular walk from Kirkcolm, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland, Galloway

It’s a beautiful day. Sunny and cooler than the English midlands, where everyone is sweating and baking in an 80 degree heat wave. I walk down a shady track…

03 circular walk Kirkcolm, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland, Galloway

… which turns into a shady path…

04 from Kirkcolm to shore, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland, Galloway

… and then I’m on the shore. This is Loch Ryan – a beautiful sea loch which provides a natural deep-water harbour. Visible at the mouth of the loch is an impressive conical lump. I check my map. It’s an island called Aisla Craig.

05 mouth of Loch Ryan, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland, Galloway

A warning sign: “Caution. Large waves come ashore unexpectedly up to 30 minutes after ferry has passed.” No sign of large waves at the moment, just gentle ripples.

06 caution large waves, Loch Ryan, Ruth Livingstone

I turn southwards and walk along a spit of land. The Scar. The place is deserted, apart from a mother and a child in the distance, playing on the shore with a lively dog.

07 The Scar, Kirkcolm, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland, Galloway

Across Loch Ryan I can see a ferry in the port. (The ferries used to leave from Stranraer, but they’ve relocated to the other side of the loch. Don’t know why.)

08 ferry port, Loch Ryan, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland, Galloway

I reach the end of The Scar, where a crowd of sea birds are huddling on a shingle island. Time to turn back… towards Kirkcolm again. I walk past the mother and her little boy, who is throwing stones into the water for the dog. Ahead is a gently curving bay – The Wig.

09 The Wig, Loch Ryan, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland, Galloway

A sign tells me that birds are nesting on The Scar between May and July, and “PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB”. Oops. A bit late to tell me that now!

10 Birds Nesting sign, The Wig, Stranraer, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland, Galloway

I join a track. There are a couple of cars parked here, and two sets of binoculars fixed to a metal stand. I am expecting to see a slot for coins, but am surprised to discover you don’t have to pay. They’re free! What a great idea. I stop and take a look at the far shore.

11 binoculars, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland, Galloway

Then it’s time to follow the track and head back towards the main road.

12 walking around The Wig, Ruth Livingstone, Stranraer

Although the road from here to Stranraer is pretty quiet, I’m hoping I can walk along the shore instead. So far, so good. Despite the tide being high, there’s a clear beach of sand and shingle.

13 shore, The Wig to Stranraer, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland, Galloway

In my peripheral vision, I catch sight of something that makes me come to a sudden halt, heart thumping. A little snake, coiled and ready to strike…

14 snake, or tea pot lid, Ruth Livingstone, hiking in Scotland

…but…no! It’s only the lid of a china teapot. Whew. Silly woman!

Actually, it does look very much like a snake from a distance. I can’t decide if the scale-like markings are deliberate, or the result of weather and waves.

I walk along a small jetty and take photographs of the loch.

15 jetty, Ruth walking the coast to Stranraer, Scotland

The beach ahead peters out in a jumble of rocks. With the sun in my eyes, photography is difficult, but you can see how the sand disappears. You can also see how clear the water looks.

16 rough shore, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland, Galloway

I follow the road for a while and walk past a small sailing club. The facilities look basic. Just a few sheds and some rusting container boxes. The ships don’t exactly look luxurious either, but there are people working here – scraping hulls and retouching paint.

17 Lochryan Sailing Club, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland, Galloway

Soon as I can, I leave the road and head down to the shore. In the bright sunlight, the colours are fantastic. Blue sky, deeper blue-green sea, and vivid yellows and greens where seaweed coats the rocks.

18 vibrant shore, Loch Ryan, Ruth's coastal walk, Stranraer

I pass a man walking with a beautiful red collie. The dog is Welsh, he tells me, in a soft American accent. (He might be Canadian, I decide later.) There is a holiday park nearby. The static caravans line up and peer over the sea wall.

19 holiday park, Loch Ryan, Ruth hiking the coast of Scotland, Galloway

The beach is interrupted by a small stream. Sole Burn, according to my map. There’s a bridge nearby, but I don’t want to fight my way through a mass of brambles and weeds, to get to it, so I walk along the edge of the burn towards the sea, knowing the burn will become shallower further down. I can wade across.

20 Soleburn Bridge, Ruth hiking the coast, Stranraer, Scotland

At the mouth of a burn, a couple of swans are foraging. I’m always surprised to see swans in the sea, but I guess the water is probably rich with nutrients carried along by the stream.

21 swan at Soleburn Bridge, The Wig, Loch Ryan, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland, Galloway

The shore on the other side becomes rougher and tiring to walk along. So I’m relieved to see an area of flat  meadow ahead. Good, maybe I can walk on the grass for a while? But, no. It’s not a meadow, it’s a golf course. They’re everywhere in Scotland!

22 golf course, Loch Ryan, The Wig, Loch Ryan, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland, Galloway

I stop to take some “artistic” photographs of the rocks, bending over to find interesting patterns and textures.

23 rocks, Ruth Livingstone

Suddenly I’m aware I’m being watched. Look up. It’s a group of golfers!

They must think I’m mad – photographing boring old rocks – but refrain from making rude comments. Instead, we exchange polite conversation about the weather. “Enjoying the walk? You’ve chosen a nice day for it.” I agree the weather is fabulous. “I guess it never rains in Scotland,” I say. “No. Never,” they laugh.

They turn back to their golf game, and I continue with my walk.

24 golfers, Loch Ryan, Ruth hiking the coast, Stranraer, Scotland

The tide has rolled out, exposing a large area shingle and scattered boulders, interspersed with pools of gleaming water. It’s really beautiful.

25 walking to Stranraer, Ruth hiking the Scottish coast

I stop for a picnic lunch. Perch on a rock. After eating, I stay sitting for a while, enjoying the peace and quiet of the area. Then I see a movement ahead…

A solitary figure picks its way cautiously over the rough terrain. A woman. Unusual. I get ready to make conversation,  but she veers off down over the shingle to avoid coming close to where I’m sitting.

26 walkers on the beach, Stranraer, Ruth Livingstone

I pack up my picnic and continue walking.

Ahead is McCulloch’s Point. The low cliffs are overhung with vegetation, and the soft earth is clearly crumbling away, exposing twisted roots and dumping mini landslides on the beach.

27 McCulloch Point, Ruth hiking the Scottish coast, Stranraer

Around the Point and… there’s Stranraer ahead. I’ve made rapid progress and didn’t expect to get here so soon. I climb up to the walkway that runs along the top of the sea wall.

28 Ruth LIvingstone hiking the coastal path to Stranraer

Past a row of white houses, I reach a road. There’s a police car parked on the corner  –  its markings glaring and garish after the natural colours of the beach. The cops inside appear to be doing paperwork. I wonder if they’re really working, or just enjoying a rest in a quiet spot with a good view!

police car

(I don’t know why I always feel guilty when I see a police car, but I always do!)

Further along, I meet a couple walking with their dog. Lovely weather, we agree. They tell me they’ve been sailing around the coast of Britain. Left Falmouth a few weeks ago and worked their way up the east coast, through the Caledonian Canal, and finally reached Stranraer.

What a wonderful thing to do! What an adventure!

I’m full of enthusiasm and interest, but the woman interrupts me. No. It’s been awful. They’ve had weeks of rain and wind and she’s had enough. In fact, she’s abandoning ship and going home tomorrow. Her husband has hired a professional crew to help him take the boat the rest of the way back to Falmouth.

Oh dear. The weather over here was glorious in May, but I know the east of the country was cold and miserable. They’ve had rotten luck. I watch them walk away and feel sad for their failed adventure.

29 Loch Ryan, Ruth hiking in Stranraer, Scottish coast

Onwards. I’ve nearly reached the main part of Stranraer. A path winds around the edge of the park. I meet more dog walkers. Joggers. Women with pushchairs.

30 Ruth hiking into Stranraer, Scotland

Stop to take more photographs looking out towards the mouth of Loch Ryan. I’ve stayed in Stranraer several times over the past few months, but have never had a day so clear. Never been able to see the mouth of the loch before.

31 mouth of Loch Ryan, Ruth's coast walk to Stranraer, Scotland

I walk around Agnew Park. It has a central lake with islands and some sort of palm trees. Also a pirate ship, play equipment and a mini-train track (although I’ve never seen the train running). A very nice place.

32 Ruth Livingstone walking around Agnew Park, Stranraer, Galloway

I walk along the pier and look at the yachts in the harbour. Is one of them the ship that battled up the east coast? The one the couple have been skippering?

33 Marina, Stranraer Harbour, The Wig, Loch Ryan, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland, Galloway

Further along are a groups of motor tugs and fishing boats. In the distance is the infrastructure of the old ferry port, now quietly decaying.

34 Stranraer Harbour and old ferry port, Ruth Livingstone hiking in Scotland

I do wonder why they moved the ferries to the other side of the loch? The scheme seems to have left a dead hole in the heart of Stranraer.

On the waterfront is a strange Art Deco style building. It looks tall and impressive from a distance, but close up is revealed as being much smaller than it first appears. (The architect certainly created a good optical illusion!) It’s the old harbour master’s office, now disused.

35 old harbour office, Ruth Livingstone in Stranraer

I stop in the centre of Stranraer and return to my B&B, before going out for an early supper. Because it’s my first day of serious walking for 2 weeks, I deliberately kept today’s distance short. But, after eating, I decide I want to continue my walk a little further up the loch.

[Unfortunately, for this evening stroll, I only have my iPhone to take photos with, so apologies for the poor quality of the next two photographs.]

Below the road, a concrete walkway runs beside the water. As I near the apex of Loch Ryan, the walkway appears to be covered in sand…


… but on closer inspection the ‘sand’ turns out to be millions of shells. They lie in drifts across the path.

shells 2

It’s a glorious end to a beautiful day of walking, in perfect weather.

Miles walked today = 10 miles
Total around coast = 3,391 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.

11 Responses to 328 Kirkcolm to Stranraer

  1. owdjockey says:

    Hi Ruth, I quite liked Stranraer and based myself for most of my journey around the Rhins. Ailsa Craig, which I visited with other members of the Scottishhills group in 2013, will be with you until you turn north from the Mull of Kintyre.

    • I liked it too, Alan, and seem to have spent weeks here, with a little ‘holiday’ in Portpatrick for a few nights in between. Ailsa Craig is a real beauty, and I’m sure will be one of those haunting landmarks (like Black Combe in Cumbria) which seems a permanent fixture of the landscape.

  2. Eunice says:

    Looks like a really nice walk – and no cows this time 🙂 I really like the header photo, and Agnew Park looks like one of those swimming pools you get in a Spanish holiday complex 🙂

  3. Pam Ley says:

    Ailsa Craig where most of the granite for curling stones comes from…… 🙂 ……. Interesting that today’s walk looked quite flat yet we think of Scotland being so hilly……

    • Ah, I didn’t know that fact about curling stones. Thank you, Pam. Yes, this was a very flat walk along the shore. I’m sure there will be hills soon!

      • Pam Ley says:

        It’s formed from the volcanic plug of an extinct volcano Ruth, interesting Geologically, and as it’s roughly halfway between Belfast and Glasgow sometimes called Paddys Isle. I know you enjoy your research of places you visit so worth a google or Wiki read on this one.

  4. Lynne Fields says:

    Hi Ruth, so pleased you are enjoying Scotland and the weather is being kind to you. Here is a link which explains the situation with the ferry crossing. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-south-scotland-15780705
    Free binoculars! Free prescriptions. Free tuition fees…..Scotland has it all 🙂

    • Hi Lynne, and thank you for the link. So the port was moved to save money… poor old Stranraer. Everything in the town – B&Bs, pubs, car parks – seem designed around the ferry port. Now there’s a station left standing in the middle of nowhere, empty car parks with weeds growing through the tarmac, and an large expanse of unused dock. Seems a shame.

  5. Karen White says:

    Loch Ryan is very beautiful and Scotland in such good weather and absolute joy. How interesting about the curling stones. I do watch Michael Portillo’s railway programmes but either missed or have forgotten the one where it was featured.

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